Read CHAPTER II - A GENERAL VIEW OF THE COAL-BEARING STRATA of The Story of a Piece of Coal What It Is‚ Whence It Comes‚ and Whither It Goes, free online book, by Edward A. Martin, on

In considering the source whence coal is derived, we must be careful to remember that coal itself is but a minor portion of the whole formation in which it occurs. The presence of coal has indeed given the name to the formation, the word “carboniferous” meaning “coal-bearing,” but in taking a comprehensive view of the position which it occupies in the bowels of the earth, it will be necessary to take into consideration the strata in which it is found, and the conditions, so far as are known, under which these were deposited.

Geologically speaking, the Carboniferous formation occurs near the close of that group of systems which have been classed as “palaeozoic,” younger in point of age than the well known Devonian and Old Red Sandstone strata, but older by far than the Oolites, the Wealden, or the Cretaceous strata.

In South Wales the coal-bearing strata have been estimated at between 11,000 and 12,000 feet, yet amongst this enormous thickness of strata, the whole of the various coal-seams, if taken together, probably does not amount to more than 120 feet. This great disproportion between the total thickness and the thickness of coal itself shows itself in every coal-field that has been worked, and when a single seam of coal is discovered attaining a thickness of 9 or 10 feet, it is so unusual a thing in Great Britain as to cause it to be known as the “nine” or “ten-foot seam,” as the case may be. Although abroad many seams are found which are of greater thicknesses, yet similarly the other portions of the formation are proportionately greater.

It is not possible therefore to realise completely the significance of the coal-beds themselves unless there is also a knowledge of the remaining constituents of the whole formation. The strata found in the various coal-fields differ considerably amongst themselves in character. There are, however, certain well-defined characteristics which find representation in most of the principal coal-fields, whether British or European. Professor Hull classifies these carboniferous beds as follows:

Upper coal-measures.
Reddish and purple sandstones, red and grey clays and shales, thin bands of coal, ironstone and limestone, with spirorbis and fish.

Middle coal-measures.
Yellow and gray sandstones, blue and black clays and shales, bands of coal and ironstone, fossil plants, bivalves and fish, occasional marine bands.

Gannister beds or Lower coal-measures.
Millstone grit. Flagstone series in Ireland.
Yoredale beds. Upper shale series of Ireland.

Mountain limestone.
Limestone shale.

Each of the three principal divisions has its representative in Scotland, Belgium, and Ireland, but, unfortunately for the last-named country, the whole of the upper coal-measures are there absent. It is from these measures that almost all our commercial coals are obtained.

This list of beds might be further curtailed for all practical purposes of the geologist, and the three great divisions of the system would thus stand:

Upper Carboniferous, or Coal-measures proper.

Millstone grit.

Lower Carboniferous, or Mountain limestone.

In short, the formation consists of masses of sandstone, shale, limestone and coal, these also enclosing clays and ironstones, and, in the limestone, marbles and veins of the ores of lead, zinc, and antimony, and occasionally silver.

As the most apparent of the rocks of the system are sandstone, shale, limestone, and coal, it will be necessary to consider how these were deposited in the waters of the carboniferous ages, and this we can best do by considering the laws under which strata of a similar nature are now being deposited as sedimentary beds.

A great proportion consists of sandstone. Now sandstone is the result of sand which has been deposited in large quantities, having become indurated or hardened by various processes brought to bear upon it. It is necessary, therefore, first to ascertain whence came the sand, and whether there are any peculiarities in its method of deposition which will explain its stratification. It will be noticed at once that it bears a considerable amount of evidence of what is called “current-bedding,” that is to say, that the strata, instead of being regularly deposited, exhibit series of wedge-shaped masses, which are constantly thinning out.

Sand and quartz are of the same chemical composition, and in all probability the sand of which every sandstone in existence is composed, appeared on this earth in its first solid form in the shape of quartz. Now quartz is a comparatively heavy mineral, so also, therefore, will sand be. It is also very hard, and in these two respects it differs entirely from another product of sedimentary deposition, namely, mud or clay, with which we shall have presently to deal when coming to the shales. Since quartz is a hard mineral it necessarily follows that it will suffer, without being greatly affected, a far greater amount of wearing and knocking about when being transported by the agency of currents and rivers, than will a softer substance, such as clay. An equal amount of this wearing action upon clay will reduce it to a fine impalpable silt. The grains of sand, however, will still remain of an appreciable average size, and where both sand and clay are being transported to the sea in one and the same stream, the clay will be transported to long distances, whilst the sand, being heavier, bulk for bulk, and also consisting of grains larger in size than grains of clay, will be rapidly deposited, and form beds of sand. Of course, if the current be a violent one, the sand is transported, not by being held in suspension, but rather by being pushed along the bed of the river; such an action will then tend to cause the sand to become powdered into still finer sand.

