A series of discoveries of great value to antiquarians and geographers have been made in the barren desert of the Fayoum by Mr. Seton Karr, the explorer. These investigations show that at some bygone period the old Kurun Lake consisted of a chain of minor oases running m a northwesterly direction from the existing lake and about fifteen miles distant from the actual border line. The explorer brought to light a large number of millstones, plates for grinding meal, and flint implements of the unmistakable Fayoum pattern, strewn over the whole length of the plateau lying parallel to the lake. A number of these trophies, some of which are surmised to belong to the neolithic period, while all afford undoubted evidence of primitive village communities, have been deposited in the Cairo Museum. The British consul-general at Naples describes in the course of a recent report a new, easy, and commercially profitable system of cultivating truffles that has been discovered by two eminent Italian botanists. Prof, Mattel, who occupies the chair of botany at the Naples University, and Dr. Serra, of Castellammare, who also holds an important position in the botanical world. They have patented a mycelium, and they consider that once the ground has been thoroughly treated therewith, generation will be so spontaneous that further use of what may be called the "protoplasm" becomes unnecessary for a number of years; for the cultivated tuber will propagate itself the same as the wild one has done for unnumbered generations. They further assert that the crop which they propose to sow almost immediately will be ready to be gathered from October onward. Each oak tree is calculated to produce among its roots from 5 to 10 kilogrammes per year, which means that at |2 per kilogramme each tree will produce from $10 to |20 per annum. The chief hope of the botanists referred to, of material profit, however, lies in the Terfezia leonis. This species of truffle originates from the roots of Heliardhe-mum. guttalum, a herbaceous annual which can be sown from year to year where it will best flourish. It is the easiest of all the varieties to grow, and is practically independent of .water. In Tripoli the Terfezia practically takes the place occupied by the potato in more northern countries. It grows there to the size of an orange, and when taken from the ground is cut up and dried, and carried as food for the caravans which cross the desert. It can be cooked when required, either in, water or in camel's milk, and will keep good for an indefinite period. An important research expedition, which has for its objects the thorough investigation of the hydrography and biology of the central and western sections of the Indian Ocean, which are not explored by the "Challenger" expedition, is to be carried out under private auspices. The British Admiralty survey yacht "Sea-lark" has been obtained for the purpose. The party will first proceed from Colombo (Ceylon) to the group of coral atolls and submerged banks known as the Cha-gos Archipelago. This field opens considerable facilities for research, since no clear data regarding this portion of the Indian Ocean has been gathered since 1S37. Thence it will go to Mauritius in August, to replenish stores, proceeding subsequently to the surface reef of Cargados and along the Seychelles group and Saya de Mabha bank. This route has been selected for the purpose of conclusively determining the depth of the ocean bed between Mauritius and Seychelles, about which there is at present much diversity of opinion. After leaving the Seychelles the expedition will survey the Agalegas group, finally returning to Colombo, Elaborate soundings and temperature tests are to be carried out, and the determination of the existence of any relatively shallow banks connecting India with the South African continent, or Mauritius with the Seychelles, the mutual relationships of the Chagos atolls, the general ocean changes that have occurred since the last surveys, and the nature of the currents at varying .depths. Frequent dredg-ings will be undertaken for biological purposes, and the examination of the pelagic flora and fauna at various depths from 50 to 500 fathoms, as well as the ocean bed, and all parts of the coral reefs visited. The expedition hopes by this careful survey to obtain some definite information concerning the vertical distribution of animals and plants. The expedition will be absent for several months.
This article was originally published with the title "Science Notes" in SA Supplements 59, 1533supp, 399 (May 1905)