Physical Geography of Western Tibet.
Tibet is an extraneous appellation unknown to the inhabitants of the country we so designate, and apparently adopted by Europeans through the medium of the Asiatic Turks and Persians, whose Tbt some English writers have improved into Thibet, and French and Germans into Tubet. I cannot set aside a word which long prescription has so completely naturalized in our language, but in using it I shall retain the simplest form and the nearest to the Turkish original. The true autochthonous name of our Tibet is Bodyul, which would be properly rendered into English Bodeland: it is also called simply Bod. The Bhot (and Bhotiya) of the Indians is no doubt derived from this word, although the Tibetans have stories otherwise accounting for the Indian name. The Hun and Hundes of the Hill Indians are about equivalent to our Tartars and Tartaric; and where these are used, the more correct terms are improperly restricted to those Tibetan stragglers who have crossed the Indian passes, and applied to the Himalayan regions in which they have taken up their abode.
The Tibetans, no less than other nations, greatly corrupt the indigenous names, or invent spurious names of their own, for the foreign countries nearest or best known to them; and the geographer should understand these. Gyanak, i. e. the Great Black, is China, so called from the predominance of black (or dark blue) in the dress of the Chinese people: but a Chinaman is called simply Gyami, i. e. Great Man, and in Tibetan estimation he is preeminently such. Gyagar, i. e. the Great White, is India, so called from the general dress of the people. Gyaser, i. e. the Great Yellow, is Russia; whether so called from the supposed prevalence of auburn hair or yellow clothing among the Russian people, I know not. Filing is a corruption of the Persian and Turkish Farang, denoting Europe: Gyafiling, i. e. Great Frankland, though properly signifying Europe, is commonly applied to British India. Horyul is Turkland--in the language of its own inhabitants Turkistan; and particularly the South-eastern region next to Tibet, or the Kingdom of Kashghar, which some European geographers have called--most improperly--Little Bucharia. Sok-yul is the land of the Sokpo, whom Europeans call Mongol, and the Turks Kilmak (both no doubt incorrect substitutions of a part for the whole). Such terms as Khamsok and Horsok are sometimes applied to the countries between East Tibet, S.E. Turkistan, and Mongolia; denoting a mixture, whether real or imaginary, of Tibetans and Mongols, and of Turks and Mongols, where those countries border upon each other.
The Indian Provinces next adjoining to Tibet are Ashong, i. e. Acham, or Assam. Monyul, the whole of the Indian Himalaya, especially the SubHimalaya inhabited by Mon, i. e. Hill Indians. Lhopato, Lho-duk, or Lhomon, the Bhotant of Bengal, or Bootan of the English. Its capital Krashismchhosdzong, or pronounceably Tashichuzong, i.e. the August City of Religion (improved by the English to Tassisudon and the like). Demojongs, i. e. the Goodly Region, the Shikim, Shikimpati, or Sikkim, of Indians and English: the British cantonment in its lower part is rDorjegling or Dorjeling (corrupted to Darjeeling and the like), a name equivalent to Vajrapura, or in plain Saxon Thunderbolton (otherwise the Place of the Heavenly Sceptre, or of the Precious Stone or Diamond): Kangschan hJing, i. e. the Icy Mass, is the great snowy mountain on the N. border of this province, famous as the highest measured peak on the globe. Palbo is Naipal; Kyunam, Kumaon; Galdiya, Garhwal; Chongsa, Himalayan Garhwal; Kunu is the District of Knor, Kanor, Kanoring, Kanaur, Kunawar, &c.; Nyungti, Kullu; Garzha, Lahaul. Panga of Himalayan Chamba, Paldar and Maru-Wardwan of Himalayan Kishtwar, are called by their native names. Kacheyul (vulgo Kachul) is Kashmir.
The only part of Tibet with which the English have any direct acquaintance is that which borders upon the north-eastern confines of British India. This region extending from the mountain gorge of the Brahmaputra to that of the Indus, is probably little more than the western half of all Bodeland; for the eastern region extends to the western frontier of China, and to a greater breadth than the western, and the Tibetans themselves designate the latter sometimes Bodchan, i. e. Great Tibet, but its proper name is Kham or Khamyul; and I have no further concern with it for the present. For the exploration of East Tibet we are indebted to the French missionaries Messrs. Huc and Gabet, who, in 1846-47, traversed the whole breadth of Khamsok on their way from North China to the capital of Central Tibet, and of Khamyul on their return to Central China; and Mr. Huc's well known narrative of this most adventurous journey contains, I believe, the sole direct European information regarding those parts of Tibet.
The region known to us as lying behind the Indian Himalaya is a belt of high mountainous table land, narrow compared with its length, and (to the best of our imperfect knowledge) subsiding, on its N.E. border, into the plains and sandy deserts of Turkistan and Khamsok. This part of Tibet is called Bod, i, e. Tibet proper, or Central Tibet, at its E. end, and Nari at its N.W., the former division being the shorter of the two, but probably the broader, and certainly the more populous and civilized.
The line separating Bod from Nari may be taken approximately as a continuation of that dividing the E. end of Naipal from the British dependency, or annexure, of Demojong, which latter is also the demarcation of Indian races from those of the Tibetan family on the S. slope of the Himalaya (or more strictly, of the predominance of those races in the SubHimalaya). The division of Nari from Bod is partly natural, inasmuch as the elevation of the country becomes inimical to agriculture and population to the west-ward, and lower, warmer, more habitable, and more cultivable to the eastward. But there is no great geographical landmark that we know of, nor any ethnical or political separation of the inhabitants.
Bod proper is subdivided into several territories, provinces for extent, though mere districts for population. These are (from E. to W.) Kongbo, Takpo, dvUs, and gTsang; and perhaps others. Kongbo being so warm as to admit the general cultivation of rice, and so moist as to be well wooded with natural forest, may be reckoned with probability to lie about the valley of the Brahmaputra immediately before its downward passage to the noxious climate and barbarous people that oppose the ascent of the English explorer from Ashong.
In dvUs, already elevated into a cold climate, lies the Gyalsa (i. e. Capital) of all Bodeland, the City of Lhasa (i. e. God's-ground), the Rome of Tibet; which has been rescued from an almost mythical obscurity by the enterprising French travellers above mentioned. Of Tsang and its monastic capital Tashi Lhunpo (the August Lump) the English reader may find a faint, dreamy sketch in the pleasing narrative but vague geography of Turner. These two provinces are often coupled together in Tibetan phraseology under the name of Utsang (merely an abbreviated compound of the two names), which may be taken to signify generally Central Bod, as distinguished from Nari and Kham.
Lhopato and Demojomg being inhabited by Tibetans retaining their own language, manners, and governments (more or less modified by Indian influences), would be included by a Tibetan geographer in a complete account of his own country; but in physical geography they belong rather to India. Regarding the former of these provinces information may be sought in the pages of Turner and Pemberton; and the latter has recently been laid open to the arts and arms of Dorjeling.
Nari, or Western Tibet.--Nari is divided by the Tibetans into three great provinces, viz., Mangyul, Khorsum, and Maryul. The first of these is nearly conterminous with the present kingdom of Naipal, but not extending quite so far to the W. It is probably as broad as that country, or broader, with near an equal area, but not a hundredth part of its natural and political resources, being so elevated, cold, and dry as to support little beyond a scanty population of shepherds with a few small villages in the warmest parts. The chief districts of this province are (reckoning from E. to W.) Tingri (Lawn Mountain), Shelkhar (Glass Castle), Nyanam, Khyirong (Dog Valley), Chamshen Tsuglakang (containing a Tibetan University!), and Kungtang, on the southern border; and some of them forming the heads of valleys that enter Naipal, and containing agricultural villages: Zangzang, Kyado, Semuk ul, Saka, Nyugu, Tradum (a monastery), Troshot, and Shamtsang are in the central part, all high pastoral upland; and the Dzong, or seat of local government of the whole province, is at Saka (otherwise a mere shepherds' hamlet): Bong Madma in the N.W. quarter, also pastoral upland, though belonging geographically to Mangyul, is, and has been for many centuries, included in the government of Nari-Khorsum. I know little beyond the names and relative position of all these places; nor can we expect to learn much of Nari-Mangyul whilst Naipal itself is debarred to the English taveller.
Nari-Khorsum is that N.W. extremity of the Chinese Empire (but not the westernmost, for Kashgar extends to the meridian of Peshawr) with which the British have been in contact since they annexed the Himalayan provinces between the Sutluj and Kali; and Nari-Maryul, the N.W. extremity of all Tibet, comprising the modern provinces of Ladak and Balti, already well known by the descriptions of Moorcroft and Mr. Vigne. When I use the term West Nari, it may be understood to mean all Nari-Khorsum and Maryul, to the exclusion of Mangyul, and my own explorations are confined to this region.
I leave the Indian confines of Western Tibet to the Indian geographer; and most parts of them, W. of Naipal, have been explored and described in detail. With a small exception, we know very little regarding the countries that bound it on the N.W. and N.E. In the former direction it seems pretty certain that the great mountainous mass of the Tibetan table-land and Indian Himalaya is continued much in the same style till it ends abruptly about the 40th parallel of N. latitude, in the mountains which the Turks call Bulut Tag (i. e. Cloud Mountains), E. of Samarkand, and S. of Khokand, in the very centre of Asiatic Turkistan. This name is almost as significant of great height as the Himalaya (Abode of Snow) of the Indians; and the blank in civilized habitation, the separation of empires, and the scanty commercial communication in that quarter, seem to point to the same conclusion; though no actual account of the region that I know of is to be found in any of the published Geographies. The former direction of the chain is perhaps continued beyond the Bulut Tag towards the Aral Sea, but if so, in mere hillocks compared with the mountains of Pamir and Nari. In elevation and mass, however, these mountains have a decided continuation, with a very acute change of direction, in the great chain which the Chinese geographers call Thian-Shan (i.e. Celestial Mountains) projected to the eastward, through the eastern extremity of Turkistan. The Afghan range, which continues the watershed of the Indian regions to the westward, can only be looked upon as a long spur or branch much inferior in elevation to the main trunk, the high masses of the Hindu Kush being as it were the point of articulation.
Mr. Wood's description of Badakhshan and Pamir presents a remarkable likeness to a province of the Indian Himalaya (such as Kanor), communicating by a valley gorge (as that of Tsotso) with a Tibetan upland (like Rupshu). On both the summits we have 15,000 feet lakes embedded in 19,000 feet mountains, with the same zoology of domestic yak and wild sheep; and the Khirgiz even is cousin-german to the Changpa of Nari.
The countries occupying the main mountain mass between Pamir and the N. W. extremity of Maryul (including Kafiristan, Chitral, Yasen, &c.) have been so completely barred against European research by the barbarism of their inhabitants, that their names even are uncertain, and we know scarce anything of their geography beyond the fact of their being highly mountainous; but the turbulent and predatory character of the people would prove them to be ethnically related to the Afghans rather than the Western Tibetans; and as they exhibit themselves in their national role of gang-robbers up to Gilgit, on the frontier of Balti, I shall consider Tibet to be terminated there by the southward turn of the Indus towards India, and by the lofty spurs of mountain which project to the northern point of the river bight from a Turkish watershed, dividing the north-western extremity of Balti from the non-Tibetan countries of Nagar, Hunz, Kanjut, and Gilgit.
E. from this point the northern confines of Tibet are better determined, as far E. as the meridian of 82[degrees] or 83[degrees]. Native information from the side of India and Tibet (the best of it collected by Moorcroft), coupled with the Chinese geography imparted to Europe by the savans of Paris and Berlin, and the very slender accounts of one or two antique European travellers, assure us that the mountainous table-land descends in that direction, by hilly slopes similar to the Sub-Himalaya, to a great plain like that of India, extending indefinitely to the eastward, and inhabited by true Asiatic Turks, of late years under Chinese government. This northern mountain slope is almost uninhabited, and in its upper part naturally very barren from elevation, cold, and excessive dryness of climate; but the plain below is well cultivated by a civilized population, excepting its S.E. quarter, where scarcity of water and abundance of sand convert it into an impracticable desert, apparently the S.W. extremity of the great Shamo or Cobi of the Chinese geographers.
The Chinese-Turkish provinces lying next to the mountain foot are Kashgar, at the N.W. end, in the corner between the Bulut Tag and the Thian Shan; Yarkend, below Pamir Kanjut &c., and Balti; and Khotan, under Ladak and Nari-Khorsum. The communications between Balti and Yarkend are now almost closed by political barbarisms, superadded to natural difficulties, and the only extant intercourse between the Turkish and Tibetan countries confined to one oblique line between Ladak and Yarkend. The direct passages from Nari-Khorsum to Khotan are totally unused, but I am well assured of their existence, and in the lower part of the mountain slope lies the fertile and populous district of Serikia, through which there was once, according to Moorcroft, a high road from Gar to Khotan.
From information of my own, as well as from Klaproth's map, I gather that the province of Khotan lies further S. than Yarkend, and consequently that it can admit of no great expansion of the Tibetan table-land up to the meridian of 82[degrees] or 83[degrees]; but E. of that my information of the northerly confines of Tibet becomes as vague as our European versions of the Chinese maps; yet it seems certain that the civilized regions of Nari-Mangyul and U-tsang are still confined to a narrow belt. The inhabitants and travellers of this zone complain of the incursions of a lawless tribe who occupy their northern borders, and are said to call themselves Rundur, though by the civilized Tibetans commonly termed Kyampo, i. e. Nomads, which is vulgarly corrupted into Khampa, and so improperly confounds these demi-savages with the peaceful and civilized people of Eastern Tibet. The Rundur are said to be essentially Tibetan in their physique and language, but barbarous in dialect and manners, almost independent of the Chinese government in their own haunts, and visiting the civilized regions on their S. as much for plunder as for trade. The last stragglers of them come as far W. as Gar and Ruduk of Nari-Khorsum, but they chiefly infest the roads between Nari and UTsang, avoiding the government parties, but robbing private persons, sometimes killing, and even, it is said, eating them; the best of them, however, occasionally doing a little honest trade in shepherds' products. They dwell in tents only, roving much from place to place, and live exclusively on the flesh and milk either of their domestic cattle--horses, yak, and goats and sheep-or of the Tibetan antelope (Tsos), which they catch in snares or pitfalls (firearms being scarce among them); and corn or any other vegetable food is hardly known to them--they are, in short, complete Tartars. The country of the Rundur cannot be over accessible to the civilized Tibetans themselves, and they certainly know very little about it, although the Chinese geographers have pretty well sprinkled it with lakes, rivers, mountains, and names. For my own part I exhaust my knowledge of its natural geography by saying that it is elevated and mountainous, and apparently the northern part of the Tibetan table-land, bounded on its N. by the S.W. end of the Great Desert, which itself may be very elevated here, as the Russians have found some parts of it at the N.W. end. This desert is well known to extend as far as Khotan, and completely hems in that province on the E., leaving its only external communications towards the plain of Yarkend or the mountains of Nari.
General River System.--Nari-Mangyul is separated from Nari Khorsum by a natural landmark, viz. a transverse mountain ridge running from the N. face of the Indian watershed, more or less to the N., across the breadth of the central upland, and itself constituting a great watershed that divides all Nari and UTsang into two main basins of drainage. The major axes of both these lie parallel to the longer direction of the table-land, till they attain the further extremities of Bod and Nari respectively, where they become deeply sunk, and turn rather abruptly through the Himalaya to enter the plains of India.
The river that carries the drainage of Nari-Mangyul and UTsang to the south-eastward is called by the Tibetans the rTachok Tsangspo, i. e. Horse River. The best of my Ladak informants could not assure me positively of its course below Lhasa, but assented fully to its identification with the main trunk of the Brahmaputra river, as asserted (and all but established) by the geographers of Bengal. The river which drains the greater part of West Nari to the north-westward, called by the Tibetans, Senge-Tsangspo, i. e. Lion River, is now well established (by the explorations of Mr. Vigne, and subsequent surveys of Lieut. R. Young) as the chief source of the Indus--a fact which English geographers have had to rediscover for themselves within the last half century, though I find it distinctly stated in a book (and that not professing geography) written by a Tibetan monk 250 years ago.
But the Indus is not the only river of West Nari; all the S. part of NariKhorsum, and a small eastern corner of Maryul, are drained by the heads of the Indian Satadru, v. Sutluj, the chief of which, called by the Tibetans Langchen Tsangspo, i. e. Elephant River, originates in the southern part of the transverse watershed that divides Nari-Khorsum from Mangyul (the heads of the Indus occupying its northern part), and breaks through the Indian Himalaya in Upper Kanor.
If we conceive the whole breadth of Asia towards its medial meridian to be divided into three great zones, approximately parallel to the equator, of which the northernmost or Siberian drains into the Polar Seas, the central or Turkish into inland seas or sandy deserts, and the southern or Indian into the Indian Ocean--the western half of Tibet will occupy the very northernmost border of the last region, forming in this respect an easterly continuation of Afghanistan, and the great S. Asiatic watershed will lie along the northernmost confines of the Tibetan table-land, dividing Tibetan from Turkish waters, and altogether behind the Indian Himalaya. The western prolongation of this watershed has been repeatedly crossed by English travellers in the hills of Afghanistan, but in all Tibet only just touched at a single point of Maryul; Dr. Thompson having in the summer of 1848 crested the Karakorum Pass, which divides a northern affluent of the Indus from a stream pretty well known to join the river of Yarkend, and Mr. Vigne in Khapalu of Balti, and myself in Nubra of Ladak, reached terminal glaciers, supposed to be upon the S. slope of the same watershed; but with these exceptions the Tibetan line is unexplored, and known only by meagre native reports.
Persons not familiar with mountain geography are apt to consider a main watershed as identical with a high mountain range, and the idea is of course founded on natural facts; but in detail the exceptions almost exceed the rule, and the chief watersheds will often be found to follow the lowest of the ridges--mere valleys even--and the channels of drainage to cross the highest; nor will this be thought strange if we regard the depth and number of the fissures that intersect these mountains, often directly transverse to the main lines of elevation, and the sufficiency of the slightest slopes to establish a flow of water no less positive than the steepest.
The line that I have termed the Indian watershed is not the crest of the great Himalaya as seen by the Indian observer, but a succession of valley heads much depressed, and penetrating that mass to such a depth (in Kumaon and Garhwal, according to my brother, 35 miles) that the passes from India to Tibet are never visible from any station fairly S. of the perpetual snow. These recesses are of various depths; the smaller and more numerous discharge the shorter sources of the Indian rivers, such as the Vet of Kashmir, the ChandraBhaga of the Panjab Himalaya, the Jamna and Ganges of Hindostan, and no doubt many tributaries of the latter flowing from Naipal to Bengal; but a few of them are so great as to form an absolute break through the outermost ranges of the snowy mountains, and make the sources of some of the Indian rivers absolutely Tibetan or Trans-Himalayan, such as the heads of the Tsotso Sutluj, the Karnali Gogra Purang, or Mapcha river (in S.E. Nari-Khorsum), one branch of the Trisul-Gandaki (the Tibetan Khyirong) and the Aran-Kosi (?) of Naipal. The passage of the Langchen Sutluj is intermediate, as it were, between such indentations and the two great penetrating fissures of the Indus and Brahmaputra. The northern or Turkish watershed of W. Tibet may possibly be indented and depressed in the same style; but we have no data for safe speculation on the subject.
