Edward Hull.

The coal-fields of Great Britain : their history, structure and resources. With descriptions of the coal-fields of our Indian and colonial empire, and of other parts of the world online

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Online LibraryEdward HullThe coal-fields of Great Britain : their history, structure and resources. With descriptions of the coal-fields of our Indian and colonial empire, and of other parts of the world → online text (page 24 of 31)
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I. Upper Coal-series, — Grey and red sandstones and shales, con-
glomerates, and a few thin beds of limestone and coal of
no economic value 3»ooo

2 Middle Coal-series. — Grey and dark sandstone, and shales,
etc., with valuable beds of coal and ironstone ; beds of
bituminous limestone, and numerous underclays with
Stigtnaria 4,000

3. Lower Carhoniferotis or Gypsiferaiis Series, — Reddish and
grey sandstones and shales, over-lying conglomerates;
thick beds of limestone with . marine shells ; and of
gypsum more than 6,000

Fossil Remains.

The fossils of the upper series are composed principally
of plants, as Catamites^ Ferns, and Coniferous wood.

In the middle series, representing the middle coal-

♦ "Acadian Geology."

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measures of England, remains of both the animal and
vegetable kingdoms appear to be remarkably abundant,
and are classed by Dawson as follows : —

Reptiles. — Dendrerpeion Acadianuniy discovered by the author and

Sir C Lyell, within the upright trunk of a Sigillaria. Baphetes

planiceps^ a large batrachian allied to Labyrinthodon ; besides one or

more species indicated by their tracks.
Fishes. — Paiaoniscus^ Holoptychius^ Megalickthys^ and several other

undetermined genera.
Articulata. — Cypris or Cyiherina, several species. SpirorHs^ either

embedded or attached to plants.
MoUusca. — Pupa vetusta, the first example of a land shell ever found in the

Carboniferous rocks. MocUola^ Anthrtuosia (Unio), of two or more

A large number of plants of European genera, and many of European species.

The Lower Carboniferous series, representing all the
strata of England, from the Millstone Grit downwards,
contains a reptile, discovered by Sir William Logan ; fishes
of the genera, Holoptychius and Palaoniscus. Of Annelides,
Spirorbis ; of Crustaceans, a Trilobite ox Limulus ; besides
a large series of MoUusca, of the genera Nautilus^ OrthoceraSy
Conulariay Euomphalus^ Natica^ Terebratulay Spirifery
ProductuSy Cardiomorphay Pecten^ Avicuhy Modiolay
IsocardiUy Cypricardia : of Polyzoa, Fenestrellay etCy Crin-
oids, etc. ; and a few plants.


This is by far the largest Carboniferous tract, covering
an area, according to Professor Rogers, of 6,889 square
miles.* It extends along the whole line of coast, and as
far inland as the base of a range of mountains which

* **GeoI. of Pennsylvania," vol. ii.

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stretch along the northern coast of the Bay of Fundy. Its
southern limits are the Cobequid Hills. Unfortunately,
the surveys of this great coal-field have not tended to raise
our expectations of its economic importance, as the greater
portion of it appears to be composed of the Lower and
Upper Carboniferous series, both of which are destitute of
valuable coal-beds.

If economically unimportant, it is far otherwise in a
scientific point of view, as, along the coast of the Bay of
Fundy, at South Joggins, it displays the finest natural
section of the coal formation in the world. The whole
series of this district attains a thickness of 14,570 feet, with
76 seams of coal. Of these, 4,515 feet are brought to light
in the coast section. The beds rise along the face of the
cliffs, clean and fresh, to a height of 150 feet, at an angle of
19 degrees ; so that, in proceeding along the coast from north
to south, for a distance of about 10 miles, we arrive at con-
stantly newer beds, which at low tide may be traced out from
the base of the cliff for a distance of 200 yards. Sir C. Lyell
counted 19 seams of coal, and at least ten forests of upright
stems of Sigillaria, the longest of which was 25 feet, with a
diameter of 4 feet where broken off; they were found
invariably based on the upper surfaces of the beds of coal.

In the Cumberland coal-field, the principal coal is the
"Joggins Main Seam," consisting of two beds, 3^ and
i^ feet thick. There are also six or seven workable seams
at Springhill with a total thickness of 42 feet of coal,*
besides several places in New Brunswick, especially a
remarkable pitch-like vein called the " Albert Mine," on
the Petitcodiac River.

