Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/783

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[EXPLORATION
ASIA
along the slopes of the higher mountains, on which the rain falls more abundantly, or the melting snow supplies streams for irrigation. It is only in such situations that cultivated lands are found, and beyond them trees are hardly to be seen.
The portion of Asia which lies between the Arctic Ocean and the mountainous belt bounding Manchuria, Mongolia and Turkestan on the north is Siberia. It includes an immense high and broken plateau which spreads from south-west to Siberia. north-east, losing in width and altitude as it advances north-east. It is fringed on either side by high border ridges, which subside on the north-west into a stretch of high plains, 1500 to 2000 ft. high, finally dropping to lowlands a few hundred feet above sea-level. The extremes of heat and cold are very great. The rainfall, though not heavy, is sufficient to maintain such vegetation as is compatible with the conditions of temperature, and the surface is often swampy or peaty. The mountain-sides are commonly clothed with pine forests, and the plains with grasses or shrubs. The population is very scanty; the cultivated tracts are comparatively small in extent and restricted to the more settled districts. The towns are entirely Russian. The indigenous races are nomadic Mongols, of a peaceful character, but in a very backward state of civilization. The Ural Mountains do not exceed 2000 or 3000 ft. in average altitude, the highest summits not exceeding 6000 ft., and one of the passes being as low as 1400 ft. In the southern half of the range are the chief mining districts of Russia. The Ob, Yenisei and Lena, which traverse Siberia, are among the largest rivers in the world.
The southern group of the Malay Archipelago, from Sumatra to Java and Timor, extends in the arc of a circle between 95° and 127° E., and from 5° to 10° S. The central part of the Malay Archipelago. group is a volcanic region, many of the volcanoes being still active, the summits frequently rising to 10,000 ft. or more.
Sumatra, the largest of the islands, is but thinly peopled; the greater part of the surface is covered with dense forest, the cultivated area being comparatively small, confined to the low lands, and chiefly in the volcanic region near the centre of the island. Java is the most thickly peopled, best cultivated and most advanced island of the whole Eastern archipelago. It has attained a high degree of wealth and prosperity under the Dutch government. The people are peaceful and industrious, and chiefly occupied with agriculture. The highest of the volcanic peaks rises to 12,000 ft. above the sea. The eastern islands of this group are less productive and less advanced.
Borneo, the most western and the largest of the northern group of islands which extends between 110° and 150° E., as far as New Guinea or Papua, is but little known. The population is small, rude and uncivilized; and the surface is rough and mountainous and generally covered with forest except near the coast, to the alluvial lands on which settlers have been attracted from various surrounding countries. The highest mountain rises to nearly 14,000 ft., but the ordinary elevations do not exceed 4000 or 5000 ft.
Of Celebes less is known than of Borneo, which it resembles in condition and natural characteristics. The highest known peaks rise to 8000 ft., some of them being volcanic.
New Guinea extends almost to the same meridian as the eastern coast of Australia, from the north point of which it is separated by Torres Straits. Very little is known of the interior. The mountains are said to rise to 20,000 ft., having the appearance Pacific Islands. of being permanently covered with snow; the surface seems generally to be clothed with thick wood. The inhabitants are of the Negrito type, with curly or crisp and bushy hair; those of the west coast have come more into communication with the traders of other islands and are fairly civilized. Eastward, many of the tribes are barbarous savages.
The Philippine Islands lie between 5° and 20° N., between Borneo and southern China. The highest land does not rise to a greater height than 10,250 ft.; the climate is well suited for agriculture, and the islands generally are fertile and fairly cultivated, though not coming up to the standard of Java either in wealth or population.
Formosa, which is situated under the northern tropic, near the coast of China, is traversed by a high range of mountains, reaching nearly 13,000 ft. in elevation. On its western side, which is occupied by an immigrant Chinese population, are open and well-cultivated plains; on the east it is mountainous, and occupied by independent indigenous tribes in a less advanced state.
The islands of Japan, not including Sakhalin, of which half is Japanese, lie between the 30th and 45th parallels. The whole group is traversed by a line of volcanic mountains, some of which are in activity, the highest point being about 13,000 ft. above the sea. The country is generally well watered, fertile and well cultivated. The Japanese people have added to their ancient civilization and their remarkable artistic faculty, an adaptation of Western methods, and a capacity for progress in war and commerce, which single them out among Eastern races as a great modern world-force.


