Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/March 1877/How the Earth was Explored in 1876
|HOW THE EARTH WAS EXPLORED IN 1876.|
FROM the mode of regarding the earth entertained in old times, let us now pass to the modern method, and what has been accomplished by geographical investigation in a single year. No better illustration can be found of the great change which science has wrought in the mental habits of man than the contrast between the empty speculations of the olden time, and the immense and positive results of observation and exploration by which our geographical knowledge has been augmented, in even a single year. Judge Daly's annual résumé of the previous year's work in geographical inquiry, given before the society of which he is president, is so careful, so trustworthy, and so complete, that it is looked for with eagerness by many readers. By his kind permission, we avail ourselves of the discourse, condensing some parts and quoting others. Those who do not like this mangling of an author's work had better get the discourse in its full text, which will be issued in pamphlet form.
We are informed that the past year has been marked, not only by investigations and discourses, but by the establishment of several new geographical societies, and a large increase in the membership of the old. Having their origin in the "Society of the Argonauts" founded in Venice in 1688, there are now thirty-eight such societies in existence. Physical geography, to which I shall first refer, is a line of inquiry in which there has been great activity during the past year, as shown by the number of works that have been published, and the papers that have been read upon the various branches of this great subject.
"At a meeting of the British Association at Glasgow, last September, Sir William Thomson considered the subject of the interior of the earth. He said that the greatest depth that had been reached in observations of underground temperature was scarcely one kilometre (which is less than a mile); that, whatever might be the age of the earth, we might be sure that it was solid in the interior—not through its whole volume, as there were spaces in volcanic regions occupied by liquid lava, but that this portion was small in comparison to the whole—and that any geological hypothesis must be rejected which assumes that the earth is a shell resting on a liquid mass. He also considered the question, first, of the accuracy of the earth as a timekeeper; and, second, the permanence of its axes of rotation. Since the first known observation of an eclipse of the moon at Babylon, on the 19th of March, 721 b. c, the earth has lost a portion of its velocity, and is now, as a timekeeper, going slower; and his observation upon the question of the earth's axis was, in effect, that if causes existed adequate to produce a change in the position of the axis by the upheaving of the surface, or otherwise, the result, even if sudden, would not be very great, or produce any extraordinary effect. Many important observations were made, at the same meeting, upon the tides, ocean temperature, and currents, and upon the physical geography of the sea, founded upon the results of the voyage of the Challenger."
Of this expedition Sir Wyville Thomson has given the general results. The superficial area of the world is 197,000,000 square miles, of which 140,000,000 are covered by the sea at an average depth of 15,000 feet. The floor of this region is, to a certain degree, comparable to the land. It has its hills, valleys, and great plains; its various soils; its climates, and its special races of inhabitants, depending on the conditions of climate and soil for their distribution.
"The vessel departed from England in December, 1872. She crossed the Atlantic four times in 1873, in a course of nearly 20,000 miles. In 1874 she went southward from the Cape of Good Hope, dipping within the antarctic circle as far as she could, and then traversed the Australian and New Zealand seas and the interior of the Malay Archipelago, arriving at Hong-Kong on November 10, 1874, after a run in that year of 17,000 miles. In 1875 she traversed the Pacific, in a course of about 20,000 miles, and then crossed the Atlantic for the fifth time, reaching England May 24, 1876. The three general results are—1. The knowledge obtained of the contour of the bottom, and the nature of the deposits now being formed. 2. The distribution of deep-sea climate. 3. The nature and distribution of the peculiar race of animals now found at the bottom of the sea. In the Pacific there is an enormous extension of water of great depth—in many cases beyond 18,000 feet. In the North Atlantic the greater portion has a depth of 12,000 feet; and in the South Atlantic, on each side of what is known as the Dolphin rise, there are troughs usually 18,000 feet deep, which form marked depressions roughly parallel with the arc of the South American and African Continents. The whole bottom of the sea is gradually receiving accumulations, giving rise to formations which must be regarded as the rocks of the future. The débris of the land was found to be carried out into the sea some hundreds of miles, and clays were being formed, mixed up with the débris of animals. Within a certain distance of the land the deposits, to a great extent, were formed of this material. Over a great part of the North Atlantic there is being deposited the Globigerina ooze—composed, principally, of small chambered shells, extremely minute; and these shells were found in enormous quantities. This deposit is almost entirely of carbonate of lime, and the only rock it could form would be limestone; therefore, over a large part of the North Atlantic, and over many other parts of the world, this limestone is being laid down." These creatures live at and near the surface, and thence the whole of this sort of material at the bottom is derived. "It might be supposed that this formation ought to be as universal as is the distribution of these animals on the surface. Singularly enough, this is not the case. At the depth of 12,000 feet the shells become rotten and yellow; at 13,000 feet there are no shells, and the bottom is one of homogeneous red mud, which, instead of consisting of carbonate of lime, is ordinary clay. I may here interpolate a fact to show how abundant animal life is at or very near the surface of the ocean. The steamer Great Eastern was lately in dock at Milford Haven for the examination of her bottom, which had not been scraped since 1867. Her bottom was found covered with an enormous multitude of mussels, clustered together in one dense and continuous deposit, extending over 52,000 square feet, and which, upon a calculation made, amounted to not less than three hundred tons' weight, or enough to load with a full cargo two ordinary collier brigs.
