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Alexander von Humboldt: „Brief Narrative of De Humboldt’s Travels in Russia“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <https://humboldt.unibe.ch/text/1829-Lettre_de_M-19> [abgerufen am 23.07.2024].

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Titel Brief Narrative of De Humboldt’s Travels in Russia
Jahr 1830
Ort Edinburgh
Nachweis
in: The Edinburgh Journal of Natural and Geographical Science 2 (1830), S. 441–443.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung.
Identifikation
Textnummer Druckausgabe: IV.98
Dateiname: 1829-Lettre_de_M-19
Statistiken
Seitenanzahl: 3
Zeichenanzahl: 9841

Weitere Fassungen
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Brief Narrative of De Humboldt’s Travels in Russia (Edinburgh, 1830, Englisch)
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Humboldt’s account of the gold and platina district of Russia (London, 1831, Englisch)
|441|

Brief Narrative of De Humboldt’s Travels in Russia.

Extract from a Letter from M. de Humboldt to M. Arago.Oust Kaméno-gorsk,, Upper Irtych, Siberia Aug. 28. 1829—Travelling for nearly the lasttwo months beyond the frontiers of Europe, to the east of the Ural, and in therestless life which we pass, I have lost many occasions of giving you a token of myexistence and of friendship. It is impossible in this hasty letter, (we arrived inthis fort, on the frontier of the Step of Kirguiz, about 4 o’clock this morning, andwe must advance this night to the east towards Boucktorma, Narim, and thefirst post of Chinese Mongolia;) it is impossible, I say, to communicate to youthe substance of the observations which we have made since our departure fromSt. Petersburgh on the 8th of May. You will find no other interest in the peru-sal of these lines, than that of learning that the scientific object of my journey hasbeen completed beyond my hopes: that, in spite of the fatigues I have under-gone, and the distance I have travelled, (we are already more than 5600 verstsfrom St. Petersburgh, 320 of which we have passed in this part of Asia,) myhealth is good; that I suffer with patience and courage; that I have much rea-son to congratulate myself on my companions, MM. Rose and Ehrenberg; andthat, laden with geological, botanical, and zoological collections from the Ural,the Altaï, the Obi, the Irtych, and Orenburgh, we hope to return to Berlin to-wards the end of November. Our route has been by Moscow, Nijneï-Novogorod, and thence on the Wolgato Cazan, and to the ruins of the Tatar village of Bulgari. From Cazan we as-cended the Ural by the picturesque vallies of Koungour and Perme. Through-out the whole journey from Novogorod to Catherineburgh, and to the platinum-washings of Nijneï-Tagilsk, we were accompanied by Count Polier, whom youwill recollect to have seen at Paris. He has been exercising his fine talent forlandscape-painting in these savage regions. Fixed by marriage in Russia, he iszealously occupied in improving the working of mines. We spent a month in visiting the gold mines of Borisovsk, the malachitemines of Goumeselevski and of Tagilsk, and the washings of gold and platinum.We were astonished at the pepitas (water-worn masses) of gold from 2 to 3 Ibs.and even from 18 to 20 lbs, found a few inches below the turf, where they hadlain unknown for ages. The position and probable origin of these alluvia, mixed generally with frag-ments of greenstone, chlorite-slate, and serpentine, was one of the principal ob-jects of this journey. The gold annually procured from the washings amountsto 6000 kil. The discoveries beyond 59° and 60° lat. become very important.We possess the teeth of fossil elephants, enveloped in these alluvia of aurife-rous sand. Their formation, consequent on local irruptions and on levellings,is perhaps even posterior to the destruction of the large animals. The amberand the lignites which we discovered on the eastern side of the Ural, are decided-ly more ancient. With the auriferous sand are found grains of cinnabar, nativecopper, ceylanites, garnets, little white zircons, as brilliant as diamonds, anatase,albite, &c. It is very remarkable, that in the middle and northern parts of the Ural, theplatinum is found in abundance only on the western, European side. The richgold-washings of the Demidov family at Nijneï-Tagilsk, are on the Asiatic side,on the two acclivities of the Bartiraya, where the alluvium of Vilkni alone hasalready produced more than 2800 lbs. of gold. The platinum is found about aleague to the east of the line of the separation of waters, (which must not be con-founded with the axis of the high summits,) on the European side, near thecourse of the Oulka, at Sukoi Visnin, and at Martian. M. Schvetsov, who hadthe good fortune to study under Berthier, and whose learning and activity havebeen most useful during our travels in the Ural, discovered chromate of iron, con-taining grains of platinum, which an able chemist at Catherineburgh, M. Helm,has analyzed. |442| The washings of platinum at Nijneï-Tagilsk are so rich that 100 puds (about400 lbs. Russian) of sand afford 30 (sometimes 50) solotniks of platinum, whilstthe rich alluvia of gold at Vilkni, and other gold-washings on the Asiatic side,do not give more than 1\( \frac{1}{2} \) to 2 solotniks in the 100 puds of sand. In