Geography in Caucasus

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    A RECENT volume of the Memoirs (Zapiski) of the Caucasian Branch of the Russian Geographical Society (vol. xv.) is of more than usual interest. It opens with a paper, by Mr. Konshin, on the old beds of the Amu-daria, accompanied by a map which shows the consecutive decrease of the area of the Caspian sea since the beginning of the Post-Pliocene epoch. It is known that the Russian geologist was first to point out that what had been previously described as old beds of the Amu are not beds at all, but elongated channels occupied once by the salt waters of the Caspian. The writers of antiquity were not wrong in representing the Caspian sea as a basin, elongated from west to east, and in ignoring the existence of Lake Aral as a lake separated from the Caspian. At the beginning of the Post-Pliocene epoch, and perhaps later on as well, the Caspian sent eastward two wide gulfs, one of which reached the longitude of Merv, and covered what is now a depression in the south of the Kara-kum elevated plain; while another gulf, stretching north-eastwards, included Lake Aral and what is now the delta of the Amu, as far as Khiva and Pitnyak. Thus, it was not the Amu which reached the Caspian, but the sea which reached the river by extending much further eastward than it does now. The Chink, which has so often been described as an old bed of the Amu, was the northern coast of the Kara-kum gulf; while the river-like beds of the Sary-kamysh depression were narrow channels through which the waters of Lake Aral occasionally found their way into the Caspian, long time after the two great lakes had been separated from each other. Mr. Konshin's little map very well illustrates the subsequent changes of the form of the Caspian. It may only be added that an exploration of the Ust-urt, and especially of the chain of lakes which crosses it from west to east-connecting, so to say, the 'Caspian with Lake Aral-is extremely desirable; it seems very probable that another channel of communication between the two great lakes will be discovered in that direction as well. A. V. Pastukhoff's communication about his ascension on the Elbrus and the Khalatsa peak, in July, 1890, is also full of interest, and is accompanied by excellent photographs and a map. On the top of this latter peak, which reaches 11,915 feet, the party was overtaken by a snowstorm, during which they were surrounded by a most beautiful display of electric fires; all their fur coats, their hair, their moustaches, as well as the poles of their tents and all metallic things, were enveloped in luminous discharges, which came to an end only after a discharge of thunder. The thunderstorm was terrible, especially one discharge of globular thunder, which rendered all the party senseless for a time.

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