RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1839. Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Journal and remarks. 1832-1836. London: Henry Colburn.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned and text prepared by John van Wyhe 2.2005; proofread and corrected by Sue Asscher 3.2006. RN4

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. See bibliographical introduction by R. B. Freeman. This book is based largely on Darwin's Beagle diary. See the reviews of this work.

The copy scanned was kindly provided by The Balfour and Newton Libraries, Cambridge.








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[page iii]







THE YEARS 1826 AND 1836,















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I HAVE stated in the preface to the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it was in consequence of a wish expressed by Captain FitzRoy, of having some scientific person on board, accompanied by an offer from him, of giving up part of his own accommodations, that I volunteered my services, which received, through the kindness of the hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of the Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities, which I enjoyed of studying the Natural History of the different countries we visited, have been wholly due to Captain FitzRoy, I hope I may here be permitted to express my gratitude to him; and to add that, during the five years we were together, I received from him the most cordial friendship and steady assistance. Both to Captain FitzRoy and to all the Officers of the Beagle,*

* I must likewise take this opportunity of returning my sincere thanks to Mr. Bynoe, the surgeon of the Beagle, for his very kind attention to me when I was ill at Valparaiso.

[page] viii PREFACE.

I shall ever feel most thankful for the undeviating kindness with which I was treated, during our long voyage.

The present volume contains in the form of a journal, a sketch of those observations in Geology and Natural History, which I thought would possess some general interest. As it was originally intended to have preceded any more detailed account, and as its publication has been unavoidably delayed, the briefness and imperfection of several parts, I hope, will be excused. I have given a list of those errata (partly caused by my absence from town when some of the sheets were in the press) which affect the sense; and have added an Appendix, containing some additional facts (especially on the theory of the transportation of erratic blocks) which I have accidentally met with during the past year. I hope shortly to publish my geological observations; the first Part of which will be on the Volcanic Islands of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and on Coral Formations; and the second Part will treat of South America. Several numbers of the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, due to the disinterested zeal of several of our first naturalists, have already appeared. These works could not have been undertaken, had it not been for the liberality of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, who, through the representation of the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have been pleased to grant a sum of one

[page] ix PREFACE.

thousand pounds towards defraying part of the expenses of publication. I have repeated in this volume my account of the habits of some of the birds and quadrupeds of South America, as I thought such observations might interest those readers who would not, probably, consult the larger work. But I trust that naturalists will remember, that mere sketches are here given on several subjects, which will hereafter be more fully entered on, or have already been so :—for instance, the notices of the strange fossil quadrupeds of the eastern plains of South America are exceedingly imperfect, whilst an admirable account of them by Mr. Owen now forms the first part of the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle.

I shall have the pleasure of acknowledging the great assistance I have received from several naturalists, in the course of this and the succeeding works; but I must be here allowed to return my most sincere thanks to the Reverend Professor Henslow, who, when I was an under-graduate at Cambridge, was one chief means of giving me a taste for Natural History,—who, during my absence, took charge of the collections I sent home, and by his correspondence directed my endeavours,—and who, since my return, has constantly rendered me every assistance which the kindest friend could offer.

C. D.


[page x]




Porto Praya — Ribeira Grande — Dry and clear atmosphere — Effect of lava on a calcareous beach — Habits of Aplysia and Octopus — St. Paul's rocks non-volcanic — Incrustations and stalactites of phosphate of lime — Insects first colonists — Fernando Noronha — Bahia — Extent of granite — Burnished rocks — Habits of Diodon — Pelagic confervæ, infusoria — Causes of discoloured sea . . . .1


Rio de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great evaporation — Slavery — Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial Planariæ — Clouds on Corcovado — Heavy rain — Musical Hyla — Lampyris and its larvæ — Elater, springing powers of — Blue haze — Noise of butterfly — Entomology — Ants — Wasp-killing spider — Parasitical spider — Artifices of Epeira — Gregarious spider — Spider with imperfect web. . . . 21


Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and Bolas — Partridges — Geology — Absence of trees — Cervus campestris — River hog — Tucutuco — Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits of — Tyrant-flycatcher — Mocking-bird — Carrion hawks — Tubes formed by lightning — House struck . . . . . . 44


Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by Indians — Salt lakes, geological position of — Flamingoes — R. Negro to Colorado — Sacred tree — Patagonian hare — Indian families — General Rosas — Proceed to Bahia Blanca — Sand dunes — Negro lieutenant — Bahia Blanca — Ground incrusted with Glauber salt — Punta Alta — Zorillo .  .  . 74


Bahia Blanca — Geology — Extinct quadrupeds, four Edentata, horse, Ctenomys — Recent extinction of — Longevity of species — Large animals do not require luxuriant vegetation — Southern Africa — Siberian fossils — Catalogue of extinct quadrupeds of South America — Two species of Ostrich, habits of — Tinochorus — Oven-bird — Armadilloes — Venomous snake, toad, lizard — Hybernation of animals — Habits of sea-pen — Indian wars and massacres — Arrow-head, antiquarian relic.  . 95

[page] xi CONTENTS.


Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sierra Ventana — Transportal of pebbles — Third posta — Driving horses — Bolas — Partridges and foxes — Features of country — Long-legged plover — Teru-tero — Hailstorm — Natural enclosures in Sierra Tapalguen — Flesh of puma — Meat diet — Guardia del Monte — Effects of cattle on the vegetation — Cardoon — Buenos Ayres — Corral where animals are slaughtered .  . 124


Excursion to St. Fe — Thistle beds — Habits and range of Bizcacha — Little owl — Saline streams — Level plains — Mastodon — St. Fe — Change in landscape — Geology — Tooth of extinct horse — Range of fossil quadrupeds — Pampas full of remains — Effects of great droughts — Droughts periodical — Parana — Habits of Jaguar — Scissor-beak — Kingfisher, parrot, and scissor-tail — Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State of government  .  .  .  .  .  . 142


Monte Video — Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — Horses, swimming — Value of an Estancia — Cattle, how counted — Geology — Great thistle-beds — Rio Negro — Perforated pebbles — Shepherd dogs — Horses broken in, Gauchos riding, feats with lazo — Toxodon — Armadillo-like gigantic covering — Great tail — Return to Monte Video — Character of inhabitants .  .  .  .  .  . 167


Rio Plata — Flocks of butterflies — Beetles alive in the sea — Aeronaut spiders — Pelagic animals — Phosphorescence of sea — Port Desire — Spanish settlements — Zoology — Guanaco — Excursion to head of harbour — Indian grave — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia, successive terraces, transport of pebbles — Fossil gigantic llama — Types of organization constant — Change in zoology of America — Causes of extinction .  .  .  .  .  . 185


Santa Cruz — Expedition up river — Indians — Character of Patagonia — Basaltic platform — Immense streams of lava — Non-transport of blocks by river — Excavation of valley — Condor, range and habits — Cordillera — Erratic boulders of great size — Indian relics — Return to the ship .  .  .  .  .  . 213


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival — Good Success Bay — Interview with savages — Scenery of the forests — Sir J. Banks's hill — Cape Horn — Wigwam Cove — Miserable condition of savages — Beagle channel — Fuegians — Ponsonby Sound — Equality of condition among the natives — Bifurcation of the Beagle channel — Glaciers — Return to ship  . 227

[page] xii CONTENTS.


Falkland Islands — Excursion round island — Aspect — Cattle, horses, rabbit, wolf-like fox — Fire made of bones — Art in making fire — Manner of hunting wild cattle — Geology, fossil shells — Valleys filled with great fragments, scenes of violence — Penguin — Geese — Eggs of doris — Zoophytes, coralline phosphorescent — Compound animals  . 245


Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Geology — Deep water in channels — Erratic boulders — Climate — Limit of fruit trees — Mean temperature — Luxuriant forests — Rigour of antarctic islands — Contrast with the north — Snow-line, great flexure of — Glaciers — Icebergs transport fragments of rock — Glaciers in low latitude — Absence of erratic blocks in intertropical regions — Glaciers and tropical vegetation — Comparison with northern hemisphere — Siberian animals in ice — Embedded in cold mud — Edible fungus — Zoology — Fucus giganteus — Leave Tierra del Fuego .  .  .  .  .  . 263


Valparaiso — Excursion to base of Andes — Structure of land — Ascend Bell of Quillota — Shattered masses of greenstone — Immense valleys — Mines — State of miners — Santiago — Hot baths of Cauquenes — Gold mines — Grinding mills — Perforated stones — Habits of puma — El turco and tapacolo — Humming-birds .  .  .  . 308


Chiloe — General aspect — Boat excursion — Native Indians — Castro — Large leaves of Gunnera scabra — Tame fox — Ascend San Pedro — Chonos Archipelago — Peninsula of Tres Montes — Granitic range — Lowe's Harbour — Wild potato — Forest — Formation of peat — Myopotamus, otter and mice — Cheucau and barking-bird — Furnarius — Singular character of ornithology — Petrels .  .  . 333


San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruption — Ride to Castro and Cucao — Impenetrable forests — Valdivia — Apple-trees — Ride to Llanos — Indians — Earthquake — Concepcion — Great earthquake — Effects of wave — Rocks fissured — Appearance of the former towns — Water in the bay black and boiling — Direction of vibration — Stones displaced — Cause of great waves — Permanent elevation of land — Great lake of fluid rock beneath crust of the globe — Connexion of volcanic phenomena — Slow elevation of mountain chains, cause of earthquakes .  . 356

[page] xiii CONTENTS.


Valparaiso — Passage of Andes by Portillo pass — Sagacity of mules — Mountain torrents — Mines, how discovered — Marine alluvium in valleys — Effect of snow on surface — Geology, fossil shells, double range, two periods of elevation — Red snow — Winds on the crest — Snow thawing in pinnacles — Dry and clear atmosphere — Electricity — Pampas — Zoology of opposite sides of Andes — Uniformity of Patagonia — Locusts — Great bugs — Mendoza — Uspallata — Silicified trees in vertical position — Indian ruins — Change of climate — Earthquake arching bed of river — Cumbre — Valparaiso. .  .  .  . 382


Bell mountain — Miners — Great loads carried by the Apires — Coquimbo — Earthquake — Geology — Terraces — Excursion up valley — Road to Guasco — Desert country — Valley of Copiapó — Rain and earthquakes, Meteorolites — Hydrophobia — Copiapó — Excursion to Cordillera — Dry valley — Cold gales of wind — Noises from a hill — Iquique, complete desert — Salt alluvium — Nitrate of soda — Lima — Unhealthy country — Ruins of Callao, overthrown by earthquake — Elevated shells on island of San Lorenzo — Plain with embedded fragments of pottery  . 416


Galapagos Islands volcanic — Number of craters — Leafless bushes — Colony at Charles Island — James Island — Salt-lake in crater — Character of vegetation — Ornithology, curious finches — Great tortoises, habits of, paths to the wells — Marine lizard feeds on sea-weed — Terrestrial species, burrowing habits, herbivorous — Importance of reptiles in the Archipelago — Few and minute insects — American type of organization — Species confined to certain islands — Tameness of birds — Falkland Islands — Fear of man an acquired instinct.  .  .  . 453


Tahiti — Aspect of — Vegetation on the slope of the mountains — View of Eimeo — Excursion in the interior — Profound ravines — Succession of waterfalls — Number of wild useful plants — Temperance of inhabitants — Their moral state — Parliament convened — New Zealand — Bay of islands — Hippahs — Absence of all government — Excursion to Waimate — Missionary establishment — English weeds now run wild — Waiomio — Funeral service — Sail from New Zealand .  .  . 479


Sydney — Prosperity of — Excursion to Bathurst — Aspect of woods — Party of Natives — Gradual extinction of aborigines — Blue Mountains — Weatherboard — View of a grand gulf-like valley — Sheep farm — Lion-ant — Bathurst, general civility of lower orders — State of society — Van


[page] xiv CONTENTS.