♦ " Mem. Geol. Survey of Canada." Rep. by A. R, C. Selwyn, F.R.S.,
foi 1870-71, p. 6.

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This district is separated from that of Cumberland by
thr Cobequid chain of hills, and has an area of about 200
square miles. It is principally valuable for its limestone
and gypsum. The coal seams appear to be all under
18 inches in thickness.


This coal-field has an area of about 350 square miles,
and is remarkable for containing two very thick beds of
coal, the upper 37 feet, and accompanied by three other
workable beds having an aggregate thickness of nearly as
much more, separated by 1 57 feet of strata. These seams
have partings of inferior coal and ironstone at intervals.
The upper bed has been largely worked at the Albion
mines ; and though there of good quality, has been proved
to deteriorate at a short distance both to the north and
south of that locality. Recently, however, according to
the statement of Dawson, an extension of these great
beds of coal has been proved over five new properties, which
must contain a workable quantity of 1 50 millions of tons of
good coal ; and there is reason for believing that the area
is still considerably greater.*


The combined areas of these fields may be estimated at
350 square miles. Several workable seams of coal have
already been discovered, besides valuable deposits of lime-

• WGeoI. Mag.," Fehruaiy, 1867,

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stone and gypsum. For our knowledge of the Sydney-
coal-field we are particularly indebted to Mr. R. Brown,
who gives the following synopsis : — The productive measures
cover an area of 250 square niiles, with a thickness of about
10,000 feet of strata.* Of several very fine natural sections
exposed to view along the coast, the most interesting is
that to the N.W. of Sydney Harbour, extending a distance
of 5,000 yards, and exhibiting a vertical thickness of
1,860 feet of strata. Of these, 34 are coal-seams, com-
bining to produce 37 feet of coal. Four only are workable.
The following is the general section of these coals : —

Cranberry Head Top Seam


I Joyces Cave Seam


Main Seam


Indian Cove Seam

Valuable coal-seams occur also at IJngan and Bridge-
port ; one of which, 9 feet in thickness, yields a fine coke,
and is esteemed as a gas-coal. Limestone and gypsum
also abound ; and, on the whole, the mineral resources of
Cape Breton county appear very promising.!

In 1903, the quantity of coal raised in Canada was
3,720,000 tons.

* " Joura. Geol. Soc. London," vols, ii and vi. See also Geological Map
and Report on the Sydney Coal-field, in Report of Progress of the Geol. Surv.
of Canada, for 1875-6, by A. R. C. Selwyn {1877).

t Mr. Brown has published an important treatise, entitled "The Coal-
fields and Coal-trade of Cape Breton," with maps and illustrations (London,
1 871), giving very complete information regarding the subject on which it
treats, to which the reader is referred for fiiUer information.













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Emigrants and settlers would do well to make themselves
acquainted with the mineral resources of the districts in
which they propose to settle ; as they may thus procure a
tract of land which may prove, from its mineral wealth, of
benefit to themselves and their descendants.

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The great hydrographical basin of the Mississippi and its
tributaries is underlaid throughout a greater part of its
area by productive coal-measures, with enough coal to
supply the whole of that vast continent, were it as
populous and as industrious as Britain for a decade of
centuries. This great Carboniferous formation was spread
originally in one continuous sheet over the whole of Central
America, probably from the flanks of the Rocky Mountains
to the shores of the North Atlantic, and from the Gulf of
Mexico to Newfoundland ; and though we are unable
strictly to define the original margin and limits of this great
coal-generating tract, yet there is reason to believe, as has
been pointed out by Sir C. Lyell, that land existed at that
period where now rolls the Atlantic ; and that the British
Islands were connected with America by a chain of islands,
or a tract of land, over which the plants of the Carboni-
ferous period migrated and spread themselves in dense
forests. Such an hypothesis seems the most satisfactory
explanation of the remarkable fact, that the Carboniferous
vegetation of America is identical, at least generically, with
that of Europe ; which could not have been the case under
any of the received theories of the distribution of plants
and animals, if these regions had been separated by wide
barriers of ocean.

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Moreover, in tracing the Carboniferous strata, from
Texas and Missouri on the S.W. to the Alleghany
Mountains and Nova Scotia on the east and north, we find
a progressive thickening of the sedimentary materials, such
as sandstones and shales, which become both more
abundant, and of coarser texture, as we approach the sea-
board of the Eastern States. This points to the position of
the old land, from which these materials were derived, as
having lain somewhere in the North Atlantic ; and, com-
bined with the evidence derived from the vegetation,
becomes almost demonstrative of the presence of land where
now rolls the sea.

