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Ice-Caves of France and Switzerland by Browne

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ICE-CAVES OF FRANCE AND SWITZERLAND.

A NARRATIVE OF SUBTERRANEAN EXPLORATION.

BY THE REV. G.F. BROWNE, M.A.

FELLOW AND ASSISTANT TUTOR OF ST. CATHARINE'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE; MEMBER OF THE ALPINE CLUB.

1865.

PREFACE.

The existence of natural ice-caves at depths varying from 50 to 200 feet below the surface of the earth, unconnected with glaciers or snow mountains, and in latitudes and at altitudes where ice could not under ordinary circumstances be supposed to exist, has attracted some attention on the Continent; but little or nothing seems to be practically known in England on the subject. These caves are so singular, and many of them so well repay inspection, that a description of the twelve which I have visited can scarcely, as it seems to me, be considered an uncalled-for addition to the numerous books of travel which are constantly appearing. In order to prevent my narrative from being a mere dry record of natural phenomena, I have interspersed it with such incidents of travel as may be interesting in themselves or useful to those who are inclined to follow my steps. I have also given, from various sources, accounts of similar caves in different parts of the world.

A pamphlet on _Glacieres Naturelles_ by M. Thury, of Geneva, of the existence of which I was not aware when I commenced my explorations, has been of great service to me. M. Thury had only visited three glacieres when he published his pamphlet in 1861, but the observations he records are very valuable. He had attempted to visit a fourth, when, unfortunately, the want of a ladder of sufficient length stopped him.

I was allowed to read Papers before the British Association at Bath (1864), in the Chemical Section, on the prismatic formation of the ice in these caves, and in the Geological Section, on their general character and the possible causes of their existence.

It is necessary to say, with regard to the sections given in this book, that, while the proportions of the masses of ice are in accordance with measurements taken on the spot, the interior height of many of the caves, and the curves of the roof and sides, are put in with a free hand, some of them from memory. And of the measurements, too, it is only fair to say that they were taken for the most part under very unfavourable circumstances, in dark caves lighted by one, or sometimes by two candles, with a temperature varying from slightly above to slightly below the freezing-point, and with no surer foot-hold than that afforded by slippery slopes of ice and chaotic blocks of stone. In all cases, errors are due to want of skill, not of honesty; and I hope that they do not generally lie on the side of exaggeration.

CAMBRIDGE: _June_ 1865.


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