Slike stranica
PDF
ePub

more numerous Hebrides, the Aland group, and that of the Grecian archipelago. They are generally of very large size, in comparison with the continent to which they are adjacent; a characteristic not only very rare in islands, but which must exert great influence. They are to be viewed, therefore, as continuations of Europe, not as lands sundered from the main land; they are to be considered as its sea-ports, and the mediators between Europe and the other continents.

In round numbers, the islands of Europe embrace about 175,000 square miles--a twentieth of the continent.

This amount of insular territory has given Europe a great diversity of relations, and has contributed much to its ethnographical character. Imagine only England and her whole group struck out of existence. What impoverishment it would bring! The Danish peninsula, without the adjacent islands of Funen and Zealand, were a mere tongue of sand. Without Sicily to furnish grain, Rome's history had been entirely different from what it was. What a change it would have made in the development of Italy and Greece, had the Cyclades and Crete not served as a bridge, over which the civilization of Hither Asia might pass! Yet these islands, with their inhabitants, do not stand in necessary dependence on the contiguous main land; they have often in themselves the conditions of independent growth and prosperity. And yet the geological qualities and general features of islands may agree very closely with those of the land hard by; as is the case with the British, Danish, Italian, and Grecian groups. Southern England is a continuation of northern France, Picardy, and the Netherlands, as the geology of these districts shows. Sicily is a continuation of the volcanic soil of Calabria, and Candia of the Morea.

Hence the possibility, despite the separation of islands from the main land, of a close connection in the habits, manners, and culture of the people, thus separated, depending as they do on a common soil, and having the same industries in common. It would be entirely different in Great Britain, for example, if the south end of England were geologically formed like the north end of Scotland. Instead of harmony there would be repulsion, and that mutual interchange of relations would not exist which has so powerful an influence on the whole course of European history.

The remarkable number of islands on the coast of Europe, and their significance and value, formerly escaped attention; or rather their influence on the development of that continent, in comparison with others, was not made a matter of study.

Africa has never enlarged its domain through the aid of adjacent islands. Poor as it is in all coast indentations, it is just as poor in islands. Only a few insignificant ones, which have no close geological connection with the shore, are found here. The sporadic groups found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are almost exclusively the product of subterranean forces, and are entirely unlike the stratified lime and sandstone formations of the coast. There is, therefore, no close connection between the inanimate nature of continent and islands and their respective populations; no physical conditions have imposed upon them a common historical development. Only the Canary Islands, southwest of the Atlas Mountain range and Madagascar, could be regarded as at all exceptional to this. But the nine Canaries are relatively extremely small, embracing but about 3000 square miles in all; much too small to exercise any important influence, or to harbor a large popu

S

lation. Besides, they are separated from the main land by marine currents, which would prevent any very important reaction, however large the islands in themselves might be. The Cape Verd islands, embracing only about 1750 square miles, stand in yet more unfavorable relations to the main land. So, too, the solitary islands of St. Helena and Ascension, and in the Indian Ocean the scattered groups of the Camara, Amirante, and Seychelle islands, embracing all together but 3300 square miles, and Socotra, about 1750 square miles. Only Madagascar would be large enough to enrich the continent essentially, if it were nearer to the main land. But it is separated from it by the broad and dangerous Mozambique Channel; both, therefore, have remained without mutual relations; their populations are entirely unlike, and there has been no exchange of productions between them Madagascar is, therefore, only apparently, and by the apparent contiguity of the mass, a neighbor of Africa; but, in reality, i.e. as it relates to the organic unity of all the various parts of the globe, it is far more intimately connected by the system of marine currents to the Malayan Archipelago, southeast of Asia, than to Africa.

Entirely different is it with the island system of Asia. The eastern and southern sides are remarkably characterized by the profuse numbers of islands found there. It might be said, that what Africa lacks in this regard, Asia more than supplies. On the Asiatic coast they appear in such vast numbers that they have been called, in contrast with the Old and New Worlds, the Island World, or Polynesia. They appear under the most varied conditions-in long rows, in massive groups, and here and there singly. They begin with the North Polar islands, and pass southward in unbroken succession past the equator as far as the tropic of Capricorn.

The Aliaska chain connects the northwest coast of America with Kamtchatka; it comprises over 100 islands, and embraces about 7660 square miles.

The Koorile island extends to the south as far as Saghalien and Yesso.

The Japanese chain runs southward as far as Cape Corea, and includes the great island of Niphon with numerous smaller ones, embracing an area of 164,000 square miles.

[blocks in formation]

The Loo-Choo islands as far as Formosa.

The single island of Formosa, 13,000 square miles. The coast island of Hainan, 16,450 square miles. The numerous group of the Philippines, with the adjacent islands, 121,000 square miles.

The greater Sunda group, with its adjoining archipel ago, 689,500 square miles. Of these, Borneo embraces 295,600 square miles; Sumatra, 167,700 square miles; Java, 54,600 square miles; and Celebes, 72,600 square miles.

The smaller Sunda group, 29,200 square miles.

The scattered group of the Moluccas, with the Banda and Ternate islands, 7950 square miles.

The great island of New Guinea, 262,800 square miles, which forms the transition of the Australian group.

On the south coast of Deccan, the great island of Ceylon, 25,860 square miles.

These rows and groups of islands, embracing an aggregate of 1,095,000 square miles, form a kind of insular isthmus from the southeastern extremity of Asia to the northwest of Australia, though broken by unnumbered straits. If lines be drawn from Sumatra and from Hainan to Cape York, on the north coast of Australia, an

ideal isthmus would be formed not unlike that which connects North and South America. If this insular isthmus be further conceived to have been thrown up by volcanic forces, as that of Panama seems to have been, an addition of 1,095,000 square miles has been made in this way to the most productive portions of the world. So great is the accession of territory that it has become the abode of a distinct race the Malay-which hardly finds a home at all on the Asiatic shore. Asia has received very little advantage from this vast archipelago. Only the southeast coast has been affected by it; the continent, as a whole, has not been reached by its influence. On the contrary, Australia has been largely affected by it in its productive and ethnographical character. Not only was it first discovered through the agency of these islands, but it probably derives its population from them; it has received many of its animals and plants from them—the sugar-cane, the sago palm, the bread-fruit tree, the dog, and the swine.

In Polynesia, which, in point of size, far surpasses the Antilles group north of South America, we have the most dismembered region on the surface of the globe. It is the highest degree of insulation, of individualization, and results from the extreme carrying out of dispersing causes. The space occupied by the greater Sunda group, with its five seas the China, Java, Molucca, Celebes, and Mindoro-together with the islands adjacent, the whole lying between longitude 110° and 160° east and latitude 10° south and 20° north, a tract 3525 miles long and 2115 miles wide may worthily be compared with the area of Europe. Such a mass of island groups and single isles, belonging not to Asia with any strict right, but in truth a maritime world of itself, having but the slightest connections with the

« PrethodnaNastavi »