Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  8 (1884), 165–80.

The Nile

Dr A Trautvetter


Essay, Travelogue

Relevant illustrations:

eng. [13]


Imperialism, Physical Geography, Geology, Ancient Authorities, Ethnography

    At a time when 'all eyes are turned eastward, and Egypt has become an object of actual and almost hourly interest', narrates 'an imaginary pilgrimage' along the Nile, describing, amongst other things, the complete dependence of Egyptian wildlife and agriculture on the regular flooding of the river (165 and 180). Also notes that even 'when geographical knowledge was in its infancy, Herodotus expressed an opinion, which modern science has confirmed, viz., that not only the Delta, but the whole lower valley of the Nile, had originally been a gulf, filled out gradually by the enormous masses of mud carried along and deposited by the tempestuous river. Nay, more, he even prophesised that, should the river ever change its course, and choose the Red Sea as point of exit, the same phenomenon would be repeated, and in twenty, or even ten, thousand years a new and fruitful continent would be formed where now all is water' (165). Suggests that readers who want to gain 'an approximate idea of the quantities deposited by the Nile during the time of inundation' should consider 'a glass of water left standing for an hour', in which 'from one to two inches of sediment will be found' (165–66). Asserts that 'One of the peculiarities of the rivers of Africa—this land of mystery, typified by the Sphinx guarding its gates—is that they take the longest possible way to reach the sea' (166). Discusses the theories of the 'savants of the ancient time' as to the cause of the flooding of the Nile, some of whom, including Anaxagoras but not Herodotus, came upon the answer which now 'we know to be the true one, viz., [...] the melting of immense masses of snow accumulated on the mountains in Central Africa' (167).

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