toward the light, and others develop electricity and give out flashes of light during their formation.
Slight foundations for scientific fancies, indeed; but slight is all our knowledge.
More than a hundred different figures of snow-flakes, all regular and kaleidoscopic, have been drawn by Scoresby
, and Glaisher
, and may be found pictured in the encyclopaedias and elsewhere, ranging from the simplest stellar shapes to the most complicated ramifications.
, in his delightful book on ‘The Glaciers of the Alps
,’ gives drawings of a few of these snow-blossoms, which he watched falling for hours, the whole air being filled with them, and drifts of several inches being accumulated while he watched.
‘Let us imagine the eye gifted with microscopic power sufficient to enable it to see the molecules which composed these starry crystals; to observe the solid nucleus formed and floating in the air; to see it drawing towards it its allied atoms, and these arranging themselves as if they moved to music, and ended with rendering that music concrete.’
Thus do the Alpine winds, like Orpheus
, build their walls by harmony.
In some of these frost-flowers the rare and delicate blossom of our wild Mitella diphylla
is beautifully figured.
Snow-flakes have been also found in the form of regular hexagons and other plane figures, as well as in cylinders and spheres.
As a general rule, the intenser the cold the more perfect the formation, and the most perfect specimens are Arctic or Alpine
in their locality.
In this climate the snow seldom falls when the mercury is much below zero; but the slightest atmospheric changes may alter the whole condition of the deposit, and decide whether it shall sparkle like Italian
marble, or be dead-white, like the statuary marble of Vermont
,—whether it shall be a fine powder that can sift through wherever dust can, or descend in large, woolly masses, tossed like mouthfuls to the hungry earth.
The most remarkable display of crystallization which I have ever seen was on the 13th of January, 1859.
There had been three days of unusual cold, but during the night the weather had moderated, and the mercury in the morning stood at +14°. About two inches of snow had fallen, and the trees appeared densely coated with it. It proved, on examination, that every twig had on the leeward side a dense row of miniature fronds or fern-leaves executed in snow, with a sharply defined central nerve, or midrib, and perfect ramification, tapering to a point, and varying in length from half an inch to three inches. On every post, every rail, and the corners of every building, the same spectacle was seen; and where the snow had accumulated in deep drifts, it was still made up of the ruins of these fairy structures.
The white, enamelled landscape was beautiful, but a close view of the details was far more so. The crystallizations