Diemen's Land — Hobart Town — Aborigines all banished — Mount Wellington — King George's Sound — Cheerless aspect of country — Bald Head, calcareous casts like branches of trees — Party of natives — Leave Australia .  .  .  .  . 515


Keeling Island — Singular appearance of — Scanty Flora — Transport of seeds — Birds and insects — Ebbing and flowing springs — Coral formations resisting power of ocean — Fields of dead coral — Stones transported by roots of trees — Great crab — Stinging corals — Structure of lagoon islands — Encircling and Barrier reefs — General proofs of subsidence in the Pacific — Theory of lagoon islands caused by subsidence of the land — Pacific and Indian oceans divided into alternate areas of elevation and subsidence — Points of eruption lie within the areas of elevation. 539


Mauritius, beautiful appearance of — Hindoos — Cape of Good Hope — St. Helena — Geology — History of changes in vegetation, probable cause of extinction of land-shells — Ascension — Green Hill — Curious incrustations of calcareous matter on tidal rocks — Bahia — Brazil — Splendour of tropical scenery — Pernambuco — Singular reef — Azores — Supposed crater — Hints to collectors — Retrospect of the most impressive parts of the voyage .  .  .  .  .  . 570

ADDENDA  .  .  .  .  .  . 609


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Porto Praya — Ribeira Grande — Dry and clear atmosphere — Effect of lava on calcareous beach — Habits of Aplysia and Octopus — St. Paul's rock non-volcanic — Incrustations and stalactites of phosphate of lime — Insects first colonists — Fernando Noronha — Bahia — Extent of granite — Burnished rocks — Habits of Diodon — Pelagic confervæ, infusoria — Causes of discoloured sea.


JAN. 16TH, 1832.—The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed from the sea, wears a desolate aspect. The volcanic fire of past ages, and the scorching heat of a tropical sun, have in most places rendered the soil sterile and unfit for vegetation. The country rises in successive steps of table land, interspersed with some truncate conical hills, and the horizon is bounded by an irregular chain of more lofty mountains. The scene, as beheld through the hazy atmosphere of this climate, is one of great interest; if, indeed, a person, fresh from the sea, and who has just walked, for the first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut trees, can be a judge of any thing but his own happiness. The island would generally be considered as very uninteresting; but to any one accustomed only to an English landscape, the novel


[page] 2 ST. JAGO-CAPE DE VERD ISLANDS. Jan. 1832.

prospect of an utterly sterile land possesses a grandeur which more vegetation might spoil. A single green leaf can scarcely be discovered over wide tracts of the lava plains; yet flocks of goats, together with a few cows, contrive to exist. It rains very seldom, but during a short portion of the year heavy torrents fall, and immediately afterwards a light vegetation springs out of every crevice. This soon withers; and upon such naturally-formed hay the animals live. At the present time it has not rained for an entire year. The broad, flat-bottomed, valleys, many of which serve during a few days only in the season as a watercourse, are clothed with thickets of leafless bushes. Few living creatures inhabit these valleys. The commonest bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo jagoensis), which tamely sits on the branches of the castor-oil plant, and thence darts on the grasshoppers and lizards. It is brightly coloured, but not so beautiful as the European species: in its flight, manners, and place of habitation, which is generally in the driest valleys, there is also a wide difference.

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to Ribeira Grande, a village a few miles to the eastward of Porto Praya. Until we reached the valley of St. Martin, the country presented its usual dull brown appearance; but there, a very small rill of water produces a most refreshing margin of luxuriant vegetation. In the course of an hour we arrived at Ribeira Grande, and were surprised at the sight of a large ruined fort and cathedral. The little town, before its harbour was filled up, was the principal place in the island: it now presents a melancholy, but very picturesque appearance. Having procured a black Padre for a guide, and a Spaniard, who had served in the Peninsular war, as an interpreter, we visited a collection of buildings, of which an ancient church formed the principal part. It is here the governors and captain-generals of the islands have been buried. Some of the tombstones recorded dates of the sixteenth century.*

* The Cape de Verd Islands were discovered in 1449.

[page] 3 Jan. 1832. ST. JAGO-CAPE DE VERD ISLANDS.

The heraldic ornaments were the only things in this retired place that reminded us of Europe. The church or chapel formed one side of a quadrangle, in the middle of which a large clump of bananas were growing. On another side was a hospital, containing about a dozen miserable-looking inmates.

We returned to the "Vênda" to eat our dinners. A considerable number of men, women, and children, all as black as jet, were collected to watch us. Our companions were extremely merry; and every thing we said or did was followed by their hearty laughter. Before leaving the town we visited the cathedral. It does not appear so rich as the smaller church, but boasts of a little organ, which sent forth most singularly inharmonious cries. We presented the black priest with a few shillings, and the Spaniard, patting him on the head, said, with much candour, he thought his colour made no great difference. We then returned, as fast as the ponies would go, to Porto Praya.

Another day we rode to the village of St. Domingo, situated near the centre of the island. On a small plain which we crossed, a few stunted acacias were growing; their tops, by the action of the steady trade-wind, were bent in a singular manner—some of them even at a right angle to the trunk. The direction of the branches was exactly N.E. by N., and S.W. by S. These natural vanes must indicate the prevailing direction of the force of the trade wind. The travelling had made so little impression on the barren soil, that we here missed our track, and took that to Fuentes. This we did not find out till we arrived there; and we were afterwards very glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a pretty village, with a small stream; and every thing appeared to prosper well, excepting, indeed, that which ought to do so most—its inhabitants. The black children, completely naked, and looking very wretched, were carrying bundles of firewood half as big as their own bodies.

Near Fuentes we saw a large flock of guinea-fowl—probably fifty or sixty in number. They were extremely wary,

B 2

[page] 4 ST. JAGO-CAPE DE VERD ISLANDS. Jan. 1832.

and could not be approached. They avoided us, like partridges on a rainy day in September, running with their heads cocked up; and if pursued, they readily took to the wing.

The scenery of St. Domingo possesses a beauty totally unexpected, from the prevalent gloomy character of the rest of the island. The village is situated at the bottom of a valley, bounded by lofty and jagged walls of stratified lava. The black rocks afford a most striking contrast with the bright green vegetation, which follows the banks of a little stream of clear water. It happened to be a grand feast-day, and the village was full of people. On our return we overtook a party of about twenty young black girls, dressed in most excellent taste; their black skins and snow-white linen being set off by their coloured turbans and large shawls. As soon as we approached near, they suddenly all turned round, and covering the path with their shawls, sung with great energy a wild song, beating time with their hands upon their legs. We threw them some vintéms, which were received with screams of laughter, and we left them redoubling the noise of their song.

It has already been remarked, that the atmosphere is generally very hazy; this appears chiefly due to an impalpable dust, which is constantly falling, even on vessels far out at sea. The dust is of a brown colour, and under the blowpipe easily fuses into a black enamel. It is produced, as I believe, from the wear and tear of volcanic rocks, and must come from the coast of Africa. One morning the view was singularly clear; the distant mountains being projected with the sharpest outline, on a heavy bank of dark blue clouds. Judging from the appearance, and from similar cases in England, I supposed that the air was saturated with moisture. The fact, however, turned out quite the contrary. The hygrometer gave a difference of 29.6 degrees, between the temperature of the air, and the point at which dew was precipitated. This difference was nearly double that which I had observed on the previous mornings.

[page] 5 Jan. 1832. GEOLOGY.

This unusual degree of atmospheric dryness was accompanied by continual flashes of lightning. Is it not an uncommon case, thus to find a remarkable degree of aerial transparency with such a state of weather?

The geology of this island is the most interesting part of its natural history. On entering the harbour, a perfectly horizontal white band, in the face of the sea cliff, may be seen running for some miles along the coast, and at the height of about forty-five feet above the water. Upon examination, this white stratum is found to consist of calcareous matter, with numerous shells embedded, such as now exist on the neighbouring coast. It rests on ancient volcanic rocks, and has been covered by a stream of basalt, which must have entered the sea, when the white shelly bed was lying at the bottom. It is interesting to trace the changes, produced by the heat of the overlying lava, on the friable mass. For a thickness of several inches it is converted, in some parts, into a firm stone, as hard as the best freestone; and the earthy matter, originally mingled with the calcareous, has been separated into little spots, thus leaving the limestone white and pure. In other parts a highly crystalline marble has been formed, and so perfect are the crystals of carbonate of lime, that they can easily be measured by the reflecting goniometer. The change is even more extraordinary, where the lime has been caught up by the scoriaceous fragments of the lower surface of the stream; for it is there converted into groups of beautifully radiated fibres resembling arragonite. The beds of lava rise in successive gently-sloping plains, towards the interior, whence the deluges of melted stone originally proceeded. Within historical times, no signs of volcanic activity have, I believe, been manifested in any part of St. Jago. This state of quiescence is, probably, owing to the neighbouring island of Fogo being frequently in eruption. Even the form of a crater can but rarely be discovered on the summits of any of the red cindery hills; yet the more recent streams can be distinguished on the coast, forming a line of cliffs of less height, but stretching out in advance of those belonging to an older

[page] 6 ST. JAGO-CAPE DE VERD ISLANDS. Jan. 1832.

series: the height of the cliff thus affording a rude measure of the age.

During our stay, I observed the habits of some marine animals. A large Aplysia is very common. This sea-slug is about five inches long; and is of a dirty yellowish colour, veined with purple. At the anterior extremity, it has two pair of feelers; the upper ones of which resemble in shape the ears of a quadruped. On each side of the lower surface, or foot, there is a broad membrane, which appears sometimes to act as a ventilator, in causing a current of water to flow over the dorsal branchiæ. It feeds on delicate sea-weeds, which grow among the stones in muddy and shallow water; and I found in its stomach several small pebbles, as in the gizzards of birds. This slug, when disturbed, emits a very fine purplish-red fluid, which stains the water for the space of a foot around. Besides this means of defence, an acrid secretion, which is spread over its body, causes a sharp, stinging sensation, similar to that produced by the Physalia, or Portuguese man-of-war.

I was much interested, on several occasions, by watching the habits of an Octopus or cuttle-fish. Although common in the pools of water left by the retiring tide, these animals were not easily caught. By means of their long arms and suckers, they could drag their bodies into very narrow crevices; and when thus fixed, it required great force to remove them. At other times they darted tail first, with the rapidity of an arrow, from one side of the pool to the other, at the same instant discolouring the water with a dark chestnut-brown ink. These animals also escape detection by a very extraordinary, chameleon-like, power of changing their colour. They appear to vary the tints, according to the nature of the ground over which they pass: when in deep water, their general shade was brownish purple, but when placed on the land, or in shallow water, this dark tint changed into one of a yellowish green. The colour, examined more carefully, was a French gray, with numerous minute spots of bright yellow: the former of these varied in intensity; the latter

[page] 7 Jan. 1832. HABITS OF OCTOPUS.

entirely disappeared and appeared again by turns. These changes were effected in such a manner, that clouds, varying in tint between a hyacinth red and a chestnut brown,* were continually passing over the body. Any part being subjected to a slight shock of galvanism, became almost black: a similar effect, but in a less degree, was produced by scratching the skin with a needle. These clouds, or blushes, as they may be called, when examined under a glass, are described as being produced by the alternate expansions and contractions of minute vesicles, containing variously-coloured fluids.†

This cuttle-fish displayed its chameleon-like power both during the act of swimming and whilst remaining stationary at the bottom. I was much amused by the various arts to escape detection used by one individual, which seemed fully aware that I was watching it. Remaining for a time motionless, it would then stealthily advance an inch or two, like a cat after a mouse; sometimes changing its colour: it thus proceeded, till having gained a deeper part, it darted away, leaving a dusky train of ink to hide the hole into which it had crawled.

While looking for marine animals, with my head about two feet above the rocky shore, I was more than once saluted by a jet of water, accompanied by a slight grating noise. At first I did not know what it was, but afterwards I found out that it was the cuttle-fish, which, though concealed in a hole, thus often led me to its discovery. That it possesses the power of ejecting water there is no doubt, and it appeared to me certain that it could, moreover, take good aim by directing the tube or siphon on the under side of its body. From the difficulty which these animals have in carrying their heads, they cannot crawl with ease when placed on the ground. I observed that one which I kept in the cabin was slightly phosphorescent in the dark.

ST. PAUL'S ROCKS.—In crossing the Atlantic we hove to,

* So named according to Pat. Symes's nomenclature.

† See Encyclo. of Anat. and Physiol., article Cephalopoda.