The great tract of coal-measures, which was, without
doubt, originally connected throughout, has now become
distributed into several coal-fields more or less distinct.
The late Prof. H. P. Rogers enumerated five of such
coal-fields, and estimated their united area at 196,863
square miles,* but a more recent account by Prof. C. A.
Hitchcock makes the number of the coal-fields and the
combined area considerably larger ; as follows :f —

Sq. miles.

1. New England Basin : anlhracile coal, with a maximum of

23 feet of coal, area 750

2. Pennsylvania Anthracite Basin : max. of coal 207 feeit ... 434

• **Geol. of Pennsylvania."

t " Geol. Magazine," vol. x, p. 99. The reader will find in Macfarlane's
'*Coal Regions of America," 1873, a large amount of information extracted
from the States Surveys, thrown into a condensed form. There is also a small
but very beautiful map of the American coal-fields by M. Jules Marcou, in
Peterman's " Mittheilungen," vol. vi (1855).

X Mr. P. W. Sheafer estimates the area at 470 square miles, and the
thickness of coal at an average of 107 feet.

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Sq. miles.

3. Appalachian Basin. Coal bituminous. This coal-basin

ranges through the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland,
West Virginia, Ohio, East Kentucky, Tennessee,
Georgia, and Alabama. In West Virginia the thickness
of coal amounts to 51 feet 63,475

4. Michigan Basin, with ii feet (max.) of coal 6,700

5. Illinois Basin, ranging through Illinois, Indiana, and

Western Kentucky, with 35 feet (max.) of coal ... 51,700

6. Missouri Basin, extending from Iowa to Texas, including

parts of Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas and Indian
territory. Area more than xoo,ooo

7. Texas Basin, a branch of the preceding 6,000

Total area more than 229,059

Over the central and western districts, the strata lie
regularly, and only slightly removed from the horizontal
position ; but on proceeding eastwards, and approaching the
chain of the Alleghanies, they become bent ; and ultimately
folded and crumpled along lines parallel to the axis of the
mountains. Corresponding with this folding of the beds,
the coals lose their bituminous properties, and along the
western flanks of the mountains occur only as anthracite.
The close connection between the crumpling of the coal-
seams, and the loss of the volatile constituents of the coal
itself, is strongly marked ; for in proportion as we recede
from the axis of disturbance, the coal-seams become more

The Alleghany Hills consist of a succession of parallel
ridges, divided by narrow and deep valleys, corresponding
to the folding of the strata. The axis is nearly parallel
with the coast of the Atlantic, and reaches at Black
Mountain an elevation of 6,476 feet. The geological
structure of this remarkable range leads to the conclusion

2 B

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that it has been formed by the exertion of lateral pressure,
acting along the Atlantic side, and forcing the strata towards
the west, with a power to which geology affords few
parallels. In consequence of the structure of the beds, and
the subsequent partial denudation, these mountains contain
several small trough-shaped coal-fields, in which the coal
has become metamorphosed, and assumes a columnar
structure, the axes of the columns being perpendicular to
the planes of bedding. There are also springs of pitch and
petroleum, of great value ; and others of brine, containing
lo per cent, of common salt (chloride of sodium), and small
quantities of iodine and bromine. Free carburetted hydrogen
also bursts forth at the fountains of the country.*

The thickness of some of the seams of coal is in keeping
with the vastness of the coal-fields. In consequence of the
thinning away of the sedimentary materials westward,
several seams are often brought into contact, and form one
mass. Thus in the Bear Mountains there has been formed
a seam of 40 feet in thickness, which is described by Sir
C. Lyell. It is anthracite, and is quarried from the outcrop
into the hill. Sir Charles considers that the thickness of
the original mass of vegetable matter, before condensation
of pressure, and the discharge of its various gases, may
have been from 200 to 300 feet !f

The coal-measures, as in England, rest upon a floor of
Carboniferous Limestone, with, in some places. Millstone

* Prof. Rogers. (From a communication to the British Association, i860.)
t Mr. P. W. Sheafer, in a paper read before the American Assoc, for the
Advancement of Science (1879), states that owing to the thickness of the
coal-seams in the Anthracite districts, the high angle at which they are inclined,
and other causes, the loss in mining of coal is very large, not more than 66 per
cent, being taken out of the mine.

