- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
419

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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FROM THE BURÉYA TO TRANSBAIKALIA
419
is covered by a thick layer of peat with grass, which
is a poor conductor of heat, the heat of the sun cannot
penetrate deeply, and the soil will be permanently
frozen. But if the layer of peat is removed, the ground
thaws to a greater depth in summer, and it frequently
occurs that the permanent freezing of the soil dis
appears altogether. Variations in heat-conducting
power from below also affect the question, of course.
If the soil is intersected by cracks and openings through
which the cold air can sink during the winter, it may
also create a low temperature, as wc have seen.
Here, at Taldan, the mean temperature for the year
was not particularly low ; we were told it was —1° C.
(30*2° F.). As a rule one does not expect perpetually
frozen soil with higher temperatures than —3° or
-4°C. (26-6° or 24*8° F.), where there is a tolerable
covering of snow in winter ; but little snow falls here.
As the mean temperature is so little below freezing
point, it is easy to understand the occurrence of frozen
and unfrozen soil in such proximity to each other.
Away in the forest near the spring was a whole
collection of houses ; they were prisons and held 200
convicts, who were working on the line and were
guarded by the necessary number of soldiers.
This is a dreary and desolate country in all
conscience, as one sees it in autumn, with its thin and
stunted forest, its bare larches and birches, and its
bogs already frozen. There is not even much game to
be had ; one of the engineers here had two setters,
which went with us. He had shot five black game in
three years. There are a few eiks, no doubt, and
some bears. Near the station there was a rocky crest,
which appeared to be formed of a vein of porphyry.
From the top of it one saw the rolling forest country
spread out on every side, ridge after ridge, with low

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