The Tibetan table-land lying between the Indian and Turkish watersheds may be regarded as the flat top of a great embankment, exhibited in all its thickness in the scarp of the Indian Himalaya; the summit, though deeply corrugated with valleys and mountains in detail, being in its general relief laid out horizontally at a height little inferior to that of its southern scarp. The highest summits as yet known and measured certainly lie upon the Indian watershed (or even projected beyond it to the southward); and the abundance of large glaciers in the Turkish watershed of Maryul, in spite of the very dry climate of that region, with their general absence in the central parts of the table-land, is indicative of greater height in the former; yet very lofty summits are to be met with in all parts of the interior, some of which when measured may perhaps prove equal to the highest peaks of the Indian Himalaya; and the passes which must be crossed to get from one Tibetan valley to another, even in the very central axis of drainage, generally equal those by which Tibet is reached from India; so that on the whole, I think the medial depression is but faintly marked in the beds of the main rivers, without much affecting the mean elevation of the mass.
As none of our modern travellers have visited any part of the great transverse watershed that divides the heads of the rTachok from those of the Langchen and Senge rivers, or Nari-Mangyul from Nari-Khorsum, for any vague idea of its character we are left to our own conjectures and native report. In the former we must not lose sight of the general habitudes of the mountain watersheds above adverted to; but the latter leads us to suppose that the separation of the drainage (in its southern part, at least) is marked by a well-defined mountain ridge articulated to some great Himalayan mass, and running some way northward across the table-land. The high road from West-Nari to U-Tsang crosses such a ridge by several passes, of which the most frequented is called Maryum La, and this in Tibetan statements is commonly reckoned the boundary both natural and political, though essentially but one point in it, as the term La means an individual pass, and not a whole mountain range.
From this, north-westward, my geography becomes more definite, and embraces the results of my own personal explorations.
West-Nari in detail.--The general direction of West-Nari is S. E. and N.W. in its longest dimension--that is, Maryum La lies approximately in E.long. 82 1/2[degrees] (or a degree E. from Manasarowar), and the southernmost point of Nari-Khorsum, on the Indian Himalaya of N. W. Naipal, reaches probably to N. lat. 30[degrees]. The southward bend of the Indus, where it leaves Balti, lies near the meridian of 75[degrees] E. long., and no part of Tibet seems to extend further W. Its northernmost extension at this end is probably about 36 1/2[degrees] N. lat. The direct length of the major axis of this tract is near 600 miles in a straight line drawn from S.E. to N.W.: the undulated line of the Indian watershed, with all its sinuosities, perhaps exceeds 700.
The furthest personal explorations of English travellers at the S.E. end have extended only to the W. shore of Manasarowar, about long. 81[degrees] 20' (Moorcroft and Hearsay, 1812; H. Strachey, 1846; J. E. Winterbottom and R. Strachey, 1848), and to the middle of Purang, in lat. 30[degrees] 15' (H. Strachey, 1846); but we have obtained a distinct though distant view of the mountains in this quarter as far as E. long. 82[degrees]; and native information regarding the remaining corner to the S.E. has been tolerably precise. To the N.W., Mr. Vigne, in 1832, was the first to reach the furthest westing of the Tibetan Indus and of all Tibet, near Acho of Lower Balti, about E. long. 74[degrees] 50'; his furthest northing, in Shigar of the same province, was about N. lat. 35[degrees] 40', still something short of the Turkish watershed. The subsequent explorations of Lieut. R. Young, with Messrs. J. E. Winterbottom and the late P. Vans Agnew, in 1847, extended a little further N., viz. to 35[degrees] 50', in the small valley of Haramosh, at the north-western extremity of Balti. In the adjoining valleys of Gilgit the same travellers got as far W. as E. long. 74[degrees] 25', and as far N. as N. lat. 36[degrees] 20', at the latter point reaching a glacier, perhaps of the Turkish watershed; but this district I suppose to lie without the limits of Tibet.
Our knowledge of the breadth of this region is not so precise; for the Turkish watershed has been actually crested at one point only, as already mentioned, viz., by Dr. Thompson, at the Karakorum, in 1848. A straight line drawn from that point to the south-westward, and perpendicular to the longer axis, meets the watershed of Kashmir, near the Zoji La and measures more than 143 miles. In my explorations further E., I reached a point--viz., the E. head of the Chang-Chenmo, valley--more than 150 miles in the same direction, from the watershed between spiti and Rupshu, but without attaining any knowledge of a Turkish watershed. Still E. of this our explorations narrowed again by the diplomatic cordon of the Chinese, till they end at the points first mentioned, in the S. E. corner of Nari-Khorsum, leaving all the north-eastern quarter of that province comparatively unknown: but native reports attest the existence of a large belt of high pastoral uplands, thinly inhabited by Tibetan shepherds, and subject to the government of Gar. In Balti, the explorations above mentioned make the probable position of the Turkish watershed only about 100 miles (of direct map distance S. W. and N. E.) from the N.W. extremity of the Indian watershed, between Hasora and the Kishenganga. On the whole, we may consider the transverse breadth of West-Nari, from the Indian to the Turkish watershed, to average 150 miles, being less at its Westend in Balti, and more at its E. in the Nari-Khorsum.
The total area given by these dimensions is 90,000 square miles; but it is impossible to say whether this includes any part of Bong-Madma--itself a very extensive district--or excludes the whole of it.
There is no marked natural boundary between Nari-Khorsum and Maryul; with the exception of one small part, where the present political or diplomatic boundary coincides with the transverse mountain range and a watershed of the Sutluj and Indus. This boundary approximates to the meridian of 790; but the S. end of Nari-Khorsum projects half a degree further W. and the centre and north of Maryul as much to the E., so that the mean line runs about S.S.W. and N.N.E. It rougly bisects the land of West-Nari; but if Nari-Khorsum be broader than Maryul (as seems probable), the former will contain about 50,000, and the latter 40,000, of the 90,000 square miles above assigned to the joint area.
A natural difference does exist in the general characters of Nari-Khorsum and Maryul, like that which I supposed to demark Mangyul from U-Tsang; viz., the greater depression of the valleys in Maryul as they approached towards the exit of their drainage by the gorge of the Indus, and consequently the greater warmth of their climate and suitability to agriculture; whereas the high and cold uplands, fit for little but pastoral uses, occupy the greater part of Nari-Khorsum: but the two characters are somewhat blended in parts, nor separated by any geographical landmarks; and the line of division lies rather to the W. of the diplomatic boundary above noticed, so as to include the eastern parts of Maryul with Nari-Khorsum. More explicit information on this head will follow.
Geographical Subdivisions.--Before describing the geographical details of these countries, I shall state the names and general positions of their principal subdivisions. mNaris, commonly Nari, signifies the Clear or Pure, an appellation appropriate enough to the fine air and water of this country. Khorsum signifies the Three Continents, or circumscribed tracts, into which Tibetan geographers have divided the province: these are--Ruduk on the N., Guge on the S. W., and Purang on the S. E. Ruduk is said to be encircled by lakes, Guge by rocks, and Purang by glaciers or snowy mountains; and though somewhat open to criticism in detail, these expressions have a general significance founded on facts of the natural geography. Ruduk is traversed, though not encircled, by the largest of all the lakes of Nari, and contains others of less note; and the prevailing character of the whole district is a succession of flat lacustrine valleys, similar to those that contain the existing lakes, and often perhaps exhibiting marks of others now extinct, such as the Tibetan peasant can appreciate in the gross as well as the European geographer. If we take the Tibetan word brak (v. tak) in the same sense as the geologist uses our word rock, and with its own particular import of precipitous form, we shall find it fully characteristic of the central parts of Guge, where the precipices of conglomerated alluvial earth are unequalled in all Nari, and probably in the whole world. In like manner the mountains of Purang are actually pre-eminent for snow--a joint consequence of their great elevation, southerly position, and close connection with the Indian Himalaya.
The Three Continents above described do not exactly express the existing political subdivisions of Nari; at the present clay they add a fourth district, Gar, which occupies the central part, and is dignified by the seat of provincial government bearing the same name, which signifies a Cantonment; and Gar is, in fact, a large encampment of tents, and not a town of houses: Garoo, Gartokh, Gardok, Gortope, & c., are Indian and English corruptions of this name. Namru is a small subdivision, on the west side of Gar proper. Tashikang, i. e., the August Abode, a monastery giving its name to the district upon the Indus next to the Ladak frontier. Senge, i. e., the Lion, subdivided into Seng Tot and Seng Mat, i. e., the Upper and the Lower Lion, is a large district at the head of the Indus, and either gives or takes the name of that river. Matsa lies in the unexplored part of Nari, at its N.E. end.
Purang is subdivided into four districts; viz., Purang proper, the seat of the Tibetan dZong, or district government, in the S. W.; Kangri, i. e., the Iceberg or Glacier, on the N.W., containing the lake (Manasarowar) and mountain (Kailash) that form the Tirthapuri, i. e. Fulfilment of Indian Pilgrimage; Horba, i. e. Turkey, extending up to Maryum La on the S.E.; and Bongba, or Little Bong, a political or geographical connexion of the great Bong-Madma, on the N.E.
Guge was formerly called Zhangzhung, but the latter name is now obsolete. It contains at present two of the Tibetan dZong, one enthroned at Tsaprang on the Sutluj, in Guge Central and Proper, and the other at Daba in the south-eastern quarter. Rongchung, i. e. the Little Valley district, lies to the W., on the lower part of the Sutluj, and Chumurti to the N.W., next Ladak; Tsotso, on the extreme W., though now-a-days a political appendage of Tashikang and Chumurti, under the government of Gar, belongs in physical geography rather to Maryul.
Ruduk comprises--Ruduk Proper, the seat of a dZong, upon the Ladak frontier, south of the great lake of Pangong; No to the N. of it; and Tsaka, i. e. the Salt field, an extensive but unexplored tract to the eastward. There may be other subdivisions of this district, but little is known about it.
Maryul signifies in Tibetan the Low Country, a term appropriate to the character of its inhabited valleys as contrasted with Nari-Khorsum; but the name is now obsolete, and superseded by the modern appellations of Ladak and Balti. Ladak occupies the larger and south-western portion of the country, which is inhabited mostly by Buddhists; and Balti the extreme N.W., of which the population is exclusively Musalman; but there is no definite geographical boundary between the two, and the political division is somewhat complicated. The boundary between the Musalman and Buddhist Tibetans crosses Maryul about the meridian of 76 1/2[degrees] at its S. end, and 77[degrees] at the N., leaving perhaps one-third of the whole area, or 13,000 square miles, to the former, and two thirds of it, or 27,000, to the latter; but some of the Musalman districts were disputed, and others always possessed, by the Budhist Principality, up to the time of the Dogra conquest (1835-42), and the latest boundary of the Gyalfu (i. e. King) of Ladak reached, at its S.E. end, to the meridian of 75 3/4[degrees], including about 2,500 square miles of the Musalman country in that quarter; so that Balti is thus reduced to little more than 10,000 square miles, and Ladak extended to near 30,000.
The name of Ladak has a local as well as a general sense; belonging originally, and still in particular, to the central district in and about the valley of the Indus, and in the middle of which is situated the capital Le. The S.E. quarter of this is called Rong, which is properly a mere geographical term, denoting a deep Valley. Hanle occupies the south-eastern extremity of Ladak, next to Nari-Khorsum; and Kakzhung, on the highest part of the Ladak Indus, is geographically the northernmost part of this district; though the Tibetans make it politically an appendage of Rupsku, which is a large district in the S. Tanktse, in the N.E., includes Pangong, so called from the lake of that name, adjoining Ruduk of Nari. Nubra is the northwestern district, and Yarma, i.e. Upper Nubra, a northern subdivision of it. E. of this there is a large tract of savage, uninhabited country, belonging politically to Shayok of Tanktse, but without any general name of its own, and for want of which it may be called after that place.
Zangskar, i.e. White Copper, though politically a province of itself, is geographically part of Ladak, in the S.W. quarter. It includes sTot, i. e. Upper, and Sham, i.e. Lower, Zangskar; Lungnak, the Black Vale, in the S.E.; and Kharnak, the Black Castle, which is geographically the N.E. corner of Zangskar, though at present politically attached to Ladak proper, which adjoins it on the N.
Purik comprises roughly all the Musalman country at the western extremity of Ladak, towards Kashmir and Balti: its chief districts are Purik proper, Suru or Suru Kartse, and Hembaps, which last the Kashmiris improperly call Dras, after its chief village.
Besides those above mentioned, there is the district of sPiti, including its southern subdivision sPin, which belonged politically to Ladak, till it was annexed to the hill provinces of British India; and in most of its geographical characters it assimilates with the former country, though in position it projects further to the S.W. than the general run of the Tibetan frontier, and aligns rather with the valleys of the Indian Himalaya; the Indian watershed, however, not being easily definable in this quarter. The area of sPiti is about 1,500 square miles, lying without the limits above assigned to Nari-Maryul, which, if added to Ladak, will make the total area of the Gyalfu's Principality, as it existed in 1835, fully 30,000 square miles (at which it was estimated by Moorcroft in 1821).
The districts of Balti are, I believe, mostly named after their Khar, i. e. Castles, or seats of local government; but the central district, containing the capital town sKardo, is probably Balti Proper. The others are--Chorbat Khapalu and Kiris, in the northern valley, on the E.; Khartaksho Tolti and Parkuta, on the main Indus to the S.E.; Shigar, with the subdivisions of Barsho and Braldo, on the N.W.; Rongyul or Rongdo, in the valley of the Lower Indus, on the W.; and Hasora at the westernmost extremity of Balti, and of all Tibet. As I have seen nothing of Balti myself beyond the small corner of Chorbat, and my knowledge of the rest is secondhand, what little I say of it must be taken "cum grano." (See Fig. 1)
The names above given are proper names, of fanciful or trivial meaning when they have any. But the Tibetan geographers have also some purely natural divisions of their country. They divide the breadth of all Nari and UTsang into three zones, each extending along the whole length, viz., the Lhogyut, i.e. Southlands, which occupy the third next to the Indian Himalaya, communicating by passes into Monyul, and sometimes penetrated by the heads of Indian rivers; the Zhunglam, i.e. the Mid-way, or central zone, which is traversed longitudinally both by the main axis of drainage and by the principal line of communication between the several provinces of W. Tibet; and the Changyut, i. e. North-lands, which occupy the northern zone.
Each of the chief provinces has its share of all three zones; reckoning from N.W. to S.E., the Changyut will comprise Shigar, Kiris, Khapalu,and Chorbat, of Balti; Nubra, Shayok, Tanktse, and Pangong of Ladak; Ruduk, Tsaka, and Matsa, of Nari-Khorsum; and Bong-Madma of Mangyul: the Zhunglam-Rongyul, Central Balti, Parkuta, Tolti, and Khartaksho, of Balti; Purik Proper, Ladak Proper, Rong Ladak, and Kakzhung, of Ladak; Tashikang, Namru, Gar Proper, and Seng, of Nari-Khorsum; and Shamtsang, Troshot, Tradum, Nyugu, Saka, Semukul, Kyado, and Zangzang, of Mangyul: and the Lhogyut--Hasora of Balti; Hembaps, Suru, Zangskar, Lungnak, Rupshu, sPiti, and Hanle, of Ladak; Tsotso, Chumurti, Rongchung, Guge, Daba, Kangri, Purang, Horba, and Bongba, of Nari-Khorsum; and Kungtang, Chamshen-Tsuglakang, Khyirong, Nyanam, Shelkhar, and Tingri, of Mangyul.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The chief natural significance of the three Tibetan zones consists in the arrangement of the rivers, which generally preserve a main trunk in the Zhunglam with branches in the Changyut and Lhogyut; and in the differences of hygrometric climate, which make the southern zone more moist and snowy than the others. But the classification appears to be disturbed here and there, either by natural irregularities in the plan of the country, or by the intrusion of political elements: nor can I answer for its application farther E. than U-Tsang. Thus the Zhunglam is by some considered to pass from Gar into Kangri and Horba, because the Gyalam, or artificial High road, here lies to the S. of the natural Mid-way; and Demojong and Lhopato may be reckoned parts of the Lhogyut, though anomalous projections beyond the natural limits of the zone.
Another and important natural classification will be described further on.
Vertical Formation of the Table-Land.--Having sketched the general plan of Nari in horizontal extension, I must now explain its vertical relief, as this is developed on such a gigantic scale that no true idea of the country could be formed without equal attention to the third co-ordinate.
The area of West Nari consists then of a dense mass of huge rocky mountains, whose habitable, or even accessible valleys, bear but a small proportion (with one remarkable exception) to the solid mass of mountain, too steep and high for any human uses. The loftier summits rise in all quarters to an elevation of 4 miles above the sea-level, a few of the highest (as yet measured) reaching nearly to 5; and the deepest of all the fissures at its very lowest point (the exit of the Indus at Acho) is still nearly 1 mile above the sea, whilst there is only one other (the exit of the Sutluj at Namgya) that descends to less than 2; so that the mean elevation of the whole is probably near 3 miles.
For a clearer comprehension of this mass it may be divided into its two component parts, viz. solid rock in situ, which constitutes all the mountains, and by far the greater part of the whole, and a much smaller proportion of alluvial soil composed of the debris of those rocks, and laid out in horizontal deposits which, accumulated in the fissures of the mountains, form the bottoms of the principal valleys.
The alluvial beds, as now existing, appear to be only the ruins of a former and much greater structure: entire plateaux of any considerable extent are the exceptions to the rule, and in most places they have been broken down again by some destructive agency, leaving nothing but a collection of huge fragments lodged in the hollows of the mountains most favourable to their retention, so that the aggregate area of all the remnants can hardly exceed, I suppose, a tenth part of the whole country. In some instances the destruction has been so great as to remove the old alluvium down to the very bottom of the mountain fissures, and a main valley even is thus degraded into a gigantic ravine, with its river running through a bottom almost impassable in a sharp angle of bare rock, whilst remnants of the ancient deposits still adhering to the mountain flanks thousands of feet above, attest a former valley expanded to the breadth of a mile or two.
The alluvium, in what may be presumed to be its original completeness, appears to attain its maximum elevation about 16,200 feet: at 16,500 it may be seen just rounding off the mountain feet and connecting them by undulated slopes with the lower flats, but at 16,000 it is often thoroughly developed in horizontal plateaux; and the uniformity of the maximum limit of elevation in all parts of the country is as remarkable as the invariable horizontality of the strata. The ancient plateaux are generally in such a fragmentary state that it is difficult to assign a minimum elevation for their original surface, but I doubt whether this is to be found below 14,000 feet; and supposing it to have been laid out everywhere--as the very wide distribution of the fragments attests--at an average height of 15,000 feet, the old alluvium must have occupied nearly half the area of the whole country, often expanded into wide plains and broad connected valleys, whilst the mountains were more separated, isolated, and comparatively lower than we now find them.
