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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/553

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543
THE CONQUEST OF THE TROPICS.

once; others axe years in learning, and meanwhile suffer from sickness and distress.

New conditions must be met in every country new to the pioneer, whether the country is in temperate or hot latitudes. In opening up a new country to settlement, it is the severe labors, the exposure, the meagre diet, the anxiety, the general hard conditions of life, which undermine the general system and make the body an almost unresisting victim to the germs of malaria and other diseases. It is not the climate in new countries, but the hard conditions of life, which kill the settlers.

So, in the recent war with Spain, bad conditions in the northern camps, uncleanliness of person due to lack of water, over-exertion in practice marches, sleeping on the ground, change of food, overcrowding in tents preventing restful sleep, unsanitary conditions on transports, caused the men to be landed in the Tropics in an extremely bad condition of body. Landing in the rainy season, opening the earth to form trenches for defence and about their tents, sleeping upon the damp ground, with a deficient and unbalanced ration, with no change of clothes for nearly three months, it is no wonder that many became sick. But the sickness was not due to the climate at all. It was due to the hard conditions in the home camps, and to hard conditions during the campaigns in the islands.

It is said that the heat, the rains and the insects of the Tropics are certainly unbearable by a white person from the temperate latitudes. But these things are magnified by the distance from which they are viewed. So far as the tropical lands recently acquired by the United States are concerned, they are not elements to be dreaded.

These lands are all Oceanic Islands. Surrounded by immense areas of water, they have an unvarying, or slightly varying, temperature. They are warm the whole year round, while never hot. In all these Islands the midday temperature is about 80° Fahrenheit. At night it falls to 75° or even to 70°; in the mountains still lower, depending upon the elevation.

But this heat is moderated by sea breezes. Except for about an hour in the morning, there is a breeze the whole day long, which tempers the heat. Sunstroke is unknown. No bad conditions arising from the heat have been seen in Porto Rico. The nights are always so cool that refreshing sleep may be obtained, and the effect of the sun is tempered by clouds, which shade the earth nearly all summer.

All the islands have mountains which may be reached in a few hours, where the climate of the temperate latitudes may be enjoyed by those desiring the change.

The tropical rains are no serious drawback. They fall at a fixed time each day, usually from two to four o'clock in the afternoon. They are much like heavy June showers in the States, unaccompanied