Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/151

This page has been validated.

pink, blue, white, black, gray, orange, crimson, purple, and yellow, lying side by side. Prof. Agassiz described precisely similar formations in the valley of the Amazon. Many of these barrancas show an upper stratum of white or yellow quartz conglomerate exceedingly rich in gold; and gold can often be got out of the surrounding earth from the top to the bottom of the sides, the hill being, as it were, literally "peppered" with the precious metal.


Mingrelian Rituals.—The people of Mingrelia, in the Caucasus, although professedly Christians, are, according to Freiherr von Guttner, addicted to practices and sacrifices that smack of heathenism. Offerings are established for all kinds of occasions, which every countryman can tale off on his fingers at will. Days are set for services to insure the protection of live-stock against disease. The most imposing of these is in behalf of the horse. Cakes are baked, on which is impressed the image of a horse or horseshoe, and are cast into a hollow tree, drenched with wine and blessed by the priest, while the participants in the sacrifice hop around the tree and imitate the capering and neighing of horses. In case a person has the measles, he and his attendants are dressed in red and the room is hung with the same color and adorned with red flowers, while care is taken not to irritate the demon by using a cutting instrument or admitting a dog. For diseases of the eye, little round cakes are made furnished with inserted pupils to resemble an eye, and then swung before the eyes of the patient. The priests are cognizant of these offerings, and are said, in fact, to get the best part of the gifts.


Melting away of the Mongolian Loess.—The process by which caves, sink-holes, and ravines are slowly formed in limestone has been observed by M. Potanin as going on rapidly in the loess of Mongolia. The loess is moved by water, and transported from higher to lower regions with about the same facility and steadiness as the shifting sands are moved by the wind. The underground water which filtrates through it begins by making in it a kind of cavern; then a circular crevice appears on the surface over the cavern, and a cylindrical vertical hollow, which soon becomes a deep well, is formed through the thickness of the upper layers of the formation. The whole surface of the loess deposits is dotted with such wells, which are very dangerous to cattle. By and by the formerly cylindrical well begins to extend in the direction in which the underground water flows, and a narrow ravine grows until it joins the main valley. The ravine continually increases in width by falls of new masses of loess, and the whole is steadily carried "down-stream" by the water.


How a Desert was made Productive.—Dr. G. V. Poore has told the way in which the Landes of France have been reclaimed and made habitable by carrying out the plans first applied by Bremontier at about the beginning of this century. By reason of the light character of the sands of the region, and its exposure to the powerful winds of the Bay of Biscay, its drainage presented special difficulties, which could not be overcome by the ordinary resources of engineering. Recognizing that it was useless to contend against the forces of nature, Bremontier determined to try to make use of them for the accomplishment of his purpose. Knowing the virtues of planting and promoting the growth of a network of roots, he planted a tract of the dunes with peas, which would grow in the sand and send their roots to a considerable depth; and, for more permanent effect, with the maritime pine. The pine-seeds were sown mixed with seeds of the common broom, whose shrubs might serve as nurse-plants to the infant pines, and the sowings were made in a direction at right angles to the prevailing wind. A screen of hurdles made of gorse or of planks deeply driven into the sand was placed on the windward side of the seed-ground, and the seed-ground itself was thatched with pine-branches and other suitable material. In the course of time the brooms reached their full growth, while the pines continued to grow, overtopped them, and crowded them out. The maritime pines have grown well and have proved a very profitable tree, yielding moderately good timber and much turpentine; in addition to which a good business is done in charcoal. Thus the waste moorlands on the shores of