H[enry] Justin Roddy.

Complete geography online

. (page 15 of 22)
Online LibraryH[enry] Justin RoddyComplete geography → online text (page 15 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

evaporation over the present area of the sea now exactly equals
the amount of water brought into the basin by all these rivers.
From the analogy of Great Salt Lake and of the Dead Sea, we

Digitized by VjOOQIC


shotild expect to find the water of such an inclosed basin much
Salter than that of the ocean. On the contrary, it is only one
third as salt. The case of the Aral Sea is still more striking.
Two great rivers — ^the Syr Daria and Amu Daria— empty
into this sea, but there is no stream flowing out of it. But
here, where we should expect very salt water, we find water
which is almost fresh — ^so nearly so that gazelles and other ani-
mals living on islands in the sea habitually drink it. On the
other hand, in the numerous small dried-up lakes which dot
the surface of the r^on the accumulation of salt is very

The only explanation of the freshness of the water in these
two great seas is that there have recently been great changes
both in the climate and in the level of that region. Salt is
washed into such inclosed basins so rapidly that it would take
no prolonged period of evaporation to render them Salter than
the ocean. In general, such seas may be compared to enormous
salt vats which are approaching nearer and nearer the point of
saturation. In the case of Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea
this point was long since reached ; but in the case of the Aral
and Caspian seas little progress has been made.

It is therefore clear that this region has lately emerged
from below sea-level, and, in consequence, rapidly passed
through climatic changes which have transformed it from a
recently well-watered region to one that is now a desert. Dur-
ing this transition stage, the rivers coming into the Aral Sea
were so much larger than now that the sea overflowed the rim
of its basin in such volume that nearly all of its salt was carried

Digitized by VjOOQIC


into the Caspian, and the sea thus became practically fresh.
There is a well-known and a very clearly marked deserted
channel of this great stream called the Uzboi, which once con-
nected the Aral with the Caspian Sea. So small is the amotmt
of salt in the Aral Sea that this change must have taken place
within a few thousand years. The Caspian Sea is so much
larger that it would take a longer time to wash the salt out
of it. Indeed, it is probable that it was never so completely
freshened as was the Aral Sea. But the present small amount
of salt in it bears unmistakable evidence both that the process
of freshening had gone on to a considerable extent, and that it
became an inclosed basin at a comparatively recent period. A
rise of its water to a little over one hundred feet would now
cause it to overflow into the Black Sea. These facts, while
they may not directly prove the subsidence of which we are
speaking, do bear striking witness to the instability of tliis
region and to the recent great climatic changes probably de-
pendent upon these variations of level.

Other Evidences of a Recent Continental Subsidence

At Trebizond, upon the Black Sea, we found positive evi-
dence of a comparatively recent subsidence of the land, amount-
ing to 750 feet. This evidence consists of a deposit of beach
gravel <Mie hundred feet thick and extending for a half mile
or more, along the face of the precipitous volcanic mass of
rock which forms the background to this picturesque and his-
torically interesting city. The gravel is very fresh in appear-
ance, and was deposited subsequent to all the rock erosion of

Digitized by VjOOQIC


the locality. The very fact that it has not been all washed
away by the frequent and heavy rains of this region is evidence
of its recent date. Its upper surface is 750 feet above the
present level of the sea. It was interesting to bring up to the
imagination from this point the conditions involved in the
deposition of gravel at this high level. If we supposed the
750 feet of subsidence to have extended over the whole area
to the Arctic Ocean, all of Russia, except the Ural Moimtains,
would have been submerged.

Another clear evidence of the subsidence of the land in this
region appeared in the lower part of the Darid Pass on the
north side of the Caucasus Mountains. Here, at an elevation
of about 3,000 feet above the sea, it was clear that after the
rock gorge had been eroded to its present depth of about
2,000 feet, it had been partially refilled by water action with
clay, sand, gravel, and pebbles to the extent of from 300 to
400 feet. The fine material was at the bottom and the coarser
material at the top. There was no chance for a glacier to have
entered that part of the gorge, so that it was evident that the
deposit was made by water during some recent extensive
changes in the level.

