« PreviousContinue »
particles subject to much greater forces of repulsion than the other particles ejected from the nucleus. All such collections of matter would, of necessity, be in advance of the principal tail, and lie in a curve that would approach more nearly to a straight line. Their position makes known the intensities of the repulsive forces to which they owe their separate existence.
An interesting result of the investigation is that the alternate bright and dark bands so distinctly seen to traverse a certain portion of the tail of Donati's comet, in nearly parallel directions, on the evening of Oct. 10th, had each the position of a line connecting particles which started from the region of the nucleus at a certain previous date, and at the same instant of time. They accordingly find their natural explanation in corresponding alternations in the quantity of nebulous matter given off simultaneously from the nucleus. The most probable cause for such alternations of discharge that can be conjectured is that the nucleus turns about an axis, and so presented periodically different sides to the sun, which were unequally influenced by his inciting action. If this be the true explanation of the phenomenon, we Lave in the observed distance between contiguous bright bands, the means of determining the period of rotation ; or, at least, the shortest interval of time in which the rotation can be completed. If we take this distance at 1°, the period of rotation comes out about 24 hours.
There was a special cause of lateral dispersion at work in the case of the cometary particles that, on their return, came very near the nucleus. Such streams of particles must have been repelled off obliquely, and may very well have presented the appearance of luminous jets issuing from the sides of the nucleus, and have formed curved terminations to the inner envelope. From the dispersion thus produced resulted an absence of matter, or a dark space, behind the nucleus, whose varying boundary was determined by the intersections of lines of particles unequally repelled by the sun.
The indications are, that the formation and gradual expansion of one envelope after another, may have arisen from the process of ejection beginning in all instances high up in the photosphere surrounding the nucleus, and gradually extending downward to the vicinity of the solid surface. It appears, upon investigation, that if this descending action were to proceed according to a certain uniform law, the outline of the envelope would recede from the nucleus at a uniform rate. This process of evolution of cometary matter, in whatever it may consist, is probably auroral in its origin and character, and has its counterpart on both the earth and sun.*
New Haven, Nov. 80, 1859.
* To render the investigation more complete, I have considered the ea?e of tho cometary matter being projected from the nucleus, without experiencing any repulsion from its mass.
SECOND SERIES, VoL XXIX, No. 86.—JAN., 1860. Art. XL—Geographical Notices. No. X.
The Mountains Of Western North America.—Having previously spoken of the publication of Warren's memoir to accompany the map of the western territory of the United States, and also of the map to which it refers, we now copy the following paragraphs from the conclusion of the Memoir, in order to meet the erroneous opinions which are prevalent in respect to the "Rocky Mountains," and the erroneous presentation of their direction which is given in most of the popular maps.
"The mountains in our territory west of the Mississippi river, from where they rise above the horizontal strata of recent geological formations on the east to their disappearance under the waters of the Pacific Ocean, form a nearly continuous mass of upheaved ridges, with occasional intervening level plateaus. The direction of the central line of this mass between the 32d and 49th parallels of north latitude, is about north 20° west. The greatest width perpendicular to this direction is along the line passing from the vicinity of San Francisco through that of the Great Salt Lake to Fort Laramie. This distance is about 1,000 miles, or, if we include the Black Hills of Nebraska, 1,125 miles.
"The great mountain mass, of which that in our territory forms but a part, extends with varying breadth nearly on the line of a great circle of the globe from Cape Horn north to Behring Straits, and thence south along the western part of Asia to the island of Sumatra. Its length is about 240 degrees, or 18,560 miles, being two-thirds of the circumference of the earth.
"The area occupied by and included in this mountain mass in our territory, is about 980,000 square miles. Large as this is, it is probably only a small portion of the upheaved formations between the 32d and 49th parallels. A few ridges and peaks projecting above the surface of the Pacific as islands, or above the level tertiary and cretaceous strata of the eastern plains, give evidence of the existence of vast areas whose extent must forever remain unknown. Throughout the portions now visible, proofs are abundant of great abrasions; in some cases whole ridges even, having been swept away or broken into separate portions.
"Already enough has been learned to establish the existence in these mountains of the equivalents of many of the, geological formations; and it is probable, when investigations have been carried to the same extent as in the civilized portions of the earth, that the geologist will find here new and still more complex fields for research.
"The classification of the separate parts of this mountain mass, so as to present its physical characteristics clearly to the mind, is a great desideratum. It has in part been attempted at various times, but as yet unsuccessfully from the want of sufficient information; the theorist's idea being often proved to be wrong by new discoveries almost as soon as uttered." * * * "The publication of the Pacific Eailroad maps will probably change some of the former ideas of these mountains, and give rise to new speculations as to their directions, equivalents, and connexions of different parts. Every one knows how easy it ia to generalize ideas where facts are few, and in accordance with this, those who have travelled most in the region have theorized the least, having seen the immensity of the subject and the difficulties which must be overcome to comprehend it. Those who have investigated merely the travels of others, have had only the imperfect representations of the latter on which to theorize.
"It may not be inappropriate here to give some of the general ideas which have successively prevailed in regard to these mountains.
"In the earlier periods of North American discovery it was known that there were mountains in the interior at its northern and southern parts, and rivers flowing from them to the two great oceans east and west. It was natural to connect these mountains by hypothesis, and to consider them as one great chain, separating the sources of these streams. Such an idea prevailed at the time of Humboldt's New Spain. Even now many well informed persons consider that a road has but one mountain summit to cross from the Mississippi river to the Pacific Ocean.
