National Geographic : 1914 Jul
THE UNIQUE ISLAND OF MOUNT DESERT colony at Salem and its appointed gov ernor, sailed by between the island whose lofty heights he makes the western "Cape," or boundary, of the Bay of Fundy-and Mount Desert Rock, finding there "fair sunshine weather and so pleasant a sweet air as did much refresh us; and there came a smell from off the shore like the smell of a garden." That day there came a wild pigeon, too, and rested on his ship-a species now extinct through wanton slaughter and he tells how they put the ship a-stays in 30 fathoms of water, and took "in two hours, with a few hooks, sixty-seven cod fish"-and very great fish they were, some of them a yard and a half long and a yard in compass; and how a whale lay in their way and "would not shun them," so that they sailed by within a stone's throw of him as he lay spouting water, with his back hunched up a yard above the sea. A GIFT TO THE NATION Three centuries-a few years more or less-after Champlain sailed beneath the granite range of the Mount Desert moun tains and the French colonists had broken ground upon the fertile shore, a group of summer residents, who had long found pleasure in the various beauty of the island and a restful home upon its shores, 'gathered in response to a call from Dr. Charles W. Eliot, then presi dent of Harvard University, to associate themselves together for the purpose of conserving the wild, inspiring beauty supreme in its own way-the many-sided interest and open freedom of the nature which had meant so much to them. Gradually the undertaking thus begun has grown, till now the association holds between five and six thousand acres on the island in one continuous reservation, which includes the highest mountain peaks and the greater part of the water shed of the high-lying lakes between them whence the water supplies of the resi dential portions of the island are chiefly drawn. The area also includes much forest land, with deep valleys which offer admirable shelter for wild life, open marshes and pools suitable for wading and aquatic birds, streams on which beaver formerly built their dams and which would make fit homes for them again, and the best opportunity along the whole Maine coast for preserving and exhibiting in a single tract its native flora. This ownership the association hopes ultimately to extend, as opportunity to do so at reasonable cost shall offer, till it in cludes the whole range of bold, ice-worn granite hills, from 12 to 15 miles in length, which extends across the island, offering magnificent views of sea and land, together with the cool lakes, the wooded valleys, and the one noble fiord on our Atlantic coast which lie between them. The completion of this purpose will create a wild park of remarkable beauty, unique character, and great variety of landscape feature, whose permanent and best development in accordance with the spirit of their undertaking the members of the association feel will be provided for most wisely by placing it-except in special portions carefully selected and set aside for arboretum and other educa tional or scientific purpose-in the hands of the Federal government as a gift to the nation. Saved to future generations as it has been to us, in the wild primeval beauty of the nature it exhibits, of ancient rocks and still more ancient sea, with infinite detail of life and landscape interest be tween, the spirit and mind of man will surely find in it in the years and centu ries to come an inspiration and a means of growth as essential to them ever and anon as are fresh air and sunshine to the body. MYRIADS OF LAND AND WATER BIRDS * When America was first discovered the coast of Maine was the habitat of myriads of land and water birds. Cham plain, in his account of his second voyage along that coast, tells of the multitude of fowls of the air which he beheld. Hak luyt, in his "Discovery of Norumbega," * The preceding paragraphs are by George B. Dorr; the succeeding paragraphs, until the heading "Mount Desert contains a greater di versity of plant life, etc.," by Ernest Howe Forbush, and the concluding paragraphs, be ginning with the above heading, are by M. L . Fernald, Curator Gray Herbarium, Harvard University.