The destruction of the primary alluvium has been succeeded or accompanied by the formation of a secondary order of beds, which abound in the lower valleys (where the primary banks have been most destroyed)-either simply as flat bottoms, or as high scarped terraces or broad shelving slopes between the mountain foot and river bed, or as "heaps of shot rubbish" spreading out of the mouths of lateral ravines into the main valleys; and most of these again exhibit marks of extensive subsequent destruction similar to that of the primary banks, though on a smaller scale: they are remarkable also for constituting the sole or chief sites for human habitation and agriculture.
The same cause has created a secondary class of valleys or ravines in the masses of the primary alluvium, where the original structure has survived wholesale ruin: these are oftenest mere ravines, with steeply scarped flanks, though measured by hundreds of feet, perpendicular cliffs of 100 vertical feet being common in Ladak; but in Guge, where the alluvial deposits are developed on the largest scale, the ravines become expanded into respectable valleys thousands of feet deep, with huge mountainous sides, sometimes in steep smooth slopes like the earthwork of an embankment, or broken into cliffs that vie with the grandest precipices of rock, and surpass them in the extraordinary artificiality of their appearance.
Irregularities in the original composition of the alluvium, and in its subsequent destruction, have caused a number of curious appearances in the secondary ravines. The cliffs are sometimes full of holes, such that the Turks have called one of them on the Yarkend road Kuptar-Khana, i. e. PigeonHouse--and the pigeon holes occasionally expand into caves large enough for the abode of Tibetan hermits. Sometimes alluvial aiguilles rise in sharp isolated points from banks otherwise crumbled down into gravelly slopes, and occasionally the crags and pinnacles of the more precipitous banks are so fantastic that it is difficult to persuade oneself they have not been cut into shape by the hands of man, or seen at a distance that they are not houses and castles; whilst some of the largest ravines--as those of central Guge-present the appearance of whole streets and cities of the most gigantic proportions and wonderful architecture.
Sometimes rock in situ protrudes through the alluvial sides of the secondary ravines, and changes their appearance to that of a primary valley between mountains, or projects above the upper surface so as to form isolated hills in the midst of the elevated plateau; and less frequently an alluvial mass itself is so wrought as to resemble closely one of the smoother hills of solid rock.
The composition of the alluvial beds is well exhibited in the vertical sections so frequently cut through them. They consist of the debris of the surrounding mountain rocks disposed in horizontal strata, often very strongly marked by alternations of large boulders, coarse gravel, and fine sand or clay, the individual fragments of which are generally more or less rounded. Limestone seems to impart a great consistency to the alluvium, and deposits of this material sometimes occur, which are aggregated into a solid rock too hard to be broken by the hand, though showing no signs of geological metamorphism. The deposits of Guge, which are the most extensive we know of, appear to consist of more finely comminuted material in their central part, where furthest, distant from the mountains, the great ravines there being flanked by cliffs half a mile high, which exhibit throughout their thickness a fine homogeneous clay with little gravel in it. The stratification of the alluvium seems to be horizontal in all cases, or at most very slightly sloped from the mountain foot to the valley middle, in accordance with the existing directions of the drainage. I have once or twice seen small faults where some of the strata had become canted from the horizontal for a few yards, but never anything like a general disturbance of the original position.
It is in the larger alluvial deposits of Guge that the fossil remains of large mammalia are found, which have reached the hands of Indian geologists under the Bhotiya name of Bijli-Har--translation of the Tibetan Dukrus, i.e. Dragon bones, which the savans of Kumaon have translated into Lightningbones. I never heard of these in any other part of Nari, nor has any English traveller actually found their site but they no doubt come from the ravines in the vicinity of the Sutluj. The small shells which occur in the superficial strata of alluvium, close to the margins of some of the lakes, appear to be comparatively recent, and some of them perhaps of species still living in the lake water. Being no geologist I cannot undertake to give a description of the rocks which constitute the mountain masses; but a few facts are obvious to ordinary observation. Granite and Metamorphic Schists are decidedly the most prevalent rocks throughout West Nari: Greenstone and Porphyries are also common, and Serpentine and Statuary Marble occasional: Limestones are abundant, particularly in the southern zone, and often contain vast quantities of Coral and other Fossils: Fossiliferous strata, containing Ammonites and Belemnites, have been found at several points upon the Indian watershed all the way from sPiti to the Saligrami Gandak of Naipal--a line of four or five hundred miles.
Among the metamorphic rocks there are some remarkable specimens of Conglomerate to be seen in perfection on the left bank of the Indus in central Ladak. These consist of ancient alluvial masses precisely similar to the existing ones, converted bodily to a sub-crystalline rock without any partial disturbance of the strata, but canted to a dip of 30[degrees] or 40[degrees], in masses which appear (from the town of Le) to contain a continuous succession of strata 2 miles thick. The alternations of large boulders, coarse gravel, and fine sand, are all represented in bands of solid rock, projecting or receding from the average surface according to their greater or less compactness and resistance to wear; and all the boulders and pebbles of the original detritus may be seen embedded in their sandy matrix, but so thoroughly cemented together by the metamorphic agency, that they break through with the fracture of the mass sooner than separate from it.
Though unable to discuss the geology of the country in detail, I think it as well to state the general impression which I have derived from a long and extended observation of its surface. The immense extent of the existing alluvium, and the uniformity of its maximum elevation, lead me to infer that it must have been deposited under a general sea covering the whole country (in which it so occurs), and not by lakes, much less by rivers. The existing lakes are comparatively mere puddles, made by the drainage of the higher and smaller mountain ravines stagnating in slight hollows of the old alluvium; and the gigantic ravines in the ancient plateaux are out of all proportion to the contemptible rivulets that now creep along their bottoms, wandering over beds a thousand times too large for them. The universal horizontality of the strata, and the conformity of all the alluvial ravines to the existing directions of drainage, whilst the existing drainage itself seems quite inadequate to their formation, show that they must have been laid out whilst the framework of mountain was in its present form, and that, no material convulsion of the rock could have accompanied the general upheavement; and the elevation which the alluvium attains in excess of the gorges by which the present drainage has an exit to the lower regions proves that it cannot have been deposited in the existing elevation of the table-land above the general ocean, but at the bottom of that ocean in a former state of the earth, and up heaved afterwards by the equable raising of a whole continent.
I must observe here, that though I have myself divided the alluvial beds into two classes, primary and secondary, this is merely for facility and brevity of description; and a much more complicated and extensive classification may be necessary for a true account of their geological formation.
The preceding account of the rocks and alluvial plateaux, as met with in West-Nari, however geologically imperfect, will enable the reader to understand the natural classification of Rong and Changtang, into which the Tibetans divide the whole of their table-land; and the annexed figure will assist the explanation.
Rong signifies a deep Valley, low and warm enough for agricultural occupation, and generally a country containing such valleys. Changtang literally means the North Plain, but in common parlance an elevated plain, or wide open valley, too high and cold for any but pastoral uses, and generally a country of such valleys. The former description of country is produced by the destruction (or at least the absence) of the alluvial deposits, which in lowering the valley bottom also contracts it, and steepens its sides of mountain rock: the latter results from the preservation (or presence) of the alluvium in its original plateaux at great elevations, where the mountain masses occupy less of the area, diminished also in relative height and steepness.
Changtang accordingly is the prevailing character of Nari in its E. and central part, or Mangyul and Nari-Khorsum, where the beds of drainage are still very elevated; and Rong at its W. end, or Maryul, where the bottoms descend towards the main exit of the drainage by the gorge of the Indus. Mangyul is said to be Changtang in all its northern and central zones, and Rong only where some of the Naipal valley-heads penetrate its southern border. Nari-Khorsum, though mostly Changtang, is not without its Rong: in Purang the Mapcha river makes its exit by a valley very similar to one of Middle Ladak; and Guge is a strange compound of Changtang and Rong, as its secondary or alluvial valleys afford ample sites for agricultural villages in their lower parts, though their upper ends enter the pastoral uplands at the top of the great plateau: Tsotso, the exit of the Rupshu Sutluj, is also Rong. Maryul has its share of Changtang, but chiefly at the E. end of Ladak; and all Balti, I believe, is exclusively Rong, unless the tract which some call "the Steppe of Deosu" be a little isolated scrap of Changtang. The western limit of Changtang crosses Ladak about the meridian of 77 1/2 [degrees] S. of the Indus, and 78 1/2[degrees] N. of it; but the Rong of Upper Ladak projects to E. of the general line in the central part, and at the S.W. end there is a small detached piece of Changtang so far as 76 1/2 [degrees] (viz., Rangdum, in the high ground that divides the heads of the sTot-Zangskar and Suru valleys). The districts of Changtang in Ladak are--Pankong, with Khargyam, of Tanktse; Hanle, with Kakzhung; Rupshu, with Lingti; Kharnak; and Rangdum, above mentioned: and the joint area of these is about 10,000 square miles, leaving for the Rong districts of Ladak 20,000; but both of these include a considerable proportion of valleys utterly unoccupied either for agricultural or pastoral uses, and scarcely habitable from extreme narrowness and sterility.
In elevation the lowest limit of Changtang may be reckoned about 13,800 feet, and the highest of Rong 14,300, the mean line of demarcation being 14,000 feet.
The term Changtang--Highland or Upland--must not be confounded with the Changyut, which signifies Norland, as the former is essentially independent of the three zones, and may exist indifferently in any of them, though it no doubt originated in the prevailing character of the north country.
The term Changpa strictly signifies a Norman or Norlander, an inhabitant of the Changyut in fact; but in actual parlance it is often applied to the inhabitants of the Changtang, denoting merely a Highlander or Uplander, and commonly a shepherd of whatever region. Rungba is the inhabitant of the Rong country, a Lowlander, and generally an agriculturist.
Mountains.--The mountains that compose the bulk of West Nari are not easily understood or defined. On ascending the highest passes, we can seldom see anything but a contracted view of mountain tops on all sides, looking very like chaos: no general view of the range under our feet is ever obtainable, as the passes naturally select the ravine-heads and lowest points of the ridge, which are not only flanked, but often almost surrounded, by the higher summits and the valleys are commonly so steep and narrow, especially in the Rong country, that the view can hardly ever penetrate to an alluvial bottom, and the sight of any inhabited place from a pass top is most unusual. When travelling along the bottoms of the valleys, we generally see nothing but a narrow tortuous passage, between steep rocky walls, shutting out all extended view, and rather concealing than exhibiting the mountain ranges of which they form but the mere lowest outworks: consequently it is only by an extended series of observations and inferences, joined and assisted by maps, that any regular arrangement of these mountains can be distinctly established; and my account of them is liable to error in proportion to the defects of my own map.
The general plan of the mountain system appears to me to consist of a series of parallel ranges running right across the breadth of the table-land in, a direction so extremely oblique to the general extension of the whole as often to confound the one with the other, or to convert the transverse direction to a longitudinal one.
Short transverse necks connecting the main ranges in some parts, and cross fissures cutting through them in others, together with projecting spurs of a secondary order, will suffice to convert the supposed primary arrangement into all the existing varieties of valley and drainage. Such connecting necks, when above 18,000 feet, become more or less confounded with the main ranges, and if not above 17,000 feet, often appear as low watersheds, just dividing the heads of two valleys lying in one line but draining opposite ways. Secondary spurs also may be so high and so obliquely joined to the primary ranges as to make it difficult to distinguish between the two; and the cross fissures may sometimes admit a main river to pass through a main mountain mass, in which case the continuity of the range is often evidenced by the extreme narrowness of the rocky gorge, or height steepness and geological correspondence of its sides.
Much of the Indian watershed seems to be formed in this way; the great snowy peaks lying mostly on the terminal butt-ends of the primary ranges, sometimes widened by lateral spurs; and the Tibetan passes crossing the low connecting links, whose alignment forms the main watershed, but not the main mountain-crest. From what little I know of the Turkish watershed, I should suppose the same formation to exist there also.
The general extension of West Nari being nearly S.E. and N.W., I consider the component mountain ranges to run S.S.E. and N.N.W., but more generally and more certainly they lie within the third and sixth sextants of the compass; and in the few cases where they appear to enter the first and fourth, they seem capable of being resolved into the butt-ends of the others connected by inferior links.
The longest ascertained range in the interior of the country is the one flanking the right of the Ladak Indus, and dividing it from the valleys of East Balti, Nubra, and Tanktse; the length of this range is about 225 miles; its direction nearly S.E. and N.W.; and it runs almost all through Ladak, beginning rather short of the South-East frontier, but extending as much beyond its North-West into South-East Balti. The ranges on both sides of this chain are generally more meridional in their direction, so as to meet the left of the Indus and right of the Nubra river very obliquely; and they cannot be traced continuously to such a length as the preceding, the longest ascertained being rather more than 100 miles, dividing Nubra from Kumdan, but possibly extending further beyond the Turkish watershed. In Nari-Khorsum the longest ascertained range is that dividing Guge Chumurti and Koyul (of Hanle) from Gar Namru Tashikang and Upper Kakzhung, and in its middle part the Indus from the Sutluj, having a length of 150 miles, and direction of S.E. by S., N.W. by N. The range dividing Horba Kangri and Gar from Seng is perhaps longer, though our positive knowledge of it does not exceed 150 miles, approximately S.E. and N. W. The Peak of Tise or Kailash is the end of a long spur projecting from the S.W. face of this. There is also a range of more than 100 miles dividing Ruduk from Tashikang and Kakzhung, with a direction nearly S.E. and N.W.
I had no opportunities for measuring the height of inaccessible summits in Ladak, and could merely estimate some of the most conspicuous by view from lower barometric stations, in which estimates the most experienced mountaineer is liable to err by thousands of feet. On the whole I should suppose 20,000 feet to be a very common height for the average crest of the main ranges in most parts of West Nari. In the Changtang of Ruduk Hanle and Rupshu there is a good deal of mountain something lower, and some considerably lower in the Rong of Purik, and in most parts of Balti. The long range of Central Ladak does not average perhaps more than 19,000 feet; it is still less at its N.W. end, towards Purik and Balti, but at the S.E. contains some snowy summits probably much above that height. The range south of Central Ladak seems above the average height, and its most prominent peaks, opposite to Le, is perhaps 22,000 feet. The mountains dividing Tsotso from Hanle and Chumurti are also above the ordinary height, and as Gerard estimated some of their peaks at 30,000, and Porgyul, measured 22,600, appears from Guge to be quite lost among them, the highest are not improbably 23,000 feet. The short range flanking the west of the Pangong Lake appeared to me higher than any other in Ladak, averaging I should suppose 22,000 feet, with peaks of 23,000, the summits being covered with a wide belt of nevee whilst my own barometric station at 18,800 feet was entirely free from all snow.* Dr. Thompson estimated one of the peaks at the head of the Kumdan valley at 24,000 feet; and from the top of the Karakorum Pass (itself 18,000 feet) he saw a range of mountains, still N. of the Turkish watershed, very snowy in August; therefore in all probability above four miles high.
In Nari-Khorsum my brother has measured a few of the peaks on and near the Indian watershed, by purely geometrical operations which assure the results within one or two hundred feet. The highest of these is Kamet (i. e. the Snowless-name doubtful), situated on the watershed of South Guge and East Chongsa, a most conspicuous landmark from all the elevated parts of North Guge and Chumurti, and also visible from Almora on the Indian side, where, however, its appearance is so modest that, till 1849, it remained unnoticed and unmeasured, though but 250 feet lower than the King of the Western Himalaya, Nanda-Devi. The main peak of this mountain is 25,500 feet, and the points of its two chief spurs about 24,000. Next to this is Gurla, Mandhata or Momonagli (name doubtful), forming the end of a lofty spur that runs from the Indian watershed up the N.E. side of the gorge of Purang, till it suddenly terminates on attaining its greatest height immediately south of the lakes of Kangri: its highest summit is 25,200 feet, and other points of the same mass 22,200, 22,500, and 22,800 feet. The peak of Tise, or the Indian Kailash, which is purely Tibetan though in the Lhogyut, is 22,000 feet; and some of the main range behind it is--to judge from its snow--quite as high, though less conspicuous from the S. and W. A peak of 20,500 towards the S.E. end of the range dividing Gar from Guge, though slightly prominent from this the lower end, appeared to be equalled if not exceeded by the average crest at the N. W end of the same range, between Chumurti and Tashikang. The summits, of 18,000 feet and upwards, that project from the Indian watershed of Daba, or are detached from it in Kangri, look like mere hills compared with the neighbouring mountains, and might be subtracted without causing much difference in the general appearance of the country.
The passes, which are commonly the lowest part of the ridges, generally exceed 18,000 feet on the principal ranges in Ladak and Nari-Khorsum; if less than 16,500 they may, in the Changtang, be little better than Tibetan valleys; but in Purik and Balti some of the main ranges perhaps may be crossed at such elevations. The highest pass I crossed in the course of my own travels was the Zulang La, leading from Koyul of Hanle into Chumurti, which measured (by boiling thermometer geometrically compared) 19,000 feet: but another pass of the same ridge distinctly visible a mile or two off seemed 500 feet higher, and this is the highest of which I have any cognizance. Passes between 18,000 and 19,000 feet are of the commonest occurrence all over Ladak and Nari, not excepting the second-rate range of Middle Ladak; and some of these are frequented by Turks and Tibetans even in midwinter.
The Tibetans call mountains Ri, and a mountain pass La. They have proper names for a few remarkable peaks and for all of the passes, but no general name for whole ranges; and when such appear upon our maps they are the misapplication of purely local names by English surveyors and European geographers. Thus the Tibetan Para Lasa, i. e. Middle Pass, the Turkish Mus-Tag, i.e. Ice-Berg, and Kara-Korum, i. e. Black Gravel, applied by the natives exclusively to the mere passes, and the Indian Kailash to a mere peak, have been "raised to that wrong eminence" upon the map of Asia.
Valleys.--As the valleys of West Nari (in Tibetan Lungba) are the very essence of the habitable country, their names are generally identical with those of their inhabited places, which are often taken from the chief village, or from the Khar, i. e. Castle, or seat of local government; and the smallest ravines even have their names, in common with the hamlet pasture ground or encamping place contained in them, or names of their own when containing nothing. The terms sTot, Yarma, Kongma or Kongnus = Upper; Parma or Parba = Middle; and Sham or Shamma, Mat or Madma, Yogma or Yognus = Lower, are often used for the purpose of subdivision.
The general formation and arrangement of the valleys may be inferred in some measure from what has been said of the mountains that bound them, and the alluvial deposits that form their pave. The prevailing direction of their main axes of drainage is of course like that of the mountain ranges, in the third and sixth sextants of the compass; but the exceptions to the rule are frequent, as a roomy valley may lie between secondary spurs of mountain, or even in the cross fissures of a main range, and will then usually have the opposite or transverse direction. The general arrangement may be briefly described to consist of one long central valley, traversing the whole Zhunglam from end to end, and a succession of shorter branches through the Changyut and Lhogyut, either joining the central valley or forming independent systems connected with the valleys of the Indian Himalaya.
The valley of the Zhunglam runs between 600 and 700 miles from S.E. to N.W., traversing the districts of Seng-Tot, Seng-Mat and Tashikang of Nari, Kakzhung, Rong-Ladak, Central and Lower Ladak, and Khartaksho, Tolti, Parkuta, Central Balti and Rongyul. Its minor branches on the N.E. side are very insignificant (so far as we know them); those upon the S. not penetrating to the Lhogyut include the Kanji valley of East Purik, YuruWanla of Lower Ladak, Koyul of Kakzhung, and Gar Proper. In the Changyut the valley of Shigar is the only one of the secondary branches that joins the central valley direct.
