Slike stranica
PDF
ePub

the past; this may fairly be suspected yet to be in the future. The individuality of each continent raises it to a place where its characteristics give it an independent character, and a capacity of development of itself, up to a certain point, but never beyond it. The continents are never to be regarded as high, dead masses of land, but as vital and effective instruments, working upon each other ceaselessly, and helping each other to attain the consummation intended in the counsels of the Divine Mind. The unity of the earth, the unity of the continents, the unity of every physical feature of the continents, and the building all up together in a perfect symmetry and mutual adaptation of parts, is the crowning thought of Geographical Science.

The study of first causes has no less clear illustrations in the course of our investigations than elsewhere. It is the task of science to show the nature and mutual relations of all the subjects which fall within the scope of Natural History. The nature of the parts is only understood from a comprehension of the whole; not the reverse, however. That is a most just saying of Plato. The knowledge of the universal cannot proceed from a knowledge of the special. As the part is formed only in view of and on account of the whole, in its study, dissociated from the whole, it becomes a mere unit and independent existence. From understanding the solar system, we might arrive at a knowledge of the motion of the earth; and so, from a knowledge of the earth, we may advance. to its continents, their relations, the characteristics of the different natural divisions, their subdivisions, their phenomena, and their living organization, embracing man, animals, and plants.

The external formation of the globe, or what we may call

the configuration of the continents, rests upon two characteristics the horizontal and vertical dimensions.

1. The horizontal dimensions are designated by the sealine boundary-the geographical limitation.

2. The vertical dimensions-the physical limitation-are defined by the elevation of terraces and highlands, and they exhibit the greatest diversity of phenomena.

The horizontal dimensions supply most of the material for our elementary compends for political geography, which seldom make much account of vertical dimensions, and which, by no means, penetrate to their real value. They are commonly held to be a side-matter, to be touched lightly upon, or wholly cast aside. But both must be thoroughly studied; for they are mutually dependent, and are never found divorced in nature. In order to understand them in their true relations, we will look at them in their general aspect, discussing first the horizontal extent of the continents, then their vertical elevation, so far as that has not already been treated. After this twofold investigation, the character of each continent and its subdivisions will appear in its true light.

On account of the importance of thoroughly understanding the articulation of great districts, in contradistinction to a mere division, which implies no organic and living correlation of parts, and which gives over to mathematics, political history, and fortuitous circumstances the duty of explaining geographical phenomena, it is instructive to trace the footsteps of our science back to some of the earlier conceptions.

Eratosthenes and Polybius were aware that the south of Europe was a series of peninsulas, the first of the two speaking of the great peninsulas of Spain, Italy, and the Peloponnesus, the latter adding allusions to the smaller

Grecian peninsula of Sunium, the Thracian on the Bosporus, and the Tauric Chersonesus, now known as the Crimea. Strabo got a clearer insight into the significance of these forms, (whose meaning Hipparchus had already tried to explain,) by discussing them according to the sea basins which they separate. Thus the Spanish peninsula separates the Gulf of Cadiz, at the Pillars of Hercules, from the Tyrrhene Sea; Italy separates the Sicilian Sea from the Adriatic; the Peloponnesus separates the Adriatic and the Euxine. This view, though apparently simple, was really profound; for it hinted at the great significance of the maritime coast in developing the civilization of those countries. And Strabo goes on to add that Italy, with its southeastern and southwestern extremities, becomes too pointed, (zópugos,) and that the eastern peninsulas of Europe are much more jagged and articulated (ποικίλαι καὶ Tolupepeis) than Polybius had conceived them to be. He entered, therefore, upon a more minute subdivision. Strabo had already (ii. 92) called the Peloponnesus "manyparted," (olu oyedés,) as the Laconian peninsula (Toenarum) is separated from Malea, the Attic from Sunium, and all southern Europe cannot, therefore, be laid out in six parts. Of the north of Europe, Strabo was not in a position to gain any accurate conception. Toward the end of his second book, where he gives his reason for beginning his description at the West, he uses the awkward but significant phrase "polymorphous formation," to indicate the superiority which Europe enjoys in its complex articulation over the other continents. The passage in Strabo runs thus: "We begin with Europe, because it is so intricately organized, and is the most favorable for human culture, and has conferred upon the other continents the most of the advantages which its position has

secured for itself. It is habitable almost everywhere; there is but a little portion of its territory too cold to be the home of man, etc. It enjoys an admirable physical conformation, for it is so perfectly harmonized in the mingling of plains and mountains, (ὅλη γὰρ διαπεποίκιλται πεδίας τε και ὅρεδιν,) that the city and the country are brought together, and the people educated by equally favorable conditions to habits of great bravery. Europe is, therefore, complete in herself, (àμrapzeorárη kori.)" By this Strabo indicates the independent character of Europe, and its equality with the other continents, despite its smaller size.

Yet for long centuries this insight of that keen observer into one of the most weighty of all the physical conditions of the globe was almost wholly overlooked. At length, however, Humboldt brought it out into new life in its climatological relations, and showed that it is one of the most important considerations to base a study of the distribution of plants and animals upon, as well as for the study of almost all kinds of physical phenomena. In his very instructive paper on the most prominent reasons for the variation in temperature on the globe, published in 1827, he uses the significant expression: "Our Europe is indebted for its mild climate, to its position, and its articulated form." We have adhered to the same view, and have expanded it in a paper* called The Geographical Position and Horizontal Extension of the Continents, as well as in all my lectures.

*This paper may be found in my earlier translation from Ritter. Geographical Studies, page 177.—ED.

The Superficial Dimensions and Articulation of the Continents.

We proceed from the more simple to the more complex forms, and begin, therefore, with Africa, which has the most uniform contour of all the continents.

Africa, the true South of the earth, is distinguished from all the other great divisions of the earth by its almost insular form and its unbroken outline. It is separated from Asia merely by the Isthmus of Suez, scarcely 70 miles wide. But it is of altogether more virgin a nature than Asia, and has been encroached upon by scarcely any foreign influence. Africa is a unit in itself; the most exclusive of continents, its periphery is almost a perfect ellipse. With the exception of the single Gulf of Guinea on the west side, the continent is a true oval. Its linear dimensions are almost equal in length and breadth. extends about 35° on each side of the equator, and is about 70° of longitude in width.

are both about 5000 miles.

It

The length and breadth

The periphery of its coast is the most simple and unbroken in the world. A single glance at the map is sufficient to show this. Nowhere are there the deep arms of the sea and the sinuous shores of other continents. The Gulf of Guinea is all. The entire length of its coast-line is but 16,000 or 17,000 miles, not much more than the circumference of a circle whose diameter is 5000 miles. Its coast-line, proportioned to its area, being the shortest on the globe, gives Africa the least contact with the ocean of all the continents, and subjects it to the least amount of oceanic influences.

Thus all individualization of the various phases of life— vegetable, animal, and human—is denied to this continent,

« PrethodnaNastavi »