Aerial image

Storehouses of knowledge



The Großglockner Relief

Aerial image

The impressive relief of the Glockner region created at the end of the nineteenth century made ‘graspable’ in the most literal sense of the word a landscape zone that at the time was impossible to grasp in its true dimensions. Today modern scientific methods are used to track the influence of nature and humankind on the landscape. It is the high alpine zones in particular that constitute storehouses of knowledge, making the invisible visible.

Crystal worlds

In its crystal-clear form quartz is called rock crystal and is the mineral that epitomizes the Alps. It forms in the clefts of the mountains over many millions of years. Rock crystal is comparatively hard, having a conchoidal (shell-shaped) fracture and glassy sheen. The addition of other elements, for example, exposure to irradiation or heat, gives rise to varieties such as rose quartz, amethyst or smoky quartz. Quartz has been used since early times to make jewellery and tools; today it is found in timepieces and electrical components and continues to play a role as an ornamental stone and in glass-making.

Tauern gold

Gold is both element and mineral, and its rarity and special qualities make it precious and highly desirable. People prospected for gold in the High Tauern using various techniques from antiquity until well into the twentieth century, either from primary or secondary gold deposits. Reef gold was extracted from mines and diggings, while placer or alluvial gold was panned from streams and rivers. Gold nuggets up to the size of hazelnuts have been found in the Tauern region.

A giant rising on the upwind

With a wingspan of just under three metres, the bearded vulture is the largest bird of the Alps. In earlier times, its reputation as an alleged ‘sheep-slayer’ and aggressive bird of prey led to this harmless carrion eater being hunted to extinction. In fact, as a kind of ‘hygiene taskforce’ it played an important role in the disposal of animal remains which could otherwise have been a source of disease.

In the meantime the bearded vulture has been reintroduced in the Alps and is spreading out in widening circles. Young birds in particular can cover up to 600 kilometres in a day; individual specimens have been recorded as making it to the Pyrenees, Denmark and Norway

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