Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

globe, the highest mountains on its surface being little more than the two thousandth part of its diameter. Some of the mountains on the surface of the moon are higher than those on the earth, and yet that body appears, both to the naked eye, and through a telescope, of a spherical figure. Equally futile is the objection, which has been improperly and ignorantly drawn from the expressions occasionally to be met with in the Bible. The object of the inspired writers who used these expressions, was not to advance a true system of natural philosophy, or to correct the popular errors of the day, in matters of mere science, but to illustrate or enforce some precept or doctrine, or to record the occurrence of some remarkable event, which could not have been done intelligibly but by adopting expressions in agreement with the opinions of the age.

On the knowledge of the spherical figure of the earth, the art of navigation in a great measure depends; and all the

voyages of discovery, which have been made in later years, were undertaken in consequence of the knowledge of this fact. Had mankind remained unacquainted with this discovery, the circumnavigation of the globe would never have been attempted—vast portions of the world would have remained unknown and unexplored---no regular intercourse would have been maintained between the various tribes of the human race--and, consequently, the blessings of Divine Revelation could never have been communicated to the greater part of the Gentile world.

GENERAL VIEW OF THE GLOBE.

In looking over a map of the world, it is seen at once that the surface consists of various spaces of land, surrounded by an extensive field of water called the sea or ocean. Of these spaces of land, two are of vast extent, and on this account are termed continents. The larger of these continents includes the three

divisions of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and is distinguished by the title of the Old World, from its having, till the discovery of America by Columbus, in the year 1492, been the only part of the globe with the existence of which Europeans were acquainted. The other, which includes North and South America, is named the New World.

The general direction of the land in the two continents is entirely different. In America, it is from pole to pole: in the Old World, it is from south-west to north-east; and if we keep Africa out of view, it is almost parallel to the equator. The longest straight line that can be drawn on the old continent commences on the western coast of Africa, from about Cape Verd, and extends to Behring's Strait in the north-east of Asia. It is about 11,000 miles in length. A similar line, traced along the new continent, passes from the strait of Terra del Fuego to the northern shore of North America, and is nearly 9,000 miles long. In both continents the direction of the large peninsulas is similar, almost all of them running towards the south. This is the case with South America, California, Florida, Alaska, and Greenland in the New World ; and, in the Old, with Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, Greece, Africa, Arabia, Hindostan, Malaya, Cambodia, Corea, and Kamtschatka. The only exceptions to this remark are the peninsula of Yucatan in Mexico, and that of Jutland in the north-west of Europe. Both of these are directed towards the north; but they consist of plains and alluvial land, whereas the other peninsulas are more or less of a mountainous character. There is a farther resemblance between the two continents, from each being divided into two parts by an isthmus. But in the character of their outlines they differ very much; for while the coast of the Old World (excepting Africa) is broken equally on all sides by gulfs, bays, and inland seas, the New World has a series of openings on its eastern shore only. On its western side, the only inlet of any magnitude is the gulf of California.

Besides the two continents, many extensive portions of land are dispersed through the ocean, particularly

the globe.

the immense regions of New Holland, which occupy a space nearly as large as the whole of Europe. There are also the islands of New Guinea, Borneo, Madagascar, Sumatra, Japan, Great Britain, New Zealand, Ceylon, Iceland, Cuba, Java, and thousands of others, of different dimensions, scattered through the Pacific, the Indian, and the Atlantic Oceans, and which form a very considerable portion of the habitable regions of

The ocean surrounds the earth on all sides, and penetrates into the interior parts of many countries, sometimes by large openings, and frequently by small straits. Though it is, strictly speaking, but one immense body of water, extending in various directions, yet different names have been appropriated to different portions of it. The Pacific Ocean, divided by the equator into North and South, is inclosed between America on the east, and New Holland, the islands of Java and Sumatra, and the continent of Asia, on the west: on the north, it terminates at Behring's Strait. The seas of China, Japan, Okhotsk, &c. form parts of this ocean.

