REVIEW OF THE PAPERS BY E. M. KINDLE AND J. W. GREGORY.
BY CHARLES SCHUCHERT,
Professor Emeritus of Historical Geology in the Sheffield Scientific School, and Professor Emeritus of Paleontology in Yale University.
The writer (who has been Professor of Historical Geology since 1904 at Yale University and has visited and studied the geology widely in the United States, Canada, Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland) carefully studied an original copy of Doctor Kindle's report, entitled “ Geography and Geology of Lake Melville District, Labrador Peninsula,” rather than the abbreviated copy, No. 11, of the documents in the matter of the Boundary Dispute between Canada and Newfoundland. This was done to get the whole of Doctor Kindle's account. Then the writer studied Professor J. W. Gregory's paper, “ On the Labrador Boundary Question,” and Professor R. A. Daly's “ Topography of the Northeast Coast of Labrador.” In addition he carefully read Doctor A. P. Low's very valuable “ Report on Explorations in the Labrador Peninsula,” 1896, published by the Geological Survey of Canada ; and Professor R. A. Daly's “ The Geology of the North-east Coast of Labrador,” 1902, published by Harvard College.
In studying Kindle's report of his observations in the Lake Melville area, the writer was soon made aware that his major object was to take a narrow view of the phrase “ the coast of Labrador,” and this attitude appears in the opening paragraph. Throughout his report the stress is laid upon the word “ coast,” and it is clear that his use of this word is in the narrowest maritime sense, namely, restricting it to the littoral area of salt-water overlap of the Atlantic Ocean upon the Peninsula of Labrador. Throughout we see his labouring with redefinitions of geographic and geologic terms and then applying them in his redefined sense to the specific areas visited.
Kindle says : “ Lake Melville and Hamilton Inlet together afford continuous waterway which permits sea-going vessels to penetrate about 150 miles inland beyond the outer islands. The entire eastern coastline of Labrador is a succession of deep bays, inlets, and fringing islands.” (10)
“ The most striking topographic feature of the region is the great depth to which the fiord-like valleys extend below the level of the adjacent plateau margin.” (11)
Daly remarks : “ The Labrador Peninsula as a whole was temporarily depressed during the Glacial period—simply by the great weight of the ice.
After the ice cap melted away the earth's crust did not immediately respond and rise to its pre-Glacial level. Hence for a considerable time the Atlantic water transgressed upon the coast,” when “ the ocean waves built hundreds of short beaches in the bays and among the islands of the coastal fringe. These beaches have recently been elevated because the earth's crust ultimately responded to the removal of the ice load.” (Daly, Documents, Part XV, p. 2079.)
In this matter of the raised beaches Kindle says : “ No fisherman can fail to recognise the autographs of the sea in the elevated boulder beaches and terraces of sand which may be seen in many places 200 feet or more above the present sea-level. These elevated sea beaches, which at scores of localities look almost as fresh and perfectly preserved as those now being built, demonstrate that the eastern coastline has risen 300 feet or more in Hamilton Inlet district.” (8)
“ Lake Melville, into which Grand Lake empties, is a tidal lake, and shows a maximum depth of 160 fathoms.” (Kindle, 13.)
Kindle discusses the fiordal nature of Lake Melville but finally objects to calling it a fiord because “ one of the largest rivers in Labrador Peninsula (namely, Hamilton river) flows into Lake Melville. . . . It appears, therefore, that Lake Melville can be more properly regarded as a lake-like expansion of the Hamilton than as a fiord.”
