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SCIENCE OF THE YEAR.
A TOTAL eclipse of the sun took place on August 21, but owing to the war the observations were much interfered with, the expeditions to Riga and Kieff having to be abandoned. The Greenwich party obtained good results at Minsk, as also the Royal Astronomical Society's party at Hermosand (Sweden). The prominences were numerous and active, and took fantastic forms; the corona was of a slightly modified minimum type, and the solar plexus was very pronounced. In London, 65 per cent. of the surface was obscured, as against 92 per cent. in 1912. The eclipse was one of a long series which began in 1211, and will end in 1986. There will be no total eclipse during the present year, the next two dates being February, 1916, and June, 1918.
The dearth of sunspots, which had not been so marked for over a century, came to an end late in March, when a spot about 25,000 miles in diameter appeared on the N.E. limb, and became doubled shortly afterwards. From August 13 to August 25 a spot was visible to the naked eye.
Dr. St. John, using the 60 feet spectrograph on Mount Wilson, finds that vapours rush outwards radially from the interior of a spot, while the motion of chromospheric matter is inwards.
A transit of Mercury took place on November 7, and lasted about four hours. It was well observed, but was not expected to yield results of importance. The last transit occurred in 1907, the next two are due in 1924 and 1927.
The very small ninth satellite of Jupiter, of the nineteenth magnitude, was photographed for the first time, on July 21, by Mr. Seth B. Robinson. Its orbit is elliptical, and its motion retrograde, with a period of about
Several of the satellites of Saturn have been shown to have equal periods of rotation and revolution, like our moon.
The Astronomer Royal, Dr. F. W. Dyson, lecturing at the Royal Institution, on April 24, said that the solar system was near the middle of a finite group of stars, the limiting distances of which were from 1,000 to 10,000 parsecs. (By “parsec" is meant a parallax of one second, corresponding to a distance equal to 206,265 times that of the sun.) About 88 per cent. of the stars brighter than 10.5 magnitude are from 20,000,000 to 150,000,000 times as far off as the sun, and of these 90 to 95 per cent. are intrinsically brighter, 87 per cent, being fifty times as bright, or more. Red stars are very distant; yellow stars, on the whole, are nearest, and the distance increases as the colour changes to blue or orange. The thinning out in the number of stars at very remote distances is conspicuous.
Professor E. W. Brown, addressing the Cosmical Physics section of the British Association, spoke of his work on the motion of the moon, which had occupied him for twenty years. All gravitational forces have been taken account of, and the improved tables will be made use of in the Nautical Almanac for 1919, the intermediate issues having already been printed. A few residual corrections remain, the origin of which may be due to electrical or other forces.
A selenium photometer for determining stellar magnitudes, devised by Mr. Joel Stebbins, and improved by Rosenberg of Tübingen, enables a magnitude to be determined within about 1-500th, after a couple of minutes' exposure, using a 5-inch refractor. By the ordinary method the process is very much more tedious and less accurate.
The Canadian reflector of 72-inch aperture will be ready in about two years, and will be erected on a hill seven miles north of Victoria, B.C. It is designed for spectrographic work and for photographing star-clusters and nebulæ. Its focal length of 30 feet can be increased to 108 feet by a Cassegrainian combination.
The first comet of the year (1914 a) was discovered on March 29, by Kritzinger, in Ophiuchus ; the second (1914 b) by Zlatinsky, on May 15, in Perseus, and the third (1914 c) by Neujmin, on June 29. The thirty-third return of Encke’s comet was observed in November ; its perihelion is now nine days later than if the motion had continued as in 1848.
An aerolite, one of the largest ever known to have fallen in Great Britain, descended in a field at Appley Bridge, near Wigan, on October 13. The weight of the two principal fragments was 28 lb. 13 02., and it measured a little over 9 inches in each dimension. It was composed of olivine 63.43 per cent., enstatite 31.5 per cent., pyrites and metallic matter 5.07 per cent., and showed traces of superficial fusion, but presented no exceptional features apart from its size.
C. L. B.
The gases expelled from the volcano of Kilauea, unmixed with air, have been collected on the spot, and examined by Day and Shepherd, who found them to consist chiefly of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, sulphuretted hydrogen, hydrochloric acid, and, of course, water vapour. No argon or other rare gases could be detected.
