The Landslip at Elm


    THE Swiss papers contain valuable information as to the landslip which occurred on September 11 in the valley of the Sernft River, in the canton of Glarus. The month of September is notable in Switzerland for landslips. Thus the great landslip of the year 1618, which buried the whole of the town of Plurs in Graubünden, with its 2340 inhabitants, occurred on September 4; and the great downfall of the Rossberg Mountain, which destroyed the village of Goldau, with three other small villages, burying in houses and 457 persons, and filled up the Lake of Lowerz, occurred on September 2, 1807. The very heavy rains of the last few weeks have softened the rocks on the slopes of the Plattenberg Mountain, at the foot of which, at a height of 3330 feet, was situated the village of Elm, now almost completely destroyed by the landslip. The clay-slate quarries which were worked upon the same slope have divided the masses of the rocks into large pieces, whilst the frequent earthquakes of the last months have given rise to large crevices in the slates and limestones. Already on September 9 it was perceived that the soil at the quarry was in slow motion, and a house situated immediately below was evacuated. Two days later, between five and six o'clock in the afternoon, it was seen that the forest on the slope of the mountain began to move, the trees being bent like a field of corn during a strong wind; they then rushed down, together with the rocks situated above the quarry, breaking up into thousands of pieces. This formidable stone avalanche reached the village, the trees were bent like straw, and the houses moved by the pressure of air pushed by the landslip. Men and houses were thrown on the opposite side of the valley, smashed against rocks, and buried by the landslip, which, as in the catastrophe of the Rossberg, crossed the valley and rose up-hill on its opposite side. The first landslip destroyed that part of the Elm Commune which is named Unterthal; but a second one followed immediately, destroying the village, and throwing the houses on the opposite side of the valley, one kilometre wide. The picturesque valley of Unterthal is now covered with a mass of mud, earth, and stones, thirty to forty metres thick, on the surface of which are seen blocks of the size of a house. The length of the landslip is about two kilometres, and the opposite side of the valley is covered with stones and blocks on a space of about 100 metres. The Sernft River, which flows in the valley, is barred by the débris, and has formed a small lake. The number of persons killed is about 160. Another small landslip occurred on the following day, and the slope of the mountain continues to be in motion. According to a report of Prof. Heim the remnant of the village is also threatened by a landslip, the Risikopf, or Grosskopf, being creviced and undergoing subsidences which render a landslip most probable, not so large, however, as the preceding one.

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    The Landslip at Elm. Nature 24, 513–514 (1881).

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