Scientific American Supplement, No. 312, December 24, 1881 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 122 pages of information about Scientific American Supplement, No. 312, December 24, 1881.
The entire island is a mass of granite with the exception of a patch of metamorphic slate near the center, and no doubt owes its existence with so considerable a height to the superior resistance this granite offered to the degrading action of the northern ice sheet, traces of which are here plainly shown, as well as on the shores of Siberia and Alaska, and down through Behring Strait, southward, beyond Vancouver Island.  Traces of the subsequent partial glaciation it has been subjected to are also manifested in glacial valleys of considerable depth as compared with the size of the island.  I noticed four of these, besides many marginal glacial grooves around the sides.  One small remnant with feeble action still exists near the middle of the island.  I also noted several scored and polished patches on the hardest and most enduring of the outswelling rock bosses.  This little island, standing as it does alone out in the Polar Sea, is a fine glacial monument.


The midnight hour I spent alone on the highest summit, one of the most impressive hours of my life.  The deepest silence seemed to press down on all the vast, immeasurable, virgin landscape.  The sun near the horizon reddened the edges of belted cloud bars near the base of the sky, and the jagged ice bowlders crowded together over the frozen ocean stretching indefinitely northward, while more than a hundred miles of that mysterious Wrangell Land was seen blue in the northwest—­a wavering line of hill and dale over the white and blue ice prairie and pale gray mountains beyond, well calculated to fix the eye of a mountaineer; but it was to the far north that I ever found myself turning, where the ice met the sky.  I would fain have watched here all the strange night, but was compelled to remember the charge given me by the captain, to make haste and return to the ship as soon as I should find it possible, as there was ten miles of shifting, drifting ice between us and the open sea.


I therefore began the return journey about one o’clock this morning, after taking the compass bearings of the principal points within sight on Wrangell Land, and making a hasty collection of the flowering plants on my way.  I found one species of poppy, quite showy, and making considerable masses of color on the sloping uplands, three or four species of saxifrage, one silene, a draba, dwarf willow, stellaria, two golden compositae, two sedges, one grass, and a veronica, together with a considerable number of mosses and lichens, some of them quite showy and so abundant as to form the bulk of the color over the gray granite.


Innumerable gulls and murres breed on the steep cliffs, the latter most abundant.  They kept up a constant din of domestic notes.  Some of them are sitting on their eggs, others have young, and it seems astonishing that either eggs or the young can find a resting place on cliffs so severely precipitous.  The nurseries formed a lively picture—­the parents coming and going with food or to seek it, thousands in rows standing on narrow ledges like bottles on a grocer’s shelves, the feeding of the little ones, the multitude of wings, etc.

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Scientific American Supplement, No. 312, December 24, 1881 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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