Abstract of a paper read by Robert Brown, Esq., F.R.G.S., before the Edinburgh Geological Society. The Pacific Railroad being now nearly ready for traffic, it becomes of importance to inquire what are the fuel supplies —on the Pacific coast—to be relied upon to supply the fleets of steamers and the branch railways which will soon strike off from the main line into almost every valley and to every little mountain town. No doubt, coal might be brought round Cape Horn, as hitherto much of it has been, or across the plains with the railway, but both of these means of supply must necessarily be limited on account of the expense. It behoves us, therefore, to inquire somewhat narrowly what are the extent and nature of the native coal-fields on the North Pacific coast. I must preface what I have to say by telling you that what notes I may have to lay before you, are the result of occasional observations in the course of my wandering in the greater portion of certain regions—explored and unexplored—between California and Alaska during portions of the years 1863, 1864, 1865, and 1866. Though I shall have occasion now and then to refer to general geological questions, yet for the main part what I shall have to say will almost entirely be looked at from a eoal-suply point of view, and then as much with the eye of a physical geographer as that of a pure geologist. Extending from the borders of California to Alaska are j three coal-fields belonging respectively to the tertiary, secondary, and palaeozoic ages—the latter being situated, as far as yet known, only in the Queen Charlotte islands, off* the northern coast of British Columbia, the exact age being as yet undetermined, though the coal is anthracitic and in all probabili ty palaeozoic. The other two coal-fields are situated, as regards each other, from south to north in the order of their age. The tertiary extends from California northwards through Oregon and Washington Territory, impinging the southern end of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, and extending, with some interruptions, right across the Rocky Mountains—the Miocene coals of Missouri being apparently only a continuation of these same beds. The secondary beds, on the other hand, on the North Pacific are confined to the island of Vancouver, though in all probability they are also a continuation of the cretaceous strata of Missouri. The tertiary lignites of the North Pacific are throughout of Miocene age, and are associated with beds of sandstone, shale, etc. It burns freely, but leaves behind much slag and ash. It has been wrought at various places on the coast. 1. Mount Diablo, California. Here 59,257 tuns were mined last year from January to August, the coal selling for eight dollars per tun in San Francisco. At Benicia it was also mined, but has been discontinued. Its analysis is— carbon, 50; volatile bituminous matter, 46 ; ash, 4. 2 Coose Bay, Oregon. Its analysis shows 46*44 per cent of carbon, 50*27 of volatile matter, and 3*19 of ash. Its percentage of coke is 49*73 ; but this is dark, friable, and '\ oi little value. It produces abundant gas, of low illuminating power. It is used to some extent in San Francisco, 7,759 tuns having been imported from January to August, 1868. 3. Clallam Bay, Washington Territory. Several attempts have been made here to get good coal, but have failed to a great extent owing to the want of a harbor. Analysis—carbon, 46*40; volar tile matter, 50*97 ; ash, 2*63. 4. Bellingham Bay. Here the J ignite has been mined for some years with success, tUbugh it is of no better quality than the others. From January to August, 1865, 5,680 tuns were imported into San Francisco. Analysis—carbon, 47*63; bitumen, 50*22 ; ash, 2*15. Coal crops out at various other localities—Fmser River, Burrard Inlet, islands of the Haro Archipelago, ganetch Peninsula, the northern (Vancouver) shores of De Fucas Strait, etc.—but has not been worked ; and I am of opinion that all these outcrops are of tertiary age, the secondary formation not appearing south of the Chemainos River. There are newer (Pleistocene, or perhaps recent) lignites in the cliffs of Useless Bay, Whidby's Island, associated with remains of the mastodon, a tradition of the existence of which animal still lingers among the Indian tribes. This lignite is in small quantity, and quite worthless for fuel. The whole coast of Vancouver on the east coast, north of Chemainos, is bounded by a belt of carboniferous strata, composed of sandstone, shale, and coarse gravel-stone conglomerates, interstratified with which are beds of coal of a much superior character to any hitherto described. These beds from the contained fossils appear to be cretaceous. Everywhere the strata named form a characteristic accompaniment of the coal (especially this coarse conglomerate) and nearly everywhere it is underlaid by one or more seams of coal cropping out at some point on the circuit named, though it may reasonably be supposed yet to be found on the opposite shores of British Columbia. Outcrops are seen on some of the coast-lying islands, etc.; but it is only at Nanaimo where it is wrought to any extent, this being the only mine in Vancouver Island (or in the British North Pacific territories) eorting coal. Here is a village of 500 inhabitants and some fifty miners. Last year the company exported 43,778 tuns, and declared a dividend of 15 per cent. Tho coal is bright, tolerably hard, and not unlike some of the best qualities of English coal. It is used all over the coast for steaming and domestic purposes. It brings eleven dollars per tun in Victoria, and thirteen in San Francisco. An analysis gives carbon,6693 ; hydrogen, 5*32 ; nitrogen, 1*02; sulphur, 2.20; oxygen, 8*70 ; ash, 15-83. The fossil remains were then described. North of Nanaimo, on Brown's River, immense seams ot coal have beeff discovered by myself and party ; on Salmon River the Indians report coal; at Sukwash, near Fort Rupert, coal appears; and at Koskeemo Sound, on the western shore, are extensive undeveloped fields of what will ultimately, no doubt, prove the best coal in Vancouver Island, both from its quality and easy shipment. The latter, on analysis, gave carbon, 66*15 ; hydrogen, 4*70 ; nitrogen, 1*25 ; sulphur, 0*80 ; oxygen, 13*59 ; ash, 13" 60. Other coal-fields will no doubt be discovered as exploration proceeds, but the country is so covered with dense forests and undergrowth as to render exploration very difficult. The anthracite is found on the Quee*n Charlotte Islands, off the north coast of British Columbia. The beds are much broken up by faults, felspathic trap dykes, and other disturbing influences, so that "to work it will always be expensive and troublesome. Still, the value of the discovery is of the highest iniportane to the coast. The coal is associated with conglomerates, a fine hard slate, out of which the Hy-dah Indians carve the pipes and other ornaments so common in the European museums, and metamorphosed sandstones. On first sight I was inclined to believe it only debituminized cretaceous coal, but from the fossils recently discovered I am induced to change that opinion and to believe it of palaeozoic age. An analysis gave—carbon, 71*20 ; moisture, 5*10 ; volatile combustible matter, 7*27: ash, 6*43. 'I'he only good or Bxtensive coal-fields in "the North Pacific are, therefore, within the English colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and in the possession of these coal-fields these States, at present so depressed, have a mine of wealth which, df ju-iiciously managed, will ultimately render them the seat of busy industry. From the Century.
This article was originally published with the title "On the Coal-Fields of the North Pacific Coast"