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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Proceedings of Foreign Societies

page 251

Proceedings of Foreign Societies.

Geographical Society of Paris.—January 9th, 1885: M. Bouquet De La Grye, of the Institute, in the Chair.—The ambassador from Timbuctu, Abd el Kader Ould Baker, El Hadj, whose reception by the Society had been announced to take place, made his entrance into the hall accompanied by his interpreter. He was received by the Bureau, and invited to take a seat on the platform. The Chairman then addressed a speech to him in French, which M. Henri Duveyrier translated for him into Arabic. The address recalled the fact that it was a Frenchman who was the first European to visit Timbuctu fifty-seven years ago, and that the ambassador himself was the first inhabitant of Timbuctu who had as yet come to Europe and to Paris. "We know," said M. Bouquet de la Grye, in concluding his speech, "that you are a man of intelligence, that you possess influence in your town, and the fact of your coming to visit a European country is a proof of your courageous spirit and mental superiority. Welcome, therefore, among us, and be pleased to accept this book of your faith, the Koran, as a present from the Geographical Society, and an evidence to you that Frenchmen are not enemies of the Mahometan religion, and that they are pleased to welcome Mahometans who pay them a friendly visit." The Chairman at the same time presented the ambassador with a magnificent copy of the Koran, which the latter accepted and acknowledged in a few words expressing his grateful recognition of the reception he had met with at the hands of the Geographical Society. He thereupon shook hands with the Chairman, and requested him to proceed with the business of the meeting. M. Bouquet de la Grye then announced that the Commission of Prizes had just drawn up the list of the Society's awards for 1885:—(1) Gold Medal to M. de Foucauld for his journey in the south of Morocco, and his investigations on the eastern extremity of the Atlas range. (2) Gold Medal to Dr. Neis, naval surgeon, in consideration of his four journeys in Indo-China and the unexplored parts of Laos. (3) The Roquette Prize to the Danish work 'Medelelser om Groenland,' published by the Commission of geological and geographical researches in Greenland. (4) The Jomard Prize to M. Leroux, publisher, for the work entitled 'Recueil de voyages et do documents pour servir à l'histoire de la géographie depuis le XIIIe siècle jusqu'à la fin du XVIe, publié sous la direction de MM. Scheffer, de l'Institut, et H. Cordier.' (5) The Erhard Prize to M. Dumas-Vorzet for his interesting cartographical works. These prizes the Chairman said would be presented at the first General Meeting of the present year.—A naval lieutenant, attached to the squadron now operating in the East, transmitted a map of the northern part of the island of Formosa, about which so little is really known; the map was stated to have been executed on board ship, and autographed at the arsenal of Saigon. At the same time there arrived a coloured map, sent from Tong-king by Colonel Guerrier, which indicated the surveys made in the delta by the topographical brigade of the expeditionary corps. This map was accompanied by a short account of the reconnaissances made in the country by the same brigade. Among the presentations of maps was one of the region of Lake Kelbiah and the environs of Kairuan, which was presented by Dr. Rouire, who, it was said, had indicated therein the limits (approximately) of the Sea of Triton. Accompanying the map was a treatise on the geography of Ptolemy, from which, according to Dr. Rouire, we are able to recognise "that the Greek geographer had well designated under the name of Triton the river recently discovered in Central Tunis."—The Secretary then stated that news had at last been received from M. Giraud, naval lieutenant, and read a letter dated 15th of October 1884, from Quilimane at the mouth of the Zambesi. The young traveller announced his intended return to France page 252 during the month of January. From the Belgian station of Mpala, on the coast of the Marungu, M. Giraud set out to prosecute his journey to the west, when he was abandoned by his porters. He was then compelled to renounce his project, and to commence his return to the east coast. At the head of a small caravan, formed at a place to the south of Tanganyika, he managed to reach the north end of Lake Nyassa, whence a small English vessel carried him to the Shire, which he descended, but not without considerable danger consequent upon the strife raging between the Portuguese and the natives. At last he arrived at the Zambesi, and then at Quilimane. M. Giraud appended to his letter a sketch of his itinerary.