- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
321

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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IRKUTSK TO VLADIVOSTOK
321
of trees, in spite of the river and the pools of water that
I saw, seems evident from the fact that in a few places
some stunted birches grow up the sides of the valleys,
only along the streams. If the soil were not arid, these
birches would be able to grow in other places as well.
Then we slowly climb higher, towards the crest of
the Great Khingån. Here the birches stand rather
closer together, but they are small, with only a few
larger trees here and there ; and the forest is still
remarkably thin, with a couple of yards between the
trees or bushes, and no undergrowth, only bare, grass
clad ground. There is no other tree to be seen than
birch ; I only saw one solitary little larch, perhaps
three feet high, in a ditch near the line. Then we
entered the tunnel, three kilometres long, under the
crest of the Great Khingån. Coming out on the other
side, one was struck by the sudden change in the scenery.
The mountain slopes more steeply, with well-developed
valleys, and the birch forest is now mixed with
bushes of dwarf oak, which form thickets and covers
the whole mountain-side. Here and there are solitary
higher oak trees, the sessile-cupped oak. Farther
down I saw many stumps among the thin birch forest ;
they must have been the stumps of conifers, but they
were black and burnt. So here again there were
formerly great pine forests which have been burnt.
The difficulty of the steep descent from the Great
Khingån has been got over by a fine piece of engineering.
The line makes a great loop down in the valley, returning
and passing below itself. As we went on to the east
ward, the country was the same brown, desolate prairie
that we had had to the west of the Great Khingån,
although at the next station we already came upon
a few green, cultivated fields ; but these of course
belonged to Chinese, who are the most efficient agri

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