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100 Years Ago: April 1919

This is the fifty-first review in my ongoing effort to document the National Geographic Magazines as they reach the centennials of their publications.

The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Cone-Dwellers of Asia Minor” and was written by J. R. Sitlington Sterrett. It contains fifty-two black-and-white photographs. Twenty-eight of which are full-page in size. The article also contains a sketch map of the region on page 315.

Map Courtesy of Philip Riviere

There is an italicized introductory paragraph to the article stating that the author, Dr. Sterrett, recently died while organizing his next expedition to explore Asia Minor. That expedition would have been of far greater magnitude than any he had undertaken. His account of the Troglodytes of Cappadocia leads all research in the area and his photographs afford the only comprehensive idea of the cone-dwellings yet given to the Western World.

With 28 full-page photos and several of the other photos two to a page, there isn’t much text to this 50-page article. The author starts by pointing out the paradox that within a stone’s throw of the cradle of civilization lived, and still live, cave dwellers living a Stone Age life with the isolation of the clan trumping any other social attitudes toward their fellow man.

These Troglodytes were able to take advantage of the volcanic region surrounding Mt. Argaeus in central Turkey. The region sports countless volcanic cones, many of which have been excavated to create caves, sometimes with more than one cave in a cone.

With absolute isolation a way of life, these people have no sense of society or of State. Primitive man was territorial, defending his range to the death. The den owner’s woman was his captive and slave. She bore him children, but they were all slaves to the lord of the den.

Several types of Troglodytes are still found in various parts of Asia Minor. The most primitive kind can be found in Cilicia Tracheia. These are cave dwellers whose caves are high up the side of a cliff. They are hunter-gatherers with no trace of agriculture. The entrance to the cave can only be reached by a long pole lowered from the entrance. The ability to climb the pole is paramount. There are no infirmed or elderly cave people. If you can’t earn your own living you have no right to live.

Semi-troglodytes may be seen in many places in Lycaonia. A stratum of rock overlays a bed of clay. This clay layer can be excavated easily. But the people who inhabit these abodes only use them during the long summer season. Even though these caves are crude, these people are not as hostile toward strangers as other Troglodytes.

The Greeks have left accounts of Troglodytes of 2,000 years ago. The Greek geographer and historian, Agatharchides, wrote a book on the region around the Red Sea. “The races that live in the extreme south have the form of men, it is true, but they lead the life of animals. These are the Ethiopians and the Troglodytes.” The Troglodytes are called nomads by the Greeks. Though they lead a nomadic life, tending their flocks, nevertheless they are organized, with a sheikh as leader. They have their women and children in common, except for the one woman who belongs to the shiekh.

During monsoon season they live off of a mixture of blood and milk. They use for food only the old animals and those that begin to grow sickly. They apply the name of parent, not to humans, but to bulls and cows, rams and sheep; these animals provide their daily food. They migrate with their herds from pasture to pasture. They wear a cloth about their loins, but otherwise they go nude. All Troglodytes practice circumcision, as do the Egyptians. “Those of the Troglodytes who are said to be heavily armed wear circular shields made of raw ox-hide and carry clubs that are decorated with iron-plated knobs; but the rest use bow and spear.”

“The old men who on account of their age are no longer able to follow the flocks, ties the tail of a bull around their necks and thus commit suicide by suffering themselves to be dragged to death.” It is also their practice to put to death cripples and those who are afflicted with an incurable disease. Men of more than sixty years of age are not to be seen.

“The food of the Troglodytes consists of meat and bones; the bones are crushed and mixed with the meat, so as to form a kind of minced hash, which is wrapped in fresh, untanned hides and roasted.” This minced haggis is prepared a variety of ways. They consume not merely the minced meat of this haggis, but the bones and skin as well.

Herodotus’s account of “the Ethiopians who dwell in holes” informs us that of all the nations known, they are by far the swiftest of foot. They live on serpents, lizards, and other small reptiles. Xenophon gives an account of the Troglodytes of Armenia, who have remained so unchanged that it could be used today. “The houses were underground, with an aperture like the mouth of a well, by which to enter, but they were broad and spacious below.”

The Bible also references Troglodytes. The prophet Obadiah (1:3) speaks of the pride and the arrogance of the Edomites, of their feeling of confident security because of the fact that they dwelt in the lofty clefts of the hills, beyond the reach of their enemies.

The author returns to the present, discussing the region around Mt. Argaeus. The area is covered by a vast bed of pumice-stone topped by a sheet of lava. The pumice-stone is soft. It is reported that one man excavated a chamber 25 feet long, 13 feet broad, and 10 feet high within the space of 30 days.

