Vietnam or Thailand ? Vote for the TOP Country of the Week !

By day or night no ant or other edible thing seemed ever to approach or be entrapped; and month after month there was no sign of change to imago. Yet each pit held a fat, enthusiastic inmate, ready at a touch to turn steam-shovel, battering-ram, bayonet, and gourmand. Among the first thousand-and-one mysteries of Kartabo I give a place to the source of nourishment of the sub-bungalow ant-lions.

Within six degrees of the Equator, shut in by jungle, on a cloudless day in mid-August, I found a comfortable seat on a slope of sandy soil sown with grass and weeds in the clearing back of Kartabo laboratory. I was shaded only by a few leaves of a low walnut-like sapling, yet there was not the slightest hint of oppressive heat.

This British Guiana beach, just in front of my Kartabo bungalow, was remarkably diversified, and in a few steps, or strokes of a paddle, I could pass from clean sand to mangroves and muckamucka swamp, thence to out-jutting rocks, and on to the Edge of the World, all within a distance of a hundred yards. For a time my beach walks resulted in inarticulate reaction.

With my electric flash I went out into the starlight, and found the usual hosts struggling nestward with their chlorophyll burdens, and rushing frantically out into the black jungle for more and yet more leaves. My mind swept back over evolution from star-dust to Kartabo compound, from Gonium to man, and to these leaf-cutting ants.

These men came up-river and landed on a little island a few hundred yards from Kartabo. Here they built a low stone wall, lost a few buttons, coins, and bullets, and vanished. Then came the Dutch in sturdy ships, cleared the islet of everything except the Spanish wall, and built them a jolly little fort intended to command all the rivers, naming it Kyk-over-al.

My feelings toward her were mingled, but altogether kindly, as guest in her home, I could not but treat her with respect, while my scientific soul revelled in the addition of Bufo guttatus to the fauna of this part of British Guiana. Whether flashing gold of oriole, or the blinking solemnity of a great toad, it mattered little Kartabo had welcomed me with as propitious an omen as had Kalacoon.

These are thoughts which come at first-snow, thoughts humanly narrow and personal compared to the later delights of snow itself crystals and tracks, the strangeness of freezing and the mystery of melting. And they recurred now because for days past I had idly watched scattered flurries of lemon-yellow and of orange butterflies drift past Kartabo.

The ebb-tide soon began, and in 1739 Kartabo was deserted, and thirty years before the United States became a nation, the old fort on Kyk-over-al was demolished. The rivers and rolling jungle were attractive, but the soil was poor, while the noisome mud-swamps of the coast proved to be fertile and profitable. Some fatality seemed to attach to all future attempts in this region.

All our stories are of the middles of things, without beginning or end; we scientists are plunged suddenly upon a cosmos in the full uproar of eons of precedent, unable to look ahead, while to look backward we must look down. Exactly a year ago I spent two hours in a clearing in the jungle back of Kartabo laboratory, and let my eyes and ears have full swing.

Although essentially a tropical family, Attas have pushed as far north as New Jersey, where they make a tiny nest, a few inches across, and bring to it bits of pine needles. In a jungle Baedeker, we should double-star these insects, and paragraph them as "Atta, named by Fabricius in 1804; the Kartabo species, cephalotes; Leaf-cutting or Cushie or Parasol Ants; very abundant.