1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Carpathian Mountains

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CARPATHIAN MOUNTAINS[1] (Lat. Montes Sarmatici; Med. Lat. Montes Nivium), the eastern wing of the great central mountain system of Europe. With the exception of the extreme southern and south-eastern ramifications, which belong to Rumania, the Carpathians lie entirely within Austrian and Hungarian territory. They begin on the Danube near Pressburg, surround Hungary and Transylvania in a large semicircle, the concavity of which is towards the south-west, and end on the Danube near Orsova. The total length of the Carpathians is over 800 m., and their width varies between 7 and 230 m., the greatest width of the Carpathians corresponding with its highest altitude. Thus the system attains its greatest breadth in the Transylvanian plateau, and in the meridian of the Tatra group. It covers an area of 72,600 sq. m., and after the Alps is the most extensive mountain system of Europe. The Carpathians do not form an uninterrupted chain of mountains, but consist of several orographically and geologically distinctive groups; in fact they present as great a structural variety as the Alps; but as regards magnificence of scenery they cannot compare with the Alps. The Carpathians, which only in a few places attain an altitude of over 8000 ft., lack the bold peaks, the extensive snow-fields, the large glaciers, the high waterfalls and the numerous large lakes which are found in the Alps. They are nowhere covered by perpetual snow, and glaciers do not exist, so that the Carpathians, even in their highest altitude, recall the middle region of the Alps, with which, however, they have many points in common as regards appearance, structure and flora. The Danube separates the Carpathians from the Alps, which they meet only in two points, namely, the Leitha Mountains at Pressburg, and the Bakony Mountains at Vacz (Waitzen), while the same river separates them from the Balkan Mountains at Orsova. The valley of the March and Oder separates the Carpathians from the Silesian and Moravian chains, which belong to the middle wing of the great central mountain system of Europe. The Carpathians separate Hungary and Transylvania from Lower Austria, Moravia, Silesia, Galicia, Bukovina and Rumania, while its ramifications fill the whole northern part of Hungary, and form the quadrangular mass of the Transylvanian plateau. Unlike the other wings of the great central system of Europe, the Carpathians, which form the watershed between the northern seas and the Black Sea, are surrounded on all sides by plains, namely the great Hungarian plain on the south-west, the plain of the Lower Danube (Rumania) on the south, and the Galician plain on the north-east.

The Carpathian system can be divided into two groups: the Carpathians proper, and the mountains of Transylvania. The Carpathians proper consist of an outer wall, which forms the frontier between Hungary and the adjacent provinces of Austria, and of an inner wall which fills the whole of Upper Hungary, and forms the central group. The outer wall is a complex, roughly circular mass of about 600 m. extending from Pressburg to the valley of the Visó, and the Golden Bistritza, and is divided by the Poprad into two parts, the western Carpathians and the eastern or wooded Carpathians. Orographically, therefore, the proper Carpathians are divided into: (a) the western Carpathians, (b) the eastern or wooded Carpathians, and (c) the central groups.

(a) The western Carpathians, which begin at the Porta Hungarica on the Danube, just opposite the Leitha Mountains, and extend to the Poprad river, are composed of four principal groups: the Little Carpathians (also called the Pressburg group) with the highest peak Bradlo (2670 ft.); the White Carpathians or Ranges. Miava group, with the highest peak Javornik (3325 ft.), and the Zemerka (3445 ft.); the Beskid proper or western Beskid group, which extends from a little west of the Jablunka pass to the river Poprad, with the highest peaks, Beskid (3115 ft.), Smrk (4395 ft.), Lissa Hora (4350 ft.) and Ossus (5106 ft.); and the Magura or Arva Magura group, which extends to the south of Beskid Mountains, and contains the Babia Gora (5650 ft.), the highest peak in the whole western Carpathians.

(b) The eastern or wooded Carpathians extend from the river Poprad to the sources of the river Visó and the Golden Bistritza, whence the Transylvanian Mountains begin, and form the link between these mountains and the central groups or High Carpathians. They are a monotonous sandstone range, covered with extensive forests, which up to the sources of the rivers Ung and San are also called the eastern Beskids, and are formed of small parallel ranges. The northern two-thirds of this range has a mean altitude of 3250 ft., and only in its southern portion it attains a mean altitude of 5000 ft. The principal peaks are Rusky Put (4264 ft.), Popadjé (5690 ft.), Bistra (5936 ft.), Pop Ivan (6214 ft.), Tomnatik (5035 ft.), Giumaleu (6077 ft.) and Cserna Gora (6505 ft.), the culminating peak of the whole range. To the eastern Carpathians belongs also the range of mountains extending between the Laborcza and the Upper Theiss, called Vihorlat, which attains in the peak of the same name an altitude of 3495 ft. As indicated by its name, which means “burnt,” it is of volcanic origin, and plays an important part in the folklore and in the superstitious legends of the Hungarian people.

