Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/637

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617
UNDERGROUND WATERS AS SOCIAL FACTORS.

Bionne, and some fifty others. Around these springs, not far from arid and almost desert regions, are situated villages which gratefully borrow their names from the waters to which they owe their life; a kind of paternity which is not rare. In France numerous places, such as Fontainebleau, Fontanat, Fontanille, Fontvannes, Fontoy, Fontenoy, and Fontanay, derive their names from the Latin words fons and fontanetum, and some names are repeated many times. The same fact is apparent in Italy and Spain, where more than eight hundred names have the same origin; also in Germany, where the forms Brun, Bronn, and Born occur. The city of Paderborn is built upon forty springs which give rise to the Pader. Not far away is Lippspring, a word expressing the origin of the Lippe. This word "spring" in England and the United States, and "ain" in the north of Africa, convey the same idea. Eau, Aix, Aigues, Acqua, Aqua, and Waters, figure likewise in many words, with the signification of spring-water.

Nothing more clearly exemplifies the attractive force of subterranean waters than those collections of tilled-lands and habitations among the oases that are scattered over deserts. Strabo compared the Sahara to a panther's skin, the ground of which is the desert, while the black spots correspond with the somber verdure of the oases. These spots are aggregated in groups, like archipelagoes in the sea, in a zone of that desert which is confined between the thirtieth and thirty-seventh degrees of latitude. Algeria contains more than three hundred of them. Certain rainy regions, like Mount Atlas, send water by underground routes, which reaches them through sandy beds contained between impermeable strata of clay, and is thus protected against evaporation. Sometimes, when the water-sheet is not very deeply situated, it is utilized by digging holes where the roots of the palm-trees have grown down toward it. At many other points the water, impelled by the pressure upon it, opens a passage to the surface, and gives rise to springs or natural artesian wells. These appearances of water in the midst of arid and desert steppes constitute centers around which a life has developed itself under the protection from the sun and the simoom afforded by the palm and fruit trees. From a very remote epoch the natives have known how to imitate nature by opening issues for the interior water-sheet; but the perilous labor of digging was not inviting to workmen, and m-any of the ancient wells have become obstructed. The villages have become depopulated for want of water, the oases have shrunk, and gradually the desert has resumed the possession of the soil.

The first well bored after the French occupation of Algeria, at Tamema, spouted on the 19th of June, 1856, and was blessed by a marabout under the name of the Fountain of Peace. Numerous other borings revealed the existence of an underground river lying for a distance of a hundred and thirty kilometres beneath the wady Rir. At present one hundred and seventeen bored wells, together with five hundred