1902 Encyclopedia > Africa > Surface of Africa. Equatorial Forests. Pastoral Belts. African Deserts.

(Part 6)


(e) General Nature of the Surface of Africa

Africa is the only one of the continents of the globe which lies equally to north and south of the equator, and the portions of it which extend beyond the tropics do not advance far into the temperate zones. From this it results that Africa, besides being the warmest of all the continents, has also the most equal distribution of the sun's heat during the seasons over the parts which lie north and south of the central line. Winds and rain, depending on the distribution of heat, are also correspondingly developed in these two great divisions of the continent, and the broad landscape zones, passing from humid forest to arid sandy desert, also agree exactly with one another north and south of Equatorial Africa.

African Equatorial Forests

Between 10
° N. and 10° S. of the equator, but especially in that portion of it the outskirts of which have only as yet been reached by travellers, Africa appears to be a land of dense tropical forest. Wherever it has been penetrated, travellers speak of an excessively rank vegetation; passage has to be forced through thick underwood and creeping plants, between giant trees, whose foliage shuts out the sun's rays; and the land teems with animal and insect life of every form and colour. Describing the forests of Manyuema country, west of the Tanganyika Lake, Livingstone says - "Into these (primaeval forests) the sun, though vertical, cannot penetrate, excepting by sending down at midday thin pencils of rays into the gloom. The rain water stands for months in stagnant pools made by the feet of elephants. The climbing plants, from the size of a whipcord to that of a man-of-war's hawser, are so numerous, that the ancient path is the only passage. When one of the giant trees falls across the road, it forms a wall breast high to be climbed over, and the mass of tangled ropes brought down makes cutting a path round it a work of time which travellers never undertake." Here there is a double rainy season, and the rainfall is excessive.

Northern and Southern Pastoral Belts. Deserts.

To north and south of this central belt, where the rainfall diminishes, and a dry and wet season divides the year, the forests gradually open into a park-like country, and then merge into pastoral grass-lands. In North Africa this pastoral belt is occupied by the native states of the soudan, from Abyssinia westward, in the parallel of Lake Chad, to the Gambia on the Atlantic coast; and corresponding to this in the south, are the grass-lands stretching across the continent from the Zambeze to southern Angola and Benguela. The pastoral belts again gradually pass into the dry, almost rainless desert zones of the Sahara in the north, and the Kalahari desert in the south, which present many features of similarity.

The extremities of the continent, to which moisture is carried from the neighbouring oceans, again pass into a second belt of pastoral or agricultural land, in the northward slopes of the plateaus of Barbary, Marocco, Algeria, and Tunis, corresponding with the seaward terraces of cultivated land in the Cape Colony in the south.

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Africa - Table of Contents

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