—In his despatch of the 20th of November 1884, M. Ledoulx, French Consul at Zanzibar, mentioned the foundation by the missionaries of the Holy Ghost of a new French station in the interior of the continent, viz. at Kunzagira on the left bank of the Kingani. The country, he said, was fertile, well-wooded, and abundantly watered. The climate was salubrious, and the inhabitants well-disposed towards foreigners. At Zanzibar the Consul had had an interview with the English traveller, Mr. H. H. Johnston, who had returned from his expedition to Kilima-njaro, where he had attained an elevation of 14,000 feet, and established several observations at different altitudes.—M. Francois Deloncle forwarded an account of the geographical results of the last exploration (Feb. to June 1884) made by him across the Isthmus of Malacca. Having penetrated the Malay Peninsula as far as Singora (7° 14′ N. lat.; the expedition pushing forward into the interior along broad and deep channels, arrived at an inland sea, which no European had before visited. This sea presented the most strange configuration, being dotted over with islands of firm hard limestone, which were covered with swallows' nests. The lake was called Tale-Sab, and was about 20 feet deep (6 metres), 45 miles long, and 12 broad at its widest part. The water was fresh during the prevalence of the north-east monsoon, and salt during that from the south-west. The expedition then proceeded to Penang, obtaining the hydrography, unknown up to the present time, of all the coast. The engineers who formed part of the expedition had obtained geological sections of the whole region traversed, as well as specimens, the analysis of which had revealed the existence of numerous bearings of auriferous quartz, tin, and iron in this terra incognita.—Persia formed the subject of some communications forwarded by one of the Shah's ministers, his Excellency Mohamed Assan Khan Saniedouleh, a member of the Society, who presented several of his works. Among others was the first volume of an account of a journey in Khorassan (the following volumes were stated to be in the press). The correspondent promised to send some notes on several provinces of the Empire, across which he accompanied his Majesty the Shah in the course of a recent excursion.—A letter was read from M. Edmond Cotteau, dated 9th November last on board the Vire (lat. 27° S., long. 162° 43′ W.), who stated that he was proceeding from New Caledonia to Tahiti. During his stay in the first-named of these colonies he had been able to make a journey to the New Hebrides. The most beautiful island in that archipelago was that of Vaté or Sandwich, a magnificent island, well watered, extraordinarily fertile, on which a dozen Europeans were living. The cultivation of coffee was attended in the island with marvellous success, but unfortunately there was a lack of labour, the natives of the isle, like those in New Caledonia, being disinclined to work in a regular way. From Port Vila M. Cotteau proceeded to Port Havannah (on the north-west of the same island), the situation of which was in no way inferior to the first-named port. He then set sail for the island of Api (about 62 miles to the north of Sandwich), which was rarely visited by Europeans. His letter stated that the luxuriant nature of this island surpassed, if possible, in beauty that of the island he had just left.—Communications were received from Saigon bringing information regarding the journeys page 253 of Captain Aymonier in Indo-China, from October 1883, to April 1884. All the northern part of Laos and the basin of the Mun had been traversed by him. During his travels he had collected many valuable epigraphical documents and numerous notes on the geography of the country. A resume of these explorations would appear in the work entitled 'Excursions et Reconnaissances en Cochin-chine.' On the 10th December last M. Aymonier was to start from Saigon on a journey to the province of Bin-Thuan, in order to study the monuments which the Chams might possibly have left there.—M. Michel Venukoff communicated several items of geographical information on Russia. He announced that M. Conchine had just formulated the definite results of his researches with reference to the bed of the Amu-daria. According to him, this river never was a direct affluent of the Caspian Sea, but it was probable that indirect communication between two masses of water, one fresh and the other salt, did exist at one period by means of the Sary-Kamysh and the Uzboi. M. Venukoff also stated that the account of Professor Sorokine's journey in the central Thian-Shan mountains had just been published. Dr. Régel was stated to have completed his travels in Karateghin and Hissar, and had returned with his collections to Tashkend.