Harold Michell.

An introduction to the geography of Sierra Leone online

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The area between these limits is known as the Tropics,
and from the fact that these parts are subject to the
concentrated rays of the sun they have usually hot

From the diagram it will be gathered that in general
those places which are nearer the equator experience
higher temperatures than those more remote.

^-^^^^L ZONE ^li^-^^v.



\^ KniarsliLCirc/^ ^
^^66'/2 S.

North of the Northern limit which is called the
Tropic of Cancer, the sun is never vertically overhead,
and the same is the case with places south of the South-
ern limit, the Tropic of Capricorn, 23^- deg. S. These
places always have the sun shining obliquely.

As a result of this, in the northern latitudes land
which slopes towards the south is warmer than that

JO An Introduction to the

wliieh has a northern aspect ; conversely in southern
latiliules the northern slopes are warmer.

The tropical belt is sometimes called the Torrid Zone,
the belts between the tropics and the Arctic and
Antarctic latitudes are known as the Temperate Zones,
and the parts beyond the Arctic and Antarctic Circles
are known as the Frigid or frozen Zones.

These are the broad divisions into which the earth's
surface may be divided, but for purposes of studying
the general geography of the world it will be convenient
to make more detailed climatic divisions into well
defined and characteristic regions.

If tlie line known as the equator be followed across a
map of the world, it will be seen that it crosses large
land masses both in Africa and South America. A
closer study will reveal the presence of large rivers in
these neighbourhoods.

In Africa there is the river Congo, one of the largest
rivers in the world, with some of its tributaries larger
than the biggest rivers in Sierra Leone. In addition to
this there are many large lakes, Nyanza, Tanganyika,
and others.

In South America there is the River Amazon, the
largest river in the world, with many large tributaries.
From this it may be concluded that in the neighbour-
hood of the equator, known as the Tropics, there is a
very heavy rainfall, otherwise these rivers and lakes
could not be inaintained.

Later on it will be shown why there is such a heavy
rainfall in these parts, but assuming the rainfall from
the presence of the large rivers and lakes, and knowing
the general hot climate from experience in this country,
it is reasonable to conclude that there is luxuriant
gro\\i:h. As a matter of fact these land masses along
the equator are covered with dense forest, in some parts
so thick as to be practically impenetrable.

Beginning at the equator and travelling northwards,
it would be observed that the trees would gradually get
fewer and fewer and the nature of the country
gradually change into grass land, known as Savan-

Geography of Sierra Leone. 21

nahs. This is largely due to the fact that there is less
rainfall, and the general conditions are hardly con-
ducive to the growth of large trees.

Continuing the journey north, the grass gradually
begins to disappear until the grasslands merge into
desert, the Sahara and the Soudan. Here there is prac-
tically no rainfall, and the scorching heat has made the
whole country arid, just as in this Colony when there isr
no rain everything is parched and vegetable growth is
almost at a standstill.

North of the desert the heat becomes less, a little
rainfall is possible and the desert gradually changes
into grasslands again. Such are the districts near the
coasts of Morocco, Algeria.

Travelling south w^ards from the equator the same
changes in the nature of the country are observed.

Leaving the forests, the grasslands or savannahs are
met in Rhodesia. South of this the rainfall is less and
the grasslands change into desert not so large as the
Sahara, but nevertheless the Kalahari is a desert for the
greater part of the year.

Continuing the journey southwards the desert
changes once more into grasslands such as are met in
Cape Colony, and are called the Veldt.

If these journeys are repeated north and south of
the equatorial region in South America, corresponding
changes in the nature of the land will be observed.

North of the equatorial forest the savannahs are met
in the Guianas and Venezuela. North of this the land
mass is broken up by the sea, hence the place of the
desert is taken by the Gulf of Mexico, from which the
warm Gulf Stream flow^s north and warms the shores
of Britain.

Continuing north, the grasslands of North America
are reached. They are here called Prairies, and extend
over immense areas, forming some of the most pro-
ductive parts of the world.