Mr. Charles Tracy, of Marsovan, reports that there are
similar terraces to that at Trebizond near Samsun, one hun-
dred miles farther west on the south side of the Black Sea;
while Prof. Charles Keyes reports the occurrence of

"extensive raised beaches on the north shore of the Black Sea
at Soudak in the Crimea, where six or eight well-marked beaches are
found, the highest about 500 to 600 feet above the present sea-leveL

Digitized by VjOOQIC


When viewed from the inner citadel of the triple-walled fortress,
which crowns a precipitous point of rock several hundred feet high,
above the harbor, the terraces stretch out to the eastward in a re-
markable manner, as far as the eye can reach. They form a series of
sharply-cut steps reaching down in succession until the present beach
shelf forms the last one of the series."

Another indication of recent and extensive changes in the
level of this region has already been alluded to (p. 105) in the
observations of Mr. Stadling upon some terraces containing
fresh drift-wood which are found on the lower part of the
Lena River 600 feet above its present level.

Advent of Man

The facts concerning man's existence previous to this sub-
mergence first came clearly to light a short time ago in
the discovery by Professor Armachevsky at Kief of paleolithic
implements, burnt stones, and other implements of man's occu-
pancy in the bluff of loess which borders the Dnieper River on
both sides of all the lower half of its course. The general
surface of the region is here 613 feet above the sea, and is
enveloped in a pretty uniform covering of from fifty to sixty
feet of loess. Through all this the river has worn a broad
trough 300 feet in depth. At the base of the loess, fifty-seven
feet below the surface, and 250 feet above the river, in posi-
tion where there has been no disturbance since the deposition.
Professor Armachevsky found the remains of man referred
to associated with the bones of various extinct animals such

Digitized by VjOOQIC



lis 50^



3p - j'


1U55=^ •• cj

i <


Digitized by VjOOQIC

Digitized by VjOOQIC


as are found in the cave deposits and river terraces of glacial
age in Western Europe.

In the chapter on Pre-Russian Colonization (p. 251), there
will be found an account of a similar discovery, by Professor
Kashchenko in 1896, of the remains of paleolithic man twelve
feet below the surface associated with the remains of extinct
pleistocene animals in the valley of the Obi near Tomsk. In
this case the stone implements were fotmd in connection with
mammoth bones representing an entire skeleton, some of which
showed that they had been split by man for the extraction
of the marrow.

Siberia During the Glacial Period

In saying, however, that there was no glacial period in
Siberia, it is not meant to deny that there were g^laciers in
the region during that period, nor that they were more exten-
sive than those which are now found in the r^on; but the
statement is simply made to convey the impression that there
was no such extension of ice from the Asiatic glacial centers
during the glacial period as there was from the centers of
Northwestern Europe and Northern North America. That
there was, during that period, some enlargement of the glacial
fields is beyond question. In the Altai region glaciers extended
somewhat lower than now, but, so far as we can learn, they
came down into the valleys only a comparatively few miles;
while the same is perhaps true of the Tian-Shan range. But it
is certain that from neither of these centers did the glaciers

Digitized by VjOOQIC


reach the mouths of the river gorges where they come out
upon the great plains. In short, they remained, throughout,
simply mountain glaciers of comparatively limited extent.

In Northeastern Siberia it would seem that the conditions
were somewhat the same during the glacial period as they were
in Alaska. According to my own observations, there were
no extensive glaciers coming down from the Vitim Plateau,
either to the east into the Chita Valley, or to the southwest,
into the valleys of the Uda and Sdenga rivers ; while, accord-
ing to Professor Schmidt, who has made extensive explora-
tions in the region, there are no certain signs of glacial action
in the Yablonoi Mountains. Farther north, however, in the
latitude of Okhotsk, there are, according to Professor Tscfier-
nyschev, indications of an extensive glacial occupation of the
Stanovoi Mountains above the sixtieth parallel of latitude;
while, as has elsewhere been described, there are extensive areas
of stagnant ice over the lower part of the Lena Valley and in
the Arctic Littoral, and upon the New Siberian Islands from
which so many remains of the mammoth have been derived.
Baron Toll speaks of this as a " fossil glacier," supposing, it
would seem, that there had been a movement of ice from the
continent to these islands. It has been shown by Dr. A. C
Lane, however, that where the average summer and winter tem-
perature is that of Yakutsk, frost would in time penetrate to a
depth of six hundred feet, which is about the present limit in
that locality ; the soil being permanently frozen to that depth
in the lower Lena Valley.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


