Orographically left and right

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The orographic left side of a watercourse is the side that is in the direction of flow - that is downstream from the source to the mouth seen down - the left is. The opposite side is called the orographic right side . The name comes from the geoscientific field of orography , the teaching of the height profile, but is particularly at home in hydrography .

For example, one says “left and right bank ”. The tributaries of a stream are also classified according to limnology , the study of inland waters. For example, the Main is a right tributary of the Rhine , while the Sava and Tisza rivers are the right and left tributaries of the Danube with the most water . In the case of lakes , the direction of discharge is correspondingly designated. The term is also used more generally in geography, including in a valley the orographically left and right side are viewed in the direction of flow of the valley water (i.e. out of the valley), one speaks, for example, of the left slope or the right summit ridge.

This convention was first consistently applied in the German-speaking area in the Real State and Newspaper Lexicon of 1704 and explained in detail in the preliminary report.

“With the rivers one has only described their origin and influence, but not at the same time described what they cross in front of countries or what they devour while walking in front of other rivers, since such things can easily be seen on the country charts, if only one first found the beginning and the end of the river. It is important to note that the naming of the banks on the right and left hand should be understood as follows. The inclined reader imagines that he is standing at the source of the river and has turned his face against the influence of it [Note: The author means by this 'towards the mouth'.]. What then lies on the right is the right, and what lies on the left is the left bank of the river. "

- Johann Friedrich Gleditsch : Reales Staats- und Zeitungs-Lexicon , Leipzig 1704, preliminary report , p. 4

In particular - as Gleditsch suggests - this was important because originally in expedition geography one thought upstream, since naturally the estuaries were discovered first and small tributaries were of no interest. It was only with the systematization of cartography in the Enlightenment that people switched to downstream: for example, river order numbers are always assigned from the source to the mouth (which is why the search for the sources of the rivers and their final determination in the 18th and 19th centuries was a central geographical concern : only then could the river system be fully designated). Then with the ascending order of the river (classic 1 = main river, 2 = direct tributary, etc.) the designations left and right for the tributaries are coherent and obvious. The term was particularly popular among geographers interested in geology and morphology, such as Franz Klement Paulus or Carl von Sonklar , who were the founders of orography with an overall view of the surface shape of the earth (called "geognostic" at the time). Therefore one speaks of “orographic right”, not “hydrographic right”.

In geoscientific texts mostly just “left” and “right” are used to denote the two sides of a river; the addition “orographic”, which is often used in general texts that strive for precision, is unnecessary in technical terminology because a clear definition is available and is also known. That even the everyday language quite this more economical way of talking can follow, shows the division of cities on both sides of the Rhine from Basel to Niederrhein in right - and left-bank , which is common and understandable, which likewise Rive Gauche and Droite of Paris or rights and left Old Town Salzburg .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Scan , on Wikimedia Commons; Note Wikipedia.
  2. Gleditsch goes on to explain: “This designation [note: left and right] is, in my opinion, all the more useful than the use of those words on both sides and on the other , in that they remain the same in all places; but these are subject to many changes. z. e. when I say here about Leipzig that the city of Maintz lies on the other side of the Rhine, someone who lives in Strasbourg cannot repeat such a thing; Hence, in the historical and other books, too, one frequently notes very gross and ridiculous errors when those who cite something from a scribble forget to observe the place in which they wrote their history. ”This passage documents the struggle of the Time for precise technical language .
  3. Sonklars Allgemeine Orographie is the standard work : the theory of the relief forms of the earth's surface 1873.
  4. That even the mountaineers, who habitually describe from bottom to top - that is, against the direction of flow - had to rethink in the early 20th century when they published scientifically, there are empty phrases like "climbed right hand (orographic left!) ... up" in Henry Hoek : From Bolivias Bergen ( magazine of the German and Austrian Alpine Club , vol. 36, 1905, p. 188, limited preview in the Google book search) or "the side glacier that flows from the right (orographic left)" in Raimund von Klebelsberg zu Thumburg , German and Austrian Alpine Association: Contributions to the geology of West Turkestan: Results of the expedition of the German and Austrian Alpine Association in 1913 (published by Universitätsverlag Wagner, 1922, p. 529, Google book search ).