Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/266

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In connection with this subject may be noticed the many cases in which Alpine valleys present indications of having been greatly deepened by glacial erosion, although, owing either to the slope of the ground or the uniformity of the ice action, no lake has been produced. In some valleys, as in that of Lauterbrunnen, the trough between the vertical rock walls was probably partly formed before the Ice age, but was greatly deepened by glacial erosion, the result being that the tributary streams have not since had time to evacuate ravines of equal depth with the main valley, and therefore form a series of cascades over the lateral precipices, of which the Staubbach is the finest example. In many other cases, however, the side streams have cut wonderfully narrow gorges by which they enter the main vally. This work was probably begun by a subglacial stream, and the action of the atmosphere being shut out by the superincumbent ice and all variation of temperature avoided, the torrent cut for itself a very narrow groove, sometimes with overhanging sides, as it found layers of somewhat softer rock to eat away; and the upper surface of the rock being ground smooth by the ice, the atmosphere has had little effect since, and the gorge, while deepened below, has remained as restricted above as when first eroded. Such are the gorges of the Trient, Leuk, Pfäffers, and many others well known to Alpine tourists. I am not aware whether such extremely narrow winding gorges, often only two or three feet between the rock walls, are to be found in countries which have never been glaciated. I do not myself remember reading of any, though, of course, tremendously deep ravines are common, but these are of quite a different character. Should it be found that these extremely narrow rock-walled gorges are peculiar to glaciated districts they will afford us a means of estimating the amount of glacial erosion in valleys where no lake basins have been formed.

The Lake of Geneva as a Test of the Rival Theories.—When I recently began to study this question anew, I was inclined to think that the largest and deepest of the Alpine lakes, such as Geneva, Constance, Lago Maggiore, and Lago di Garda, might perhaps have originated from a combination of earth movements with ice erosion. But on further consideration it appears that all the characteristic features of erosion are present in these as fully as in the smaller lakes. They are situated in the largest river valleys or in positions of greatest concentration of the glacier streams; their contours and outlines are those of eroded basins; while all the difficulties in the way of an origin by earth movements are as prominent in their case as in that of any other of the lakes. I will therefore discuss, first, some of the chief objections to the erosion theory as applied to the above-named lake,