This argument shows at once that Kindle wants to make of Lake Melville a fresh-water and landlocked lake, so that the seashore can be drawn at the inner end of the Narrows. This is made plainer from the following :—“ Hamilton Inlet (sensu stricto) belongs to the class of seashore indentations called rias and that physiographers would consider at least its outer shores to be a part of the seacoast. . . . Since neither the lake nor the Narrows conforms, even approximately, with the definition of a fiord, the Narrows may be technically regarded as the mouth or outlet of greater Hamilton River enlarged by the waters of Grand Lake, Kenama and Kenemich rivers. From the standpoint of a physiographer the term seacoast would, therefore, not be applicable beyond or southeast of the junction of the Narrows and Hamilton Inlet.” (14)
In regard to this decision of Kindle the writer would say that it is far more natural and correct to agree with geographers in general and specifically with Gregory, who “ regards Lake Melville Basin, the Narrows, and the entrance to them as part of one arm of the sea.” (17)
No geographer was more familiar with Labrador than Doctor A. P. Low, Geologist of the Geological Survey of Canada, and in his well-known and highly-valued report of 1896 he says :
“ The Atlantic coast (of Labrador) is exceedingly irregular, being deeply cut by many long, narrow bays, or fiords. . . . Hamilton Inlet is the largest and longest of these inlets, extending inland over one hundred and fifty miles from its mouth. The fiords, as a rule, have greater depths than the banks outside the island fringe.” (20 L.) The last-named collection is a characteristic feature of fiords.
Low always speaks of Lake Melville as a “ bay ” and a part of Hamilton Inlet.
“ Hamilton Inlet, Invuktoke, or Esquimaux Bay, is the largest and most important of the many long, narrow fiords or inlets that indent the Atlantic coast of Labrador and Newfoundland. Its greatest length, from Indian Harbour to the mouth of the Hamilton River at its head, is slightly over one hundred and fifty miles, while its average breadth is about fourteen miles.” (124 L.)
Hamilton Inlet. “ At Indian Harbour the tide rises seven feet at springs ; at the lower end of the Narrows the rise is four feet, while above the Narrows the rise is only about two feet and continues the same to the head of the Inlet, where the rise and fall of the tide is much modified by the direction and strength of the wind. Below the Narrows there is a strong current formed by the ebb and flow of the tide ; while through the Narrows the rising and falling water rushes with a velocity varying from four to seven miles per hour.” (127 L.)
From the previous quotations we learn that at the close of the Glacial period most of the Atlantic coast of Labrador was lower by about 300 feet than it is now. Accordingly marine water, tides, and waves entered more deeply into all the fiords and rivers and especially so into the Lake Melville and Hamilton River areas. This is confirmed not only by the many places with sand terraces, which Low says go up Hamilton River 70 miles to Gull Rapid Gorge, but especially by the basal clays having marine Pleistocene shells which are listed by Kindle and Packard. They also occur 10 miles above the mouth of Kenemich River and at Muskrat Falls of the Hamilton River. These fossil forms are still represented by individuals living off the coast of Labrador. Since the time of this greater flooding the east Labrador coast has risen about 300 feet and appears to be rising even now. As this evidence is admitted by all, it helps us the more easily to understand the significance of the present coastal conditions.
Kindle says that Lake Melville can be navigated by sea-going vessels, “ that it is a tidal lake,” and that “ the most striking topographic feature of the region is the great depth to which the fiord-like valleys extend below the level of the adjacent plateau margin.” These are all characteristic of fiords and marine inlets. So far as the writer knows, all geographers call the Lake Melville area a fiord and an inlet of the sea. On the other hand, freshwater lakes are never referred to as tidal lakes, since in them the pull of the moon is so slight as to raise very minor tides. In Lake Melville the tides, according to Low, are readily measured and are variable according to time and wind conditions, causing two daily tides rising anywhere up to about two feet. Here, then, we have a “ lake ” into which there flows (twice daily) oceanic water, and that causes the “ lake level ” to rise and sink even into Goose Bay. And the latter is said, by Kindle, to have brackish water in midsummer (54). Accordingly we see why all geographers regard Lake Melville as but a part of Hamilton Inlet ; it is truly but an arm of the sea and an inlet that is open to sea-going vessels for about 150 miles.
In regard to what constitutes the seaboard or seacoast, attention is directed to the fact that there are in the United States eight chief “ seaports,” or “ ports of entry,” and these are suitated on or near the oceanic fronts (as Boston, New York City, which is 10 miles inland, Galveston, and San Francisco, 5 miles inland), or are far from the ocean (as Seattle, 40 miles from the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Philadelphia, 96 miles inland, New Orleans, 106 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and Baltimore, 180 miles, as ships go, to the Atlantic).
Kindle lays unduly great “ coastal ” value upon the allegation that practically all the marine animals of the Atlantic Ocean fail to get a foothold
in Lake Melville.