When a river enters the sea it soon loses its individuality; it becomes merged in the body of the ocean, where it loses its current, and where therefore it has no power to keep in suspension the sediment which it had brought down from the higher lands. When this is the case, the sand borne in suspension is the first to be deposited, and this accumulates in banks near the entrance of the river into the sea. We will suppose, for illustration, that a small river has become charged with a supply of sand. As it gradually approaches the sea, and the current loses its force, the sand is the more sluggishly carried along, until finally it falls to the bottom, and forms a layer of sand there. This layer increases in thickness until it causes the depth of water above it to become comparatively shallow. On the shallowing process taking place, the current will still have a certain, though slighter, hold on the sand in suspension, and will transport it yet a little further seaward, when it will be thrown down, at the edge of the bank or layer already formed, thus tending to extend the bank, and to shallow a wider space of river-bed.

As a result of this action, strata would be formed, shewing stratification diagonally as well as horizontally, represented in section as a number of banks which had seemingly been thrown down one above the other, ending in thin wedge-shaped terminations where the particular supply of sediment to which each owed its formation had failed.

The masses of sandstone which are found in the carboniferous formation, exhibit in a large degree these wedge-shaped strata, and we have therefore a clue at once, both as to their propinquity to sea and land, and also as to the manner in which they were formed.

There is one thing more, too, about them. Just as, in the case we were considering, we could observe that the wedge-shaped strata always pointed away from the source of the material which formed them, so we can similarly judge that in the carboniferous strata the same deduction holds good, that the diagonally-pointing strata were formed in the same way, and that their thinning out was simply owing to temporary failure of sediment, made good, however, by a further deposition of strata when the next supply was borne down.

It is scarcely likely, however, that sand in a pure state was always carried down by the currents to the sea. Sometimes there would be some silt mixed with it. Just as in many parts large masses of almost pure sandstone have been formed, so in other places shales, or, as they are popularly known by miners, “bind,” have been formed. Shales are formed from the clays which have been carried down by the rivers in the shape of silt, but which have since become hardened, and now split up easily into thin parallel layers. The reader has no doubt often handled a piece of hard clay when fresh from the quarry, and has remembered how that, when he has been breaking it up, in order, perhaps, to excavate a partially-hidden fossil, it has readily split up in thin flakes or layers of shaly substance. This exhibits, on a small scale, the chief peculiarity of the coal shales.

The formation of shales will now demand our attention. When a river is carrying down with it a quantity of mud or clay, it is transported as a fine, dusty silt, and when present in quantities, gives the muddy tint to the water which is so noticeable. We can very well see how that silt will be carried down in greater quantities than sand, since nearly all rivers in some part of their course will travel through a clayey district, and finely-divided clay, being of a very light nature, will be carried forward whenever a river passes over such a district. And a very slight current being sufficient to carry it in a state of suspension, it follows that it will have little opportunity of falling to the bottom, until, by some means or other, the current, which is the means of its conveyance, becomes stopped or hindered considerably in its flow.

When the river enters a large body of water, such as the ocean or a lake, in losing its individuality, it loses also the velocity of its current, and the silt tends to sink down to the bottom. But being less heavy than the sand, about which we have previously spoken, it does not sink all at once, but partly with the impetus it has gained, and partly on account of the very slight velocity which the current still retains, even after having entered the sea, it will be carried out some distance, and will the more gradually sink to the bottom. The deeper the water in which it falls the greater the possibility of its drifting farther still, since in sinking, it would fall, not vertically, but rather as the drops of rain in a shower when being driven before a gale of wind. Thus we should notice that clays and shales would exhibit a regularity and uniformity of deposition over a wide area. Currents and tides in the sea or lake would tend still further to retard deposition, whilst any stoppages in the supply of silt which took place would give the former layer time to consolidate and harden, and this would assist in giving it that bedded structure which is so noticeable in the shales, and which causes it to split up into fine laminae. This uniformity of structure in the shales over wide areas is a well ascertained characteristic of the coal-shales, and we may therefore regard the method of their deposition as given here with a degree of certainty.

