Listen to Genius: free audiobook downoads
PUBLISHED BY REDWOOD AUDIOBOOKS  |  WORLD LITERATURE  |  FAMOUS AUTHORS  |  AWARD-WINNING NARRATORS
Home/Authors  |  Titles  |  Categories  |  Fables & Tales  |  Baseball Lessons  |  Narrators
university press audiobooks

Alfred Russel Wallace

English Naturalist

1823-1913

A selection from
THE MALAY ARCHIPELIGO

Narrated by Ralph Cosham

Download mp3 file: The Malay Archipeligo

This file is 5.6 MB; running time is 12 minutes
alternate download link


By far the most interesting incident in my visit to Java was a trip to the summit of the Pangerango and Gedeh mountains; the former an extinct volcanic cone about 10,000 feet high, the latter an active crater on a lower portion of the same mountain range. Tchipanas, about four miles over the Megamendong Pass, is at the foot of the mountain. A small country house for the Governor-General and a branch of the Botanic Gardens are situated here, the keeper of which accommodated me with a bed for a night. There are many beautiful trees and shrubs planted here, and large quantities of European vegetables are grown for the Governor- General's table. By the side of a little torrent that bordered the garden, quantities of orchids were cultivated, attached to the trunks of trees, or suspended from the branches, forming an interesting open air orchid-house. As I intended to stay two or three nights on the mountain, I engaged two coolies to carry my baggage, and with my two hunters we started early the next morning.

The first mile was over open country, which brought us to the forest that covers the whole mountain from a height of about 5,000 feet. The next mile or two was a tolerably steep ascent through a grand virgin forest, the trees being of great size, and the undergrowth consisting of fine herbaceous plants, tree-ferns, and shrubby vegetation. I was struck by the immense number of ferns that grew by the side of the road. Their variety seemed endless, and I was continually stopping to admire some new and interesting forms. I could now well understand what I had been told by the gardener, that 300 species had been found on this one mountain. A little before noon we reached the small plateau of Tjiburong, at the foot of the steeper part of the mountain, where there is a plank-house for the accommodation of travellers. Close by is a picturesque waterfall and a curious cavern, which I had not time to explore. Continuing our ascent the road became narrow, rugged and steep, winding zigzag up the cone, which is covered with irregular masses of rock, and overgrown with a dense luxuriant but less lofty vegetation. We passed a torrent of water which is not much lower than the boiling point, and has a most singular appearance as it foams over its rugged bed, sending up clouds of steam, and often concealed by the overhanging herbage of ferns and lycopodia, which here thrive with more luxuriance than elsewhere.

At about 7,500 feet we came to another hut of open bamboos, at a place called Kandang Badak, or "Rhinoceros-field," which we were going to make our temporary abode. Here was a small clearing, with abundance of tree-ferns and some young plantations of Cinchona. As there was now a thick mist and drizzling rain, I did not attempt to go on to the summit that evening, but made two visits to it during my stay, as well as one to the active crater of Gedeh. This is a vast semicircular chasm, bounded by black perpendicular walls of rock, and surrounded by miles of rugged scoria-covered slopes. The crater itself is not very deep. It exhibits patches of sulphur and variously-coloured volcanic products, and emits from several vents continual streams of smoke and vapour. The extinct cone of Pangerango was to me more interesting. The summit is an irregular undulating plain with a low bordering ridge, and one deep lateral chasm. Unfortunately, there was perpetual mist and rain either above or below us all the time I was on the mountain; so that I never once saw the plain below, or had a glimpse of the magnificent view which in fine weather is to be obtained from its summit. Notwithstanding this drawback I enjoyed the excursion exceedingly, for it was the first time I had been high enough on a mountain near the Equator to watch the change from a tropical to a temperate flora. I will now briefly sketch these changes as I observed them in Java.

On ascending the mountain, we first meet with temperate forms of herbaceous plants, so low as 3,000 feet, where strawberries and violets begin to grow, but the former are tasteless, and the latter have very small and pale flowers. Weedy composites also begin to give a European aspect to the wayside herbage. It is between 2,000 and 5,000 feet that the forests and ravines exhibit the utmost development of tropical luxuriance and beauty. The abundance of noble Tree-ferns, sometimes fifty feet high, contributes greatly to the general effect, since of all the forms of tropical vegetation they are certainly the most striking and beautiful. Some of the deep ravines which have been cleared of large timber are full of them from top to bottom; and where the road crosses one of these valleys, the view of their feathery crowns, in varied positions above and below the eye, offers a spectacle of picturesque beauty never to be forgotten. The splendid foliage of the broad-leaved Musceae and Zingiberaceae, with their curious and brilliant flowers; and the elegant and varied forms of plants allied to Begonia and Melastoma, continually attract the attention in this region. Filling in the spaces between the trees and larger plants, on every trunk and stump and branch, are hosts of Orchids, Ferns and Lycopods, which wave and hang and intertwine in ever-varying complexity. At about 5,000 feet I first saw horsetails (Equisetum), very like our own species. At 6,000 feet, raspberries abound, and thence to the summit of the mountain there are three species of eatable Rubus. At 7,000 feet Cypresses appear, and the forest trees become reduced in size, and more covered with mosses and lichens. From this point upward these rapidly increase, so that the blocks of rock and scoria that form the mountain slope are completely hidden in a mossy vegetation. At about 5,000 feet European forms of plants become abundant. Several species of Honeysuckle, St. John's-wort, and Guelder-rose abound, and at about 9,000 feet we first meet with the rare and beautiful Royal Cowslip (Primula imperialis), which is said to be found nowhere else in the world but on this solitary mountain summit. It has a tall, stout stem, sometimes more than three feet high, the root leaves are eighteen inches long, and it bears several whorls of cowslip-like flowers, instead of a terminal cluster only. The forest trees, gnarled and dwarfed to the dimensions of bushes, reach up to the very rim of the old crater, but do not extend over the hollow on its summit. Here we find a good deal of open ground, with thickets of shrubby Artemisias and Gnaphaliums, like our southernwood and cudweed, but six or eight feet high; while Buttercups, Violets, Whortleberries, Sow-thistles, Chickweed, white and yellow Cruciferae Plantain, and annual grasses everywhere abound. Where there are bushes and shrubs, the St. John's-wort and Honeysuckle grow abundantly, while the Imperial Cowslip only exhibits its elegant blossoms under the damp shade of the thickets.

