“Petrified Forest On The Nile” (from Young People’s Magazine, March 1846; pp. 66-67)
There is scarcely, perhaps, a spectacle on the surface of the globe more remarkable either in a geological or picturesque point of view, than that represented by the petrified forest near Cairo. The traveller having passed the tombs of the Caliphs, just beyond the gates of the city, proceeds to the southward nearly at right angles to the road across the desert to Suez, and after having travelled some ten miles up a low barren valley covered with sand, gravel, and sea-shells, fresh as if the tide had retired but yesterday, crosses a low range of sand-hills which has for some distance run parallel to his path. The scene now presented to him is beyond conception singular and desolate. A mass of fragments of trees, all converted into stone, and when struck by his horse’s hoof, ringing like cast-iron, is seen to extend
itself for miles and miles around him in the form of a decayed and prostrate forest. The wood is of a dark brown hue, but retains its form in perfection, the pieces being from one to fifteen feet in length, and from half a foot to three feet in thickness, strewed so thickly together, as far as the eye can reach, that an Egyptian donkey can scarcely tread its way through, amongst them; and so natural, that were it in Scotland or Ireland, it might pass without remark for some enormous drained bog, on which the exhumed trees lay rotting in the sun. The roots and rudiments of the branches are nearly perfect, and in some, the worm holes eaten under the bark are readily recognizable. The most delicate of the sap vessels, and all the finer portions of the centre of the wood, are perfectly entire, and bear to be examined wth the strongest magnifiers. The whole are so th[o]roughly silicified as to scratch glass and to be capable of receiving the highest polish.