RECORD: Hughes, C. L. 'Memoranda for Mr C. Darwin'. (11.1832) CUL-DAR34.14-15 Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, edited by John van Wyhe. (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, corrections by John van Wyhe 12.2010. RN1

NOTE: Charles Hughes was a school fellow of Darwin’s who attended Shrewsbury School, 1818-1819 and was resident in Buenos Ayres, 1832-1833. Hughes provided these notes for Darwin's trip along the Rio Negro to Mercedes. Hughes returned to England in 1833 because of ill health.

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Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.

See the introduction to the Geological Diary by Gordon Chancellor.


Memoranda for Mr C. Darwin

From Colonia conveyances are frequently offering for the differents ports of the Banda Oriental — as all the small craft which trade up the River Uruguay have to call in at that place to pay their duties and obtain a clearance, horses too might be hired to carry you to Las Vacas, Las Higueritas &c at a trifling expense, but I should recommend a journey by water in preference — In agreeing for your passage to Mercedes you ought not to pay more than 30 £ (paper). The first place worthy of note after leaving Colonia is the Island of Martin Garcia which lies at the entrance of the Rio Uruguay — on this island the Bs Aires Govt have a battery and it is there that convicts are imprisoned.

About a couple of leagues further up the land can be seen on either side, that on the left being formed by innumerable small islands belonging to the Province of Entre Rios — a rather striking object on the Banda Oriental coast is a rock of Hone stone — this rises abruptly from the waters edge — near to this are two small isaldns called Las dos hermanes which are well wooded — tigers are said to be abundant on them — a little further up you arrive abreast of the village of Las Vacas from whence Horses can be obtained to carry you to Mercedes, but it is better to proceed on by water — Las Higueritas (a miserable village taking its name from the abundance of Fig trees) is about 10 miles from Las Vacas — here vessels generally

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stop for the night as the navigation further up becomes intricate. — San Salvador is 4 leagues beyond — it is a small town lying inland on a river of the same name — with a fair wind in a few hours you reach the mouth of the Rio Negro and here the scenery begins to be interesting, and continues so all the way to the very source of that River — After entering the Rio Negro and proceeding 5 or 6 miles you come to the town of Santo Dominga de Soriano; this has nothing remarkable in its appearance & is celebrated only as being the first place settled by the old Spaniards when they took possession of this country — it is a more ancient place than either Montevideo or Bs. Aires —

20 miles from Soriano and after many turnings in the River you reach La Capilla de Mercedes a pretty little town, and the chief place for the shipment of produce of that part of the country — There is not any inn nor house of entertainment in Mercedes but I should think it would not be difficult to obtain lodgings in some native family if you wish to prolong your stay there — there is good fishing in the river — Near to the town Lime stone is found, and a Portuguese named Lima who speaks a little English has limeworks — I would strongly recommend you to go some distance into the country to some Estancia as the scenery &c will amply repay your trouble. — On the coast of the


Rio Negro petrifactions are sometimes found, such as ostriches eggs, fruits &c and I often picked up curious [illeg] pebbles, particularly Corbelians. — Both sides of the river are thickly wooded, the tree most common is the Sauce (willow) which is used there for building. The wood in its natural state will not answer as it rots directly — but after being cut down and immersed in water for twelve months, it becomes very durable. — The water of the Rio Negro is strongly impregnated with the Sarsaparilla which grows on the banks, and this no doubt is the cause of its dark colour — it has a powerful effect on a stranger when first taken (causing a looseness in the bowels) — it is best not to drink largely of it at first, but mix with it a little wine or spirits — The wild animals which abound in the country about Mercedes are deer, tigers, carpinchos, nutrias, armadillos and many others whose names I do not remember — of birds you will find great plenty — ostriches, flamingos, wild swans, storks, gausos, eagles both black & white, vultures & kites, ducks, partridges, snipes, teru terus, parroquets- in short the variety of birds it is impossible to detail. — There are some snakes, but not of a large size, tho' generally dangerous — centipedes and spiders grow to a large size & their bite is often fatal-

Should you be desirous of proceeding further

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than Mercedes, you can go by land to Paysandá, which is a town of about the same size as Mercedes, and about 30 leagues distant — still higher up the Uruguay are Sandu, Salto, and San Borja bordering on the Brazilian territory of Missiones where the celebrated Yerba or Maté is produced in large quantities. —

Bs Aires Novr 2nd 1832


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Notes by Mr Hughes on a journey by water to Mercedes on the Rio Negro

Colonel O'Brien Naturalist

This page is in Darwin's handwriting.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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