—Information was received from Prince Roland Bonaparte regarding the expedition of M. D. Veth, the famous explorer of Sumatra, who started last summer from the Netherlands for South Africa, intending to cross the continent from west to east. Before arriving at his destination, M. Veth intended to touch at various points on the west coast of Africa and to visit the French colony of Gabon and make a long stay at Banana at the mouth of the Congo. MM. Van der Kellen and Goddefroy, who formed part of his expedition, had preceded him. One of them had already ascended a long way up the course of the great African river. M. Van der Kellen had got together a large geological collection. The Prince, who published in the quarterly Bulletin of the Society (4th part, 1884), a work on New Guinea containing information on the journey of the Resident, M. Van Braam Morris, along the north coast of this island between Humboldt Bay and the mouths of the river Amberno, said that in the month of July last M. Morris had ascended the great Papuan river as far as 2° 20′ lat. S., which represented according to Swaan's large map, a journey of approximately one degree of latitude. The Dutch, added the Prince, did not enforce in a platonic way their indisputable rights over the western half of New Guinea, they explored this island with the greatest ardour and zeal.—M. Denis de Rivoyre, presenting a new work ('Les Vrais Arabes et leur pays,' Paris, Librairie Plon) of which he is the author, said that this book was a sequel to that presented by him last year entitled 'Obock.' He then gave some information on the present state of the last-named colony. The harbour works were making good progress, buildings were being erected, and the inhabitants, confident henceforth of being well protected, were grouping round the French flag. The taking of Tajura and the neighbouring places had had much to do with this result. The Sultan of Aussa, through whose dominions passed the best and shortest route from Obock to Shoa, was in friendly alliance with France. M. de Rivoyre, however, expressed his regret that the action of France was not extended higher up along the shore of the Red Sea. Speaking of the country of the Bogos, he said that that people were by no means inclined to ratify the treaty which the English had concluded with Negus of Ethiopia, authorising that prince to re-establish in the country the suzerainty which his predecessors had imposed on it, the Egyptians having become masters of the country since 1870.—M. Gorceix, director of the mines of Ouro Preto (Brazil), presented various publications having reference to his own speciality and also a map of the Brazilian Empire on the scale 1: 5,000,000, which he said was a sufficiently large scale for a country whose superficial area was nearly equal to that of Europe, or nearly 3,475,000 square miles (9 million square kilo- page 254 metres). This map had been prepared under the direction of the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. M. Gorceix endeavoured to destroy the legend which he said was current in Europe and especially in France, according to which the virgin forests covering the Brazilian soil rendered the country difficult of access. These forests were on the contrary quite an exception in most of the provinces, and had been greatly encroached upon in consequence of the cultivation of maize, coffee, &c.—The Chairman then announced that the second series of scientific lectures organised under the auspices of the Society would commence on the Monday following (January 13th). M. Jansen, of the Institute, would open the course with a paper on the Universal Meridian. M. Janssen was the chief of the French delegates to the Washington Conference. The Chairman, in conclusion, called upon M. Paul Fauque to read an account of his journey in Sumatra. Charged with a mission to that island, M. Fauque had studied the character and customs of the natives inhabiting the country of the Siaks and the kingdom of Atchin. Having spoken at some length on their habits of life, the lecturer passed on to the geography, natural history, and mineralogy of this great island of Malaisia. The collections he has brought home have already been distributed among the various museums. In the course of his travels M. Fauque has collected very valuable information with reference to the causes and incidents of the murder of MM. Wallon and Guillaume, French explorers who were assassinated in the year 1880 by the natives of the banks of the Tenom river.

