- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
168

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
where along a river like this. It will consist chiefly of
younger trees. In the district we are now going through
it is even difficult to find a continuous stretch of large
coniferous trees. There are therefore many foliferous
trees, which are usually the first to grow again when
the old forest has been destroyed by fire.
Another curious thing is that all this forest is so
thin. There is so much space between the trunks,
and the trees are not really big either, even where they
grow tallest. But, of course, it must be remembered
that all these trees here grow on frozen soil. On the
top there is a shallow layer which thaws in the summer,
but underneath the soil is eternally frozen, and there
are often thick layers of white ice which never thaws.
The roots of the trees cannot, therefore, strike down,
and must grow horizontally along the ground near
the surface. Even the fir cannot strike its tap-root
downwards here, as it would immediately come upon
frozen soil and ice. It will, therefore, be understood
that these trees must have more room for their roots
than they would require if the roots could go farther
down, and there must, therefore, be more space between
the trunks ; nor can there be so much undergrowth,
as the roots are in the way.
I sit here pondering over the riddles of this forest.
Here we are still in latitude 67° N., and the climatic
conditions are far less favourable than anywhere else,
even in northern Norway. The mean temperature
for the year is here below—10° C. (14° F.), whereas even
in Finmark it is above freezing-point. It is true that
the summer here is very warm. The mean temperature
for July may be about 12° or 13° C. (53° to 57° F.)
perhaps, but even that is not very much higher than we
can have it in Nordland and West Finmark.
How is it then that the trees grow so well here, and
168

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