Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/Piercing the Alps


Hannibal, according to various authors, "broke through the peaks, and cleft the mountain with vinegar." Modern sceptics have ventured to question this statement, or at any rate to explain it away. Certainly, though the difficulty of a supply of the corrosive fluid adequate to the demand of engineering operations on a large scale might be obviated by the use of "vin du pays," much of which is an excellent substitute for vinegar, the story does seem to smack of an age of showers of blood, speaking oxen, and those other marvels, which adorn the pages of the older chroniclers. However, be the truth in this case what it may, at no great distance from the probable scene of the Carthaginian's passage, "restless labour" is now engaged in piercing the watershed of Europe; so that what Louis XIV. rashly asserted of the Pyrenees may soon be truly said of it—"the Alps are no more."

As my wanderings among the mountains had led me over most of the great roads across the main chain, I was naturally anxious to visit a work which will so effectually elude the dangers of the storm and the avalanche, and open in summer and winter alike "a way to friend and foe." This desire was gratified during the summer of 1863, and before describing my excursion a few words on the exact position and construction of the tunnel will not be out of place. The popular voice has named it the "Tunnel under the Mont Cénis," a title about as incorrect as it well can be, as the following bit of geography will show:—

Almost due west of Turin there is a large re-entering angle pointing westward in the contour of the principal chain of the Alps; a peak, Mont Tabor by name, stands at the apex of this angle and sends out a long spur towards the west, separating the valley of the Arc from those of the Romanche and Durance. The great road of the Mont Cénis, after ascending along the river in the first of these to within about twenty miles of the glaciers, whence it rises, scales by six long zigzags the northern slope of the watershed, crosses the level plateau among the hills at the top, and descends at once upon Susa, in the valley of the Dora Riparia. This river has now passed over some thirty miles or more since it left its humble source on Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/431 Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/432 Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/433