At the present time numerous glaciers exist both in the
Tian-Shan and Altai mountains. In describing the passes we
have akeady spoken of the ice-cap which covers the summit
of Khan-tengri, which rises to a height of 24,000 feet, and
projects glaciers down upon all sides through the various river
troughs to a level of about 12,000 feet. Another glacial center
is about one hundred miles to the west directly south of the
east end of Lake Issyk-kul, from which glacial streams descend
both into the Tarim basin and into the Naryn River, which
flows into the S)rr Daria. Another glacial center of consider-
able extent is found just south of Vemi, in the Western Ala-tau
range. From this, glacial streams are sent forth both into
the headwaters of the Hi and of the Chu. Still another glacial
center along the main range of the Tian-Shan Mountains is
found south of Aulieata, from which perennial streams flow
north into the Talas, and south into the Chatkal, which flows
past Tashkent.

Still another center of glaciers is found in the Alai Tagh
range between Kokand and the upper basin of the Syr Daria
and the Waghesh River, one of the head tributaries of the
Amu Daria, forming the northern boundary of the Pamir.
There are as many as four of these, covering the summits above
10,000 feet, from which perennial streams flow into both the
Amu Daria and the Syr Daria, and from the western one into
the Zerafshan, which waters the valley of Samarkand and

South of the Waghesh in the Pamir, Mount Kaufmann

Digitized by VjOOQIC


(22,500 feet) and Mustagh Ata (25,800 feet), together with
two or three other peaks rising to an elevation of nearly 20,000
feet, sustain glaciers of considerable extent.

In the Altai Mountains, thotigh the elevation is nowhere
much above 11,000 feet, glaciers are still found which would
compare favorably with those in the Alps ; and, being readily
accessible from Semipalatinsk, Barnaul, and Kusnetsk, present
unrivaled attractions for tourists.

Rise and Fall of the Mammoth

A survey of the vast refafion in Central Asia under investiga-
tion fairly compels one to treat it as a whole, and to assume
that all parts of it have partaken in the subsidence, though
perhaps not all to an equal extent. The evidence of man's
existence at that early time just presented is confirmed by
the occurrence of mammoth and rhinoceros bones and carcasses
along the Arctic Littoral, especially between the Chatanga and
Lena rivers and on the New Siberian Islands.

As already stated, both drift-wood and the remains of the
mammoth are found in the interior in the deposits of abandoned
streams overlying thick strata of pure ice, which here plays
the part of rock. On the New Siberian Islands, also, the ice
takes the place of rock strata, and is covered by a considerable
depth of sand and gravel, in which are buried the remains of
mammoth and rhinoceros.

There has been so much curiosity and so many attempts to
explain the presence of the mammoth in these conditions, and
to account for his subsequent extinction, that we may be par-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


doned for presenting a theory suggested by the broad range
of facts which have lately come to our notice.

The original home of the mammoth is generally supposed to
have been in Southern Asia, where his near relative, the Asiatic
elephant, still lives. But, wandering from his birthplace, he
became distributed over almost the entire north temperate
and Arctic zone, his remains being abundant as far west as
the British Isles, and eastward over all the northern part of
Siberia, whence he seems to have crossed to Alaska, where in-
numerable remains have been found. Following down through
British Columbia, he spread over California, and, following
up the Eraser and Columbia rivers, reached the basin of the
Mississippi and the Red River of the North, and continued
his mifijations to the Atlantic coast, leaving his bones to be
preserved in the peat-bogs and gravel terraces at frequent in-
tervals over the whole r^on, as far south as Mexico.