"Another curious fact observed in the voyage of the Challenger was, that all over the bottom of the sea there is a large quantity of pumice, showing that there are volcanoes, either below the water or otherwise, that are constantly throwing out material. This pumice, which is the froth of lava, is frequently so light as to float on the water, and wherever they were, in any part of the world, they saw it moved about by the current over the surface of the sea. They found living in the sea, on the surface, or just below, a great quantity of beautiful organisms called Radiolarians. They increase with the depth, and many occur at great depths that are not found on the surface at all. The impression formed was that they lived all through the sea, and down to the greatest depths.
"The whole bottom of the Pacific, or the greater part of it, is red clay. The temperature of the ocean at 13,000 feet is very low. It is usually but a little above the freezing-point at the bottom of the Pacific and the Atlantic, and portions of the Southern Sea. The general temperature gradually falls from the surface until the depth of 13,000 feet, below which there is, throughout the sea, a uniform temperature of 37° or 34°, or a little below the freezing-point. The question arose, Whence does the ocean derive this low and uniform temperature? It is a question of great difficulty; and the conjecture made is, that it is an inflow of the cold water from the vast area of the antarctic."
The geographical work of the United States has been more limited than usual, owing to delay and smallness of appropriations. The Coast Survey continues its work: in the Gulf of Mexico careful soundings have been made, and observations on the temperature of the water and the flow of currents, which will throw light on the Gulf Stream. Triangulations were pushed eastward from the Pacific Coast Range to the Sierra Nevada, some of the triangles observed having sides over 150 miles long; a series of telegraphic determinations of longitude have been made for the purpose of correcting our charts of the West India Islands, one point at least having been located on each island. Triangulation along Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Michigan, has been continued, the topography of Niagara River completed, many points determined for the State survey of Michigan, and the elevation of the Great Lakes newly determined. Lake Ontario is found to be 247.25 feet and Lake Erie 573.58 feet above mean tide at New York. Reports of geographical and topographical work in Montana, the Yellowstone Park, Southern Colorado, Northern New Mexico, and Arizona, have been issued. The geographical surveys west of the 100th meridian, under Lieutenant Wheeler, have been continued. About 25,000 square miles were traversed by the various parties. Some interesting Spanish mines were found in New Mexico. A survey was carried on in the neighborhood of Lake Tahoe, in California. The depth of the lake was found to exceed 2,200 feet. The examination of the Colorado River, with reference to determining the practicability of diverting it from its channel to irrigate the deserts of Southeastern California, has been completed. The lowest part of the desert is 200 feet below the sea, and it was found that an area of 1,600 square miles could be flooded; but constantly-shifting sands would make it a continual expense, and the evaporation from the surface of such a lake would exceed the water flowing in the Colorado in a dry season. Thirteen atlas sheets of Lieutenant Wheeler's survey have been issued; they are upon a scale of eight miles to the inch, and cover a large part of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. The survey of the Territories under Profs. Hayden and Powell was carried on, and much has been learned of the region embracing Colorado, Utah, and Southeastern Nevada. A triangulation party climbed and measured Blanco Peak, near Fort Garland, in Colorado, which, if not the highest, is next to the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains. It is 14,464 feet high. Over fifty of the most elevated peaks in that range are in the State of Colorado, running from 14,000 to 14,500 feet, so close that the utmost care has been required to determine which is the highest.
