No. 38.
Mr. Heap to Mr. Hunter.

No. 176.]

Sir: A military expedition to the desert, under General Rustem, which started in April last, has given very satisfactory results so far, in quieting disturbances among the Arabs, and reducing many unsubmissive tribes to acknowledge the authority of the Bey, and pay large arrears of taxes. General Eastern, who is the minister of war, is a wise [Page 54] and just administrator, and his integrity is above suspicion. His personal reputation is a guarantee to the Arabs that they may safely trust to any engagements he may take.

There is a project on foot of introducing the waters of the Mediterranean into the great desert of Sahara through a cutting to be made near Gabes, in the southern part of this regency, by which an inland sea will be created of 350 kilometers in length and 70 to 80 in breadth, with a maximum depth of about 45 meters.

This region was once a gulf with a narrow entrance to the Mediterranean, which it is now proposed to re-open. As late as the beginning of the Christian era there were extensive lakes which have now dried up through evaporation, and the streams which once flowed into them from the spurs of the Atlas range on the north, have ceased to run. It is thought that so large a body of water south of the Atlas Mountains, constantly supplied from the Mediterranean, will modify the climate of that region and that its effects will be felt even as far as Sicily. Several careful surveys have already been made which establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that there exists a considerable depression extending, east and west for a distance of over 225 miles, and north and south an average of 50, with a depth of from 0 about 12 miles from the sea, to about 27 fathoms near its western limits. The height of the sandhills that separate this basin from the Gulf of Gabes is inconsiderable, consisting merely of drift from the sea and the desert, and the whole outlay of the work, including the expropriation of several oases, inhabited by Arabs, which would be submerged, is estimated at $4,000,000.

I am, &c.,