[page] 8 ST. PAUL'S ROCKS. Feb. 1832.

during the morning of February 16th, close to the island of St. Paul. This cluster of rocks is situated in 0° 58' north latitude, and 29° 15' west longitude. It is 540 miles distant from the coast of America, and 350 from the island of Fernando Noronha. The highest point is only fifty feet above the level of the sea, and the entire circumference is under three-quarters of a mile. This small point rises abruptly out of the depths of the ocean. Its mineralogical constitution is not simple; in some parts, the rock is of a cherty, in others, of a felspathic nature; and in the latter case it contains thin veins of serpentine, mingled with calcareous matter.

The circumstance of these rocks not being of volcanic origin is of interest, because, with very few exceptions, the islands situated in the midst of the great oceans are thus constituted. As the highest pinnacles of the great mountain ranges probably once existed as islands distant from any continent, we are led to expect that they would frequently consist of volcanic rocks. It becomes, therefore, a curious point to speculate on the changes which many of the present islands would undergo, during the lapse of the countless ages, which would be required to elevate them into snow-clad summits. If we take the case of Ascension, or St. Helena, both of which have long existed in an extinct condition, we may feel assured, before so vast a period could elapse, during the whole of which the surface would be exposed to constant wear and tear, that the mere nucleus or core of the island would remain; perhaps, every fragment of cellular rock having been decomposed, a mass of some compact stone, as phonolite or greenstone, would crown our new Chimborazo.

The rocks of St. Paul appear from a distance of a brilliantly white colour. This is partly owing to the dung of a vast multitude of seafowl, and partly to a coating of a glossy white substance, which is intimately united to the surface of the rocks. This, when examined with a lens, is found to consist of numerous exceedingly thin layers, its total thickness being about the tenth of an inch. The surface is smooth

[page] 9 Feb. 1832. ST. PAUL'S ROCKS.

and glossy, and has a pearly lustre; it is considerably harder than calcareous spar, although it can be scratched by a knife: under the blowpipe it decrepitates, slightly blackens, and emits a fetid odour. It consists of phosphate of lime, mingled with some impurities; and its origin without doubt is due to the action of the rain or spray on the bird's dung. I may here mention, that I found in some hollows in the lava rocks of Ascension considerable masses of the substance called guano, which on the west coast of the intertropical parts of South America occurs in great beds, some yards thick, on the islets frequented by seafowl. According to the analysis of Fourcroy and Vauquelin, it consists of the urates, phosphates, and oxalates of lime, ammonia, and potash, together with some other salts, and some fatty and earthy matter. I believe there is no doubt of its being the richest manure which has ever been discovered. At Ascension, close to the guano, stalactitic or botryoidal masses of impure phosphate of lime adhered to the basalt. The basal part of these had an earthy texture, but the extremities were smooth and glossy, and sufficiently hard to scratch common glass. These stalactites appeared to have shrunk, perhaps from the removal of some soluble matter, in the act of consolidation; and hence they had an irregular form. Similar stalactitic masses,* though I am not aware that they have ever been noticed, are, I believe, by no means of uncommon occurrence.

We only observed two kinds of birds—the booby and the noddy. The former is a species of gannet, and the latter a tern. Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, and are so unaccustomed to visiters, that I could have killed any number of them with my geological hammer. The booby lays her eggs on the bare rock; but the tern makes a very simple nest

* I may mention that I was shown, at Ascension, some very fine stalactites, composed of sulphate of lime, which had been taken out of a cavern. From their external appearance they would generally be mistaken for the ordinary calcareous kind. It was interesting to observe, in a fractured specimen, the double cleavage intersecting with its even planes, the irregular layers of successive deposition.

[page] 10 ST. PAUL'S ROCKS. Feb. 1832.

with sea-weed. By the side of many of these nests a small flying-fish was placed; which, I suppose, had been brought by the male bird for its partner. It was amusing to watch how quickly a large and active crab (Graspus), which inhabits the crevices of the rock, stole the fish from the side of the nest, as soon as we had disturbed the birds. Not a single plant, not even a lichen, grows on this island; yet it is inhabited by several insects and spiders. The following list completes, I believe, the terrestrial fauna: a species of Feronia and an acarus, which must have come here as parasites on the birds; a small brown moth, belonging to a genus that feeds on feathers ; a staphylinus (Quedius) and a woodlouse from beneath the dung ; and lastly, numerous spiders, which I suppose prey on these small attendants on, and scavengers of the waterfowl. The often-repeated description of the first colonists of the coral islets in the South Sea, is not, probably, quite correct: I fear it destroys the poetry of the story to find, that these little vile insects should thus take possession before the cocoa-nut tree and other noble plants have appeared.

The smallest rock in the tropical seas, by giving a foundation, for the growth of innumerable kinds of sea-weed and compound animals, supports likewise a large number of fish. The sharks and the seamen in the boats maintained a constant struggle, who should secure the greater share of the prey caught by the lines. I have heard, that a rock near the Bermudas, lying many miles out at sea, and covered by a considerable depth of water, was first discovered by the circumstance of fish having been observed in the neighbourhood.

FERNANDO NORONHA, FEB. 20TH.—As far as I was enabled to observe, during the few hours we staid at this place, the constitution of the island is volcanic, but probably not of a recent date. The most remarkable feature is a conical hill, about one thousand feet high, the upper part of which is exceedingly steep, and on one side overhangs its base. The rock is phonolite, and is divided into irregular

[page] 11 Feb. 1832. FERNANDO NORONHA.

columns. From the first impression, on viewing one of these isolated masses, one is inclined to believe, that the whole has been suddenly pushed up in a semi-fluid state. At St. Helena, however, I ascertained that some pinnacles, of a nearly similar figure and constitution, had been formed by the injection of melted rock among the yielding strata; which thus formed the model for these gigantic obelisks. The whole island is covered with wood; but from the dryness of the climate there is no appearance of luxuriance. At some elevation great masses of the columnar rock, shaded by laurels, and ornamented by a tree covered by fine pink flowers like those of a foxglove, but without a single leaf, gave a pleasing effect to the nearer parts of the scenery.

BAHIA, OR SAN SALVADOR. BRAZIL, FEB. 29TH.—The day has past delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has been wandering by himself in a Brazilian forest. Among the multitude of striking objects, the general luxuuriance of the vegetation bears away the victory. The elegance of the grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, the beauty of the flowers, the glossy green of the foliage, all tend to this end. A most paradoxical mixture of sound and silence pervades the shady parts of the wood. The noise from the insects is so loud, that it may be heard even in a vessel anchored several hundred yards from the shore; yet within the recesses of the forest a universal silence appears to reign. To a person fond of natural history, such a day as this, brings with it a deeper pleasure than he ever can hope again to experience. After wandering about for some hours, I returned to the landing-place; but, before reaching it, I was overtaken by a tropical storm. I tried to find shelter under a tree which was so thick, that it would never have been penetrated by common English rain; but here, in a couple of minutes, a little torrent flowed down the trunk. It is to this violence of the rain we must attribute the verdure at the bottom of the thickest woods: if the showers were like those of a colder clime, the greater part would be

[page] 12 BAHIA-BRAZIL. Feb. 1832.

absorbed or evaporated before it reached the ground. I will not at present attempt to describe the gaudy scenery of this noble bay, because, in our homeward voyage, we called here a second time, and I shall then have occasion to remark on it.

The geology of the surrounding country possesses little interest. Throughout the coast of Brazil, and certainly for a considerable space inland, from the Rio Plata to Cape St. Roque, lat. 5° S., a distance of more than 2000 geographical miles, wherever solid rock occurs, it belongs to a granitic formation. The circumstance of this enormous area being thus constituted of materials, which almost every geologist believes to have been crystallized by the action of heat under pressure, gives rise to many curious reflections. Was this effect produced beneath the depths of a profound ocean? or did a covering of strata formerly extend over it, which has since been removed? Can we believe that any power, acting for a time short of infinity, could have denuded the granite over so many thousand square leagues?

On a point not far from the city, where a rivulet entered the sea, I observed a fact connected with a subject discussed by Humboldt.* At the cataracts of the great rivers Orinoco, Nile, and Congo, the syenitic rocks are coated by a black substance, appearing as if they had been polished with plumbago. The layer is of extreme thinness; and on analysis by Berzelius it was found to consist of the oxides of manganese and iron. In the Orinoco it occurs on the rocks periodically washed by the floods, and in those parts alone, where the stream is rapid; or, as the Indians say, "the rocks are black, where the waters are white." The coating is here of a rich brown instead of a black colour, and seems to be composed of ferrugineous matter alone. Hand specimens fail to give a just idea of these brown, burnished, stones which glitter in the sun's rays.

* Pers. Narr., vol. v., pt. i., p. 18.

[page] 13 Feb. 1832. BURNISHED ROCKS.

They occur only within the limits of tidal action; and as the rivulet slowly trickles down, the surf must supply the polishing power of the cataracts in the great rivers. In the same manner, the rise and fall of the tide probably answers to the periodical inundations; and thus the same causes are present under apparently very different circumstances. The real origin, however, of these coatings of metallic oxides, which seem as if cemented to the rocks, is not understood; and no reason, I believe, can be assigned for their thickness remaining constant.

One day I was amused by watching the habits of a Diodon, which was caught swimming near the shore. This fish is well known to possess the singular power of distending itself into a nearly spherical form. After having been taken out of water for a short time, and then again immersed in it, a considerable quantity both of water and air was absorbed by the mouth, and perhaps likewise by the branchial apertures. This process is effected by two methods; the air is swallowed, and is then forced into the cavity of the body, its return being prevented by a muscular contraction which is externally visible; but the water, I observed, entered in a stream through the mouth, which was wide open and motionless: this latter action must, therefore, depend on suction. The skin about the abdomen is much looser than that of the back; hence, during the inflation, the lower surface becomes far more distended than the upper; and the fish, in consequence, floats with its back downwards. Cuvier doubts whether the Diodon, in this position, is able to swim; but not only can it thus move forward in a straight line, but likewise it can turn round to either side. This latter movement is effected solely by the aid of the pectoral fins; the tail being collapsed, and not used. From the body being buoyed up with so much air, the branchial openings were out of water; but a stream drawn in by the mouth, constantly flowed through them.

The fish, having remained in this distended state for a

[page] 14 BAHIA-BRAZIL. Feb. 1832.

short time, generally expelled the air and water with considerable force from the branchial apertures and mouth. It could emit, at will, a certain portion of the water; and it appears, therefore, probable, that this fluid is taken in partly for the sake of regulating its specific gravity. This diodon possessed several means of defence. It could give a severe bite, and could eject water from its mouth to some distance, at the same time it made a curious noise by the movement of its jaws. By the inflation of its body, the papillæ, with which the skin is covered, became erect and pointed. But the most curious circumstance was, that it emitted from the skin of its belly, when handled, a most beautiful carmine red and fibrous secretion, which stained ivory and paper in so permanent a manner, that the tint is retained with all its brightness to the present day. I am quite ignorant of the nature and use of this secretion.

MARCH 18TH.—We sailed from Bahia. A few days afterwards, when not far distant from the Abrolhos islets, my attention was called to a discoloured appearance in the sea. The whole surface of the water, as it appeared under a weak lens, seemed as if covered by chopped bits of hay, with their ends jagged. One of the larger particles measured .03 of an inch in length, and .009 in breadth. Examined more carefully, each is seen to consist of from twenty to sixty cylindrical filaments, which have perfectly rounded extremities, and are divided at regular intervals by transverse septa, containing a brownish-green flocculent matter. The filaments must be enveloped in some viscid fluid, for the bundles adhered together without actual contact. I do not know to what family these bodies properly belong, but they have a close general resemblance in structure with the confervæ which grow in every ditch. These simple vegetables, thus constituted for floating in the open ocean, must in certain places exist in countless numbers. The ship passed through several bands of them, one of which was about ten yards wide, and, judging from the mud-like colour of the

[page] 15 Mar. 1832. PELAGIC CONFERVÆ.

water, at least two and a half miles long. In almost every long voyage some account is given of these confervæ. They appear especially common in the sea near Australia. Off Cape Leeuwin, I found some very similar to those above described; they differed chiefly in the bundles being rather smaller, and being composed of fewer filaments. Captain Cook, in his third voyage, remarks, that the sailors gave to this appearance the name of sea-sawdust.