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Grit intervening; the age of the coal-fields in both
countries is therefore identical. The fossils of the Car-
boniferous Limestone are generically the same with those
of Europe — ^such as SpirifeTy Orthis, Terebratula, Productus,
PentremiteSy and Retepora.

The plants from the coal-measures are Lepidodendron
elegans, Sigillaria Sillimani, Neuropteris cordata, N. Loshiiy
Pecopteris lonchitica, Calamites Cistiiy etCy of which all but
the second occur in Europe.

The Triassic Coal-field of Richnwndy Virginia*

Some miles east of- Richmond a small coal-field of
26 miles from north to south, and 12 in its greatest
diameter, occupies a depression in the granitic rocks of
that part of the country.

The Richmond coal-field contains several beds ot
valuable coal, one of which is from 30 to 40 feet in
thickness, highly bituminous, and equal to the best coal of

Other Coal-fields and Lignite Formations^

In Colorado and New Mexico, the late Dr. Hayden and
his assistants of the Government Survey report the exist-
ence of enormous quantities of coal associated with iron-ore,

* This coal-field was supposed by Sir C. Lyell to be of Jurassic age ; but
M. J. Marcou, and Dr. O. Heer (on the evidence of the plant remains) refer
the beds to the Triassic period, a view supported by Prof. T. R. Jones, from
an examination of the fossil Entomostraca from this formation. The reader
will find the subject ably handled by the last-named author, in the Monog. fos.
estherise; Palseont. Soc., 1862, p. 84, et seq. The late Dr. Oldham con-
sidered the Richmond coal-field as probably of the same age as that of the
coal-formation of India.

2 B 2

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especially along the base of the Raton Hills and Placiere
Mountains.* These are now known, I believe, under the
general name of "the Laramie Coal-fields," from the
geological formation in which the coal is found, and which
appears to lie on the borders of the Cretaceous and
Tertiary groups.

The most important of these coal-fields extends across
the boundary between Colorado and New Mexico, and is
described by Prof. J. J. Stevenson as occupying an area of
about 2,200 square miles, and contains numerous coal-
seams interstratified with sandstones and shales, containing
Halymenites, The coals are liable to rapid changes in
thickness and quality, and are laid open to view in some
of the valleys and caflons which traverse the tablelands of
that remarkable region.f

Similar beds of coal or lignite are described by Mr.
Clarence King as occurring in the Laramie group along
the Fortieth ParalleLJ Deposits of coal are also found in
Idaho and Wyoming, which have been opened up to some
extent along the line of the Union Pacific Railway, and
are described by Dr. F. V. Hayden and his assistants of
the American Survey.g

Coal-fields of smaller extent and uncertain age occur,
according to M. Marcou, at the sources of the Rio Colorado,
in the Utah territory, and on the shores of the Pacific
Ocean north of Cape Blanco.||

In Vancouver Island, and on the opposite coast of

♦ Report U. S. Survey, 1869.

t "American Joum. Science and Art," vol. xviii, 1879.
X Report, p. 330, et seq. (1878).
§ Eleventh Annual Report, 1877.

li " Geoiogische Karte der Vereingtcn Staaten," in " Peterman's Mittheil-
ungen," 1855.

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America, there are extensive deposits of Tertiary and
Cretaceous age, bearing beds of lignite and coal, which are
extensively worked for the supply of the steamers navigat-
ing between Victoria and the Frazer River.* Of this
coal that obtained from Nanaimo is admitted to be the

Mr. Isbister describes extensive lignite deposits in the
valley of the Mackenzie River, probably of the same
geological age as those in Vancouver Island. These strata
have been traced by Sir J. Richardson from the shores of
the Arctic Sea, along the eastern base of the Rocky
Mountains as far south as lat. 52 degrees. The beds of lignite
attain a thickness of 9 feet, and are well shown where the
Bear Island River flows into the Mackenzie.

Sir J. Hector, who accompanied Captain J. Palliser*s
expedition in 1857-60, has determined the Geological age
of the lignites of North-western America and Vancouver
Island to be Cretaceous, though others of inferior quality
and of Tertiary age also exist.