———January 23rd, 1885: M. Alph. Milne-Edwards, of the Institute, in the Chair.—Having taken his seat as Chairman, M. Milne-Edwards read the names of the Members of the Bureau, which had just been constituted for the present year by the Central Commission. The following had been elected:—President, M. Alph. Milne-Edwards; Vice-Presidents, MM. Germain and Rey; General Secretary, M. Ch. Maunoir; and Assistant Secretary, M. Jules Girard. The Chairman then announced the death of Commander Roudaire, the originator of the well-known project for introducing the waters of the Mediterranean into the vast depression situated to the south of Algeria and Tunis, in order to create an inland sea there. By this channel, easy means of communication would be established with the most remote of the French possessions in Africa, and barren and unhealthy flats would be transformed into fertile plains. He then briefly reviewed the career of the deceased, who since the years 1872 and 1873, when he was charged with geodesical works in the south of Algeria, had not ceased in his strenuous endeavours to crown this scheme with success. It was, he said, M. Roudaire's conviction that the basins of the Chotts were below the level of the sea, and that the sea at one time penetrated there, consequently it could be again introduced into the interior. M. Ferdinand de Lesseps then stated that he endorsed to the fullest extent the words which the Chairman had just spoken in praise of the achievements and persevering energy of Commander Roudaire. M. de Lesseps was well assured that the work of the latter would not perish, and, as he had supported the originator of the scheme, so he would encourage and assist the man who had offered to continue the work of M. Roudaire, viz. Commander Landas, a friend of the deceased, and Professor of Topography at the Military School of St. Cyr. M. Landas, who was present, was then introduced to the meeting by M. de Lesseps. At the time of his death M. Roudaire was getting ready to return to Africa, with the view of pursuing his investigations in connection with the choice of the most suitable position in the Gulf of Gabes for the construction of a harbour for introducing the waters of the proposed inland sea. These operations M. Landas was about to continue. The Minister of War has placed this officer at the disposition of M. de Lesseps.—M. J. Jackson then laid upon the table his annual report upon the condition of the library and collections of the page 255 Society for the year 1884. During the last session 1260 new works, comprising 1537 volumes, had been added to the library, together with 287 maps and 18 atlases. There were now about 35,000 works in the library, including 3300 maps, but excluding the maps of the French Navy, numbering 4000. Periodical papers numbered 642. The societies, institutions, and journals with which exchanges were made by the Society had increased to 345. The Society possessed 103 collections of photographs and views of different countries, besides 1550 portraits of travellers and geographers. Finally, the report stated that during the year just ended no less than 296 persons outside the Society had availed themselves of the privilege, accorded to any one introduced by a member of the Society, of consulting the books and maps of the library. While engaged in going through the collections for the purpose of drawing up the report just analysed, M. Jackson had, it was stated, discovered an ancient description of the coasts and ports of the Mediterranean, the date of which was effaced, but it would appear to belong to the sixteenth century. The author was Jean Oliva, and it was a document of great value. M. G. Marcel, of the map department of the National Library, promised to make a careful examination of this work, and after comparing it with the marine descriptions which that department possessed in large number, to send a report upon it to the Society.—At the last meeting of the Society M. Hansen-Blangsted, who contributed the Scandinavian part of the 'Dictionnaire Géographique' of Vivien do St. Martin, had raised a discussion on the question of the origin and formation of the fiords of Norway. The Chairman on that occasion thought it was a subject connected with geology rather than with geography. The discussion was maintained by M. Bouquet de la Grye, M. H. Blangsted, and Dr. de Broch, former Minister of Naval Affairs in Norway. On the present occasion M. J. Gamier, an engineer, who besides having traversed the greater part of Norway, has travelled in the Alps investigating the mines of nickel found there (he having previously studied and described those of New Caledonia), again brought forward the subject of the fiords of Norway. According to him they are ancient valleys, which in consequence of a subsidence of the soil have become submarine depths. Instituting a comparison, he asked what would happen if the peak of Mont Blanc were suddenly to sink several hundred yards. The valley of the Rhone would then become, he said, an admirable fiord, and the same would take place in the case of the Sesia and Aosta valleys. M. Willm. Huber stated that in his opinion the formation of the fiords was not due to a subsidence of the soil nor to a glacial erosion. He attributed their formation rather to the preservation of the primitive relief of the soil by glaciers. The coasts in Europe presenting the character of fiords were those exposed to the west, such as the western coasts of Galicia, Corsica, Sardinia, and farther north that of Brittany and the west coasts of Ireland, Scotland, and Norway. Those on the east were much less indented in the form of fiords. The same phenomenon might be observed on the coasts of Asia Minor.