I may here mention that during two days preceding our arrival at the Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean, I saw in many parts masses of flocculent matter, of a brownish-green colour, floating in the sea. They varied in size, from half to to three or four inches square; and were quite irregular in figure. In an opake vessel they could barely be distinguished, but in a glass one they were clearly visible. Under the microscope the flocculent matter was seen to consist of two kinds of confervæ, between which I am quite ignorant whether there exists any connexion. Minute cylindrical bodies, conical at each extremity, are involved in vast numbers, in a mass of fine threads. These threads have a diameter of about 2/3000 of an inch; they possess an internal lining, and are divided at irregular and very wide intervals by transverse septa. Their length is so great, that I could never with certainty ascertain the form of the uninjured extremity; they are all curvilinear, and resemble in mass a handful of hair, coiled up and squeezed together. In the midst of these threads, and probably connected by some viscid fluid, the other kind, or the cylindrical transparent bodies, float in great numbers. These have their two extremities terminated by cones, produced into the finest points: their diameter is tolerably constant between .006 and .008 of an inch; but their length varies considerably from .04 to .06, and even sometimes to .08. Near one extremity of the cylindrical part, a green septum, formed of granular matter, and thickest in the middle, may generally be seen. This, I believe, is the bottom of a most delicate, colourless sack, composed of a pulpy substance, which lines the exterior case, but does

[page] 16 ATLANTIC OCEAN. Mar. 1832.

not extend within the extreme conical points. In some, small but perfect spheres of brownish granular matter supplied the place of the septa; and I observed the curious process by which they were produced. The pulpy matter of the internal coating suddenly grouped itself into lines, some of which assumed a form radiating from a common centre; it then continued, with an irregular and rapid movement, to contract itself, so that, in the course of a second, the whole was united into a perfect little sphere, which occupied the position of the septum at one end of the now quite hollow case. The appearance was as if an elastic membrane, for instance a thin Indian-rubber ball, had been distended with air, and then burst, in which case the edges would instantly shrink up and contract towards a point. The formation of the granular sphere was hastened by any accidental injury. I may add, that frequently a pair of these bodies were attached to each other, as represented in the accompanying rude drawing, cone beside cone, at that end where the septum occurs. When floating uninjured in the sea, the formation of the spherical gemmules perhaps only takes place, when two of the plants (or rather animals, according to Bory St. Vincent) thus become attached, and married to each other. Nevertheless, I certainly witnessed this curious process in several individuals, when separate, and where there was no apparent cause of disturbance. In any case it does not seem probable, from the fixed structure of the septum, that the whole of the granular matter is transferred from one to the other body, as with the true Conjugatæ.

I will here add a few other observations connected with the discoloration of the sea from organic causes. On the coast of Chile, a few leagues north of Concepcion, the Beagle one day passed through great bands of muddy water; and

[page] 17 Mar. 1832. PELAGIC ANIMALCULA.

again, a degree south of Valparaiso, the same appearance was still more extensive. Although we were nearly fifty miles from the coast, I at first attributed this circumstance to real streams of muddy water brought down by the river Maypo. Mr. Sulivan, however, having drawn up some in a glass, thought he distinguished, by the aid of a lens, moving points. The water was slightly stained as if by red dust; and after leaving it for some time quiet, a cloud collected at the bottom. With a lens, of one-fourth of an inch focal distance, small hyaline points could be seen darting about with great rapidity, and frequently exploding. Examined with a much higher power, their shape was found to be oval, and contracted by a ring round the middle, from which line curved little setæ proceeded on all sides; and these were the organs of motion. One end of the body was narrower and more pointed than the other. According to the arrangement of Bory St. Vincent, they are animalcula, belonging to the family of Trichodes: it was, however, very difficult to examine them with care, for almost the instant motion ceased, even while crossing the field of vision, their bodies burst. Sometimes both ends burst at once, sometimes only one, and a quantity of coarse brownish granular matter was ejected, which cohered very slightly. The ring with the setæ sometimes retained its irritability for a little while after the contents of the body had been emptied, and continued a riggling, uneven motion. The animal an instant before bursting expanded to half again its natural size; and the explosion took place about fifteen seconds after the rapid progressive motion had ceased: in a few cases it was preceded for a short interval by a rotatory movement on the longer axis. About two minutes after any number were isolated in a drop of water, they thus perished. The animals move with the narrow apex forwards, by the aid of their vibratory ciliæ, and generally by rapid starts. They are exceedingly minute, and quite invisible to the naked eye, only covering a space equal to the square of the thousandth of an inch. Their numbers were infinite; for the smallest


[page] 18 DISCOLOURED SEA. Mar. 1832.

drop of water which I could remove contained very many. In one day we passed through two spaces of water thus stained, one of which alone must have extended over several square miles. What incalculable numbers of these microscopical animals! The colour of the water, as seen at some distance, was like that of a river which has flowed through a red clay district; but under the shade of the vessel's side, it was quite as dark as chocolate. The line where the red and blue water joined was distinctly defined. The weather for some days previously had been calm, and the ocean abounded, to an unusual degree, with living creatures. In Ulloa's voyage an account is given of crossing, in nearly the same latitude, some discoloured water, which was mistaken for a shoal: no soundings were obtained, and I have no doubt, from the description, that this little animalcule was the cause of the alarm.*

In the sea around Tierra del Fuego, and at no great distance from the land, I have seen narrow lines of water of a bright red colour, from the number of crustacea, which somewhat resemble in form large prawns. The sealers call them whale-food. Whether whales feed on them I do not know; but terns, cormorants, and immense herds of great unwieldly seals, on some parts of the coast, derive their chief sustenance from these swimming crabs. Seamen invariably attribute the discoloration of the water to spawn; but I found this to be the case only on one occasion. At the distance of several leagues from the Archipelago of the Galapagos, the ship sailed through three strips of a dark yel-

* M. Lesson (Voyage de la Coquille, vol. i., p. 255) mentions red water off Lima, apparently produced by the same cause. Peron, the distinguished naturalist, in the "Voyage Aux Terres Australes," gives no less than twelve references to voyagers who have alluded to the discoloured waters of the sea (vol. ii., p. 239). It was his intention to have written an essay on the subject. To the references given by Peron may be added, Humboldt's Pers. Narr., vol. vi., p. 804; Flinder's Voyage, vol. i., p. 92; Labillardiere, vol. i., p. 287; Ulloa's Voyage; Voyage of the Astrolabe and of the Coquille; Captain King's Survey of Australia, &c.

[page] 19 Mar. 1832. DISCOLOURED SEA.

lowish, or mud-like, water; these strips were some miles long, but only a few yards wide, and they were separated from the surrounding surface by a sinuous yet distinct margin. The colour was caused by little gelatinous balls, about the fifth of an inch in diameter, in which numerous minute spherical ovules were embedded: they were of two distinct kinds, one being of a reddish colour and of a different shape from the other. I cannot form a conjecture as to what two kinds of animals these belonged. Captain Colnett remarks, that this appearance is very common among the Galapagos Islands, and that the direction of the bands indicates that of the currents; in the described case, however, the line was caused by the wind. The only other appearance which I have to notice, is a thin oily coat on the surface which displays iridescent colours. I saw a considerable tract of the ocean thus covered on the coast of Brazil; the seamen attributed it to the putrefying carcass of some whale, which probably was floating at no great distance. I do not here mention the minute gelatinous particles which are frequently dispersed throughout the water, for they are not sufficiently abundant to create any change of colour.

There are two circumstances in the above accounts which appear very remarkable: first, how do the various bodies which form the bands with defined edges keep together? In the case of the prawn-like crabs, their movements were as coinstantaneous as in a regiment of soldiers; but this cannot happen from any thing like voluntary action with the ovules, or the confervæ, nor is it probable among the infusoria. Secondly, what causes the length and narrowness of the bands? The appearance so much resembles that which may be seen in every torrent, where the stream uncoils into long streaks, the froth collected in the eddies, that I must attribute the effect to a similar action either of the currents of the air, or sea. Under this supposition we must believe that the various organized bodies are produced in certain favourable places, and are thence removed by the set of either wind or water. I confess,

C 2

[page] 20 DISCOLOURED SEA. Mar. 1832.

however, there is a very great difficulty in imagining any one spot to be the birthplace of the millions of millions of animalcula and confervæ: for whence come the germs at such points?—the parent bodies having been distributed by the winds and waves over the immense ocean. But on no other hypothesis can I understand their linear grouping. I may add that Scoresby remarks, that green water abounding with pelagic animals, is invariably found in a certain part of the Arctic Sea.

[page] 21


Rio de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great evaporation — Slavery — Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial Planariæ — Clouds on Corcovado — Heavy rain — Musical Hyla — Lampyris and its larvæ — Elater, springing powers — Blue haze — Noise of butterfly — Entomology — Ants — Wasp-killing spider — Parasitical spider — Artifices of Epeira — Gregarious spider — Spider with imperfect web.


APRIL 4TH TO JULY 5TH, 1832.—A few days after our arrival I became acquainted with an Englishman who was going to visit his estate situated, rather more than a hundred miles from the capital, to the northward of Cape Frio. As I was quite unused to travelling, I gladly accepted his kind offer of allowing me to accompany him.

APRIL 8TH.—Our party amounted to seven. The first stage was very interesting. The day was powerfully hot, and as we passed through the woods, every thing was motionless, excepting the large and brilliant butterflies, which lazily fluttered about. The view seen when crossing the hills behind Praia Grande was most beautiful; the colours were intense, and the prevailing tint a dark blue; the sky and the calm waters of the bay vied with each other in splendour. After passing through some cultivated country, we entered a forest, which in the grandeur of all its parts could not be exceeded. We arrived by midday at Ithacaia; this small village is situated on a plain, and round the central house are the huts of the negroes. These, from their regular form and position, reminded me of the drawings of the Hottentot habitations in Southern Africa. As the moon rose early, we determined to start the same evening for our sleeping-place at the Lagoa Marica. As it was growing

[page] 22 RIO DE JANEIRO. April, 1832.

dark we passed under one of the massive, bare, and steep hills of granite which are so common in this country. This spot is notorious from having been, for a long time, the residence of some runaway slaves, who, by cultivating a little ground near the top, contrived to eke out a subsistence. At length they were discovered, and a party of soldiers being sent, the whole were seized with the exception of one old woman, who sooner than again be led into slavery, dashed herself to pieces from the summit of the mountain. In a Roman matron this would have been called the noble love of freedom: in a poor negress it is mere brutal obstinacy. We continued riding for some hours. For the few last miles the road was intricate, and it passed through a desert waste of marshes and lagoons. The scene by the dimmed light of the moon was most desolate. A few fireflies flitted by us; and the solitary snipe, as it rose, uttered its plaintive cry. The distant and sullen roar of the sea scarcely broke the stillness of the night.

APRIL 9TH.—We left our miserable sleeping-place before sunrise. The road passed through a narrow sandy plain, lying between the sea and the interior salt lagoons. The number of beautiful fishing birds, such as egrets and cranes, and the succulent plants assuming most fantastical forms, gave to the scene an interest which it would not otherwise have possessed. The few stunted trees were loaded with parasitical plants, among which the beauty and delicious fragrance of some of the orchideæ were most to be admired. As the sun rose, the day became extremely hot, and the reflection of the light and heat from the white sand was very distressing. We dined at Mandetiba; the thermometer in the shade being 84°. The beautiful view of the distant wooded hills, reflected in the perfectly calm water of an extensive lagoon, quite refreshed us. As the vênda* here was a very good one, and I have the pleasant, but rare remembrance, of an excellent dinner, I will be grateful and presently describe

* Vênda, the Portuguese name for an inn.

