Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/734

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

is known as the Tundra, and in America its technical name is the Barren Grounds. In the language of science it is the country beyond the limit of forest growth. In exposed situations, especially in the higher latitudes, the tundra does really merit its American name of barren ground, being little else than gravel beds interspersed with bare patches of peat or clay, and with scarcely a rush or a sedge to break the monotony. In Siberia, at least, this is very exceptional. By far the greater part of the tundra, both east and west of the Ural Mountains, is a gently undulating plain, full of lakes, rivers, swamps, and bogs. The lakes are diversified with patches of green water plants, among which ducks and swans float and dive; the little rivers flow between banks of rush and sedge; the swamps are masses of tall rushes and sedges of various species, where phalaropes and ruffs breed, and the bogs are brilliant with the white, fluffy seeds of the cotton grass. The groundwork of all this variegated scenery is more beautiful and varied still—lichens and moss of almost every conceivable color, from the cream-colored reindeer moss to the scarlet-cupped trumpet moss, interspersed with a brilliant Alpine flora, gentians, anemones, saxifrages, and hundreds of plants, each a picture in itself; the tall aconites, both the blue and yellow species; the beautiful cloudberry, with its gay white blossom and amber fruit; the fragrant Ledum palustre, and the delicate pink Andromeda polifolia. In the sheltered valleys and deep watercourses a few stunted birches, and sometimes large patches of willow scrub, survive the long, severe winter, and serve as cover for willow grouse or ptarmigan. The Lapland bunting and red-throated pipit are everywhere to be seen, and certain favored places are the breeding grounds of snipe, plover, and sandpipers of many species. So far from meriting the name of barren ground, the tundra is for the most part a veritable paradise in summer. But it has one almost fatal drawback—it swarms with millions of mosquitoes. The tundra melts away insensibly into the forest, but isolated trees are rare, and in Siberia there is an absence of young wood on the confines of the tundra. The limit of forest growth appears to be retiring southward, if we may judge from the number of dead and dying stumps; but this may be a temporary or local variation caused by exceptionally severe winters.

Cayuga Lake as a Rock Basin.—In a paper entitled Lake Cayuga as a Rock Basin, Ralph S. Tarr, after describing the topography of the region and giving a summary of the opinions previously held, attempts to prove that Cayuga, and presumably other of the lakes called Finger Lakes, is situated in a rock basin, with a maximum depth of approximately four hundred and thirty-five feet. The nature of the proof is that the preglacial tributaries to this valley are found to be rock-incased, and that their lowest points are above the present lake surface. The paper presents also a brief discussion of the reason why a rock basin may be supposed to have been constructed with comparative ease in this region, and a rhythm of glacial erosion and deposition is suggested. The course of the preglacial Cayuga River is found to be northward, probably tributary to a river which drained at least one of the Great Lakes—Ontario. As the tributaries of Cayuga River prove the rock-basin origin of Cayuga, so also the Cayuga River tributary of the Ontario stream indicates that Lake Ontario is likewise a rock basin.

The Expert Witness.—As one of the embarrassing features in the situation of the "scientific expert" witness. Prof. Charles F. Himes mentions that he is legally a witness, an ordinary witness, but practically endowed with extraordinary functions and loaded with extraordinary responsibilities—sometimes, perhaps, with extraordinary and even absurd expectations. As a witness he is under the same liabilities, rules, and restrictions as other witnesses, yet, by the circumstances under which he is called, he "exhibits the character of a very willing witness, of a well-paid witness, combined with a great deal of the advocate. Now, he can not be held responsible for this position, but the system of jurisprudence, which not simply permits it, which has not simply taken him but has forced him in, and which, apparently cognizant of all, seems only able to originate complaints rather than to provide a different character for him; for there seems, indeed, in many of the adverse criti-