Popular Science Monthly/Volume 20/December 1881/Popular Miscellany


The Mammoth Cave.—Professor II. C. Hovey made some interesting statements at the last meeting of the American Association concerning recent discoveries, measurements, and temperature observations in the Mammoth Cave. No exact measurements of the cave have ever been given, and most of the statements that have been published rest upon the representations, seldom accurate, of guides and proprietors. Even after Professor Hovey had received permission to make his observations, he was requested by the manager of the cave not to make any of the facts he had gained public. This is for the fear that other land-owners near the cave may learn where to look to find a rival entrance to the one that is now known. A fairly correct survey was made about forty years ago, the results of which, after they had been purposely confused to some extent, were embodied in the map of "Stephen Bishop, the Guide," but the map gave tun correct information to suit the jealous proprietors, and was destroyed. Only one copy of it is now known to exist. Dr. Forwood's map, published in 1870, was declared to contain several deviations from accuracy. Dr. Blackall, of Chicago, made a careful survey, several years ago, on the basis of which he prepared a lecture, but was prevented from delivering it by an injunction. Another survey was made by Jeffreys, but the person who had possession of the notes has died, and they can not be found. Mr. Klett, the manager of the cave, is making a thorough survey, the results of which, it is hoped, the proprietors may be induced to allow to be published. Professor Hovey is himself trying to collect all the descriptions of American caverns, and has accumulated quite a voluminous mass of cave literature, embracing more than a hundred distinct treatises of greater or less importance. The cave is stated in Owen's "Geological Report of Kentucky" to include two hundred and twenty-three avenues. Professor Hovey visited fifty-three avenues, and could get accounts of only eighty. A curious property was observed in Echo Hall, in that at a point about midway in the stream, when the notes of a full chord are sounded in slow succession, they are repeated by the arched wall overhead in arpeggio, and accompanied by a wonderful deep undertone. In regard to the question whether carnivorous animals accustomed to living in the open air would make their abode in caves, a dog, which had made repeated trips to the cave, finally staid at a point beyond Echo River, seemingly happy and contented, and refused to go out. The highest temperature of the cave in the hottest season does not exceed 56° Fahr. The lowest temperature was 33°. Professor Hovey spoke of the extensive saltpeter works that were instituted at the cave during the War of 1812, whence immense quantities of the salt were carried to Philadelphia on mules and in ox-carts, the débris of which still exist in great heaps of lixiviated earth, but of which no adequate record has been made.

The Floating Gardens of Cashmere.—The floating gardens of the Lake of Serinagur, Cashmere, are among the most curious specimens of horticultural art. A group of them when viewed in the evening gives an effect much like that of a harbor with its fleet of ships rising and falling with the swell of the waves. The foundation of the garden is formed by planting long stakes in the lake in two or three rows, at distances apart varying according to the size which it is intended to give the bed. Rooted plants are gathered from the lake and interwoven with the stakes. They continue to grow and form the floor of the bed, upon which more plants brought up from the lake are piled, until a kind of hill is formed half a yard in diameter and about two feet high. These hills are placed at distances apart which vary according to the nature of the vegetables that are to be raised upon them; the weeds of which they are formed soon dry up and decay, and the plants which are to be cultivated, consisting mostly of melons and allied species, are taken from the seedbeds in which they have been started, and planted upon them. At first, the plants are watered regularly, but their roots soon reach the water beneath the floor, and they then take care of themselves. The products of the gardens are gathered during the summer as they mature, by means of little boats which circulate among the floats, and are taken to the city and sold to a population which willingly pays a good price for them. The floating gardens will last for a great many years, or until the stakes which support them are rotted away, and may be perpetuated for an indefinite period by simply renewing the stakes at the proper time. They can be moved, but are generally fixed at the spot which the cultivator selects as most convenient for himself. Floating on the surface of the water, they rise and fall with the rise and fall of the lake, without any interruption to the development of the crops growing upon them. A very large amount of produce is raised upon the lake. Besides those plants which are cultivated directly, it furnishes several other useful productions spontaneously, such as the lotus, whose roots look like giant asparagus, without having its taste or flavor, but the seeds of which remind one of fresh nuts; water chestnuts (Trappa nutans), which are abundant; and quantities of water-lilies, the seeds and roots of which are often eaten. The fish also are excellent, varied, and abundant. The government derives a considerable revenue from the rent of fishing and gardening privileges.