Mr. A. Brun, who has had the hardihood to descend about 1,000 feet into the crater of Vesuvius, found at that level a floor in which was an aperture some 200 feet deep, from which issued gases, steam, and other concomitants of volcanic action. His results are published in a monograph (1914) wherein he assigns to water vapour a less important part than had hitherto been ascribed to it. Mr. F. Burlingham, on the same occasion, took kinematograph pictures of the interior of the crater, which were exhibited in London early in the year.
At the British Association meeting in Australia a human skull was exhibited, which had been found about thirty years previously in a cave near Warwick (north of the Darling range), but not till recently carefully examined. It was associated with Pleistocene animal remains, though the fauna of Australia has changed more rapidly than in most other countries, and the period must not be put too far back. The skull was of a more primitive type than even the Piltdown specimen (A.R., 1913, p. 55), the anterior width being greatest at the level of the nose, and the summit was peak-shaped instead of dome-shaped. Moreover, the facial angle was hardly 45 degrees, instead of being a right angle or more, and the upper canine teeth were disproportionately large, and conical. The race to which it belonged is supposed to have migrated from Western Asia, and to have died out before giving rise to any of the savage tribes inhabiting the continent since the historic period.
Mr. A. D. Hall, of the Development Commission, referred in the Agricultural Section of the Association to the large waste areas on the earth which might be made productive by drainage, manuring, tillage, or other treatment without excessive expenditure. Many of these occur in populous countries, and many more in remoter or uncivilised districts.
The occurrence of coal in Arctic regions is no new discovery, and for eight or nine years it has been exported from Spitzbergen, the amount in 1913 being some 40,000 tons. The coal is of tertiary age, and is of good quality for steam-raising purposes. It is found conveniently near the surface, close to Advent Bay, and the absence of liquid water, of dust and fire-damp, eliminates the ordinary risks of coal-mining. It is a problem still unsolved by geologists how the warm climate necessary for the vegetation of a carboniferous epoch could have been brought about, either in Spitzbergen or the high southern latitudes in which Sir Douglas Mawson (see “ The Home of the Blizzard,” 1914) discovered samples. Astronomical and geographical changes have both been invoked, but without furnishing a satisfactory demonstration.
Attention has recently been called to the great marble deposits in Spitzbergen, which yield stones of varied and often new colours, and suitable for building or ornamental purposes. As in the case of coal the situation of the quarries-in King's Bay and elsewhere-leaves nothing to be desired from the exporter's point of view.
C. L. B.
A gift of 24,0001. from Sir James Caird to Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition across the Antarctic placed the enterprise on a sure footing and enabled the leader and his staff to proceed rapidly with their preparations. By July the members of the expedition were chosen ; Mr. Frank Wild is second in command of the Weddell Sea party, Lieut. F. A. Worsley is in navigating command of the Endurance on the voyage from London to Buenos Ayres and the Weddell Sea, and Lieutenant A. Mackintosh is leader of the party which sails in the Aurora for the Ross Sea area.
The Endurance left Plymouth for the Antarctic on August 8, and Sir Ernest Shackleton followed from Liverpool on September 19 to overtake her in South America, leaving Buenos Ayres for South Georgia on October 27. It is now intended that the Endurance shall winter in the Antarctic in latitude 77° 30' S. ; if this point is reached early enough the trans-Antarctic journey can be begun this season, and in that case Sir Ernest hopes to meet the Ross Sea party in April, 1915, but, if not, then in March, 1916. Wireless telegraphic apparatus is to be installed so that communication can be kept up with the rest of the world.
At the base in the Weddell Sea area the party is to divide into three divisions; the main one under Sir Ernest Shackleton will proceed on the trans-Antarctic journey of 1,700 miles to meet the Ross Sea party ; a westerly division will explore the continuation of the Victoria Mountains; and an easterly division will investigate Enderby Land.
The Ross Sea party will send out a division over the Barrier Ice which will follow the route up Beardmore Glacier to meet the leader of the expedition and his comrades. It is intended on the land journeys to use motor sledges and an aeroplane with truncated wings, as well as dogs of which there are one hundred.
Sir Douglas Mawson has communicated to the Royal Geographical Society a complete account of his voyage to Antarctica and his journey inland, the region investigated lying due south of Australia between longitude 90° and 150° east. The expedition sailed from Hobart on December 2, 1911, in the Aurora and made for Macquerie Island, a rocky structure twenty miles long by three and a half broad, where a party was left for purposes of research. Here a wireless telegraph station was established, and by its means communication was kept up with the main contingent in Antarctica and with Australia. On January 6, 1912, an ice tongue of immense size was sighted projecting from continental land, where, after some difficulty, a harbour was found near Cape Denison, and by January 19 a house was erected and the stores had been transferred thither. On this part of the coast the gales blowing from the land seem to be almost continuous and greatly add to the danger of navigation; for example, at Adelie Land, the average wind velocity is fifty miles an hour, average hourly velocities of 100 miles an hour were common, and ninety miles an hour for twenty-four hours has been recorded.
