Slike stranica

they had met in the hotter climates of Arabia and India. The tree which yields the Mecca balsam flourishes in the oasis of Jericho; the product of the balsam of Palestine supplied the pin-money of Cleopatra. A number of German and English observers endeavored to solve the question of the depth of the Jordan basin-von Schubert, Russeger, von Wildenbruch, Moore, and Bake, later Symonds, and Lynch; de Berton and Russeger made the first barometrical observations at the Dead Sea, but they did not attempt to give more definite limits to their results than to assert that its surface is somewhere between 500 and 1100 feet beneath the ocean level.

Von Shubert's barometer did not suffice to determine this point, but he ascertained the surface of Lake Tiberias to be 535 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean. All barometrical measurements were unreliable at that depth; yet it could not be denied that the depression could not be an insignificant one. A measurement with the level made by Symonds, an Englishman, from Jaffa to the Dead Sea, in 1843, gave us our first sure results. The surface of the lake lies 1231 feet beneath the level of the Mediterranean at Jaffa. The subsequent expedition of the Americans-Lynch, Dale, and Anderson, in 1848-has given the following additional results:

The surface of Lake Tiberias lies beneath the ocean level, 612 ft. 66 the Dead Sea 66




1235 "

Soundings of the Dead Sea, made with the greatest care, determined the depth to be, according to Lynch, 1227 feet; according to Symonds, 1970 feet. The entire depression below the ocean level would be, then, by Lynch's measurement, 1235 +12272462 feet; according to Symonds', 1235+ 1970=3205 feet. This is the

greatest known depression on the globe.

Jerusalem lies 2449 feet above the ocean level. From the roofs of the city to the surface of the Dead Sea is, therefore, 2449+ 1235=3684 feet; and the entire descent from the capital to the bottom of the Dead Sea is 4911 feet, if we adopt Lynch's measurement, and 5654, if we follow Symonds'.

The basin of the Dead Sea consists of two very different parts-the larger and deeper northern one, the smaller and shallow southern one; the two being separated by a sandy peninsula-el Mesraa-and connected by a narrow channel of insignificant depth. The northern basin seems to owe its present form to the unchanged primitive depression; the southern one to a partial upheaval at some later epoch. But in breadth they do not vary much one from the other; both have their larger axis coincident with the Jordan valley, which here widens a little, but which is still hemmed in here, as farther north, by the parallel ranges of mountains. The chain east of the sea appears to rise a thousand feet higher than the one west of it. The depths of the two basins are entirely unlike. The southern is nowhere more than 12 feet deep, and diminishes to 5 feet and less than this near the shores, so that the southern half of it is entirely unnavigable by craft of any size; and those who wish to land have to wade for a long distance through mud as deep as their ankles. The northern part, on the contrary, attains a uniform depth of more than 1000 feet, from the north to the south; in the northern third it is even 1227 feet; toward the west coast it shoals to between 600 and 800 feet, but is 500 feet deep hard-by the coast. There is but a very narrow rim of shallow water on the western side, and the navigation is, therefore, tolerably safe. On the eastern shore the coast is even bolder, and the descent to deep water immediate.


Close by the romantic mouth of the Arnon, embouching through rocks, the depth of the sea is about 1052 feet. So great a difference in the depth of the two basins seems to indicate a considerable diversity in the manner of their formation.

Volcanic activities have been felt in the Jordan valley up to the present time. They manifest themselves in various forms-deposits of salt, hot springs and naphtha springs, asphaltum beds, sulphur fumes, currents of heated air, clouds of smoke, and rumblings beneath the surface. The Jordan valley remained, from Lake Tiberias down, unfilled, as we should infer from analogy that it would be by the upheaval of a chain of volcanic mountains; or by the expansion of an internal lake or sea, the waters accumulating till at last they should acquire such volume as to break away and form new channels. In case the obstructions were too great, they would remain inland lakes. And such is the Dead Sea, its southern border being too high to allow it a free exit into the Red Sea.

Many other fissures or hollows on the surface of the continents would be regarded as lowlands, were they not filled with water. The bottoms of such lakes often sink suddenly to a great depth, while others are lagoon-like, or shallow seas of an entirely different hydrographical character. Internal lakes, regarded as isolated lowlands, merely filled with water, are an especially interesting theme of study; yet much remains to be investigated regarding their structure and historical formation. The Dead Sea has been regarded, up to this time, as the deepest of all such lakes. The greatest depth of the Caspian has not yet been fully ascertained; but if Hanway's soundings, 2700 feet, are to be relied on, it is very great. Lake Baikal, in its deepest part, between the two steep walls of

rock which rise high above the surface, has not yet been carefully sounded; but as its surface is 1500 feet above the sea, its bottom does not probably fall below the ocean level. The great chain of North American lakes, whose area embraces about 109,500 square miles, are surrounded by level country from 500 to 600 feet above the sea-a region which, in part, falls under the designation of plateaus of the lowest class, and which, in part, comes under the name of lowland; the surface of Lake Superior being 627 feet above the sea, Lakes Michigan and Huron 578 feet each, Lake Erie 565 feet, and Lake Ontario 232 feet. The three first named, having a depth of about 900 feet, have their beds about 300 feet below the surface of the ocean; Lake Ontario, with a depth of 500 feet, reaches a point 268 feet below the sea level. The depth of the St. Lawrence river bed, as related to the sea, is not ascertained. The most of the Swiss lakes, too, having a depth often of more than 1000 feet, come under the same category with the lakes under consideration above, waters from the mountains having gradually filled up chasms made at the time of the upheaval of the adjacent region. Some of these lake basins may be deep enough to lie below the level of the ocean.

The Bitter Lakes of the Suez Isthmus.

Some bitter salt lakes on the Isthmus of Suez, forming a chain from the Red Sea to the southeast corner of the Mediterranean, long claimed attention from their supposed singularity. During the occupation of Egypt by the French in 1799, a survey of the district was made with the level, in view of a prospective canal across the isthmus, connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. An account of that survey was published by Le Père, in his great

Déscription de l'Egypte. The result of the survey was very surprising; it assigned to the Gulf of Suez a height of 25 feet at ebb tide and 30 feet at flood tide, above the level of the Mediterranean, a result which seemed to agree with Pliny's account (vi. 23) of the elevation of the Red Sea above the level of lower Egypt. The salt swamps lying between the two seas, and known even to the ancients, lie, according to the same authority, 20 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean, and 50 feet below that of the Red Sea. These singular statements were not received without considerable doubt as to their correctness; but during the military disturbances in that region, no revision of the investigations could be made. Certain circumstances connected with an unusual inundation of the Nile in 1800, when its waters flowed as far as the transverse valley called the Wady Tumilet, in which the salt lakes lie, and where traces of the ancient canal, built by the Egyptians between the seas, could be seen, seemed to confirm the result of the survey of 1799. The inference was a natural one-that the sandy Isthmus of Suez was an accumulation of dunes, and of the deposits of inundations of both the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and that the salt morasses in the middle are but a trace of the primitive bottom. There were not wanting defenders of the old measurement, Favier being the most prominent. Since 1845 five surveys have been made, in reference to the projected canal. These all contradict the results of 1799, and show that there is but the difference of foursevenths of a foot between the level of the two seas, and that there is the same agreement there as in all other parts of the earth. Many hypotheses, built on the old measurement, have accordingly fallen to the ground.

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