Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/442

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

sumed by the vegetation during the dry season. A striking illustration of this fact is given in a forest on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, where the vegetation is very luxuriant, although it never rains except in the fall and winter. M. Woeikoff has also observed that forests depress the temperature of the neighboring regions. Thus the normal temperature ordinarily increases as we go from the sea toward the interior in Western Europe and Asia; but the presence of a forest compensates for the rise in temperature, so that there are places far from the sea that arc cooler than the shore itself. This is the case in Bosnia, where the summer is five or six degrees cooler than in Herzegovina, on account of the woods.


According to "Wood and Iron," of the four hundred and thirteen species of trees found in the United States, the perfectly dry wood of sixteen species will sink in water. The heaviest of these is the black iron-wood of Southern Florida, which is thirty per cent heavier than water. Others of the best-known species are the lignum-vitæ, mangrove, and a small oak found at elevations of from five to ten thousand feet in Western Texas, Southern New Mexico, and Arizona. All the species are natives of Florida or of the dry interior Pacific region.

Artesian wells have been in operation in the Sahara from a very remote period, and new ones have been opened by the French in the Algerian portion of the desert with considerable success. At the same time a large increase has taken place in the number of palm and other fruit trees. The limit of the capacity of the veins to be found at the usual depth of one hundred metres appears, however, to have been reached at last, for the borings made since 1881 show a diminished yield of water. The French wells, moreover, are harder to clean when they are stopped up by sand than the Arabian ones, on account of their smaller bore; and it is believed that new wells will have to be made, of larger caliber.

M. Bocion, of the Cantonal Industrial School of Lausanne, Switzerland, reports the discovery in Lake Leman of a bright-green moss growing in the bottom of the lake, on the calcareous rocks, two hundred feet below the surface. No other moss has been found at so great a depth under water; and how chlorophyl could have been so richly developed so far from the light is a problem.

Professor Purdie, having analyzed a specimen of the milk of the porpoise, gives the following as its composition per hundred parts: Water, 41·11; fat, 45·80; albuminoids, 11·19; milk-sugar, 1·33; mineral salts, 0·57. The substance set down as milk-sugar was too small in quantity for accurate examination, and is regarded by the analyst as very probably some albuminoid matter. The most remarkable point about the composition of the milk is the large percentage of fat which it contains, a constituent of food of which the cetaceans would naturally require a larger proportion than ordinary mammals do. The milk was yellow and thick, and had a fishy smell; and its specific gravity differed but little from that of water.

Mr. E. T. Newton has described the remains of a gigantic bird—the Gastornis Klaasensii—found in the Lower Eocene of Croydon, England, which indicates a species as large as the Dinornis of New Zealand. The most perfect tibiotarsus, when complete, must have had a length of at least twenty inches, and its trochlea is three and a half inches wide, while in another specimen the trochlea is four inches wide. The anserine affinities of Gastornis, as regards the tibiotarsus, are confirmed by the detailed comparison of the Croydon bones with recent forms.

According to M. Dinnik, a Russian traveler in the Caucasus, it is the custom among the Ossetes (one of the peoples of the country) for the lucky sportsman or treasure-finder to deposit some part of his spoil in the sanctuary of Rekom, in the Zéa Valley, and that temple has become a kind of curiosity-shop. The outside of the building is decorated with horns, from the examination of which M. Dinnik has been able to solve a question respecting the geographical range of two species of goats. The funeral mounds of Ossetia also furnish offerings to Rekom, which are brought to it by persons who dig in them for the gold ornaments they may find deposited there. Armlets, rings, knives, and lance-heads of the bronze period are among the curiosities of this strange mountain museum; but other uses than that of consecration appear to be found for articles of gold.

Tests made with small squares of different kinds of wood, buried an inch in the ground, have shown, according to the "Garden," that birch and aspen decayed in three years; willow and horse-chestnut in four years; maple and red beech in five years; elm, ash, hornbeam, and Lombardy poplar in seven years; and oak, Scotch fir, Weymouth pine, and silver fir, to a depth of half an inch, in seven years; while larch, juniper, and arbor-vitæ were uninjured at the expiration of the seven years.