[page] 23 April, 1832. RIO DE JANEIRO.

it, as the type of its class. These houses are often large, and are built of thick upright posts, with boughs interwoven, and afterwards plastered. They seldom have floors, and never glazed windows; but are generally pretty well roofed. Universally the front part is open, forming a kind of verandah, in which tables and benches are placed. The bed-rooms join on each side, and here the passenger may sleep as comfortably as he can, on a wooden platform, covered by a thin straw mat. The vênda stands in a courtyard, where the horses are fed. On first arriving, it was our custom to unsaddle the horses and give them their Indian corn; then, with a low bow, to ask the senhôr to do us the favour to give us something to eat. "Any thing you choose, sir," was his usual answer. For the few first times, vainly I thanked Providence for having guided us to so good a man. The conversation proceeding, the case universally became deplorable. "Any fish can you do us the favour of giving?"—"Oh! no, sir."—"Any soup?"— "No, sir."—"Any bread ?"—"Oh ! no, sir."—"Any dried meat?"—"Oh! no, sir." If we were lucky, by waiting a couple of hours, we obtained fowls, rice, and farinha. It not unfrequently happened, that we were obliged to kill, with stones, the poultry for our own supper. When thoroughly exhausted by fatigue and hunger, we timorously hinted that we should be glad of our meal, the pompous, and (though true) most unsatisfactory answer was, "It will be ready when it is ready." If we had dared to remonstrate any further, we should have been told to proceed on our journey, as being too impertinent. The hosts are most ungracious and disagreeable in their manners; their houses and their persons are often filthily dirty; the want of the accommodation of forks, knives, and spoons is common; and I am sure no cottage or hovel in England could be found in a state so utterly destitute of every comfort. At Campos Novos, however, we fared sumptuously; having rice and fowls, biscuit, wine, and spirits, for dinner; coffee in the evening, and fish with coffee for breakfast. All this, with good food for the

[page] 24 RIO DE JANEIRO. April, 1832.

horses, only cost 2s. 6d. per head. Yet the host of this vênda, being asked if he knew any thing of a whip which one of the party had lost, gruffly answered, "How should I know? why did you not take care of it?—I suppose the dogs have eat it."

Leaving Mandetiba, we continued to pass through an intricate wilderness of lakes; in some of which were fresh, in others salt water shells. Of the former kind I found a Limnæa in great numbers in a lake, into which, the inhabitants assured me, the sea annually, and sometimes oftener, entered, and made the water quite salt. I have no doubt many interesting facts, in relation to marine and fresh water animals, might be observed in this chain of lagoons, which skirt the coast of Brazil. M. Gay* has stated that he found in the neighbourhood of Rio, shells of the marine genera solen and mytilus, and fresh water ampullariæ, living together in brackish water. I also frequently observed in the lagoon near the Botanic Garden, where the water is only a little less salt than in the sea, a species of hydrophilus, very similar to a species common in the ditches of England: in the same lake the only shell belonged to a genus generally found in estuaries.

Leaving the coast for a time, we again entered the forest. The trees were very lofty, and remarkable, compared to those of Europe, from the whiteness of their trunks. I see by my note-book, "wonderful and beautiful, flowering parasites," invariably struck me as the most novel object in these grand scenes. Travelling onwards we passed through tracts of pasturage, much injured by the enormous conical ants' nests, which were nearly twelve feet high. They gave to the plain exactly the appearance of the mud volcanoes at Jorullo, as figured by Humboldt. We arrived at Engenhodo after it was dark, having been ten hours on horseback. I never ceased, during the whole journey, to be surprised at the amount of labour which the horses were capable of enduring;

* Annales des Sciences Naturelles for 1833.

[page] 25 April, 1832. VAMPIRE BAT.

they appeared also to recover from any injury much sooner than those of our English breed. The Vampire bat is often the cause of much trouble, by biting the horses on their withers. The injury is generally not so much owing to the loss of blood, as to the inflammation which the pressure of the saddle afterwards produces. The whole circumstance has lately been doubted in England; I was therefore fortunate in being present when one* was actually caught on a horse's back. We were bivouacking late one evening near Coquimbo, in Chile, when my servant, noticing that one of the horses was very restive, went to see what was the matter, and fancying he could distinguish something, suddenly put his hand on the beast's withers, and secured the vampire. In the morning, the spot, where the bite had been inflicted, was easily distinguished from being slightly swollen and bloody. The third day afterwards we rode the horse, without any ill effects.

APRIL 13TH.—After three days' travelling we arrived at Socêgo, the estate of Senhôr Manuel Figuireda, a relation of one of our party. The house was simple, and, though like a barn in form, was well suited to the climate. In the sitting-room gilded chairs and sofas were oddly contrasted with the whitewashed walls, thatched roof, and windows without glass. The house, together with the granaries, the stables, and workshops for the blacks, who had been taught various trades, formed a rude kind of quadrangle; in the centre of which a large pile of coffee was drying. These buildings stand on a little hill, overlooking the cultivated ground, and surrounded on every side by a wall of dark green luxuriant forest. The chief produce of this part of the country is coffee. Each tree is supposed to yield annually, on an average, two pounds; but some give as much as eight. Mandioca or cassada is likewise cultivated in great quantity. Every part of this plant is useful: the leaves and stalks are

* This bat belongs to the genus Edostoma of D'Orbigny, but is a new species.

[page] 26 RIO DE JANEIRO. April, 1832.

eaten by the horses, and the roots are ground into a pulp, which, when pressed dry and baked, forms the farinha, the principal article of sustenance in the Brazils. It is a curious, though well-known fact, that the expressed juice of this most nutritious plant is highly poisonous. A few years ago a cow died at this Fazênda, in consequence of having drunk some of it. Senhôr Figuireda told me that he had planted, the year before, one bag of feijaô or beans, and three of rice; the former of which produced eighty, and the latter three hundred and twenty fold. The pasturage supports a fine stock of cattle, and the woods are so full of game, that a deer had been killed on each of the three previous days. This profusion of food showed itself at dinner, where, if the tables did not groan, the guests surely did: for each person is expected to eat of every dish. One day, having, as I thought, nicely calculated so that nothing should go away untasted, to my utter dismay a roast turkey and a pig appeared in all their substantial reality. During the meals, it was the employment of a man to drive out of the room sundry old hounds, and dozens of little black children, which crawled in together, at every opportunity. As long as the idea of slavery could be banished, there was something exceedingly fascinating in this simple and patriarchal style of living: it was such a perfect retirement and independence of the rest of the world. As soon as any stranger is seen arriving, a large bell is set tolling, and generally some small cannon are fired. The event is thus announced to the rocks and woods, but to nothing else. One morning I walked out an hour before daylight to admire the solemn stillness of the scene; at last, the silence was broken by the morning hymn, raised on high by the whole body of the blacks; and in this manner, their daily work is generally begun. On such fazendas as these, I have no doubt the slaves pass happy and contented lives. On Saturday and Sunday they work for themselves, and in this fertile climate the labour of two days is sufficient to support a man and his family for the whole week.

[page] 27 April, 1832. RIO DE JANEIRO.

APRIL 14TH.—Leaving Socêgo, we rode to another estate on the Rio Macâe, which was the last patch of cultivated ground in that direction. The estate was two and a half miles long, and the owner had forgotten how many broad. Only a very small piece had been cleared, yet almost every acre was capable of yielding all the various rich productions of a tropical land. Considering the enormous area of Brazil, the proportion of cultivated ground can scarcely be considered as any thing, compared to that which is left in the state of nature: at some future age, how vast a population it will support! During the second day's journey we found the road so shut up, that it was necessary that a man should go ahead with a sword to cut away the creepers. The forest abounded with beautiful objects; among which the tree ferns, though not large, were, from their bright green foliage, and the elegant curvature of their fronds, most worthy of admiration. In the evening it rained very heavily, and although the thermometer stood at 65°, I felt very cold. As soon as the rain ceased, it was curious to observe the extraordinary evaporation which commenced over the whole extent of the forest. At the height of a hundred feet the hills were buried in a dense white vapour, which rose like columns of smoke from the most thickly-wooded parts, and especially from the valleys. I observed this phenomenon on several occasions: I suppose it is owing to the large surface of foliage, previously heated by the sun's rays.

While staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an eyewitness to one of those atrocious acts, which can only take place in a slave country. Owing to a quarrel and a lawsuit, the owner was on the point of taking all the women and children from the men, and selling them separately at the public auction at Rio. Interest, and not any feeling of compassion, prevented this act. Indeed, I do not believe the inhumanity of separating thirty families, who had lived together for many years, even occurred to the person. Yet I will pledge myself, that in humanity and good feeling, he

[page] 28 RIO DE JANEIRO. April, 1832.

was superior to the common run of men. It may be said there exists no limit to the blindness of interest and selfish habit. I may mention one very trifling anecdote, which at the time struck me more forcibly than any story of cruelty. I was crossing a ferry with a negro, who was uncommonly stupid. In endeavouring to make him understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing which I passed my hand near his face. He, I suppose, thought I was in a passion, and was going to strike him ; for instantly, with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, he dropped his hands. I shall never forget my feelings of surprise, disgust, and shame, at seeing a great powerful man afraid even to ward off a blow, directed, as he thought, at his face. This man had been trained to a degradation lower than the slavery of the most helpless animal.

APRIL 18TH.—In returning we spent two days at Socêgo, and I employed them in collecting insects in the forest. The greater number of trees, although so lofty, are not more than three or four feet in circumference. There are, of course, a few of much greater dimension. Senhor Manuel, was then making a canoe seventy feet in length from a solid trunk, which had originally been 110 feet long, and of great thickness. The contrast of palm-trees, growing amidst the common branching kinds, never fails to give the scene an intertropical character. Here the woods were ornamented by the Cabbage Palm—one of the most beautiful of its family. With a stem so narrow that it might be clasped with the two hands, it waves its elegant head at the height of forty or fifty feet above the ground. The woody creepers, themselves covered by other creepers, were of great thickness: some which I measured were two feet in circumference. Many of the older trees presented a very curious appearance from the tresses of a liana depending from their boughs, and resembling bundles of hay. If the eye was turned from the world of foliage above, to the ground beneath, it was attracted by the extreme elegance of the leaves of the ferns

[page] 29 April, 1832. RIO DE JANEIRO.

and mimosæ. The latter, in some parts, covered the surface with a brushwood only a few inches high. In walking across these thick beds, a broad track was marked by the change of shade, produced by the drooping of their sensitive petioles. It is easy to specify the individual objects of admiration in these grand scenes; but it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind.

APRIL 19TH.—Leaving Socêgo, during the two first days, we retraced our steps. It was very wearisome work, as the road generally ran across a glaring hot sandy plain, not far from the coast. I noticed that each time the horse put its foot on the fine siliceous sand, a gentle chirping noise was produced. On the third day we took a different line, and passed through the gay little village of Madre de Deos. This is one of the principal lines of road in Brazil; yet it was in so bad a state, that no wheel vehicle, excepting the clumsy bullock-waggon, could pass along. In our whole journey we did not cross a single bridge built of stone; and those made of logs of wood were frequently so much out of repair, that it was necessary to go on one side to avoid them. All distances are inaccurately known. The road is often marked by crosses, in the place of milestones, to signify where human blood has been spilled. On the evening of the 23d we arrived at Rio, having finished our pleasant little excursion.

During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in a cottage at Botofogo Bay. It was impossible to wish for any thing more delightful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country. In England any person fond of natural history enjoys in his walks a great advantage, by always having something to attract his attention; but in these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attractions are so numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all.

The few observations which I was enabled to make were almost exclusively confined to the invertebrate animals. The

[page] 30 RIO DE JANEIRO. May-June, 1832.

existence of a division of the genus Planaria, which inhabits the dry land, interested me much. These animals are of so simple a structure, that Cuvier has arranged them with the intestinal worms, though never found within the bodies of other animals. Numerous species inhabit both salt and fresh water; but those to which I allude were found beneath logs of rotten wood, even in the drier parts of the forest. In general form they resemble little slugs, but are very much narrower in proportion. I met with one specimen no less than five inches long. The lower surface, by which they crawl, is flat, the upper being convex: in this latter respect the terrestrial species all differ from the depressed forms of the aquatic. Their structure is very simple. Near the middle of the under surface, there are two small transverse slits, from the anterior one of which a funnel-shaped organ, or cup, can be protruded. This seems to act as the mouth. It is soft, highly irritable, and capable of various movements; when drawn within the body it is generally folded up like the bud of a plant. From the central position of the orifice, the animal has its mouth in the middle of what would commonly be called its stomach! For some time after the rest of the animal has become dead from the effects of salt water, or other cause, this organ still retains its vitality. The body is soft and parenchymatous; in the central part a transparent space, with lateral ramifications, appears to act as a system of circulation. Minute, black, eye-like specks are scattered round the margin of the crawling surface, and more abundantly close to the anterior extremity, which is constantly used as a feeler. In a marine species, I extracted from the central parts of the body vast numbers of little spherical eggs; they were .006 of an inch in diameter, and contained a central opake mass or yolk.

