Unit 28 Death Valley死亡谷
Death Valley doesn’t sound like a very inviting place. It is one of the hottest places in the world. The highest temperature ever recorded there was 134 degrees Fahrenheit, and that was in the shade! Death Valley in California(加利福尼亚州) covers nearly 3000 square miles, from which approximately 555 square miles are below the surface of the sea. One point is 282 feet below sea level--the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. In Death Valley, pioneers and explorers faced death from thirst and the searing heat. Yet despite its name and bad reputation, Death Valley is not just an empty wildness of sand and rock. It is a place of spectacular scenic beauty and home to plants, animals, and even humans.
In 1849 a small group of pioneers struggled for three months to get across the rough land.They suffered great hardships as they and their wagons traveled slowly across the salt flats in the baking sun. They ran out of food and had to eat the oxen and leave their possessions behind. They ran out of water and became so thirsty that they could not swallow the meat. They found a lake and, being wild with joy, fell on their knees only to discover it was heavily salted. Finally, weak and reduced to almost skeletons, they came across a spring of fresh water and their lives were saved. When they finally reached the foot of mountains, they slowly climbed up the rocky slopes.One of them looked back and said, “Goodbye, Death Valley.”That has been its name ever since.
Death Valley is the driest place in North America. Yet far from being dead, it is alive with plants and animals. They have adapted to this harsh region. In the salt flats on the valley floor,there are no plants to be seen. But near the edge, there are grasses. Farther away, there are some small bushes and cactus(仙人掌). Finally, high on the mountainside, there are pine trees.
What is not visible are the seeds lodged in the soil, waiting for rain. When it does come, a brilliant display of wild flowers carpets the once barren(荒芜的) flatlands. Even the cactuses blossom.As the water dries up and the hot summer nears, the flowers die. But first they produce seeds that will wait for the rains of another year.
At noon on a summer day, Death Valley looks truly devoid(缺乏的) of wildlife. But in reality, there are 55 species of mammals(哺乳动物), 32 kinds of birds, 36 kinds of reptiles, and 3 kinds of amphibians(两栖动物). During the day many seek shelter under rocks and in burrows(洞穴). As night approaches, however, the land cools, and the desert becomes a center of animal activity. Owls hunt for mice. Bats gather insects as they fly. The little kid fox is out looking for food,accompanied by snakes, hawks, and bobcats(山猫). Many of these animals, like the desert plants,have adapted to the dry desert. They use water very efficiently. They can often survive on poor water supplies that would leave similar animals elsewhere dying of thirst.
Humans have also learned how to survive in this land. The natives knew where every hidden spring was. They also knew the habits of the desert animals, which they hunted. The natives, and later even the prospectors, ate every imaginable desert animal. They ate everything from the big horn sheep(巨角野羊) to snakes, rats and lizards(蜥蜴). They were often on the edge of starvation, In autumn they gathered nuts from the pine trees. Other foods they ate included roots, cactus plants, leaves, and sometimes insects.
The early prospectors didn’t know the desert as well as the natives. Many died looking for gold and silver in Death Valley; others did find the precious metals. Then a “boomtown(新兴城镇)” was born. First it consisted of miners living in tents. Then permanent buildings were built. But when the mine failed, the town that was built up around it did too. Today the remains of these “ghost towns(鬼城(因金矿枯竭而被人遗弃的城镇))” are scattered about Death Valley.