Page images
PDF
EPUB

Excursions and Working Committees. 119 and explain all its peculiarities. Nay, this did not exhaust the excursions of a single day; for if he preferred a geological foray of more than a hundred miles, the Members of the Northern Mining Institute were at his service to chaperon him to Canobie, Riccarton, and Kielder. On other days there were trips to the chemical works at Washington; the marine engine works and iron ship-building yards at Jarrow; the blast furnaces, rolling mills, and iron mines, of the Cleveland region; the wonderful lead mines at Allenheads; the rocks at Marsden, with their hermit's cave and smuggler's bed; or the cliffs at Whitley, where a couple of Sir William Armstrong's guns showed their terrible prowess by hurling shells composed of nearly fifty segments, and containing upwards of thirty little iron bricks, which were scattered with murderous effect when the missile exploded.

Assembling, however, as the Association does, for a single week in autumn, it must not be supposed that it goes into winter quarters, as it were, for the rest of the year. Special subjects are referred to various members for investigation, and grants of money are made to enable them to conduct their inquiries with success. Many eyes and many brains are therefore busy in its service during the long recess. For instance, it is well known that showers of meteors have been observed about the 10th August and 12th November. But these visitors grew very uncertain in their habits. Astronomers especially who deal with phenomena which are marked by their regularity, and whose comets even are generally as punctual as epicures at a feast, could not tolerate such capricious conduct, and many ceased to take any interest in their movements. One professor told the Association that he had quite given them up. But a committee was formed to watch, and collect information. Accordingly the proceedings of many of these brilliant objects were duly examined, and the results presented at the last meeting in the shape of a report. How necessary it is that phenomena should be competently scrutinized may be understood from a statement made by one of this committee, that he had received accounts of a single meteor from 80 sources ; and yet whilst letters from Durham described it as falling in the next field, spectators on the south coast were equally certain that it had tumbled to the earth not more than a few hundred paces from them. All sorts of objects, in fact, from the sun itself down to a herring, are put under commission by this learned body. There are observers at Kew who take photographs of the lord of day, and study the changes of his countenance with scientific solicitude; and Professor Huxley and Mr. McBride have been charged to conduct experiments upon the artificial fecundation of the fish to which

we have just referred. Committees sit upon gun-cotton and fog. signals ; they inquire into earthquake-waves, and ocean tides ; they peer into rain-gauges, and note the performances of steamships; they go up in balloons and down into coal-pits; they dredge the coasts of Northumberland or Shetland, and they turn their telescopes to the moon, and pry into her craters as if they fondly expected that the day would come when a party of philosophers should set sail in Bishop Wilkins's flying chariot, and actually disembark on the shores of his 'lunary world.'*

ART. V.-(1.) Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet. By

Captain KNIGHT. London. 1863. (2.) Travels in Ladak, Tartary, and Kashmir. By Lieut.-Colonel

TORRENS. London. 1862. (3.) Himalayan Journals. By J. D. HOOKER, M.D., F.R.S. New

Edition. London. 1855. (4.) Ladak, Physical, Statistical, and Historical. By ALEXANDER

CUNNINGHAM. London. 1854. Up in the Himalayas! Thither are we carried by the books now before us ; two of them old acquaintances, the other two graphic narratives recently published. Seated in our arm-chair, turning over the leaves, and looking at the engravings, coloured and uncoloured, which profusely illustrate the narratives, we are mentally borne away into the far East, to the vast panorama of mountains which form the southern boundary of the unexplored heart of Asia, and the most elevated region on the face of the globe. We make journeys of several thousand miles, up in the clouds, in a region half-way between earth and sky, along routes ranging from eight to eighteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, --sojourning on uplands higher than the summit of Mont Blanc, and crossing the loftiest mountain-passes in the world. In graphic outline there passes before us the singular and novel aspect of the region, with its praying-wheels ceaselessly uttering, as it were, the same formula of adoration, its dagobas and other monuments to Buddhist saints, its long walls composed of votive slabs covered with inscriptions, its stolid priests and The Sunataria of India.

* The spirited mode in which the daily journals of Newcastle chronicled the proceedings of the Association deserves at least a brief allusion. No expense seems to have been spared in procuring efficient reporters, and some of the articles which appeared in the Daily Chronicle, in particular, exhibited singular ability and admirable descriptive power.

121

simple people ; we behold the sublime scenery, in some parts bleak and barren, in others clothed with unbroken forests far as the eye can reach, and visit the snowy wastes of the Upper Himalayas, with its piercing winds and almost perennial winterwithout stirring out of our easy-chair, and within a comfortable distance of our own fireside. This is the happy privilege of modern times, when men run to and fro on the'earth,' with pen and pencil in hand, and bring the fruit of their travels in diaries and sketch-books for the instruction and enjoyment of their countrymen at home.