The terrestrial Planariæ, of which I have found no less than eight species, occur from within the tropic to lat. 47° south, and are common to South America, New Zealand, Van Diemen's Land, and Mauritius. Some of the species

[page] 31 May-June, 1832. TERRESTRIAL PLANARIÆ.

are longitudinally striped with several bands of gay colours. At first sight there is a remarkable false analogy between these animals and snails, although so widely separated from each other in all essential points of organization. I suppose these Planariæ feed on rotten wood, for they are always found crawling on the under surface of old decayed trees; and some small specimens being kept with no other food, rapidly increased in size. Although gaily-coloured little animals, they dislike, and are very sensitive to the light. Some specimens which I obtained at Van Diemen's Land, I kept alive for nearly two months. Having cut one of them transversely into two nearly equal parts, in the course of a fortnight both had the shape of perfect animals. I had, however, so divided the body, that one of the halves contained both the inferior orifices, and the other, in consequence, none. In the course of twenty-five days from the operation, the more perfect half could not have been distinguished from any other specimen. The other had increased much in size; and towards its posterior end, a clear space was formed in the parenchymatous mass, in which a rudimentary cup-shaped organ could clearly be distinguished; on the under surface, however, no corresponding slit was yet open. If the increased heat of the weather, as we approached the equator, had not destroyed all the individuals, there can be no doubt that this last step would have completed its structure. Although so well-known an experiment, it was interesting to watch the gradual production of every essential organ, out of the simple extremity of another animal. It is extremely difficult to preserve these Planariæ; immediately the cessation of life allows the ordinary laws of change to act, their entire bodies become soft and fluid, with a rapidity which I have never seen equalled. A method of preservation that I found answered pretty well, was to dry the whole animal rapidly on a thin plate of mica, for the body thus becomes transparent, and allows the internal structure to be seen.

I first visited the forest in which these Planariæ were

[page] 32 RIO DE JANEIRO. May-June, 1832.

found, in company with an old Portuguese priest who took me out to hunt with him. The sport consisted in turning into the cover a few dogs, and then patiently waiting to fire at any animal which might appear. We were accompanied by the son of a neighbouring farmer—a good specimen of a wild Brazilian youth. He was dressed in a tattered old shirt and trousers, and had his head uncovered: he carried an old-fashioned gun and a large knife. The habit of carrying the knife is universal; and in traversing a thick wood it is almost necessary, on account of the creeping plants. The frequent occurrence of murder may be partly attributed to this habit. The Brazilians are so dexterous with the knife, that they can throw it to some distance with precision, and with sufficient force to cause a fatal wound. I have seen a number of little boys practising this art as a game of play, and from their skill in hitting an upright stick, they promised well for more earnest attempts. My companion, the day before, had shot two large bearded monkeys. These animals have prehensile tails, the extremity of which, even after death, can support the whole weight of the body. One of them thus remained fast to a branch, and it was necessary to cut down a large tree to procure it. This was soon effected, and down came tree and monkey with an awful crash. Our day's sport, besides the monkey, was confined to sundry small green parrots and a few toucans. I profited, however, by my acquaintance with the Portuguese padre, for on another occasion he gave me a fine specimen of the Yaguarundi cat.

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Botofogo. The house in which I lived was seated close beneath the well-known mountain of the Corcovado. It has been remarked, with much truth, that abruptly conical hills are characteristic of the formation which Humboldt designates as gneiss-granite. Nothing can be more striking than the effect of these huge rounded masses of naked rock rising out of the most luxuriant vegetation.

I was often interested by watching the clouds, which,

[page] 33 May-June, 1832. RIO DE JANEIRO.

rolling in from seaward, formed a bank just beneath the highest point of the Corcovado. This mountain, like most others, when thus partly veiled, appeared to rise to a far prouder elevation than its real height of 2300 feet. Mr. Daniell has observed, in his meteorological essays, that a cloud sometimes appears fixed on a mountain summit, while the wind continues to blow over it. The same phenomenon here presented a slightly different appearance. In this case the cloud was clearly seen to curl over, and rapidly pass by the summit, and yet was neither diminished nor increased in size. The sun was setting, and a gentle southerly breeze, striking against the southern side of the rock, mingled its current with the colder air above; and the vapour was thus condensed: but as the light wreaths of cloud passed over the ridge, and came within the influence of the warmer atmosphere of the northern sloping bank, they were immediately redissolved.

The climate, during the months of May and June, or the beginning of winter, was delightful. The mean temperature, from observations taken at nine o'clock, both morning and evening, was only 72°. It often rained heavily, but the drying southerly winds soon again rendered the walks pleasant. One morning, in the course of six hours, 1.6 inches of rain fell. As this storm passed over the forests, which surround the Corcovado, the sound produced by the drops pattering on the countless multitude of leaves, was very remarkable; it could be heard at the distance of a quarter of a mile, and was like the rushing of a great body of water. After the hotter days, it was delicious to sit quietly in the garden and watch the evening pass into night. Nature, in these climes, chooses her vocalists from more humble performers than in Europe. A small frog, of the genus Hyla,* sits on a blade of glass about an inch above the surface of the

* I had some difficulty in catching a specimen of this frog. The genus Hyla has its toes terminated by small suckers; and I found this animal could crawl up a pane of glass, when placed absolutely perpendicular.


[page] 34 RIO DE JANEIRO. May-June, 1832.

water, and sends forth a pleasing chirp. When several were together they sung in harmony on different notes. Various cicadæ and crickets, at the same time, kept up a ceaseless shrill cry, but which, softened by the distance, was not unpleasant. Every evening after dark this great concert commenced; and often have I sat listening to it, until my attention has been drawn away by some curious passing insect.

At these times the fireflies are seen* flitting about from hedge to hedge. All that I caught belonged to the family of Lampyridæ, or glowworms, and the greater number were Lampyris occidentalis. I found that this insect emitted the most brilliant flashes when irritated: in the intervals the abdominal rings were obscured. The flash was almost co-instantaneous in the two rings, but it was first just perceptible in the anterior one. The shining matter was fluid and very adhesive: little spots, where the skin had been torn, continued bright with a slight scintillation, whilst the uninjured parts were obscured. When the insect was decapitated the rings remained uninterruptedly bright, but not so brilliant as before: local irritation with a needle always increased the vividness of the light. The rings in one instance retained their luminous property nearly twenty-four hours after the death of the insect. From these facts it would appear probable, that the animal has only the power of concealing or extinguishing the light for short intervals, and that at other times the display is involuntary. On the muddy and wet gravel-walks I found the larvæ of this lampyris in great numbers: they resembled in general form the female of the English glowworm. These larvæ possessed but feeble luminous powers; very differently from their parents, on the slightest touch they feigned death, and ceased to shine; nor did irritation excite any fresh display. I kept several of them alive for

* On a dark night the light could be seen at about two hundred paces distant. It is remarkable that in all the glowworms, shining elaters, and various marine animals, which I have observed (such as the crustacea, medusæ, nereidæ, a coralline of the genus Clytia, and Pyrosoma), the light has been of a well-marked green colour.

[page] 35 May-June, 1832. GLOWWORMS.

some time: their tails are very singular organs, for they act, by a well-fitted contrivance, as suckers, or organs of attachment, and likewise as reservoirs for saliva, or some such fluid. I repeatedly fed them on raw meat; and I invariably observed, that every now and then the extremity of the tail was applied to the mouth, and a drop of fluid exuded on the meat, which was then in the act of being consumed. The tail, notwithstanding so much practice, does not seem to be able to find its way to the mouth; at least the neck was always touched first, and apparently as a guide.

When we were at Bahia, an elater (Pyrophorus luminosus, Illig.) seemed the most common luminous insect. The light in this case was also rendered more brilliant by irritation. I amused myself one day by observing the springing powers of this insect, which have not,* as it appears to me, been properly described. The elater, when placed on its back and preparing to spring, moved its head and thorax backwards, so that the pectoral spine was drawn out, and rested on the edge of its sheath. The same backward movement being continued, the spine, by the full action of the muscles, was bent like a spring; and the insect at this moment rested on the extremity of its head and elytra. The effort being suddenly relaxed, the head and thorax flew up, and, in consequence, the base of the elytra struck the supporting surface with such force, that the insect by the reaction was jerked upwards to the height of one or two inches. The projecting points of the thorax, and the sheath of the spine, served to steady the whole body during the spring. In the descriptions which I have read, sufficient stress does not appear to have been laid on the elasticity of the spine: so sudden a spring could not be the result of simple muscular contraction, without the aid of some mechanical contrivance.

On several occasions I enjoyed some short but most pleasant excursions in the neighbouring country. One day

* Kirby's Entomology, vol. ii., p. 317.

D 2

[page] 36 RIO DE JANEIRO. May-June, 1832.

I went to the Botanic Garden, where many plants, well known for their great utility, might be seen growing. The leaves of the camphor, pepper, cinnamon, and clove trees were delightfully aromatick; and the bread fruit, the jack, and the mango, vied with each other in the magnificence of their foliage. The landscape in the neighbourhood of Bahia almost takes its character from the two latter trees. Before seeing them, I had no idea that any trees could cast so black a shade on the ground. Both of them bear to the ever green vegetation of these climates, the same kind of relation which laurels and hollies in England do to the lighter green of the deciduous trees. It may be observed, that the houses within the tropics are surrounded by the most beautiful forms of vegetation, because many of them are at the same time most useful to man. Who can doubt that these qualities are united in the banana, the cocoa-nut, the many kinds of palm, the orange, and the bread-fruit tree?

During this day I was particularly struck with a remark of Humboldt's, who often alludes to "the thin vapour which, without changing the transparency of the air, renders its tints more harmonious, softens its effects," &c. This is an appearance which I have never observed in the temperate zones. The atmosphere, seen through a short space of half or three-quarters of a mile, was perfectly lucid, but at a greater distance all colours were blended into a most beautiful haze, of a pale French gray, mingled with a little blue. The condition of the atmosphere between the morning and about noon, when the effect was most evident, had undergone little change, excepting in its dryness. In the interval, the difference between the dew point and temperature had increased from 7°.5 to 17°.

On another occasion I started early and walked to the Gavia, or topsail mountain. The air was delightfully cool and fragrant; and the drops of dew still glittered on the leaves of the large liliaceous plants, which shaded the streamlets of clear water. Sitting down on a block of granite, it was delightful to watch the various insects and birds as they

[page] 37 May-June, 1832. RIO DE JANEIRO.

flew past. The humming-birds seem particularly fond of such shady retired spots. Whenever I saw these little creatures buzzing round a flower, with their wings vibrating so rapidly as to be scarcely visible, I was reminded of the sphinx moths: their movements and habits are indeed, in many respects, very similar.

Following a pathway I entered a noble forest, and from a height of five or six hundred feet, one of those splendid views was presented, which are so common on every side of Rio. At this elevation the landscape has attained its most brilliant tint; and every form, every shade, so completely surpasses in magnificence all that the European has ever beheld in his own country, that he knows not how to express his feelings. The general effect frequently recalled to my mind the gayest scenery of the Opera-house or the great theatres. I never returned from these excursions empty-handed. This day I found a specimen of a curious fungus, called Hymenophallus. Most people know the English Phallus, which in autumn taints the air with its odious smell: this, however, as the entomologist is aware, is to some of our beetles a delightful fragrance. So was it here; for a Strongylus, attracted by the odour, alighted on the fungus as I carried it in my hand. We here see in two distant countries a similar relation between plants and insects of the same families, though the species of both are different. When man is the agent in introducing into a country a new species, this relation is often broken: as one instance of this I may mention, that the leaves of the cabbages and lettuces, which in England afford food to such a multitude of slugs and caterpillars, in the gardens near Rio are untouched.

During our stay in Brazil I made a large collection of insects. A few general observations on the comparative importance of the different orders, may be interesting to the English entomologist. The large and brilliantly-coloured Lepidoptera bespeak the zone they inhabit, far more plainly than any other race of animals. I allude only to the butterflies; for the moths, contrary to what might have been expected from the rankness of the vegetation, certainly appeared in much

[page] 38 RIO DE JANEIRO. May-June, 1832.

fewer numbers than in our own temperate regions. I was much surprised at the habits of Papilio feronia. This butterfly is not uncommon, and generally frequents the orange-groves. Although a high flier, yet it very frequently alights on the trunks of trees. On these occasions its head is invariably placed downwards; and its wings are expanded in a horizontal plane, instead of being folded vertically, as is commonly the case. This is the only butterfly which I have ever seen that uses its legs for running. Not being aware of this fact, the insect, more than once, as I cautiously approached with my forceps, shuffled on one side just as the instrument was on the point of closing, and thus escaped. But a far more singular fact, is the power which this species possesses of making a noise.* Several times when a pair, probably male and female, were chasing each other in an irregular course, they passed within a few yards of me; and I distinctly heard a clicking noise, similar to that produced by a toothed wheel passing under a spring catch.† The noise was continued at short intervals, and could be distinguished at about twenty yards distance. I cannot form a conjecture how it is produced; but I am certain there is no error in the observation.