(c) The central groups or the High Carpathians extend from the confluence of the rivers Arva and Waag to the river Poprad, and include the highest group of the Carpathian system. They consist of the High Tatra group (see Tatra Mountains), where is found the Gerlsdorfer or Franz Josef peak (Hung. Gerlachfalvi-Csúcs), with an altitude of 8737 ft., the highest peak in the whole Carpathian Mountains. On its west are the Liptauer Magura, with the highest peak the Biela Szkala (6900 ft.), and on its east are the Zipser Magura, which have a mean altitude of 3000 ft. South of the central groups lies a widely extending mountain region, which fills the whole of northern Hungary, and is known as the Hungarian highland. It is composed of several groups, which are intersected by the valleys of numerous rivers, and which descend in sloping terraces towards the Danube and the Hungarian plain. The principal groups are: the Neutra or Galgóc Mountains (4400 ft.), between the rivers Waag and Neutra; the Low or Nizna Tatra, which extends to the south of the High Tatra, and has its highest peaks, the Djumbir (6700 ft.) and the Králova Hola (6400 ft.); this group is continued towards the east up to the confluence of the Göllnitz with the Hernad, by the so-called Carpathian foot-hills, with the highest peak the Zelesznik (2675 ft.). West of the Low Tatra extend the Fatra group, with the highest peak, the Great Fatra (5825 ft.), to the south and east of which lie the Schemnitz group, the Ostrowsky group, and several other groups, all of which are also called the Hungarian Ore Mountains, on account of their richness in valuable ores. South-east of the Low Tatra extend the Zips—Gömör Ore Mountains, while the most eastern group is the Hegyalja Mountains, between the Topla, Tarcza and Hernad rivers, which run southward from Eperjes to Tokaj. In their northern portion, they are also called Sóvár Mountains, and reach in their highest peak, Simonka, an altitude of 3350 ft., while their southern portion, which ends with the renowned Tokaj Hill (1650 ft.), is also called Tokaj Mountains. The smaller groups of the Hungarian highland are: on the south-west the Neograd Mountains (2850), whose offshoots reach the Danube; to the east of them extends the Matra group, with the highest peak the Saskö (3285 ft.). The Matra group is of volcanic origin, rising abruptly in the great Hungarian plain, and constitutes one of the most beautiful groups of the Carpathians; lastly, to its east extend the thickly-wooded Bükk Mountains (3100 ft.).

Throughout the whole of the Carpathian system there are numerous mountain lakes, but they cannot compare with the Alpine lakes either in extension or beauty. The largest and most numerous are found in the Tatra Mountains. These lakes are called by the people “eyes of the sea,” through their belief that Lakes.they are in subterranean communication with the sea.

The western and central Carpathians are much more accessible than the eastern Carpathians and the Transylvanian Mountains. The principal passes in the western Carpathians are: Strany, Hrozinkau, Wlara, Lissa and the Jablunka pass (1970 ft.), the principal route between Silesia and Hungary, crossed Passes.by the Breslau-Budapest railway; and the Jordanow pass. In the central Carpathians are: the road from Neumarkt to Késmárk through the High Tatra, the Telgárt pass over the Králova Hola from the Poprad to the Gran, and the Tylicz pass from Bartfeld to Tarnow. In the eastern Carpathians are: the Dukla pass, the Mezö-Laborcz pass crossed by the railway from Tokaj to Przemysl; the Uszok pass, crossed by the road from Ungvár to Sambor; the Vereczke pass, crossed by the railway from Lemberg to Munkács; the Delatyn or Körösmezö pass (3300 ft.), also called the Magyar route, crossed by the railway from Kolomea to Debreczen; and the Stiol pass in Bukovina.

