Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 349 pages of information about Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland.

The Cavalier had retained a guide overnight, Henri Renaud by name, and he appeared punctually at eight o’clock in the morning, got up in the short-tail coat of the country, and a large green umbrella with mighty ribs of whalebone.  The weather was extremely unpleasant, a cold pitiless rain rendering all attempts at protection unavailing; but, fortunately, the glaciere is only an hour and a quarter from the village.  The path is tolerably steep, leading across the petit Pre de Rolle, and through woods of beech and fir, till the summit of one of the minor ridges of the Jura is reached, whence a short descent leads to the mouth of the glaciere, something more than 4,000 feet above the sea.  The ground here slopes down towards the north; and on the slope, among fir-trees, an irregular circular basin is seen, some seven or eight yards across,[13] and perhaps two yards deep, at the bottom of which are two holes.  One of these holes is open, and as the guide and I—­for my sisters remained at Arzier—­stood on the neck of ground between the holes, we could see the snow lying at the bottom of the cave; the other is covered with trunks of trees, laid over the mouth to prevent the rays of the sun from striking down on to the ice.  This protection has become necessary in consequence of an incautious felling of wood in the immediate neighbourhood of the mouth, which has exposed the ice to the assaults of the weather.  The commune has let the glaciere for a term of nine years, receiving six or seven hundred francs in all; and the fermier extracts the ice, and sells it in Geneva and Lausanne.  In hot summers, the supplies of the artificial ice-houses fail; and then the hotel-keepers have recourse to the stores laid up for them by nature in the Glacieres of S. Georges and S. Livres.  Hence the importance of protecting the ice; the necessity for so doing arising in this case from the fact that the entrance to the cave is by a hole in the roof, which exposes the ice to direct radiation, unlike all other glacieres, excepting perhaps the Cueva del Hielo on the Peak of Teneriffe.[14]

Autumn appears to be the usual time for cutting the ice, when it is carried from the cave on men’s backs as far as the commencement of the rough mountain-road, and is there packed on chars, and so conveyed to the nearest railway station.  Renaud had worked in the cave for two years, and asserted that they did not choose the night for carrying the ice down to the station, and did not even care to choose a cool day.  He believed that, in the autumn of 1863, they loaded two chars a day for fifteen days, and each char took from 40 to 50 quintaux; the quintal containing 50 kilos, or 100 livres.[15] In Professor Pictet’s time (1822) this glaciere supplied the Hospital of Geneva, whose income depended in part on its privilege of revente of all ice sold in the town, with 25 quintaux every other day during the summer.  In my anxiety to learn the exact amount of ice now supplied by the glaciere, I determined

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