Africa — страница 5

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Madagascar, with an area of 229,820 sq. m., is, after New Guinea and Borneo, the largest island of the world. It lies off the S.E. coast of the continent, from which it is separated by the deep Mozambique channel, 250 m. wide at its narrowest point. Madagascar in its general structure, as in flora and fauna, forms a connecting link between Africa and southern Asia. East of Madagascar are the small islands of Mauritius and Reunion. Sokotra lies E.N.E. of Cape Guardafui. Off the north-west coast are the Canary and Cape Verde archipelagoes. which, like some small islands in the Gulf of Guinea, are of volcanic origin. Climate and Health.—-Lying almost entirely within the tropics, and equally to north and south of the equator, Africa does not show excessive variations of

temperature. Great heat is experienced in the lower plains and desert regions of North Africa, removed by the great width of the continent from the influence of the ocean, and here, too, the contrast between day and night, and between summer and winter, is greatest. (The rarity of the air and the great radiation during the night cause the temperature in the Sahara to fall occasionally to freezing point.) Farther south, the heat is to some extent modified by the moisture brought from the ocean, and by the greater elevation of a large part of the surface, especially in East Africa, where the range of temperature is wider than in the Congo basin or on the Guinea coast. In the extreme north and south the climate is a warm temperate one, the northern countries being on the whole

hotter and drier than those in the southern zone; the south of the continent being narrower than the north, the influence of the surrounding ocean is more felt. The most important climatic differences are due to variations in the amount of rainfall. The wide heated plains of the Sahara, and in a lesser degree the corresponding zone of the Kalahari in the south, have an exceedingly scanty rainfall, the winds which blow over them from the ocean losing part of their moisture as they pass over the outer highlands, and becoming constantly drier owing to the heating effects of the burning soil of the interior; while the scarcity of mountain ranges in the more central parts likewise tends to prevent condensation. In the inter-tropical zone of summer precipitation, the rainfall is

greatest when the sun is vertical or soon after. It is therefore greatest of all near the equator, where the sun is twice vertical, and less in the direction of both tropics. The rainfall zones are, however, somewhat deflected from a due west-to-east direction, the drier northern conditions extending southwards along the east coast, and those of the south northwards along the west. Within the equatorial zone certain areas, especially on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea and in the upper Nile basin, have an intensified rainfall, but this rarely approaches that of the rainiest regions of the world. The rainiest district in all Africa is a strip of coastland west of Mount Cameroon, where there is a mean annual rainfall of about 390 in. as compared with a mean of 458 in. at

Cherrapunji, in Assam. The two distinct rainy seasons of the equatorial zone, where the sun is vertical at half-yearly intervals, become gradually merged into one in the direction of the tropics, where the sun is overhead but once. Snow falls on all the higher mountain ranges, and on the highest the climate is thoroughly Alpine. The countries bordering the Sahara are much exposed to a very dry wind, full of fine particles of sand, blowing from the desert towards the sea. Known in Egypt as the khamsin, on the Mediterranean as the sirocco, it is called on the Guinea coast the harmattan. This wind is not invariably hot; its great dryness causes so much evaporation that cold is not infrequently the result. Similar dry winds blow from the Kalahari in the south. On the eastern coast

the monsoons of the Indian Ocean are regularly felt, and on the south-east hurricanes are occasionally experienced. While the climate of the north and south, especially the south, is eminently healthy, and even the intensely heated Sahara is salubrious by reason of its dryness, the tropical zone as a whole is, for European races, the most unhealthy portion of the world. This is especially the case in the lower and moister regions, such as the west coast, where malarial fever is very prevalent and deadly; the most unfavourable factors being humidity with absence of climatic variation (daily or seasonal). The higher plateaus, where not only is the average temperature lower, but such variations are more extensive, are more healthy; and in certain localities (e.g. Abyssinia and parts