- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
413

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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FROM THE BURÉYA TO TRANSBAIKALIA
413
at last and the birches are shooting and the larches
clothe themselves in fresh green. Ah yes !—but where
in the world is not spring beautiful, with its bright,
sprouting verdure, and its great promises—of what ?
For all that, it seems to me that here, among these
thousands of slender white birches, spring must be
even more beautiful than elsewhere, and must make
even greater promises—which are never kept.
Great stretches of ground are covered with high
birch-stems, all broken off at exactly the same height,
and without branches. Were they killed by the heat,
when the grass was burnt off, or was it rather the frozen
soil beneath them ? And then the storm came and swept
away the dry tops, all at the same height. Then wc come
to a tract where all the birches lie prostrate, blown down
by the wind. If possible, this is even more desolate
and dreary. The doctor tells us that a year or two ago
he was driving with horses over this stretch of country
in a tearing storm. The trees were hurled down and
their roots torn up for yards round. The wind is capable
of laying the forest low for miles. He also tells us about
the forest fires and how awkward they may be. At the
end of March, two years ago, he and Miss Wourtzel,
our engineer’s daughter, who was a doctor at Blago
véshchensk, were driving with a troika between that
town and Alexéyevsk, when they were caught by a
forest fire. It was in a forest of oaks, where only
the dry leaves burn, while the trees themselves remain
standing, and the fire runs on from tree to tree at a
rate of six miles an hour. They saved themselves by
driving into a pond, where they stopped with the horses
while the fire went past them. It whistled and howled
like shrieking voices ; but it only lasted a few minutes
and then passed on ; meanwhile, the smoke nearly
suffocated them.

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