Paul Lukas, who traveled in Asia Minor at the behest of Louis XIV, was the first European to visit this region. His visit was very hurried and, strange as it may seem, he thought that these cones were built by man, and the stories he told about the wonders he saw were not believed by anyone. He asserted that on one side of a bluff by which his caravan passed there were no fewer that 20,000 of these buildings and was told that on the other side of the valley a still greater number were to be seen. Except in supposing that the cones were constructed by man, Lukas has been proven right.

The second article is entitled “The Murman Coast – Our Gateway to Russia”. The title is shorted to “The Murman Coast” as the header on page 331, but has a subtitle which reads “Artic Gateway for American and Allied Expeditionary Forces in Northern European Russia”. The article has no byline. It contains thirty half-page black-and-white photographs filling fifteen of the articles eighteen pages. With a rather large sketch map on page 332, the article has only two pages worth of text.

Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

This editorial discusses the American, British, and French expeditionary forces currently operating along the Archangel-Vologda Railroad line in northern Russia. More specifically it discusses the supply chain set up for these forces. With of the port Archangel being inaccessible to shipping half of the year due to ice, another route is required to continually resupply the troops. Fortunately, the Kola Inlet on the Murman Coast is ice-free year-round thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Murmansk is the chief port on the Kola Inlet and lies more than 300 miles closer to the North Pole. It is the northern terminus of the Murman Railway, which stretches 900 miles south to Zvanka on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. 660 miles of this line were built after 1914, after the Germans cut the Baltic Sea supply line and the Turks denied access to the Black Sea. The author gives an account of its construction which proved difficult due to the swampy terrain with its freezing and thawing. During its construction the German propaganda bureau spread rumors of frightful mortality rates among the workmen, but the death rate was extremely low.

To support the 5,000 American, 12,000 British, 2,700 French, 1,500 Siberian, and 1,400 Italian troops in Russia during the winter of 1918-1919, steamers unload supplies at a depot in Murmansk. The supplies are then shipped 170 miles south on the Murman Railway to the city of Kandalsksha. From there it is packed onto sleds and transported 200 miles east across the frozen White Sea to Archangel.
As with all building operations in the empire, the Russian Revolution has interfered with the growth of Murmansk. The decision by the Allies to send expeditionary forces has been a boon to the port. It has grown to a settlement of 3,500 to 4,000 inhabitants with an additional fluctuating population of refugees.

The Lapps live in the interior of the peninsula, tending their herds of reindeer, which furnish their food, clothing, and transportation. In times of peace there is a considerable lumber industry. Otherwise, the peninsula is comparatively nonproductive with the scantiest crops of rye, barley, potatoes, and hay. The animal life includes foxes, bear, martens, otter, elk, deer, and hares. Mosquitos are a serious pest in the summer.

The third article is entitled “On the Trail of a Horse Thief”. It was written by Herbert W. Gleason. It contains six black-and-white photographs, all of which are full-page in size. The article is ten pages in length, so with the photos there are only four pages of text.

In today’s vernacular this article’s title would be called “click bait” since it has virtually nothing to do with a horse thief. It is instead about exploring the headwaters of the Columbia River. The horse thief in question had a twenty-year head start on the author, and had already been brought to justice.
The Columbia River is 1,400 miles in length. It rises in the Kootenay region of British Columbia and flows north for about 200 miles before turning south for another 300 miles. It then meanders this way and that through eastern Washington for another 600 miles. Just before crossing into Oregon, it is joined by the Snake River, whose source is 950 miles away in Yellowstone Park. In Oregon it turns westerly and in about 300 miles it reaches the sea.

While the Lower Columbia, with its historic associations and scenic grandeur, has long been famous, it is only within a few years that the region around the source of the river received attention. Although explored in 1810 by David Thompson, nearly a century elapsed before the Upper Columbia Valley was known to any except a few ranchers and adventurous miners.

The Columbia River finds its source in two lakes – Lake Windermere and Upper Columbia Lake – which lie about 80miles north of the International Boundary. The lakes are nearly equal in size at about four to five square miles. The Upper Lake is a few miles farther upstream so it is the real beginning of the Columbia.

The iron horse has found its way to the Upper Columbia Valley. Previously, the trip was made by steamer. The 85-mile trip upstream would take the better part of two days. A splendid road has recently been built through the entire valley, and another highway has been built over the mountains from Banff to Lake Windermere.

It was in this region that the author followed the Trail of the Horse Thief. After gathering his four-footed plunder, he had gone up the valley and then turned westward into one of the side canyons, intending to take his horses over the mountains to Montana. On reaching the head of the canyon he found his way barred by lofty mountains. Caught in this cul-de-sac, he was easily apprehended. Ever since, the stream which flows through the canyon has been known as Horse Thief Creek.

