Im Steinkohlenwald: In the Coal-forming Forest

English Translation of , by Bolsche, pp. 31-36, with editing assistance from Anne Uebbing.

Note to reader:
This section of Bolsche's book deals with the upright trees that are pictured on p.35. It is provided simply to save those interested valuable time, and done so even though Bolsche was, himself, overwhelmingly pro-evolution -- as Germany was during this period, and perhaps still is to this day.  Also, the accuracy is not guaranteed, but at least it is somewhat readable.

Bottom of P. 30 (P. 31). 

Thus also, since that time it was only disputed in some local (individual) cases, nevertheless, whether occasionally coal formation could not, as an exception, have taken place completely by seaweeds; but the actual composition of the coal question was settled. 

Today one has become aware of (through research, particularly by Engler and Potonie) the fact that certain primitive forms of algae which were still under the stage of seaweed in salt and freshwater, have in the primeval times already played a big role and left behind extremely important remains for our culture.  Every friend of our Märkischen lakes (of Brandenburg) knows about the so-called “water flower,” a sudden appearance of incomprehensibly enormous amount of green aurochs algae (algas) which color the whole water surface environment and banks edges with a thick (cloudy) slime.  Such alga mud demonstrably leads to particular strange decaying fatty (grease) deposits, and the well-founded supposition is that the alga fat came from rotting animal bodies, in connection with water, and formed in primeval days a substance that is very important to us, namely petroleum.  But the formation of (real) coal, however, seems generally not to come from this exact decaying and greasing process.  This information (knowledge) also does not support the theory that coal arises from algae.

However, the microscopic discovery not only led to the negative defense of a wrong theory, but it granted in a huge (positive) boost. 

If one could, nevertheless, finally, use good judgment (principles) with these, up to now, problematic accompanying finds, these obvious plant remains in the enclosing rock strata, (when conducting actual sample tests) which, even if to the naked eye is distorted and indiscernible, nevertheless also, formed the bulk of the coal.  Thanks also to the large effort from the coal industry itself, concerning everything that had to do with coal, this material also was exceedingly multiplied since the days of Buffon, and (it) now filled whole museum halls and was examined by experts for a long time, and with great devotion has been described and illustrated.  Forests of an extremely strange composition had appeared before the eyes of the botanists, as completely worthy of study and reconstruction with just as much eagerness (enthusiasm) as the skeletons of old mammoths, Megatherien, and giant dinosaurs that have since Cuvier’s time filled all geological textbooks and picture books. 

Top of P. 32.  One had for a long time attributed these coal-periods to forests, and now it was certain that these were the remains of the actual forests themselves.  For millions of years they must have grown in unheard of luxuriance, in order to have given an entire era its imprint. 

For the first time in the Earth’s history there stood a forest of undoubted Land flora of tree-shaped cryptogamic plants. 

The older geology at that time (then) was already “flood free”, yet still always thought of the first epoch of universal water covering the newly cooled off globe; only after some time were the first islands really supposed to have risen from this earth flowing Primeval Ocean.  When the oldest, still unchanged, sedimentary rocks, without exception, only showed remnants of shells, sea lilies, crabs and other distinctly aquatic animals, this original idea was simply reconfirmed. 

Meanwhile, however, thoughtful geologists (had) pointed out, with complete certainty, that these ocean deposits also had hardened into rock long ago, when (at some time) mud was deposited, and afterwards became the hardened rocks of the Cambrian, Silurian and Devonian periods of our table, which, likewise came from previously existing eroded rocks and rocky rubble; from which one could only assume that they, like rocks of today, were eroded from weather-beaten coasts, river courses and weathered mountains.  And indeed, there is no real reason to doubt the existence of such a land from the oldest conceivable times. 

Bottom of P. 32 (P. 33).  The powers that create today’s land, mountain formations, volcanos, sea level changes, coral formations and closely related kinds are completely within the framework of the oldest geological eras, -- indeed, the biggest question is whether or not such events were more active than they are today.  We already know of enormous coral reefs from the Silurian period, the clearest indication of Continental strata dating back to the Cambrian; the Devonian period was filled with volcanic eruptions, the Coal Period itself was one of the greatest periods of mountain forming in Europe in the whole history of the earth.  Although (almost) the only remains that were preserved in these older epochs are those of sea animals, this then simply points to the incompleteness of the (fossil) record; in general, remains of (aquatic) life had better chances to be preserved than traces of land life. 

For the Coal Period, one could now clearly look, for the first time, far out over the blue sea upon a mysterious land; however, the land where these coal plants thrived exceedingly. 

However, where was this land at that time located? 

Land and sea-borders of today give no indication, for this world is too remote.  If one recalls that in the Primeval World, and much later still, that Africa and South America probably once formed a united continent and likewise (still) later so did Europe and North America, if one remembers that in the Jurassic period Ichthyosaurs swam in the sea in the land of Swabia, and that the lowland area of Northern Germany was under the ocean during the Cretaceous period, then one will not want to consult (or draw any conclusions from) from any (of our) modern maps. 

