Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/268

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256
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the reclamation of worthless land has been successfully tried. Large areas of swamp and in some instances shallow lakes have been connected with the tidal waters of the neighboring rivers by channels cut through intervening ridges of upland, thus effecting the double purpose of draining and of admitting the mud-laden tides. In this way, in five or ten years, many acres of worthless swamp have been converted into valuable dike-land.

The use of marsh mud as a fertilizer is very general among farmers to whom it is accessible. It is taken in the autumn or winter from the bank of some tidal creek or river, where the daily depositions can soon replace it, and spread directly on the upla,nd. Its effects are twofold: it enriches with valuable supplies of plant food the soil to which it is applied, and it greatly improves the texture of all light and open soils, making them more compact and firm, and so more retentive of moisture and of those ingredients which are otherwise easily washed away. This permanent effect upon the physical character of the soil which the marsh mud produces renders undesirable its application to clayey soils already compact and firm and moist enough; for it makes them more difficult to work, and more impervious to atmospheric influences. To well-drained hay fields, however, which need but little cultivation, the mud may be advantageously applied, even though the soil be naturally stiff and heavy.

The French settlers were the first Acadian dike-builders. They brought the art from the Netherlands; and to this day no other class of provincial workmen is as skillful in the often difficult work of dike construction as the Acadian French. It was no doubt the existence of these vast areas of marsh land, whose potential value was even then clearly seen, that induced the first New World immigrants to settle about the Bay of Fundy shores; and it was these same broad, fertile marshes left unoccupied by the expulsion of the Acadian French that attracted the New England settlers, whose descendants now derive from them an income aggregating not less than a million dollars annually.

 


 
As described by B. F. S. Baden-Powell, in his In Savage Isles and Settled Lands, the aboriginals of Australia are an extraordinary people—to look at, "quite unlike any other human beings I ever saw. A thick, tangled mass of black hair covers their heads; their features are of the coarsest; very large, broad, and flattened noses; small, sharp, bead-like eyes and heavy eyebrows. They generally have a coarse, tangled bit of beard; skin very dark, and limbs extraordinarily attenuated like mere bones. But they always carry themselves very erect. . . . They wander about stark naked over the less settled districts, and live entirely on what they can pick up. . . . If not the lowest type of humanity, they would be hard to beat. They show but few signs of human instinct, and in their ways seem to be more like beasts."