There is a class of deposit found among the coal-beds, which is known as the “underclay,” and this is the most regular of all as to the position in which it is found. The underclays are found beneath every bed of coal. “Warrant,” “spavin,” and “gannister” are local names which are sometimes applied to it, the last being a term used when the clay contains such a large proportion of silicious matter as to become almost like a hard flinty rock. Sometimes, however, it is a soft clay, at others it is mixed with sand, but whatever the composition of the underclays may be, they always agree in being unstratified. They also agree in this respect that the peculiar fossils known as stigmariae abound in them, and in some cases to such an extent that the clay is one thickly-matted mass of the filamentous rootlets of these fossils. We have seen how these gradually came to be recognised as the roots of trees which grew in this age, and whose remains have subsequently become metamorphosed into coal, and it is but one step farther to come to the conclusion that these underclays are the ancient soils in which the plants grew.

No sketch of the various beds which go to form the coal-measures would be complete which did not take into account the enormous beds of mountain limestone which form the basis of the whole system, and which in thinner bands are intercalated amongst the upper portion of the system, or the true coal-measures.

Now, limestones are not formed in the same way in which we have seen that sandstones and shales are formed. The last two mentioned owe their origin to their deposition as sediment in seas, estuaries or lakes, but the masses of limestone which are found in the various geological formations owe their origin to causes other than that of sedimentary deposition.

In carboniferous times there lived numberless creatures which we know nowadays as encrinites. These, when growing, were fixed to the bed of the ocean, and extended upward in the shape of pliant stems composed of limestone joints or plates; the stem of each encrinite then expanded at the top in the shape of a gorgeous and graceful starfish, possessed of numberless and lengthy arms. These encrinites grew in such profusion that after death, when the plates of which their stems consisted, became loosened and scattered over the bed of the sea, they accumulated and formed solid beds of limestone. Besides the encrinites, there were of course other creatures which were able to create the hard parts of their structures by withdrawing lime from the sea, such as foraminifera, shell-fish, and especially corals, so that all these assisted after death in the accumulation of beds of limestone where they had grown and lived.

There is one peculiarity in connection with the habitats of the encrinites and corals which goes some distance in supplying us with a useful clue as to the conditions under which this portion of the carboniferous formation was formed. These creatures find it a difficult matter, as a rule, to live and secrete their calcareous skeleton in any water but that which is clear, and free from muddy or sandy sediment. They are therefore not found, generally speaking, where the other deposits which we have considered, are forming, and, as these are always found near the coasts, it follows that the habitats of the creatures referred to must be far out at sea where no muddy sediments, borne by rivers, can reach them. We can therefore safely come to the conclusion that the large masses of encrinital limestone, which attain such an enormous thickness in some places, especially in Ireland, have been formed far away from the land of the period; we can at the same time draw the conclusion that if we find the encrinites broken and snapped asunder, and the limestone deposits becoming impure through being mingled with a proportion of clayey or sandy deposits, that we are approaching a coast-line where perhaps a river opened out, and where it destroyed the growth of encrinites, mixing with their dead remains the sedimentary debris of the land.

We have lightly glanced at the circumstances attending the deposition of each of the principal rocks which form the beds amongst which coal is found, and have now to deal with the formation of the coal itself. We have already considered the various kinds of plants and trees which have been discovered as contributing their remains to the formation of coal, and have now to attempt an explanation of how it came to be formed in so regular a manner over so wide an area.

Each of the British coal-fields is fairly extensive. The Yorkshire and Derbyshire coal-fields, together with the Lancashire coal-field, with which they were at one time in geological connection, give us an area of nearly 1000 square miles, and other British coal-fields show at least some hundreds of square miles. And yet, spread over them, we find a series of beds of coal which in many cases extend throughout the whole area with apparent regularity. If we take it, as there seems every reason to believe was the case, that almost all these coal-fields were not only being formed at the same time, but were in most instances in continuation with one another, this regularity of deposition of comparatively narrow beds of coal, appears all the more remarkable.

The question at once suggests itself, Which of two things is probable? Are we to believe that all this vegetable matter was brought down by some mighty river and deposited in its delta, or that the coal-plants grew just where we now find the coal?