The Carpathians consist of an outer zone of newer beds and an inner zone of older rocks. Between the two zones lies a row of Klippen, while towards the Hungarian plain the inner zone is bordered by a fringe of volcanic eruptions of Tertiary age. The outer zone is continuous throughout the whole Geology.extent of the chain, and is remarkably uniform both in composition and structure. It is formed almost entirely of a succession of sandstones and shales of Cretaceous and Tertiary age—the so-called Carpathian Sandstone—and these are thrown into a series of isoclinal folds dipping constantly to the south. The folding of this zone took place during the Miocene period. The inner zone is not continuous, and is much more complex in structure. It is visible only in the west and in the east, while in the central Carpathians, between the Hernad and the headwaters of the Theiss, it is lost beneath the modern deposits of the Hungarian plain. In the western Carpathians the inner zone consists of a foundation of Carboniferous and older rocks, which were folded and denuded before the deposition of the succeeding strata. In the outer portion of the zone the Permian and Mesozoic beds are crushed and folded against the core of ancient rocks; in the inner portion of the zone they rest upon the old foundation with but little subsequent disturbance. In the eastern Carpathians also, the Permian and Mesozoic beds are not much folded except near the outer margin of the zone. The Klippen are isolated hills, chiefly of Jurassic limestone, rising up in the midst of the later and softer deposits on the inner border of the sandstone zone. Their relations to the surrounding beds are still obscure. They may be “rootless” masses brought upon the top of the later beds by thrustplanes. They may be the pinched-up summits of sharp anticlinals, which in the process of folding have been forced through the softer rocks which lay upon them. Or, finally, they may have been islands rising above the waters, in which were deposited the later beds which now surround them. The so-called Klippen of the Swiss Alps are now usually supposed to rest upon thrustplanes, but they are not strictly analogous, either in structure or in position, with those of the Carpathians. Of all the peculiar features of the Carpathian chain, perhaps the most remarkable is the fringe of volcanic rocks which lies along its inner margin. The outbursts began in the later part of the Eocene period, and continued into the Pliocene, outlasting the period of folding. They appear to be associated with faulting upon the inner margin of the chain. Trachytes, rhyolites, andesites and basalts occur, and a definite order of succession has been made out in several areas; but this order is not the same throughout the chain.

The Carpathians, like the Alps, form a protective wall to the regions south of them, which enjoy a much milder climate than those situated to the north. The vegetation of these regions is naturally subjected to the different climateric conditions. The mountains themselves are mostly covered with forests, Climate, Flora, Fauna.and their vegetation presents four zones: that of the beech extends to an altitude of 4000 ft.; that of the Scottish fir to 1000 ft. higher. Above this grows a species of pine, which becomes dwarfed and disappears at an altitude of about 6000 ft., beyond which is a zone of lichen and moss covered or almost bare rock. The highest parts in the High Tatra and in the Transylvanian Mountains have a flora similar to that of the Alps, more specially that of the middle region. Remarkable is the sea-shore flora, which is found in the numerous salt-impregnated lakes, ponds and marshes in Transylvania. As regards the fauna, the Carpathians still contain numerous bears, wolves and lynxes, as well as birds of prey. It presents a characteristic feature in its mollusc fauna, which contains many species not found in the neighbouring regions, and only found in the Alpine region. Cattle and sheep are pastured in great numbers on its slopes.

The Carpathian system is richer in metallic ores than any other mountain system of Europe, and contains large quantities of gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, coal, petroleum, salt, zinc, &c., besides a great variety of useful mineral. A great number of mineral springs and thermal waters are found in the Carpathians, Minerals.many of which have become frequented watering-places.

The systematic and scientific exploration of the Carpathians dates only from the beginning of the 19th century. The first ascension of the Lomnitzer peak in the High Tatra was made by one David or Johann Fröhlich in 1615. The first account of the Tatra Mountains was written by Georg Buchholz, a History.resident of Kesmark in 1664. The English naturalist, Robert Townson, explored the Tatra in 1793 and 1794, and was the first to make a few reliable measurements. The results of his exploration appeared in his book, Travels in Hungary, published in 1797. But the first real important work was undertaken by the Swedish naturalist, Georg Wablenberg (1780–1851), who in 1813 explored the central Carpathians as a botanist, but afterwards also made topographical and geological studies of the system. The results of all the former explorations were embodied by A. von Sydow in an extensive work published in 1827. During the 19th century the measurements of the various parts of the Carpathians was undertaken by the ordnance survey of the Austrian army, which published their first map of the central Carpathians in 1870. A great stimulus to the study of this mountain system was given by the foundation of the Hungarian Carpathian Society in 1873, and a great deal of information has been added to our knowledge since. In 1880 two new Carpathian societies were formed: a Galician and a Transylvanian.

Authorities.—F. W. Hildebrandt, Karpathenbilder (Glogau, 1863); E. Sagorski and G. Schneider, Flora Carpatorum Centralium (2 vols., Leipzig, 1891); Muriel Dowie, A Girl in the Carpathians (London, 1891); Orohydrographisches Tableau der Karpathen (Vienna, 1886), in six maps of scale 1: 750,000; V. Uhlig, “Bau und Bild der Karpaten,” in Bau und Bild Österreichs (Vienna, 1903).  (O. Br.; P. La.) 

  1. The name is derived from the Slavonic word Chrb, which means mountain-range. As Chrawat, it was first applied to the inhabitants of the region, whence it passed in the form Krapat or Karpa as the name of mountain system. In official Hungarian documents of the 13th and 14th centuries the Carpathians are named Thorchal or Tarczal, and also Montes Nivium.