The chalets of the better class are generally divided into three compart¬
ments, the largest containing the fire-place and milk cauldron, another
being the dairy, or cheese-manufactory, and the third a sleeping-room.
The sole furniture consists of a wooden bench and table. Although the
neighbourhood of these huts is generally dirty and uninviting, they will
often be hailed with satisfaction by the hungry wayfarer, as they generally
afford excellent milk, fresh butter, cheese, and bread. In the more
frequented districts coffee, wine, honev, eggs, and even a tolerable bed of
hay may also be obtained at the chalets. Many of the huts are recep¬
tacles for hay only.
For the "Manufacture of Cheese, the freshest milk, or that from which
the cream has already been removed, is employed according to the quality
of the cheese to be made. The cheese having been separated from the
whey by means of rennet, and pressed, is placed in the magazine, where
it is turned daily, and moistened with cloths saturated with salt-water.
If the whey is not used for sanitary purposes, an inferior quality of
cheese termed ' Zieger' is again prepared from it, and the refuse serves to
fatten the pigs which are frequently kept for this purpose on the mountains.
The term 'Alp'', which recurs so frequently in the Handbook, signifies
a mountain-pasture. ' Molten" are the richer and less elevated meadows.
lGrat' denotes a rugged and precipitous mountain-ridge.
The somewhat granular snow (neige grenue) which falls in the highest
Alpine regions, above the snow line (8000'), accumulates in the valleys and
clefts of the rocks, and after being partially melted during the day, espe¬
cially in the lower districts, is converted during the night into a solid
frozen mass. Thus, layer by layer, is formed the Glacier, the most strik¬
ing feature of the Alpine world, a stupendous mass of the purest azure ice.
No scene in Switzerland is so strikingly and strangely beautiful as when,
in some fertile and wooded valley, the glittering pinnacles of a glacier are
suddenly presented to our gaze in the immediate proximity of corn-fields,
fruit-trees, smiling meadows, and human habitations.
The more extensive or Primary glaciers are long arms of solid ice,
resembling frozen cataracts, which occupy entire valleys, frequently with
a very slight fall, and are estimated to attain a thickness of 1500'. The
smaller or Secondary glaciers are of more limited extent, lying on the moun¬
tain-slopes with a considerable fall, and being of less massive consistency.
At a height exceeding 10,000' above the sea-level, the influence of the
sun is too slight to melt the surface of the snow sufficiently for its con¬
version into ice. This snowy, unconsolidated upper portion of the glacier
is termed Firn (Fr. A'ere), which lower down, where the sun's rays
become more powerful, gradually blends with the ice of the glacier, formed
as already described. The glacier is therefore, as it were, the offshoot of
the Fun. but. is easily distinguishable from it, the surface of the ice being
rounded towards the margins, and that of the Firn towards the centre.
While the fall of snow and the formation of glacier-ice suffer no inter¬
mission, the extent of the glaciers does not increase. The compensation
in the higher regions is effected by the evaporation and absorption of the
ice by the influence of the sun and air, in the lower regions by the con¬
version of the ice into water, which descends through the fissures, and
forms a brook, the invariable outlet of every glacier.
It is a well-established fact that glaciers are in a perpetual state of
motion, and descend with more or less rapidity. Professor Forbes found
that the ice of the Mer de Glace advanced 209' 'per annum at the source
of the Arveyron, while at the base .if the Montanvert the annual pro¬
gression amounted to 822'. The motion in winter is less rapid than in
spring and summer. It has been calculated that 200 years would elapse
before a mass of rock, lying on the surface of the glacier at its upper end
would reach the valley of Chamouny.
Saussure (pp. 217, 230) attributes the advance of glaciers entirely to
the mechanical pressure exercised by the masses of snow on the upper
portions, whilst t>'» lower uxlnuiiities er.idu.-ill v melt away. Agassiz (n 135)