Formerly it was supposed that coal was formed out of dead leaves and trees, the refuse of the vegetation of the land, which had been carried down by rivers into the sea and deposited at their mouths, in the same way that sand and mud, as we have seen, are swept down and deposited. If this were so, the extent of the deposits would require a river with an enormous embouchure, and we should be scarcely warranted in believing that such peaceful conditions would there prevail as to allow of the layers of coal to be laid down with so little disturbance and with such regularity over these wide areas. But the great objection to this theory is, that not only do the remains still retain their perfection of structure, but they are comparatively pure, i.e., unmixed with sedimentary depositions of clay or sand. Now, rivers would not bring down the dead vegetation alone; their usual burden of sediment would also be deposited at their mouths, and thus dead plants, sand, and clay would be mixed up together in one black shaly or sandy mass, a mixture which would be useless for purposes of combustion. The only theory which explained all the recognised phenomena of the coal-measures was that the plants forming the coal actually grew where the coal was formed, and where, indeed, we now find it. When the plants and trees died, their remains fell to the ground of the forest, and these soon turned to a black, pasty, vegetable mass, the layer thus formed being regularly increased year by year by the continual accumulation of fresh carbonaceous matter. By this means a bed would be formed with regularity over a wide area; the coal would be almost free from an admixture of sandy or clayey sediment, and probably the rate of formation would be no more rapid in one part of the forest than another. Thus there would be everywhere uniformity of thickness. The warm and humid atmosphere, which it is probable then existed, would not only have tended towards the production of an abnormal vegetation, but would have assisted in the decaying and disintegrating processes which went on amongst the shed leaves and trees.

When at last it was announced as a patent fact that every bed of coal possessed its underclay, and that trees had been discovered actually standing upon their own roots in the clay, there was no room at all for doubt that the correct theory had been hit upon viz., that coal is now found just where the trees composing it had grown in the past.

But we have more than one coal-seam to account for. We have to explain the existence of several layers of coal which have been formed over one another on the same spot at successive periods, divided by other periods when shale and sandstones only have been formed.

A careful estimate of the Lancashire coal-field has been made by Professor Hull for the Geological Survey. Of the 7000 feet of carboniferous strata here found, spread out over an area of 217 square miles, there are on the average eighteen seams of coal.

This is only an instance of what is to be found elsewhere. Eighteen coal-seams! what does this mean? It means that, during carboniferous times, on no less than eighteen occasions, separate and distinct forests have grown on this self-same spot, and that between each of these occasions changes have taken place which have brought it beneath the waters of the ocean, where the sandstones and shales have been formed which divide the coal-seams from each other. We are met here by a wonderful demonstration of the instability of the surface of the earth, and we have to do our best to show how the changes of level have been brought about, which have allowed of this game of geological see-saw to take place between sea and land. Changes of level! Many a hard geological nut has only been overcome by the application of the principle of changes of level in the surface of the earth, and in this we shall find a sure explanation of the phenomena of the coal-measures.

Great changes of the level of the land are undoubtedly taking place even now on the earth’s surface, and in assuming that similar changes took place in carboniferous times, we shall not be assuming the former existence of an agent with which we are now unfamiliar. And when we consider the thicknesses of sandstone and shale which intervene beneath the coal-seams, we can realise to a certain extent the vast lapses of years which must have taken place between the existence of each forest; so that although now an individual passing up a coal-mine shaft may rapidly pass through the remains of one forest after another, the rise of the strata above each forest-bed then was tremendously slow, and the period between the growth of each forest must represent the passing away of countless ages. Perhaps it would not be too much to say that the strata between some of the coal-seams would represent a period not less than that between the formation of the few tertiary coals with which we are acquainted, and a time which is still to us in the far-away future.

The actual seams of coal themselves will not yield much information, from which it will be possible to judge of the contour of the landmasses at this ancient period. Of one thing we are sure, namely, that at the time each seam was formed, the spot where it accumulated was dry land. If, therefore, the seams which appear one above the other coincide fairly well as to their superficial extent, we can conclude that each time the land was raised above the sea and the forest again grew, the contour of the land was very similar. This conclusion will be very useful to go upon, since whatever decision may be come to as an explanation of one successive land-period and sea-period on the same spot, will be applicable to the eighteen or more periods necessary for the completion of some of the coal-fields.

