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Page:Notes on the State of Virginia (1853).djvu/34

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18
MOUNTAINS.

worth a voyage across the Atlantic. Yet here, as in the neighborhood of the Natural Bridge, are people who have passed their lives within half a dozen miles, and have never been to survey these monuments of a war between rivers and mountains, which must have shaken the earth itself to its centre.[1](2)

The height of our mountains has not yet been estimated with any degree of exactness. The Alleghaney being the great ridge which divides the waters of the Atlantic from those of the Missisipi, its summit is doubtless more elevated above the ocean than that of any other mountain. But its relative height, compared with the base on which it stands, is not so great as that of some others, the country rising behind the successive ridges like the steps of stairs. The mountains of the Blue Ridge, and of these the Peaks of Otter, are thought to be of a greater height, measured from their base, than any others in our country, and perhaps in North America. From data, which may found a tolerable conjecture, we suppose the highest peak to be about 4,000 feet perpendicular, which is not a fifth part of the height of the mountains of South America,[2] nor one-third of the height which would be necessary in our latitude to preserve ice in the open air unmelted through the year. The ridge of mountains next beyond the Blue Ridge, called by us the North Mountain, is of the greatest extent; for which reason they were named by the Indians the Endless mountains.

[To what is here said on the height of mountains, subsequent information has enabled me to furnish some additions and corrections.

General Williams, nephew of Dr. Franklin, on a journey from Richmond by the Warm and Red Springs to the Alleghaney, has estimated by barometrical observations the height of some of our ridges of mountains above the tide-water, as follows:


  1. Herodotus, 1. 7, c. 129, after stating that Thessaly is a plain country surrounded by high mountains, from which there is no outlet but the fissure through which the Peneus flows, and that according to ancient tradition it had once been an entire lake, supposes that fissure to have been made by an earthquake rending the mountain asunder.
  2. 1. Epoques, 434. Musschenbroek, § 2,312. 2. Epoques, 317.