The fact of a vegetation so closely allied to that of Europe occurring on isolated mountain peaks, in an island south of the Equator, while all the lowlands for thousands of miles around are occupied by a flora of a totally different character, is very extraordinary; and has only recently received an intelligible explanation. The Peak of Teneriffe, which rises to a greater height and is much nearer to Europe, contains no such Alpine flora; neither do the mountains of Bourbon and Mauritius. The case of the volcanic peaks of Java is therefore somewhat exceptional, but there are several analogous, if not exactly parallel cases, that will enable us better to understand in what way the phenomena may possibly have been brought about.

The higher peaks of the Alps, and even of the Pyrenees, contain a number of plants absolutely identical with those of Lapland, but nowhere found in the intervening plains. On the summit of the White Mountains, in the United States, every plant is identical with species growing in Labrador. In these cases all ordinary means of transport fail. Most of the plants have heavy seeds, which could not possibly be carried such immense distances by the wind; and the agency of birds in so effectually stocking these Alpine heights is equally out of the question. The difficulty was so great, that some naturalists were driven to believe that these species were all separately created twice over on these distant peaks. The determination of a recent glacial epoch, however, soon offered a much more satisfactory solution, and one that is now universally accepted by men of science. At this period, when the mountains of Wales were full of glaciers, and the mountainous parts of Central Europe, and much of America north of the great lakes, were covered with snow and ice, and had a climate resembling that of Labrador and Greenland at the present day, an Arctic flora covered all these regions. As this epoch of cold passed away, and the snowy mantle of the country, with the glaciers that descended from every mountain summit, receded up their slopes and towards the north pole, the plants receded also, always clinging as now to the margins of the perpetual snow line. Thus it is that the same species are now found on the summits of the mountains of temperate Europe and America, and in the barren north-polar regions.

But there is another set of facts, which help us on another step towards the case of the Javanese mountain flora. On the higher slopes of the Himalayas, on the tops of the mountains of Central India and of Abyssinia, a number of plants occur which, though not identical with those of European mountains, belong to the same genera, and are said by botanists to represent them; and most of these could not exist in the warm intervening plains. Mr. Darwin believes that this class of facts can be explained in the same way; for, during the greatest severity of the glacial epoch, temperate forms of plants will have extended to the confines of the tropics, and on its departure, will have retreated up these southern mountains, as well as northward to the plains and hills of Europe. But in this case, the time elapsed, and the great change of conditions, have allowed many of these plants to become so modified that we now consider them to be distinct species. A variety of other facts of a similar nature have led him to believe that the depression of temperature was at one time sufficient to allow a few north-temperate plants to cross the Equator (by the most elevated routes) and to reach the Antarctic regions, where they are now found. The evidence on which this belief rests will be found in the latter part of Chapter II. of the "Origin of Species"; and, accepting it for the present as an hypothesis, it enables us to account for the presence of a flora of European type on the volcanoes of Java.

More information about Alfred Russel Wallace from Wikipedia

More selections from English Naturalists:




More selections (25) in this category: Science


More selections (25) in the iTunes category: Science & Medicine/Natural Sciences

university press audiobooks
Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships



A Natural History of the Romance Novel



TITAN II A History of a Cold War Missile Program



Who is Jesus? History in Perfect Tense



Around the World with LBJ My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant



A People's History of Baseball



Krishnamurti Reflections of the Self



Dominican Baseball New Pride, Old Prejudice



The American Dream A Cultural History



Playing for Keeps A History of Early Baseball



Steamboats and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom



The Art of Command Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell<p>



Cognitive Literary Studies Current Themes and New Directions



Resister A Story of Protest and Prison during the Vietnam War



Inside Moves



Is Democracy Possible Here? Principles for a New Political Debate



Aesthetics   |   Baseball Lessons   |   Business & Economics   |   Drama   |   Fables & Tales   |   History/Society/Politics   |   Human Sciences   |   Medicine   |   Novels   |   Philosophy   |   Poetry   |   Science   |   Short Stories   |   Travel/Adventure   |   iTunes Categories   |   Links   |   Latest Additions