Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/400

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Dutch housewife had washed and scrubbed them with soap-and-water, until they resemble in their whiteness the boards of her own kitchen floor. Glass bottles, left for a short time on the ground, lose their original appearance, and are ground inside and out. All this is the effect of the blowing sand.

Here, at the station of Dos Palmas, we are some two hundred and seventy-five feet below the level of the sea. The heat in summer is simply fearful, and this, added to the sand-storms, makes it anything but a desirable place of residence. Men can only be induced to work on the railroad by offering them increased wages. All the section-houses along the road (and for nearly two hundred miles there are no other habitations) are built in a peculiar manner. None are more than one story high. Each has a large porch at one side and a double roof. The lower one constitutes the ordinary roof, but the upper one is raised up about two feet, and the eaves project some four feet beyond the walls. This arrangement, leaving an open space between the two roofs, admits the circulation of air, and keeps the interior of the house cooler than it would otherwise be. Such precautions will be thought to be by no means extraordinary, when it is known that 95° to 100° is the ordinary temperature in a shady spot, and 115° or 120° is by no means uncommon.

Rain never falls on this desert in the natural manner. Cloudbursts and water-spouts, accompanied by fearful thunder and lightning, are of frequent occurrence. The ground between Frink's Spring and Flowing-Well Stations, a distance of seventeen miles, is cut and gullied in a most remarkable manner. In this distance there are no less than seventy-five bridges and culverts on the railroad-track. The gullies vary from five to twenty-five feet in depth and about the same in width. The banks are so steep and precipitous that, in walking along, one does not see the cañcon until it yawns at one's feet. These gullies are all caused by the rush of water from cloud-bursts and water-spouts.

Some six miles from Frink's Spring Station is a section-house known as Volcano. Close to it, and a few yards from the track, is a mud-spring, and from this the house takes its name. The spring is situated in a depression about twenty-five feet deep, and the same in diameter. In the bottom is a small lake, or mass of liquid mud. This rises in great bubbles as large as a hat, breaking and sputtering like boiling lard. All over the surface of the water are little bubbles, caused by carbonic-acid gas. Both mud and water have a strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen, and the spring is evidently the result of volcanic force, which has, at some former period, been very active.

At Flowing-Well Station there was, when the railroad was first put through, a well bored to get water to supply the locomotives. The surface-water, all through the desert, is so alkaline that it is impossible to use it. It is, therefore, necessary for the railroad to haul water