The following is a section of the Lignite group obtained
by Hector on the bank of the Saskatchewan River,
near Fort Edmonton : — J

* Mr. Bauerman, " Joum. Geol. Soc.," vol. xvi, p. 201.

t For details see Mr. J. Richardson's Report, addressed to Mr. A. Selw)ni.
Report Geol. Survey, Canada, 187 1-2; also, Report of Progress, 1876,
p. 160.

X For a very interesting account of the coal-£elds of the North Pacific
Coast, see Mr. Robert Brown's communication to the Edin. Geol. Soc.,

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1. Superficial sand and gravel.

2. Grey sandy clay.

3. Lignite, i foot thick.

4. Shale.

5. Lignite, 2 feet.

6. Clay and sandstone.

7. Lignite, very pure, 3 feet.

8. Concretionary greensand.

9. Lignite, pure and compact, 6 feet thick, with a band of soap-clay,

6 inches thick.

This bottom bed of lignite was analysed by Mr. Tookey
at the Laboratory in the Museum of Practical Geology,
and was found to contain about 16 per cent, of ash. Very
thick beds of lignite have also been observed on the banks
of the Red Deer River, a tributary of the Saskatchewan.
On the importance to British commerce of the coal deposits
in British territory on both sides of the Rocky Mountains,
Sir J. Hector lays just stress, showing that they offer a
certain inducement towards a route to China and the
East by Canada, the Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

California. — According to the statement of Mr. Macfar-
lane, no true Carboniferous coal has ever been found in
California, Oregon, or in any of the territories west of
Kansas. The formations of the region bordering the
Pacific are of newer age than the Carboniferous, and
whatever fossil fuel occurs from Behring's Straits to those
of Magellan, consists of lignite.* A fair description of this
variety is found at Mount Diablo near San Francisco, Coos
Bay in Oregon, Seattle, on Puget Sound ; Bellingham Bay
in Washington Territory, and in Vancouver's Island. The
mines at Mount Diablo are connected with the city by rail.
Coal and lignite occur also on Jameson Land, Banks* Land,

* " Coal-Regions of America," p. 561.

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and Melville Island. In Albert Land, in lat. 78 degrees,
Sir E. Belcher found bituminous schists with coal, and
apparently connected with these strata, limestones with
Productus and Spirifer.

Coal-fields of the North Pacific Coast.*

Mr. R. Brown, F.R.G.S., who has had extensive oppor-
tunities of investigation, states that these coal-fields, three
in number, extend from the borders of Alaska to California,
and belong respectively to the Tertiary, Secondary, and
Palaeozoic ages ; the last being situated in Queen Charlotte's
Islands,off the northern coast of British Columbia,and yields
anthracite. The Secondary beds are confined to the Island
of Vancouver, and they may be a continuation of the
Cretaceous strata of Missouri ; while the Tertiary coal-fields
extend from California northward through Oregon and
Washington Territory, touching the southern end of
Vancouver Island and British Columbia. The following
analysis of the native and imported coals may prove
interesting : —

* For a very interesting account oi the coal-fields of the North Pacific
Coast, the reader is referred to the communication of Mr. Robert Brown, laid
before the Geological Society of Edinburgh, 1868-9.

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In Disco Island, and the adjoining coast of Greenland,
in lat. 70 degrees, beds of coal accompanied by plant-remains
were found, and specimens brought home by Sir F. L.
M*Clintock, and subsequently by Mr. Whymper. These
plant-remains, on being submitted for examination to
Prof. Heer, of Zurich, were pronounced by him to be
referable to the Miocene stage of the Tertiary period.*


This Island has long been celebrated for its lake of
mineral pitch ; but, besides this, it contains beds of coal
and lignite, likely to become of considerable economic
importance. The very successful survey by Messrs. Wall
and Sawkins, the Report of which has been published,!
puts us in possession of all that is at present known.
The strata with which the beds of coal are associated
belong to the Tertiary period, and are very widely dis-
tributed. In the middle of the island there is a thickness
of 6 feet 10 inches of workable coal, in two beds ; and
in the southern section, double that amount in three
beds. The strata, consisting of .shales, sands, and car-
bonaceous clays, which contain these coal-seams, reach
a total thickness of about 2,000 feet. They range across

Online LibraryEdward HullThe coal-fields of Great Britain : their history, structure and resources. With descriptions of the coal-fields of our Indian and colonial empire, and of other parts of the world → online text (page 24 of 31)