In the case of America the large land mass extends
much further north than is the case with Africa, and
north of the prairies the nature of the country changes

22 -1" Introduction to the

acrain. The i-rasslands gradually develop into forest
as the rainfall becomes greater and the heat less, i hese
forests are known as Temperate Forests

\s the iourney proceeds north the forests become
thinner, changing into scrub and finally int« desert ;
this time the desert is frozen, and called iundra.

Returning to the equatorial region to make the
iournev southwards, the same changes are noted, ihe
forest changes into grasslands, called Pampas; m turn
these merge into desert, the Atacama, south of which
the land mass is not large, and the corresponding
chanf:jes are not w^ell marked. , , ,

It mav be noted here that the bulk oi the land mass
of the world is in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is
here that one must look for types of land corresponding
to those already considered.

In Europe the grasslands of Russia are called btep-
pes ; these spread across into Asia. North of the Steppes
are the extensive temperate forests which form a belt
with those of North America, and the Tundra or frozen
desert extends from North America right across
northern Asia and Europe.

Corresponding with the Sahara desert there are the
deserts of Scinde in India, and Gobi in Asia.

Thus it may be seen that the earth's surface may be
divided roughly into belts, bearing in mind that the belts
are only possible where large land masses are con-
cerned. These divisions are mainly climatic, depending
to a large extent on their distances north or south of
the equator.

In order to consider those parts of the world which
do not conform to the general characteristics of these
main divisions, it will be necessary to inquire into the
causes other than latitude which determine the climate
of a country.

Effects of the Sea. — If a pot of cold water and a large
stone about the same size as the pot are put on the same
fire and left for a while, it will be observed that the
stone will become hot much more quickly than the water.
If now thev are both taken off the fire at the same time

Geograyhy of Sierra Leone.


and placed to cool under similar conditions, it will be
noted that the stone cools much more rapidly than the
water. Precisely the same thing happens when the sea
and the land are warmed by the sun.

The land becomes heated more rapidly than the sea.
The air above the land is consequently heated through
radiation. The air then expands, becomes lighter and
rises, and cooler air comes in from over the sea to take
its place.

This happens during the day and is known as a sea

Its effects are to temper the heat of places near the
sea and even up the temperatures.

When the sun sets the land cools more rapidly than
the sea and consequently the air from above the land
tends to blow out over the sea : this is known as a land
breeze and it blows in the e\ enings. Both these breezes
are commonly experienced in Freetown and its neigh-


Thus the proximity of the sea has a tendency to
render the climate more temperate, and places near the

24 An J ni rod net ion to the

sea do not suffer from such extremes of climate as those
places more remote.

Wherever the land is much broken up by large gulfs,
bays, inlets and inland seas, these effects are noticed not
only on the actual coastal districts but for some distance

Elevation.— The height above sea level affects the
climate to a considerable extent. The higher one
ascends the cooler becomes the atmosphere, 1 degree F.
for every 270 feet elevation. There are mountains in
tropical Africa which are snow capped; the plateau or
raised land of Tibet has very cold winters, whereas the
plains of India just south of this are very hot.

Ranges of mountains exercise their effect on the
climate of places near them. In Sierra Leone the
mountains near the coast cause the moisture-laden
winds to deposit large quantities of rain. The Hima-
layas form a barrier across the north of India and
protect it from the cold winds from north Asia. At the
same time they cause the heavily laden Monsoon, a
south-west wind blowing over from the heated Indian
Ocean, to deposit a Jieavy rainfall in India.

Ocean currents liave their effect on the climate. Just
as the warm Gulf Stream warms the British Isles, so a
cold current flowing from the Arctic regions makes the
winter of the coast of Labrador very cold.

There are other causes which affect the climate of a
place, such as the slope of a country and the prevailing
winds; these are more local in their effects.

Now that the main climatic regions of the earth have
been decided upon, it will be interesting to consider
briefly the people w^ho occupy these regions, their
occupations and general characteristics, and further, to
note what effects the climate and environment have on
the temperaments and occupations of the inhabitants.

