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Pyrenees

chain, feet, north, south, found, mountain, loftiest, centre, limestone and principal

PYRENEES, piec-nea, a lofty mountain chain forming the boundary between France and Spain. Its length, from Cape Creux, north of the Gulf of. Rosas, to the Point of near Fuenterrabia,is nearly 270 miles; and the i area of its slopes is about 21,000 square .miles, The chain is continued across the north of Spain by the Cantabrian Mountains. The di rection of the chain, is to west northwest. It does not, however, lie in the same straight line, but rather consists of two lines, which form parallel ridges about 20 miles distant from each other, except near the centre, where they become united by. means of a re markable rectangular elbow, in which some of the loftiest summits are found. Both on, the north and south sides numerous branches are thrown off, generally at right angles to the principal axis, and subside rapidly as they re cede from it, forming various transverse but very few longitudinal valleys. The chain rises both from the east and west toward the centre; and, in accordance with a general rule which holds in regard to the European chains, which lie in the direction of the equator, the descent on the south side is much more abrupt than on the north. Owing to this, the south has much fewer lakes than the north slope, but far sur passes it in the boldness and grandeur of its scenery. As already observed, the loftiest sum mits of the chain are near its centre. Its cul minating point, Maladetta, situated there, has the height of 11,168 feet, and a great number of peaks in the same locality exceed 8,500 feet. To the east of the centre the chain lowers so rapidly that its average height soon becomes little more than 2,000 feet. To the west the height diminishes much more gradually, and many peaks have heights varying from 5,000 to 7,000 feet, and even 8,000 feet. The prin cipal passes in the Pyrenees formed by the meeting of valleys from opposite sides of the axis, take in the east part of the chain the name of Cols, and toward the centre that of Ports. No fewer than 75 are counted, of which 28 may be crossed on horseback and seven in wheeled carriages. The most frequented are those of Pertus and La Perche in the east and Saint Jean Pied de Port in the west. The nucleus of the chain is evidently granite, which, with the primitive schists which overlie it, con stitutes the loftiest summits, with the exception of Mount Perdu (10,994 feet), Marbore (10,673 feet), and some huge adjacent masses which are formed of mountain limestone. The granite, however, seldom forms continuous ridges along the principal axis, but rather appears in a num ber of remarkable protuberances situated to the north of it. Above the micaceous schist and primitive limestone, which occur in connection with it, lie largely-developed strata of argilla ceous schist and transition limestone, forming two great belts parallel to the primitive chain, one on the north and the other on the south side. Above these secondary rocks appear, of which by far the most common is the mountain lime stone, which occupies the greater part of the south slope, but on the north side attains little elevafion, there almost entirely confined to the lower heights at the bottom of the prin cipal chain. Above the mountain limestone the principal rocks are Jura limestone and trap.

The number of thermal springs existing in the Pyrenees seems to indicate the presence of vol canic agents, but basalt and other rocks of igneous origin are very rare. The minerals of the chain include iron, copper, lead, zinc, man ganese, antimony and cobalt. There is no mine either of silver or gold, but particles of the lat ter are found in department Ariege, and in the streams of several other districts. The only, mineral which has hitherto been worked to much advantage is iron. Mineral springs, both cold and thermal, are numerous, and much fre quented by visitors. The limit of vegetation on the Pyrenees is about 600 feet higher than on the Alps. The rhododendrons, which in the lat ter are not found higher than 5,000 feet, are here found at 5,500 feet and alpine plants are found on the loftiest summits bordering on the region of perpetual snow. In the Pyrenees this is found only on the north slope, where it does not, as in the Alps, form a snowy zone, the lower limit of which looks as if traced out by an almost horizontal straight line; but on the contrary, forms large isolated masses, the base of which is often concealed by the mountains in front of them. This makes it difficult to fix the snow-line with precision, but according to the most accurate estimate it is 9,190 feet, or nearly that of Mount Canigou. Glaciers are not numerous in the Pyrenees, and hence the torrents and rivers which rise in the chain are fed chiefly by springs. Those on the south side flow toward the Ebro and are carried by it to the Mediterranean; those on the north side flow partly to the Mediterranean and partly to the Atlantic, the water-shed between the two seas being carried northward by a branch which ultimately links with the Cevennes. The largest river of the chain, and the only one of impor tance which preserves its name throughout its whole course, is the Garonne. In respect to average height and mass the Pyrenees are un questionably the second mountain chain of Europe, but its culminating Maladetta, has only the third place, being indeed lower than Mulhacen in the Sierra Nevada. Contrary to the general rule, that the loftiest summits of mountain chains are found in the line of the principal axis, Maladetta, Posets (11,047 feet) and Mont Perdu, the three culminating points of the Pyrenees, are situated on the south slope. Basses-Pyrenees, Hautes-Pyrenees and Pyr enees-Onentales are departments in the south of France (q.v.). See also PERPIGNAN, CAPITAL OF P. ORrENTALES.

Consult Taine, (Voyage aux Pyrenees,' especially the 4th ed. (1873) with illustrations by Dore; Schrader, (1893) • Trutat, Pyrenees' (1894)Bubanus, 'Flora Pyrenna> (1897— 1902) ; 'Spender, Through the High Pyrenees' (1898); Roussel, (Tableau Stratigraphique des Pyrenees' (1904) ; Cook, (Handbook to Health Resorts on the Pyrenees' (1910) ; Freeston, of the Pyrenees>' (1912).