All the rest of them, viz., Khapalu, Yarma-Nubra, Kumdan with ChangChemno, lData and Chang-Parma of Pangong, and No of Ruduk, with a few smaller branches from the S. side, first unite to form a great secondary trunk which runs the whole length of Ruduk, Pangong, Tanktse, Nubra, Chorbat, Khapalu and Kiris, parallel to the main valley of the Zhunglam (and separated from it by the long mountain range of Middle Ladak) before joining it in Central Balti. E. of Ruduk the arrangement of the valleys is unknown.
In the Lhogyut, the small valley of Hasora joins the Zhunglam of Lower Balti direct, at the very W. end of all Tibet. Next to this is the system of Purik, which joins the central valley at the frontier of Ladak and Balti by a short transverse trunk uniting four main branches, viz., Shingo (name doubtful), Hemhaps, Suru Kartse, and Waka-Molbi (or Pashkyum). The system of Zangskar is more extensive; its main trunk (which is very narrow and tortuous in its lower part) running almost perpendicularly up to the Indian watershed, with several large branches, viz., the Zingchan and sTotZangskar from N.W., and Marka, North Kharnak, Zangla and Lungnak from S.E.; the last of these itself a large system, branching into Khargya, Shade Shun, Lingti, South-Kharnak and North-Rupshu. South Rupshu unites several small branches before joining Tsotso, and the latter enters Hangrang of Upper Kanor at the same point where sPiti joins it from the westward.
The system of Hanle joins the Upper Rong of Ladak obliquely from the S.E., and is of much less extent than the others of the southern zone. The Lhogyut of Nari-Khorsum is formed into one long chain of valleys running S.E. and N.W., from Maryum-La to South-Hangrang, through Horba Kangri and Guge, expanded to a great breadth in Guge, and narrowed about Kangri by the encroachment of Purang, which is a separate valley descending to the Indian Himalaya of Naipal. The valleys of West Nari may be made any length from 1 mile to 700, according to the degree of subdivision or generalization adopted by the geographer. The alluvial bottoms are much more continuous in the Changtang than in the Rong country. In all Ladak the longest expanse of uninterrupted flat bottom is perhaps the valley of Nubra, where, from Agam to the foot of the Yarma glacier, we may travel for 80 miles in a straight line over alluvial flats without once crossing rock in situ, and with no other ascent or descent than the ups and downs of the secondary alluvial banks--which rarely exceed 100 vertical feet--or the general slope of the valley, which is only 20 feet in a mile and almost insensible; but not above a third of this length can be seen at once in a straight unbroken vista, and the views here are perhaps more extensive than in any other valley of the Rong. In the Changtang of Ladak, the longest extent of straight open valley is Kakzhung on the Upper Indus, where the same direction is preserved for about 50 miles without interruption of the alluvial flat, and but 200 or 300 feet of general slope, with a good breadth and unbroken view for two-thirds of that distance. This is probably equaled or exceeded by some of the valleys of Nari; besides Guge, which is altogether anomalous and will be separately described further on. Some of the best valleys of the Changtang moreover are occupied in part or whole by lakes, such as the Tso-Moriri of Rupshu, whose basin has a clear open length of 20 miles; and the Pangong of Tanktse and Buduk, where the aggregate length of open valley is more than 100 miles, though broken into three or four vistas, so that not more than 25 or 30 miles can be seen at once. The lakes Mapham and Langak narrow without shortening the valley of Kangri.
The breadth of valleys is of necessity generally greater in the Changtang than in the Rong; yet expanded plains are the exception to the rule even in the Changtang, and the upland valleys very often assume the appearance of mere passages between walls of mountain. In most cases, and especially in the Rong, the alluvial bottoms are defined with great precision by the extreme abruptness with which the mountain sides rise out of them, in sheer rocky precipices or slopes inaccessibly steep and rugged; and very seldom is there any blending of the mountain and valley by inferior undulating hills.
In the Changtang of Nari, the valley of Kangri appears to attain an extreme breadth of 5 miles, besides lateral recesses partly occupied by the lakes: parts of Gar, Tashikang, Ruduk, and No, are also said to be expanded into small plains. In Ladak the valleys of Chushul in Pangong, Kakzhung, Mid-Hanle, and Tega Leptra and Pangpok of South-Rupshu, are often 3 miles wide, seldom less than 1, and sometimes above 4, and the greater part of this fair open plain.
In the Rong of Ladak the breadth of the valleys may be estimated to average no more than half a mile: one fourth mile is very common, and some of the bottoms occupied by fields and villages are even less than a furlong.
In some parts of the Rong, the gorge of mountain rock is so contracted as to be wholly occupied by the river, quite uninhabitable, and sometimes impassable. This occurs even in the main valley of the Zhunglam, both in Upper and Lower Ladak, which, though nowhere actually impassable, is often very narrow and rugged; and in the lower part of the gorge of Zangskar, much of which is totally impassable excepting by the ice of the river in winter. The lower part of the Kharnak valley can be traversed only by incessant fording and wading of the river in the dry season: and in the Tilat branch of the same valley, the road for some miles lies nearly as much in the river as out of it; at one point passing through a natural archway of rocks so low that a horseman wading the stream must stoop his head to get through, and at another through a rocky gorge which the Tibetans aptly call TarsonMigarson, i.e. Horse-way no saddle-way, being nearly narrow enough to scrape the saddle off a horse's back, whilst the bottom is filled with dangerous accumulations of snow or water.
In many other valleys, such as that of the Maryul Changyut, both above Nubra in the Shayok and Kumdan quarters, and below it in Chorbat of Balti, though the bottom itself may be sufficiently wide and flat, the passage is obstructed by the depth of the river and its repeated contact with the foot of precipitous mountains; and in these cases the valley may be just passable in the dry season by frequent fording and wading, or at some points by climbing over the rocks of the mountain side (roads and bridges being in this country generally out of the question).
One of the widest expansions of valley in the Rong is in Central Ladak, where, for a length of 15 miles, the breadth varies from 4 to 8, exclusive of the further recesses of the side ravines; the mountain flank on the left (S.W.) being approximately straight, and that on the right (N.W.) broken into deep bays--the mouths of lateral ravines--which are separated by spurs of inferior but steep and rocky hills, narrowing to points as they advance and descend towards the Indus. The town of Le is situated in one of these recesses, 4 or 5 miles from the river, and it enjoys a wider southern aspect than almost any other place in the Rong of Ladak. The valleys of Nubra are seldom less than 1 mile wide, and in the lower part of Yarma as much as 3, with a still greater breadth at the junction of the two valleys about Deskit. Central Zangskar has an extreme breadth of 5 or 6 miles about Padum and Karsha, where the sTot valley unites with the mouth of Lungnak to form the valley of Sham-Zangskar. The greatest expansions are generally at the junctions of two or more valleys, but the irregular shape of such places often renders it difficult to define their breadth; and as all my statements on this head involve some guess-work, they might be modified by an exact survey of the ground with instruments.
If stratified alluvial deposit be considered essential to the formation of a valley, the greatest elevation of any valley bottom cannot exceed the uppermost limit of that alluvium, or 16,500 feet. The mountain hollows about this height are seldom more than mere ravines, though in one or two places they may be found looking very like valleys even up to 18,000 feet; and it is possible that some slight wash of alluvium has been deposited up to that height.
The lowest depressions are to be met with in the gorges by which the main rivers make their exit to India. The gorge of Purang is explored only down to Taklakhar, where the bed of the Mapcha river is still about 14,000 feet (doubtfully estimated from adjoining stations). The gorge of Rongchung, or Lower Guge, may be defined by drawing a straight line from Mount Porgyul to the high peaks on the south bank of the Sutluj, which will cut the gorge under the Piming La, where the height of the river bed may be estimated about 9,000 feet (being midway between Shipki 9,700, and Namgya 8,600): this place is narrow and rocky, I believe, with little remains of the alluvium.
The gorge of Tsotso, discharging the river of Rupshu into Hangrang, is about 11,000 feet: the highest point which the Chinese government allow us to explore here is the Takka rDozam, where the river bed at 11,600 feet is extremely contracted between huge rocks, some of which have tumbled across the stream and formed a natural bridge more picturesque than convenient: but the conflux of the river with that of sPiti, where both debouch into the open valley of Hangrang, is (according to Gerard) only 10,200; and at both these points there are large alluvial banks much higher than the river bed. The gorge by which the Indus leaves Balti has been explored down to Acho, at the conflux of the Hasora river, which is nearly its lowest Tibetan point; and the height of the bottom here appears, from boiling observations by Mr. Winterbottom, to be about 4500 feet. The valleys have, of course, every variety of elevation between the limits above assigned. All the main ones are remarkable for the gentle slope of their longer axis of drainage, which, indeed, is rarely sensible to the foot or eye, and completely lost in the ups and downs of the subordinate alluvial banks. The valley bottom of Yarma-Nubra is elevated 11,700 feet at the foot of the glacier that fills its upper end, close below the Turkish watershed, and 10,400 feet at its debouchure in Mid-Nubra, being a slope of 1,300 feet in a length of 55 or 60 miles, or a little more than 20 feet per mile. The upper Rong of Ladak has a slope of about 1,500 feet in a length of 40 or 45 miles (between Chumatang 13,500, and Shara 12,000), or about 35 feet per mile; the slope of Lower Ladak is not so steep. Among the small lateral valleys--that of Sakti and Chimra has a slope of 1500 feet in 10 miles (between Tagar 13,000, and Kalaktartar 11,500), or l50 feet per mile: the valley of Marka is nearly the same: that of Hanu has a slope of 3,500 feet in 8 miles (between Handumir 13,000 feet, and Nyubibrangsar 9,500), or 440 feet per mile; and this is one of the steepest. In the Changtang the slopes are generally (but not always) much flatter: Khargyam of Tanktse has a fall of 2,000 feet in 20 miles (between Long-Kongma 16,000, and Erat 14,000), or 100 feet per mile. The valley of Kakzhung is so flat for 50 miles (between Tedur 14,000 feet, and Loma-Sumdo 13,800) that the slope could not be determined by my single barometric observations; and the 200 feet which I have assigned to it, or 4 feet per mile, is little better than conjecture. Probably much of the Changtang of Nari is as flat as this last, and in the lacustrine basins flatter: the Tso Pangong, for example, attests the perfect horizontality of its valley for a length of 100 miles.
Great Alluvial Plateau of Guge.--The valley of Guge is at once an exception to the general rule of formation, and the most remarkable of all the valleys of West Nari (so far as known to us). The usual .dense mass of mountains here gives place to a large crater filled up with the alluvial deposits so as to make a great plain, which is elevated from 15,000 to 16,000 feet, and interrupted only by tremendous ravines that have been formed by the destruction of the original deposits along all the lines of drainage, or here and there by a few little islands of inferior hill.
The general shape of the valley is a very acute triangle, having its apex adjoining to the heads of Purang and Kangri on the S.E., and its base to Hangrang Tsotso and Hanle on the N.W. Chumurti, at the N.W. corner, is essentially part of the Guge Basin, being contained within the same main watershed, and distinguished only by the projection of inferior mountains above the level of the alluvial plain, which converts it to a hilly district, with narrow valleys like the ordinary Changtang.
The S.W. side of the triangle, bounded by the Indian Himalaya of Kyunam and Chongsa, runs from E.S.E. to W.N.W., and in this direction the continuous length of plain (broken only by the alluvial ravines) measures 120 miles, in a straight line from the S.E. end of Gyanima to the Shelti ravine between the Kiobrang La and Hukyu, which latter may be gathered from Gerard's account (though he is not himself explanatory on the subject), to be the limit of the alluvial plateau in that quarter. On the N.E. the length of continuous plain is 90 miles, measured from Tsiring on the Chumurti border to the Sutluj near Kyunglung, in a direction S.S.E. and N.N.W. along the base of the mountains that divide Guge from Gar and Tashikang; the length being here diminished by the mountains of Chumurti at the N.W. end, and a group of low hills dividing Gyanima from the Sutluj and Kyunglung at the S. E. The greatest transverse breadth measured S.W. and N.E. is about 60 miles, passing through Rabgyaling, and its least breadth across Gyanima only 15 miles.
These dimensions give the alluvial plateau an area of 4,500 square miles; any small defect in which by encroachment of isolated hills is probably compensated by extensions of the alluvium into ravines of the mountainous enceinte.
The main axis of drainage, exhibited in the course of the Langchen river, runs nearly parallel to the S.E. boundary of the valley, leaving the greater breadth of plateau on its N. and the greater length on its S. side. The elevation of the plain averages probably 15,500 feet. The highest parts of it at the foot of the mountains exceed 16,000 feet from boiling thermometer measurements, made in the vicinity of Tsiring, I estimated the height there to be 16,200 feet; some of the highest terraces that come up to the foot of the Niti Pass are about the same (and the height well corroborated by my Brother's geometric measurements), and Gerard also gives 16,200 for the height of Zingchan, near Bekhar, which appears from his account to be alluvial ground. 15,000 feet seems to be the minimum elevation of the original surface where not corroded by ravines, and this only near the banks of the Sutluj where the plateau is least elevated.
The plains of Daba are perhaps generally less elevated than the other parts of Guge, by a few hundred feet, and especially about Gyanima at the S.E. extremity of all, where the plateau is connected with the N.W. head of the valley of Purang. The general fall from margin to centre of the basin may be reckoned about 1000 feet: but this is not uniformly distributed; its base varying perhaps from 10 to 40 miles, and the slope from 25 to 100 feet per mile.
Though clean flat plains often occur between the ravines for many square miles together, the general surface of the plateau is somewhat diversified by terraces of various level, usually separated by ravines, but sometimes rising one from the other in steps, of which formation the most remarkable instance that I met with is between Ling and Mangnang, where a direct breadth of four or five miles, between two of the main ravines, is broken into six different terraces, with a height of 2,000 feet between the top of the highest and the foot of the lowest, the separating steps being sometimes smooth steep slopes and sometimes broken cliffs.
A large proportion of the original plateau--perhaps half--has been destroyed by the ravines, which, conforming always to the present drainage, run in multitudes from the mountain-foot on both sides, uniting, deepening, and widening till they enter the great central ravine of the Sutluj; and the heads of some of them are remarkable for completely cutting off the alluvial deposit from the mountain wall, against which it must have originally rested, as at the foot of the Niti Pass, where the traveller to Daba has to descend abruptly 1,500 feet merely to rise again immediately 1,000, and in the Shelti ravine, between the Kiobrang Pass and Bekhar (described by Gerard). The ravines appear to moderate a little in the Daba quarter, and about Gyanima my Brother found there were none at all, the rivers running in shallow beds over the top of the plain.
I found the ravine of Mangnang at Dakala about half a mile wide across the flat bottom, and several others a quarter of a mile; and the great ravine of the Sutlej appeared to expand to the breadth of a mile between Ling and Tsaprang, though a little above Ling contracted to a very narrow gorge by rocks protruding through the alluvial sides. The dimensions from crest to crest of the ravine sides are commonly double and treble of the bottom breadths, and about Ling and Tsaprang the erosion extends irregularly over an immense breadth, difficult to define, but amounting I should suppose to 10 miles.
1,000 feet is a very common depth for the side ravines, even in their upper part near the mountains; and in their lower part, towards the Sutlej, they deepen to 2,000, 3,000, and perhaps more. I found the bed of the river at Ling to be elevated 12,400 feet, whilst the summit of the alluvial plateau was about 15,700 on the N. bank, and 15,200 on the S.; making a mean depth of 3,000 feet, all broken precipice of pure earth: but further W. the dimensions must be still greater, for Gerard made the bed of the Sutluj under Bekhar 10,800 feet, and the alluvial plateau of Zingchan 16,200, so that the ravine must there attain the depth of a full vertical mile (but whether all pure earth does not appear from his account).
Mean Elevation of the Table-Land.--Our knowledge of West Nari is hardly sufficient for the construction of complete or exact sections of the country, and any calculation of its mean elevation would be rendered very uncertain by the number of assumptions required to eke out the few actual measurements: but it seems to me that in Guge nature has by brute force effected some approximate solution of the problem in question. The mean elevation is in fact the height of an imaginary horizontal surface, leaving as much mountain above it as would just fill the valleys below it; and the formation of alluvial plateaux by the degradation of the mountains that contain them is a partial realization of the supposed process; which in Nari however has been stopped short of completion, as vast masses of mountain still remain above the highest of the alluvial flats; and this partial result is again partly undone by the subsequent destruction of so much of the original alluvium.
But in Guge I think the defect of the alluvium may be set against the excess of the mountains, and the general level of the existing plateaux taken with great probability to indicate, approximately, the mean elevation of the whole tract as limited by the surrounding watershed. The Indian watershed is so far advanced to the N. as to exclude most of the great Himalaya, and the mountains of the north-eastern boundary are neither very high nor broad, reckoned from the elevated alluvial base of 16,200 feet, so that the whole mass of mountain within the watershed line may be conjectured with reason as no more than sufficient to fill the gigantic ravines that everywhere detract from the solid of the alluvium: if this view be correct the mean elevation of all Guge will be somewhere about 15,500 feet.
The mean of all Nari-Khorsum I should suppose to equal that of Guge; for though the valleys elsewhere are often less elevated, there is no where else (that we know of) such a deficiency of mountain. The mean of Ladak I think can hardly be less than 15,000 feet; considering that a third part of it is Changtang, as high as Nari-Khorsum, that the valleys of the Rong narrow as they deepen into mere ravines, and that all through the central meridian, in Zangskar, Central Ladak and Nubra, we find 11,000 feet valleys between 19,000 feet mountains. In Balti the elevations are considerably less, but the area also is smaller, and a mean height of 13,000 feet would only just compensate the excess of Nari-Khorsum over Ladak.
On these grounds I venture to assign 15,000 feet, provisionally and approximately, for the mean elevation of all Western Nari; and in this estimate, as in all others, my aim has been to prefer understatement to exaggeration.
Rivers.--The Tibetans seldom have any name for their rivers; they are generally satisfied to call every large river Tsangpo v. Sangspo, and every small one Tokpo, or any stream indifferently Chu (i. e. Water); and if any proper name be appended to either of these terms, it belongs less to the stream itself than to the inhabited valley or accessible ravine which it traverses. Moreover the inhabitants of the principal valleys sometimes call their rivers by the name of the place next above themselves, from which the stream comes to them, rather than by the name of their own district, as the Nubra Sangspo in Khapalu and Chorbat, the Shayok Sangspo in Nubra, and the Kumdan Chu at Shayok. The people of Balti call the large rivers Gyamtso instead of Tsangpo, which is little better than an abuse of language, however, as the word means Great Lake, and is properly applied to a sea or the Ocean. They also call the Indus the Share Gyamtso, i. e. Eastern River, after the quarter from which it flows to them.