In August, Mr. Gleason and three companions arrived at Lake Windermere and, after three days of enjoying the lake and its surroundings, they headed up Horse Thief Creek with saddle horses and pack outfits. The term “creek” is a misnomer for it really is a huge mountain torrent, in places 30 to 40 yards wide. The canyon has been carved by the curious process of erosion. In one place there was a regular battalion of “hoodoos” – fantastic pinnacles of clay and gravel, in another the river finds its way through a narrow gorge with walls 300 feet deep.

After passing through forests of mountain hemlock and fir, the party reaches the head of the canyon, a great amphitheater surrounded by noble peaks. Here a glacier descends from a rocky promontory in the form of a gigantic letter “S”. It is obviously the main source of the river.

They set up camp on a grassy plot by the river bank. From there they made several excursions into the mountains. One morning they ascended Horse Thief Glacier and then climbed to the summit of a high peak. Being the first to climb this peak, they named it “Mt. Bruce” after a leading citizen of Windermere Valley. From careful aneroid measurements they determined it to be around 11,200 feet in height. Another day they set out to climb Mt. Jumbo – a feat that no one had ever accomplished. They were defeated by terrain and weather. Eventually they had to return to civilization but the author quotes a favorite phrase of John Muir’s, “Going to the Mountains is going home.”

The final article this month is another editorial, with no byline listed. It is entitled “The Ten Thousand Smokes Now a National Monument”. It has a rather wordy subtitle of “The President of the United States Sets Aside for the American People the Extraordinary Valley Discovered and Explored by the National Geographic Society”. It contains five black-and-white photographs, two of which are full-page.
The article shows gratitude to President Wilson for creating the 1,700 square mile Katmai National Monument, embracing the area explored by the National Geographic Society. These explorations were published in the Geographic in 1913, 1917, and 1918. The article includes the complete text of the presidential proclamation.

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes stands preeminent among the wonders of the world. A search through the literature of volcanoes, and conversations with travelers from around the world, make it certain that nowhere else in the world is there anything similar to this supreme wonder.

Realizing the need for ongoing observations, two members of the 1917 expedition, Jasper D. Sayre and Paul R. Hagelbarger, volunteered to extend scientific studies started in 1917 into 1918. In 1918, this party entered the valley not by the route heretofore used from the Pacific, but from the Bering Sea and Naknek Lake. This gave them an opportunity to explore much country hitherto little known. They discovered three good-sized lakes not shown on any map, Lake Tom and the two Savonoski lakes.

They found this route to be by far the best way to get supplies into the country. The route is so smooth that they consider it possible to use a motorcycle with a side-car attached as a substitute for man-back packing. If this proves practicable, the expedition planned for 1919 will be able to work with a degree of comfort undreamed of in former years.

When, in 1918, they arrived at the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes they at once saw that it had not changed appreciably in the year’s interval. The Smokes were the same, but two areas of mud pots were discovered that were either new or went unnoticed before. Falling Mountain continued its remarkable activity, shooting off hundreds of tons of rock daily.

In 1917, the team was unprepared for the temperatures when measuring the vents. They were so much hotter than expected. The party of 1918 made the first successful measurements of the vents’ temperatures throughout the valley using suitable pyrometers from the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution. Many of the vents were found to be above 300 degrees C, while many were found over 400 degrees C. The hottest fumarole was 432 degrees C (810 degrees F), hot enough to melt zinc.

The limited study of 1918 thus far shows no indication of any diminution in the Smokes. The measurements aside, the pictures taken on the expeditions were sufficient to convince the world that it is indeed one of the greatest wonders of nature. Far better than still pictures would be movies by which it would be possible to give some idea of the size of the place and of its ever-changing character.

The projected expedition of 1919 plans to take a series of films portraying the features of the district. The cameraman will be Emery C. Kolb who, with his brother, told an adventurous trip through the Grand Canyon (See: “Experiences in the Grand Canyon”, August, 1914, National Geographic Magazine). But even movies fall short of reality. The valley must be experienced.

Thus far no mortal man has ever entered the valley save only members of the Katmai expeditions of the National Geographic Society. While these explorers have shared what they could, they feel that their mission of making the place known to the world will only be accomplished when it is possible for anyone to behold the stupendous spectacle for himself.

There are plans to open up the district. Kukak Bay, a fine harbor suitable for the largest of ships, is but a scant 25 miles from the Crater of Katmai. If a suitable road were built, one could leave the streamer after breakfast and drive through the whole volcanic district and be back at the ship for dinner. The exploration of a route over the mountains for such a road is the first part of the program for the 1919 expedition.

Professor Griggs, who lead the expeditions of 1915, 1916, and 1917, and who supervised the small 1918 expedition, will head the Society’s expedition of 1919. It will be more elaborately equipped in every respect than any of the previous undertakings in this region. The article ends by listing the members of the 1919 expedition with their assigned responsibilities.

Tom Wilson

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