Eastern Utah was surveyed from the Colorado River to and over the Wahsatch Mountains between parallels 38° and 39° 15'. The region is characterized by great plateaus bounded by lines of cliffs from 1,000 to 2,000 feet in height, varying from 20 to 200 miles in length, the whole intersected with a network of deep and narrow cañons, presenting nearly impassable barriers. Of one section of about 7,000 square miles, only about one per cent. is available for agriculture; about five per cent. is covered by pine and spruce, the remainder being a desert waste. There are large quantities of excellent coal, but no precious metals were discovered. The average elevation of this region is about 7,000 feet. Another section in Southwestern Utah and Southeastern Nevada of about 4,000 square miles was found one of the most barren regions of the whole Great Basin. It is marked by ranges rising to 9,000 feet, with broad desert valleys between. Little timber-land or land fit for cultivation was found, the pasturage being of the poorest quality. The climate is milder than that of Eastern Utah, and very dry, the annual rainfall not exceeding four inches. "There is no coal in this region, but it is known to contain large amounts of silver. The well-developed mining district of Pioche was within the region examined, and also a newly-organized district at Leeds, on the Virgin River, Utah, where silver, instead of occurring in veins, is disseminated in the form of horn-silver, through a stratum of sandstone belonging to the Jura Trias. Between 4,000 and 5,000 men have gathered at this last-named district (Leeds) within the past few months."
Extensive collections have been made illustrative of the arts and industries of the Indian tribes, embracing totemic carvings, stone implements, clothing, ornaments, furniture, and manufactures, of the Pueblo race; heraldic columns from Vancouver's Island, of painted wood from 25 to 40 feet high, erected in front of their dwellings, which are communal, holding from 100 to 300 people. These houses are made from slabs rived out of great tree-trunks with wooden wedges and stone mallets. Canoes were obtained 60 feet in length, dug from single logs; many tons of ancient stone implements, said to surpass in beauty of finish any aboriginal remains of like nature hitherto discovered, together with pottery, have been forwarded to the Smithsonian Institution from Southern California. The United States Signal Service Corps "is making rapid advances toward a complete knowledge of the conditions and causes of the American climate. They have nearly completed the most extensive collection of altitudes of places in North America which has ever been gathered. The list includes several thousand profiles, representing almost every railroad and canal. From this and other data they are making a relief model of North America on a large scale. A telegraph-line has been built by them from Central Texas across the Llano Estacado, that dreaded waterless desert, and one across the high and arid plateaus and ranges of Southern New Mexico and Arizona to San Diego, on the Pacific. This gives an unbroken line from Savannah along the southern border of the United States, stretching from ocean to ocean. Thirty meteorological stations are placed along the line, the highest being 6,800 feet above the sea. Another line of stations follows the Rio Grande River from its month to the elevated plateau of Colorado.
"The Mexican telegraph-lines now extend from the mouth of the Rio Grande River to San Luis, thence to Tampico, and thence through Vera Cruz along the coast nearly to the extremity of Yucatan. The Signal Service are preparing to place stations down even to Yucatan. The Gulf of Mexico has been nearly encircled with a telegraph-line, along which meteorological stations will be placed at such short intervals that no hurricane or storm can move from the Gulf without notice of its escape and the direction of its flight being given at once to the whole country.
"Arrangements have been made for a chain of stations to the extreme eastern end of the West Indies, all connected by telegraph with the Washington office. If Congress is wise enough to give sufficient appropriation to carry out these excellent plans, it will be impossible for any hurricane to enter the United States from the south unheralded, for hourly bulletins of its progress can be posted in every seaport. Who can estimate the lives and treasure that such an arrangement may save? Congress cannot be too generous to the Signal Service.
"To show the power of the telegraph in this connection, I may mention that General Myer recently sent, at twelve o'clock at night, an order to each meteorological station in this country. It was unexpected by the corps, but so perfect is the discipline that within ninety minutes the Washington office received answers from every station, even including that on the lofty elevation of Pike's Peak, and the lonely desert of Fort Yuma.
"At General Myer's suggestion, an international meteorological organization was effected in 1873. Observations are now taken once a day, simultaneously, at every meteorological station in the world, and the results forwarded to the Signal Service Office at Washington.
"Every day this office publishes a bulletin, giving the record of these simultaneous observations from all stations. The date of the bulletin is necessarily long enough after the observations to admit of their reaching Washington. The climate of the world is thus placed under our eyes at once. When this is carried to perfection, the laws that govern climate may be determined."