The mythology of the Tibetans, being in advance of their geography, has excepted one or two of the large rivers from the general want of names, but even here the term Khabap, i.e. Vomitory Cataract or Fountain, applies more to the mere source than the whole river: these exceptions are the Senge Khabap, i.e. Lion Cataract, the Indus of Nari-Khorsum and Ladak; Langchen Khabap, the Elephant Cataract, the Sutluj of Kangri and Guge; Mapcha Khabap, the Peacock Cataract, the Karnali of Purang and Tachok Khabap, i. e. Horse Cataract, the river of Nari Mangyul and U-Tsang, and ultimately the Brahmaputra: but on the whole these names are not commonly used by the unlearned, and I very seldom heard the term Senge Chu, i. e. Lion Water, applied to the Indus in Central Ladak. In the dialect of Kanor rivers are sometimes called Ti; and in this way the Guge Sutluj is named Lingti, the river of Ling, from the great monastery of Tot-Ling; and the Tsotso River Parati, from the shepherds' ground of Para in KarakBargyok. The term Samandrang, a corruption of the Hindi Samundar, i.e. Ocean, is applied to the united Sutluj of Kanor by a barbarism like the Gyamtso of Balti.
The general system of the rivers of necessity corresponds with that of the valleys. The longest trunk of the Indus drains the Zhunglam from end to end of the whole 600 miles. Its great northern branch drains all the Changyut of Ladak, and half that of Balti, for a length of about 200, the remaining 50 miles of Balti being drained by the independent affluent of Shigar. The Changyut of Nari-Khorsum is probably for the most part lacustrine, but at least 100 miles of it in the Ruduk quarter, comprising all the basin of the Pangong Lake, though not in active effluence, is connected by channels of dormant drainage with the system of the Northern Indus last mentioned. Of the remainder we are absolutely ignorant, and may suppose it connected either with the same system, or with that of the Upper Lion river of the Zhunglam, or even with the Tachock of East Nari, or with Turkish rivers of Khotan, or divided between several of these; but the scanty volume of the Lion river proves that there is no active effluence of any extent from the northward, and the gradual subsidence of the Pangong Lake that this can receive little from the eastward.
The drainage of the Lhogyut is divided between the southern branches of the Indus and the heads of the Sutluj; the former drain all the southern districts of Balti and most of Ladak; the latter a small part of Ladak, and all the Lhogyut of Nari Khorsum, excepting the small section of Purang, which is a separate system drained by the Tibetan head of the Naipal Karnali, one of the chief sources of the Gogra of Oudh and Behar. In Maryul the drainage of the Lhogyut is not so united as that of the Changyut. South Balti is divided between the river of Hasora, which runs to the Indus direct, and that of Shingo (name doubtful), which first joins the Purik river in Ladak. In South Ladak the main branches of the Indus are two, viz., the river of Purik and that of Zangskar, both a good deal subdivided, and the latter, which is much the larger of the two, notable as the main trunk of the Indus in respect of water volume, and connected at its E. end with the small lacustrine basin of North Rupshu. The branch of the Sutluj that drains South Rupshu, also connected with the small lacustrine basin of the Tso Moriri, after traversing Tsotso and receiving the smaller branch of sPiti, joins the main trunk of the Guge river in Hangrang, and there forms the Sutluj of Kanor. The basin of the Langchen is lacustrine in its upper part, containing the Konkyu Lake in Horba without active effluence, and Tso Mapham and Langnak in Kangri with a partial or intermittent one.
The following is a rough estimate of the areas of these basins and their principal subdivisions: (See Fig. 2)
The chief watersheds are by no means observant of the main mountain ranges, the connection or separation of basins being often determined by cross fissures and secondary ridges. This is well exemplified in Guge; the watershed between the Langchen and Mapcha rivers, at the S.E. corner of Gyanima, lies across the alluvial flat, where it is only about 15,500 feet, or still 700 feet short of its extreme elevation; and the former river, instead of making its way out along with the latter by the open gorge of Upper Purang, breaks through the barrier of the Hangrang mountains by a narrow fissure between peaks of 20,000 and 22,500 feet. Had the Langchen river run out by the Serting La (supposing the necessary fissure in the mountains at that point), and joined the Ladak Indus through the valley of Hanle (supposing the necessary changes of level), such a course would have been more normal than the existing exit to Hangrang, as its direction would then have been from S.E. to N.W., and the mountains about the Serting are more notably depressed than any other part of the whole western boundary of Guge. The watershed between the Indus and Sutluj has a running length of nearly 500 miles, measured from the supposed position of Maryum La to the N. W. extremity of sPiti; and some considerable portions of this are drawn across the heads of valleys transversely to the main mountain ranges.
The prevailing direction of the principal rivers is, like that of the chief mountain ranges and valleys, from S. E. to N.W.; and the main trunks of the Indus, the Nubra river, and the Guge Sutluj, preserve this direction through the greater part of their courses; but the cross fissures, and other irregularities in the mountain ranges, admit of frequent exceptions to this rule (as in the river of Hembaps and Lower Purik, and the river of ShamZangskar); and many of the larger affluents approximate to the same direction as the main trunks, so as to meet them very obliquely (as the rivers of Shigar, Khapalu, and Yarma-Nubra, the Kanji Tokpo, Yuru-Wanla, Hanle, and Gar rivers). Confluent branches also often meet from diamtrically opposite quarters, both in the same line, and united turn off to some other direction, an arrangement which may be seen to pervade all the drainage of Upper Zangskar and Lungnak. In short, the general tendency of the rain rivers is to flow from S.E. to N.W., or N. W. to S.E., and when opposed in that direction to break through the mountains till they can regain it in some other valley.
The approximate running lengths of the principal rivers are as follows:-The longest trunk of the Tibetan Indus is probably about 750 miles, reckoned from its lowest Tibetan point at Acho of Lower Balti, to its farthest sources in Seng Tot of Nari Khorsum.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
The highest point actually attained (by myself) upon the main stream (viz., Demchok, on the frontier of Ladak and Nari-Khorsum) is only 550 miles or so from Acho; but as Moorcroft and Hearsay headed the river of Gar, which is well known to be a feeder of the Indus, 130 miles higher up, and native information so far is tolerably precise, the course of the river may be said to be positively ascertained for nearly 700 miles. Little or nothing is known of the furthest sources in Seng-Tot or elsewhere, and the estimate of 50 miles for the remaining course depends upon native reports and conjecture. In the lower 550 miles, I have myself mapped about the upper half of that course throughout Ladak, and Lieut. R. Young has done the same for the lower half through Balti, our surveys uniting within 25 miles or so; but the credit of the first exploration of the river belongs to Moorcroft and Trebeck, and to Mr. Vigne.
The northern trunk of the Indus, or river of the Changyut or of Nubra (by some called the Shayok), has a length of about 300 miles from its source of greatest volume in the glaciers of Kumdan. But the rivulet of Gyapshan has a further course of 50 miles to the watershed about the Karakorum, and makes the extreme length of this river 350 miles. If, however, there were any active effluence from the Tso-Pangong, and the main trunk of the river extended to the furthest affluent of that lake on the S.E., the Kumdan river being reduced to a northern tributary, the extreme length would be increased probably to 400 miles.
The river of Purik derives its importance more from the number of its branches and their volume than from the length of any of them, its longest run appearing to be hardly 100 miles from the head of the Shingo branch in S. Balti.
The river of Zangskar and Lungnak has its source of greatest volume-which is also the same for the whole Indus--in the head of the Monlung of Lingti, perhaps in the little lake of Yunam, on the N. slope of the Para Lasa; and the length from this source to the conflux with the Ladak Indus (at Tsoksti in Mid Ladak) is 180 miles, making the whole course of the Tibetan Indus of greatest volume 525 miles, or less than five-sevenths of the probable extreme length of the longest course; but the Tsarap branch of the Lingti river is about 20 miles longer than the others, and, measured to the furthest head of this, the Zangskar river will have an extreme length of 200 miles. There is also the line of dormant drainage in the lacustrine basin of N.
W. Rupshu, connected with the Lungnak river by the valley of Kyangchung and the Toze Tokpo; and the furthest head of this, in the eastern affluents of the Thogji-Chemno lake, is just about as far (from the point of junction near Shun) as the source of the Tsarap river.
The lowest Tibetan point of the Langchen or Guge Sutluj may be placed at the conflux of the Hangrang river under Namgya, below which the joint river becomes purely Kanori Bhotiya or Himalayan. Its sources are somewhat complicated (as imperfectly known to us), lying between the Chukar (i. e. White River) from the Indian Himalaya on the S., the Ser-Chu (Gold River) or other streams from the mountains of Kangri on the N., and the effluence from the lakes Mapham and Langak on the E.; the two first being permanent, and the last partial or intermittent; and besides these, there is the dormant drainage of the Horba basin, which stagnates in the Lake of Konkyu on the extreme S.E. The Chukar is said to be as large as the united river of Mensar and Tirthapuri, when swelled by the melting of the Himalayan snow in summer; but we do not know whether it maintains this superiority on the average of the year, nor whether the intermittent contribution of the lakes be equal to the permanent affluence of the Ser-Chu, or other rivulets direct from the Kangri mountains; but the differences in both cases are perhaps small. Measured from these various sources, the length of the Langchen will be--from the Darma Yankti head of the Chukar, about 230 miles; from the head of the Serchu, behind Kailash, 245 miles; from the furthest affluents of Manasarowar on the S.E., 255 miles, which includes about 45 of the intermittent lake drainage; and from the watershed of Maryum La, at the S.E. extremity of Horba, probably about 320 miles, including 65 miles for the dormant drainage of the Konkyu basin.
The most important tributary of the Guge Sutluj is the river of Chumurti, which joins its right in Rongchung, 60 miles above Namgya, after running for 90 or 100 miles from the northward.
The river of S. Rupshu Tsotso and Hangrang has a course of 130 miles, from its furthest source in the head of the Pangpok valley to its conflux with the Langchen at Namgya but the last 25 of this, in the valley of Hangrang, is only demi-Tibetan, lying a little S.W. of the line which I have assigned (though somewhat doubtfully) to the Indian watershed in this quarter; and the same character belongs to the river of sPiti, which joins that of Tsotso at the top of Hangrang, after a course of 80 or 90 miles from the westward. In Rupshu, the S.W. affluent of this river, from the N. side of the Parang La, though 15 or 20 miles shorter than the Pangpok branch, perhaps contributes as much water, because its sources are more Himalayan: there is also the dormant drainage of the Tso-Moriri basin, with an extreme course of 40 or 50 miles from the northward, and the furthest source of this is about as far as that of Pangpok.
The main sources of the Mapcha river of Purang lie in the N.E. slope of the Himalaya, N. of Byans of Kumaon; and from the furthest of these the river has a course of about 50 miles down to Taklakhar, which is the lowest explored point. Perhaps 20 or 30 miles more of it may be Tibetan, but this is uncertain.
In West Nari, neither the length of a river's course nor the area of its basin is any sure index to its volume of water. Much more depends upon the position of its sources as regards snow, and something on the nature of the soil over which it flows. From the greater quantity of snow on the Indian Himalaya and the Tibetan mountains next thereto, the rivers of the S. are incomparably fuller than those of the central and northern zones. Thus the Tibetan Indus, which has its longest course of 750 miles in the Zhunglam, derives its greatest volume from the Lhogyut, no further than 525 miles; the Senge Sangspo, after a course of more than 400 miles through Nari-Khorsum and Upper and Middle Ladak, probably scarce exceeds in volume the upper part of the Lungnak river in Lower Lingti, not 50 miles from its furthest sources, or the joint river of Purik, after running less than 100 miles; and the discharge of the whole Zangskar river, after running only 200 miles, and draining a basin of 6,000 square miles, mostly in the southern zone, is perhaps tenfold of the water brought by the Ladak Indus in double of that course, and from double the area of country, in the central districts.
Rivers of considerable volume sometimes issue ready formed from glaciers; but these are not common in Ladak, and exist chiefly at the heads of the northern affluents of the Nubra Indus, whereby the volume of that river is made little inferior to the Indus of Ladak before the accession of the Zangskar river. In one or two instances also they are diminished or almost absorbed by running over a sandy bed; as the river of Hanle, which is fuller in its thirtieth mile at Tara Sumdo, than in its fiftieth at Hanle Gunpa, and reduced almost to nothing at its debouchure in the eightieth mile at LomaSumdo; and the river of Kumdan, which, 15 or 20 miles below its exit from the glaciers, is almost entirely lost in sand and gravel for as much further, but then comes up again, and regains its former volume.
The fluctuations of volume arising from the melting of the snow sources are very considerable; the annual changes are felt in every river and rivulet throughout the country, but the diurnal ones become obliterated at a short distance, and hardly affect the main trunks of the principal rivers, excepting those of the Lhogyut with affluents joining immediately from the Indian Himalaya (such as the Lungnak of Zangskar and the Langchen of Guge). In the Lhogyut the larger streams are often fordable and unfordable alternately at different hours of the day, and these hours varying according to the distance from the snow sources. As the snow melts most during the afternoon, the rivers will be fullest about sunset, within a few miles of their sources; and a further course of 50 miles or so (according to the current) will bring the flood to the next sunrise.
The utmost irregularity prevails in the distribution of volume in the different parts of any one river; at one point a stream will be double, treble, even tenfold, of its breadth at another point a furlong distant; and the depth is equally variable, and very irregular in any one cross section; such great variations in the volume being of course compensated by equal and opposite changes in the current. In the alluvial bottoms of the principal valleys, the larger rivers generally run in broad flat beds of shingle, winding from side to side, and often subdivided by low islands, or spread into wide reticulated shallows; even the small rivulets affect this form whenever there is any flat alluvial bottom; and the condensation of the stream in a narrow rocky bed, though occurring both in the smallest and largest rivers, is comparatively uncommon.
The absolute volumes of the rivers are generally far inferior to those of the Indian Himalaya, and an unfordable stream is seldom to be looked for, unless in the Lhogyut, or in one of the main trunks of the other zones, and, in summer; but numerical measurements of their actual discharge are still desiderata in both regions, and, in lieu of the former, I can only give a few loose estimates of breadth and depth, taken in crossing fords or bridges, or observed from the banks.
The Ladak Indus, at the highest explored part of its course in Kakzhung, flows through a wide flat, with a stream--often much subdivided--varying from 50 to 100 yards in breadth, and a gentle current of 2 or 3 miles an hour; and in October I found the fords here not above 2 feet deep, though in midsummer some of them exceed 3 feet. In the upper Rong the river is more condensed, and seldom or never fordable, being at some points not above 10 yards wide, with a most violent current, and the bottom quite hidden by the depth of water (though very clear), and the bridges vary from 40 to 80 feet in waterway. In central Ladak it resumes somewhat of the character it had in Kakzhung, being a good deal spread into wide shallows, with a moderate current: at two points, where most condensed, and unfordable, it is spanned by bridges having waterways of about 100 feet; but at sPituk under Le, it is easily fordable at all seasons, being subdivided into two streams, which in the middle of May I found each about 100 yards wide, and only one and half feet deep, though in summer the depth is greater. Immediately below this, which is the last ford, the Ladak Indus becomes condensed again, and then joins the river of Zangskar.
The river of Lungnak becomes unfordable in summer, with a breadth of 30 or 40 yards, immediately below the conflux of its main head-streams in Lingti, only 40 or 50 miles from the furthest sources. In its lower part, after the accession of several large affluents, it is much condensed, with a deep rapid stream, and average breadth of 50 yards. On entering the wide alluvial flats in the open valley of central Zangskar, it spreads in subdivided streams, but still unfordable at their deepest, over a breadth of half a mile, till its junction with the river of sTot Zangskar. The united stream is then condensed again, and confined to a narrow rocky bed for the rest of its course through Sham Zangskar, its volume being at the same time much increased by several tributaries, the last and largest of which, from Kharnak, is itself, in summer and in the lower part of its course, an unfordable river. At Nyerak, in Sham Zangskar, Dr. Thomson found the river hemmed in between high rocky walls, only 40 feet wide, with a rapid current, and spanned by a common wooden bridge; and from this to its conflux with the Ladak Indus, it is impassable except on ice in winter.
In Lower Ladak the united Indus is generally condensed into a deep surging river, sometimes expanded to a breadth of 100 yards, and sometimes contracted to no more than 10, in the latter cases very rapid, and always of unfordable depth. The principal bridge here, at Khalatse, has a waterway of about 70 feet.
Moorcroft found some of the heads of the Purik river hardly fordable in the beginning of summer, and he estimated the united trunk of the river below Khar Rul as equal to the Ladak Indus under Le.
The northern Indus, which rises at once with a considerable body of water from the glaciers of Kumdan, is said to be almost entirely absorbed in a sandy part of the valley 30 miles below, but appears again in its full volume further down. It becomes unfordable in summer below the conflux of the large stream from Chang-Chenmo: thence to Shayok I found it from 30 to 100 yards wide, and, though flowing through a broad open valley, often condensed into a single stream, and generally unfordable in the middle of September. Between Shayok and Agam the valley is very narrow and rocky, and in the end of April I found the fords--of which there were no less than sixteen to be crossed in 30 miles--from 60 to 180 yards wide, and one and half to three and half feet deep; and this part of the river becomes impassable during the summer months. Through Nubra the river runs in a wide open flat, and is always fordable at several points, even below the conflux of the large affluent from Yarma Nubra, being much spread into wide shallows with a gentle current, and attaining an extreme breadth of a quarter of a mile. Below this the valley becomes contracted again, and the river more condensed and rapid, its breadth commonly from 50 to 100 yards, but under one of the bridges only 80 feet; and it is generally unfordable for the rest of its course through East Balti, though not without exceptions in the dry season. Some expansion occurs in Khapalu, and Dr. Thomson found the river fordable here in the beginning of November, with a breadth of 200 yards and average depth of 2 feet; but immediately below this it is considerably augmented by the large affluent from North Khapalu, and becomes condensed again into a deep unfordable stream down to its junction with the main trunk of the Indus at Kiris.
According to Mr. Vigne, the northern Indus is 150 to 200 yards wide close above its conflux with the central river, and this latter only 80 yards wide, but deeper; and Dr. Thomson supposes that the discharge of the two streams may be nearly equal, whilst other travellers have even considered the former to be the larger. But these are mere guesses; and, considering that the two southern branches of Zangskar and Purik alone drain a joint area as large as the whole northern basin, excluding the inactive lacustrine basin of the Pangong, and much moister in climate, and that the whole basin of the central and southern river is nearly three times that area, it seems pretty certain that the discharge of the central Indus must be very much greater than that of the northern branch.
The authorities above mentioned state the united Indus at sKardo to be from 100 to 200 yards, or often more than 500 feet, in width, and 9 or 10 feet deep in the centre, even in winter, with a moderate current; and it here receives a considerable accession from the northern affluent of Shigar. Mr. Vigne describes it as "a furious rapid" in the contracted gorges of Rongyul; and it continues probably to be deep and narrow for the rest of its course through Lower Balti, its volume at the same time being increased by the river of Gilgit and other affluents. There is no extant account of the Indus near its lowest Tibetan point.