At first it was thought from his being so large an animal,
and so related to the elephant, now living in India, that his
presence in Northern Siberia implied a warm climate. But
upon the discovery of fresh carcasses in the frozen gravels
bordering the Arctic Sea, it was found that he was amply
prepared to endure cold weather, having not only long hair,
but a thick and closely matted coat, which was short and woolly.
At the same time it was found, from the remnants of food
preserved in his teeth and stomach, that he fed upon the twigs
of trees and underbrush such as are now found in Siberia.
Indeed, the mammoth seems to have lived in Siberia when the
conditions closely resembled those of the present time, very

Digitized by VjOOQIC


likely wandering to the north over the tundras to the margin of
the sea during the summer, and retiring to the evergreen forests
for protection during the winter. Quite likely he could reach
the New Siberian Islands on the ice before it was broken up
in the spring, but he could scarcely have crossed Bering Strait
to America unless the land had been elevated suflSciently to
form an isthmus connecting the two continents. This, however,
is by no means improbable, since the depth of water in Bering
Strait is nowhere more than i8o feet.

Taking the facts altogether, it seems most probable that
the mammoth wandered to Northern Siberia over highlands
which remained unsubmerged during the period of the last
extensive subsidence, to which we have referred, when all
Western Siberia and Turkestan were enveloped with an in-
terior sea which perhaps also extended through the Sungarian
depression, forming, where the Desert of Gobi now is, an in-
terior body of water as large as the Mediterranean. The eflFect
of such a vast body of water stretching to the middle of Asia
would be sufficient of itself to modify the climate of the
whole northern region, making it both moister and warmer,
and causing vegetation to be abundant even north of the
Arctic Circle. In these conditions the mammoth and the woolly
rhinoceros would find a congenial home in the broad area ex-
tending from the Yenisei to the Lena River, and Bering Strait.

But upon the re-elevation of the land and the disappearance
of these vast inland seas, the present extreme and trjring cli-
matic conditions would ensue. Verkhoyansk, east of the Lena
River is the coldest place in the world, the thermometer de-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


scending to 90* Fahrenheit below zero in January, and going
up to more than 90** above in the summer; while Yakutsk
occupies the center of greatest extremes of temperature, the
thermometer ranging from 84** below zero in the winter to
102** above in the summer. It therefore would not be at all
surprising that, after having spread over the recently elevated
territory in more genial conditions, the mammoth should at
last have succumbed to the extreme climatic variations of later
times and become extinct, leaving his numerous remains to
excite the wonder and pique the curiosity of generations of
men who, thousands of years afterwards, should follow in his
footsteps, and traffic in his bones.

Possible Confirmations of the Flood

It remains but to call attention to the theory elsewhere ad-
vanced,* that possibly this most recent subsidence in Central
Asia is to be correlated with those traditions of the universal
flood which are so abundant in ancient literature and of which
the account of the Noachian deluge is the best example. Oc-
curring as it did near the center from which the human race
seems to have spread itself over the world, and accompanied
by so great a destruction both of animal life and of man, it
would seem eminently fitted in some of its special stages to
have impressed itself upon all the members of the human race
who survived its destructive influences, and who were thus
able to transmit the story to their descendants. Much con-

*McQure's Magazine for June, 1901, and Bibliotheca Sacra, for
July and October, 1902.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


finnatory evidence of such a catastrophe is to be found in the
extensive loess deposits in the district of Erivan about the
base of Mount Ararat, and in extensive recent water deposits
over the highlands of Western Armenia and Western Asia
Minor. But the subject is too vast and complicated to be
discussed at length in this connection. It is sufficient thus
briefly to refer to it as a suggestion for further thotight and

Digitized by VjOOQIC



INASMUCH as Russia and her Asiatic possessions include
the whole northern half of the largest continent on the
earth, a study of its climate is a study of the best type of
pure continental atmospheric conditions and their results. Its
thirty-five degrees of latitude (42* to ^f N.), give ranges
in temperature from —90* F. in the northeast to + iii* F.
in the southwest. The distribution of mountains and bodies of
water gives precipitation variations from seventy-eight inches
(200 cms.) on the Black Sea to less than four inches in the
region south of the Aral Sea.

