Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

MULES LOADED WITH COFFEE: MT. ORIZABA IN THE DISTANCE

[graphic][merged small]

treatment; a rubber planter went south to the Isthmus, an oil-man north to the petroleum deposits near Tuxpam, and an archeologist left for the ruins on the table-land.

Some came to buy, others to sell, and in more settled lands we might have had small interest in them or their calling, but your commercial man in the tropics is often an adventurer at heart and an explorer in practice, and if his reports to his "house" never reach the pages of a geographic magazine, we may admit that they not infrequently contain more novel information than many reports that do. Gratefully do I acknowledge my debt to these Knights of Trade, whose intimate knowledge of little-known trails and places has been of no small value in solving problems of transportation and subsistence.

WE PASS THROUGH TROPICAL, TEMPERATE, AND BOREAL ZONES IN 75 MILES My own mission in Mexico was to make field studies and collect specimens and accessories for an American Museum Habitat Group, designed to illustrate the effect of altitude on the distribution of life; and the fact that nowhere on the American hemisphere can this be

Photo by Frank M. Chapman

done so effectively as in the country lying between sea-level and snow-line on Mt. Orizaba, is in direct support of the claims made for the diverse interests of this truly wonderful region.

Reference to a map of the natural life areas of North America shows the tropic region stret ing up two narrow arms on the Gulf and Pacific coasts of Mexico which, in places on the higher Sierras, are paralleled by southern extensions of Bethe Canadian Zone of the north. tween the two lie bands of the Temperate Zone.

Thus, in our journey from the Gulf to the summit of the Sierra, we pass through Tropical, Temperate, and Boreal zones-the Tierras Caliente, Templada. and Fria, of the native. Our actual journey, in passing from sea-level to snowline, may be a matter of 75 miles, our change of altitude approximately three miles; but if we were to seek the Canadian Zone not on mountain top but on the coast, it would be necessary for us to travel to Maine or Nova Scotia. In other words, a journey of some 1,500 miles would be required to reach conditions which are here distant but three altitudinal miles.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[graphic]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

Soon the Tamesi narrowed to 150 or 200 feet, a width it held with surprisingly little variation throughout the day. For a time it wound through a grazing country, which is overflowed in the rainy season, where cattle were numerous and trees almost wanting; then for miles we passed through plantations of bananas. This moisture-loving plant can be grown here only in the narrow strip formerly occupied by the original forest on the banks of the river. With the forest had gone most of the wild life; but man himself was here sufficiently primitive to be a part of the fauna, and his picturesque

[ocr errors]

Photo by Frank M. Chapman

thatched cabins and log-hewn canoes, and the passing glimpses of his way of life on land and water, afforded interesting illustrations of the manner in which he meets his environment.

About 60 miles from Tampico we first encountered primeval forest, which in this low, comparatively arid coastal zone is restricted to the river banks, and the immediate increase in the number and variety of birds seen, stimulated a somewhat flagging faith in the accuracy of statements concerning the bird life about the plantation which, be it confessed, we had received with more or less incredulity.

It was 5.30 when we arrived, with just enough daylight left to pitch our tents in the ranch-house clearing on the banks of the river. The brown stream flowed silently by some 20 feet below us, with no hint of the loss to life and property it had caused only the preceding season, when it flooded the country for miles.

It is commonly believed that to see

« PreviousContinue »