The petrified forest in the desert of Humboldt County, Northwestern Nevada, has been examined. The stumps of the trees now transformed into rock are found in an upright position, with their roots imbedded in the soil as when growing—many of the stumps measuring from fifteen to twenty feet in circumference; and the ground was found strewed with trunks and limbs in the same petrified state, retaining their natural shape and size. There were no living trees, nor any trace of vegetation, in the vicinity, except a growth of stunted sage-brush.
"The largest tree yet found in California was discovered during the year in King's River Valley, Fresno County. Measured from the highest point to which a man could reach, it was found to be 150 feet in circumference, within a few inches, and its height was estimated at 160 feet. It is probably the largest tree in the world."
A report of the international commission for the survey of the boundary-line between the United States and British North America, from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains, has been published. The region was one hitherto unexplored by whites, and was found, as represented by the Indians, to consist mainly of swamps, making the survey a difficult one. To this were added the rigors of the climate, as the work had to be conducted chiefly in the winter, when the swamps were frozen and with the mercury at 45° below zero. The country west of the Red River would be a fine grazing-ground but for the myriad mosquitoes which drive domestic cattle almost wild and keep them from gaining flesh. In one direction the boundary-line, in the course of thirty-five miles, crossed sixty-five pieces of water, twenty-five of which were lakes, requiring a survey by triangulation. Beyond Turtle Mountain the survey was extended over the Great Plains, the Great Coteau of the Missouri, and the Salt Lakes, and the arid, desolate country known as Les Mauvaises Terres. Beginning in 1872, the survey was completed in 1874 to the base of the Rocky Mountains, where they rise from the plain in precipitous peaks 10,000 feet high. The whole boundary from the Lake of the Woods to this point is now marked by stone cairns or earthen mounds, and by iron pillars at intervals of a mile for 135 miles along the boundary of Manitoba in British America, which, it is said, "is destined to become the great granary of the Dominion." There are, however, the drawbacks of the want of markets, the ravages of grasshoppers, and the scarcity of fuel. The latter difficulty may be obviated by developing the great bituminous coal-fields of the Saskatchewan. Immigration in this direction is going on; 4,000 Mennonites from Odessa, in Russia, have settled there, and also a colony of 300 Icelanders on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg.
The arctic event of the year has been the return of the English expedition of the Alert and Discovery, under Sir George Nares, from an attempt to reach the pole by way of Smith's Sound. The vessels had great difficulty in forcing their way through Smith's Sound and Kennedy's and Robeson's Channels. They were twenty-five days making their way from Cape Sabine to Discovery Bay, a distance of only 250 miles, beset with all the perils of arctic navigation.
"Regarded from a geographical and scientific point of view, the expedition was a success. I said in my annual address, several years ago, that to reach the pole was not the main object in an arctic expedition; that that was a mere geographical feat, to which necessarily great éclat would be attached; but that the real object of such an expedition was to explore the arctic region in every direction as far as possible, to obtain scientific information in a quarter of the globe where it was of the highest interest—not only as respects the past physical history of the earth, but to enable us to unravel phenomena and obtain a knowledge of physical laws affecting its present condition which are of high scientific value, or, to express it in a popular form, of the greatest practical importance. This object has been to a considerable degree advanced by the English expedition. The Alert not only attained the highest latitude—82° 24'—ever reached by a vessel, and the sledge-expeditions the farthest northern point attained by man—83° 20' 26" north latitude—but the expedition, in an unknown region, discovered and traced a line of coast extending over nearly fifty degrees of longitude, ascertained to a considerable extent the nature of the Polar Sea bordering this newly-discovered coast, and collected a large amount of scientific information in the examination of both land and sea. A line of coast was explored 230 miles west of the spot where the Alert wintered—90 miles of which trends northwesterly to Cape Columbia, the extreme northern cape, 83° 7' north latitude, 70° 30' west longitude; thence westward for 60 miles to 79° west longitude, and from there gradually south to 82° 16' north latitude and 83° 33' west longitude, with no indication of land extending from there either westward or northward. The northeast and northern coast of Greenland was traced from Polaris Bay to a point east of Mount May in 80° 40' west longitude, the farthest northern land seen in the expedition being in 82° 54' north latitude and 48° 33' west longitude (Cape Britannia and Mount Albert), and the Greenland coast was found to run from Mount May, in a southeasterly direction, to below the eighty-second parallel of north latitude; Lady Franklin's Bay, and Petermann's Fiord and its vicinity, were explored, to which must be added magnetic and meteorological and other scientific observations, and the labors of the naturalist, carried on in the winter, with the thermometer ranging at one time at 73° below zero.
