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Book Five---The History and Adventures of Life
"Various Selections" - Previous Chapter / Next Chapter
An Age of Death
In The Science of Life (1931) , pp. 733-737
    by H.G. Wells, Julian Huxley, and G.P. Wells

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were the raucous mating-calls from those first air-breathing throats.
But somewhere among those swamps there crawled the ancestors
of all birds, of all mammals, of us who write, and of you who read this
ยง 7. An Age of Death.
THE coal-swamps could not last for ever. Another spasm of mountainbuilding
was being prepared in the earth's crust; and the climate
began to change. The swamps shrank, the sea retreated, the coalforests
dwindled. The Appalachian mountains were thrown up in a
series of violent movements, which, speeded up in the mind's eye,
look like a paroxysm, but in reality were spread over a vast space of
time---^probably ten or twenty million years.
The crust of Europe heaved in sympathy, and the Hercynian
chain, now worn down to such stumps as some of the Irish mountains,
the Eifel, the Taunus, and the Ardennes, was synchronously brought
into being.
Meanwhile in the Southern Hemisphere a great ice age was brewing.
What caused it is not our business to explain, but the geologist's
and the geographer's. Most probably its onset was due to the remarkable
elevation of the southern lands, which first produced a huge antarctic
continent, and then cut most of it off from the approach of
warm currents from the tropics by joining it with Australia and possibly
with South America too, and throwing a vast transverse bar of
land across from Australia through Malaysia and India to Africa,
and perhaps beyond. This transverse super-continent has been christened
Gondwanaland by the geologist. Antarctica, high and with its
central-heating system of warm currents cut off, covered itseff with
a great ice-cap; this infected and cooled all the neighbouring inland
sea and filled it full of icebergs; and then the heights of land in the
continent of Gondwana also began accumulating their own cap of
snow and their own glaciers.
Whatever the cause, it is certain that the whole of what is now South
Africa was submerged by the sea of ice, and liiat the same sheet
buried the southern tip of Madagascar; huge areas of Australia and
South America were glaciated, and bits of India and possibly Central
Africa, right up to the equator. The Northern Hemisphere largely
escaped the ice, but was subjected at about the same time to the
first onset of a long spell of desiccation, which continued through
most of the Permian (III F). This is evidenced by the huge accumulations
of salt and gypsum laid down as some of the seas over the con-
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