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CHAPTER VII

ISLANDS.

A fleet descry'd
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Close sailing from Bengala, or the isles
Of Ternate and Tidore, where merchants bring
Their spicy drugs.

Milton (Paradise Lost.)

SUMATRA.

TAXTENDING in an oblique direction, to thenorthiy west, lying almost immediately under the equator, running from latitude 6 deg. 10 min., south to 5 deg. 40 min. north, and between longitudes 95 deg. 10 min. and 107 deg. 10 min. east, is located the island of Sumatra. Twenty to thirty islands along the greater one's shores could be enumerated, but are of no special importance at present. Next to Borneo in size, having an area of about 160,000 square miles, with 4,500,000 people, Sumatra is a garden-spot, unsurpassed in valuable productions, except perhaps by Java.

Its position is easily remembered. Its northern portion is separated from the Malayan peninsula on the east by the Strait of Mallaca; on the west it is bounded by the Indian Ocean; on the south it is

[graphic]

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 different 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 100 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 ins 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

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