Three inland journeys were undertaken in an easterly direction, the longest being under the leadership of Dr. Mawson ; it was on this journey that Lieutenant Ninnis was killed by falling into a crevasse and Dr. Mertz died from exposure, while the leader himself, left alone to struggle to the base, would have succumbed but for the fortunate discovery of a store of provisions. A fourth exploring party was led by Mr. Bage in a southerly direction over the plateau, and a fifth was conducted by Mr. Bickerton over the high lands towards the West. Seven members of the expedition remained on Adelie Land for a second year, and finally Adelaide was reached on February 26, 1914.
A new Anglo-Swedish expedition is under consideration to explore thoroughly the part of the Antarctic continent due south of South America. It will be under the leadership of Professor Nordenskjold.
Dr. Steffansson sailed more than a year ago on the Karluk for the western part of the Northern Archipelago, but the vessel, after being caught in the ice in lat. 70° 47' N., long. 150° 7' W., was wrecked on January 11, 1914, through the ice unexpectedly breaking up. Captain Bartlett and eight others were rescued from Wrangel Island by the U.S. Government ship Bear, but eleven members of the expedition, including most of the scientific staff, have been lost. Dr. Steffansson, who had left the Karluk before she was wrecked, travelled northwards until open water was reached ; thence in pursuit of his journey he thought he might be driven by wind and currents on to Banks Island, and in that event he would await help there. Whalers who have touched at the island have, however, seen no trace of him and his three companions.
Dr. Bruce returned in September from Spitzbergen, where he has been engaged in hydrographical and other research work.
Mr. Jonas Lied sailed in July for Northern Siberia with the intention of opening up a commercial 'route over the sea with that country. The venture has been partly successful, but the expedition had to return earlier than expected and a larger one has now been organised.
The Norwegian explorer Sverdrup has been endeavouring to trace the fate of more than one Russian expedition in the polar area north of Europe and Asia.
No news is yet to hand of Professor Macmillan's expedition for the exploration of the region north of Grant Land.
A report on the recent work of Sir A. Stein in Central Asia has been received. Crossing the Tarim he reached Niya where he discovered in a sand-buried settlement documents in the Indian language. Evidence of Chinese occupation and Chinese trade were discovered in the course of his travels, copper coins, arrow-heads and relics of the silk trade being among the articles found. He is now proceeding to Kan-su for further work of exploration.
Dr. Filippi has been engaged in scientific work in Baltistan in Northern Kashmir, his winter base being Skardu, the capital, which is situated at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet. Observations for establishing longitudinal data have been carried on here and at Dehra Dun, and gravimetrical work was accomplished at Wozul Hardu at an elevation of 14,000 feet.
Captain F. M. Bailey has returned from the exploration of the Tsangpo or Upper Brahmaputra River, having mapped its course for 380 miles. He has discovered a mountain named Gyala Peri, the altitude of which is 24,460 feet, and he has traced the upper waters of the Subansivi, a river which rises north of the Himalayas and breaks through them.
Captains Pemberton and Trenchard have continued their travels in the region of the Plains of Assam ; Mr. Kingdon Ward has attempted to penetrate South-East Tibet from China, but had to return on account of political difficulties ; and Dr. Legendre is undertaking a new journey to Western China.
In Sumatra Mr. Boden Kloss has made a journey to Mount Indrapura, a volcano with an active crater and the highest point in that country.
· Ex-President Roosevelt, in conjunction with Colonel Rondon, has made an expedition in Brazil down the Rio Duvida, the personnel of the expedition including Mr. Kermit Roosevelt, two biologists, an engineer and a surgeon. After four days' progress along the river cataracts were met with, and the next sixty miles took forty-two days to accomplish. The last cataract was passed about latitude 10° 50' S., and in latitude 5° 20' S, the river joins the Madeira. This is the most important tributary of the Madeira below the junction of the Beni and Mamoré, but hitherto it has not been mapped and the expedition has accomplished a remarkable piece of work.
An account has been published by Dr. Rose, an experienced traveller, of his journeys in the region of the sources of the Vaupeo River as far as the Rio Negro, his object being mainly topographical,