"Being farther north than any former expedition, they passed an unparalleled arctic winter of one hundred and forty-two days—nearly five months—without the light and heat of the sun, and in the severest cold yet known. In the sledge-expedition of Commander Markham, in the autumn of 1875, to Cape Joseph Henry, the fall of snow was so enormous that the men had to draw their sledges through it up to their knees, and frequently up to their waists, so that, out of a party of twenty-four, twelve were severely frost-bitten, and three suffered amputation.
"In an attempt to communicate by a sledge-party with the Discovery, that vessel having wintered below in Robeson Channel, Christian Peterson, the Danish interpreter from Upernavik, who had been Dr. Hayes's sledge-driver, became so exhausted that nothing would keep him warm. They were consequently compelled to go back with him; and the poor fellow died shortly after his return to the vessel.
"In an expedition in the following April across the Polar Sea, north in the direction of the pole, the men had not only to draw their sledges, but two heavy boats fifteen and twenty feet long, over rugged floes of ice, separated by ridges sometimes thirty feet high—to make their way over the débris of the pack-ice broken up by the previous summer, and refrozen during the winter into chaotic, rugged masses of angular blocks, of every possible shape. They had frequently to cut their way with picks through the hummocks; and such were the contortions and checks, that they had frequently to go five times over the same ground; so that in making a distance of 76 miles toward the pole they actually traveled over 276 miles. Each man had to drag 236 pounds, and to work from ten to twelve hours a day. They could pull but a few feet at a time, and make but from one mile and a quarter to two miles and three-quarters a day. They were absent on this sledge expedition, engaged in this incessant labor, for two months and a half; and, to add to their trials, the scurvy broke out among them, so that, when relief reached them, out of the seventeen of the party only five were able to drag the sledges. The sledge-party along the north coast of Greenland were beset with like difficulties. Enormous blocks of polar ice had been pressed against the shore, making the traveling one of incessant labor, so that seven days were occupied in moving only twenty miles. The scurvy also broke out with them; and, when they came in, two only were able to draw the sledges. The western sledge party found the same heavy ice extending along the whole coast. They were also attacked by the scurvy, Lieutenant Aldrich being the only one who escaped; and relief fortunately reached them the last day that most of them were able to travel. . . .
"The return of the expedition, and its results, have given rise to a great deal of discussion, both in this country and in England. Sir George Nares is of opinion, and Dr. Petermann in a recent letter concurs with him, that any further attempt to reach a higher latitude by the way of Smith's Sound is hopeless, and that any future effort must be by the route between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. I fully agree in the correctness of this judgment, so far as respects any attempt to get farther north by the way of Smith's Sound in a vessel. I have never found sufficient facts to lead me to believe that there is an open polar sea that can be reached by a vessel, nor any physical reasons why there should be a great space of open water at the pole, or in its vicinity. This belief is a very old one. The supposed sea is to be found represented upon a map published 268 years ago. There may be such a sea. The knowledge we possess will not warrant the assumption that it does not exist; but it will warrant this statement— that the more we become acquainted with the area of the polar basin, and the nearer we get to the pole, the fewer indications there are of the existence of such a sea. I am not, therefore, very hopeful that any vessel will be able to get much farther north than vessels have already attained; but I do believe, notwithstanding the result of the English expedition, that the polar area can be traversed much farther north in that direction by sledging, and that it can be done by the way of Smith's Sound as effectually as between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. The plan which Dr. Hayes laid before this Society eight years ago, of establishing a station at Fort Foulke, where subsistence can be easily obtained, and with which communication can be regularly kept up by sea, as a base from which expeditions may be directed to the north as favorable opportunities offer, I have always thought the best plan of polar exploration, and for many reasons preferable to sending out large expeditions. It would not require a large force, would afford opportunity for the training and experience in the arctic regions, which is requisite, and could be kept up at a comparatively small expense. Captain H. W. Howgate, of the United States Signal Service, has recently called public attention to a plan substantially of this character, and a bill embodying his suggestion is now before Congress, to establish a temporary station for the purpose of exploration at some point north of 81° north latitude, on or near the shore of Lady Franklin's Bay; and Captain I. L. Norton, a shipmaster, who has had some experience in the Antarctic, is maturing a like plan, which, he advises me, he will lay before this Society."
The several surveys instituted by our Government across the American Isthmus to ascertain the most feasible route for the construction of an interoceanic ship-canal have been completed, the result showing that the Nicaragua route is the most practicable. It will take ten years, at least, to construct it, and the cost is estimated at about $10,000,000.