Characteristics and Diversities of Deep-Sea Fauna.—M. A. Milne-Edwards has derived some novel and interesting if not startling conclusions from the study of the deep-sea fauna which were discovered by the dredging expeditions in the Caribbean Sea. He has been especially struck by the differences that exist between the animals of the bottom of the ocean and those of the surface and littoral. When, he says, we compare the specimens, we seem to have under our eyes two distinct fauna, which belong neither to the same period nor the same climate. The importance of this fact ought not to escape any one, and geologists should take it into account in determining the age of any formation. In reality, there are being formed to-day in the same seas deposits of which the contemporaneousness can not be put in doubt, but which contain the remains of beings entirely dissimilar. The animals in the deposits near the shores are related to the highest types of organization; those of the deep-sea-beds are of a more ancient character. Some among them exhibit incontestable affinities with fossils of the secondary epoch; others resemble the larval state of certain existing species. The infinite variety of zoölogical forms excites astonishment, and makes the application of existing classifications almost impossible. Transition types abound, with numerous intermediaries between groups, which we have hitherto been in the habit of considering as distinct. "Researches," continues M. Milne-Edwards, "on the animals of great depths have only been begun; and when we compare the limited extent over which dredgings have been made with the immense spaces that have never been penetrated, when we reflect on the many causes which still make the retreats of certain animals inaccessible to any means of investigation that we have, we become convinced that the results which have been obtained are only a small part of what the future has in reserve for us. We can not, then, insist too much on directing the attention of men of science of all countries to the usefulness of making their efforts coordinate, and of undertaking methodical explorations in the seas to which they have the most easy access. Our zoölogical tables still present so many gaps that it is impossible to comprehend the wholeness of the plan which has presided over the grouping of beings. Paleontological discoveries on the one side, and those which submarine explorations promise us on the other, will gradually rill these voids, and will, perhaps, some day permit naturalists to grasp the relations which exist between animals."

Images of the American Stone Age.—Among all the relics of the stone age, said Mr. William McAdams, in his paper on the subject, read at the Cincinnati meeting of the American Association, none are of more interest to the student of ethnology than the sculptured forms of men and animals found on some of the stone objects taken from the mounds. These objects might be divided into four classes: 1. The mound-pipes, with a curved or crescent-shaped base forming the stem, the bowl of the pipe representing some animal. These pipes are not made of very hard stone, as has generally been supposed. They are quite small and delicate, many of them showing both taste and skill in manufacture. 2. A class consisting of much larger and somewhat exaggerated representations of men and animals, many of them having a crouching, sphinx-like form, strongly resembling the ancient forms from the Nile. Some of them have no perforation, but the majority of them have two funnel shaped perforations, and were probably used as pipes on occasions of great ceremony. Some of these images, from mounds in Illinois, weighing ten or twenty pounds or more, are sculptured from hard stone, and are among the finest works of the stone age. 3. A class of singular mask-like figures, in which the human face alone is represented presumably of the natural size. The fourth class consists of representations of the human form which may have been real idols. One from Union County, Illinois, cut from quartzite, the most refractory material known, represents the body in a Pitting posture, with the hands on the knees, has a face with features not those of a modern Indian, is smooth and highly polished, and is, perhaps, the finest piece of aboriginal sculpture that has been found in the United States. Mr. McAdams thought these objects were used in religious observances, and believed that the evidence showed that the mound-builders were fire-worshippers. Professor Putnam, who is one of the unbelievers in a distinct race of mound-builders, remarked that many of the supposed idols, pipes, etc., may have been toys for children.

