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From Lucerne we sent our voiture empty to Berne, while we prepared for our excursion into the mountains.
We began by crossing the lake of Lucerne to Russnacht, thence over a strip of land to Imisee on the lake of Zug ; thence to Art' at its southern extremity, and thence along the small lake of Lowertz to Boünner, where we again embarked for Altorf. In this day's tour we were in three of the small cantons, Zug, Schweitz and Uri. At Altorf properly commenced our passage into the mountains, along the road which leads over the St. Gothard into Italy. The path lies near the banks of the Reuss, which it frequently crosses, especially by the famous Pont du Diable. This road into Italy is passable only by mules and pedestrians, to which latter class we had the honour for three days to belong. We travelled on foot as far as Hopital, a small village in the valley of Urseren, at the foot of St. Gothard. Here we took mules to carry us over the difficult passes
of the Furea and the Grimsel, two of the vast chain of Alps which lay between us and Berne. The 14th September we crossed the Furea, being obliged to descend from our mules, and wade through snow above our knees, because the customary path was entirely concealed. We descended then to the source of the Rhone, and to the village of Obergestelen in the Haut Valais, from which point we began to ascend the Grimsel. If you have a good map, you will see that we here made a very devious track, because the shortest route which leads over the Mayenwund, was rendered impassable by the snow. At five o'clock we reached the summit of the Grimsel, seven thousand feet above the sea, and the highest point of our peregrinations; we slept this night in what is called the Hospice of the Grimsel. The next day we descended to Meyringen and left our mules, thence across the lakes to Brienz and Thun to Thun, where we took a carriage for Berne. At this capital we found our empty voiture, and our trunks safe, and sat off the next day
for Lausanne. We passed through Morat, Avenches, Payerne and Moudon, all Roman cities, and full of antiquities, and arrived the 19th at Lausanne, which was totally uninteresting to us, except as the favourite residence of Gibbon. The next day we travelled over one of the most superb chaussées in the world to Geneva. Nothing remained now but to visit Chamouni and the glaciers of Mont Blanc, which, by the blessing of heaven, we have safely accomplished in four days, and are ready to set off for Paris to-morrow morning. From this sketch of our wanderings, you will see that we have made a pretty complete tour through Switzerland, by travelling less, probably, than four hundred miles.
Excuse the meagre aspect of this itinerary. You know it would be absurd to attempt to give in a letter a proper journal of one's travels; and to pretend to describe any spot particularly interesting, would be only to repeat what you may easily find in books. All I mean by this sketch is, to let you know, where your friend has been; perhaps too it may refresh for a little while your geographical recollection,
There is an event, however, which happened just before our arrival in Switzerland, of which no particular account may have yet reached America, and which I think cannot be uninteresting, especially to those of our friends who have visited this charming country. Indeed it is too disastrous to be related or read with indifference.
If you have a large map of Switzerland, I beg of you to look for a spot in the canton of Schweitz, situated between the lakes of Zug and Lowertz on two sides, and the moun. tains of Rigi and Rossberg on the others. Here, but three weeks ago, was one of the most delightfully fertile vallies of all Switzerland; green, and luxuriant, adorned with several little villages, full of secure and happy farmers. Now three of these villages are forever effaced from the earth, and a broad waste of ruins, burying alive more than fourteen hun. dred peasants, overspreads the vally of Lowertz.
About five o'clock in the evening of the 3d of September, a large projection of the mountain of Rossberg, on the north east, gave way, and precipitated itself into this valley; and in less than four minutes completely overwhelmed the three villages of Goldau, Busingen, and Rathlen, with a part of Lowertz and Oberart. The torrent of earth and stones was far more rapid than that of lava, and its effects as resistless and as terrible. The mountain in its descent carried trees, rocks, houses, every thing before it.