Exploration

The progress of geodetic surveys in Russia had long ago extended across the European half of the great empire, St Petersburg being connected with Tiflis on the southern slopes of the Caucasus by a direct system of triangulation carried out with the highest scientific precision. St Petersburg, again, is connected with Greenwich by European systems of triangulation; and the Greenwich meridian is adopted by Russia as the zero for all her longitude values. But beyond the eastern shores of the Caspian no system of direct geodetic measurements by first-class triangulation has been possible, and the surveys of Asiatic Russia are separated from those of Europe by the width of that inland sea. The arid nature of the trans-Caspian deserts has proved an insuperable obstacle to those rigorous methods of geodetic survey which distinguish Russian methods in Europe, so that Russian geography in central Asia is dependent on other means than that of direct measurement for the co-ordinate values in latitude and longitude for any given point. The astronomical observatory at Tashkent is adopted for the initial starting-point of the trans-Caspian triangulation of Russia; the triangulation ranks as second-class only, and now extends to the Pamir frontier beyond Osh. The longitude of the Tashkent observatory has been determined by telegraph differentially with Pulkova as follows:—


H.     M.        S.
In 1875 via Ekaterinburg        and Omsk 2 35 52.151
In 1891 via Saratov and Orenburg        2 35 52.228
In 1895 via Kiev and Baku 2 35 51.997


With these three independent values, all falling within a range of 0S.25, it is improbable that the mean value has an error as large as 0S.10.
Exact surveys in Russia, based upon triangulation, extend as far east as Chinese Turkestan in longitude about 75° E. of Greenwich. In India geodetic triangulation furnishes Extent of exact surveys in Asia. the basis for exact surveys as far east as the eastern boundaries of Burma in longitude about 100° E.
The close of the 19th century witnessed the forging of the final links in the great geodetic triangulation of India, so far as the peninsula is concerned. Further geodetic connexion with the European systems remains to be accomplished. Since 1890 further and more rigorous application of the telegraphic method of determining longitudes differentially with Greenwich has resulted in a slight correction (amounting to about 2″ of arc) to the previous determination by the same method through Suez. This last determination was effected through four arcs as follows:—


I. Greenwich—Potsdam.
II. Potsdam—Teheran.
III. Teheran—Bushire.
IV. Bushire—Karachi.


Each arc was measured with every precaution and a multitude of observations. The only element of uncertainty was caused by the retardation of the current, which between Potsdam and Teheran (3000 m.) took 0S.20 to travel; but it is probable that the final value can be accepted as correct to within 0S.05.
The final result of this latest determination is to place the Madras observatory 2′ 27″ to the west of the position adopted for it on the strength of absolute astronomical determinations.
But while we have yet to wait for that expansion of principal triangulation which will bring Asia into connexion with Europe by the direct process of earth measurement, a topographical Connexion between Russian and Indian surveys. connexion has been effected between Russian and Indian surveys which sufficiently proves that the deductive methods employed by both countries for the determination of the co-ordinate values of fixed points so far agree that, for all practical purposes of future Asiatic cartography, no difficulty in adjustment between Indian and Russian mapping need be apprehended.
In connexion with the Indian triangulation minor extensions carried out on systems involving more or less irregularity have been pushed outwards on all sides. They reach through Afghanistan and Baluchistan to the eastern districts of Extension of geographical surveys. Persia, and along the coast of Makran to that of Arabia. They have long ago included the farther mountain peaks of Nepal, and they now branch outwards towards western China and into Siam. These far extensions furnish the basis for a vast amount of exploratory survey of a strictly geographical character, and they have contributed largely towards raising the standard of accuracy in Asiatic geographical surveys to a level which was deemed unattainable fifty years ago. There is yet a vast field open in Asia for this class of surveys. While at the close of the 19th century western Asia (exclusive of Arabia) may be said to have been freed from all geographical perplexity, China, Mongolia and eastern Siberia still include enormous areas of which geographical knowledge is in a primitive stage of nebulous uncertainty.
Of scientific geographical exploration in Asia (beyond the limits of actual surveys) the modern period has been so prolific that it is only possible to refer in barest outline to some of the principal expeditions, most of which have been directed either to Indian explorers. the great elevated tableland of Tibet or to the central depression which exists to the north of it. In southern Tibet the trans-Himalayan explorations of the native surveyors attached to the Indian survey, notably Pundits Nain Singh and Krishna, added largely to our knowledge of the great plateau. Nain Singh explored the sources of the Indus and of the Upper Brahmaputra in the years 1865-1867; and in 1874-1875 he followed a line from the eastern frontiers of Kashmir to the Tengri Nor lake and thence to Lhasa, in which city he remained for some months. Krishna’s remarkable journey in 1879-1882 extended from Lhasa northwards through