We will therefore look at one of the sandstone masses which occur between the coal-seams, and learn what lessons these have to teach us. In considering the formation of strata of sand in the seas around our river-mouths, it was seen that, owing to the greater weight of the particles of the sand over those of clay, the former the more readily sank to the bottom, and formed banks not very far away from the land. It was seen, too, that each successive deposition of sand formed a wedge-shaped layer, with the point of the wedge pointing away from the source of origin of the sediment, and therefore of the current which conveyed the sediment. Therefore, if in the coal-measure sandstones the layers were found with their wedges all pointing in one direction, we should be able to judge that the currents were all from one direction, and that, therefore, they were formed by a single river. But this is just what we do not find, for instead of it the direction of the wedge-shaped strata varies in almost every layer, and the current-bedding has been brought about by currents travelling in every direction. Such diverse current-bedding could only result from the fact that the spot where the sand was laid down was subject to currents from every direction, and the inference is that it was well within the sphere of influence of numerous streams and rivers, which flowed from every direction. The only condition of things which would explain this is that the sandstone was originally formed in a closed sea or large lake, into which numerous rivers flowing from every direction poured their contents.

Now, in the sandstones, the remains of numerous plants have been found, but they do not present the perfect appearance that they do when found in the shales; in fact they appear to have suffered a certain amount of damage through having drifted some distance. This, together with the fact that sandstones are not formed far out at sea, justify the safe conclusion that the land could not have been far off. Wherever the current-bedding shows itself in this manner we may be sure we are examining a spot from which the land in every direction could not have been at a very great distance, and also that, since the heavy materials of which sandstone is composed could only be transported by being impelled along by currents at the bed of the sea, and that in deep water such currents could not exist, therefore we may safely decide that the sea into which the rivers fell was a comparatively shallow one.

Although the present coal-fields of England are divided from one another by patches of other beds, it is probable that some of them were formerly connected with others, and a very wide sheet of coal on each occasion was laid down. The question arises as to what was the extent of the inland sea or lake, and did it include the area covered by the coal basins of Scotland and Ireland, of France and Belgium? And if these, why not those of America and other parts? The deposition of the coal, according to the theory here advanced, may as well have been brought about in a series of large inland seas and lakes, as by one large comprehensive sea, and probably the former is the more satisfactory explanation of the two. But the astonishing part of it is that the changes in the level of the land must have been taking place simultaneously over these large areas, although, of course, while one quarter may have been depressed beneath the sea, another may have been raised above it.

In connection with the question of the contour of the land during the existence of the large lakes or inland seas, Professor Hull has prepared, in his series of maps illustrative of the Palaeo-Geography of the British Islands, a map showing on incontestible grounds the existence during the coal-ages of a great central barrier or ridge of high land stretching across from Anglesea, south of Flint, Staffordshire, and Shropshire coal-fields, to the eastern coast of Norfolk. He regards the British coal-measures as having been laid down in two, or at most three, areas of deposition one south of this ridge, the remainder to the north of it. In regard to the extent of the former deposits of coal in Ireland, there is every probability that the sister island was just as favourably treated in this respect as Great Britain. Most unfortunately, Ireland has since suffered extreme denudation, notably from the great convulsions of nature at the close of the very period of their deposition, as well as in more recent times, resulting in the removal of nearly all the valuable upper carboniferous beds, and leaving only the few unimportant coal-beds to which reference has been made.

We are unable to believe in the continuity of our coal-beds with those of America, for the great source of sediment in those times was a continent situated on the site of the Atlantic Ocean, and it is owing to this extensive continent that the forms of flora found in the coal-beds in each country bear so close a resemblance to one another, and also that the encrinital limestone which was formed in the purer depths of the ocean on the east, became mixed with silt, and formed masses of shaly impure limestone in the south-western parts of Ireland.

It must be noted that, although we may attribute to upheaval from beneath the fact that the bed of the sea became temporarily raised at each period into dry land, the deposits of sand or shale would at the same time be tending to shallow the bed, and this alone would assist the process of upheaval by bringing the land at least very near to the surface of the water.

Each upheaval, however, could have been but a temporary arrest of the great movement of crust subsidence which was going on throughout the coal period, so that, at its close, when the last coal forest grew upon the surface of the land, there had disappeared, in the case of South Wales, a thickness of 11,000 feet of material.