The Tropical Forest regions largely consist of dense
forest, in many parts almost impenetrable. The only
means of access is along the rivers and streams which
run through it, and consequently it has been but little

40 50


Geograyliy of Sierra Leone. 25

The population in the forest proper is very scanty,
but along the rivers and at such places where clearings
have been made, usually in the coastal districts, some
tribes of people m.anage to live. These forests are rich
in valuable hardwood timbers such as mahogany, ebony,
rose-wood, etc., and the people are largely occupied in
felling this timber and conveying it to the coast for
export to European countries, w^here it is required for
makino; furniture.

The large trees are intertwined with climbing plants,
among them being a climbing species of rubber, and
before rubber was cultivated to the extent it is now, the
collection of rubber occupied large numbers of these

These people, many of whom are pygmies, are in a
very backward state. They have a very hard life and
very little intercourse with other peoples. Indeed, some
of them still make their houses in trees.

In the dense forests all sorts of animal life are found,
and the elephant and gorilla find a safe retreat from the
advance of man.

The Savannahs. — In these regions the rainfall is
heavy during a part of the year, consequently they are
suitable for cultivation or for rearing cattle. As a
result these areas are well populated. In Africa the
people are black and called negroes, in America they are
a reddish yellow and known as Indians, in Asia the
inhabitants are yellow people with curiously slanting
eyes, Chinese and Tibetans ; or more generally, Mongols.

Where the land is cultivated such crops as rice,
millet, sugar, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, cotton, rubber, etc.,
grow easily and abundantly. Thus food is plentiful,
the needs of man are few, and the people are
generally indolent, wanting in thrift and inclined to be
fatalists. The climate has its share in bringing about
these characteristics. Work is impossible during the
heat of the mid-dav, and work cannot go on all the year
round because of the seasons when there are no rains.

The people are chiefly farmers or planters. Left alone
they produce just what they require for their own use.

•26 An Introduction to the

Most of tlie cultivation is done by hand, but a know-
ledge of improved methods is gradually spreading with
tiie advent of the energetic white races.

Some of these savannah areas support large herds of
•cattle such as are found in Northern Nigeria, French
Guinea (which is the source of the supply to this
country), Rhodesia, and the valley of the Orinoco.

In these hot grasslands various kinds of antelope
.abound, and also the animals which prey on them, the
lion and the leopard roam at large.

'Uie Hot Deserts. — A glance at the map of Africa
will show that the regions of the Sahara and Soudan as
well as that of the Kalahari are singularly deficient in
names either of towns or rivers. The first indicates
tliat there are very few inhabitants and the second that
there is very little rainfall.

Neither man nor beast can live without water (note
that towns and villages in this country as elsewhere are
always built rear a river or stream) and further, with-
out water it is impossible to grow^ one's food.

The result is that only where water can be obtained
in the desert is life possible. At certain places wells
have been sunk and the places in the neighbourhood are
known as oases.

Consequently there is a very scanty fixed population ;
most of the inhabitants are w^anderers or Nomads, who
travel from oasis to oasis along more or less recognised

They are employed largely in carrying the produce
which is exchanged between the hot grasslands and the
more temperate regions. They are drawn from among
white men and black men, and the Hausa of Nigeria
mav be found bargaining with the Berbers in Algiers,
■and w^onderful bargainers they are. Just in the same
way the Bedouins from the north may be found trading
with the natives in Timbuctoo.

TT>4he appalling solitude of the desert a man does not
travel alone, but with others forming a caravan, and
often these men have to undergo severe hardships from
hunger and more especially from thirst. They are lean,

Geography of Sierra Leone. 27

wiry men of wonderful stamina. Often they have to
fight would-be robbers on their way, and thus they
become self-reliant and proud.

Usually the days are very hot and the nights bitterly
€old, and the travellers may at any time encounter
severe sandstorms. In order to assist them to with-
stand the severe bodily strain consequent on their occu-
pation, they are glad to obtain the Kola, which is grown
in this country, hence most of the kola exported from
this colony finds its way to Dakar and the Gambia,
which are " Gates of the Desert."

