On 23 June
1838 Charles Darwin set out on a journey to the West Highlands of Scotland
to study the mysterious "Parallel Roads" of Glen Roy. He traveled
by steam packet (a mail boat) to Edinburgh, from there to Glasgow, then
on to the Glen Roy valley. This valley is located just northeast of
Fort William, in the West Highlands of Scotland, and directly north
terraced "roads" developed was a mystery at the time. Based
on his observation in South America during the Beagle voyage (mainly
in Chile), Darwin thought the roads may be the result of the uplifting
of the valley when it was covered by a large lake, and that the roads
were in reality extinct shorelines. He traveled to the Glen Roy valley
to investigate this mystery, and was there from 28 June to 5 July.
a paper on his observations the next year in "Philosophical Transactions
of the Royal Society" (1839 pp 39-81). Unfortunately, his theory
did not stand the test of time, for in 1840/42 Louis Agassiz had published
more convincing papers that theorized that the parallel roads of Glen
Roy were the result of a retreating lake behind the ice dam of a glacier.
This has now been shown to be the case.
paper was a great failure, and I am ashamed of it. Having been deeply
impressed with what I had seen of the elevation of the land in South
America, I had attributed the parallel lines to the action of the sea;
but I had to give up this view when Agassiz propounded his glacier-lake
theory." (Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters.
Francis Darwin (Editor). New York: Dover Publications, 1992, page 33)
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