Slike stranica

twice the extent of Europe, leaving 9,636,000 square miles for the highlands.

In Africa there are almost no lowlands to speak of, excepting the districts around the mouths of the great rivers indicated a few pages back. To all equatorial Africa this physical feature is entirely wanting. In the north, where the whole Sahara was formerly thought to be one vast low plain, there are now known to be the moderate plateaus already indicated. The area of true lowland is, therefore, sensibly diminished. Vogel's barometrical observations have already shown us that the country around Lake Tchad is about 1200 feet above the sea; the surface of Lake Tchad is 850 feet above the ocean level, and the lower limit of that region does not, therefore, come within the range already set as the point where lowlands become highlands.

In Australia the lowland seems to be the prevailing physical form, although here and there exceptions to it



In Europe there are three great lowland plains to be specially mentioned. The greatest, that of middle Europe, embraces the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic far inland, and extend the farthest to the southeast. second, hardly of less extensive proportions, comprises all northern Russia as far as the White Sea and the Arctic. It embraces but one-third of the great polar plain, and is really one with the region beyond the Ural chain. The third is the region around the Black and Caspian Seas.

The Middle European Lowlands.

The Germanic-Sarmatia-Russian plain extends, without a break, from the mouths of the Rhine, through all central Europe, to the middle Volga and the Ural. It is pre-emi

nently a region of lowlands, without any elevations of importance, and having no change of level, except very gently undulating swells, and on the north and south margin plateaus which very seldom rise over 500 feet. It begins with the deltas of the Rhine and the Scheldt, in Holland, passes through Lower Westphalia, Lower Saxony, the Marks, Lower Silesia, Lower Gallicia, and Poland, as far as the upper Dnieper and the middle Volga. It extends up the Rhine as far as Strasbourg, 474 feet above the sea, up the Weser as far as Cassel, 486 feet, and up the Elbe as far as Dresden, 280 feet.

The true Rhine delta may be defined as lying between Amsterdam, on the sea, and Dusseldorf, 107 feet above the sea level. Then passing by the broken and romantic tract lying between Dusseldorf or Cologne and Mayence, we come to the true Rhenish lowland, 240 feet above the sea. Munster is 400 feet above the ocean level. East of the Weser is the Lüneburg Heath, which advances in elevation, as we go toward the Elbe and the Havel, to 300 or 400 feet. Brunswick lies at an altitude of 200 feet; Magdeburg, of 128 feet. The height gradually increases; at Wittenburg it reaches 204 feet; at Dresden 280 feet, where the Elbe issues from the highlands; and in Lower Silesia we find Breslau, 375 feet above the sea, and its observatory, standing on the hills around the city, at a height of 453 feet, which seems to be the highest point in the whole vast tract.

Between the Rhine delta and the now dry basin of Paderborn, from the Ems to the Weser, Aller, and middle Elbe, is the mountain tract of the Hartz, (with the Brocken at the north, 3500 feet high,) running up as far as 520 N. lat. By this natural feature the breadth of the great plain is considerably curtailed. As it is also more to

the east of the Leipsic basin, from which the Mulde, Elbe, and Elster flow, by the hill country of Lausatia and North Silesia, with the Riesengeberge, (Giant Mountains,) 5000 feet high, which extends northward as far as 51° N. lat.

A third basin is in the Silesian, from which the Oder flows toward the northwest, and enters the southern limits of the great plain near Oppeln and Brieg. A third tract of hill country lies on the east bank of the Oder, and extends to the middle Vistula, the Tarnowitz Heights, in Upper Silesia, about 1000 feet in altitude. The plateau north of the Carpathian range, on which Cracow lies, is 669 feet above the sea; and the most northern hill group of Kielce, between the Pilica and the Vistula, rises in the Kreutzberg to a height of 1920 feet, and in St. Catherine to 2000 feet.

The great lowland advances eastward, with always diminishing breadth from north to south, over the extensive plains of the middle Vistula, at Warsaw, 330 feet above the sea; over the Lithuanian morasses of the Bug; over the Sarmatian district of Minsk and Pinsk as far as Kiev, on the middle Dnieper, at the southeast, and as far as Orsha and Smolensk, at the northeast. Pinsk, in the middle of this tract, lies about 400 feet above the sea. The north side of the plain is bounded by the very moderate plateau south of the Valdai hills, at Smolensk, 792 feet high; at Osmana, southeast of Minsk, 882 feet. On the south side it is bounded by the equally moderate plateau of Wolhynia and Podolia, whose absolute altitude is yet undetermined, but which, at the source of the Bug, is about 1000 feet.

This is the great Lithuan-Sarmatian plain, which, east of the Dnieper, is transformed into the central Russian lowland, at whose middle point is Moscow, whose exact

elevation above the sea is between 300 and 400 feet; at Kazan, on the Volga, the height above the ocean level is but 270 feet, measuring from the highest point on the banks. Southward, the plain reaches to Simbeersk, 181 feet in altitude. The maximum breadth of this whole vast lowland tract is about 500 miles; the distance between Smolensk and Kiev, and the distance from the central point of the great Russian section to any sea, is between 500 and 600 miles.

The Origin of the Great Central European Plain.

The slight elevation of the lowland just described, rising but very little above the sea level, bears, throughout the most of its extent between the dunes of the north and the hill chains of the south, the character of a formation rescued from the domain of the sea within the very latest geological periods. The almost unbroken uniformity of the surface from the Scheldt to the Volga, about 2500 miles, confirms the character which its geological structure indicates. The deposition of disconnected, superimposed layers, running to a great depth, is exactly similar to that which we know results from the action now going on at the bottom of shallow seas. And in the great central European plain there is no sharply-defined geological limit met at the border of the North and the Baltic Seas. The same features extend beneath the surface of both of those This whole lowland is, therefore, to be regarded as an immense basin, now dry, but once the bottom of a great sea,—an extension of the seas which now form a part of its northern border. The old coasts are now seen far inland. Wherever this coast-line changed its course, the whole landscape now alters its appearance; and yet more striking than the external view is the internal constitution


of the soil. Masses of stone, standing out in full view, reveal the inner structure of what lies concealed. And these rocky projections are precisely analogous to the jagged outlines of our present bold sea-shores. The land is not cut up by inlets hollowed out by the action of waves and currents to a considerable depth, yet traces of such movements, and of the physical formations effected by them, are found. Promontories and islands are now found in plateaus, and hills encompassing dry basins. To the latter belong the intervale of the Rhine, and the basins of Paderborn, Leipsic, and Silesia. To the former belong the hills and plateaus of Middle Germany; of the Westphalian Mark, from Elberfeld to Dortmund, or, as might be said, from the Ruhr to the Lippe; the Yeutoburg Forest to the Weser; then the Weser Mountains, and the Hartz to the middle Elbe; the Thuringian Forest and the Ertz Mountains around the Leipsic basin to the upper Elbe; the Lausatian Mountains and the Riesengeberge to the Glatz Mountains, on the upper Oder; the Trebnitz Heights of Silesia, and the lower plateaus of the Fore Carpathian range, embracing Cracow as far as the hills of Kielce and the confluence of the Sau with the Vistula. Along the southern border of the ever-broadening plain are the plateaus of Gallicia, about 1000 feet in height, of Wolhynia and Podolia, and then less elevated plateaus, till we reach the Dnieper.

The geological character of the border of the sea which once covered what is now central Europe, is full of interest, because from it can be deduced all that we can know of the history of those great changes. But we must pass

* See Fr. Hoffman's Uebersicht der orographischen und geognostischen Verhältnisse des nordwestlichen Deutschland. Introduction.

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