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ing those greater questions of public policy that naturally arise from their community of interests. The proposition to convene a Pan-American congress was for several years viewed with suspicion, and was even designated by some as chimerical, but the suggestion took root. Many thoughtful men believed such a conference would lead to a better understanding between the people of the states represented, and that, while the fruits might not be made immediately apparent, the foundation would be laid for lasting benefits. The interest manifested by the different nations and the high character of the representatives they sent to the conference clearly indicated that deliberations were to be undertaken in good faith. We need not follow the deliberations of this body, nor even revert to the many questions discussed. Since the adjournment we are beginning to appreciate some of the results. The recent establishment of the "Bureau of the American Republics" is one of the first practical evidences of work accomplished. This bureau is maintained by propor tionate contributions from the nations represented in the congress, and is intended to be the medium for collecting and disseminating information on commercial, industrial, and cognate subjects. If we consider the different characteristics of the people of the two continents-their manners, customs and methods of business-we can readily conceive the bureau has before it a labor of no little magnitude, but one that, fairly accomplished, cannot fail to be beneficial and of lasting value.
Further evidence of the work of the congress is apparent in the organization of a commission of experts to project the longcontemplated inter-continental railway-a scheme that, dependent upon individual effort, would doubtless require many years for accomplishment, but undertaken under international auspices we may hope will be pressed to a speedy conclusion.
The assembly of delegates to consider a monetary unit for the republics of the two continents is also the result of the congress. The progress of this conference will doubtless be watched with peculiar interest, coming as it does when our own people are in the midst of a reäctionary effort to habilitate silver as a standard coin.
The revolution a year ago that gave birth to the United States of Brazil, it was feared by many would lead to a state of anarchy that would end disastrously to the new nation and perhaps involve neighboring states. Fortunately these forebodings have
The Nicaragua and Panama Canals.
not been realized, and the recent general election in Brazil, which seems to have been conducted without violence. has caused a feeling of confidence that we may well believe will continue and permit this great state to enter heartily into the new era of material development that seems opening to our sister republics.
Work on the construction of the Nicaragua canal has steadily progressed during the year. A harbor for light-draft vessels has been constructed at San Juan del Norte, and satisfactory progress has been made in constructing the railway designed to facilitate the work of excavation. It has been hoped by the friends of this project that the canal would be constructed with funds raised by private subscription. The admirable management of the preliminary work of surveying and organization were good grounds for their belief; but the bill recently introduced in Congress asking a guarantee for one hundred millions of bonds to be issued, indicates that expectations of friends were too sanguine, and that the financial backing that had been believed to be assured has for some reason not been developed. This may be only a temporary alarm, due to the general financial stringency that has prevailed during the past few months, and on the recurrence of an easier money market the necessity for the relief asked from Congress will disappear.
The Panama canal project, supposed to have been abandoned in hopeless financial ruin, has recently been revived, with new concessions extending the period for construction, and, it is currently reported, a scheme for a colossal lottery company for raising the means for prosecuting the work. It seems incredible that this canal shall become a fact in this generation; but if it is the feasible route its projectors claim, it is not improbable that the demands of a future generation may necessitate its construction.
A year ago I commented upon the improvement of the Mississippi river. Since then one of the greatest floods on record has visited the lower river country, devastating a large area. It brought to the settlers in the valley, however, a new experience, and has inspired them with a confidence in the levée system that finds expression in the demand for levées of approved construction from Cairo to the Gulf. The flood of a year ago covered many square miles. A large proportion of the area, how
ever, was not protected by levées, and another large proportion was only partially protected; and while, therefore, the disaster impressed the general public with a belief that the levées were a failure, the facts really point to the contrary. In former notable floods it has not been unusual for one hundred or more miles of levée to be washed away before the flood subsided, but on the recent occasion there was a total length of less than five miles destroyed in some 1,100 miles of levée that had been believed to be safe. This is a remarkable showing, and has naturally inspired the advocates of the system with greater confidence, It points to the possibility of constructing levées at a reasonable expense that will stand the pressure of water for the height that it has been computed necessary to build them. There is a grave doubt, however, in the minds of some as to whether the computed heights, the levées holding intact, will afford sufficient cross-section to carry off the volume of water draining from the catchment basins. Some interesting computations on this subject have recently been made by General Greely, the chief signal officer,* from observations made during an extended period.
