THE OB.ERLAND AND ITS GLACIERS.* Mn. GEORGE has brought to
his -work -clear -knowledge of his subjecb, the results of much research, a good deal of genuine enthusiasm, and a considerable power of placing his readers in a position to see distinctly with the mind's eye the objects he brings before them—a merit by no means too common with travellers, who are apt to assume too much -knowledge on the part of their audience. There is no doubt that the admirable photographs with which the work is illustrated, afford very material help in thia respect. Until very recently descriptions of mountain scenery excited little or nointerest in the minds of ordinary Englishmen. Our ignorance on the subject was profound, and our curiosity proportionally small. It was no superficial trait= to which Bacon. gave utterance when he said, "There must be a basis of knowledge before wonder can belch." During the last few years we have just- attained wonder-
* the Oberland and as Glaciers. Explored and illustrated wit's Ice Are and Camera. By Al. IL George, MA., F:R.e.13. London: Alfred W. Bennett. 1860. point, and are auffiniently awake to the silent histories written on every rugged mountain side and frozen into each gigantic ice river, to appreciate the labours of those who have been at the pains to try and decipher what these Titan children of nature may have to tell us. There are undoubtedly those who are prepared to assert that "if you have ascended one mountain you have ascended all," but to such a mental condition sunsets are a wearisome monotony, and spring itself brings no new combination of beauty. "The same- ness," as Mr. George well observes, "is in the mind of him who makes the assertion." Our author, with a considerable party of friends, found himself, at the end of August, 1865, in Grindel- wald. The camera was the centre round which the party was to revolve, while the photographer was the acknowledged head, to explore the Oberland and its glaciers their object, taking photo- graphs wherever, it might be desirable. The book is a monument of their success. It would probably be impossible to obtain a more perfect idea, of the upper ice fall of the Ober-Grindelwald glaciers than the one presented to us in the frontispiece of this volume. Of course those to whom these glaciers are nothing more than ice-fields may see little in the photograph worthy of re- mark, as they probably see little in its original, but those to whom the study of the subject affords pleasure will examine the picture with-no common interest. Mr. George follows Professor Tyndall's theory throughout, and regards his illustrations as helping tomake, plain that theory to those who, never having seen - a glacier, 44 are unable to obtain any clear idea of what it is, except from elaborate viva' voce explanations of Alpine pictures." Assoming that the glacier is really an ice river, and that the question of motion is beyond dispute, the rate at which the glacier moves being really computable, though affected by many circumstances which make it difficult to arrive at an exact result, the fastest rate probably not exceeding 700 feet in a year, -our author passes on to some of ihe main features observable on the surface of these mighty streams, which, till lately regarded as merely " the regions of eternal frost," are found to have played no unimportant part in the entire formation of the earth's surface, so much so that it would seem their work is almost done, and that great as is their present magnitude, it is but a shadow-of the great- ness that has been. Probably these glaciers have been observed by thousands who never considered the force which gave them birth. The description of their origin in the book before us is short and clear. Every one knows that more snow falls on the tops of high mountains than is melted by the sun, and seeing, as Mr. George quaintly observes, "mountains do not grow in beight,"something must become of the surplus. Now, as we are all aware, "Snow, in itself, is only minute particles of ice, so loosely joined-together-that a great proportion of air is enclosed in their interstices, which causes the snow, in its ice particles necessarily transparent,. to appear-white and opaque." We have only to imagine the'air expelled from these particles to see that the ice must again become transparent, and that pressure would be the principal agent in this transformation, and it is easy to perceive that then the weight of ever accumulating snow would 4 4 force out the lower portions of the maw!, and compel them to find place for themselves in whatever direction they can escape," which of course will be downwards into the great valleys. And the undulations of the surface are also accountedfor. The passage -of the mass of ice thus continually forced out is not over a smooth channel, but often over immense obstacles, which impede but never stop its way. Thus, for instance, when the mass has reached the brow of a precipice it must fall over to continue its course. The foremost portion will fall, and necessarily break with the strain, but before wholly dividing another and another will succeed, each cemented to the one which preceded it by the principle of regelation, while the whole presents the wave-like aspect so beautifully exemplified in a portion of the Ober Grindel- weld glacier, an seen in the frontispiece. With slow but resistless force the glacier goes on its way. The Great Aletsch glacier gives us some idea how irresistible that force is. "Sweeping down in one majestic course, unbroken by a single ice fall, it has a character of deliberate y.rt irresistible force, which no obstacle, however strong, will avail to turn aside from its settled course. Its dimen- sions are truly colossal, measured from the foot of the Jungfrau Joch, against which abuts the upper end of the huge snowfield out of which the glacier directly issues, to the termination of the glacier in the magnificent gorge of the Massa, its length is fifteen miles, and its breadth nowhere less than 1,200 yards, in some places reaching nearly double that amount. The depth of the ice can hardly be guessed at. The lateral valley containing the Alarjelen See, though of no small width, and at least a hundred feet lower than the glacier, has not the slightest effect in deflecting its course, so