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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/147

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139
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

with its low temperature is unfavorable for the ripening of grain. Gardens, however, are successful at Sitka and Wrangel, and the commoner vegetables are raised without difficulty. Berries of many kinds grow luxuriantly. The remarkable contrast between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America is due to the influence of the Kuro-Siwo, or great Japanese current, which is similar to that of the Gulf Stream on the west coast of Europe. There are many points of resemblance between the two streams. The Japanese current is divided by a cold current, and fogs are produced by the contact, as they are when the Gulf Stream meets the Labrador current in the North Atlantic. The Kamchatka or northerly branch flows into Bering Sea and passes through Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean, first striking the coast of northern Alaska; the mild climate of that coast is due to it, and possibly its influence on the ocean temperature has much to do with the presence of fur seals in Bering Sea. The main body of the stream crosses the ocean and reaches the American coast not far from the strait of San Juan de Fuca, whence it flows southward to join the great northern equatorial current off Lower California. In spite of the superfluity of rainy and cloudy weather, southeastern Alaska is said to be by no means an uninviting place. In summer the twilight almost meets the dawn, but winter restores the daylight to the general average, for at Sitka lamps are extinguished at nine in the morning, to be relighted at three in the afternoon.

 

Characteristics of the Tropical Forest.—To the naturalist, says the London Spectator, the most marked feature of the great tropical forest south of the equator is the inequality in the balance of Nature between vegetable and animal life. From the forests of Brazil to the forests of the Congo, through the wooded heights of northern Madagascar, to the tangled jungles of the Asiatic Archipelago and the impenetrable woods of New Guinea, the boundless profusion of vegetable growth is unmatched by any similar abundance in animal forms. A few brilliant birds of strange shape and matchless plumage, such as the toucans of Guinea and the Amazon, or the birds of paradise in the Moluccas or the Papuan Archipelago, haunt the loftiest trees, and from time to time fall victims to the blowpipe or arrow of the natives, who hardly dare to penetrate that foodless region, even for such rich spoils, until incantation and sacrifice have propitiated the offended spirits of the woods; but, except the sloth and the giant ant-eater, there is hardly to be found in the tropical regions of the New World a quadruped which can excite the curiosity of the naturalist or form food even for the wildest of mankind. In the corresponding tracts of Africa and the Asiatic Archipelago the rare four-footed animals that live in the solitary forests are for the most part creatures of the night, and do not leave their hiding places till the tropical darkness has fallen on the forest, when they seek their food, not on the surface of the ground, but, imitating the birds, ascend to the upper surface of the ocean of trees, and at the first approach of dawn seek refuge from the hateful day in the dark recesses of some aged and hollow trunk. There is nothing like the loris or the lemur in the fauna of temperate Europe. We may rather compare them to a race of arboreal moles, the condition of whose life is darkness and invisibility. But, unlike the moles, the smaller members of these rarely seen tribes are among the most beautiful and interesting creatures of the tropics, though the extreme difficulty of capturing creatures whose whole life is spent on the loftiest forest trees is further increased by the reluctance of the natives to enter the deserted and pathless forests. The beautiful lemurs, most of which are found in Madagascar, are further believed by the Malagasi to embody the spirits of their ancestors; and the weird and plaintive cries with which they fill the groves at night, uttered by creatures whose bodies, as they cling to the branches, are invisible, and whose delicate movements are noiseless, may well have left a doubt on the minds of the first discoverers of the island as to whether these were not in truth the cries and wailings of true lemures, the unquiet ghosts of the departed.

 

Indian Basket Colors.—No chemist, says the Lewiston (Maine) Journal, has ever produced brighter colors than are made by the Maine Indian basket makers. For the greater part of the material, ash logs are