The spirit of travel and adventure, the search for health, and the pioneering of commerce, have all been combining of late years to make us acquainted with the aspects and topography of the broad belt of gigantic mountains and deep interesting valleys which forms the northern boundary of our Indian empire. Parched and used up' with the torrid heat of the dusty plains of Hindostan, our officers and civilians, whenever they get a few months' leave of absence, hurry off to the snowy region of the Himalayas, to cool themselves amidst its icy wastes, to take rest amidst the evergreen woods of Simla and Darjeeling, to luxuriate in the lovely valley of Cashmere, or to penetrate into the wilds of Ladak and Thibet. The scientific adventurer turns his steps in the same direction, to botanize, geologize, or explore. Not content to believe that the Ganges falls straight down from heaven upon the head of Siva, wandering amidst his tangled locks before it descends into the Indian plains, Government surveyors are traversing and mapping the mountain region with trigonometrical precision; and if Keilas, the paradise of Siva, have a local habitation, as it certainly has a name, the Compass • Wallahs' will indubitably find it out, and make a plan of it for the benefit of the faithful in the plains below. Commerce, too, has its interests even in that inhospitable region. A new road, first projected by Lord Dalhousie, has been constructed from Simla across the mountains to the Chinese frontier, to facilitate the growing trade by that direct route into India ; and one of the objects which Lord Elgin sought to accomplish by his contemplated interview with the Rajah of Cashmere was to induce, if not compel, that potentate to remove the existing obstructions to the traffic between the Punjaub and the countries of Upper Asia. Where commerce goes, influence follows; and political considerations are not absent in this effort to establish commercial relations with the population of a region which at present is more open to the commerce of Russia than to ours.

The climate is driving the Anglo-Indians into the Himalayas. If we are to maintain our position as masters of India, we must have sanataria for our army and Government-officers near at hand ; and we must increase our numerical strength by attracting a new influx of British settlers, which can only be accomplished by opening for them suitable fields of industrial enterprise. This latter object is beginning to be attained by the cultivation of the tea-plant, which is attracting settlers into the valleys of the Himalayas, where large plantations begin to cover the mountain-slopes in some parts; and in proportion as these districts become cleared, and cultivated, and rendered attractive to English settlers, the number of immigrants will increase,-at once augmenting the prosperity of our Indian empire, and forming a reserve population, which in any future crisis will be capable of lending a most valuable support to the Government, alike in arms and by means of their influence with the surrounding population. Of sanataria, as yet, we have too few ; and it is to be regretted that, when ceding the Terai to the Nepaulese Government, we did not stipulate in return for the cession of some one of the many spots on the Nepaulese frontier which are suitable sites for sanataria. Simla, in the centre of the line of the Himalayas, and Darjeeling, in the eastern part of the range, 350 miles due north of Calcutta, are the only localities as yet established as sanataria. Cashmere, at the western extremity of the Himalayas, is a third locality frequented by Anglo-Indians for the sake of health and recreation, although it is not included in the British possessions. These three points are the portals through which our travellers and tourists enter the Himalayan region. As the territories of Nepaul extend all the way between Darjeeling and Simla, the route through the mountains between these two points is not attempted by English tourists, and the topography of the country is almost unknown; but westward of Simla the country is open to our passage, and within the last few years journeys and exploring expeditions have frequently been made by our countrymen from Simla north-westward through the mountains into Ladak, and back by Cashmere, and vice versa ; the route, speaking roughly, forming a half-circle, with Simla at one extremity and Cashmere at the other. It is the region lying along this route which is described in the narratives of Cunningham, Torrens, and Knight. Dr. Hooker, on the other hand, started from Darjeeling, and his interesting tours extended through the portion of the Himalayas included in the native state of Sikkim, which lies to the north of Darjeeling, between Nepaul on the east and Bhotan on the west, and through which he made his way to the frontier of Thibet.

Along the base of the eastern portion of the Himalayas lies the malarious jungle of the Terai, forming a belt thirty miles in

The Terai.

123 breadth on the northern frontier of Oudh, but narrowing as it extends westwards till it disappears as the longitude of Simla is reached, and diminishing to a breadth of ten miles in its eastern portion as it passes to the south of Darjeeling. The only people who can live in it are the indigenous Mechis—belonging to the Indo-Chinese stock—whose disagreeably sallow complexion seems to indicate a sickly constitution, although Dr. Hooker affirms that they are more robust than Europeans in India. But to all other tribes, whether of India or of the Himalayas, the climate of the Terai is death ; and it was in passing through this belt of jungle, on her return from Darjeeling to Calcutta, that Lady Canning caught the fever which so suddenly cut her off in the prime of life. It is curious to find that the inhospitable zone which thus fringes the southern base of the Himalayas conceals beneath its long grasses and bushy thickets a stony and gravelly surface, which bears indubitable marks of having once, in some remote geological period, been a sea-margin, when the Bay of Bengal washed the base of the Himalayas as far inland as Hurdwar. The district is intersected by innumerable rivulets from the hills, which unite and divide again on the flat, branching in all directions through the jungle belt.

The eastern Himalayas are so shrouded by dense wreaths of vapour that a traveller may arrive within eight or nine miles of them before he catches a glimpse of the outer range—sombre masses of unpicturesque outline, clothed everywhere with a dusky forest. The vapour, borne by the breezes from the Indian Ocean, rarefied and suspended aloft, passes unseen over the heated plains, but is condensed into a drizzle when it strikes the cool flanks of the mountain, and into heavy rain when it reaches their colder summits. On entering the Terai every feature of the district, botanical, geological, and zoological, is new; and, by a sudden and clearly marked transition, we pass from the vegetation of the plains to that of the Himalayas. Immediately beyond the Terai the ascent becomes steep, and a giant forest replaces the stunted bushy timber of the Terai. At Punkabaree, the first stage up the mountains on the road to Darjeeling, the view becomes superb. In front, the Himalayas rise in steep confused masses ; all around are hills five or six thousand feet in height, clothed with a dense deep-green dripping forest, through which torrents rush down in deep ravines ; while below, thickly wooded spurs stretch down into the plains, enclosing broad, dead, flat, hot, and damp valleys; and the horizon is bounded by the sea-like expanse of the plains, which stretch away into the region of sunshine and fine weather, in one boundless flat. Surmounting the narrow saddle of the Sinchul Mountain (7,300

« PreviousContinue »