Of the many remarkable things in connection with coal-beds, not the least is the state of purity in which coal is found. On the floor of each forest there would be many a streamlet or even small river which would wend its way to meet the not very distant sea, and it is surprising at first that so little sediment found its way into the coal itself. But this was cleverly explained by Sir Charles Lyell, who noticed, on one of his visits to America, that the water of the Mississippi, around the rank growths of cypress which form the “cypress swamps” at the mouths of that river, was highly charged with sediment, but that, having passed through the close undergrowth of the swamps, it issued in almost a pure state, the sediment which it bore having been filtered out of it and precipitated. This very satisfactorily explained how in some places carbonaceous matter might be deposited in a perfectly pure state, whilst in others, where sandstone or shale was actually forming, it might be impregnated by coaly matter in such a way as to cause it to be stained black. In times of flood sediment would be brought in, even where pure coal had been forming, and then we should have a thin “parting” of sandstone or shale, which was formed when the flood was at its height. Or a slight sinking of the land might occur, in which case also the formation of coal would temporarily cease, and a parting of foreign matter would be formed, which, on further upheaval taking place, would again give way to another forest growth. Some of the thicker beds have been found presenting this aspect, such as the South Staffordshire ten-yard coal, which in some parts splits up into a dozen or so smaller beds, with partings of sediment between them.

In the face of the stupendous movements which must have happened in order to bring about the successive growth of forests one above another on the same spot, the question at once arises as to how these movements of the solid earth came about, and what was the cause which operated in such a manner. We can only judge that, in some way or other, heat, or the withdrawal of heat, has been the prime motive power. We can perceive, from what is now going on in some parts of the earth, how great an influence it has had in shaping the land, for volcanoes owe their activity to the hidden heat in the earth’s interior, and afford us an idea of the power of which heat is capable in the matter of building up and destroying continents. No less certain is it that heat is the prime factor in those more gradual vertical movements of the land to which we have referred elsewhere, but in regard to the exact manner in which it acts we are very much in the dark. Everybody knows that, in the majority of instances, material substances of all kinds expand under the influence of heat, and contract when the source of heat is withdrawn. If we can imagine movements in the quantity of heat contained in the solid crust, the explanation is easy, for if a certain tract of land receive an accession of heat beneath it, it is certain that the principal effect will be an elevation of the land, consequent on the expansion of its materials, with a subsequent depression when the heat beneath the tract in question becomes gradually lessened. Should the heat be retained for a long period, the strata would be so uplifted as to form an anticlinal, or saddle-back, and then, should subsequent denudation take place, more ancient strata would be brought to view. It was thus in the instance of the tract bounded by the North and South Downs, which were formerly entirely covered by chalk, and in the instance of the uprising of the carboniferous limestone between the coal-fields of Lancashire, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire.

How the heat-waves act, and the laws, if any, which they obey in their subterranean movements, we are unable to judge. From the properties which heat possesses we know that its presence or absence produces marked differences in the positions of the strata of the earth, and from observations made in connection with the closing of some volcanoes, and the opening up of fresh earth-vents, we have gone a long way towards establishing the probability that there are even now slow and ponderous movements taking place in the heat stored in the earth’s crust, whose effects are appreciably communicated to the outside of the thin rind of solid earth upon which we live.

Owing to the great igneous and volcanic activity at the close of the deposition of the carboniferous system of strata, the coal-measures exhibit what are known as faults in abundance. The mountain limestone, where it outcrops at the surface, is observed to be much jointed, so much so that the work of quarrying the limestone is greatly assisted by the jointed structure of the rock. Faults differ from joints in that, whilst the strata in the latter are still in relative position on each side of the joint, they have in the former slipped out of place. In such a case the continuation of a stratum on the opposite side of a fault will be found to be depressed, perhaps a thousand feet or more. It will be seen at once how that, in sinking a new shaft into a coal-seam, the possibility of an unknown fault has to be brought into consideration, since the position of the seam may prove to have been depressed to such an extent as to cause it to be beyond workable depth. Many seams, on the other hand, which would have remained altogether out of reach of mining operations, have been brought within workable depth by a series of step-faults, this being a term applied to a series of parallel faults, in none of which the amount of down-throw is great.

