Darwin Charles. Coral Reefs
THE STRUCTURE AND DISTRIBUTION OF CORAL REEFS
(DESCRIPTION OF THE PLATES
CHAPTER I. – ATOLLS OR LAGOON-ISLANDS
SECTION 1.II. – GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF ATOLLS
(DESCRIPTION OF THE PLATES
SECTION 1.III. – ATOLLS OF THE MALDIVA ARCHIPELAGO – GREAT CHAGOS BANK
CHAPTER II. – BARRIER REEFS
CHAPTER III. – FRINGING OR SHORE-REEFS
CHAPTER IV. – ON THE DISTRIBUTION AND GROWTH OF CORAL-REEFS
SECTION 4.I. – ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF CORAL-REEFS, AND ON THE CONDITIONS FAVOURABLE TO THEIR INCREASE
SECTION 4.II. – ON THE RATE OF GROWTH OF CORAL-REEFS
SECTION 4.III. – ON THE DEPTHS AT WHICH REEF-BUILDING POLYPIFERS CAN LIVE
CHAPTER V. – THEORY OF THE FORMATION OF THE DIFFERENT CLASSES OF CORAL-REEFS
CHAPTER VI. – ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF CORAL-REEFS WITH REFERENCE TO THE THEORY OF THEIR FORMATION
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A scientific discovery is the outcome of an interesting process of evolution in the mind of its author. When we are able to detect the germs of thought in which such a discovery has originated, and to trace the successive stages of the reasoning by which the crude idea has developed into an epoch-making book, we have the materials for reconstructing an important chapter of scientific history. Such a contribution to the story of the "making of science" may be furnished in respect to Darwin's famous theory of coral-reefs, and the clearly reasoned treatise in which it was first fully set forth.
The subject of corals and coral-reefs is one concerning which much popular misconception has always prevailed. The misleading comparison of coral-rock with the combs of bees and the nests of wasps is perhaps responsible for much of this misunderstanding; one writer has indeed described a coral-reef as being "built by fishes by means of their teeth." Scarcely less misleading, however, are the references we so frequently meet with, both in prose and verse, to the "skill," "industry," and "perseverance" of the "coral-insect" in "building" his "home." As well might we praise men for their cleverness in making their own skeletons, and laud their assiduity in filling churchyards with the same. The polyps and other organisms, whose remains accumulate to form a coral-reef, simply live and perform their natural functions, and then die, leaving behind them, in the natural course of events, the hard calcareous portions of their structures to add to the growing reef.
(PLATE: UNTITLED WOODCUT, WHITSUNDAY ATOLL.)
Whitsunday Island is of small size, and the whole circle has been converted into land, which is a comparatively rare circumstance. As the reef of a lagoon-island generally supports many separate small islands, the word "island," applied to the whole, is often the cause of confusion; hence I have invariably used in this volume the term "atoll," which is the name given to these circular groups of coral-islets by their inhabitants in the Indian Ocean, and is synonymous with "lagoon-island."