The beast of burden is the camel. Like the men it
has to withstand many hardships, but it is adapted in
an extraordinary manner to undertake these long and
trying journeys. It has developed large feet to facili-
tate walking on the sand, and it can carry heavy loads
and go long distances with little food or water. It is
sometimes referred to as the ship of the desert.

As a result of the hard life led b}'- these wandering
people they have made very little progress from the
point of view of civilisation. Practically the same
routes are traversed and the same commodities
exchanged as were done two thousand years ago.

The Temperate Grasslands occupy a large portion of
the earth's surface and are probably the most important

Here the rainfall is abundant, but not like the
tropical torrents, the heat is not overpowering, and men
mav work all the year round.

These grasslands may be divided into two parts, those
devoted to grass where large herds of cattle are reared
and those parts which are cultivated and produce so
much of the food of the world.

The cattle rearers or ranchers are either the natives
of the country in which they live, such as the Steppe
dwellers, or they are men who have emigrated from
Europe and have settled in the country and become
ranchers. Usuallv the native cattle raisers are in a
primitive state of civilisation, leadinsj a wandering
existence, moving from one grazing ground to another.

28 -1" J /ttrodi/cliofi lo the

Tliese [)eople use the products of their flocks chiefly
lor t lieinselves, only occasionally selling their animals
for such things as cereals, clothing, firearms, etc., which
they tlo not produce themselves. The horse is their
beast of burden and is nuich valued by them. From
their infancy they learn to ride and naturally they
l)ecome the finest horsemen in the world. Living the
free and wandering life, they become proud, indepen-
dent and fierce, and they rather despise those who are
tillers of the soil, and in the past have often invaded
their territories and settled in the countries themselves.

Such men are the Arabs, Berbers and Bedouins of
North Africa and Arabia, the Turkestans and Steppe
dwellers of Asia, South Russia, and so on.

The ranchers of North America, South America,
Australia and New Zealand are usually white men, and
they raise large numbers of cattle to supply people in
other parts of the world with food, leather, w^ool, etc.

The millions of people in Europe have long been
unable to provide enough cattle for their own use and
so there are ready markets for the produce of these
grass lands. The beef and mutton has to be sent great
distances overseas, and to keep it from spoiling it is
frozen ; the hides are manufactured into leather goods,,
and the wool from the sheep is made into warm cloth-
ing required by the people who live in cold countries.

This opens up a large shipping industry and regular
sailings to and from these countries are necessary.
Further, these ranchers often require to get their pro-
duce to the markets quickly and so railways and roads
are built and the country is considerably developed,
towns spring up, and the population increases.

The great difference then between these two kinds of
grass lands is that in one case the land is used entirely
for the needs of the inhabitants and remains more or
less undeveloped, whereas in the other case the land
produces meat, leather, wool, butter and cheese for
people living thousands of miles away.

The Temperate Forests. — North of these grass lands
the character of the country changes again, trees are

Geography of Sierra Leone. 29

more plentiful and soon the real forest lands are met.
These produce such trees as the pine, hr, oak, beech, ash,
elm and such woods as are used in building.

These forests are found in Northern Europe, North-
ern Asia and North America. In Europe the
Norwegians, Swedes and Eussians cut down these trees
and supply large quantities of timber to all parts of the

In America, the natives, who are now very few
indeed, chiefly lived by trapping and hunting to get
the beautiful skins of the animals which lived in the

These forest countries experience severe winters and
so the animals are provided with warm furry skins, and
these are much valued by people who live in cold

The white men who have emigrated to America do as
the white men in the forest regions in Europe, they cut
down the trees for timber and some for the manufacture
of paper. Lumbering is their chief occupation and, as
in the Tropical forests, the population is not dense.

In Asia, the people who live on the borders of these
forests are trappers and hunters, and they are few in
number. As these people have to depend largely on
their luck, the natives of forest lands usually remain in
a primitive state of civilisation. When they are unable
to obtain success in one part they move off to another.