The southerly position of the Guge Sutluj gives it a respectable volume among Tibetan rivers. The mouth of the Chukar, its chief southern source below the lakes of Kangri, is said to be forded with difficulty sometimes in summer. The main trunk of the river, a little above Tot-Ling, is crossed by an iron chainbridge with a span of about 100 feet, the stream being here contracted between rocks and unfordably deep; but immediately below this it is spread out again over a wide alluvial flat, and fordable in many places between Tot-Ling and Tsaprang. I have not heard of any fords below Tsaprang; but there are two bridges in Rongchung, and a third in Hangrang, close above the conflux at Namgya, which Gerard states to have a span of 74 feet.
The western head of the Sutluj is rather a scanty stream in the upper part of its course through Rupshu, and often spread in shallows to a great breadth-at Tronyor, near Chumur, to a quarter of a mile; but it becomes condensed on entering the narrow rocky valley of Tsotso, and is generally unfordable in summer for the rest of its course through that district. Close above the conflux of the sPiti river in Hangrang, Gerard found it 98 feet wide, and unfordable in the middle of August, but said to be fordable with a depth of 2 1/2 feet in the dry season. The sPiti river was smaller. According to the same authority, the united river of Hangrang is spanned by a 92-feet bridge at Kyakhar (v. Shelkhar), but in two other places measured 85 and 90 yards, which he considered its average breadth, the stream being deep and rapid.
The Mapcha river of Purang appears to be unfordable in summer under Taklakhar (50 miles from the furthest sources), and a little above that is spanned by a bridge of about 50 feet.
The general flatness of the valleys on the Tibetan tableland renders the fall of the principal rivers far more moderate than those of the Indian Himalaya, and the secondary mountain rivulets, which are more rapid, have no considerable volume; so that neither of them can compare with the thundering cataracts that form the cis-Himalayan sources of the Indian rivers. My measurements of the running lengths of the rivers, and of the elevations of the points taken on them, are not exact enough to give the falls with much accuracy, but those contained in the table, p. 45, may be taken as useful approximations.
It appears from the table that the fall of the main Indus attains its minimum (so far as known), of 3 or 4 feet per mile, in the upper part of its course, in the Changtang, and its maximum, of near 30, immediately below that, in the upper Rong; whence it subsides again, with some irregularities, to about 25 feet per mile in Central Ladak, 20 in Lower Ladak, and 15 in Balti; and these limits nearly include the falls of the other principal rivers, excepting in their highest or lowest parts, which are sometimes steeper than 30. The greatest fall observed in the head of any river, fairly out of the mountain ravines, was only 45 feet per mile; but there may be others steeper. In both branches of the Sutluj, the falls increase rapidly as they pass from the Tibetan table-land to the slope of the Indian Himalaya, attaining at last to maxima of 80 and 120 feet per mile, or nearly double and treble of the greatest Tibetan falls. By non-advertence to this fact, Gerard fell into great exaggerations regarding the probable elevation of the lakes of Kangri at the head of the Guge river.
Lakes.--The lakes (in Tibetan mTso) form rather an important item in the drainage system of West Nari, as their basins occupy in all probability not less than 12,000 square miles (and possibly much more if the unexplored parts of the north-east be lacustrine), the whole of which is exclusively in the Changtang, where the flatness of the general level and absence of deep fissures favour such accumulations of the drainage.
The largest of all the lakes is the Pangong, which receives half the drainage of Tanktse of Ladak, and all of Ruduk of Nari, and, were it not a lake, would be the longest trunk of the northern branch of the Indus. Its basin has a mean length of about 110 miles directed S.E. and N.W., with a breadth of 60, and area, therefore, of 6,500 square miles. Though not actually explored to the whole of this extent, it is not likely to be less, and may be very much more, including dormant drainage to the eastward.
The lake itself has a running length of 100 miles probably (about half of which is actually explored), and an average breadth of only 3 miles or so, making the area 300 square miles. The middle part of the length is directed nearly E. and W., the N.W. quarter being turned northward, and the S.E. probably southward.
The character of the containing banks is for the most part very steep and rocky, scarcely leaving a footpath along the water's edge, but exceptions to this occur in several places; all along the S.W. side of the northern horn there is a flat or shelving alluvial bank, sometimes a mile wide, giving site to the agricultural hamlets of Pangong, where mountain rivulets admit of them; and there are also said to be wide plains open to the lake in the southern horn, at Ruduk in the S., and at No on the N. side, but these formed in whole or part by the mouths of the lateral valleys opening into the immediate basin of the lake.
The plain of Ot--which is 7 or 8 miles long, with an extreme breadth of 3 miles, on the N. side, about 10 miles W. of the lake's mid length, at the mouth of the Chang-Parma valley--encroaches altogether on the proper bed of the lake itself, which is here singularly contracted, for 2 or 3 miles, into a narrow channel like a large river, having a minimum breadth of 50 yards of unfordable depth.
The lake has at least eight permanent affluents; three only are actually explored in the N.W. half, but we have precise information of five more in the S.E. Of the former, the longest has a run of 40 or 50 miles (through Chang-Parma), but the shortest, of only half that course (from lData), has the largest volume; of the latter, it seems probable that one passing Ruduk (from Chagang, &c.) has a run of 60 or 70 miles, and another, debouching at No (from the N.), is said to be hardly fordable at its mouth in summer.
The Pangong has no effluence whatever; but there is an open valley connecting the N.W. end of its basin with that of Tanktse affluent of the Nubra river, via Muglib, the length of dormant drainage between the edge of the lake near Jaktil, and the first appearance of the Mublib rivulet in a scanty spring at Wang-tong, being 7 or 8 miles; and the spring, being sub-siline, is considered by the Tibetan inhabitants as a filtration of the lake water. The water shed across the head of the valley is almost imperceptible, but lies probably at Donzho Lhato, only a mile from the lake, and scarce hundred feet above its present surface. The present level of the water is about 13,400 feet.
All along the banks of the lake there is a well-defined zone of horizontal water marks, extending to a height of perhaps 70 feet above the present surface, formed both by calcareous concretions, and by erosions on the foot of the marginal rocks, corresponding marks being also visible in parts of the alluvial shore; and the upper most of these lines no doubt marks the level of the exisiting watershed at Donzho. The gradual subsidence of the lake is established by further evidence. The plane of Ot, which is raised only 10 or 12 feet above the present water-line, consists of fine earthy strata full of small shells, which are very perfect and unaltered, if fossils at all of the most recent sort, and some of them closely resembling (if not identical with) a small species still living in the Tso-Rul, though none were observed in the water of the Pangong itself. Although the inhabitants of Pangong have no tradition regarding the origination of Ot by the subsidence of the lake, its gradual desiccation in the present (i.e., human v. historic) era seems probable; and I was informed by a Tibetan, who had visited the lake in company with Moorcroft in 1821, and again with myself in 1848, that the water had receded perceptibly from the encamping ground at Jaktil during these 27 years, which, as the shore there is flat, might have been done by a very slight subsidense of the water.
The water of the Tso-Pangong, in the greater part of the lake, is very salt (not the salt of the sea, but Epsom salts, or some other compound of Soda), and the solution seems doubly concentrated in the contracted channel at Ot; but at the S.E. end of the lake it is said to be quite fresh and portable, which no doubt arises from the greater affluence of mountain streams in that quarter.
The Tso Rul and Tso Shaldat are two small lakes, situated in a flat valley, which connects the Chushul valley with that of Ruduk, parrallel to the Pangong, and a few miles south of its middle part, with the length of 50 or 60 miles, and average breadth of 1, uniformly elavated about 14,400 or 14,500 feet, and with no sensible watershed, its western and longer portion forming the basin of the Tso Rul, and a few miles at the E. end that of the Shaldat. The Tso Rul is about 15 miles long E. and W., and 1 mile broad, with a single scanty affluent 10 or 12 miles long entering its E. end, and one or two small springs of fresh water rising in the hill foot at its margin; the lake water being salt, like that of the Pangong, though in a lesser degree, and without any effluence, though the basin is quite flat and open towards the Chushul valley. The Shaldat is only 3 miles long, and at the utmost 1 wide, with a very scanty and intermittent affluent to its S.E. corner, no effluence, but equally open to the Tso Rul or to Ruduk, and its water not so salt as the other, but still undrinkable. Both of these lakes are surrounded by signs of modern subsidence like the Pangong.
The general system of the Tso Pangong may be finally explained by saying, that a very slight elevation in the country about Kesar Gidpo (between the two small lakes) would suffice to send out the Shaldat by Ruduk and the Tso Rul by Chushul, into the great lake, and an elevation of one or two hundred feet at Nertsong (at the S.E. end of the Pangong), with an equal depression at Donzho (at the N.W. end), to drain off the whole into the Nubra Indus by Tanktse and Shayok; but if the present state of things last long enough, the two small lakes will become extinct, and the Pangong divided into two lakes, separated by an isthmus at Ot.
The lakes of S. E. Nari, at the head of the Langchen Sutluj, drain in all a basin about 90 miles long S.E. and N.W., and perhaps 50 wide, making an area of 4,500 square miles. The S. E. half of this, comprising the valley of Horba, contains the Tso Konkyu, lying immediately under the W. foot of Maryun La; it has not been explored by any English traveller, but my Tibetan informants represent the lake to be long and narrow like the Tso Rul, but larger--perhaps 20 miles long and 2 wide, or 400 square miles in area--with no effluence, yet no high ridge between it and the lakes of Kangri, and certainly belonging to the same system of drainage; the water salt; and the elevation probably between 15,500 and 16,000 feet.
The north-western half of the same basin comprises the greater part of Kangri, and contains the Tso Mapham, or Indian Manasarowar, and the Tso Langak (or Oma Tso, i. e. Milk Lake), the Rakas Tal or Rawan Rhad of the Indians. Detailed accounts of these have been already published in the volumes of the Calcutta Asiatic Society, and I here confine myself to their more prominent geographical features. They lie together in a large southern recess of the Kangri valley, S. of the mountains that impart this name to the whole district and include the notable peak of Tise--the Indian Kailash-and N. of the still more gigantic Gurla; they are parted off by detached groups of inferior mountain from Horba and the Tso Konkyu on the E., and from the head of Purang and Gyanima of Guge on the W.; and a spur of low hills--partly alluvial, I believe--projecting from the foot of Gurla, divides the two lakes by an isthmus 4 or 5 miles wide, also partly shutting off the eastern one from the wide flat valley on the N. They are both upon the same level (within a few feet), at an elevation of 15,200 feet; and both of the purest fresh water, in spite of much saline exudation in many parts of their banks.
The eastern lake Mapham is of oblong or oval shape, 15 or 16 miles long E. and W., and 11 or 12 broad N. and S., making an area of 150 square miles. It is known to have several affluents from the high snowy mountains that flank it on the N. and the S., though the English explorers, confined as yet to the W. side, have not actually crossed any of them; and one of them, from the Kangri mountains on the N.E., is said to form a small fresh-water lake, called the Tso Khurgyal, shortly before its debouchure into Mapham (the high road to U-Tsang going between the two lakes). Its effluent runs through an opening in the hilly isthmus into the western lake: I found it a swift stream 100 feet broad and 3 deep in October; and its exit from the lake was seen by Mr. J. E. Winterbottom and my brother, Richard Strachey, from a height a few furlongs off; though Moorcroft crossed this very place without finding the stream, even in August, the time of highest flood--whether from its being then dry, or from its percolating through a bar of shingle close to the lake, as asserted by some of my native informants, is not apparent.
The western lake Langak has probably about the same area as Mapham, but an irregular shape, with a length of 20 miles N. and S., and extreme breadth of 15, measured obliquely across its S. end, the N. end narrowing off to a point; at the S. end there are two or three small rocky islands, the only known instances of such in the lakes of West Nari. My brother and I have between us completed the circuit of this lake, so as to leave no doubt of its affluents and effluents; the former comprise the effluent of Mapham above noticed, two streams from the Kangri mountains on the N.E. as large as that, and a much smaller one from the valley of Jungba in the hills on the S.E. The effluence to the Langchen river is from the N. point, which I crossed however in October without finding any running stream, or any marked channel for one, though the flatness of the ground, its partial inundation in shallow pools, and obvious descent of the level towards the river, entirely corroborated the native accounts of an intermittent effluence in seasons of flood. It is worthy of notice that one branch of the Jungba valley is connected with valleys draining into Gyanima of Guge; and the level of both so nearly flat, and the dividing watershed so insensible, that the depression of a few feet at this end, with an equal elevation at the N. point of the lake, would certainly turn the effluence into the Chu Kar, through the plain of Gyanima, where there now exists a small lake 5 or 6 miles long and 1 in extreme breadth.
The basin of the Tso Moriri, in South Rupshu, connected with the Sutluj through Tsotso and Hangrang, consists of two separate parts, the one of permanent and the other of intermittent drainage. The former, to the N.E., has a length of 28 miles N. and S., with a breadth of 25 miles at the N. end, but only 3 or 4 at the S., making an area of about 400 square miles; and this contains the lake at its S. end: the latter joins at the S. point of the former, from the S.W., having nearly an equal area, with a length of 25 miles N.W. and S.E., and mean breadth of 17; and including half of this the whole basin may be reckoned equivalent to 600 square miles of permanent drainage. The surrounding mountains are not above 19,000 feet, and still less in the southern part, and generally sloped off to the lake with a margin of broad shelving bank. The lake itself has an oblong shape, with a length of 14 or 15 miles N. and S., breadth of 3 or 4, and area of about 45 square miles; its elevation is 15,200 feet, and its water subsaline. The longest permanent affluent is that of Gyang and Tsakshang from the N.W., with a length of 25 or 30 miles; that of Karzok on the W. is much smaller, and two or three others are insignificant summer rivulets.
The intermittent affluent which joins the S. end of the lake, after a course of 40 or 50 miles in two branches from the westward, is the same with the Pangpok branch of the Rupshu river. This stream sends half its waters into the lake and half to join the Parang branch of the river at Nurbu-Sumdo, sometimes both at once and sometimes alternately in different years; an instance of distomosis which, if insignificant for the smallness of its scale, is remarkable as the only one that I have ever seen or heard of in all West Nari, or the Indian Himalaya. The mouth of the Pirse valley (which is the eastern continuation of Pangpok) is contracted into a narrow rocky gorge, opening at right angles into the W. side of the Leptra valley (which is the southern prolongation of the lake's immediate basin), where the latter is 3 or 4 miles wide; and though the bottoms of both are generally very flat, a large fanshaped alluvial delta spreads out of Pirse right across the breadth of Leptra; and the middle part of this bank, being as usual the highest, forms a low flat ridge, so exactly medial to the debouchure of the river that the stream wanders over it for some way, in widely subdivided shallows, before ultimately taking to one or other slope of the delta, or to both; and once parted the two streams cannot unite again, because the medial rise of the bank forms a complete though low bar across the whole bottom of the Leptra valley. A change of a very few feet in the relative levels in some parts of the divaricating alluvial bank, would suffice to put an end to the distomosis, and determine the flow of the Pirse river either wholly into the lake, or wholly into the river of Rupshu.
The Tso Moriri has no effluence; but an elevation of 100 feet at its N. end, with an equal depression at the S., would send it all into the Rupshu river, along with the river from Pirse, through Leptra to Nurbu-Sumdo. The old idea that the lake actually formed the source of the river, obtained by Herbert and others from distant inquiries, and still figuring on most English maps, though not strictly correct, is thus founded on geographical facts, and a careless observer might mistake the southern branch of the Pirse river for an effluent of the lake.
I saw no signs of desiccation in the lake, nor is the existing watershed across the Leptra valley consistent with any considerable height of water above the present surface.
The lacustrine basin of North Rupshu, connected with the system of the Lungnak Indus, is also divided into two parts. The eastern one, containing the lakes of Tsowar, is a triangular area of about 200 square miles, the lakes being situated near the middle of its W. side, where there is an opening through low hills communicating with the western division of the basin at Rokchung. This latter has an equal area of 200 square miles, contains the valleys of Tanglang Rok and Kyangchung, and opens at its south end into the Toze Tokpo branch of the Lungnak at Pangtik; it has no permanent rivulets of any size, and but one or two insignificant ponds often quite exhausted in the dry season.
The main lake of Tsowar has an area of a few square miles only; it has one or two small mountain affluents, the chief of which from the southward expands a little before its debouchure into a pond or small lake of fresh water. It has no effluence, though the opening for it exists as above mentioned: and Dr. Thomson observed upon the surrounding hill-foot a line of ancient water-marks, corresponding with the low valley watershed, and indicating a desiccation of the lake, about 150 feet above the present level. The elevation is somewhere about 15,000 feet; the water of the larger lakesalt, and a small part of the marginal concretions sometimes found to be edible sea-salt.
The name Tsowar signifies Between the Lakes, and is applied to the summer camp of the Rupshu shepherds in that situation. Thogji Chemno, the Great Benevolence, is the name of the Lha, or local deity, who has his Lhato or dedicated turret, on the N. side of the larger lake, which itself must be called by the same name for want of any other.
In the preceding notice of the lakes I have made no allusion to their depth, because it is not known in any instance; but with reference to the general formation of the valleys in which they are embedded, it may be conjectured to range within two or three hundred feet.
The following peculiarities are worthy of remark, as seeming to pervade the whole system. Every one of the Lakes has a connexion by open alluvial valley with the general river drainage of the country: none of them can ever have been much (or 100 vertical feet) fuller than they now are: they are not to be found below 14,000 feet: some of them are drying up without any effluence, under the sole effect of evaporation or subterranean filtration: and those with an effluence are invariably fresh-water, those without it invariably salt.
In addition to the lakes above described, there are several small ones, all fresh-water, formed by the stagnation of rivulets in flat valleys or ravines, generally at high elevations; but they have no geographical importance, and are often mere duck-ponds, though interesting as objects of topography or landscape, and seldom without Tibetan names. The largest that I have heard of is the lake of Kyung, said to be 3 or 4 miles round, in the ravine of Nidar, entering the left of the Indus in Upper Ladak, probably at a height of 15,000 feet; and the most curious that I have seen, is a little pond a few furlongs round, completely insulated in a crater of low serpentine hills that protrude through the alluvial bottom, in the valley of Yarma-Nubra, between Tiritsha and Panimik; but this is in the Rong, at a height of only 10,700 feet.
Glaciers.--Glaciers are well known to the Tibetans under the name of Kangri, i. e. Iceberg, which is also loosely used to denote any high mountain covered with perpetual snow or nevee; but, as might be expected in a country of such little snow, they form rather the exception than the rule, and are not commonly to be found away from the Indian watershed.
In the central part of Ladak the only instances I met with were in the very lofty range dividing Pangong from Tanktse Proper, where several small glaciers of the incipient class fill the deeper of the top ravines below the general coating of nevee, but yet so elevated, that from my camp in the valley of Ko, at 17,800 feet, the lowest of them still seemed 1,000 vertical feet above me. From the shore of the Pangong, about Man and Merak, the ends of some of these may be seen hanging upon ledges of the mountain overhead, and their true character is sufficiently attested by the Tibetan inhabitants, who (incurious as they generally are in such matters) have observed their progressive motion and eboulement, as evidenced by fragments of ice falling to the foot of the mountain. Symptoms of terminal moraine may also be seen descending through the lateral ravines in the valley of Muglib; and the head of the Ko valley above mentioned appears to be composed of ancient moraine rather than alluvium.
