Geographical Notes


    AT the first meeting of the session of the Royal Geographical Society, the paper was on Cyprus, by Lieut.-General Sir Robert Biddulph, G.C.M.G., C.B. The island of Cyprus is the third largest in the Mediterranean, being inferior in size only to Sicily and Sardinia. Its area is 3584 square miles. Its principal features are two mountain ranges, running pretty well parallel to each other from east to west. The northernmost of these two ranges extends almost the whole length of the island from Cape Kormakiti on the north-west to Cape St. Andrea at the end of the horn-like promontory which stretches for 40 miles from the north-east of the island. This promontory is called the Carpas, and the low mountain chain running through it is called the Carpas range. The westernmost and higher portion of the northern range is called the Kyrenia range, and rises to an altitude of 3340 feet. This range is of a remarkably picturesque outline, in some parts extremely rugged. It is mostly a single ridge without any remarkable spurs, and its summit is about two miles from the northern coast. It can be crossed in many places. The chief mountain peaks of this range are Kornos, 3105 feet; Buffavento, 3140; and Pentedaktylos, 2400. The last named is a remarkably shaped rock in the centre of the Kyrenian range, owing its name to its shape, the word Pentedaktylos signifying Greek “five-fingered.” Beneath this rock there rushes out southward from the mountain side, at an altitude of 870 feet, a torrent of water, which never ceases to flow summer or winter, and which, descending into the great plain in the centre the island, carries its fertilizing streams to the lands of several villages, its course marked by mills, gardens, and trees, until its water is exhausted by various irrigating channels. A similar stream of water gushes from the northern side, about 12 miles west of the Kyrenia Pass. Smaller streams descend on either side of the range at various places; their waters are used for irrigation in the valleys. The southern range of mountains is of a much more extensive nature than the northern range. The easternmost point of this range is the mountain of Santa Croce, so called from the church of the Holy Cross which stands on its summit. This mountain, which is 2260 feet in height, is of a peculiar shape. Beginning then from this point the southern range rapidly rises to considerable altitudes, finally culminating in Mount Troodos, the highest point in Cyprus, being 6406 feet above the sea-level. The other chief peaks in the southern range, are Adelphe, 5305 feet; and Machera, 4674 feet. But it is not only in altitude that the Troodos range is distinguished; numerous spurs run down to the north and south, and as we proceed further west these radiate out to greater distances, so that half way between Troodos and the sea, the mountain range is not less than 20 miles wide. Here there are very considerable forests, many miles in extent, rarely visited save by wandering flocks and by wood-cutters, and affording shelter to the moufflon, or wild sheep of Europe, some 200 or 300 of which still roam over these hills. On the map it will be seen that numerous rivers descend from both sides of the southern range. These are mostly dry in summer, but after rain their waters descend with violence, filling up the river-beds in the plains, carryiny away trees and cultivated patches, and often rushing in a turbid stream into the bays of Famagusta and Morphou. Between the two mountain ranges there lies a great plain called the Mesaorea, which is the most fertile part of Cyprus, growing large crops of wheat, barley, and cotton. It was evidently once the bottom of the sea, for in many parts are large beds of marine shells—gigantic oysters and others—all clustered in masses. A noticeable feature of this plain is the number of flat-topped plateaux of various sizes, where the rock seems to have resisted the action of the water. The tops of these plateaux are clothed with short herbage, affording a scanty provision for flocks, and are usually from 100 to 200 feet above the plain. The rivers which descend from the hills carry down large quantities of alluvial soil, and this forms in the eastern part of the Mesaorea a rich deposit, something similar to the Delta of the Nile. The two rivers which mainly contribute to this plain are the Pediæus and the Idalia, the former taking its rise from the northern slopes of Mount Machera, and the latter from the eastern slopes of the same mountain. The beds of these rivers have, however, become so choked up with alluvial deposit towards the end of their course, that their waters overflow the plain and mingle together, so that their separate mouths can with difficulty be distinguished. The normal condition of these rivers is to be without water, but whenever there is a heavy rainfall in the mountains, the river “comes down,” as it is called, and runs for one, two, or more days. It occasionally happens that the water descends with great suddenness and violence, causing disastrous floods. Considerable supplies of water for irrigation purposes are obtained by sinking wells. A long chain of wells are sunk at distances of five or six yards apart, and being connected by underground galleries, a channel is thus formed which conveys the water to a reservoir constructed at the foot of the last well, and it is thence raised to the surface by a water-wheel; or in some cases the level of the ground admits of the channel being brought out on the surface. In this way the town of Nicosia is supplied with excellent water, which is brought in two aqueducts from a distance of some miles. Larnaca and Famagusta and other towns have similar aqueducts. Closely connected with the water supply is the forest question. Sir Robert Biddulph then entered into detail with reference to the denudation of Cyprus of its forests, and the great locust-plagues which have been so successfully treated since the British occupation.

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    Geographical Notes. Nature 41, 45–46 (1889).

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