enormously deep and solid is the mass of ice flowing down the channel of the Great Aletsch. The stream of the Massa, formed by the meltings of this single glacier, is double the size of the Rhone at their point of junction, although the latter conveys the accumulated waters of the whole Upper Valois." And if in an age which has passed away there were glaciers which bore in size the relation to the present which the mammoth bears to the mouse, which could "toss with ease huge rocks which thein degenerate descendants of the present day could hardly support," we may realize in some faint degree the influence they may have had in the entire formation of the earth's surface; how they then "scooped out valleys, formed lake-beds, deposited chains of hills" —formed of moraines to which the present are ant-hills. "Into the vast plain of North Italy project whole ranges of hills, entirely composed of ancient moraines, brought down from Monte Rosa and piled on the plain by the gigantic glaciers which once streamed from the southern slope of the Alps. Many interesting details of these moraines or accumulations of earth, stones, &c., on the sides of the glaciers are given in these pages. Nor are the lighter features of glacier scenes forgotten. The tables, so curious in their forma- tion as often to puzzle the superficial observer, are well described. Blocks of stone, sometimes a whole slab of granite; =falling on the open glacier, "the stone protects the ice immediately under it, while the surrounding surface is wasted away, and thus gradually it is left on the top of a column of ice." A beautiful little photo- graph of one of these curious tables is given under the description at page 62. Then there are the glacier fountains, and the ice needles, with their glittering points, the ice peaks, the moulins, active and extinct, all illustrated ; but if the subject of glaciers takes a somewhat prominent place in the work, the mountains loom with quitesufficient distinctness in the background ; and new mountain routes are pointed out which will have a special interest for tourists given to mountaineering, and to all members of the Alpine Club, for whose special delectation we imagine the book-is published. The-ascent of the Jungfrau from the northern-side, the -Sehneehorn bivouac, and other adventures by the way have all an interest for those who have made or may yet make the ascent. 'The pleasure of the whole party at finding the Nesthorn still una.s- cended, resembles the delight with which the botanist seizes some new specimen or the antiquarian some-undoubted relics. There is no better chapter in the book than the one which describes the -ascent of the untried peak. Starting at four p.m. on September 18, they commenced the ascent, and after three or four hours' hard work suffered the sight of a glacier table to suggest the propriety of breakfast. Step-cutting in the ice is no mean pro- :vocative of hunger, but they soon pressed forward again, deter-. mined if -possible to reach the summit by mid-day, and suceeeded, standing there-five minutes before that time, well repaid for the morning's exertion.
Mr. George describes the summit as 44 precisely similar in shape to the quarter of an orange. Two perfectly vertical walla of -snow form an exact right angle, pointing eastward, and the enclosed slope is rounded off in a smooth, uniform curve, growing. steeper at every yard." The view, which certainly, as he observes, would try the descriptive powers of a Ruskin, is well sketched, but4it is impossible to extract more than a few lines :— " Looking first to the east, in the direction whither the shape of 'the peak itself seems naturally to direct our _attention, we see immediately at our feet its moraines dwarfed into mere dark bands on the clear white surface, the Ober Aletsch glacier, whence but a few hours ago-we looked up at our present eminence with feelings of hope, considerably tempered by our total ignorance of what lay before us. Bounding the immediate foreground rises the steep uniform ridge that forma &the eastern bank of the Great Aletsch, glowing crimson and scarlet with the autumn tints of the vihortleberry and alpine rose ; and far beyond towers the mighty mass of the Bernina, standing out dark and solitary against the pale green of the horizon. Southwards, to the right of the Bernina, the grey peaks of the Lombard Alps, sharp in the outlines of their actual tops, yet grouped so closely and so much obscured by the mists that fill the valleys as to render it impossible for the eye to distinguish their relative distances, form a background to the snowy range of the upper Rhone valley."
They lingered, taking in at every fresh glance a thousand new beauties, till Christian Abner, the indefatigable guide, warned them it was time to descend, and a day of perfect success and enjoyment was brought to a close by "a good dinner, and a bottle of cham- pagne presented by our landlord, in honour of the only new peak within his dominions." We cannot follow the travellers further, though we wish we were able to give in full a curiously pic- turesque little description of the autumnal gathering together of the flocks on the Lnsgen Alp, which through the summer find pasturage on the higher elopes. The gathering of the shepherds takes place on Sunday, and on " Monday evening all had so completely disappeared that the Nesthorn party were unable to- find any
one interested in the fate of a stray sheep, which they had encountered close to the Ober Aletsch glacier, somewhat lame, and wearing on its black face an expression of the most pitiable per- plexity and bewilderment." We would suggest that the photo- graphs, which are excellent, should be studied under a strong light, and we cannot help hoping that photographing may eventually become a more general pursuit with tourists, taking the place of the sketches which so often afford but a meagre idea of the spot represented. Besides, the camera commands for some of the party the leisure so indispensable to research. Much of the real benefit of travel is lost through the speed with which every place is hurried through. We do all things rapidly in the present day, but, in the immediate presence of the mountain and the glacier, we might do well to pause, and inquire the origin and end of our feverish haste.