Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/339

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THE ANTARCTIC REGIONS.

this devotion to the interests of the student to such a degree that it amounted to a fault, and published their own researches under the names of their students. This generous, unselfish, and high-minded attitude is an inheritance in the Botanic Institute at Tübingen, and is characteristic of the people among whom it is situated.

 
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OUR PRESENT KNOWLEDGE OF THE ANTARCTIC REGIONS.
By Prof. ANGELO HEILPRIN.

IT can safely be said that we to-day know less about the antarctic regions than of any other portion of the earth's surface. We speak vaguely of an antarctic continent stretching across the southern pole, and some have even gone so far as to locate its boundaries, and to give an estimate of its superficial area. This has been placed almost anywhere between four and six millions of square miles — therefore larger than, or nearly twice the size of, the semi-continent of Europe. But no one is in possession of the facts which would prove the existence of such a continent, although it is by no means unlikely that it exists; and if it does, we know practically nothing of the possibilities of its flora or fauna. Up to the beginning of the past year perhaps the most striking definition that could be given of so-called Antarctica was that it was a region whose land area was entirely destitute of a flora and of a strictly terrestrial fauna. Not a vestige of moss, not a shred of lichen had up to that time been discovered; not an animal, excepting aquatic birds, had been found to give life to the few patches of open country that had been seen, or to the ice that almost everywhere covered it. The observations of the Norwegians Kristensen and Borchgrevink, made in the early part of 1895, to an extent modify this dreary conception, for at least one form of cryptogamous vegetation has been found within the Antarctic Circle—on Possession Island and on the opposite Victoria Land, near Cape Adare.

If we bar out the work of the past three years (1893–’95) it can be said that nearly all the knowledge that we possess of this Antarctica dates from a period a half century back and more — to the period of the researches of Bellany, Biscoe, Dumont d'Urville, Wilkes, and Sir James Clark Ross, and to no explorer are we indebted for more information than to the last-named. These investigators have determined the existence of certain patches of land, in most cases defined by prominent mountain swellings, which appear here and there behind a great barrier or wall of ice, to which the name of "Antarctic Barrier" has generally been given.