Those who are lumberers, however, have plenty of
occupation, for besides producing timber, such products
as resin, turpentine, and sugar are obtained and sent off
to other parts of the world. They make use of the
snow-covered ground to transport their lumber, and the
large trunks are piled on the frozen rivers to be floated
down to the ports when the summer comes.

Often these forest lands are cut down and grass sown
instead, and then herds of cattle are raised ; in fact,
this has been done in many places to such an extent that
steps have to be taken to replace the trees by careful

30 An 1 tit rod act lull to the

On the other hand, in some parts the forests have been
cleared and the country now occupied by dense popula-
tions engaged in manufactures and intensive farming,
to meet to some extent the wants of these people. This
is the case in most parts of the British Isles which
at one time were covered with forests, which have given
place to cultivated land.

Then the chief occupation of the people was farming,
but with the use of coal and the invention of machinery,
the chief occupation now is manufacturing, and the
country is no longer able to produce enough food for the
dense population.

The same is met to a greater or less extent in most of
the European countries.

The Tundra. — Leaving the Temperate Forests and
proceeding north, the trees become smaller and less
numerous and finally another kind of desert is met, the
Tundra or frozen desert. During the greater part of
the year it is extremely cold, great depths of snow
abound, and there is only a short summer. During this
short summer small plants grow rapidly and a large
number of reindeer live on these plants.

The people who live in these parts hunt these animals
and live upon their flesh, in fact the reindeer is to them
what the horse is to the rancher and the camel to the hot
desert traveller.

When the Arctic seas melt during the short summer
these people spend their time fishing and hunting the
bear and the seal. They naturally live a very hard life,
and are stunted in growth and very primitive. Such
are the Eskimo and the Lapps, and thev live in such
places as North Asia, North Europe and North America,
where these continents are washed by the Arctic oc^an.

Wild animals such as bears, wolves and foxes are to
be met in these parts, and when the seas are frozen and
fishing is impossible the people move south towards the
fringe of the Temperate Forests and hunt the fox and
the caribou.

They often build their houses of snow, as they lead a
wandering or nomadic existence. They use the skins

Geogra'phy of Sierra Leone. 31.

and furs of animals for their clothing and live upon,
the fish and flesh that they obtain, and their life is one
long continuous struggle, and they are not numerous.

Besides these main divisions which really hold true^^
only when great land masses are considered, there are
the lands which do not answer to any of these descrip-
tions now. In most of these the effects of the sea on the-
climate and the older civilisation have done much to
change their character.

For example, the greater part of England was once-
Temperate Forest land, but now there are only two very
small and carefully preserved forests in England. The
trees have been cut down, the land tilled to supply food
for the workers in the various industries and mined to
obtain the valuable minerals.

This applies to the greater part of Europe. The grass
lands in Russia are cultivated and produce enormous-
quantities of wheat ; forests and grass lands have
largely disappeared in Central Europe, and rye and
sugar beet grown instead. In these parts the popula-
tion is dense, men can work all the year round, and their
work does not depend to any extent upon the seasons.
Here manufactures of all kinds of goods go on, mining
of all sorts of minerals, and where the countries border
the sea, fishing.

Countries like Norway, Holland, Spain, Portugal,
France and England, wbii-ch have long coast lines, pro-
duce many fishers, and in the past these people were-
great travellers on the sea, and most of the explorers
were drawn from among them. Again, the effect of the
seafaring life is still seen in the fact that these people-
are the sailors of to-day, but now engaged in the mer-
cantile marine.

With such wide interests and such opportunities, the^
activities of people living in these parts are stimulated,
and among them is found the highest state of civilisa-
tion in the world. Where they have emigrated to other
parts such as America, Australia, or New Zealand they
have carried their civilisation with them and developed'
these countries along the lines of their home countries,.

:j2 An Inlruihutiun to tlie

aiul llie iiiUueuce of these people is felt throughout the

Ill couiitrii^s where they cannot live or do not wish to
settle, they do their utmost to develop the countries
through the natives, so that now, the native of Central

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Online LibraryHarold MichellAn introduction to the geography of Sierra Leone → online text (page 2 of 10)