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PREFACE.

the mechanical action of the birds' wings is not always the prime mover, but that the force of the wind, particularly in the albatross, is the real agent that carries them sweeping over the ocean with the rapidity of the wind itself. Further, that this force is utilised by the faculty the bird has of balancing itself against the power of the wind. It is the equivalent of the string of the boy's kite, and almost overwhelming proof of this theory is afforded by the fact that the albatross is helpless in a calm, and cannot—from a level surface, as the deck of a ship-raise itself or fly so well as a domestic goose.

“His theory of whirlwinds—viz., that the upper strata of air pressed upon the lower rarefied and lighter strata, till a casual opening or thinning out in the upper layer leaves the lower strata free to fly upwards, and to form the circular whirlwinds common even in this country—was an outcome of his actual experience acquired in the dreadful dust storms of Australia. It is a curious fact that the paper on this subject, sent to a Melbourne scientific society, and put aside as unworthy of notice, was sent by Mr. Belt to the present Astronomer-Royal, and then, as communicated by the Astronomer-Royal to the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, was accepted and read in Melbourne, in December 1857. The paper itself will be found in the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine for January 1859.

“The boldest of his speculations, and one of the soundest, as after-events proved, was his plan for crossing the Australian continent. He proposed, at the time the Government expedition was mooted, to replace the costly plans of the Government by the following scheme : That he and his brother Anthony (who was unfortunately lost in the Royal Charter), should be conveyed to the Gulf of Carpentaria, with about twenty pack-horses loaded with provisions and water; that an escort should protect them for some twenty miles from the coast, and that then the two voyagers only, with their pack-horses, should make their way to Cooper's Creek, the farthest known accessible point from the Victorian settled districts. Belt argued justly : 'If we fail, only two lives will be lost, but all the chances are in our favour; we are provided with water and food more than ample to cover the distance we have to travel. Every step of our road carries us homewards and to safety. If we never find a drop of water on the road, our animals have enough to carry those who have to bear the whole journey to their goal, and as the animals succumb they will be shot or turned adrift. The event showed Belt's sagacity. The unfortunate Government expedition left Melbourne loaded with camp followers and impedimenta, and by the time they reached a few stages beyond Cooper's Creek were well-nigh exhausted. Burke, the leader of the expedition, in desperation started with his two men, Wills and King, and bravely struck out for the Gulf of Carpentaria. Through desert and fertile plains, not altogether destitute of water, they reached in safety the northern shore of Australia ; but the energy, the courage, and the strength that took them this long, weary journey did not suffice to carry them back over double the distance to their camp. Brave hearts! they struggled on; but King only, and as a worn-out man, ever saw Cooper's Creek again. Belt's plan would have solved the problem without loss of life, and at a tenth of the cost. His ideas were in advance of his time, and he had that belief in his own powers which should have won his plan the attention its merits deserved. The writer knows the fact, that had Belt then possessed the means, he would have spent them all in his endeavour to carry out this scheme of crossing the Australian continent.

“In 1862 Belt returned to England, and his professional engagements led him to North Wales, Nova Scotia, Central America, and Chontales, Nicaragua. At the latter place his entomological collection has made him famous. Many

PREFACE.

hundred species of coleoptera and lepidoptera attest his energy and labour; and his charming book, "The Naturalist in Nicaragua,' whilst illustrating his great powers of observation, has endeared him to every lover of nature, and proved the painstaking truth with which he collected his facts.

“The succeeding years of his life were spent in almost continued travel : to North and South Russia, Siberia, the Kirghese Steppes, and many times to the United States. In these journeys he, from time to time, made those observations upon glacial action, upon which he built up his theories of the ice age. These became the ruling passion of his later years. Much of this work will be found in the Quarterly Journal of Science and in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. How much of it will stand the test of time the future only can tell; but all this special work of his is, at least, a careful and elaborate argument, advocating the theory that the extraordinary changes of climate in past ages, over large areas of the earth's surface which are now temperate regions, during the period called by geologists the glacial epoch, may have been brought about by other causes of less intensity than the submergences and emergences of the land, even than by the displacement of whole continents, which theories have been advanced by some to account for the phenomena in question.

“Mr. Belt advocates the agency of ice, and ice-dams, and great lakes—to use his own words—in place of 'great upheavals and depressions of the earth's surface within a comparatively short period ;' and he questions the hypothesis by which 'we are taught that an immense area in Europe and America has been a sea bottom, and every part of it a sea beach as the land rose again, without any evidence of marine life having been left behind ;' and he claims that his theory of glacial action explains all the phenomena by one great advance southwards of the ice of a single glacial period.'Quarterly Journal of Science, 'Loess of the Rhine and the Danube, January 1877.

“ The immediate cause of his death was brain fever, following a long attack of mountain fever.”

In the “ Natural History Transactions of Northumberland, Durham, and Newcastle-on-Tyne,” vol. vii., 1879, the following short memoir, by Mr. Joseph Wright, giving some further details of Mr. Belt's career, appears

“Died at Denver, Colorado, U.S.A., September 22nd, 1878, Mr. Thomas Belt, F.G.S., aged forty-five. Such was the brief announcement by telegram which appeared in the newspapers, and told to his astonished friends in this district that he had passed away from their midst.

“His attainments, and the high position he had won for himself in the scientific world, render it only fitting that some record of his life and labours should appear in the • Transactions of the Tyneside Naturalists' Field Club,' of which he was a member for many years.

“Mr. Belt was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1832, and received his education at the school of the late Mr. John Storey, one of the first secretaries of our Club.

“He early evinced a taste for natural history pursuits, the departments of botany and entomology being his favourite studies. In June 1850, he became a member of the Club, and in the second volume of the “Transactions' his name several times appears as the authority for the habitats of some of the rarer plants of the district. On more than one occasion, his old master, Mr. Storey, acknowledges his obligations to him for help on these points.

“In October 1851, he discovered at Ryton a plant new to . the district, the Frog-Bit, Hydrochargls Morsus-ranæ. We !

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also find him communicating lists of his captures amongst the lepidoptera to the Club.

“ About this time the discovery of gold had been made in Australia, and, like a great many more, Mr. Belt left Tyneside for the new 'El Dorado.

“This step, we may say, was the turning-point in his life, and had a great influence on his future career. During his residence in Australia, although at a time when the whole colony was moved by the gold-fever, the same quiet habits of observation which marked him on Tyneside are seen. The new aspects of nature with which he was brought into contact in Australia aroused his spirit of investigation, and in 1857 he was reading before the Philosophical Institute of Victoria a paper on ‘The Origin of Whirlwinds.' This paper is printed in the Philosophical Magazine for 1859, to which periodical it was communicated by the Astronomer-Royal.

“ The auriferous quartz veins of Australia he made his peculiar study, the results of which he embodied in a work on Mineral Veins: an Inquiry into their Origin. This book he published in 1861, and it at once lifted him into the position of an authority on the subject.

On his return to England, his services were greatly in request as a mining engineer, to which profession he now devoted himself, with an establishment in London. In the prosecution of his labours he travelled over both Asia and America ; and in his long wanderings his keen powers of observation were ever on the alert to enlarge the domain of human knowledge.

“In 1863 Mr. Belt went to Nova Scotia, where he had the superintendence of the Nova-Scotian Gold Company's Mines. Here the great glacial phenomena of North America were unfolded to his view, and to the study of them he devoted himself with enthusiasm. In his investigations into glacial phenomena, careful observations were made at the great lakes of the American continent, the gorge of the Niagara,

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