"A cavern has been found in Cuba containing Carib remains, indicating that the whole of that island was formerly inhabited by the Caribs.
"Prof. Weiner has been occupied during the year in ethnological researches in South America, and reports from Pacha Camac that he has discovered glaciers in the Andes and Chili, which had been questioned by Agassiz; and Prof. Hartt, chief of the Brazilian survey, is reported to have recently made important geological discoveries in Brazil. The Government of Brazil has undertaken the measurement of an arc on the parallel of 23° south latitude, extending over nine or ten degrees of longitude, connecting the capital of the country with the great meridian of Brazil.
"The Amazon is now navigated by steamers 3,000 miles from its mouth, and several of its tributary rivers have been opened up to steam-navigation. I would especially call attention to the great commercial importance to the United States of direct and regular communication from this country by steam with the mouth of the Amazon, in view of the importance of the regions of the Upper Amazon and its tributaries, which are now made accessible by steamers."
In Europe initiatory steps have been taken for the measurement of an arc of the meridian parallel with Algeria. The surveys in Austria have been actively prosecuted; 2,066 square miles have been surveyed in Galicia and Hungary, and 200,000 altitudes determined. The whole of the Tyrol, the greater part of Transylvania, and parts of Lower Austria and Bukowina, have been mapped. Surveys in Turkey and Greece promise at an early day a good map of the Balkan Peninsula. Deep-sea soundings have been made between Norway, the Shetlands, the Faroes, Iceland, and East Greenland.
The Russians and others have been active during the year in Asia, in the regions around the White Sea, in the country of the Caspian, the Altai and trans-Altai Mountains, the northern part of Pamir, in the lower part of the river Obi, upon the Irkoort River, from Wjernga to Kashgar, in the valley of Fergani, of the Shueli, and in the western part of the Chinese province of Yunnan; also in East and Northwest Mongolia, between the Himalayas and the Tian-shan, China, and Turkistan, in Japan and Siam, and the river Mekong in Cochin-China. The Siberian coast has been surveyed between parallels 45° and 52° north latitude; the soil is good, vegetation luxurious; lead, copper, gold, silver, and coal, were found.
The German Arctic Society, in pursuance of a plan for polar research, "dispatched an expedition which last July reached Obdorsk, the most northern settlement on the river Obi, where they met the Russian expedition, organized for the survey of the rivers Bar and Chuca, that flow into the sea of Kara, and the course of the river Obi, to determine the possibility of connecting these rivers with a canal. Thence the party made their way to the Kara Sea, a very difficult route; and, upon their return last autumn, they passed through the Kara Sea and the strait without any impediment from the ice, and have transmitted a very interesting account of their journey in Siberia. Prof. Nordenskiöld has again passed safely into the Kara Sea and to the mouth of the Yenisei, and has already returned. He found the Kara Sea free from ice in September, and declares that the navigability of the Yenisei is now ascertained, and is confident that a trade-route may be established to that river through the Kara Sea."
In Thibet, in Japan, in Siam, and in Persia, extensive explorations have been made. The great survey of India is going on at the rate of 40,000 square miles per annum. The American Palestine Exploration Society has suspended work, in accordance with the advice of the advisory committee in Beyrout, partly because of the disturbed condition of Turkey, and the continued commercial depression at home. The engineers have, however, made a rapid of nearly the whole territory east of the Jordan.
"I have frequently called your attention to the remarkable remains that are found in the country east of the Jordan—the Moab Bashan Gilead of the Bible—of which, until the recent explorations, nothing comparatively was known. Though this part of Syria may be reached in a few days from the northern part of the Dead Sea, or from the sea of Galilee, it was not visited by travelers, in consequence of the rugged nature of the country and the hostile tribes of Bedouins that inhabit it. It has now been ascertained to abound in architectural and archaeological remains of the greatest interest. It is literally strewed with the remains of towns and of structures, many of them remarkable for their massiveness, which belong to a past civilization, of which we know nothing. You will remember that some years ago, from the indications which then existed, I expressed the opinion that this must have been, at an early period, one of the chief routes between Asia and Africa, and the ruins which have since been found in the explorations carried on by the American society, and their extent, confirm that impression.
