National Geographic : 1969 Jun
in the Maltese islands came under the plow, and wheat, cotton, and vines displaced the scrub and herbs from which bees had sipped for thousands of years. Today Malta's Fertile Soil Act decrees that whenever earth is moved for building or road making, all usable soil must be redistributed to farms. Lizards Live Where Bombs Still Fall While Salvo sat talking with his fishermen friends, I hired a boat to take me out to the Blue Grotto. About half a mile from Wied iz Zurrieq, this natural cave is the product of centuries of wave erosion on the steep lime stone cliffs. Before entering, we passed under a huge natural arch-a muscled arm of rock that looked as though it were supporting the whole weight of the island. "If it should fall!" I said apprehensively. The boatman laughed, and his young son said reassuringly, "But it has never fallen!" Inside the cave the water beneath our keel took on a deep-blue luminosity, with sponges and corals on the sea bed glowing pink, white, and green. At its far end the grotto was pitch dark. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived in Malta for more than a year in 1804 and 1805, described just such a place in his dreamlike poem "Kubla Khan": Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. As we emerged from the cave, the boatman exclaimed "Fee-fla!" He pointed to a rocky, flat-topped islet about three miles off. Filfla has long served as a gunnery target and is still used as such by British and U. S. warships and the RAF. But Filfla is more than a target; it is the home of an unusual red-spotted green lizard, Scenting the spring air, winter wheat falls to the harvester. Population pressures push young farmers to emigrate, mainly to Australia and the United Kingdom, in search of economic opportunity. On the horizon at left rises Mdina, Malta's capital in Roman times. A fortified city of palaces and churches, Mdina was eclipsed by the building of Valletta. 873 Knnar'H~ CRVT FH FIINK n NG.S.