Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/494

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
476
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

d├ębouchure of a small lateral gully coming down from the mountain side. In its bottom is a small stream of clear and cold water, sour with sulphuric acid, and flowing down a narrow and steep channel cut in beds of dark-gray volcanic tuff. Ascending this gulch, the sides, closing together, become very steep slopes of white, decomposed rock. . . . The only springs now flowing are small oozes of water issuing from the base of these slopes, or from the channel bed, forming a thick, creamy, white deposit about the vents, and covering the stream bed. This deposit consists largely of sulphate of alumina. . . . About one hundred and fifty feet above the main stream these oozing springs of acid water cease, but the character of the gulch remains the same. The odor of sulphur now becomes stronger, though producing no other effect than a slight irritation of the lungs.

' The gulch ends, or rather begins, in a scoop or basin about two hundred and fifty feet above Cache Creek, and just below this was found the fresh body of a large bear, a silver-tip grizzly, with the remains of a companion in an advanced stage of decomposition above him. Near by were the skeletons of four more bears, with the bones of an elk a yard or two above, while in the bottom of the pocket were the fresh remains of several squirrels, rock hares, and other small animals, besides numerous dead butterflies and insects. The body of the grizzly was carefully examined for bullet holes or other marks of injury, but showed no traces of violence, the only indication being a few drops of blood under the nose. It was evident that he had met his death but a short time before, as the carcass was still perfectly fresh, though offensive enough at the time of a later visit. The remains of a cinnamon bear just above and alongside of this were in an advanced state of decomposition, while the other skeletons were almost denuded of flesh, though the claws and much of the hair remained. It was apparent that these animals, as well as the squirrels and insects, had not met their death by violence, but had been asphyxiated by the irrespirable gas given off in the gulch. The hollows were tested for carbonic-acid gas with lighted tapers without proving its presence, but the strong smell of sulphur, and a choking sensation of the lungs, indicated the presence of noxious gases, while the strong wind prevailing at the time, together with the open nature of the ravine, must have caused a rapid diffusion of the vapors.

"This place differs, therefore, very materially from the famous Death Valley of Java and similar places, in being simply a V-shaped trench, not over seventy-five feet deep, cut in the mountain slope, and not a hollow or cave. That the gas at times accumulates in the pocket at the head of the gulch is, however, proved by the dead squirrels, etc., found on its bottom. It is not probable, however,