South America, a very low chain of the Cordilleras, that of Cali, also sepa-rates the auriferous and non-platiniferous sands of the eastern declivity, (Popayan,)from the sands of the isthmus of the Raspadura of Choco, which are very rich inplatinum as well as gold. M. Bousingault may perhaps already have thrown anew light on this American formation, and his observations will derive some ad-ditional interest from those which we have made in this place. We possess pe-pitas of platinum of many inches in length, in which M. Rose has discoveredbeautiful groups of crystals of the metal. As to the greenstone-porphyry ofLaya, in which M. Engelhardt has observed little grains of platinum, we haveexamined it on the spot with much care, but the only metallic grains which wehave been able to detect in the rocks of Laya, and in the greenstone of MountBelayr-Gora, have appeared to M. Rose to be sulphuret of iron; this phenome-non will be a subject for new research. The work of M. Engelhardt on the Uralseemed to us to be worthy of much praise. Osmium and iridium have also aparticular locality, not amongst the rich platiniferous alluvia of Nijneï-Tagilsk,but near Bilembayevski and Kichtem. I insist upon the geognostical charac-ters drawn from the metals which accompany the grains of platinum at Choco,Brazil, and in the Ural. These last lines were written on the 20th August. I have abandoned the penfor the last eight days, to occupy myself with taking lunar distances; for thissouthern extremity of Siberia, where the sources of the Obi and the confines ofChinese Mongolia are found, require much attention in the geographical determi-nation of places,—the rate of the chronometers alone being liable to alteration bythe rapidity of the journey. I have been since the 13th to visit the Chinese pic-quet (outposts) in Dzongarie. We have been obliged to leave our carriages atOust Kamenogorsk, to make use, in these frightful roads, of the long Siberiancarriages, in which one lies down. But before speaking of the journey we havepassed in the midst of the celestial empire, I must follow the thread of our travels.After having visited the north of the Ural by Verkhoturia and Bogeslavsk, takenazimuths to determine the positions of the northerly peaks, visited the mines ofberyls and topazes at Moursinsk, we travelled from Catherineburgh, which we lefton the 6th July, through Tobolsk and Jioumère, where the family of Batou-Khanformerly resided. We intended to go directly through Omsk to Slatooust; but the fineness ofthe season induced us to add the Altaï and the high Irtych, (3000 versts round,)to the original plan of our excursion. The governor-general of Western Siberia,General Villiaminov, gave us one of his aides-de-camp, M. de Yermolov, for anescort. General Litvinov, who commands on the whole line of the Kirguiz, tookhis place in coming from Tomsk to the mountains of Kolyvan, and escorted us tothe Chinese post. We arrived here by Kaïnks and the step of Baraba, wherethe musquitoes rival those of the Orinoco, and where we were smothered undermasks of horse hair. Here are the romantic lake of Kolyvan, and the famousmines of Schlangenberg, (in porphyry,) of Reiders, and of Siriaïnovski, whichannually yield 40,000 lbs. of auriferous silver. At Oust we had the first view ofthe chain of the Kirguiz. We took the route of Baty, by the fort of Boukhtarma and of Krasnoyar, where,passing the whole night of 16th to 17th August (new style) for observation, Isaw the singular phenomena of the polar bands. At Baty there are two Chineseencampments, on the two sides of the Irtych,—miserable yourtes inhabited byMongolian or Cambauzian soldiers. A little Chinese temple is seen on an arideminence. The Bactrian camel with two humps pastures in the valley. This frontier of Mongolia supplied M. Ehrenberg with numerous plants andnew insects. But what renders the journey in the Altaï particularly important|443| is, that no where else in the two worlds, does the granite with common large feld-spar, deprived of albite, and unaccompanied by gneiss and mica slate, exhibitproofs of irruption and effusion, as in the Altaï. We do not only see the granitepenetrating in veins which are lost towards the top in the clay-slate, and makingits way to the surface through this rock, but also distinctly spreading out over it,and covering a continuous space of more than 2000 toises: then conical hills,and little bells of granite, and domes of trachytic porphyry, dolomites in granite,veins of porphyry, &c. &c. M. Rose discovered, in the north of the Ural, a place where the porphyry, cleftand partly rounded, had converted, by contact, lime into jasper, divided by pa-rallel bands. I have also seen these striæ and silifications at Pedrazio. TheUral is also remarkable for the intimate connection of the euphotide (serpentine)chlorite slate, with pyroxenic greenstones containing more hornblende than py-roxene. I have endeavoured to observe the temperature of the earth, (it is oftenabove 2° cent.) and the inclination and magnetic intensity in the places whichhad not been visited by MM. Hansteen and Erman. The same points provethe motion of knots from east to west, which you have noticed in your report onthe voyage of M. Freycinet. But the post is going, and leaves me not a momentto re-write or correct this confused letter.