But the chief reservoir of Tibetan glaciers seems to be in the S. face of the Turkish watershed, which the joint observations of English travellers and native reports prove to be full of them, and many of the first class both for size and formation. The main trunk of the Nubra river issues from two of these, at a place called Kumdan (by the Turks Chongtash, i. e. Willow Boulders), where the position of the glaciers is such as to cause most devastating debacles, which I shall describe further on. Dr. Thomson visited this place, and has given an account of the glaciers.
I myself found the river of Yarma-Nubra issuing full-formed (being 50 yards wide, with an extreme depth of 1/12 feet, and very rapid, in the beginning of October) from a large glacier, entirely occupying the head of the valley and (so far as Tibetan information goes) rendering it impassable. I estimated the breadth of the glacier, in its lower part, to be 3/4 of a mile; and its length is such that, after ascending perhaps 2 miles, I was unable to see the head of either of the two branches into which it is divided 4 or 5 miles above the lower end. The thickness of ice seemed at least 200 feet. The elevation of the lower end is about 11,700 feet, which is probably 8,000 feet below the mean level of perpetual snow in these regions (viz., 20,000 feet). Wild juniper trees grow all about the hill sides along its lower part, and though the valley is not actually inhabited for several miles below, a fragment of alluvial bank on which I encamped might easily have been converted into a corn-field in immediate proximity to the foot of the glacier. The glacier is remarkable for the extreme flatness of its level, and the abrupt contact of its ice with the steep walls of the granite mountain on both flanks, in which points it follows the character of the retaining valley bottom. The surface also is very free from moraine, often exhibiting the pure clean ice; and although passable with care and toil, in its lower part at least, the crevassation is so excessive that the whole glacier seems to consist of an aggregation of great lumps--each as big as a house, and jammed together in the utmost disorder--rather than a continuous mass with cracks in it: a formation which, I think, must be ascribed less to the disruptive inequality of motion than to the action of surface melting, which produces a network of rivulets that cut grooves in the ice, soon deepening into chasms, which often insulate and undermine great blocks, till they subside or tumble over into new forms of confusion. Glaciers, however, to be well understood, require much experience and specific study, as well as days and weeks of exploration; and my own hasty observations on the Kangri of Yarma-Nubra may be superseded by more elaborate inquiries hereafter.
The Tulumbuti affluent of the Yarma-Nubra river also rises from glaciers, which are passed on the summer road to Yarkend, upon the S.W. of the Saser La (as mentioned by Dr. Thomson). Mr. Vigne found several glaciers in the Shigar and Khapalu valleys, aligning with those of Kumdan and YarmaNubra; and the native travellers between Yarkend and Balti testify to a very large one upon the Turkish watershed, at the head of the Braldo branch of Shigar, which forms a serious obstacle to this route, and gives the Pass its Turkish name of Mustag, i. e. Iceberg. Mr. J. E. Winterbottom and Lieut. R. Young found another still farther to the N.W., beyond the Tibetan frontier, in the northern head of Gilgit.
In connexion with glaciers, I must notice the occurrence of certain permanent beds of frozen snow, or Valley Nevee, which I met with in two or three places of the Changtang in the middle of summer, when the snow-line was thousands of feet higher, and in situations where they could not be ascribed to avalanche or to unusual shade (as in the low summer snowbeds of the Indian Himalaya). The Tibetans call these snowfields Dar, and assert them to be permanent, and constant from year to year in the same places. The largest that I met with were in a wide sunny valley, among low snowless mountains; and all of them in the beds of rivulets where most flat and marshy; the snow always hard frozen, with a very irregular surface, such as often occurs in glaciers or nevee; and the beds more or less broken up into patches, with every variety of thickness up to 3 or 4 feet. I have not been able to form any distinct opinion of these Dar, whether they have in fact any peculiar cause and constitution of their own, or whether they are mere sporadic extremes of the lowest perpetual snow; but to help the resolution of these questions by future observers, I here record the instances which attracted my own notice.
11th August, 1848.--In Chang Parma, of Pangong, a Dar about 3 furlongs long and 1 wide, and 2 or 3 feet thick, at Mitpal Yogma, the valley bottom elevated 16,100 feet and tolerably open. 17th Idem. A small Dar at Phea Tot, bottom elevated about 16,500 feet, and rather contracted. From two or three mountain passages in the vicinity, the mean snow-line was estimated about this time to be nearly 20,000 feet. 21st June, 1849.--In South Rupshu, passed two large fields of Dar, covering several acres, in places 4 or 5 feet thick; one at Manechan-Sumdo, 15,800 feet, and the other 3 or 4 miles above it towards Pangpok, about 16,000 feet; the valley bottom being a mile wide, and exposed to the sun all day, and the surrounding mountains low and snowless; the mean snow-line estimated, from a neighbouring mountain passage the day before, at 17,500 feet, but a fortnight later up to 19,000 feet.
Debacles.--The great valley of the Maryul Changyut appears to have been subject, from time immemorial, to devastating floods rising from debacles in its north-eastern head. The earliest traditions of them take the form of mythology, and magnify them to a scale fit for the giants and Titans, by confounding their effects with the extant ruins of the ancient alluvial era. Thus, the Tibetan inhabitants of these valleys relate that the oldest and greatest of the floods was effected by three of the "Lha"--i. e. Local Deities--to whom they still erect towers, and offer sacrifices: Rangisha of Sakti let loose the waters in the head of the valley at Kumdan; Zangnam of Yarma-Nubra dammed them up at the gorge of Khoro between Nubra and Chorbat; and Koyak of Nubra drained them off again by breaking Zangnam's dam; and the supposed marks of all these operations are to be seen thousands of feet above the present level of the river.
The oldest flood of which I could get any credible matter-of-fact account occurred only about seventy years back, and was witnessed by the oldest inhabitant of Shayok, then a young girl, now an old woman of eighty, who described it to have been on a great scale like that of 1835: between these, there seems to have been no flood of any note.
The one last mentioned occurred on the seventeenth day of the fifth moon of the "Sheep Year," which was some time in June of 1835. As the valley is not permanently inhabited above Shayok, and none of the Yarkendi caravans happened to be at Kumdan at the crisis of the debacle--though there but a day or two both before and after it--there were no eye-witnesses to its actual commencement; but the Yarkendi travellers have been observant enough to ascertain and describe the cause, and their accounts have been confirmed by Dr. Thomson's visit to the spot in 1848.
The debacle originates in two glaciers a mile or two asunder, the upper one of huge dimensions--perhaps a mile wide--coming from lateral ravines on the proper right of the main valley, so transversely that in process of time they slide right across the bottom of the latter, and after abutting upon the steep wall of rock upon its E. side, are thrust upwards by the pressure from behind till the ice reaches a vast height, in the upper glacier--perhaps 700 vertical feet, above the valley bottom. This obstructs all the drainage of the upper valley--probably a running length of 50 miles, and a basin of several hundred square miles--and perhaps some portion of the glacier-river itself, till the waters become accumulated into a large lake between Kumdan and Gyapshan; and under the weight and solvent power of this body of water, together with the continued pressure of the descending glacier, the lower end of the ice is at length burst asunder with a sudden and violent disruption, discharging the accumulated water or at once in a torrent of immense volume and rapidity, hurrying along with it vast quanitities of the overturned ice and moraine.
Travellers who passed Sultan-Chuskyul a few days after the debacle, found the valley full of blocks of ice as big as houses, and so spread with heaps of soft mud that it was impossible to get up to the Saser Pass into Nubra, though the flood-water had all run off. Only ten or twelve years before the debacle, the foot of the glacier was not within a quarter of a mile of the eastern mountain and Yarkend road lay through the open passage; but within that period the jamming of the glacier, and damming of the Gyapshan water, had rendered the valley impassable above Kumdan, and obliged the road to take another line to the E. of these obstructions; nor was the disruption of ice in 1835 sufficient to restore and opening practicable for the road, or offering security against an early recurrence of the debacle, the upper glacier being still impassable when Dr. Thompson visited it in 1848.
Shayok, the highest permanent habitation of this valley, is distant about 100 miles from Kumdan, and village being situated on a bank 200 or 300 feet above the river, is much beyond the reach of the greatest known floods. That of 1835 is set to have passed it by night, and to have mostly run off by the next morning; though, if the statements which the villagers made to me were true, the water must have risen nearly 50 feet where the bottom is about a mile wide. It passed Mid-Nubra, which is 60 miles below Shayok, some time before day break, and had run off by noon of the same day. It here swept away all the lower half of the village of Lagzhung, with ten out of the twenty two houses, and all the inmates, men and cattle; and the village of Deskit suffered equal loss in its low-lying quarters. These were the only two villages in all Nubra low enough to be touched by the flood. At Lagzhung I found fragments of the old fields standing 5 or 6 feet above the low sandy waste of the river flat; and as the remaining part of the village is only about as much higher, the flood could not have risen here above 8 or 10 feet; but attaining even that height, it must have spread into the mouth of the Yarma valley several miles.
In Chorbat of Balti, from 30 to 80 miles below Mid-Nubra, and chiefly in the further part of that distance, no less than 150 farms were swept away from the low-lying lands in the river-bed, but with less destruction to human life, as the flood passed here between day-break and sun-rise, and the inhabitants, warned by the roar of the approaching torrent and the trembling of the earth, had time to effect their escape, with the loss of lands, houses and cattle. The main part of the flood-water is said to have run off from Chorbat in a few hours, and nearly the whole of it in two days. The more destructive ravages did not extend below Chorbat or Upper Khapalu, but the inundation was dangerously great down to the debouchure of the northern valley at Kiris, in Mid Balti. Mr. Vigne has made some mention of its effects upon the united Indus at sKardo.
Throughout the 300 miles, from Kumdan to Kiris, the flood committed great havoc with the natural brushwood of tamarisk, hippophae, and willows, that grew abundantly in the river-bed; many square miles of valuable Tsok (i. e. thorn shrubbery) were thus destroyed in Mid Nubra: and all the way from Agam to Kumdan the Yarkhendi traveller has still to lament the conversion of the pleasant little thickets and grass-plots that once gave him shelter and forage into barren wastes of sand and gravel. Further mischief was done by the violence of the torrent ploughing up deep holes in the softer parts of the river-bed, some of which still remain to render the stream unfordable, and increase the difficulties of the eastern route to Yarkend. The most dangerous mountain-path I ever crossed in my life was necessitated by one of these unfordable depths 10 miles above Shayok. For 150 miles below Kumdan the valley bottom was strewn with fragments of the glacier, the largest of which were several years in melting away: in 1848 I myself saw the residual moraine of some of them, half-way between Agam and Shayok.
The Tibetan peasantry are not exact enough in their mode of reckoning time to admit of any precise determination of the velocity of this flood; but I think it may be assumed that it did not pass Shayok before midnight, nor Khapalu after 6 A.M., making not less than 150 miles in 6 hours, or a rate of 25 miles per hour; but it may have been much more rapid.
In spite of so great a cataclysm as this in 1835, a debacle from the Kumdan glaciers occurred again in the next "Hog-Year," or 1839; but this was of much less extent, and passed Nubra at midday; and as all of the villages liable to inundation had been destroyed by the former flood, merely carried away, the cattle and herdsmen that happened to be out at sea in the river flat; and in the upper part of the valley it did a little good perhaps, in levelling some of the mischievous pits and mounds that had been ploughed up by the great flood of 1835.
Mr. Vigne has associated these Tibetan debacles with some extraordinary floods of the Indus observed in the plains of India; but the two are, I believe, quite incommensurate both in scale and dates of occurrence, and the latter well known to have been caused by landslips altogether below Balti.
Subterranean.--No traces of volcanoes have been seen or heard of in any part of West Nari.
Hot springs occur in all quarters. They have been noticed by English travellers in more than a dozen different places, which is probably not near all that exist; these are generally very scanty, never up to the boiling point at their issue, and sometimes accompanied with gaseous exhalations.
Earthquakes are not unknown: I myself experienced a slight shock of one in Central Ladak (at Chimra, evening, 1st of June, 1848), and Dr. Thomson mentions another at the head of the Northern Indus (at Morgo Chumik, near Kumdan, 23rd of August, of the same year), but the state of several old buildings in Ladak proves that none of any intensity have occurred there for the last 250 years at least.
Climate.--Temperature.--The mountainous contour of the Tibetan Tableland gives rise to a great variety of temperature-climates, corresponding with the various elevations of the country, besides what differences arise from other causes, such as northing or southing in latitude, expanse or contraction of valleys, exposures to sun and wind, & c. The diversities of climate thus produced are in fact innumerable, and I can only attempt to notice one or two of them, chiefly in Ladak, to which region my own observations were mostly confined.
The town of Le, elevated from 11,800 to 12,000 feet, may be taken in point of elevation as an average of the inhabited valleys of all Ladak; but its site on a south face of granite rock, backed by high mountains on the north, and exposed to a greater expanse of south sky than almost any other place in the Rong country, raises its temperature probably above the average of equal elevations.
Continual frost, lasting in the shade throughout the day, is nearly coincident with the winter quarter in the town of Le, but in less favoured localities it begins much sooner even at much lower elevations. Thus in a north ravine of Chorbat, elevated 12,000 feet, the temperature was only 28[degrees] at 2 P.M. on the 4th of November, 1848. Constant frost set in on the 13th of the same month at sKurbuchan of Lower Ladak, elevated only 9,700 feet, with a south aspect; and from this up to Le, during the next ten days, I found the side rivulets (all with a south exposure) little better than cataracts of ice, and the Indus rapidly filling with sludge. In my lodgings at Le the frost was hard and constant from the beginning of December to the end of February: in any part of the house away from a fire, water froze speedily, and, if left so, remained in the form of ice throughout the season; and during the coldest parts of the winter, water, ink, milk, & c., would freeze in spite of fires, and close to them; the house, however, was a large one, kept in the Tibetan fashion, well exposed to the open air, and not many degrees warmer. In this situation, I never saw the thermometer below +2[degrees] Faht.; but as this was at 9 1/2 A.M. (10th of February, 1848), and the exposure of the instrument by no means perfect, it cannot be taken as the true external minimum: the weather, however, about that time was much colder than the average of the winter. On the whole, the winter temperature of Le town may be said to range between 0[degrees] and 30[degrees], to be colder than usual when below 10[degrees], and warmer than usual when above 20[degrees].
The rivulet of the Le valley is one mass of ice throughout the winter months. The Indus, below the town, at a height of 11,000 feet, freezes over during the same period; but owing to the great rapidity of the current, and to springs in the river-bed with a subterranean temperature, the ice is by no means continuous or durable. All the larger rivers may be reckoned to freeze over in winter down to the lowest level of Ladak, or 8,000 feet, though, for the causes above mentioned, their ice is often very much broken. Dr. Thomson found the Indus frozen over at Khartaksho of Balti, about 7,700 feet, on the 19th of December, 1847.
The rise of temperature about the vernal equinox is great and sudden in the town of Le, owing to the sun then striking on a multitude of brick and stone walls and granite rocks that his rays cannot reach in winter. In the fields, the moderate night frosts of spring appear to cease in the middle of April, although thin films of ice may be seen a month later about the shallows of the Indus 1,000 feet below--an effect, no doubt, of greater nocturnal radiation in a more open situation.
The summer temperature of Le is very hot if the direct effect of the sun's rays be taken into account, but quite the reverse as regards air temperature in the shade. The highest temperature I ever observed there was (at 3 P.M. 5th of July, 1848) 69[degrees] in good shade and wind, in the fields below the town, at a height of 11,800 feet, the thermometer just before sunrise on the same day having been down to 53[degrees]; and on the 23rd of the same month, at station about the same elevation a little higher up the Indus, the temperature rose to 71[degrees] at noon in perfect shade and wind: as the weather had been unusually hot about the time of these observations, I consider that the ordinary maximum of perfect shade temperature at a height of 12,000 feet, in Central Ladak, does not exceed 70[degrees]. But perfect shade is very rarely to be found in this land of bare rocks, and the best attainable in most places will admit so much reflected heat, as to raise the thermometer 8 or 10 degrees. Under such circumstances I once saw the thermometer up to 81 and half degrees, at 1. 30 P.M. on the 1st of September, 1847, at Pok of Lower sPiti, elevated 11,600 feet, the latitude, however, being 2[degrees] S. of Le.
Night frosts begin at Le in the middle of September probably. In the valley of Mid-Nubra, at an elevation of 10,500 feet, in the autumn of 1848, the first ice was to be seen in the end of September. By the middle of October, in the same locality, the night frosts became very sharp, and, after that, continued increasing whilst I was descending to lower elevations, and by the end of the month, in Lower Nubra and Chorbat, the day maximum, in cloudy weather, was little above the freezing point, at heights of 12,000 feet.
My acquaintance with the lower parts of Ladak is so small that I cannot give any separate account of climates warmer than Le; but long excursions in the Changtang enable me to add a few particulars regarding the colder climates of greater elevations.
Elevations not above 14,000 feet appear to be exempt from night frost for the greater part of the summer quarter. At heights of 15,500 feet it freezes probably every night of the year. The greatest height at which I ever passed the night without finding ice in the rivulets in the morning was 15,300 feet, viz., at lData of Pangong on the 2nd and 3rd of August, 1848; but during the next two weeks frost occurred every night, at other places of equal or greater elevation in the same district. In 1849, when encamped by the Tso Moriri, at a height of 15,200 feet, I experienced frost every night from the 23rd of June to the 3rd of July; and in travelling through the uplands of Hanle Chumurti and Guge, during the next three weeks, at elevations generally exceeding 15,000 feet, I found the rivulets frozen nearly every morning, excepting in the ravines of Central Guge below that height.
The maximum shade temperature, at heights of 15,000 feet, is probably about 60[degrees]; but as good shade is rarely forthcoming in such places during the middle of the day, the thermometer will often be higher. I once saw it up to 70[degrees], at 1.30 P.M. on the 11th of September, 1847, at Trongyor of Rupshu, elevated 14,900 feet. The day temperature continues mild enough at these elevations till the autumnal equinox, after which it decreases very rapidly, and the frost becomes constant, sooner or later in the month of October. At Hanle Gunpa, elevated 14,500 feet, the thermometer still rose above 40[degrees] during the afternoon in the first week of October, 1847, but there was a good deal of reflected heat here from the walls of the building. During the second week of the same month, in the valley of Kakzhung, averaging 14,000 feet, the temperatures were between 35[degrees] and 40[degrees] during the warmest part of the day, nor was there any permanent ice in the Indus; though the night temperatures were very low, the thermometer ranging from 6[degrees] to 11[degrees] at sunrise--an instance, I suppose, of increased nocturnal radiation in an open plain. The greatest cold which I ever myself experienced in Ladak was in crossing from Chorbat of Balti to Hanu of Lower Ladak, in the beginning of November, 1848, the temperature at the N. foot of the Pass, elevated 14,600 feet, not exceeding 18[degrees] during the day of the 5th, and falling to 1[degrees] at sunrise the next morning, being about the same as one of the coldest winter days at Le.
