How mighty mountains arise

The collision of Africa and Europe resulted over millions of years in the formation of the Alps. Gargantuan forces propelled rock layers over one another, folding and splitting them. At the Tectonic Arena Sardona, shared between the Canton of Glarus, St. Gall and Graubünden, you can see the result of these processes clearly. The region offers dramatic insights into how mountains are formed. Natural Heritage since 2008.



History

Just beneath the ridge of the Tschingelhörner, at an altitude of 2,600 metres, the famous Martinsloch opens up. This strange, almost triangular opening, with a diameter of around 18 metres, was formed by the accelerated erosion of a more fragile part of the rock. It is very special since it is a kind of natural calendar. Twice a year, roughly a week before the spring equinox and a week after the autumn equinox, the rising sun shines through the hole and lights up the church tower of the village of Elm, for about 2 minutes. Then it disappears behind the wall of rock before emerging above the ridge some 15 minutes later. This occurrence has fascinated people for centuries. The other mysterious characteristic of the Tschingelhörner and of the surrounding peaks is a grey-yellowish line, wedged between two layers of Alpine rock. This distinct line has intrigues the scientific world for a long time and prompted a considerable number of arguments amongst geologists, since it overturned, in the literal sense of the word, the prevailing theories regarding the development of the Earth’s crust. This “magic line”, as it is often called, ultimately provided a key to our understanding of the tectonic processes that gave rise to the Alps and to other similar mountain ranges.

Did you know?

• In the Tectonic Arena Sardona the mountains stand on their heads: older strata of rock have shifted to lie above younger layers.
• Over the past 200 years or more, seminal findings into the way mountains were formed have been made at the Sardona UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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