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- Himalayan Journals V2. - 30/94 -


northward of the snowy mountains, and in such very small quantities, are very remarkable facts. The neighbouring rocks of Donkia were gneiss with granite veins, also striking north-west and dipping north-east 10 degrees, as if they overlay the limestone, but here as in all similar situations there was great confusion of the strata, and variation in direction and strike.

And here I may once for all confess that though I believe the general strike of the rocks on this frontier to be north-west, and the dip north-east, I am unable to affirm it positively; for though I took every opportunity of studying the subject, and devoted many hours to the careful measuring and recording of dips and strikes, on both faces of Kinchinjhow, Donkia, Bhomtso, and Kongra Lama, I am unable to reduce these to any intelligible system.* [North-west is the prevalent strike in Kumaon, the north-west Himalaya generally, and throughout Western Tibet, Kashmir, etc., according to Dr. Thomson.]

The coolies of Dr. Campbell's party were completely knocked up by the rarified air; they had taken a whole day to march here from Yeumtso, scarcely six miles, and could eat no food at night. A Lama of our party offered up prayers* [All diseases are attributed by the Tibetans to the four elements, who are propitiated accordingly in cases of severe illness. The winds are invoked in cases of affections of the breathing; fire in fevers and inflammations; water in dropsy, and diseases whereby the fluids are affected; and the God of earth when solid organs are diseased, as in liver-complaints, rheumatism, etc. Propitiatory offerings are made to the deities of these elements, but never sacrifices.] to Kinchinjhow for the recovery of a stout Lepcha lad (called Nurko), who showed no signs of animation, and had all the symptoms of serous apoplexy. The Lama perched a saddle on a stone, and burning incense before it, scattered rice to the winds, invoking Kinchin, Donkia, and all the neighbouring peaks. A strong dose of calomel and jalap, which we poured down the sick lad's throat, contributed materially to the success of these incantations.

The Tibetan Sepoys were getting tired of our delays, which so much favoured my operations; but though showing signs of impatience and sulkiness, they behaved well to the last; taking the sick man to the top of the pass on their yaks, and assisting all the party: nothing, however, would induce them to cross into Sikkim, which they considered as "Company's territory."

Before proceeding to the pass, I turned off to the east, and re-ascended Donkia to upwards of 19,000 feet, vainly hoping to get a more distant view, and other bearings of the Tibetan mountains. The ascent was over enormous piles of loose rocks split by the frost, and was extremely fatiguing. I reached a peak overhanging a steep precipice, at whose base were small lakes and glaciers, from which flowed several sources of the Lachen, afterwards swelled by the great affluent from Cholamoo lake. A few rocks striking north-east and dipping north-west, projected at the very summit, with frozen snow amongst them, beyond which the ice and precipices rendered it impossible to proceed: but though exposed to the north, there was no perpetual snow in the ordinary acceptation of the term, and an arctic European lichen (_Lecidea oreina_) grew on the top, so faintly discolouring the rocks as hardly to be detected without a magnifying-glass.

I descended obliquely, down a very steep slope of 35 degrees, over upwards of a thousand feet of debris, the blocks on which were so loosely poised on one another, that it was necessary to proceed with the utmost circumspection, for I was alone, and a false step would almost certainly have been followed by breaking a leg. The alternate freezing and thawing of rain amongst these masses, must produce a constant downward motion in the whole pile of debris (which was upwards of 2000 feet high), and may account for the otherwise unexplained phenomenon of continuous shoots of angular rocks reposing on very gentle slopes in other places.* [May not the origin of the streams of quartz blocks that fill gently sloping broad valleys several miles long, in the Falkland Islands, be thus explained? (See "Darwin's Journal," in Murray's Home and Col. Lib.) The extraordinary shifting in the position of my thermometer left among the rocks of the Donkia pass (see chapter xxii), and the mobile state of the slopes I descended on this occasion, first suggested this explanation to me. When in the Falkland Islands I was wholly unable to offer any explanation of the phenomenon there, to which my attention had been drawn by Mr. Darwin's narrative.]

The north ascent to the Donkia pass is by a path well selected amongst immense angular masses of rock, and over vast piles of debris: the strike on this, the north face, was again north-east, and dip north-west: I arrived at the top at 3 p.m., throughly fatigued, and found my faithful Lepcha lads (Cheytoong and Bassebo) nestling under a rock with my theodolite and barometers, having been awaiting my arrival in the biting wind for three hours. My pony stood there too, the picture of patience, and laden with minerals. After repeating my observations, I proceeded to Momay Samdong, where I arrived after dusk. I left a small bottle of brandy and some biscuits with the lads, and it was well I did so, for the pony knocked up before reaching Momay, and rather than leave my bags of stones, they passed the night by the warm flank of the beast, under a rock at 18,000 feet elevation, without other food, fire, or shelter.

I found my companion encamped at Momay, on the spot I had occupied in September; he had had the utmost difficulty in getting his coolies on, as they threw down their light loads in despair, and lying with their faces to the ground, had to be roused from a lethargy that would soon have been followed by death.

