Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 130 pages of information about Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891.


The deciphering of this wonderfully intricate constitution of the heavens would be undoubtedly one of the chief astronomical works of the coming century.  The primary task of the sun’s motion in space, together with the motions of the brighter stars, had been already put well within our reach by the spectroscopic method of the measurement of star motions in the line of sight.  Astronomy, the oldest of the sciences, had more than renewed her youth.  At no time in the past had she been so bright with unbounded aspirations and hopes.  Never were her temples so numerous, nor the crowd of her votaries so great.

The British Astronomical Association formed within the year numbered already about 600 members.  Happy was the lot of those who were still on the eastern side of life’s meridian!  Already, alas! the original founders of the newer methods were falling out—­Kirchhoff, Angstrom, D’Arrest, Secchi, Draper, Becquerel; but their places were more than filled; the pace of the race was gaining, but the goal was not and never would be in sight.  Since the time of Newton our knowledge of the phenomena of nature had wonderfully increased, but man asked perhaps more earnestly now than in his days, what was the ultimate reality behind the reality of the perceptions?  Were they only the pebbles of the beach with which we had been playing?  Did not the ocean of ultimate reality and truth lie beyond?

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Having had occasion to cruise a considerable time over the Southern Ocean, I have had my attention directed to its prevailing winds and currents, and the way in which they affect its temperature, and also to the ice-worn appearance of its isolated lands.

It is now generally conceded that the lands situated in the high latitudes of the southern hemisphere have in the remote past been covered with ice sheets, similar to the lands which lie within the antarctic circle.  The shores of Southern Chile, from latitude 40 deg. to Cape Horn, show convincing evidence of having been overrun by heavy glaciers, which scoured out the numerous deep channels that separate the Patagonian coast from its islands.  The Falkland Islands and South Georgia abound with deep friths; New Zealand and Kerguelen Land also exhibit the same evidence of having been ice-laden regions; and it is said that the southern lands of Africa and Australia show that ice accumulated at one time to a considerable extent on their shores.  At this date we find the southern ice sheets mostly confined to regions within the antarctic circle; still the lands of Chile, South Georgia, and New Zealand possess glaciers reaching the low lands, which are probably growing in bulk; for it appears that the antarctic cold is slowly on the increase, and the reasons for its increase are the same as the causes which brought about the frigid period which overran with ice all lands situated in the high southern latitudes.

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Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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