The mass spread in every direction, so as to bury completely a space of charming country, more than three miles square. The force of the earth must have been prodigious, since it not only spread over the hollow of the valley, but even ascended far up the opposite side of the Rigi. The quantity of earth, too, is enormous, since it has left a considerable hill in what was before the centre of the vale. A portion of the falling mass rolled into the lake of Lowertz, and it is calculated that a fifth part is filled up. On a minute map you will see two little islands marked in this lake, which have been admired for their picturesqueness. One of them is famous for the residence of two hermits, and the other for the remains of an'ancient chateau, once belonging to the house of Hapsburg. So large a body of water was raised and pushed forward by the falling of such a mass into the lake, that the two islands, and the whole village of Seven, at the southern extremity, were for a time, completely submerged by the passing of the swell. A large house in this village was lifted off its foundations and carried half a mile beyond its place. The hermits were absent on a pilgrimage to the abbey of Einsideln.
The disastrous consequences of this event extend further than the loss of such a number of inhabitants in a canton of little population. A fertile plain is at once converted into a barren tract of rocks and calcareous earth, and the former marks and boundaries of property obliterated. The main road from Art to Schweitz is completely filled up, so that another must be opened with great labour over the Rigi. The former channel of a large stream is choked up, and its course altered; and as the outlets and passage of large bodies of water must be affected by the filling up of such a portion of the lake, the neighbooring villages are still trembling with apprehension of some remote consequence, against which they know not how to provide. Several hundred men have been employed in opening passages for the stag nant waters, in forming a new road for foot passengers along the Rigi, and in exploring the ruins. The different cantons have contributed to the relief of the suffering canton of Schweitz, and every head is at work to contrive means to prevent further disasters.
The number of inhabitants buried alive under the ruins of this mountain is scarcely less than fifteen hundred. Some even estimate it as high as two thousand. Of these, a woman and two children have been found alive, after having been several days under ground. They affirm that while they were thus entombed, they heard the cries of creatures who were perishing around them, for want of that succour which they were so happy as to receive. Indeed, it is the opinion of many well informed people, that a large number might still be recovered ; and a writer in the Publiciste goes so far as to blame the inactivity of the neighbouring inhabitants; and quotes many well-attested facts to prove, that persons have lived a long time, buried under snow and earth. This at least is probable in the present case, that many houses, exposed to a lighter weight than others, may have been merely a little crushed, while the lower story, which, in this part of Switzerland, is frequently of stone, may have remained firm, and thus not a few of the inhabitants escaped unhurt. The consternation, into which the neighbouring towns of Art and Schweitz were thrown, appears indeed to have left them incapable of contriving and executing those labours, which an enlightened compassion would dictate.
The mountain of Rossberg, as well as the Rigi, and other mountains in its vicinity, is composed of a kind of brittle calcareous earth, and pudding stone or aggregated rocks. Such a prodigious mass as that which fell, would easily crumble by its own weight, and spread over a wide surface. The bed of the mountain, from which the desolation came, is a plane inclined from north to south. Its appearance, as it is now laid bare, would lead one to suppose
that the mass, when first moved from its base, slid for some distance before it precipitated itself into the valley. The height of the Spitsberg—the name of the projection which fell—above the lake and valley of Lowertz, was little less than two thousand feet. The composition of the chain of the Rigi, of which the Rossberg makes a part, has always been an obstacle in the way of those system makers, who have built their hypotheses upon the structure of the Alps. It has nothing granitick in its whole mass, and though nearly six thousand feet above the sea, is green and even fertile to its summit. It is composed of nothing but earth and stone, combined in rude masses. It is also remarkable that the strata of which it is composed, are distinctly inclined from the north toward the south, a character which is common to all rocks of this kind through the whole range of Alps, as well as to the greater part of calcareous, schistous, and pyritick rocks, and also to the whole chain of the Jura.
It was about a week after the fall of the mountain, that our route through Switzerland led us to visit this scene of desolation; and never can I forget the succession of melancholy views, which presented themselves to our curiosity. In our way to it, we landed at Art, a town, situated at the southern extremity of the lake of Zug; and we skirted along, the western boundary of the ruins, by the side of Mount Rigi, towards the lake of Lowertz. From various points on our passage, we had complete views of such a scene of des