Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

divided from Java by the narrow arm of the sea called the Strait of Sunda.

TOPOGRAPHY.

The eastern portion of the island is remarkable for its continuous levels, which are freely watered by

several large but sluggish rivers—the Rawas, the Jambi, the Indgari—that form extensive deltas at

their mouths, and have for ages been contributing to fill up the shallow sea, into which they fall. Very dif. ferent in character the western portion. Here, from northwest to southwest, stretch range upon range of mountains, all running parallel to the coast, and increasing in elevation from 2,000 to 5,000 feet. These are broken up by short latteral valleys, and again by extensive longitudinal valleys, clothed with the fig and the myrtle, the arica and nibon palms. The littoral belt, or shore-land, varies greatly in breadth. On the southwest side of the island the mountains seem to start up directly from the ocean, and for nearly 400 miles the distance between the beach and the wooded base of the hills is two miles, though towards the north it widens on the average to six miles, and at a few points to twelve miles.

ANIMAL LIFE.

The reader will easily understand that the scenery in the western division of the island presents many romantic features. The mountain peaks rising so abruptly from the shore, and clothed with hanging woods, are necessarily objects of much grandeur; and intersecting valleys, enriched with a tropical vegetation, the forms and colors of which have a rare attraction for the eye of the traveler, are characterized by numerous landscapes of great splendor. The interior of the island is but imperfectly known; but one of these valleys, stretching up to the foot of Mount Merapi, is fully Ioo miles in length, and is regarded by some authorities as the original home of the Malayan race. Birds of bright tinted plumage dart in and out of the thick boughs of the wide-spreading woodland, and blend their voices, often harsh and shrill, with the murmur of falling streams. Here in the virgin forest the agile monkey leaps from branch to branch; or the siawang, with his immense long arms, five feet six inches across in an adult about three feet high, swings himself with wonderful rapidity from tree to tree. Here, in the remote recesses, the ourang-utan live its melancholy life; the rhinoceros wades in the shallow streams, and the elephant crashes through the jungle with colossal bulk. * * *

FLORA.

Turning to the vegetable wealth of this great island, we meet with the most valuable productions of the tropical world. In the forest the huge trees, colossal in girth and of noble height, are linked together and surrounded by innumerable parasites and creeping plants, often of great beauty, which interlace with one another so as to form an almost impervious labyrinth. On the shore we meet with the spreading mangrove, its pendulous roots closely matted and intertwined, forming an incomparable breakwater, and stemming the aggressive tide. Retaining the particles of earth that sink to the bottom between them, they gradually, but surely elevate the level of the soil, and as the new formation rises and broadens, a thousand seeds are sown upon it, a thousand fresh roots descend to strengthen and consolidate it; and in this way the mangrove repels the wave and asserts the supremacy of the land over the baffled sea. * * *

On the mountain slopes, from an altitude of five hundred to that of six thousand feet, the forest is largely composed of oaks of several species. They are noble trees, and of much value; but in a commercial sense a higher value attaches to the Dryanobalops, which yields the all-important camphor. About one degree below the equator, its place is occupied by the Diptuocarpus, a tree of gigantic proportions, which produces the resin called “dammar.”

On the rough bark of many of the forest trees grows that extraordinary parasite, the Rafflesia, the largest known flower, measuring fully three feet in diameter, and expanding a calyx which is capable of holding six quarts of water.

The principal exports of Sumatra are capsicums, ginger, betel, tobacco, indigo, cotton, camphor, benzoin, cassia or common cinnamon, rattans, ebony, sandalwood, teak and aloes, ivory, rice, wax, and edible birds' nests. To the list of the island products must be added rice, maize, sweet potatoes, taro, banana, mango, durian, pawpaw and citron. But even this enumeration gives but a faint idea of the variety and extent of its natural treasures.

CLIMATE.

Its climate is well adapted to the growth of so luxuriant a vegetation. Lying directly under the equator, the island enjoys great equability of temperature, the thermometer seldom falling below 76 deg. or rising above 93 deg. The constant rains brought up by the southeast monsoons counteract or mitigate the prevailing heat. In the highlands and mountain districts the climate is healthy, and the natives attain a considerable longevity; but in the low ground along the coast, and in the neighborhood of the mangrove swamps, Europeans, at least, drag on a sickly existence, and malaria exercises its deadly ravages.

The principal cities are Padang (the capital), Bencoolen and Palambang.

INHABITANTS.

The inhabitants of Sumatra are mostly of the great Malayan family, but in the north they seem to have intercrossed with the Hindus, and are distinguished by their strength, their stature and their fierce courage. The Chinese are numerous on the east coast. North of Menangkabu, where the pure Malays reside, live the Battahs or Batakhs, whose exact relation to the Malay it seems impossible to determine. They approximate, in many respects, to the Caucasian type, with fair complexion, brown or auburn hair, well-shaped lips and an ample forehead. All the natives of Sumatra, with the exception of some inland tribes, profess a modified Mohammedanism.

In Sumatra we find about fifteen volcanoes, four of which—Dempo (Io,440 feet), Indrapura (12,140), Talang (8,480), and Merapi (9,700 feet)—are of considerable importance; the others do not exceed six or seven thousand feet in elevation.

(Notes from Adams's Eastern Archipelago.)

SINGAPORE.

This little island, located between latitude 1 deg. and 1 deg. 32 min. north, and longitude 103 deg. 30 min. and IO4 deg. IO min. east, has long been celebrated for its many valuable products, being more widely known than almost any other island in the East. Situated at the eastern extremity of the Straits of Mallacca, it has long formed the distributing point for the products of these regions. The town of Singapore has about 100,000 inhabitants—Malays, Hindoos and Chinese—and is located a mile or so back from the straits, in the mouth of a river; the freight to and from the town being handled by lighters. The island itself has an area of about 220 square miles, and is surrounded by about fifty small islets, of no great commercial importance in the past or present as distributing points, yet the fisheries, the turtle, tortoise and beche de mer, found on some of these little desert spots, are considerable. The whole area, including the islets, may be estimated at 400 square miles. The British hoisted their flag over Singapore in 1819, but it was not till 1824, when the main island, with the adjoining isles located within ten miles of the shores of Singapore, were ceded to the East India Company by the Malayan princes, that Singapore sprang into commercial importance. The Straits of Mallacca narrow down at one point to a quarter of a mile in width between the island and the Malayan Peninsula. In some respects this is unfortunate for the inhabitants of Singapore, as one of the favorite methods of the tiger, the great man-eater of the East Indies, is to swim this channel from the

« ZurückWeiter »