"Dr. William Thompson, the veteran American missionary and explorer in Syria, in a recent letter says that, in making a tour through this region, nothing ever impressed him so much as the richness of this field in the remains of ancient civilization. He says that there are not only acres on acres of splendid ruins, but fortifications, temples, baths, and theatres, the best preserved in existence, and which have evidently stood undisturbed for ages. While on the west side of the Jordan, he remarks, cities have been robbed to build other cities—just as the ruins of Tyre are now contributing ship-loads of stone toward building the present city of Beyrout—the east side of the Jordan has remained unmolested for 1,500 years; and that there exists there an unequaled combination of art and Nature in an untouched condition of splendor and ruin."
The work of exploration and investigation in respect to the unknown parts of Africa has been vigorously followed up during the year. The Niger, Volta, Ogowe, and Congo Rivers have been explored more or less fully. The source of Guango River has been reached by penetrating the interior across the Talamunga Mountains, which are from 4,000 to 5,000 feet high.
"When our fellow, M. du Chaillu, several years ago laid before us the account of the pygmies he had found in Western Africa, near the equator, it was received in certain parts of Europe with incredulity; but these pygmies of the western coast have since been seen by others, and the existence of races of pygmies is now established by the facts gathered by Schweinfurth, Miani, and others in Africa, and by recent researches in India. Mr. Marcette says that these pygmies were well known to the ancient Egyptians, and that there is a bass-relief, in the sepulchre of the Necropolis of Saggarale, of the fifth dynasty, upon which two pygmies are represented, having the features of Dr. Schweinfurth's Akka. He says the pygmies of antiquity were natives of Pun, which he indentifies with the modern Somali country. The Phœnicians came from Pun, and were not an Asiatic race, and near them dwelt a race of dwarfs called Bess, who still exist in the Somali country."
The district of Akem, in the north portion of Ashantee, has recently been visited. The country is fertile, heavily wooded, well watered, and highly auriferous. "The climate is humid throughout the year; the men are capable of undergoing great fatigue, but are incorrigibly idle, and the women do all the work. Among the men he found an extraordinary growth or enlargement of the cheek-bones under the eyes. It is in the form of horns on each side of the nose, and so long that in some instances the man had to squint violently to see at all. The growth begins in childhood. The skin is not broken, but stretches over the horns like a glove. This phenomenon he thought peculiar to the tribe in Akem, as he did not find it in any other. Photographs of these horned men, it is said, have recently been received in England."
The circumnavigation of the Mwutan Nizigi (Albert Nyanza) is the important event of the year in Africa, establishing the connection between this lake and the Nile. It appears that the White Nile is navigable the whole way from Dufli to the lake, a distance of 164 miles. About 100 miles from Dufli there is a large branch of the river, extending north-northeast in the direction of the Nyam-Nyams. The country east of the lake has also been explored, and a chain of military posts established from Gondokoro to both Mwutan Nizigi and the Ukerewe (Victoria Nyanza). The Somerset River was reached, and a station established at Masuidi, the capital of Unyora. The Somerset Nile, which connects the two lakes, is navigable from Mwutan Nizigi to Murchison's Falls; but from there to the Karuma Rapids it abounds in swift water, having a fall of 700 feet between Murchison's Falls and Foueira.
Mr. Stanley, after exploring Lake Ukerewe, crossed the country of Unyora to the Mwutan Nizigi, reaching that lake at a point where a deep gulf (Beatrice Gulf), formed by a promontory called Unsongora, runs out for thirty miles in a southwesterly direction. The position of his camp on the lake is 31° 24' 30" east longitude, and 25' north latitude. The country of Unyora extends along the eastern shore; that on the south shore is called Ruanda. On the west, opposite Gulf Beatrice, is Ukonju, peopled by cannibals, and the farther western shore to the north is the country of Ulegga. The people of the south and southwestern shores were very hostile. Stanley followed up the course of the Kitangule River, the main feeder of Lake Ukerewe, and circumnavigated Lake Windermere of Speke; and afterward, on the frontiers of Karewega, found Lake Akengara, noted in Speke's map. When last heard from, in July, he was on his way to Unamyembi, intending to explore Lake Tanganyika, and then strike northward to the Mwutan Nizigi. Commander Cameron's journey is claimed to have settled the line of the Central African lake-sources. The chief products of Central Africa are ivory and slaves. Westward from Katanga there are large copper-mines; coal, cinnabar, and tin, were found; sugar-cane, rice, wheat, cotton, and hemp, grow well; the vegetable and mineral products would make the people of Africa industrious and prosperous, were they not ruined by the slave-trade. The way to stop this traffic is to open up the rivers Congo and Zambesi, for there is a way across the continent by a system of water navigation second to none in the world. A missionary station has been established on Lake Nyassa, in memory of Livingstone, with a view to the suppression of slavery, and every friend of humanity will unite in wishing success to this philanthropic endeavor which Livingstone had so deeply at heart. A way has been found from Zanzibar to the interior highlands which is free from the fever-swamps of the old route, and also from that great scourge of East Africa, the tsetse-fly, a fact of great importance in opening up Central Africa.
