1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harz Mountains

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HARZ MOUNTAINS (also spelt Hartz, Ger. Harzgebirge, anc. Silva Hercynia), the most northerly mountain-system of Germany, situated between the rivers Weser and Elbe, occupy an area of 784 sq. m., of which 455 belong to Prussia, 286 to Brunswick and 43 to Anhalt. Their greatest length extends in a S.E. and N.W. direction for 57 m., and their maximum breadth is about 20 m. The group is made up of an irregular series of terraced plateaus, rising here and there into rounded summits, and intersected in various directions by narrow, deep valleys. The north-western and higher part of the mass is called the Ober or Upper Harz; the south-eastern and more extensive part, the Unter or Lower Harz; while the N.W. and S.W. slopes of the Upper Harz form the Vorharz. The Brocken group, which divides the Upper and Lower Harz, is generally regarded as belonging to the first. The highest summits of the Upper Harz are the Brocken (3747 ft.), the Heinrichshöhe (3425 ft.), the Königsberg (3376 ft.) and the Wurmberg (3176 ft.); of the Lower Harz, the Josephshöhe in the Auerberg group and the Viktorhöhe in the Ramberg, each 1887 ft. Of these the Brocken (q.v.) is celebrated for the legends connected with it, immortalized in Goethe’s Faust. Streams are numerous, but all small. While rendered extensively useful, by various skilful artifices, in working the numerous mines of the district, at other parts of their course they present the most picturesque scenery in the Harz. Perhaps the finest valley is the rocky Bodethal, with the Rosstrappe, the Hexentanzplatz, the Baumannshöhle and the Bielshöhle.

The Harz is a mass of Palaeozoic rock rising through the Mesozoic strata of north Germany, and bounded on all sides by faults. Slates, schists, quartzites and limestones form the greater part of the hills, but the Brocken and Victorshöhe are masses of intrusive granite, and diabases and diabase tuffs are interstratified with the sedimentary deposits. The Silurian, Devonian and Carboniferous systems are represented—the Silurian and Devonian forming the greater part of the hills S.E. of a line drawn from Lauterberg to Wernigerode, while N.W. of this line the Lower Carboniferous predominates. A few patches of Upper Carboniferous are found on the borders of the hills near Ilfeld, Ballenstedt, &c., lying unconformably upon the Devonian. The structure of the Harz is very complicated, but the general strike of the folds, especially in the Oberharz plateau, is N.E. or N.N.E. The whole mass evidently belongs to the ancient Hercynian chain of North Europe (which, indeed, derives its name from the Harz), and is the north-easterly continuation of the rocks of the Ardennes and the Eifel. The folding of the old rocks took place towards the close of the Palaeozoic era; but the faulting to which they owe their present position was probably Tertiary. Metalliferous veins are common, amongst the best-known being the silver-bearing lead veins of Klausthal, which occur in the Culm or Lower Carboniferous.

Owing to its position as the first range which the northerly winds strike after crossing the north German plain, the climate on the summit of the Harz is generally raw and damp, even in summer. In 1895 an observatory was opened on the top of the Brocken, and the results of the first five years (1806–1900) showed a July mean of 50° Fahr., a February mean of 24.7°, and a yearly mean of 36.6°. During the same five years the rainfall averaged 641/3 ins. annually. But while the summer is thus relatively ungenial on the top of the Harz, the usual summer heat of the lower-lying valleys is greatly tempered and cooled; so that, adding this to the natural attractions of the scenery, the deep forests, and the legendary and romantic associations attaching to every fantastic rock and ruined castle, the Harz is a favourite summer resort of the German people. Among the more popular places of resort are Harzburg, Thale and the Bodethal; Blankenburg, with the Teufelsmauer and the Hermannshöhle; Wernigerode, Ilsenburg, Grund, Lauterberg, Hubertusbad, Alexisbad and Suderode. Some of these, and other places not named, add to their natural attractions the advantage of mineral springs and baths, pine-needle baths, whey cures, &c. The Harz is penetrated by several railways, among them a rack-railway up the Brocken, opened in 1898. The district is traversed by excellent roads in all directions.

The northern summits are destitute of trees, but the lower slopes of the Upper Harz are heavily wooded with pines and firs. Between the forests of these stretch numerous peat-mosses, which contain in their spongy reservoirs the sources of many small streams. On the Brocken are found one or two arctic and several alpine, plants. In the Lower Harz the forests contain a great variety of timber. The oak, elm and birch are common, while the beech especially attains an unusual size and beauty. The walnut-tree grows in the eastern districts.

The last bear was killed in the Harz in 1705, and the last lynx in 1817, and since that time the wolf too has become extinct; but deer, foxes, wild cats and badgers are still found in the forests.

The Harz is one of the richest mineral storehouses in Germany, and the chief industry is mining, which has been carried on since the middle of the 10th century. The most important mineral is a peculiarly rich argentiferous lead, but gold in small quantities, copper, iron, sulphur, alum and arsenic are also found. Mining is carried on principally at Klausthal and St Andreasberg in the Upper Harz. Near the latter is one of the deepest mining shafts in Europe, namely the Samson, which goes down 2790 ft. or 720 ft. below sea-level. For the purpose of getting rid of the water, and obviating the flooding of such deep workings, it has been found necessary to construct drainage works of some magnitude. As far back as 1777–1799 the Georgsstollen was cut through the mountains from the east of Klausthal westward to Grund, a distance of 4 m.; but this proving insufficient, another sewer, the Ernst-Auguststollen, no less than 14 m. in length, was made from the same neighbourhood to Gittelde, at the west side of the Harz, in 1851–1864. Marble, granite and gypsum are worked; and large quantities of vitriol are manufactured. The vast forests that cover the mountain slopes supply the materials for a considerable trade in timber. Much wood is exported for building and other purposes, and in the Harz itself is used as fuel. The sawdust of the numerous mills is collected for use in the manufacture of paper. Turf-cutting, coarse lace-making and the breeding of canaries and native song-birds also occupy many of the people. Agriculture is carried on chiefly on the plateaus of the Lower Harz; but there is excellent pasturage both in the north and in the south. In the Lower Harz, as in Switzerland, the cows, which carry bells harmoniously tuned, are driven up into the heights in early summer, returning to the sheltered regions in late autumn.

The inhabitants are descended from various stocks. The Upper and Lower Saxon, the Thuringian and the Frankish races have all contributed to form the present people, and their respective influences are still to be traced in the varieties of dialect. The boundary line between High and Low German passes through the Harz. The Harz was the last stronghold of paganism in Germany, and to that fact are due the legends, in which no district is richer, and the fanciful names given by the people to peculiar objects and appearances of nature.

See Zeitschrift des Harzvereins (Wernigerode, annually since 1868); Günther, Der Harz in Geschichts- Kultur- und Landschaftsbildern (Hanover, 1885), and “Der Harz” in Scobel’s Monographien zur Erdkunde (Bielefeld, 1901); H. Hoffmann and others, Der Harz (Leipzig, 1899), Harzwanderungen (Leipzig, 1902); Hampe, Flora Hercynica (Halle, 1873); von Groddeck, Abriss der Geognosie des Harzes (2nd ed., Klausthal, 1883); Pröhle, Harzsagen (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1886); Hautzinger, Der Kupfer- und Silbersegen des Harzes (Berlin, 1877); Hoppe, Die Bergwerke im Ober- und Unterharz (Klausthal, 1883); Schulze, Lithia Hercynica (Leipzig, 1895); Lüdecke, Die Minerale des Harzes (Berlin, 1896).