The amount of the down-throw, or the slipping-down of the beds, is measured, vertically, from the point of disappearance of a layer to an imaginary continuation of the same layer from where it again appears beyond the fault. The plane of a fault is usually more or less inclined, the amount of the inclination being known as the hade of the fault, and it is a remarkable characteristic of faults that, as a general rule, they hade to the down-throw. This will be more clearly understood when it is explained that, by its action, a seam of coal, which is subject to numerous faults, can never be pierced more than once by one and the same boring. In mountainous districts, however, there are occasions when the hade is to the up-throw, and this kind of fault is known as an inverted fault.

Lines of faults extend sometimes for hundreds of miles. The great Pennine Fault of England is 130 miles long, and others extend for much greater distances. The surfaces on both sides of a fault are often smooth and highly polished by the movement which has taken place in the strata. They then show the phenomenon known as slicken-sides. Many faults have become filled with crystalline minerals in the form of veins of ore, deposited by infiltrating waters percolating through the natural fissures.

In considering the formation and structure of the better-known coal-bearing beds of the carboniferous age, we must not lose sight of the fact that important beds of coal also occur in strata of much more recent date. There are important coal-beds in India of Permian age. There are coal-beds of Liassic age in South Hungary and in Texas, and of Jurassic age in Virginia, as well as at Brora in Sutherlandshire; there are coals of Cretaceous age in Moravia, and valuable Miocene Tertiary coals in Hungary and the Austrian Alps.

Again, older than the true carboniferous age, are the Silurian anthracites of Co. Cavan, and certain Norwegian coals, whilst in New South Wales we are confronted with an assemblage of coal-bearing strata which extend apparently from the Devonian into Mesozoic times.

Still, the age we have considered more closely has an unrivalled right to the title, coal appearing there not merely as an occasional bed, but as a marked characteristic of the formation.

The types of animal life which are found in this formation are varied, and although naturally enough they do not excel in number, there are yet sufficient varieties to show probabilities of the existence of many with which we are unfamiliar. The highest forms yet found, show an advance as compared with those from earlier formations, and exhibit amphibian characteristics intermediate between the two great classes of fishes and reptiles. Numerous specimens proper to the extinct order of labyrinthodontia have been arranged into at least a score of genera, these having been drawn from the coal-measures of Newcastle, Edinburgh, Kilkenny, Saaerbruck, Bavaria, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. The Archegosaurus, which we have figured, and the Anthracosaurus, are forms which appear to have existed in great numbers in the swamps and lakes of the age. The fish of the period belong almost entirely to the ancient orders of the ganoids and placoids. Of the ganoids, the great megalichthys Hibberti ranges throughout the whole of the system. Wonderful accumulations of fish remains are found at the base of the system, in the bone-bed of the Bristol coal-field, as well as in a similar bed at Armagh. Many fishes were armed with powerful conical teeth, but the majority, like the existing Port Jackson shark, were possessed of massive palates, suited in some cases for crushing, and in others for cutting.

In the mountain limestone we see, of course, the predominance of marine types, encrinital remains forming the greater proportion of the mass. There are occasional plant remains which bear evidence of having drifted for some distance from the shore. But next to the encrinites, the corals are the most important and persistent. Corals of most beautiful forms and capable of giving polished marble-like sections, are in abundance. Polyzoa are well represented, of which the lace-coral (fenestella) and screw-coral (archimedopora) are instances. Cephalopoda are represented by the orthoceras, sometimes five or six feet long, and goniatites, the forerunner of the familiar ammonite. Many species of brachiopods and lammellibranchs are met with. Lingula, most persistent throughout all geological time, is abundant in the coal-shales, but not in the limestones. Aviculopecten is there abundant also. In the mountain limestone the last of the trilobites (Phillipsia) is found.

We have evidence of the existence in the forests of a variety of centipede, specimens having been found in the erect stump of a hollow tree, although the fossil is an extremely rare one. The same may be said of the only two species of land-snail which have been found connected with the coal forests, viz., pupa vetusta and zonites priscus, both discovered in the cliffs of Nova Scotia. These are sufficient to demonstrate that the fauna of the period had already reached a high stage of development. In the estuaries of the day, masses of a species of freshwater mussel (anthracosia) were in existence, and these have left their remains in the shape of extensive beds of shells. They are familiar to the miner as mussel-binds, and are as noticeable a feature of this long ago period, as are the aggregations of mussels on every coast at the present day.