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“ fortress,” and Nijni-Kamtchatka, in the valley of the Kamtchatka river, is the only other place of consequence. Altogether, in the Peninsula, which varies in breadth from 30 to 120 miles, there may be about 80,000 square miles. The volcanoes, only one of which (Kliuchev, 16,131 feet) is of great height, constitute the northern continuation of those traversing the Philippine and the Japanese Islands. On the east, where the mountains approach close to the shore, the cliffs are high and precipitous, but
as most of the inlets are blocked at their mouths with reefs, the harbours which naturally exist are for the present incapable of being utilised, and as the only river which cannot be employed as an inlet to the country debouches into a shallow bay exposed to the full force of the easterly winds, the opening up of Kamtchatka is still in the far future. Nor is there much to develop. The few vegetables grown—when they are not destroyed by untimely frosts, heavy rains, or armies of mice and rats—are not more than sufficient, for local consumption, and the same may be said in regard to the cattle and horses which are reared in the valley of the river just noted. Accordingly, unless mines are discovered, the peninsula is likely for ever to remain in its present condition of solitary desolation, a
home for a few semi-savages of habits too disgusting to be recorded in all their minutiæ, and for convicts harmless enough to be trusted so near the sea.*
The great rivers of Siberia flow into the Arctic Sea, but that which drains the Amoor country debouches into the Pacific : hence its importance. The Amoor, Amour, Amur, or Sakalin, formed by the union of several streams, is in all about 1,000 miles in length. Naturally, therefore, the climate of the country through which it flows varies. In the upper part of its course the summers are short and the winters cold ; further south it passes through a region which enjoys almost tropical heat. Here oaks, limes, and elms flourish in great forests, instead of the stunted larch and firs on its upper waters. On the lower Amoor the climate is again that of typical Siberia. The river is frozen up half the year, and the general surroundings are also of the Island of Saghalint, opposite which is its mouth (Vol. IV., p. 316). Amoorland first became known to the Russians in 1639, and soon after then Cossack irregulars began conflicts with the Chinese, who controlled and partially occupied the country. These skirmishes were not always on the side of the invaders, but in the end a treaty was concluded, the effect of which was to transfer a considerable portion of the region from the Chinese to the Russians.
This was in 1689, and up to 1817 there were not many alterations of the state of matters thus brought about. But in 1817 the Russians began to make preparations for further conquests in the Amoor Valley, which preparations ended as they have usually done when the Asiatic pot and the Russian pan came into collision ; for in 1860 the whole Amoor Valley, as we now know it, fell into the hands of the Czar, and has continued as part of his dominions. Though the advantages to be gained by the possession of this country have not been fulfilled to the extravagant extent it was at one time believed they would eventuate in, it cannot be denied that the Amoor drains a country for the most part very fine, and that eventually it may form a home for millions quite as attractive as most parts of Canada. Though the Amoor proper is only 1,600 miles long, its tributaries are many of them very large rivers, and altogether, taking its largest feeders as the continuation of the river, it is over 2,860 miles long, and 2,200 of these are navigable by steamer. Altogether, it drains an area of 766,000 square miles, comprising much fertile and well-wooded country. The "Amoor Province” proper embraces an area of 164,000 square miles, while part of the Littoral Province, under which is also included Kamtchatka, is embraced in this country. The total population of the former province was, in 1873, 25,201—the greater portion of them Tungoose barbarians (p. 8) and con
* Kamtchatka never changes much. Accordingly, the chief literaturo on it, though old, is yet quite seasonable. The works of Krasbeninnikov have been translated into English, and those of Cochrane, Cottrell, Dobell, Habersham, Tronson, Collins, Kittlitz, Steller, and Erman, in addition to the more recent narratives of Kennan and Bush, almost exhaust the original sources of information on this part of Eastern Siberia, unless we accept the numerous official-political, geographical, and scientific-reports presented to the St. Petersburg authorities from time to time ; but these are, for the most part, in the Russian language.
