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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.
ceased for a while, and left the stones and rock bare.  The former gave 33 deg., the latter, till I was on the point of leaving, 31 1/2 deg., when it fell suddenly to 31 deg..  It was impossible, however, to stay any longer for the sake of watching the thermometer fall lower and lower below the freezing point; indeed, the results of sundry incautious fathomings of the various pools of water, and incessant contact of hands and feet with the ice, had already become so unpleasant, that I was obliged to desert my trusty hundred feet of string, and leave it lying on the ice, from want of finger-power to roll it up.  The thermometers were both Casella’s, but that which registered 31 deg. was the more lively of the two, the other being mercurial, with a much thicker stem:  the difference in sensitiveness was so great, that when they were equally exposed to the sun in driving home, the one ran up to 93 deg. before the other had reached 85 deg..

In leaving the glaciere, I found a little pathway turning off along the face of the rock on the left hand, a short way up the slope of entrance, and looking as if it might lead to the opening in the dark wall on the western side of the cave.  After a time, however, it came to a corner which it seemed an unnecessary risk to attempt to pass alone; and my prudence was rewarded by the discovery that, after all, the supposed cave could not be thus reached.  It is said that this other cave was the place to which the inhabitants fled for refuge when their district was invaded, probably by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar with his 10,000 Swedes, and that a ladder 40 feet long is necessary for getting at it.

The driver had long ago absconded when I returned to the upper regions; but the wife of the farmer of the grotto was there, and communicated all that she knew of the statistics of the ice annually removed.  She said that in 1863 two chars were loaded every day for two months, each char taking about 600 kilos, the wholesale price in Besancon being 5 francs the hundred kilos.  Since the quintal contains 50 kilos, it will be seen that this account does not agree with the statement of Renaud as to the amount of ice each char could take.  No doubt, a char at S. Georges may mean one thing, and a char in the village of Chaux another; but the difference between 12 quintaux and 50 or 60 is too great to be thus explained, and probably Madame Briot made some mistake.  Her husband, Louis Briot, works alone in the cave, and has twelve men and a donkey to carry the ice he quarries to the village of Chaux, a mile from the glaciere, where it is loaded for conveyance to Besancon.  He uses gunpowder for the flooring of ice, and expects the eighth part of a pound to blow out a cubic metre; and if, by ill luck, the ice thus procured has stones on the lower side, he has to saw off the bottom layer.  Madame Briot said I was right in supposing March to be the great time for the formation of ice, as she had heard her husband say that the columns were higher then than at any other time of the year:  she also confirmed my views as to the disastrous effects of heavy rain.  As with every other glaciere of which I could obtain any account, excepting the Lower Glaciere of the Pre de S. Livres, she complained that the ice had not been so beautiful and so abundant this year as last, although the winter had been exceptionally severe.

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