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleoptera. The number of minute and obscurely-coloured beetles is exceedingly great.* The cabinets of Europe can, as yet, boast

* I find in Langsdorff's travels (in the years 1803-7, p. 74), it is said, that in the island of St. Catherine's, on the coast of Brazil, a butterfly called Februa Hoffmanseggi, makes a noise, when flying away, like a rattle.

† Mr. Waterhouse has had the kindness to examine this butterfly, but cannot discover any mechanism by which the noise is produced.

* I may mention, as a common instance of one day's (June 23d) collecting, when I was not attending particularly to the Coleoptera, that I caught sixty-eight species of that order. Among these, there were only two of the Carabidæ, four Brachelytra, fifteen Rhyncophora, and fourteen of the Chrysomelidæ. Thirty-seven species of Arachnidæ, which I brought home, will be sufficient to prove that I was not paying overmuch attention to the generally favoured order of Coleoptera.

[page] 39 May-June, 1832. ENTOMOLOGY.

only of the larger species from tropical climates. It is sufficient to disturb the composure of an entomologist's mind, to look forward to the future dimensions of a complete catalogue. The Carabidæ appear in extremely few numbers within the tropics. This is the more remarkable when compared to the opposed case of the carnivorous mammalia, an order which they certainly represent among insects. I was struck with this observation both on entering Brazil, and when I saw the elegant and active forms of the Harpalidæ reappearing on the temperate plains of La Plata. Do the very numerous Arachnidæ and rapacious Hymenoptera supply the place of these carnivorous beetles? The carrion-feeders and Brachelytra are very uncommon; on the other hand, the Rhyncophora and Chrysomelidæ, all of which depend on the vegetable world for subsistence, are present in astonishing numbers. I do not here refer to the number of different species, but to that of the individual insects ; for on this it is that the most striking character in the entomology of different countries depends. The orders Orthoptera and Hemiptera are particularly numerous; as likewise is the stinging division of the Hymenoptera; the bees, perhaps, being excepted. A person, on first entering a tropical forest, is astonished at the labours of the ants : well-beaten paths branch off in every direction, on which an army of never-failing foragers may be seen, some going forth, and others returning, burdened with pieces of green leaf, often larger than their own bodies.

A small dark-coloured species sometimes migrates in countless numbers. One day, at Bahia, my attention was drawn by observing many spiders, cockroaches, and other insects, and some lizards, rushing in the greatest agitation across a bare piece of ground. A little way behind, every stalk and leaf was blackened by a small ant. The swarm having crossed the bare space, divided itself, and descended an old wall. By this means many insects were fairly enclosed; and the efforts, which the poor little creatures made to extricate themselves from such a death, were wonderful.

[page] 40 RIO DE JANEIRO. May-June, 1832.

When the ants came to the road they changed their course, and in narrow files reascended the wall. Having placed a small stone, so as to intercept one of the lines, the whole body attacked it, and then immediately retired. Shortly afterwards another body came to the charge, and again having failed to make any impression, this line of march was entirely given up. By going an inch round, the file might have avoided the stone, and this doubtless would have happened, if it had been originally there: but having been attacked, the lion-hearted little warriors scorned the idea of yielding.

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of the verandahs clay cells for their larvæ, are very numerous in the neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full of dead and dying spiders and caterpillars. I was much interested one day by watching a deadly contest between a Pepsis and a large spider of the genus Lycosa. The wasp made a sudden dash at its prey, and then flew away: the spider was evidently wounded, for trying to escape, it rolled down a little slope, but had still strength sufficient to crawl into a thick tuft of grass. The wasp soon returned, and seemed surprised at not immediately finding its victim. It then commenced as regular a hunt, as ever hound did after fox; making short semicircular casts, and all the time rapidly vibrating its wings and antennæ. The spider, though well concealed, was soon discovered; and the wasp, evidently still afraid of its adversary's jaws, after much manœuvring, inflicted two stings on the under side of its thorax. At last, carefully examining with its antennæ the now motionless spider, it proceeded to drag away the body. But I stopped both tyrant and prey.*

The number of spiders in proportion to other insects, is

* Don Felix Azara, vol. i., p. 175, mentioning a hymenopterous insect, probably of the same genus, says, he saw it dragging a dead spider through tall grass, in a straight line to its nest, which was one hundred and sixty-three paces distant. He adds that the wasp, in order to find the road, every now and then made "demi-tours d'environ trois palmes."

[page] 41 May-June, 1832. ARACHNIDÆ.

here as compared to England very much increased; perhaps more so, than with any other division of the articulate animals. The variety of species among the saltigrade, or jumping spiders, appears almost infinite. The genus, or rather family of Epeira, is here characterized by many singular forms; some species have pointed coriaceous shells, others enlarged and spiny tibiæ. Every path in the forest is barricaded with the strong yellow web of a species, belonging to the same division with the Epeira clavipes of Fabricius, which was formerly said by Sloane to make, in the West Indies, webs so strong as to catch birds. A small and pretty kind of spider, with very long anterior legs, and which appears to belong to an undescribed genus, lives as a parasite on almost every one of these webs. I suppose it is too insignificant to be noticed by the great Epeira, and is therefore allowed to prey on the minute insects, which adhering to the lines, would otherwise be wasted. When frightened, this little spider either feigns death by extending its front legs, or suddenly drops from the web. A large Epeira of the same division with Epeira tuberculata and conica (with fleshy prominences on its abdomen) is extremely common, especially in dry situations. Its web, which is generally placed among the great leaves of the common agave, is sometimes strengthened near the centre by a pair or even four zigzag ribbons, which connect two adjoining rays. When any large insect, as a grasshopper or wasp, is caught, the spider, by quickly giving it a revolving movement, and at the same time emitting a band of threads from its spinners, soon envelops its prey in a case like the cocoon of a silkworm. The spider now examines the powerless victim, and gives the fatal bite on the hinder part of its thorax; then retreating, it patiently waits till the poison has taken effect. The virulence of this poison may be judged of, from the fact that in half a minute I opened the mesh, and found a large wasp quite lifeless. This Epeira always stands with its head downwards near the centre of the web. When disturbed, it acts differently according to circumstances: if

[page] 42 RIO DE JANEIRO. May-June, 1832.

there is a thicket below, it suddenly falls down. I may remark, that I have distinctly seen the thread from the spinners, lengthened by the will of the animal while yet stationary, as preparatory to its fall. If the ground is clear beneath, the Epeira seldom falls, but moves quickly through a central passage, from one to the other side. When still further disturbed, it practices a most curious manœuvre: standing in the middle, it violently jerks the web, which is attached to elastic twigs, till at last the whole acquires such a rapid vibratory movement, that even the outline of the spider's body becomes indistinct.

I will here just mention a gregarious Epeira found in great numbers near St. Fe Bajada, the capital of one of the provinces of La Plata. The spiders were of a large size, and of a black colour, with ruby marks on their backs. They were nearly all of one dimension, and therefore could not have been a few old individuals with their families. The webs were placed vertically, as is invariably the case with the genus Epeira: they were separated from each other by a space of about two feet, but were all attached to certain common lines, which were of great length, and extended to all parts of the community. In this manner the tops of some large bushes were encompassed by the united nets. Azara* has described a gregarious spider in Paraguay, which Walckenaer thinks must be a Theridion, but probably it is an Epeira, and perhaps even the same species as mine. I cannot, however, recollect seeing a central nest, as large as a hat, in which, during autumn when the spiders die, Azara says the eggs are deposited. These gregarious habits in so typical a genus as Epeira, present a singular case among insects, which are so bloodthirsty and solitary, that even the sexes attack each other.

In a lofty valley of the Cordillera, near Mendoza, I found another spider with a singularly-formed web. Strong lines radiated in a vertical plane from a common centre, where

* Azara's Voyage, vol. i., p. 213.

[page] 43 May-June, 1832. ARACHNIDÆ.

the insect had its station; but only two of the rays were connected by a symmetrical mesh-work; so that the net, instead of being, as is generally the case, circular, consisted of a wedge-shaped segment. All the webs were similarly constructed.

[page] 44


Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and Bolas — Partridges — Geology — Absence of trees — Cervus campestris — River hog — Tucutuco — Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits — Tyrant-flycatcher — Mocking-bird — Carrion hawks — Tubes formed by lightning — House struck.


JULY 5TH, 1832.—In the morning we got under way, and stood out of the splendid harbour of Rio de Janeiro. In our passage to the Plata, we saw nothing particular, excepting on one day a great shoal of porpoises, many hundreds in number. The whole sea was in places furrowed by them; and a most extraordinary spectacle was presented, as hundreds, proceeding together by jumps, in which their whole bodies were exposed, thus cut the water. When the ship was running nine knots, these animals could cross and recross the bows with the greatest ease, and then dash away right ahead. As soon as we entered the estuary of the Plata, the weather was very unsettled. One dark night we were surrounded by numerous seals and penguins, which made such strange noises, that the officer on watch reported he could hear the cattle bellowing on shore. On a second night we witnessed a splendid scene of natural fireworks; the mast-head and yard-arm ends shone with St. Elmo's light; and the form of the vane could almost be traced, as if it had been rubbed with phosphorus. The sea was so highly luminous, that the tracks of the penguins were marked by a fiery wake, and lastly, the darkness of the sky was momentarily illuminated by the most vivid lightning.

When within the mouth of the river, I was interested by observing how slowly the waters of the sea and river mixed. The latter, muddy and discoloured, from its less specific gravity, floated on the surface of the salt water. This was

[page] 45 1832-3. MALDONADO.

curiously exhibited in the wake of the vessel, where a line of blue was seen mingling in little eddies, with the adjoining fluid.

JULY 26TH.—We anchored at Monte Video. The Beagle was employed in surveying the extreme southern and eastern coasts of America, south of the Plata, during the two succeeding years. To prevent useless repetitions, I will extract those parts of my journal which refer to the same districts, without always attending to the order in which we visited them.

MALDONADO is situated on the northern bank of the Plata, and not very far from the mouth of the estuary. It is a most quiet, forlorn, little town; built, as is universally the case in these countries, with the streets running at right angles to each other, and having in the middle a large plaza or square, which, from its size, renders the scantiness of the population more evident and more unsociable. It possesses scarcely any trade; the exports being confined to a few hides and living cattle. The inhabitants are chiefly landowners, together with a few shopkeepers and the necessary tradesmen, such as blacksmiths and carpenters, who do nearly all the business for a circuit of fifty miles round. The town is separated from the river by a band of sand-hillocks, about a mile broad: it is surrounded on all other sides, by an open slightly-undulating country, covered by one uniform layer of fine green turf, on which countless herds of cattle, sheep, and horses graze. There is very little land cultivated even close to the town. A few hedges, made of cacti and agave, mark out where some wheat or Indian corn has been planted. The features of the country are very similar along the whole northern bank of the Plata. The only difference is, that here the granitic hills are rather more boldly pronounced. The scenery is very uninteresting; there is scarcely a house, an enclosed piece of ground, or even a tree, to give it an air of cheerfulness. Yet, after being imprisoned for some time in a ship, there is a charm in the unconfined feeling of walking over boundless plains of turf. Moreover, if your view is

[page] 46 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

limited to a small space, many objects possess beauty. Some of the smaller birds are brilliantly coloured; and the bright green sward, browsed short by the cattle, is ornamented by dwarf flowers, among which a plant, looking like the daisy, claimed the place of an old friend. What would a florist say to whole tracts so thickly covered by the Verbena melindres, as, even at a distance, to appear of the most gaudy scarlet?

