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0312 Explorations in Turkestan 1903 : vol.1
Explorations in Turkestan 1903 : vol.1 / Page 312 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)


[Photo] 166 An Arm of the Lake of Sistan. In the foreground are beds of reeds; in the background, the lacustrine plain.

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doi: 10.20676/00000177
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break the unmitigated flatness except the dark tabular mass of the volcanic mesa of Kuh-i-Khoja, rising as a black island from among the brown reeds and gray water.

The lake of Sistan has been a cause of wonder to most of the writers on the region because of the fluctuations of its level. Their wonder is perhaps natural, although the changes differ only in degree, not in kind, from those to which every inclosed lake is subject. A single example will illustrate the matter. Early in the year 1903, when the British Arbitration Commission arrived at Sistan, there was no lake at all, and the very lowest hollow in the northwest corner was dry. At the very time when the commission arrived, however, the spring floods from Hindu Kush were beginning to come down in great force. The lake was rapidly filled, and within a few weeks had assumed the extreme dimensions shown on the map. It was at this time larger than at any period for many years. Such sudden and

Fig. 166.—An Arm of the Lake of Sistan. In the foreground are beds of reeds; in the background, the

lacustrine plain.

widespread changes in the distribution of land and water have taken place again and again in the past. They are naturally impressive, even though they are nothing but the normal behavior of an inclosed desert lake fed by streams from lofty mountains. The hollow of Sistan has been so largely filled with silt that the bottom of the lake is exceedingly flat. Even at high water the Sayids pole their reed rafts almost everywhere. The people say that in the deepest places the water is " as deep as a man with upstretched arms." Where I examined the lake bottom it con-' sisted of fine greenish or white clay which clung tenaciously to the poles of the raftsmen. Near the edges of the lake and on the plains round about, the material is the same clay mixed with more or less sand. At present fine sand seems to be the coarsest material brought down by the streams, and all of this is deposited immediately in the deltas. The main body of the lake is free from visible sediment and the water is clear and drinkable.