Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/394

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
380
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE SUANETIANS AND THEIR HOME.[1]

By DOUGLAS W. FRESHFIELD.

A NEW recreation-ground is wanted for those of our countrymen who, without being travelers by profession, find pleasure and refreshment in rough travel among primitive people, in mountain scenery and glacier air, in that sense of adventure and discovery which is afforded only by unknown countries or virgin heights, and on unmapped snowy chains. To such travelers — or vacation tourists — I offer the Caucasus. Here, if they make a hobby of map construction and correction, or of any branch of natural science, or of linguistic and ethnological studies, they will find a field for much useful work. At any rate, they may enjoy themselves, and while they do so they can hardly fail to increase knowledge. The country has been brought well within the reach of vacation tourists, of every one with a two months' holiday.

Nineteen years ago I described the first journey of exploration made by mountaineers, in the technical sense of that word, in the Caucasus, the ascents of its two most famous peaks, Elbruz and Kazbeck, and the general character of the snowy-chain that connects them. In July, 1887, in the company of M. de Déchy, and with Alpine guides, I revisited this noble chain, twice crossed some of its greatest glaciers, climbed several of its peaks, and penetrated many hitherto unknown recesses. In the course of these wanderings the mazes of the central group were unraveled, and several orographical problems which had puzzled intermediate travelers received their final solution.

For the moment I propose to limit myself to some notes on the scenery and people of a single district of the Caucasus, the mountain-girt basin of Suanetia, and one or two sketches of travel among its glaciers and snow-fields. Suanetia is the upper basin of the Ingur, a river which flows into the Black Sea a few miles east of Sukkum Kaleh. It is about the size of the valley of Aosta, forty miles long by fifteen broad. It lies between three thousand and seven thousand feet above the sea. On its north run the snowy ramparts of the Caucasian crest, inclosing in their complicated ridges four great glacier basins, and sending down more directly toward the Ingur or its tributaries many ice-streams, such as the Adish, which would be ranked in the Alps as glaciers of the first class. These ridges are composed of crystalline rocks, which show the tendency, observable in the Alps (e. g., in the Mont Blanc and Pelvoux groups), to arrange their

  1. From a paper read before the Royal Geographical Society, March 12, 1888.