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nese vaneys are generally long and
Mont Blanc (White Mountain, as its name narrow, and well cultivated. Even the sides
THE Alps are admitted on all hands to be by far the most remarkable of all the mountainranges in Europe. Commencing at the Mediterranean, they form a vast crescent, one of its horns reaching to that sea, and the other terminating in Austria, north-eastward of the Gulf of Venice, and in fact, uniting with the Hæmus or Balkan. Beginning at the Mediterranean, there are no fewer than ten divisions, called by as many names, viz., the Maritime, the Cottian, the Grey, the Pennine, the Leopontine, the Rhetian, the Noric, the Carnic, the Julian, and the Dinarian Alps. The centre of this vast range of mountains is in Switzerland, whence branches run off, in something like a detached form, into Savoy, France, Germany, Italy, Slavonia and Dalmatia.
The word alp, it may be remarked, is of Celtic origin, and signifies an elevated verdant spot of pasture land, lying on the summit, or on an elevated bench or slope of a mountain. Many of these natural mountain prairies, if they may be so called, exist in the range of which we are speaking, and are resorted to by the shepherds and herdsmen of the valleys below, who depasture their flocks and herds there during the summer months, occupying for this purpose rude little houses, built of stone or of wood, and called châlets.
Mont Blanc (White Mountain, as its name
signifies), is the highest mountain in Europe, having an elevation of 15,781 feet. It stands like a great giant in the midst of his fellows, rearing his snow-clad head above them all. Nevertheless, he is not without some noble companions, who are not much his inferiors either in point of grandeur or of venerable appearance. Away off in the south, in the Cottian Alps, is Mont Viso, that has the respectable height of 13,828 feet; and a little nearer is Mont Iseran, in the same division, that is almost as high. Mont Rosa, which is still nearer, being, like Mont Blanc, in the Pennine Alps, is 15,540 feet high, and is only 241 feet lower than its great compeer. Mont Cervin is 14,784, L'Alle Blanche is 14,775, the Great Glockner 13,713, and the Jungfrau (Virgin) 13,720. Besides these, there are several others that exceed 10,000 feet, and a host of smaller ones which vary from that height on a descending scale down as low as 5000. So that it may be said that Mont Blanc is most honorably guarded in the midst of his vast mountain domain.
There is no feature of the Alps more striking than that of the beautiful valleys, that lie between the successive ranges of mountains, that often run in parallel courses, one rising above another, till the centre of the whole system is reached. These valleys are generally long and narrow, and well cultivated. Even the sides
of the mountains are often cultivated up to a considerable height. Nothing can be more charming to the eye of a traveller, as he wends his way in mid-summer, through these vast mountains, than the sight of these lovely valleys. Fields of wheat, rye, oats, potatoes, flax, buckwheat, &c., stretch throughout these valleys, and along the skirts of the adjoining mountain-barriers, and make him feel that though he is in the midst of the stupendous works of God, yet he is not severed from the great family of mankind.
Such a valley is that of Chamoun,* which runs along by the northern base of Mont Blanc. The Arve, or rather a main branch of it called the Arveron, runs through it from the east to the west, and then turning to the north, flows away to join the Rhine, just below the city of Geneva.
Those who visit Mont Blanc from Switzerland, usually go by way of Chamouni. To reach this valley, the traveller, who sets off from Geneva, may go up the valley of the Arve, passing through a number of little Savoyard villages; or he may go up to the head of the Lake Leman, and thence pursuing the valley of the Rhone a considerable distance, cross over the mountain ridge which separates the head streams of the Arveron and the Rhone, and so enter the valley of Chamouni from the east.
The village of Chamouni which is well delineated in the engraving which is given in this number of the Christian Parlor Magazine, stands about mid-way in the valley of the same name, and considerably east of the central part of Mont Blanc, as the reader will perceive. The middle peak of the portion of the mountain that is covered with snow, is called the Dôme, and is the highest point of the entire mountain. The dark looking portion of the mountain which fills up the left end of the plate might be supposed to be higher than any of the summits covered with snow. But this is an illusion. To one standing at Chamouni it has that appearance, because it is much nearer to the village than the summits referred to, which are, in reality, the highest points of the mountain.
The reader will remark that a great body of what appears to be snow, but what is really ice, descends seemingly at no great distance
*This word is spelled very differently, Chamouni, Chamouny, Chamonix, all pronounced alike, víz, as if written Shamoonce. As to the origin of this name, M. de Saussure and others contend that it comes from the Latin, Campus munitus, a fortified camp.
from the village; this is the glacier of Buisson. It is said that twenty-five such glaciers descend from Mont Blanc into the valleys of Chamouni, Entreves and Bionnay. The whole number which belong to this mountain is sometimes estimated at sixty. In the whole chain of the Alps, it is believed that the number of the glaciers is between 500 and 600. The appearance as well as the formation of these glaciers are very remarkable.
The cold of the atmosphere increases, as is well known, with the elevation; and at a certain height, depending on the latitude, it is so great as to cause perpetual frost. At that point, and at all places above, snow will lie all the year, unless the nature of the ground or of the rocks-being too steep, as in the case of mural precipices-will not permit it to lie. Above the snow-line, that is, the line at which perpetual frost commences, snow will not only lie all the year, but it will increase in depth, because only a portion of that which successively falls, is carried away by evaporation or the influence of the sun during the summer. During the winter, the snow-line descends at times, from the height of 6000 or 7000 feet, where in latitude 45°, there is perpetual frost, to the bases of the mountains. The glaciers are formed by the partial melting of the lower edges of the masses of perpetual snow which lies above the snow-line, and which degeals in the summer through the action of the sun and rain, and then becomes frozen in the winter. These vast masses of ice lying embedded in the ravines and valleys which descend from the highest Alps, vary in length, breadth and depth. Some are as long as fifteen or twenty miles; some no more than two or three. Some are half a mile in width; and some are two miles and more. The depth of some is thirty, forty or fifty feet; that of others is five or six hundred. There is a glacier of immense size which descends from behind the portion of Mont Blanc which fills the left part of the view which we have given in the plate which accompanies this number, that contains a large expansion at the height of 6000 feet, called the Mer de Glace, or sea of ice. This glacier, like that of the Buisson, descends even in summer, down to the valley of Chamouni. And from beneath a vast arch of ice, issues a very considerable branch of the Arveron. This stream is comparatively insignificant in the winter, because its sources are locked up in ice; whilst in summer it is a large
The glaciers, pressed upon by the masses of