The coal seams themselves are enormous in today's Europe, North America and Asia.  Annually more than 750 million tons of coal is mined for the industry.  The presently existing coal seams are calculated at almost seven hundred billion tons for the United States alone.  Besides this, the colossal coalfields of China, estimated to be the biggest on earth, are not yet even in use. 

Bottom of P.33 (P. 34)  Such masses of material, whose veins pass through the rock of their period only in a limited thickness, must naturally take up spatially vast areas.  A single one of the North American coal fields of Appalachia, comprises a completely workable field of 2400 geographical square miles, the uniformly compact (enclosed) Pittsburger seam is estimated at 900 such square miles. 

However, according to the Alluvial (allochthonous) Theory these deposits would simply have been backed up (obstructed) areas in the sea where the transported (and broken up) trees (or "land wood") would have been deposited.  Furthermore, one must first look for the proportionately enormous river estuaries, the run of which was more than the Mississippi or the Amazon, through whose gates this freight was carried into the sea, and from there inland the actual forest area itself. 

Before this postulate, however, something now weakens this view: the earth area threatens to become too small.  The coalfields are themselves so enormous that one merely comes to such conclusion (calculation) if one could only envision the wooded areas they would have comprised at that time, while the perspective becomes (sinks into the) incomprehensible if all of that (everything) should be present (available) only twice over (again). 

However, yet another consideration immediately came into play. 

Near the coal seams were not only imprints of fern leaves, but also the remains of animals such as: grasshopper-like insects, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, and air-breathing snails, -- remains of creatures which could not possibly have lived in the sea.  They therefore must have been washed in from the shore even as the fern fronds.  But the remains of real animals were missing.  Why had they not been found there as well, if not much earlier? 

No doubt (indeed) it turned out that the entire Coal-period strata was full of sea animals, but they just never had anything to do with the actual coal seams and their closely accompanying strata.  Wherever they came in close proximity to the coal, it was always as if the rocks with sea inhabitants reached out like a stranger over the coal (and) only occasionally positioned (far) away from it or lying under it, exactly as if an area was formerly an inhabited seabed and then no longer, or as if it was flooded again from the sea at times, such as in a riparian zone.  It seemed as if there had been two types of seas at that time: one entirely without animal life which simply transported the coal (seams) and deposited the accompanying strata, -- and a second, in which sea life bountifully blossomed, and these (two) admittedly alternated (changed positions) in various places from time to time, however, at the same time never mixing. 

P. 35 (near top) A strange situation that allowed for no interpretation whatsoever from otherwise known circumstances. 

Querschnitt durch Gesteinschichten der Steinkohlenzeit mit aufrecht versteinerten Baumstämmen.
Which means: Cross-section through rock strata of the coal period with upright fossilized tree stumps.

However another even more strange fact demanded explanation.  People had already reported to the old Buffon not merely of single plant leaves which would be found in the clay strata next to the coal seams but of whole petrified tree trunks. 

Indeed, various such trunks had already been found since then, and they led directly to the actual picture of the large primeval forests of that time (era).  The fact that they should be trunks of fernlike plants was no obstacle.  If the fern here in the North is to us really only an “herb,” one needs only to visit the tropics (or the greenhouse of a botanical garden) to meet the “fern tree” or “treefern” of today in its most splendid development. Top of P. 36. For the Drift Theory, such a trunk (from that time) presented no (further) obstacle.  Where on the actual border, (a) completely pulverized washed in coal layer in the more sandy mud-bank a tender (delicate) fern leaf or the wing of a grasshopper, that once lay on it, had been preserved: why were there not also whole logs tossed (thrown) in (with these)?  But nevertheless, these trunks themselves allowed something else very annoying, that which was not at all in favor of this theory. 

Namely they were not variously positioned in the strata like a piece of driftwood that the waves buried in mud horizontally, or irregularly nestled in the rock in every position and direction, but were themselves always in a quite certain position which obviously pointed to a mysterious recurring principle (law), but surely not the law of loosely buried driftwood. 

Miners in English coal mines repeatedly experienced the following fatal situation.  They had driven a horizontal tunnel that lay in the plain of the progressively diminishing coal vein (itself).  Suddenly, a large stone cylinder fell, with no warning, from the roof (top) of the shaft, therefore also even the original hanging rock layer above the vein itself.  An investigation proved that this cylinder had been loosely hanging in (attached to) the stone mass above, separated from the surroundings by a cover of brittle coal.  At the moment where the base was removed with (by) the shaft itself, it simply fell, by its own weight, into the shaft. 

One could not doubt that it had to do with the petrified filling of a hollow log, whose bark represented the (separating) coal shell. 

However, this tree then must have stood perpendicular (upright) in relation to the coal seam below, to which level the shaft itself corresponded.

 Translated by Randy S. Berg, 2006