The Alps Frozen in Time

Geographical, December 2005 | Go to article overview

The Alps Frozen in Time


During the 19th century, photography and mountaineering developed virtually side by side, and it was clear that sooner or later, they would be combined. One of the finest early exponents of Alpine photography was Vittorio Sella, whose work we feature in this month's archive, alongside that of several contemporaries

Above: the Aletsch glacier in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, photographed by the Italian climber Vittorio Sella in 1891. At the time this photo was taken, the glacier flowed directly into Lake Marjelensee. Although Aletsch remains the longest glacier in Europe today, its edge has now retreated a significant distance from the lake's shore; Right: Alpine chalets in the Aadnig mountains of Carinthia, an area of southern Austria close to Slovenia and Italy. This image was taken in 1948, when the British occupied a region of Austria that included East Tirol and Styria as well as Carinthia. At the time, Yugoslavia was pursuing claims to Carinthia

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Above: a panorama of the Italian Alps by Sella, 1891: a summer view of the Hohe Tauern, an Alpine mountain range in western Austria, from around 1912. A 1,800-square-kilometre national park--Austria's first--was established in 1981 to protect the range. It was subsequently designated a Category II protected area by the World Conservation Union in 2001, which recognises its management for both recreation and ecosystem protection

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Above: the lower portion of the Reichenbach falls, near Meiringen in Switzerland, around 1911. The falls became famous in 1911 when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle staged Sherlock Holmes's death there in The Final Problem. The author described them as "a fearful place" where "the torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house" Holmes appeared to die when he fell into the "dreadful cauldron" following a titanic struggle with his archenemy Professor Moriarty; Left: a view from the top of Mount Alphubel (4,208 metres) in Switzerland, around 1889

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] This picture: a typical Alpine village photographed by Sella in 1891 near Campitello in the Dolomite Alps, Italy

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Left: this classic Alpine vista, captured by Sella in France in t888, shows why the Italian photographer is regarded as one of the finest early exponents of mountain photography; Below left: potholes in the Aare gorge in Switzerland, 1912. …

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