The Yenisei rises in Chinese territory, and, running northwards right through Siberia, falls into the Arctic Ocean. It receives a large number of affluents, most of them from the east. Its banks are clothed with forest, and from Minusinsk downwards the river is navigable. The Lena, the great river which passes through eastern Siberia north-east of Baikal, is not much smaller than the Yenisei.
Luka had assured Godfrey that they would have no difficulty in obtaining a boat. "Everywhere there are fishing people on the rivers," he said. "There are Tunguses they are all over Siberia. There are the Ostjaks on all the rivers. There are my own people, but they are more to the south, near Minusinsk, and from there to Kasan, and seldom come far north. In summer everyone fishes or hunts.
"Why, all the river, from Minusinsk down to Turukhansk, more than 2000 miles, is well-nigh covered with birds. We shall have no lack of meat presently." During the day many flights similar to those first seen passed overhead, some larger, some containing only a score or two birds. The next day the numbers were still larger, whole battalions coming along almost incessantly.
At Krasnoiarsk we cross the Yenisei by a fine bridge nearly two-thirds of a mile long. In summer vessels can ascend as far as Minusinsk, in a district of southern Siberia, rich in gold and iron and productive soil. In general Siberia is a rich country. Gold, silver, and copper, lead, graphite, and coal occur, besides many other valuable minerals and stones in the mountains.
There have been obtained from the mounds found in this section many thousand relics relating to prehistoric man which exemplify his progress from the stone age through the bronze to the iron age. This fine collection of upward of sixty thousand different articles is housed in an imposing and substantial museum erected in the town of Minusinsk.
The Caucasus, the Elburz, the Kopetdagh, and Paropamisus, the intricate and imperfectly known network of mountains west of the Pamir, the Thian-Shan and Ala-tau mountain regions, and farther north-east the Altai, the still unnamed complex of Minusinsk mountains, the intricate mountain-chains of Sayan, with those of the Olekma, Vitim, and Aldan, all of which are ranged en échelon, the former from north-west to south-east, and the others from south-west to north-east all these belong to one immense Alpine belt bordering that of the plateaus.
Just north of Mongolia where the Yenisei River enters Russian territory is the wonderfully interesting fertile prairie region of Minusinsk. Being well watered and sheltered on all sides by mountains, it is one of the most fertile spots in all Siberia. Here the disintegration of gold-bearing rocks has formed large mining fields which are profitably worked.