What bearing has this on the geographic fact that Lake Melville is but an extension of Hamilton Inlet, which is truly an arm of the sea ? None whatever, for he is discussing the distribution of a marine fauna that has no relation to the physiographic and geographic continuity of the land, and geography in this case is of far more significance than is the distribution of marine life.
That geographic entities cannot be bounded wholly by the distribution of marine life becomes all the more evident when we consider the conditions of the Baltic Sea. Though this sea is almost without tides and is said to have the characteristics of a great lake, but with a salt content variable between 6 and 10.5 parts per thousand of water, yet no geographer regards it other than as a sea and an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. Any atlas will demonstrate this acceptation. Heilprin, in 1906, defined the Baltic Sea as “ a sea of Europe, enclosed by Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Denmark and communicating with the North Sea.” Its area is 160,000 square miles and receives the drainage of at least 800,000 square miles, which is the main cause why the Baltic Sea has so greatly freshened water. In this sea with variable marine waters there lives a mixture of marine and fresh-water life that totals around 240 forms, while around Great Britain, where the waters are normal marine, there live about 1,040 species. In these facts we see to what extent normal marine life fails to enter the Baltic Sea because of its freshened waters, and finally none of it gets a foothold in the inner ends of the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland. Here the life is all of fresh-water kinds, because the waters are completely fresh, yet the Baltic Sea with its various gulfs is regarded by all as a geographic unit of the marine realm, and one separating political entities.
The leading authorities on Labrador–A. P. Low, J. W. Gregory, R. A. Daly, A. Heilprin—and nearly all geologists regard the Lake Melville area as a genuine fiord and the longest by far of all “ the glorious fiords ” of Labrador. Daly says there are thirty or more large fiords and that twelve of them extend inland from 30 to 50 miles. Kindle's objections to calling the Lake Melville area a fiord are not well taken.
The topography of the Lake Melville region, Kindle says, resulted from “ subaerial and river erosion modified by glaciation and directed in some degree by important structural features. Their main features were developed in pre-Glacial time when the Labrador coast stood considerably higher than
at present. These waterways cannot, therefore, be regarded as representing in any degree the work of the sea in cutting back or eroding the coast along lines of least resistance.” (70-71) Professor Gregory does not agree to this interpretation of Kindle and describes its evolution differently, but even so this difference of opinion as to the origin of fiords has no bearing whatever on the present sea-level and with the fact that the present tides of the Atlantic Ocean penetrate to the head of Lake Melville. If there were no Hamilton River back of the lake, there would be instead of a lake a typical marine body of water, so that even Kindle would not hesitate to call Melville Bay an arm of the sea.
The writer first saw Labrador in the summer of 1897 and again in 1910, when he often heard the terms “ On the Labrador,” and “ Coast of Labrador,” understanding by them then and ever since an undetermined width of mountainous and back of the salt-water coastline. That this is the general conclusion of geographers as well finds excellent support in Lippincott's “ A Complete Pronouncing Gazetteer or Geographical Dictionary of the World,” 1906, edited by the well-known geographers Angelo Heilprin and Louis Heilprin. Here we read :—“ Labrador Coast, that portion of the peninsula of Labrador which drains east into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a dependency of Newfoundland.” Under “ Labrador ” we read the same : “ That portion belonging to Newfoundland is that which is drained by rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The coast is deeply indented with fiords, the largest on the Atlantic side being Hamilton Inlet.”
The writer sees no possibility of a natural boundary in the geology of Labrador, nor in the distribution of marine or land life. The only natural line is one to be surveyed along “ the crest of the watershed ” between the various rivers. Accordingly, the writer is in complete accord with Gregory and Daly that the Atlantic Coastal Belt of Labrador is a distinct and natural geographic entity, bounded on the west by the height of land or the watershed between it and the plateau of Labrador. This height of land or the line of drainage into the Atlantic Ocean, Hudson Bay, and Gulf of St. Lawrence is the only place where a natural boundary can be drawn between the claims of Newfoundland and Canada (Quebec). “ The watershed is the natural geographical division, as it determines the direction of trade and commerce, since exports would go down the waterways to the coast.” (Gregory).