+ Also spelled “ Sakalin,” and “ Saghalien.” The native name is said to be “Krafto,” or “ Taraki,” under the latter of which designations the Russians are now beginning to describe it.
victs. There are numerous steamboats on the river, and a considerable trade is carried on. But the channel is narrow and intricate, and even, according to Captain Bax, with a vessel drawing only eight feet and a half of water, the greatest care is necessary to keep it from grounding. It, however, abounds with salmon and other fish, and may, under a better system, contribute more extensively than it does at present to the wealth of the world.* Mr. Ronald Bridgett, who, a few years ago, made a voyage up the river, describes the ice on it as breaking up in April, and moving away down stream with great uproar at the rate of about twenty miles a day. By the middle of October it again begins to freeze, and when sufficiently firm a sledge track follows the course of the stream, post stations being established at intervals of fifteen to thirty miles, and provided with the customary Government order, the traveller can ordinarily obtain post-horses, though on the lower part of the river he has to content himself with a Giliak sledge and a team of dogs. The winter post from Nikolaievsk to St. Petersburg across Siberia usually occupies fifty to fifty-five days, but there is a case on record in which a Government courier, travelling uninterruptedly, made the journey in thirty days. During the summer months steamers ascend from Nikolaievsk, in the Pacific, to Stretensk, on the Shilka tributary, in the Government of Transbaikalia, in about the same period, though the descent is made in half that time, the steamer anchoring during the night.
Nikolaievsk (p. 9), the capital of the Government, is, when first seen by the voyager entering from the Gulf of Tartary, a rather striking place. The houses are not numerous, but their green and red shingle roofs, contrasted with sombre forests, give a gay aspect to the town. The buildings are usually of one storey, and built of wood, with double windows to exclude the cold, which, during the seven months' winter, is intense. There is a public library and reading-room, and a club where balls and concerts of the amateur musical talent of the place are held; but the wide streets, bordered by a wooden plankway, are very deserted looking, and the garden, where the band performs in the summer evenings, is an enclosure where weeds and a few seats have taken the place of the forest which everywhere else dominates, except where it has been hewn to supply the place with fuel and timber. The church is—as in all Russian towns-a prominent object ; but the dreary cemetery, among the rugged stump-dotted ground in the outskirts of the town, is among the most desolate of the cities of the dead. The river is at this spot about a mile in width, and on the opposite shore is bounded by lofty pine-clothed cliffs. Villages dot the river banks at intervals, and rolling wooded hills arise from the water's edges for the first few miles, though here and there the stream widens out and divides into a number of channels. The Russian peasants at these villages grow grain for their own maintenance, and feed a few bullocks on the meadow hay. They have firewood, fowls, milk, eggs, wild strawberries and raspberries, potatoes, cucumbers, &c., for sale, but appear far from prosperous, and not much more comfortable in their ménage than their neighbours, the Giliaks and Goldi, who live by fishing and hunting. The
* Collins : “Exploration of the Amoor River" (1858); Ravenstein : “ Russians on the Amour" (1861); Schrenck: “Reisen und Forschungen im Amurland” (1858-67); Atkinson: "Travels in the Region of the Amoor” (1868); lists of works in Chavanne, Karpf and Le Monnier: "Die Literatur über Polar-Regionen " (1878) relating to the neighbouring country.
mosquitoes, which darken the air, make life by no means a summer dream, and the bush fires, which often envelop the country in smoke during the warm weather, render any settlement in the back country precarious. After leaving the river's mouth, everything in the form of a road ceases : the river is hereafter the only highway. Khabarofka, 614 miles from Nikolaievsk, where there is a garrison, is destined to become a place of some importance, for here the River Usuri, which flows from Mantchuria in the south, joins the Amoor. For some days after leaving this town the river banks are flat and uninteresting, and the current divided into a number of channels by several low islands. At EkaterinNikolski, a Cossack village, the passage of the Hinghan mountains begin. The stream then becomes very rapid, and narrows to about a quarter of a mile in width. The scenery also changes entirely. Instead of fat, monotonous, wooded shores, hills 1,000 to
1,500 feet in height rise precipitously from the water's edge, on either side. Birch, fir, and mountain oak cover them, while at intervals the steamer passes the outlets of valleys, which add to the beauty of the scene. For fifty miles this is the characteristic of the stream. Then there is a change after the Hinghan mountains are passed. The country opens out in swelling woodland interspersed with park-like patches of grass, so that the banks on either side look not unlike the English downs. Russian villages multiply, and considerable quantities of grain are cultivated in the now more genial climate of the south. Mantchu villages appear on the Chinese shore, while a few gaily painted junks belonging to the navy begin to strike the eye at the spot where the river forms the boundary between the Russian and Chinese territory; and at fifteen miles above Aigun, at the junction of the River Dsaya with the Amoor, is Blagovestchensk, the residence of the Governor of Amoorland. It is, next to Nikolaievsk, the principal town on the river, and consists of two streets running parallel to the river banks, the houses rather