The Indian Ocean lies between Africa on the west, and the peninsula of Malaya, with the islands of Sumatra, Java, &c. and New Holland, on the east, and is bounded by Persia and Hindostan on the north. The Red Sea or Arabian Gulf, the Persian Gulf, and the Bay of Bengal, are all parts of this ocean. The Southern or Antarctic Ocean is bounded on the north, by a line drawn from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, thence to Van Diemen's Land, and again by the south of New Zealand to Cape Horn. These three oceans form what may be called the great South-Eastern Basin, the waters of which cover nearly half the globe. The Atlantic (cean commences, in the south, from a line drawn from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, and is terminated on the north by the Arctic Circle. It is divided into North and South by the equator, and its branches are the Mediterranean, the North Sea or German Orean, the Baltic, Baffin's Bay, Hudson's Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. The Arctic or Northern Ocean surrounds the North

Pole, and is bounded, on the south, by the Arctic Circle, and the northern shores of the two continents. The Atlantic and Arctic Oceans may be called the Western Basin, which forms a channel between the Old and New Worlds.

The Ocean, which is thus subdivided, is spread over nearly seven-tenths of the globe ; but it is remarkable how unequally the land and water are distributed. If we compare the northern and southern hemispheres, that is, the two equal parts into which the globe is divided by the equator, we shall find that, if the quantity of land in the northern hemisphere be represented by 16, the quantity in the southern will be scarcely equal to 5. Buffon and some other philosophers, therefore, asserted that a great continent must exist towards the south pole, in order to counterbalance the mass of land in the northern hemisphere ; but the high southern latitudes have as yet been found to contain only a few islands. This fact, however, does not prove that there is a less mass or weight of land in the southern than in the northern hemisphere ; for it is possible that the land may be only rather depressed in the south, and consequently covered by the sea.

MOUNTAINS.

Mountains are distributed in various forms and sizes through every region of the globe, and serve as a sort of connecting band to the other portions of the earth's surface. The largest mountains are generally arranged in immense chains, which extend, in nearly the same direction, for several hundreds, and even thousands of miles. The highest in the world are the Himalayas, in the north of Bengal, on the borders of Tibet. The loftiest mountain in this range, is stated to be about 27,000 feet, or a little more than five miles in perpendicular height, and is visible at the distance of 230 miles. Next to the Himalayas, are the Andes, in South America, which extend more than 4,000 miles

in length, from the province of Quito to the straits of Magellan. The highest summit of the Andes is Chimborazo, which is said to be 20,600 feet, or nearly four miles, above the level of the sea. The highest mountains in Europe are the Alps, which run through Switzerland and the north of Italy; the Pyrenees, which separate France from Spain; and the Dofrafeld, which divide Norway from Sweden. The most elevated ridges in Asia, are the Himalaya, Taurus, Imaus, Caucasus, Ararat, with the Uralian, Altaian, and Japanese mountains ; in Africa, Mount Atlas, and the Mountains of the Moon.

In order to obtain a connected view of the loftiest and most extensive system of mountains upon the globe, we must suppose ourselves placed in New Holland, with our face turned towards the north; America will then be on the right, Asia and Africa on the left. From Cape Horn to Behring's Strait, along the western coast of America, there is an almost uninterrupted range of the highest mountains. From Behring's Strait again succeeds an enormous line passing in a southwesterly direction through Asia, leaving China and Hindostan to the south, somewhat interrupted as it approaches Africa, but still to be looked upon as continuing its course in the mountains of Persia and Arabia Felix. From Cape Guardafui in Africa to the Cape of Good Hope, there appears to be a chain which completes the view. The series of mountains which we have thus followed, is in the form of an immense irregular curve, which comprises within it the Pacific and Indian Oceans, with their innumerable islands, besides a portion of Asia, including China, the Birman dominions, and the Indian peninsula. It presents a steep face towards these oceans; while, on the other side, the land very generally slopes towards the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

But, though the most considerable elevations of the surface of the earth are thus formed into chains, some mountains are completely insulated, that is, are quité remote from any chain or group. Volcanos are more particularly of this kind. The term volcano is derived

« VorigeDoorgaan »