The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 8 (January 15, 1927)
The Romance of Coal
Coal has its romance. Not always was the essential thing the cost per ton. Its romance goes back into the dateless past, and began when the world was in its youth. Astronomy tells us that the earth on which we reside was once “a roaring mass of shapeless flame.” Cycles of ages pass. In bulk it has greatly diminished and its various elements have so far cooled, that on its surface have gathered here and there masses of granite rocks, and the waters of oceans “hustling and foaming.”
Another cycle of ages passes. The ocean has been upheaved from its bed again and again. Billow and blast have ground into dust and pebble case-tempered granite, and now piled tier upon tier, stand gigantic the stratified rocks, gneiss, slate, hornblende and limestone, looking down into the flood, into which are rushing their ruins in dust or in block, the ground of a new and better foundation.
So far it is a lifeless world. Now seaweeds begin to appear in the ocean. Its waters swarm with coral, molluscs, crustacea, and strangely armoured fish. Flower plants and even trees begin to appear on land. But the earthquake, the volcano, the hurricane, and the flood are at work again. The ocean floor is elevated into wide plateau or marshy expanse only to again descend into the depths.
Mighty changes take place. Continents disappear, now buried in the depths of the sea to be covered by sedimentary rocks now upheaved by the outbursting of central fires, to sink again and receive layers of chalk, sand and clay. Eras pass. New creatures flourish above; strange monster animals waddle across the land. The sea has new occupants and the air numerous birds of the bat family.
After long delay, man—the focal point of creation, the master type—arrives. Ere he stands upon the earth, his every need has been provided. Corn bearing grasses to sustain life, flowers to delight the eye, luscious fruit to gratify the taste, and not the least important of all, coal to pile high the winter fire, feed the furnaces, and drive a hundred thousand trains across the Continents.
Hidden in the lower parts of the earth for countless ages, convulsions twist its layers upward, and drive it from its deep recesses ready to his hand, the stored up sunlight of another age,—the fuel for a world. (To be continued.)