I had no personal experience of the winter at these heights, and the only information I can give on the subject is, that the lakes, elevated from 14,300 to 15,200 feet, are completely and strongly frozen over for three or four months in the year. As the freezing of large bodies of water is rather a sudden operation, following--not accompanying--the gradual depression of temperature, whilst the melting of the ice so formed is as gradual as the increase of temperature that causes it, the ice of the lakes is more nearly coincident with the calendric than the meteorological winter, or even later than the former. On the 5th of May, 1848, the ice was mostly gone from the Tso Pangong, elevated 14,300 feet, but several square miles of it, in a melting and discontinuous state, were still extant in parts of the lake; drifting about before the wind, and the shore was generally margined with large heaps of fragments four inches thick. On the 11th of the same month there were similar remains of ice on the Tso-Rul, at 14,400 feet, but they were of small extent and mostly melted when I repassed the lake on the 16th idem.
Not a particle of ice was remaining on the Tso-Moriri, elevated 15,200 feet, by the 23rd of June, 1849, but the peasants of Rupshu reported that it had been frozen over during the past season for five months, viz. December to April (inclusive), and was safe for men and cattle over its whole extent for three of those months, viz. January to March. It must be noted that the first of these lakes is highly charged with salt, and the other two subsaline.
At elevations of 14,000 and 15,000 feet it begins to thaw by day in the end of April and beginning of May; and by the middle or end of the latter month the night frost becomes mild, and the day temperature rises to about 50o.
Regarding the temperature of the highest accessible elevations, my knowledge is confined to a few summer observations in crossing mountain passes; but the following inferences seem probable. At heights between 17,000 and 18,000 feet the temperature rises considerably above the freezing point during the day throughout the summer months: from 18,000 to 19,000 feet it thaws during the afternoon in July and August. At a height of 20,000 or 21,000 feet there is probably "perpetual congelation" in the shade; but the summer sun temperature must still rise above the freezing point to much greater elevations. In these situations the temperature of the air near the surface appears to remain below the freezing point until most of the snow is melted, the heat imparted by the sun being first absorbed in liquefying the snow.
Out of 26 observations, at as many different places, between 17,000 and 19,000 feet, the lowest temperature was 4[degrees], at 11 A.M. 6th of November, 1848, at a height of 17,200 feet, in deep snow; this being the first permanent snow of the season, and the latest date at which I crossed a high snowy pass.
In the earliest passage in spring, which was on the 22nd of April, 1848, I found the temperature 8[degrees] at 10 A.M., the height being 18,300 feet, and still covered with deep snow: at the latest in spring where I found deep recent snow, it was 12[degrees], at 7 A.M. on the 13th of June, 1849, at a height of 18,800 feet: at the latest in autumn still free from snow, it was 26[degrees], at noon on the 7th of October, 1847, at 18,400 feet. At the greatest attained elevation, which was 19,000 feet, the temperature was 30[degrees], at 9 A.M. on the 11th of July, 1849, a little old snow still lying on the pass-top. The highest observed temperature was 55[degrees], at noon on the 5th of August, 1848; but this was at the lowest elevation, 17,000 feet, and in a sheltered ravine-bottom, on the S. side of a pass near 2,000 feet higher.
As I was not provided with proper radiating thermometers, my few Sun observations were not of much value; but one or two of the results may be worth stating. In 46 observations, from May to October, at heights ranging from 11,600 to 18,800 feet, a common thermometer with a plain unblackened bulb, rose when exposed to the sun, from 3[degrees] to 42[degrees] above the shade temperature shown by the same instrument nearly at the same time. In Hanle Gunpa, elevated 14,500 feet, from the 26th of September to the 6th of October 1847, 13 sun observations were made amidst the walls of the buildings, exposed to a great deal of reflected heat and sheltered from the wind, the weather at the time being generally very fine: under these circumstances the extreme observations were--
At 10 A.M. 26th September
Sun = 80[degrees]
Shade = 49[degrees]
difference = 31[degrees]
And at noon, 2nd October
Sun = 119[degrees]
Shade = 41[degrees]
difference = 78[degrees]
the sun temperature being above 100[degrees] in 10 cases out of 13.
In the same place, at noon of the 30th of September, the thermometer inadvertently left against a wall exposed to the sun was found at 145[degrees], the shade temperature at the time being about 37[degrees], and the boiling point of water 186 and half degrees. And again, in the bed of the Guge Sutluj under TotLing, elevated 12,400 feet, at noon of the 17th of July, 1849, the plain-bulb thermometer, laid upon a white felt on a rocky bank, with a N. aspect, rose in the sun to 140[degrees]; whilst the temperature of the air in the shade was 59[degrees], of the river 55[degrees], and of boiling water 190[degrees].
The above, though not showing the true amount of the solar radiation, sufficiently indicate that it is very great, and the fact is notorious in the personal experience of all travellers in these regions. This heat of the sun's rays compensates, to a certain extent, for the deficiency of atmospheric warmth in these elevated regions, and forms a most important element in the process of vegetation, without which much of the Tibetan agriculture would be impossible.
In the winter of 1848-9 I made an attempt to ascertain the temperature of the earth at the foot of Le town, with the idea of obtaining a constant temperature indicative of the mean temperature of the place; but the attempt was unsuccessful, either from want of proper thermometric apparatus, or because it was impossible, with the tools and workmen forthcoming, to attain any depth without making a hole so wide as to admit some of the changes of temperature in the air above. My well was sunk to a depth of 36 feet, and was 3 or 4 feet in diameter; the soil was the common alluvial deposit of granitic gravel, and at the bottom a little moist but not wet. The temperatures at the bottom were-
At 11 A.M. 27th Dec. 1848, 51[degrees], air above being 24[degrees] At 9 AM. 28th Dec. 1848, 46[degrees], do. 24[degrees] At 8 AM. 24th Jan. 1849, 43[degrees], do. 18[degrees] At 8 AM. 25th March 1849, 38[degrees], do. 34[degrees]
which look as though the temperature of the upper air gradually found its way to the bottom of the well during the three months.
I also once or twice noted the temperature of the earth freshly extracted from a narrow bore, which could only be got to the depth of 3 or 4 feet; it was
At 9 A.M. 28th Dec. 1848, from 3 feet, 33[degrees], air being 24[degrees]
At 2.30 P.M. 23rd Jan. 1849, from 4 feet, 37[degrees], do. 30[degrees]
At 6 P.M. 24th March 1849, from 3 feet, 40[degrees], do. 42[degrees]
from which it may be inferred, that in these regions the earth is not frozen below the surface, even in mid-winter, in localities so warm as Le, or generally up to heights of 11,000 feet.
In August, 1848, I made similar attempts to bore for subterranean temperatures at a height of 14,800 feet, at Phoprang of Pangong, but they were totally frustrated by water at a depth of 3 or 4 feet, the site being in a narrow valley-bottom saturated by a large rivulet, and the contiguous hills too stony for the available means of excavation.
In the absence of accurate determinations, some estimate of the mean temperature of Central Ladak may be better than nothing: I therefore add the following as probable approximations:-
Central Ladak in lat 34o N at 12,000 feet from to mean Coldest month (January) -5[degrees] +25[degrees] 10[degrees] Fahr. Warmest month (July) +50[degrees] +70[degrees] 60[degrees] do. Mean of the year 35[degrees] do.
But the mean temperature of Le is probably 38[degrees], having an advantage of site amounting to 2[degrees] or 3[degrees], and assimilating its climate to other places less warmly situated at an elevation of 11,000 feet.
The height of freezing mean temperature may be reckoned probably about 13,000 feet.
Barometric Pressure.--The few barometric observations that I was able to make at fixed stations, tend to show that the atmospheric pressure is subject to the same sort of fluctuations on the Tibetan table-land, even at great heights, as prevail in the lower regions elsewhere.
At Hanle in the Changtang of Ladak, at an elevation of 14,400 feet, the daily tides occurred during 17 days of the end of September and beginning of October 1847, about the usual hours, viz., 9 A.M. for the maximum and 4 P.M. for the minimum, and their mean amount during that period was nearly .09, the average pressure being about 17.8. At a station in the town of Le, elevated 12,000 feet, during 14 days of the end of November and beginning of December, 1847, the tides obtained at the same hours and averaged the same amount. In the latter case the pressure fluctuated between 19.31 and 19.77, showing an irregular variation of .46, or nearly half an inch in a fortnight; but these limits seem to have included the whole amount of the ordinary fluctuation; for during 18 months over which my observations extended at the same place (though by no means continuously), the highest and lowest boiling points of water (out of 17 observations) were 191.45 (at 11 A.M. 24th November, 1848) and 190.30 (at 5 P.M. 17th April, 1848), which corresponded exactly (on the scale of my thermometer) to the barometric extremes above stated.
The irregular variations of pressure seem to be connected in these regions, as elsewhere, with calm and fair weather in the case of high pressure, and wind and moisture when low. My observations were not sufficient to establish any of the regular annual movements of the barometer.
Winds.--In a country formed like West Nari, of narrow passages between walls of steep mountain, variously arranged and connected, any single aerial current uniformly impelled from one quarter, must, in all probability, become subdivided into a great variety of local currents, sometimes so altered in force or direction as to be annihilated or diametrically inverted. The complexities of such a system cannot be explained by any off-hand or partial observations of a mere traveller; and what little I say on the subject must be taken with a sufficient margin of doubt.
The total amount of wind in the year is perhaps more moderate than travellers from warmer regions, exposed in tents, are apt to suppose. Winter is the season of least wind. In Central Ladak a good deal of high W. wind prevails in spring. Strong S. winds blow during the summer in the southernmost districts of Ladak and Nari-Khorsum, or those next to the Indian Himalaya: they are especially remarkable on the southern confines of Guge, Kangri and Purang, and in exposed situations often very violent. The force of the wind is greatest in the afternoon, or warmest part of the day, the nights and mornings being usually calm. The prevailing direction of the wind in Ladak appears to be W. or N.W., blowing up the valley of the Indus; but in open places of the Changtang I have sometimes observed a diurnal veering, the wind changing its direction so as to blow from the apparent place of the sun, or easterly in the morning, southerly at noon, and westerly in the evening.
Clouds.--The climate of Ladak is sufficiently fine as regards the proportion of sunny to cloudy weather. During two years, I found the number of days on which sunshine predominated, to be nearly as three to two compared with those on which clouds prevailed; the former including perhaps half the number of days (or nearly a third of the whole year) on which the weather was intensely fine, sometimes with a perfectly cloudless sky, and the latter an equal proportion, or about a fifth part of the year, of very dull or gloomy weather. Foul weather, that is actual rain or snow, during the daytime is of very rare occurrence--in the valleys at least, though the mountain tops may experience a good deal more of it.
Winter is the season of clouds; the number of cloudy days in this quarter considerably exceeding the fine ones; in spring they are nearly equal, in summer the sunny weather greatly exceeds the cloudy; and in autumn the sunshine still predominates, in a less degree.
By far the commonest form of cloud is a cirrus, of a hazy and indefinite sort; cumulus may be seen, but rarely, in summer. The nimbus, as seen in the lower regions, is almost unknown here, or faintly approached in midsummer, and seldom perfected to the production of a few drops of rain. The discharge of snow at all other seasons results from a thin misty cloud, formed by insensible gradations from the cirrus, condensed and lowered to the surface of the earth; the descent of such quasi-nimbus into the valleys as low as Central Ladak, or 11,000 feet, during the daytime, occurring only twice or thrice in the course of a whole winter, and never at any other season.
The statements here made must not be applied very strictly to the southernmost parts of the country, as they partake, in a slight degree, of the clouds and mists of the Indian Himalaya.
Moisture.--I have no wet-bulb or dew-point observations from which to discuss the minutiae of this subject; but I kept a careful account of all precipitations of moisture susceptible of measurement by rough means, which affords some idea of the extraordinary dryness of the climate of Ladak.
It appears from these that, on the average of two years, there were 31 measurable falls of snow in the year, descending to the inhabited valleys at heights of 12,000 feet and upwards, besides 18 falls of snow on the mountain-tops out of reach, and 4 showers of rain too scanty to be measured--in all 53 precipitations of moisture in the year.
The 31 measured falls of snow amounted only to 20 1/4, inches, and though this amount may have lost a little sometimes by melting before I could effect my measurement, it includes many falls which covered the ground so thinly that they could not be measured (by ordinary means), and were therefore estimated at the twentieth part of an inch each.
The greatest continuous snow was at Himis Gunpa, elevated 12,500 feet, from the 23rd to the 25th of April, 1849, and amounted to 8 inches, which in these accounts however I have divided into 5 falls, as it occupied three nights and two days. The annual mean of one fall (within 12 hours, i. e.) was only two-thirds of an inch.
The distribution of the snow through the seasons is thus:--Nearly the whole of it in the winter and spring, and this almost equally divided between the two seasons in aggregate quantity; but as regards frequency, there were nearly three falls in the winter to two in the spring, so that the former averaged little more than 1/2 inch, while the latter exceeded 3/4. In winter the greatest fall in 12 hours was only 2 inches, viz. at Le, 12,000 feet, on the night of the 5th-6th of February, 1848; in spring it was 4 inches, at Erat of Tanktse, 14,000 feet, on the night of the 23rd-24th of May, 1848.
The only summer fall that came under my observation occurred in the earliest part of that season, viz. the 8th and 9th of June, 1849, and in the southernmost part of Zangskar close to the Indian Himalaya, so that it is rather an anomalous item as regards the climate of Central Ladak. Half of all the snow-falls observed on the mountain tops out of reach, occurred in the single season of autumn. In Central Ladak little or no snow appears to fall for three months of the year, coincident with the calendric rather than the meteorological summer; and this season may be reckoned safe for crossing the highest passes up to 19,500 feet, but on Indian passes the traveller may be buried in snow, even below 17,000 feet, at the autumnal equinox.
Snow during the daytime is unusual, by far the greater number of falls occurring between midnight and sunrise, or at the coldest part of the 24 hours; a remarkable proof this of excessive dryness.
The rain that came under my observation was confined to the summer; excepting one fall in Zangskar, on the very last day of spring (at sTongde, 11,900 feet, 31st of May, 1849), and which turned to snow at night; its quantity was contemptible; and, speaking approximately, one may say that it never rains in Ladak. Allowing for imperfect measurements, and falls not susceptible of measure, the total amount of moisture precipitated in the year may be reckoned about 2 feet of snow, which is equivalent I believe to only 3 or 4 inches of rain. This refers particularly to elevations about 12,000 feet, and to Central Ladak: at superior elevations the fall of snow is probably greater, and I more than once found it lying 2 or 3 feet deep on mountain passes, between 17,000 and 19,000 feet.
In the Lhogyut the climate is generally moister, and the quantity of snow very much greater, than in the Zhunglam; and the Changyut again more dry and snowless than the Zhunglam. This is a general effect, depending on proximity to the moisture of India or to the aridity of Central Asia. A local cause of such differences is to be found in the relative height and density of the mountain masses, which are the great collectors of cloud and snow; and in the Changtang accordingly there is less snow than in the Rong. Hence the excess of snow in Zangskar and Purik, compared with Ladak proper and Nubra; and in Purang and Kangri compared with Guge and Gar; the moderation of snow in Rupshu and in Guge, though belonging to the Lhogyut; and the snowless waterless sterility of Ruduk.
The snow of Ladak is remarkable for its form as well as its small quantity. Instead of the large crystallized flakes familiar to English experience, it generally falls in minute granules, somewhat globular, and not obviously crystalline. This seems to be the joint effect of low temperature and rarified atmosphere, and analogous to the fine drizzling rain in the higher regions of the Indian Himalaya. The form becomes much more flaky and crystalline in the falls of spring at higher temperatures.
Dew, hoar-frost or frozen dew, and hail are, I believe, unknown, unless in immediate proximity with the Indian Himalaiya.
Electricity.--The total absence of thunder and lightning in Ladak is most remarkable, and appears to be dependent on the excessive dryness of the climate. In two years I twice heard a very faint roll of thunder, accompanied by clouds, and a few drops of rain; and once, close upon the borders of the Indian Himalaya, I saw the gleaming of distant lightning, that seemed to belong to some great thunderstorm far on the Indian side of the mountains: all these were in the middle of summer. In winter the increased dryness of the air deprives it of its electrical conduction to such an extent, that the human body, cased in sheep-skins, becomes charged so strongly sometimes, as, on touching a conducting object, to give off large sparks, with a shock that may be felt through the joints of the fingers.
Snow Line.--Immediately connected with the subject of climate is this "vexata questio;" indeed the snow-line of a country may be regarded as an index of its joint thermometric and hygrometric status, and of their mutual reaction. The hygrometric element has often been too much overlooked, partly, no doubt, because it was comparatively unknown; but the preceding observations on the precipitations of moisture in Ladak may assist in dispelling these errors of omission, and my brother Richard has already given the necessary theoretical explanations in his memoir on the snow-line of the Indian Himalaya. From a series of minute observations on the snow level made during two years, in the course of which I crossed 25 passes, elevated from 15,000 to 19,000 feet, at various seasons, between the end of April and beginning of November, I have arrived at the following conclusions:- The snow-line in the central and northern parts of West Nari attains an extreme height of nearly 20,000 feet. It lowers on approaching the Indian Hmalaya, and on the southernmost parts of the Indian watershed descends perhaps so low as 18,000 feet. In the Changtang, or any districts not in the Lhogyut where they are under 20,000 feet, the mountains will be almost entirely denuded of snow during the latter part of summer.
The snow curve appears to culminate about the middle of September, and its season of greatest elevation to be later even than the calendric summer. Its depression by fresh falls in autumn is very gradual in the central and northern zones, so that heights of 18,000 feet may be found free of snow in the middle of October, whereas on the Indian watershed the snow line often descends before the end of September several thousand feet in a few days.
I am not able to define the minimum limit of snow in West Nari, because my winter residence lay altogether above it, and out of all sight or cognizance of it, but I doubt whether any part of Balti, i. e. down to 4,500 feet, can be below the reach of winter snow in ordinary seasons.
It is also probable that the snow which survives the heat of summer above 20,000 feet, does not retain its original form, but is mostly converted to nevee before its renovation by the falls of autumn, and that this effect extends even to the tops of the highest mountains of the central and northern regions.
The snow-line is, of course, generally lower on the N. exposures than on the S. The difference appears to be least, and then hardly appreciable, soon after heavy falls; when the melting has made some progress it sometimes exceeds 1,000 feet.
In these statements I consider the Snow-line as that average level where the surface of snow is equal to the surface denuded by melting (and not merely by precipitous formation of the mountains). The estimates themselves (made from heights determined by the boiling thermometer) are attended with some uncertainty--to the amount perhaps of 500 feet; for though the hypsometric data on which they rest are probably correct within one or two hundred feet, the process of judging by the eye, whether the snow upon one's path, and still more upon the contiguous mountain sides above one's actual station, begins to exceed the bare spaces, or vice versa, is neither easy nor susceptible of much exactness.
Captain H. Stachey of the Bengal Army, F.R.G.S. (Gold Medallist)
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||The Tibet Journal|
|Article Type:||Geographic overview|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2007|
|Previous Article:||A letter of Father Francisco Godinho, S.J., from Western Tibet (Tsaparang, August 16, 1626.).|
|Next Article:||A journey to Toling and Tsaparang in Western Tibet.|