- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
314

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
" Decembrists "), were exiled and put to hard labour with
pitiless severity. At first they were banished to Chitå,
then here. By the special favour of the Emperor the
wives of the exiles were permitted to follow them from
Chitå. Among them were Princess Trubetskoi and
Princess Volkonsky, and many other ladies of high
position, who lived here for many years in their private
houses, while their husbands were kept in the prisons
and served in the iron works.
From Petrovsk the line follows the valley along the
River Khilok, a tributary of the Selengå, and we ap
proach the highest ridge of the Yåblonovi Mountains.
There is hardly anything but firs here, a sign of thin
sandy soil. No large trees are to be seen, nor do they
stand close. On account of the frozen soil below, all
the roots, even those of the fir, grow horizontally over
the surface. The trees thus offer little resistance to the
wind, and being at the same time scattered, great numbers
of them are laid low, and their roots stretch up into the
air almost as high as the trees themselves. There is
little precipitation, and the soil is dry, with only a thin
layer of mould above the stony ground. When we
consider the frozen subsoil, it will be understood that
this district does not offer very favourable conditions
for agriculture ; nor, in fact, is there any sign of settle
ment ; even the natives cannot succeed here. The
landscape we are going through offers little variety ; the
mountains consist of low, rolling and uniform ridges, clad
with the same thin forest of small trees.
Between Sakhando and Yåblonovaya stations the
railway crosses a depression in the highest ridge of the
Yåblonovi Mountains, 3575 feet above the sea, or about
2000 feet above Lake Baikål, and this is the highest
point on the whole Siberian and Transbaikalian rail
way. We are here on the watershed between the River
314

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