The Telelogue.—The visibility of signals designed to be seen at a distance depends upon the contrast between the light given by the signals and that of the ground against which they are seen. The contrast has commonly been obtained in aerial telegraphy by exhibiting dark bodies against the light of the sky. To make this effective, it is necessary to raise the dark bodies to some height, and this involves the use of apparatus which must be more or less cumbrous. In the telelogue of Captain Gaumet, the difference in brilliancy required to give distinctness to the signal is gained by employing a silver surface designed upon a dark ground. A slight inclination of the apparatus is enough to cause the silver to shine very brightly, and in strong contrast with the dark ground, by the reflection of the diffused light which it receives from the! sky. For signals, Captain Gaumet employs the letters of the alphabet and the numerals, remembering that we most readily recognize those forms with which we are familiar. The telelogue consists of two essential parts: the telegraph-album, or book of signals, and a telescope. The telegraph album is a collection of forty leaves of coarse black cloth on which the silver signals, including the letters of the alphabet, the numerals, and a few conventional signals, are fixed. To secure economy of bulk while the letters shall be as large as possible, each signal occupies the reverse of one leaf and the front of the leaf behind it, as is shown in the figure, where the leaf that is turned down bears the lower part of the T on its back, and the upper part of the letter is exposed on the leaf behind it. Each leaf is marked with an index to enable the operator to find it quickly. The cover of the album is made of stiff leaves, which put together form a table or a rigid back, and one of which is furnished with feet, to which a third foot is added, constituting a tripod when the apparatus is used. The telescope should be strong and very clear. The dimensions, both of the album and telescope, will depend on the PSM V20 D299 The telelogue.jpg distance at which the signals are to be seen. At present three sizes are used, corresponding with distances of two and a half, eight, and ten and a half miles. The medium size measures about twenty by thirty inches, and weighs, with the telescope, less than twenty pounds. If the apparatus is to be used at night, artificial illumination will be needed; a petroleum-lamp with a reflector, or, for greater distances, two lamps, will be enough. To use the apparatus, the album must be fixed on its tripod at such an angle that the reflection from the silver shall be brightest, and shall reach the spot with which communication is to be had. A plate which is all silvered, and which appears in the distance as a bright point, is exposed as a signal of warning: the operator at the other post answers with an identical signal that he is ready. The letters composing the telegram are then exhibited one after the other, and the words are separated by showing the wholly silvered plate or plain spot. If any signal is to be repeated, as in the case of double letters or the repetition of a figure, it is hid for a moment by a black leaf and shown again. The operator at the other station receives the dispatch with the aid of his telescope, distinguishing the letters and spelling the words as they come, and writing them, or having them written, down. The image produced by these huge characters, seen at a distance through the glass, corresponds with sufficient exactness with that produced by the same characters when read in a book or a newspaper. In the experiments that have been made, dispatches of twenty words have been transmitted in five minutes. Speed may be gained by using single conventional characters for the more common words. Secrecy may be secured by so fencing in the album as to prevent the diffusion of its reflection, and limit the field of its visibility to the other station, or by employing a cipher.

Ancient Aboriginal Houses.—Judge Henderson, of Illinois, discussing the character of the houses of the ancient inhabitants of the Mississippi Valley, said that it was a mistake to regard the "cone-like cabin"—which is really only a temporary hunting-hut or abode of a tribe in a nomadic condition—as the typical wigwams of the aborigines at the beginning of the historic period. Such houses were not found in the villages of the sedentary tribes, but these lived in large houses, each accommodating a number of families belonging to the same gens. These long houses were made with framework, and covered with such material as the country afforded—bark in the East, mats made from the leaves of the cat-tail in the prairies of the West—and were divided into sections by skins, sheets of bark, or mats hung up at intervals, and had a hallway in the middle, extending the full length of the house. One family occupied each of these sections, and a fire built in the doorway of every second partition served for two families. In the South, the houses were of sticks plastered with mud, and sometimes covered with mats, while the roof was covered with mats or thatched with straw or canes. The absence of any traces of ruins or of foundations shows that the houses of the ancient inhabitants of the land could not have been of stone, or massive structures of wood; and they could not have been of adobe, for that would not have withstood our winters. Professor Morgan's theory that the houses were pueblos, built on raised terraces, like those found in the Ohio Valley, is not sustained, for no such terraces are found near the animal-shaped mounds of Wisconsin or the burial-mounds of the Illinois River. Judge Henderson believes, therefore, that the ancient houses were of a similar character to those that he has described as existing at the beginning of the historical period.