Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/590

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

grow in great luxuriance on the banks of the Yenisei in the north forest region.

The volume before us was prepared by Alexander Leslie, Esq., of Aberdeen, and, although largely a compilation from reports and papers by Nordenskiöld and his able scientific assistants, has been put together with rare tact and judgment, and forms an interesting and timely contribution to the literature of Arctic exploration.

The first voyage of Nordenskiöld to Spitzbergen was made in 1858 as geologist in Jorell's first expedition to that island. It was then that he discovered, at Bell Sound, on the southwest part of Spitzbergen, the remarkable fossil flora which was determined by Professor Heer to be of Tertiary age. He also found in the same fiord limestone in vertical strata, which, from its fossils, is referred to the Carboniferous formation. In the spring of 1861 another voyage was made, and the work of exploration begun in 1858 was pushed with vigor. On this journey, while yet many miles from Spitzbergen, snow-buntings, exhausted in their migratory flight, alighted in the rigging of the ship. On another occasion, flocks of the barnacle-goose were seen flying northeastward beyond Spitzbergen, perhaps to yet unknown lands. When the breeding-season for birds was at its height, the vast numbers seen astonished the travelers. The rocks of the coast for many miles were literally covered with them.

Nordenskiöld made six voyages of exploration to Spitzbergen, and one to Greenland. This last was in 1 870, and the account of his journey inland is of great interest. He proceeded to the head of Auleitsivik Fiord, and went thence about thirty miles over a region that was one vast ice-field, dangerous and exhausting to travelers. They reached a point twenty-two hundred feet above sea-level. A pair of ravens were the only animals seen, but traces of the ptarmigan were met with. In the Polar Expedition to Spitzbergen in 1872-'73, a very extensive exploration of the eastern shore of Northeast Land was made. This is a desolate, ice-covered island about ninety miles in length by seventy-five in breadth, separated from Spitzbergen by a strait eighteen miles broad. The ice-covering is probably from two to three thousand feet in thickness, and the movement of the ice mass is eastward, forming the broadest glacier known. Its breadth is even greater than that of the Humboldt glacier of Greenland.

The book abounds in fine descriptions of Arctic scenery, and the long night seems to be not wanting in agreeable aspects. The darkness is lessened by the mild light of the moon; and a faint, reddish glimmer in the southern horizon lingers for some time, a reminiscence of the day and of summer. Overhead the pole-star shines with steady luster, and the vault is all aglow with stellar light. On the shore, in the ice-slush, a phosphorescent glow is frequently observed, due, it is supposed, to the presence of minute crustaceans, and this phenomenon continues even at a temperature of 10° Cent, below freezing.

The results of Nordenskiöld's last voyage, in which he passed Behring's Strait and entered upon the Pacific Ocean, are briefly stated, and the fuller account from the pen of the explorer will be awaited with interest. The Vega, the vessel in which this important voyage was made, was detained by ice but a few miles from the strait, for two hundred and sixty-four days. It made the passage of the strait on the 20th of July last, and demonstrated the practicability of navigation from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific. The volume is appropriately dedicated to Oscar Dickson, of Gothenburg, whose princely liberality made the several expeditions possible.

An Illustrated Dictionary of Scientific Terms. By William Rossiter. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 350. Price, $1.75.

Books of this kind are much needed, as our scientific literature is becoming burdened with a great multitude of new technical terms, many of which are not found in ordinary dictionaries. But this work does not profess to be complete. Only the most commonly used and most important words have been included. The compiler has aimed at accuracy and brevity, and seems to have fairly secured both. We might object to the smallness of the type, but 14,000 entries got within moderate limits of course necessitate small type.