LIFE IN TRIPOLI - GEOLOGY IN SYRIA
GEOLOGY IN SYRIA
How I have enjoyed geological research these fifty-three years a Syria! The range of Mount Lebanon, 100 miles long, is of cretaceous limestone with strata of recent sandstone and lignite and dykes of basaltic rock. Anderson of the Lynch expedition, Dr. E. R. Beadle, Dr. W. M. Thomson, Rev. William Bird of Abeih, Lartet, Conrad, Fraas, Noetling, C. E. Hamlin, E. Hull, Max Blankenhorn and lastly Prof. R.- P. Whitefield, and my son-in-law Alfred E. Day, of the Syrian Protestant College, have described most of the cretaceous fossils of Mount Lebanon and the Jurassic fossils of Mejdel Shems, south of Mount Lebanon. The geological structure of Lebanon has had much to do in determining the history and diversifying the habits of the inhabitants. Two ranges of mountains running north and south, parallel with the seacoast and separated by deep cut valleys, extend the westerly one all the way from Asia Minor to Kadesh Barnea, and the easterly one from the region north of Baalbec to the gulf of Akabah. The limestone soil formed by the disintegration of the richly fossiliferous cretaceous limestone strata, and the black soil, formed by the crumbling of the volcanic rocks, are constantly renewed, needing little fertilizing to make them productive. Sun and rain seem to be all the fertilizers needed in the great part of Syria.
The indurate limestone of Lebanon and Palestine furnishes solid building stone and has developed a hardy race of stone-cutters and builders, quite different from the indolent dwellers on the great plains where the want of stone compels the people to build houses of adobe or sun-dried brick. So also the character of the warlike Druses of the Leja (Trachonitis), east of Jordan, seems to have been made more independent by the frowning deep cut defiles and tortuous passages in the basaltic dykes which form their home, as did the Black Hills the home of the Modoc Indians. In these narrow, crooked, deep gorges a few men can stand against hundreds, and their frequent successes in cutting to pieces bodies of Turkish troops have added to their untamed ferocity. The architectural stones of Syria are varied and valuable. There is the recent sandstone of the coast overlying the limestone of which most of the coast cities have been built for ages, the cream-coloured indurate limestone of the temples of Baalbec and Palmyra, the orange Nerinean limestone of the hills near Mar Rukus, of which Post Hall of the Syrian Protestant College has been built, the lithographic limestone of both Lebanons, the ribbon stone of Deir el Komr, and the crystalline trap rocks of Northern Syria and of the giant cities of Bashan and Banias. The city of Hums is built of black basalt and its streets are beautifully paved with cubical blocks of the same material.
Fossil fish abound in the white lithographic limestone of Northern Lebanon at Sahil Alma, and Hakil. Oyster shells are found (Ostrwa Syriaca) in beds and ledges through the ranges of Lebanon. There are also fossil bivalves and univalves in endless variety, in Ehden, Duma, Abeih, Deir el Komr, at Shweir, Tel Wakid, Bhamdoun, Aaleih, Mukhtara, Mejdel Shems, and many other places. There are Ammonites, Strombus, Arca, Nerinea, Nerita, Cerithium, Scalaria, Natica, Corbula, Cardium, Trigonia, Hippurites, Perna, Lima, Trochus, Terebratula, Nummulites, and whole mountains of the Oolite. I began early in my life in Syria to collect fossils, and finally gave my entire collection to the Syrian Protestant College. Dr. W. M. Thomson, author of "The Land and the Book," was enthusiastic in collecting, and told me of many localities. The unique collection of our beloved Rev. William Bird has also been secured by the Syrian Protestant College, and Prof. Alfred E. Day is engaged in determining and describing those not hitherto described. Once I sent a camel load of quartz and calcite geodes from the hill cast of Baaklin to the college, and another time I sent from Tell Kelakh, on the wagon road to Hums, nearly half a ton of beautiful pillars of columnar trap by wagon to Tripoli where the missionaries forwarded them to the college cabinet in Beirut. One summer I sent by cart from Jumhoor, on the Damascus Road, to the college cabinet a huge block of Nerinean limestone, containing thousands of these beautiful spiral shells. The block is about four feet long and two feet and a half wide and eighteen inches thick. Dr. D. Bliss had it polished on three sides, and it constitutes a lasting monument of the most ancient pre-Adamite inhabitants of Syria. One of my first horseback rides in Syria was to a then well-known locality of quartz geodes above Baabda, about an hour's ride from Beirut on horseback. Our party consisted of Dr. Eli Smith, mounted on his little white horse, Rev. J. E. Ford on his own steed, and Mr. Hurter, the printer, with