"When, after the publication of the charts of Vancouver, map makers became aware of the extent of the mountains near the Pacific coast, nothing seemed more natural than to suppose two great mountain chains—one near the Pacific and one in the interior. If this theory were true, we should find a great longitudinal valley between the ranges similar to that separating the interior mountains from the Alleghanies, and we should have but two mountain summits to pass between the Mississippi and the Pacific. This idea is practically as erroneous as that of one summit, although it still prevails. Such a prominent place did this longitudinal valley hold, in the opinions of geographers of earlier times, that we find in Humboldt's New Spain: 'M. Malte Brun has started important doubts concerning the identity of the Tacouche Tesse and the river Columbia. He even presumes that the former discharges itself into the Gulf of California: a bold supposition, which would give the Tacouche Tesse a course of an enormous length. It must be allowed that all that part of the west of North America is still but very imperfectly known.'
"The explorations of Lewis and Clarke proved that the Tacouche Teche did uot empty into the Gulf of California, and that it was probably the source of the Columbia. Without considering the character of the pass of the Columbia river through the Cascade range, the belief now became general that the overland route in this latitude crossed but one summit, and was therefore more favorable than any other. This erroneous idea with some still prevails.
"The idea of rivers traversing great mountain chains, now known to be so common in the mountains west of the Mississippi, was so repugnant to the opinions of even philosophers in earlier times, that we find Humboldt saying, 'every geographer who carefully compares Mackenzie's map with Vancouver's will be astonished that the Columbia, in descending from the Stony mountains, which we cannot help considering as a prolongation of the Andes of Mexico, should traverse the chains of mountains which approach the shore of the great ocean, whose principal summits are Mount St. Helen and Mount Rainier.'" * *
"The distinguished explorers, Lewis and Clarke, having determined that the Columbia river broke through the Cascade range, considered from the size of the Willamette at its mouth, that it also broke through this chain, having its source in the Rocky mountains, near the position of the Great Salt lake. We then see the American maps representing mountains surrounding the valleys of the Columbia and Colorado, and separating them from that of the San Joaquin and Sacramento. On the English maps of that date, the Sierra Nevada is not represented, and two or three great rivers are made to flow from large lakes in the interior to the Pacific; nearly all of their compilers making false applications of the principles of hydrography laid down by Humboldt.
"The first map which represented these rivers and lakes correctly was that of Captain Bonneville, of which I have given a reduced copy. There we see the Great Salt lake and Bear river and Utah lake forming one basin; to the west lies the Mary or Ogden's river, with its lakes forming another enclosed basin; the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers in their right position; and the Willamette reduced to its proper length. The positions given on this map are not geographically correct, nor are their many mountains indicated; but it gives the first correct idea of the hydrographic character of the country; and by giving too little rather than too much, escapes the errors into which others had fallen.
"The explorations of Captain Fremont fixed these great rivers and basins in their proper geographical positions; but his maps have given rise to many erroneous impressions in regard to the mountain ranges. Still, making a 'false application of the principles of hydrography,' he represented all the basins as if surrounded with mountains or 'rims,' and thus introduced mountain chains which have no existence in nature.
"Since Fremont's expedition began, a large portion of the area of these mountains in the territory of the United States has been examined, and many new attempts have been made to systematize the knowledge acquired. The most important theory advanced is that of parallelism in the ranges, the foundation of which I shall briefly indicate.
"On the map of Lewis and Clarke the Kocky mountain ranges are represented parallel to each other with a northwest trend. That this was their theory is evident, from the fact that they indicated the Black Hills about the source of the Shyenne as having this same trend, though they never saw them, and only knew of their existence from hearsay.
"The maps of Captain Fremont showed a parallelism and general north and south direction of the mountain ranges from the Wasatch, east of the Salt Lake, to the Sierra Nevada, including all the numerous intermediate ranges.
"The maps made by Major Emory, near the 32d parallel, and in New Mexico, showed again a remarkable parallelism of the mountain ridges, those in this latitude having a northwest trend nearly parallel to the Rocky mountains, as shown by Lewis and Clarke.
"The maps of Lieutenants Abcrt and Peck, of Lieutenant Simpson, of Lieutenant Beckwith, Lieutenant Williamson, and Lieutenant Parke, have all shown a local parallelism to exist in dirferent parts of the mountains. The systems of ridges have courses varying from a few degrees north of east to north 45° west.
"The idea has lately begun to prevail that this local parallelism is the characteristic of the great mountain mass throughout its whole extent. Whether this idea has been true or not it has been attended with some practical advantages. Instead of one or two main summits for an overland road to pass, it shows us that we must expect many. On every route explored across the continent, at least four well-defined summits have been discovered, and on some of them many more. Some of these ridges enclose interior hydrographic basins. Others are traversed by rivers, but the passes thus made are generally impracticable, and, for the purposes of travel, might almost as well never have existed.
"In many places, however, the mountain ridges have not this local parallelism, of which a few instances will be cited. The Uintan mountains, east of the Great Salt Lake, trend nearly east and west; the Wind River mountains about north 45° west; and the Humboldt range about north 20° east; these three ranges being comparatively near to each other.
"Humboldt, in speaking of the Sierra Nevada, says, 'it soon separates into three branches.'