Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 303 pages of information about Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland.

CHAPTER I.

The glaciere of la Genolliere, in the Jura.

In the summer of 1861, I found myself, with some members of my family, in a small rustic pension in the village of Arzier, one of the highest villages of the pleasant slope by which the Jura passes down to the Lake of Geneva.  The son of the house was an intelligent man, with a good knowledge of the natural curiosities which abound in that remarkable range of hills, and under his guidance we saw many strange things.  More than once, he spoke of the existence of a glaciere at no great distance, and talked of taking us to see it; but we were sceptical on the subject, imagining that glaciere was his patois for glacier, and knowing that anything of the glacier kind was out of the question.  At last, however, on a hot day in August, we set off with him, armed, at his request, with candles; and, after two or three hours of pine forests, and grass glades, and imaginary paths up rocky ranges of hill towards the summits of the Jura, we came to a deep natural pit, down the side of which we scrambled.  At the bottom, after penetrating a few yards into a chasm in the rock, we discovered a small low cave, perfectly dark, with a flooring of ice, and a pillar of the same material in the form of a headless woman, one of whose shoulders we eventually carried off, to regale our parched friends at Arzier.  We lighted up the cave with candles, and sat crouched on the ice drinking our wine, finding water, which served the double purpose of icing and diluting the wine, in small basins in the floor of ice, formed apparently by drops falling from the roof of the cave.

A few days after, our guide and companion took us to an ice-cavern on a larger scale, which, we were told, supplies Geneva with ice when the ordinary stores of that town fail; and the next year my sisters went to yet another, where, however, they did not reach the ice, as the ladder necessary for the final drop was not forthcoming.

In the course of the last year or two, I have mentioned these glacieres now and then in England, and no one has seemed to know anything about them; so I determined, in the spring of 1864, to spend a part of the summer in examining the three we had already seen or heard of, and discovering, if possible, the existence of similar caves.

The first that came under my notice was the Glaciere of La Genolliere; and, though it is smaller and less interesting than most of those which I afterwards visited, many of its general features are merely reproduced on a larger scale in them.  I shall therefore commence with this cave, and proceed with the account of my explorations in their natural order.  It is probable that some of the earlier details may seem to be somewhat tedious, but they are necessary for a proper understanding of the subject.

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Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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