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U. O. Not exactly unfit; but it occasions a fishy taste which few people like. I do not like it. I like fish very much, but not fishiness.
The same description, as to colour and flesh, applies to a species of wild ducks, very common on the shores of the Caspian, and which are noted for the noisy concert that they perform in the evenings upon the tops of the trees or the roofs of houses. The above birds only resort to the water for their food; but the proper aquatic birds are also very abundant;- such as the grebe, the crested diver, the pelican, the cormorant, and almost every species of gull.
There are two kinds of leeches that are found in this great lake;—the hog-leech and the dogleech. The lurking places of these worms have two openings, one towards the south and the other towards the north, which they open or close according to the changes of the wind. The common leech is also abundant in Persia; but its blood-sucking propensities are not there applied to any useful purpose.
Uncle Oliver. I have now told you all that I suppose to be of interest concerning the great lakes of Persia; and now I will tell you of a very little lake that is found among the ruins of an old city called Takht-i-Suleiman.
Henry. Where in the map, Sir ?
U. O. Here, between the Jugatee and the Kizzil-ozin rivers (36° 48' North lat., 47° 15' East long). Well; this remarkable lake, which lies in the very centre of a hill, is of an oval shape, about sixty yards in length and thirty in breadth, and the people think that it has no bottom.
Frank. What makes them think so ?
H. I suppose they let down a string with a stone at the end of it, and as the stone did not get to the bottom, they said there was no bottom at all.
U. O. Yes; if one throws a stone in, they say that it goes to Yengee Duniah, or the “new
world,” by which they mean America, concerning which they believe the most ridiculous things. On account of its clearness and great depth, the surface of the water looks of a most beautiful emerald-green colour. It is a strong mineral water, but it yet is of a pleasant taste and not heavy. It is exceedingly cold. The people say that it sometimes overflows; but I do not know whether it does so regularly or not. A small channel opens from the lake towards the east, through which the water continually trickles into the valley below. Now, what is remarkable of this water is its quality of turning to stone, or petrifying. Therefore it has changed to stone the other channels, through which it seems formerly to have flowed, and which stand in crooked ridges, that stretch down the hill and along the valley, where they are three feet high.
Besides this, the overflowings of the lake have covered all the earth towards the east with stone; and the ruins in the way of the overflow, and an old fortress and the plain itself, are covered in parts with the same stony crust. Of course, therefore, the edge of the lake itself must rise with every overflow; and the people also say that the same cause renders the circumference of the lake less every year. If, in this manner, the edges of the lake continually rise, and lean inward as they rise, I think it is very likely that all the hill was formed in this manner, and that the lake was originally much broader than it is now, and nearly on a level with the surface of the plain. The hill is now about fifty feet high; and if we add this to the depth of a lake, which was perhaps originally deep, it is not surprising that the country people cannot find the bottom.
F. But do you think it has a bottom ?
U. O. Surely I do. We have no right to think a thing bottomless because we cannot find the bottom.
In Persia there is a beautiful transparent stone, called “ Tabreez marble,” which forms a principal ornament in all the finest buildings of the country, and is much employed in the burial places, and is sometimes used instead of glass to admit light from the domes of baths. This stone is a petrifaction, and one of the most curious I ever met with. It is found near the lake Ourmiah, in certain ponds or plashes, the waters of which slowly and regularly thicken, harden, and at last become stone. These ponds,
which are pretty close to one another, are all contained within a circuit of half a mile; and the place is marked by confused heaps of the stone. As a person comes near, the ground gives a hollow sound beneath his feet, and looks all burnt and desolate. What makes a visit to the place more interesting than it would be else, is, that all the different steps by which the water is changed to stone may be seen at once. In one part the water is perfectly clear; in a second, it appears thick and stagnant; in a third, it is quite black; and at last, it is white like hoarfrost. Indeed, a petrified pond looks very much like one that is frozen; and before the change is quite completed, a stone thrown lightly upon the surface will break the outer coating, and then the black water below will bubble up. But when the change is completed, a heavy stone will not break the surface, and a man may walk across without wetting his shoes. When a piece of this stone is cut through, it is easy to see the gradual process by which it was formed. I cannot better tell you how it looks than by comparing it to a number of sheets of paper pasted upon one another. Such is the constant tendency of this water to turn to stone, that where