The publication, in 1900, of " The Qimatological Atlas of the
Russian Empire," by the Nicolas Physical Observatory at St.
Petersburg, includes the results of the facts gathered by this
observatory since its founding (1849-1899). It is a large duo
volume, containing eighty-nine double-page charts and fifteen
tables. The results are obtained from observations taken at
564 points in, and bordering on, Russian territory. Of these,
225 are in Asiatic Russia, and thirty-one near the border,
especially in China and Persia. Ninety-two of the Asiatic sta-
tions have been established during the last five years, but
sixteen have been in operation for over thirty years, while


Digitized by VjOOQIC


fifty-seven more have been established between ten and twenty
years. Educated exiles have done much to extend our meteoro-
logical knowledge in Siberia. As an example, the observations
at the pole of cold of the world, Verkhoyansk in Northeastern
Siberia, have been taken by the scientists S. Kovalik and
Voynaralsky, political exiles in that region. Their observa-
tions cover the time since 1887. This number of stations seems
small to cover so g^eat an area ; but the old and new ones are
well mixed and scattered from the Sea of Okhotsk to Turkestan,
and from the Desert of Gobi to the Arctic Ocean ; so that the
results are more accurate than might at first appear. To the
kindness of Mr. M. Rikatcheff, present director of the Nicolas
Physical Observatory at St. Petersburg, and to this Gimatolog-
ical Atlas, I am indebted for the facts contained in the text
and accompanying maps of this chapter.

Barometric Pressure

The chart of the annual atmospheric pressure shows a marked
high area in the south-central portion of Siberia, with its center
about midway between Lake Baikal and Lake Balkash, where
the average is 30.22 inches (767 mm.). In the Summary
of International Meteorological Observations published in 1893,
and based on records for the years 1878 to 1887, the high barom-
eter area of 30.20 inches is placed north of Lake Baikal and
extends halfway to the Arctic Ocean, the highest point being
30.38 at Yakutsk. The more extended and accurate observa-
tions since that time have shown that the annual pressure at
Yakutsk is less than 30.10, and that the center of permanent

Digitized by VjOOQIC


hif^b pressure lies not northeast of Lake Baikal, but in the
central area over the highlands of the Altai Mountains at the
headwaters of the Yenisei, the Obi and the Irtysb river.
Prof. Rikatche£E notes that the isobars are all nearly parallel
to the coast line, except in the northwest, where they are de-
flected towards the center *

The low pressure areas are found to lie over the Pacific
Ocean east of Kamchatka and over the Arctic Ocean north of
the Scandinavian peninsula, while the Black Sea produces a
slight low area in the southwest.

This distribution of pressure g^ves general west and south-
west winds in Russia and Western Siberia, northwesterly winds
in Eastern Siberia, and northeasterly winds with exceptions
near the mountains and on the north shore of the Caspian Sea
in the Transcaspian and Aral Sea region. That is, there is a
general anti-cyclonic movement of air out from the central
high pressure area. The most pronounced exception is the
cyclonic movement over the Black Sea and due to its influence.
In the Tian-Shan Mountain region, the winds blow to the
northeast towards the center of the high. There is evidently
some disturbing element to the south of here, in a r^on where
we have as yet no adequate observations.

Taking the barometer pressures for the diflFerent seasons,
using the normal pressure charts for the months of January,
April, July, and October as the type for the seasons, we find
that the shifting of the high over the continental area in
winter to the ocean during the summer is very clearly shown.

* Atlas Climatologique de TEmpire de Russie. p. 9.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


In January practically the whole of Siberia is covered by a
high barometer pressure with its center just south of Lake
Baikal, where the normal for the month reaches 30.65 inches
(778 mm.). The effect of the larger land area on the height
of the winter barometer pressure is seen by comparing this
normal with that of Idaho Falls in the United States, which
has a January normal of 30.24, and is the higliest in North
America. That is, the barometer stands 41 of an inch higher
under the Asiatic high than under the North American in
January, and in fact the whole winter.

The axis of the high barometer area is northeast and south-
west, which gives a general wind movement in Siberia from
the southwest. The effect of this on the climate will be seen
later when we consider the temperature.

In April the Asiatic high has fallen to 30.22 inches, but still
has a distinct center half way between lakes Baikal and Balkash.
There is, however, a marked uniformity of pressure over the
whole of Siberia, the lowest being at the southern end of

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryH[enry] Justin RoddyComplete geography → online text (page 15 of 22)