Reading and Use of English
Welcome to Death Valley
If you think we’ve been having a hot summer here in Europe, you should take a drive
through Death Valley. The heat hits you like a blast from a furnace when you get out of
your car. After a few minutes under the scorching sun and a couple of souvenir photos
taken on the baking sand, most people have had enough. Death Valley is officially the
hottest place in America. The highest temperature ever was recorded in 1913 at
57.7°C. The first impression you get of Death Valley is sand and heat. Sand everywhere, as far as the eye can see, shimmering in the heat. Death Valley, with its
3.3 million acres, is the largest national park outside of Alaska. It is the land of
mountain-sized sand dunes, below-sea-level salt flats, and colorful sandstone canyons.
Visitors often underestimate how hot and dry Death Valley can be, no matter what time
of year. Even short easy walks can be fatal if temperatures soar above 38°C. The valley’s extreme climate and
inhospitable sand and mountains attract not only moviemakers,
but also tourists. Every year 1.3 million tourists come to Death Valley. While
Americans tend to avoid the scorching summers, Europeans often decide to go at the
hottest time, just to see what extreme heat is like: they’re “weather tourists”. Hotels are
packed in the hottest months, between May and October. There is even a golf course in
Furnace Creek, and a 135-mile ultramarathon that starts in Badwater, the lowest point
in North America, and continues through
Death Valley to the Sierra Nevada.
The people who gave the valley its name were not there to play golf or go running: they
were looking for a way across California, where gold had been discovered in 1849. One
group of pioneers thought they had found a shortcut across the desert, but their trip
ended up taking months. When they finally left, one of the group is said to have
declared: “Goodbye Death Valley” and the name stuck.
Despite the name, there is a lot of life in Death Valley. More than 1,000 species of
plants live there. In spring, if the conditions are right – enough sun and rain, not too
much wind – the desert flowers bloom – a spectacular sight. The flower show lasts only
a few weeks before Death Valley’s scorching heat returns and the flowers wither and
die. Animals have also adapted to the harsh environment, especially smaller species
like mice and bats, but also coyotes. And for reptiles the conditions are ideal. There are
also some species
you would prefer not to meet, like rattlesnakes and scorpions.
There have always been human inhabitants, too. The Timbisha Shoshone Native
Americans lived off the land here for centuries before the first Europeans arrived, and
some families still live at Furnace Creek. The discovery of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc
and borax, which is used in laundry and cleaning products, brought miners and mining
companies to Death Valley. When the mines stopped making money, often after
only a few years, the towns that had sprung up became deserted, creating another of Death
Valley’s attractions: ghost towns. Rhyolite, the “Queen City”, was the largest town in
Death Valley. Today, only ruins are left, protected by high wire fences.
adapted from: Read On, Carl Ed. Schünemann KG: September 2013
Read the text. Match the headings (A – F) with the paragraphs (1 – 4). There
are two more headings than you need.
A) Early inhabitants and past populations
B) Interaction between wildlife and climate
C) Origin of the term "Death Valley"
D) Population rise after industrialization
E) The foundation of a gold mine
F) The influence of climate and landscape on tourism
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Questions on the text
Answer the following questions in one to six words or in numbers.
How is the landscape of Death Valley described? (Name three facts.)
Who does not usually go to Death Valley in summer?
Why is it so difficult to find accommodation in Death Valley in summer?
How long did the journey of some settlers last in the 19th
How have living beings survived in Death Valley?
Why did people settle in Death Valley? (Name one fact.)
Why did ghost towns develop? (Name one fact.)
A closer look at the text
a) Which words from the text are paraphrased here?
long deep valleys with very steep sides made of rock
film directors who have full control over the
films they produce
b) Paraphrase the following words.
a running activity that takes a long time to
complete and that needs a lot of energy
c) Copy the sentence from the text that tells you that…
some moments in the blazing sun and on hot ground make a lot of people
people who visit Death Valley throughout the year often misjudge the
Language in use
Read the headlines from a newspaper and mark the correct solution.
Lots of Californians … their homes from forest fires.
A Madonna concert … in San Diego last week.
The Los Angeles City Council wants to … the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.
Police arrested a man because he … a can of white paint at a
a) be thrown
b) had thrown
Inhabitants of San Francisco … when a bomb almost exploded in the city
d) were shocked
In February, Los Angeles will roll out the … again when the film stars arrive
for the Oscars.
a) blue curtains
b) green linen
c) red carpet
d) white tablecloth
California has been the nation’s top agricultural state for more … 50 years.
Over 5.3 billion eggs are produced each year … more than 19 million hens.