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Limits of the Alps

From Academic Kids

The limits of the Alps depend on the meaning we attach to the word "Alps" as referring to the great mountain-chain of central Europe. If we merely desire to distinguish it from certain minor ranges (e.g. the Cevennes, the Jura, the hills of central Germany, the Carpathians, the Apennines), which are really independent ranges rather than offshoots of the main chain, the best limits are on the west (strictly speaking south), the Col d'Altare or di Cadibona (435 metres, 1624 feet), leading from Turin to Savona and Genoa, and on the east the line of the railway over the Semmering Pass (980 metres, 3215 feet) from Vienna to Maribor in the Mul valley, and on by Ljubljana to Trieste.

But if we confine the meaning of the term Alps to those parts of the chain that are what is commonly called "Alpine", where the height is sufficient to support a considerable mass of perpetual snow, our boundaries to the west and to the east must be placed at spots other than those mentioned above. To the west the limit will then be the Col de Tende (1874 metres, 6145 feet), leading from Cuneo (Coni) to Ventimiglia, while on the east our line will be the route over the Radstadter Tauern (1739 metres, 5702 feet) and the Katschberg (1642 metres, 5384 feet) from Salzburg to Villach, and thence by Klagenfurt to Maribor and so past Ljubljana on to Trieste; from Villach the direct route to Trieste would be over the Predil Pass (1163 metres, 3813 feet) or the Pontebba or Saifnitz Pass (798 metres, 2615 feet), more to the west, but in either case this would exclude the Triglav (2863 metres, 9390 feet), the highest summit of the entire Julian Alps, as well as its lower neighbours.

On the northern side the Alps (in whichever sense we take this term) are definitely bounded by the course of the Rhine from Basel to the Lake of Constance, the plain of Bavaria, and the low region of foot-hills that extend from Salzburg to the neighbourhood of Vienna. In Austria, the Wienerwald, reaching into the territory of the city, is commonly considered the northeasternmost range of the Alps. One result of this limit, marked out by Nature herself, is that the waters which flow down the northern slope of the Alps find their way either into the North Sea through the Rhine, or into the Black Sea by means of the Danube, not a drop reaching the Baltic Sea. On the southern side the mountains extending from near Turin to near Trieste subside into the great plain of Piedmont, Lombardy and Venetia. But what properly forms the western bit of the Alps runs, from near Turin to the Col de Tende, in a southerly direction, then bending eastwards to the Colle di Cadibona that divides it from the Apennines.

It should be borne in mind that the limits adopted above refer purely to the topographical aspect of the Alps as they exist at the present day. Naturalists will of course prefer other limits according as they are geologists, botanists or zoologists.

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