—An officer attached to the French expeditionary corps in Tongking forwarded a series of extracts from the work of a Spanish missionary, Father Fuentes, who it appears has traversed the country and possesses a good knowledge of it. Unfortunately, however, we are not in possession of the title of this work, which would be very valuable under existing circumstances, nor do we know whether the work (comprising two volumes) is still in manuscript, or has been published. The following, however, are some extracts, together with remarks by the correspondent:—The distance from Bac-Ninh to Lang-son is estimated at six days' march for a man walking on the average seven hours a day, and it takes nine days to reach Cao-bang from Lang-son under the same conditions. On the route from Bac-Ninh to Lang-son a number of streams are passed every day of the march, on an average four or five a day, but on the last day as many as ten. When shallow, these streams can be page 256 forded. Along the road from Lang-son to Cao-bang the same feature is noticed. The stream flowing to the north of Lang-son does not empty itself into the sea as indicated on the map of M. Dutreuil du Rhins, but flows, on the contrary, by the side of Thât-ké. The latter is a place of considerable importance, inhabited principally by Chinese and mountaineers of peaceful disposition. When Father Fuentes visited the locality there were only two Annamite families in the town. From commercial and military points of view, and also in consequence of its sanitary condition, the position of Thât-ké is decidedly superior to that of Lang-son, and is undoubtedly the place at which foreigners should establish themselves. At Cao-bang also very few Annamites are to be found, the inhabitants being of the same class as at Thât-ké. The town is of some importance, and possesses a fort, which is, however, simply under ground. The place is not larger than Quang-gen; the iron and gold (?) mines formerly worked there have been abandoned. M. Gouin's map places Cao-bang on the river Thai-nguyen, but judging of its position from the information given in the extracts from Father Fuentes' work, it would appear that M. Gouin is mistaken. The map of M. Dutreuil du Rhins, on the contrary, seems to be more exact as regards the course of this river, which is represented as only a small narrow stream incapable of floating boats. The respective positions of towns on the map of M. du Rhins are more accurate than on that of M. Gouin, where Cao-bang is placed much too near the Thai-nguyen. At Cao-bang the country is very poorly cultivated. The inhabitants do not eat rice, but consume a great quantity of maize. The forests are broken by rushes and tall grasses. The country abounds in buffaloes, oxen, pigs, ducks, and fowls. The water is bad, the abnormal development of the stomach together with the bloated appearance of the face noticeable in the inhabitants of the district being attributed to their use of this unwholesome water, which for drinking purposes should be carefully boiled or mixed with tea. At Thât-ké, on the contrary, the water is good and the climate reported healthy. The inhabitants have a healthy appearance, and live much longer than those dwelling in the district between Thât-ké and Bac-ninh. Lang-son is also regarded as unhealthy.—It was stated that the Academy of Science had recently appointed a commission charged to proceed to Spain for the purpose of investigating the cause of the earthquakes which had recently taken place in that country. The chief of the commission was M. Fouque, geologist, and a member of the Academy. At the invitation of the Chairman, M. Fouque, who was present at the meeting, gave some details regarding the programme of the proposed investigations of the commission, and also upon the object to be pursued in Spain.—M. A. Thouar announced that he was preparing to start again for a fourth journey in South America. Having ascended the Paraguay and studied the delta of the Pilcomayo river, it was his intention to cross Northern Chaco with the view of establishing a commercial route between Bolivia and Uruguay. He would then pursue his investigations on an almost unknown affluent of the Amazons, the Madre de Dios, and endeavour to find a new route between the provinces north of Bolivia, those of the Peruvian Cuzco, and Europe by means of the Amazons.—After M. Capus had read a part of the diary kept by him during his journey in Central Asia, the General Secretary, speaking of M. Prejevalsky and his present expedition, announced that the indefatigable Russian traveller had just achieved the distinction of being the first among Europeans to visit the sources of the river Yang-tsze-kiang.—In conclusion, Dr. Hamy, head of the Ethnographical Museum of the Trocadero, made a communication on the part taken by French science in American studies, more especially as regards Mexico.