We rested for a day at Momay, and on the 20th, attempted to ascend to the Donkia glacier, but were driven back by a heavy snow-storm. The scenery on arriving here, presented a wide difference to that we had left; snow lying at 16,500 feet, whereas immediately to the north of the same mountain there was none at 19,000 feet. Before leaving Momay; I sealed two small glass flasks containing the air of this elevation, by closing with a spirit lamp a very fine capillary tube, which formed the opening to each; avoiding the possibility of heating the contents by the hand or otherwise. The result of its analysis by Mr. Muller (who sent me the prepared flasks), was that it contained 36.538 per cent. in volume of oxygen; whereas his repeated analysis of the air of Calcutta gives 21 per cent. Such a result is too anomalous to be considered satisfactory.

I again visited the Kinchinjhow glacier and hot springs; the water had exactly the same temperature as in the previous month, though the mean temperature of the air was 8 degrees or 9 degrees lower. The minimum thermometer fell to 22 degrees, being 10 degrees lower than it ever fell in September.

We descended to Yeumtong in a cold drizzle, arriving by sunset; we remained through the following day, hoping to explore the lower glacier on the opposite side of the valley: which, however, the weather entirely prevented. I have before mentioned (chapter xxiii) that in descending in autumn from the drier and more sunny rearward Sikkim valleys, the vegetation is found to be most backward in the lowest and dampest regions. On this occasion, I found asters, grasses, polygonums, and other plants that were withered, brown, and seeding at Momay (14,000 to 15,000 feet), at Yeumtong (12,000 feet) green and unripe; and 2000 feet lower still, at Lachoong, the contrast was even more marked. Thus the short backward spring and summer of the Arctic zone is overtaken by an early and forward seed-time and winter: so far as regards the effects of mean temperature, the warmer station is in autumn more backward than the colder. This is everywhere obvious in the prevalent plants of each, and is especially recognisable in the rhododendrons; as the following table shows:-- 16,000 to 17,000 feet, _R. nivale_ flowers in July; fruits in September=2 months. 13,000 to 14,000 feet, _R. anthopogon_ flowers in June; fruits in Oct.=4 months. 11,000 to 12,000 feet, _R. campanulatum_ flowers in May; fruits in Nov.=8 months. 8,000 to 9,000 feet, _R. argenteum_ flowers in April; fruits in Dec.=8 months.

And so it is with many species of _Compositae_ and _Umbelliferae,_ and indeed of all natural orders, some of which I have on the same day gathered in ripe fruit at 13,000 to 14,000 feet, and found still in flower at 9000 to 10,000 feet. The brighter skies and more powerful and frequent solar radiation at the greater elevations, account for this apparent inversion of the order of nature.* [The distribution of the seasons at different elevations in the Himalaya gives rise to some anomalies that have puzzled naturalists. From the middle of October to that of May, vegetation is torpid above 14,000 feet, and indeed almost uniformly covered with snow. From November till the middle of April, vegetation is also torpid above 10,000 feet, except that a few trees and bushes do not ripen all their seeds till December. The three winter months (December, January, and February) are all but dead above 6000 feet, the earliest appearance of spring at Dorjiling (7000 feet) being at the sudden accession of heat in March. From May till August the vegetation at each elevation is (in ascending order) a month behind that below it; 4000 feet being about equal to a month of summer weather in one sense. I mean by this, that the genera and natural orders (and sometimes the species) which flower at 8000 feet in May, are not so forward at 12,000 feet till June, nor at 16,000 feet till July. After August, however, the reverse holds good; then the vegetation is as forward at 16,000 feet as at 8000 feet. By the end of September most of the natural orders and genera have ripened their fruit in the upper zone, though they have flowered as late as July; whereas October is the fruiting month at 12,000, and November below 10,000 feet. Dr. Thomson does not consider that the more sunny climate of the loftier elevations sufficiently accounts for this, and adds the stimulus of cold, which must act by checking the vegetative organs and hastening maturation.]

I was disappointed at finding the rhododendron seeds still immature at Yeumtong, for I was doubtful whether the same kinds might be met with at the Chola pass, which I had yet to visit; besides which, their tardy maturation threatened to delay me for an indefinite period in the country. _Viburnum_ and _Lonicera,_ however, were ripe and abundant; the fruits of both are considered poisonous in Europe, but here the black berries of a species of the former (called "Nalum") are eatable and agreeable; as are those of a _Gualtheria,_ which are pale blue, and called "Kalumbo." Except these, and the cherry mentioned above, there are no other autumnal fruits above 10,000 feet: brambles, strange as it may appear, do not ascend beyond that elevation in the Sikkim Himalaya, though so abundant below it, both in species and individuals, and though so typical of northern Europe.

At Lachoong we found all the yaks that had been grazing till the end of September at the higher elevations, and the Phipun presented our men with one of a gigantic size, and proportionally old and tough. The Lepchas barbarously slaughtered it with arrows, and feasted on the flesh and entrails, singed and fried the skin, and made soup of the bones, leaving nothing but the horns and hoofs. Having a fine day, they prepared some as jerked meat, cutting it into thin strips, which they dried on the rocks. This (called "Schat-chew," dried meat) is a very common and favourite food in Tibet, I found it palatable;


Himalayan Journals V2. - 30/94

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