The question raised is not a new one, but, considered in the light of the statistics presented, seems to involve the problem of the improvement of the river with increasing difficulties. General Greely's figures indicate that the cross-section of the lower river will only permit carrying to the sea a volume of about sixty cubic miles of water during an ordinary flood season, and that in the extraordinary flood years, such as 1882 and 1890, the volume to be carried down is about eighty cubic miles, showing an excess of about twenty cubic miles over the capacity of the river in a specified time. These figures should be taken in the nature of a warning; and while it must be admitted that the intricacy of the problem precludes precision, their probable reliability should be carefully studied before an extended levée system is built intended to guarantee protection against exceptional floods.
During recent years the complex and perplexing subject of geographic nomenclature has received the careful consideration. of a number of the European nations, with a view to reaching a uniformity in treatment and the transliteration of names of unwritten languages into Roman characters. England, France, and
*North American Review, May, 1890.
The American Board on Geographic Names.
Germany have adopted substantially the same system of rules. Recent publications from these countries evidence the intention to apply them as rapidly as circumstances will permit. Although we may rebel at first on seeing such familiar names as Cairo spelled with a K, Mecca with double k, and Muscat converted into Maskat, it is believed the general principles adopted will eventually receive acquiescence-perhaps half-hearted at firstand as the utility of the system becomes more apparent through its universal adoption and we realize that maps from whatever nation will give us the names of the same places in substantially the same form, our prejudices must give way.
Under the provisions of an executive order issued on the fourth of September last, our own Government has virtually adopted the European system in the treatment of foreign names, thus bringing us in accord with the principal nations upon a most important subject to students and geographers the world over. The executive order constitutes a board composed of ten representatives from different departments and bureaus of the Government service, to which all questions relating to the work of the board that may arise in the departments are to be referred, and requires all persons in the Government service to respect the decisions that may be rendered. The board in its first bulletin, recently issued, has announced its adoption of the English system for the treatment of foreign names and transliteration into Roman characters, and has presented principles to guide in reaching decisions affecting home names. These principles will doubtless be added to as new questions arise, so that at no very distant day we may see formulated a set of rules that will be instructive as well as useful in their application. The first bulletin seems to have been received favorably, and we may hope, as the work of the board advances and the importance of the subject is more generally realized, that it will gain the hearty endorsement of the public and a support that must largely increase the usefulness of its labors.
In conclusion, permit me to congratulate the society upon its first attempt at scientific exploration in the field. The Mount St. Elias expedition, under the leadership of Mr. I. C. Russell with Mr. Mark B. Kerr as topographer, left Seattle, Washington, in June last, and after spending more than two months on the mountain sides, one-half their time above the snow line, have
6-NAT. GEOG. MAG., VOL. III, 1891.
returned with notes, specimens, and data of the greatest interest. The topography was sketched over an area of about one thousand square miles, and includes the determination of the geographical position and elevation of Mount St. Elias and many neighboring peaks. Mount St. Elias is indicated to be not so high by some 4,000 feet as the heretofore accepted elevation, 19,500 feet. The difficulties attending the determination of the height of this mountain are so great that the range between the extreme elevations that have been given by different explorers is nearly 6,000 feet. This is believed to be the first height for it that has been derived from a carefully measured base, and it therefore should receive great weight. But I regret to say that in the chain of triangles connecting with the top of the mountain, the difficulty of placing well-conditioned triangles seems to have been so great that the observers were forced to accept very small included angles, which necessarily casts a doubt upon the resulting distances. We must therefore accept the new elevation with caution until it is verified by further observations.
The party was unfortunately prevented from reaching the top of Mount St. Elias by severe storms, but the ascent was so nearly accomplished that Mr. Russell is confident he found a practicable route; and it seems probable that had he been started ten days or two weeks earlier the first ascent of Mount St. Elias would have been recorded as a part of the work of the expedition.
The full report of this expedition is now nearing completion, and will be published by the Society at an early date. To this I must refer you for the interesting details, and experiences encountered by the explorers.
The expedition was organized by the Society, but in congratulating ourselves we should not forget that our thanks are due to the United States Geological Survey for the assignment of officers to conduct the work in the field and for assistance rendered in the organization; and we may hope the substantial results that have been secured will prove as pleasing to that great national work as they are to your board of managers.
Washington, January 23, 1891.