An Italian expedition started last February, for the exploration of the country on the east coast between Shoa and Lake Ukerewe. After many hardships, Liece, the capital of Shoa, has been reached, which will be made the base of a scientific exploration of the lakes. The expedition is to be absent four years.
"I regret exceedingly to hear of the recent death of Mr. Rebman, the well-known missionary, who first suggested the existence of a system of lakes in Central Africa, which was verified by the discoveries of Burton, Speke, Grant, Baker, Livingstone, Long, and Stanley."
There is little to record in regard to South Africa. The diamond fields of the Orange Free State and the gold-fields of the Transvaal Republic have not only attracted the enterprising and industrious, but have also excited the cupidity of their English colonial neighbors, in a way which it is feared will prove anything but beneficial to the rising African republics.
During the last five years the great island of New Guinea, which thirty years ago was put down as an unknown land, has been the scene of active explorations. The country has been penetrated by way of Baxter and Fly Rivers for 90 and 150 miles respectively. It is peopled by a mixed race, Malayan and Papuan, brave and energetic, speaking different dialects, and at war with each other.
The country watered by the Baxter River is low, swampy, covered with forests of mango-trees and thinly populated, contrasting in this respect with the Fly River, which swarms with human beings. The Malayan population of the eastern shore are far above the savage, and are opposed to the polygamy and cannibalism which exist among the Papuans. The southern peninsula of New Guinea was explored; a range of mountains forms the backbone, running north and south; at a height of 4,000 feet were found dense forests of tropical vegetation, covering the whole northern range except the top of Mount Owen Stanley, which rises in a double peak 13,205 feet. The soil of this region is very rich; sugar-cane, yams, sweet-potatoes, and tobacco, are cultivated; bread-fruit and mango are indigenous. The people have frizzled hair, and are darker than the Malays, differing from them also in disposition, being inoffensive and friendly. "The women take an active part in any disturbance, and were found more capable of making a hard bargain than the men. None of the tribes believe in a God, and attribute everything extraordinary to some supernatural agency.
"The climate of this part of the peninsula is relaxing. It is impossible to live in the valleys without impairing the constitution, from the excessive moisture; but in the interior it is more salubrious. Birds are very numerous, conspicuous among which is the bird-of-paradise, but flowers are scarce. Miclucho Maclay, who has made extensive explorations in New Guinea, was engaged last July in explorations on the northeast side of the island, about Astrolabe Bay, the part of the coast which has been named after him; and he reports that in April an earthquake occurred in the highlands in that vicinity, which destroyed many villages."
The island is 1,400 miles long, and from twenty to 450 miles wide; it possesses great vegetable and mineral wealth, and large portions of it are suitable to European colonization. It may in the future become the seat of an important civilization.
"The islands of the northeast coast of New Guinea have been visited. The natives are nude savages of the Oriental negro type, who live more like beasts than human beings. Cannibalism prevails throughout the islands, not as a religious rite, but as a means of subsistence. The details of this horrible practice are too revolting to repeat. The natives say that there is in the islands a race of human beings with tails, who are not monkeys; that the tail is bony and inflexible, so that those with this caudal appendage have to dig a hole in the sand before they can sit down, as they die if the tail is broken. We have thus revived the account of the men with tails heretofore reported to exist in Borneo and the interior of Africa, but always upon native information, with the exception of hearsay information alleged to have been given by a sailor cast away on the coast of Borneo, and, like all such, of little value."
Exploration has been made of that portion of the Australian Continent lying between Murchison and the Overland Telegraph line. The Ashburton River was traced to its source, thus defining the extent and position of the western water-shed which abuts on the desert in 120° 20' east longitude. No water-courses were found flowing to the eastward; along the twenty-fourth parallel to 127° east longitude, the country was found to be an open desert.
"This very imperfect survey of the geographical work of the world, when regarded as the work of a single year, justifies, I think, what I said in my last address—that we are living in a great geographical age."
- Condensed from the annual address of Chief-Justice Charles P. Daly, President of the American Geographical Society, delivered January, 1877.