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The Italian Expedition to the Himalaya, Karakoram and Eastern Turkestan (1913-1914)

The Italian Expedition to the Himalaya, Karakoram and Eastern Turkestan (1913-14), by Filippo De Filippi, xvi + 528 pages; quarto, with chapters by G. Dainelli and A. Sprenger. Illustrated with two colored plates, fifteen panoramas, four maps, and more than 300 illustrations in the text. Edward Arnold and Co., London, England, 1932. Price 50s.

This book contains the record of an admirably planned and convincing program in the interests of science and exploration across one of the world’s most dramatic frontiers. It is a unique contribution to the literature on the region adjacent to the watershed separating Northern India from Central Asia, linking the present with the past by frequent reference to journeys made by missionaries, scientists and explorers, who, through the centuries, have traveled that way in the interests of various nations.

A comprehensive review is difficult, as it is almost impossible for the casual reader to adjust his sense of values to fit the vastness of Indo-Himalayan topography and the problems to which it gives rise. It is equally difficult for the layman to comprehend the nice decisions made in various fields of allied sciences. De Filippi states, “This book contains an account of the expedition across India, Baltistan, Ladak, and Russian Turkestan.” This places the scientist’s endeavor on the map from the political viewpoint, but for clear understanding of the narrative a knowledge of the topographical background is essential.

The region dealt with is marked by the variety and importance of unsolved problems, as well as for fruitfulness as a field of research. Confronting the members of the expedition, each in a particular field, were problems in geology, morphology, and glaciology, data on which had been previously based largely on hypotheses and contradictory theories. Major geographical problems had not been satisfactorily investigated, and the unsatisfactory classification of the colossal ranges crossed, called for reconsideration. The expedition proposed to institute researches in meteorology and aerology, as well as measurements of various forms of radiation. De Filippi’s particular field, that of gravity measurements, was to serve as a basis of study of Himalayan formation, and, in general, as an approach to the question of distribution of terrestrial masses.

Of the topographical results, among the most interesting was the fixation of the relations between the Rimu Glacier, source of the upper Yarkand River, the Shayok River and its tributaries, and the Karakoram Pass.

A comprehensive series of photographs illustrate the volume, although quality is lost in those printed on text paper.

J. G. H. and J. M. T.