Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/587

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



is not fixed. Tradition, not law, sets it at three miles out from shore, but the Spaniards in Cuba have claimed six miles, and most nations now have guns capable of enforcing their jurisdiction over that distance. It is impossible to determine by a fixed rule what waters between headlands shall be included as a part of the territory. It seems obviously proper to include landlocked bodies of water; but should Lake Michigan be admitted to this category? Mr. Carpenter decides that it should. A convention between France and England made in 1839 defined the coast-line as one that should cross the mouths of all bays and channels not more than ten miles in width. This would exclude Chesapeake Bay, which is fifteen miles wide at its mouth, but is evidently as much a part of the United States as Seneca Lake. Lords Hale and Hawkins would have had the ocean boundary cross such inlets as are so narrow that "a man may reasonably discern from shore to shore"; and Justice Story thought the vision should be required to be distinct and with the naked eye; Wheaton would include the ports, harbors, bays, mouths of rivers, and adjacent parts of the sea inclosed by headlands; and Willcock, saying that it may be regarded as generally accepted that bays or channels within the horns of promontories, however large, are subject to the sovereign of the neighboring land, has given a definition under which our Atlantic coast might be considered to extend in a straight line from Maine to Florida. The effect of elevation over the sea upon the area of a tract is also considered by Mr. Carpenter. All tracts the measurement of which is taken in degrees and minutes, gain in extent as their height above the sea is increased, for they are there a part of a larger sphere than one whose perimeter is defined at the normal level. Colorado, having a mean elevation of 7,050 feet, is estimated to gain in consequence 44,800 acres, or seventy square miles. Estimating the mean altitude of the whole United States at 2,600 feet, the country is 800 square miles larger than it would be if it were all down at the level of the sea. A district or country otherwise gains in superficial area of land if it is mountainous, by reason of the slope of its hills. It is impracticable as yet to determine the actual gain from this source for any State; but if Colorado is supposed to have an average slope of ten degrees, it gains an additional area of 1,600 square miles; if its slope is five degrees, its gain is 400 square miles. Taking a mean of these figures, it seems safe to say that Colorado is indebted to its mountains for at least one thousand square miles of area, which has never yet been included in any statement of its geographical extent.

Tastes and Smells in Water.—Dr. William Ripley Nichols, in a paper on "The Tastes and Odors of Surface Waters," calls attention to the desirability of competent persons trained to scientific observation undertaking systematic daily examinations of the water in reservoirs for long periods of time—say for five years—to watch the changes that take place in its condition and the causes of them. He also notices that the means by which water may be made unpleasant are numerous and complicated, and are not always animal in their origin. The worst smell that he ever obtained was from allowing the seed parts of a species of Potamogeton to decay in water. Professor Brewer has obtained a fishy odor from the decay in water of the leaf-stalks of a pickerel-weed. Sometimes the odors and tastes from various plants differing from each other seem to blend into a more or less marshy or pond flavor. The water of ponds and lakes that are surrrounded by woods acquires more of a bitter or astringent taste, that may be referred to the dead leaves. When a recently felled tree is exposed to the action of water, or when bushes or grass and weeds are killed by being flooded, the sap and more soluble matters are leached out and putrefy or undergo other forms of decomposition. If the matter is alternately flooded and left bare, decay takes place fast. As the level is lowered, those aquatic plants which grow in shallow water die, and if the water rises after a short interval it becomes impregnated with the products of their decay. If a considerable interval elapses, land-plants grow upon the exposed surface, and, being drowned by the rising waters, tend to its contamination in the same manner. The substances which form the most offensive