MOUNTAINS OF THE PHILIPPINES.
By Jose de Olivares. Chapter XXVI.
SOME eighty miles north of Borneo the Chinese steamers come in sight of island sierras, which from a distance look like a continuous mountain range, stretching more than one thousand miles south to north, and proclaiming from afar that the Philippine Archipelago is something more than a a group of swamp islands.a
Of the numerous peaks towering above the eastern coast ranges nearly a dozen are frequently wreathed in smoke, and a glance at the map of Asia will seem to confirm the conjecture of the geologist Burkland that there was a time when the east coast of Asia was studded with volcanic mountains, and that some catastrophe of the subterranean forces tore those highlands from the continent and broke up the main range into a number of island chains. Kamtschatka, it appears, came very near suffering a similar fate, and now clings to the mainland only by a narrow isthmus; then comes the long string of the Kuriles, then the Japanese chain, stretching through twenty degrees of latitude; and the gap between South Japan and Luzon is
North Carolina; but the steepness of the upper four thousand feet makes the ascent a formidable task, and the native guides take leather mittens along, as there are times when the rocks in the vicinity of the crater become hot enough to turn rain into steam as fast as it comes down. The lava streams do not always descend on the same side of the mountain, and when they invade the Val de Zorras (a Fox Glena ) tourists have to change their route and climb up a ledge of cliffs which at more than one point forms a narrow dividing ridge of two precipices.
But even in the intervals of eruptions the Val de Zorras route is made perilous by rock avalanches; bowlders from the size of a billiard ball to that of a billiard table come clattering down the steep glen, until they acquire a momentum that knocks sparks of fire out of the wayside cliffs at every hit of the volley.
Some forty miles further north, a group of craters known as
ON PICKKT DUTY.
This photograph represents a picket guard of American soldiers on duty in a Filipino village. It affords a good idea, also, of the dense jungles that cover a large
portion of the Philippine Islands.
bridged by the Loo Choo group and the large island of Formosa.
It can hardly be an accident that all the main mountain chains of these islands (as well as of Kamtschatka) range from northeast to southwest, and by a curious analogy there are only a few active volcanoes in the latitudes corresponding to those of the United States. In Luzon (as far south as Mexico) they recommence, and are massed on the island of Mindanaoa just about as close to the equator as Venezuela, with its a City of Earthquakes.a
One of these Mindanao volcanoes, the peak of Calatan, is the Mount Vesuvius of the Far East, and every now and then inundates its foothill valleys with ruinous lava streams. At one of its eruptions, in the summer of 1892, the storm of fire and flaming cinders could be seen eighty miles out at sea, and the earth tremors were felt on the island of Palavan, six hundred miles due west. The height of the peak only slightly exceeds that of Mount Mitchell,
the a Cumbreres de Zagaretea have steam up night and day; about fifteen vents of the subterranean furnace are crowded together on an isolated plateau, hardly ten miles across, and one or the other of these chimneys is always smoking, some of them emitting puffs of vapor at rhythmic intervals, like a steam engine, and making the ground vibrate under the travelera s feet.
In a kettle valley, about five hundred feet lower down, there is a geyser that often intermits for a week, and then makes up for lost time by overflowing its brink and causing torrents that come down the gorges like the flood of a cloudburst. On days when there is not a cloud in the sky, the stillness of the highlands is suddenly broken by a noise resembling the roar of an avalanche, but more continuous, and the traveler, looking up in surprise, sees a cataract of mingled water and bowlders pour over the edge of a precipice.