us new missionaries, Bliss, Aiken, Dr. Haskell, Lyons and myself on beasts of low degree, hired from a Moslem khanajy in Beirut. Mr. W. W. Eddy joined us at Baabda, and we climbed up to the locality on the chalky hill, where I filled my little borrowed saddle-bags with the quartz geodes, lined with beautiful, clear crystals. I wrapped them in paper and tied them with string to keep them from injury. From the duhr or summit, we rode down cautiously the steep descent to Kefr Shima, where Mrs. Eddy had kindly invited us to dinner. On our return towards evening to Beirut through the olive and mulberry orchards, we rode at a moderate, dignified pace, but as we returned to the broad sand road between the pine groves, suddenly a white streak seemed to flash by me, and my old horse which had no doubt "seen his fast days" grew restless. Mr. Lyons, my nearest companion, exclaimed, "There goes Dr. Smith on his Whitey," and in a moment every horse broke into a gallop. As my poor steed began to gallop, the saddle-bags began to wallop, flying up and down and flapping like wings, pounding his ribs and making an unseemly rattling, until the bags began to rip and tear, and I was obliged ingloriously to fall to the rear and enter the city, last of the train. But I landed my geodes safely in Mr. Lyons' house and soon after shipped them to friends in America.
It has generally been my custom in making long journeys, in which mules are required to carry beds, tents and provisions, to pick up stones during the day, take them in my saddle-bags to the tenting place, and wrap them in bed bundles in the morning. At times I have known muleteers to wonder at the increasing weight of the loads, but the average muleteer cares little for weight as long as the two sides of the loads balance. Perhaps you will ask, How could you find time, in making missionary tours, to stop and pick up specimens? It did not take up much time, but it relieved the tedium of long rides, and thus the dreariest and most rocky regions became full of interest, and I found constantly new beauties in the variety of fossil remains and in the marvels of geological upheaval.
He who has an eye for beauty will see it. A botanist will revel in what to another is a wilderness of weeds. I have found delight in hot plains and stifling valleys and chilling heights, because I found wonders of stratification, and colossal mountains tipped over and the strata lying at all angles from vertical to horizontal. In April, 1856, just eight weeks after landing in Syria I went to Tripoli and Duma with Rev. David M. Wilson. He was a hearty Tennessean, a plain, blunt man, with a big heart, and mighty in the Scriptures. My object in going was to secure a house for the summer in Duma and visit Gharzooz. We hired packhorses in Tripoli of Mohammed a Muslim. We had neither saddles nor bridles, only pack-saddles with rope stirrups and rope halters. Going over a breakneck road without getting our necks broken, we slept at Duma at the house of Abu Ibrahim where many missionaries have since summered.
The next day we rode to Gharzooz, and when half-way, we stopped on a high ridge and left our horses with the muleteer. Mr. Wilson, knowing my taste for geology, said he would take me down to the Fossil Fish locality at Hakil. So down we walked, carrying our simple lunch, in a blazing sun, down, down to the bottom of the deep gorge, then through Hakil, where a Greek blacksmith showed us the way to the quarry. We found some good specimens, and went back and rested at the blacksmith's house. Then up we went, my pockets full of stones, and when I reached the top, my clothes were soaked with perspiration and a cold north wind was blowing. We mounted and set out, and soon I was chilled through and reached Gharzooz with blinding headache. This taught me a lesson, never to walk uphill in travelling In Syria. A young man once said to Dr. Eli Smith, "Doctor, why don't you dismount going up a steep hill and ease your horse?" Dr. Smith replied, "That is what I have a horse for, to carry me up." Walking up-hill in Syria at any season is dangerous, if followed by riding or standing in a wind.
I would cordially recommend to every young man going out as a missionary to study some branch of natural science. Let him pursue it in his missionary field as a means of recreation, mental invigoration, relief from the routine of regular duties, and a means of gaining enlarged ideas of the power, wisdom and goodness of God, who created alike the Book of Nature and the Book of Revelation. As Hugh Miller says, "There are two records, and both were written by one hand." These records are the Mosaic and the geologic, that of the pages and that of the ages. I think my life has been prolonged by the outdoor exercise involved in studying the rocks of Syria.
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