Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/337

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MAKING GEOGRAPHY WHILE YOU WAIT

MAKING GEOGRAPHY WHILE YOU WAIT
By THOMAS H. MACBRIDE,

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

THOSE who read the daily newspaper, and the number of such is confessedly great, have no doubt been more than once of late mildly excited by certain sensational despatches from California, despatches intimating that certain large portions of that much-advertised commonwealth are actually rapidly disappearing from the sight and touch of men. It is reported that a large valley in the southernmost portion of the state is vanishing; has been assaulted by the sea; volcanoes are breaking up the solid ground beneath and the gray ocean is coming in to cover up the universal ruin.

Now something might be said in apology for the real-estate men of California who let go their holding in presence of assaults like these; and if it can be shown that any considerable bit of realty is actually disappearing and escaping, the violence of the natural agency responsible becomes a matter of probability, at least.

But it must be admitted that for the sensational stories referred to there is a certain basis of fact. In the Salton desert of southern California, where less than two years ago the traveler on the Southern Pacific railway saw only a wide vista of drifting sand, he now may skim along for miles beside a spreading sea, a sea that deepens from day to day and widens every moment. Within less than two years over many square miles, the whole face of the country has been changed. Railroads have been whelmed, stations and houses and factories lost in one encroaching flood; gulls and cranes run along a level beach where but a few months since the sage-hen nested, or the wild rabbits hid in sandy burrows. Surely, whether Neptune and Vulcan are busy or not, something has happened, and the passing traveler would like to know.

If we consult a map of the region in question and at the same time study the levels of the country, even as cited in the railway folder, though these are inexact, we shall speedily discover that the old Salton desert is indeed a basin, a basin of remarkable depth for its expanse, and wonderful in many ways. To make the case as simple as possible, the altitudes of points on the accompanying map are indicated. It appears, for instance, that the altitude of the station at Yuma, just east of the basin, is one hundred and thirty-seven feet. While the height of Salton station, about the middle of the valley, now whelmed,