I staid ten weeks at Maldonado, in which time a nearly perfect collection of the animals, birds, and reptiles, was procured. Before making any observations respecting them, I will give an account of a little excursion I made as far as the river Polanco, which is about seventy miles distant, in a northerly direction. I may mention, as a proof how cheap every thing is in this country, that I paid only two dollars a day, or eight shillings, for two men, together with a troop of about a dozen riding-horses. My companions were well armed with pistols and sabres; a precaution which I thought rather unnecessary; but the first piece of news we heard was, that, the day before, a traveller from Monte Video had been found dead on the road, with his throat cut. This happened close to a cross, the record of a former murder.

On the first night we slept at a retired little country-house; and there I soon found out, that I possessed two or three articles, especially a pocket compass, which created unbounded astonishment. In every house I was asked to show the compass, and by its aid, together with a map, to point out the direction of various places. It excited the liveliest admiration that I, a perfect stranger, should know the road (for direction and road are synonymous in this open country) to places where I had never been. At one house a young woman, who was ill in bed, sent to entreat me to come and show her the compass. If their surprise was great, mine was greater, to find such ignorance among people who possessed their thousands of cattle, and "estancias" of great extent. It can only be accounted for by the circumstance that this retired part of the country is seldom visited by

[page] 47 1832-3. MALDONADO.

foreigners. I was asked whether the earth or sun moved; whether it was hotter or colder to the north; where Spain was, and many other such questions. The greater number of the inhabitants had an indistinct idea that England, London, and North America, were different names for the same place; but the better informed well knew that London and North America were separate countries close together, and that England was a large town in London! I carried with me some promethean matches, which I ignited by biting; it was thought so wonderful that a man should strike fire with his teeth, that it was usual to collect the whole family to see it: I was once offered a dollar for a single one. Washing my face in the morning, caused much speculation at the village of Las Minas; a superior tradesman closely cross-questioned me about so singular a practice; and likewise why on board we wore our beards; for he had heard from my guide that we did so. He eyed me with much suspicion; perhaps he had heard of ablutions in the Mahomedan religion, and knowing me to be a heretick, probably he came to the conclusion that all hereticks were Turks. It is the general custom in this country to ask for a night's lodging at the first convenient house. The astonishment at the compass, and my other feats in jugglery, was to a certain degree advantageous, as with that, and the long stories my guides told of my breaking stones, knowing venemous from harmless snakes, collecting insects, &c., I repaid them for their hospitality. I am writing as if I had been among the inhabitants of central Africa: Banda Oriental would not be flattered by the comparison; but such were my feelings at the time.

The next day we rode to the village of Las Minas. The country was rather more hilly, but otherwise continued the same; an inhabitant of the Pampas no doubt would have considered it as truly Alpine. The country is so thinly inhabited, that during the whole day we scarcely met a single person. Las Minas is much smaller even than Maldonado. It is seated on a little plain, and is surrounded by low rocky

[page] 48 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

mountains. It is of the usual symmetrical form; and with its whitewashed church standing in the centre, had rather a pretty appearance. The outskirting houses rose out of the plain like isolated beings, without the accompaniment of gardens or courtyards. This is generally the case in the country, and all the houses have, in consequence, an uncomfortable aspect. At night we stopped at a pulperia, or drinking-shop. During the evening a great number of Gauchos came in to drink spirits and smoke cigars: their appearance is very striking; they are generally tall and handsome, but with a proud and dissolute expression of countenance. They frequently wear their moustaches, and long black hair curling down their backs. With their brightly-coloured garments, great spurs clanking about their heels, and knives stuck as daggers (and often so used) at their waists, they look a very different race of men from what might be expected from their name of Gauchos, or simple countrymen. Their politeness is excessive : they never drink their spirits without expecting you to taste it; but whilst making their exceedingly graceful bow, they seem quite as ready, if occasion offered, to cuty our throat.

On the third day we pursued rather an irregular course, as I was employed in examining some beds of marble. On the fine plains of turf we saw many ostriches (Struthio Rhea). Some of the flocks contained as many as twenty or thirty birds. These, when standing on any little eminence, and seen against the clear sky, presented a very noble appearance. I never met with such tame ostriches in any other part of the country: it was easy to gallop up within a short distance of them; but then, expanding their wings, they made all sail right before the wind, and soon left the horse astern.

At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a rich landed proprietor, but not personally known to either of my companions. On approaching the house of a stranger, it is usual to follow several little pieces of etiquette: riding

[page] 49 1832-3. MALDONADO.

up slowly to the door, the salutation of Ave Maria* is given, and until somebody comes out, and asks you to alight, it is not customary even to get off your horse. Having entered the house, some general conversation is kept up for a few minutes, till permission is asked to pass the night there. This is granted as a matter of course. The stranger then takes his meals with the family, and a room is assigned him, where with the horsecloths belonging to his recado (or saddle of the Pampas) he makes his bed. It is curious how similar circumstances produce such similar results in manners. At the Cape of Good Hope the same hospitality, and very nearly the same points of etiquette, are universally observed. The difference, however, between the character of the Spaniard and that of the Dutch boor is shown, by the former never asking his guest a single question beyond the strictest rule of politeness, whilst the honest Dutchman demands where he has been, where he is going, what is his business, and even how many brothers, sisters, or children he may happen to have.

Shortly after our arrival at Don Juan's, one of the large herds of cattle was driven in towards the house, and three beasts were picked out to be slaughtered for the supply of the establishment. These half-wild cattle are very active; and knowing full well the fatal lazo, they led the horses a long and laborious chase. After witnessing the rude wealth displayed in the number of cattle, men, and horses, Don Juan's miserable house was quite curious. The floor consisted of hardened mud, and the windows were without glass; the furniture of the sitting-room boasted only of a few of the roughest chairs and stools, with a couple of tables. The supper, although several strangers were present, consisted of two huge piles, one of roast beef, the other of boiled, with some pieces of pumpkin: besides this latter there was no other vegetable, and not even a morsel of bread. For drink-

* The formal answer of the owner of the place is, " sin pecado concebida"—(conceived without sin).


[page] 50 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

ing, a large earthenware jug of water served the whole party. Yet this man was the owner of several square miles of land, of which nearly every acre would produce corn, and, with a little trouble, all the common vegetables. The evening was spent in smoking, with a little impromptu singing, accompanied by the guitar. The signoritas all sat together in one corner of the room, and did not sup with the men.

So many works have been written about these countries, that it is almost superfluous to describe either the lazo or the bolas. The former consists of a very strong, but thin, well-plaited rope, made of raw hide. One end is attached to the broad surcingle, which fastens together the complicated gear of the recado, or saddle used in the Pampas; the other is terminated by a small ring of iron or brass, by which a noose can be formed. The Gaucho, when he is going to use the lazo, keeps a small coil in his bridle hand, and in the other holds the running noose, which is made very large, generally having a diameter of about eight feet. This he whirls round his head, and by the dexterous movement of his wrist keeps the noose open; then, throwing it, he causes it to fall on any particular spot he chooses. The lazo, when not used, is tied up in a small coil to the after part of the recado. The bolas, or balls, are of two kinds: the simplest, which is chiefly used for catching ostriches, consists of two round stones, covered with leather, and united by a thin plaited thong, about eight feet long. The other kind differs only, in having three balls united by the thongs to a common centre. The Gaucho holds the smallest of the three in his hand, and whirls the other two round and round his head; then, taking aim, sends them like chain shot revolving through the air. The balls no sooner strike any object, than, winding round it, they cross each other, and become firmly hitched. The size and weight of the balls varies, according to the purpose for which they are made: when of stone, although not so large as a big apple, yet they are sent with such force as sometimes to break the leg even of a horse. I have seen the balls made

[page] 51 1832-3. LAZO AND BOLAS.

of wood, and as large as a turnip, for the sake of catching these animals without injuring them. The balls are sometimes made of iron, and these can be hurled to the greatest distance. The main difficulty in using either lazo or bolas, is to ride so well, as to be able at full speed, and while suddenly turning about, to whirl them so steadily round the head, as to take aim: on foot any person would soon learn the art. One day, as I was amusing myself by galloping and whirling the balls round my head, by accident the free one struck a bush; and its revolving motion being thus destroyed, it immediately fell to the ground, and like magic caught one hind leg of my horse; the other ball was then jerked out of my hand, and the horse fairly secured. Luckily he was an old practised animal, and knew what it meant; otherwise he would probably have kicked till he had thrown himself down. The Gauchos roared with laughter; they cried they had seen every sort of animal caught, but had never before seen a man caught by himself.

During the two succeeding days, I reached the furthest point which I was anxious to examine. The country wore the same aspect, till at last the fine green turf became more wearisome than a dusty turnpike road. We every where saw great numbers of partridges (Tinamus rufescens). These birds do not go in coveys, nor do they conceal themselves like the English kind. It appears a very silly bird. A man on horseback by riding round and round in a circle, or rather in a spire, so as to approach closer each time, may knock on the head as many as he pleases. The more common method is to catch them with a running noose, or little lazo, made of the stem of an ostrich's feather, fastened to the end of a long stick. A boy on a quiet old horse will frequently thus catch thirty or forty in a day. The flesh of this bird, when cooked, is delicately white.

On our return to Maldonado, we followed rather a different line of road. Near Pan de Azucar, a landmark well known to all those who have sailed up the Plata, I stayed a day at the house of a most hospitable old Spaniard. Early

E 2

[page] 52 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

in the morning we ascended the Sierra de las Animas. By the aid of the rising sun the scenery was almost picturesque. To the westward the view extended over an immense level plain as far as the mount, at Monte Video, and to the eastward, over the mammillated country of Maldonado. On the summit of the mountain there were several small heaps of stones, which evidently had lain there for many years. My companion assured me that they were the work of the Indians in the old time. The heaps were similar, but on a much smaller scale, to those so commonly found on the mountains of Wales. The desire to signalize any event, on the highest point of the neighbouring land, seems an universal passion with mankind. At the present day, not a single Indian, either civilized or wild, exists in this part of the province; nor am I aware that the former inhabitants have left behind them any more permanent records, than these insignificant piles on the summit of the Sierra de las Animas.

The geological structure of the country is very simple. On the crest of every hill, granitic or ancient schistose rocks protrude; the intervening spaces being concealed by a great thickness of a red argillaceous earth. This at first sight would be mistaken for ordinary detritus; but on closer examination it is found to contain small concretionary balls of a friable limestone or marl, and to possess other peculiar characters. It extends over the whole province, and in some places is very remarkable, from containing the remains of several great extinct animals. This red earthy substance is part of the formation which composes those immense plains of Buenos Ayres, denominated the Pampas. For its origin, we must look to a period when the estuary of the Plata, occupying far wider limits, covered all the surrounding low countries with its brackish waters. Signs of the gradual elevation of the land can in many places be discovered on the shores of the river; and it is probable that the red earthy mass is, geologically speaking, of no very ancient date.

[page] 53 1832-3. ABSENCE OF TREES.

The general, and almost entire absence of trees in Banda Oriental is remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are partly covered by thickets, and on the banks of the larger streams, especially to the northward of the Las Minas, willow-trees are not uncommon. Near the Arroyo Tapes I heard of a wood of palms; and one of these trees, of considerable size, I saw near the Pan de Azucar, in lat. 35°. These, and the trees planted by the Spaniards, offer the only exceptions to the general scarcity of wood. Among the introduced kinds may be enumerated poplars, olives, peach, and other fruit-trees: the peaches succeed so well, that they afford the main supply of firewood to the city of Buenos Ayres. Extremely level countries, such as the Pampas, seldom appear favourable to the growth of trees. This may possibly be attributed either to the force of the winds, or the kind of drainage. In the nature of the land, however, around Maldonado, no such reason is apparent; the rocky mountains afford protected situations, enjoying various kinds of soil; streamlets of water are common at the bottoms of nearly every valley; and the clayey nature of the earth seems adapted to retain moisture. It has been inferred with much probability, that the presence of woodland is determined by the annual amount of moisture; yet in this province abundant and heavy rain falls during the winter; and the summer, though dry, is not so in any excessive degree.* We see nearly the whole of Australia covered by lofty trees, yet that country possesses a far more arid climate. Hence we must look to some other cause. The trees of Brazil cannot travel so far southward, on account of the colder climate; nor does there exist any other wooded country whence a migration could take place: we are therefore driven to the conclusion that herbaceous plants, instead of trees, were created to occupy that wide area, which within a period not very remote, has been raised above the waters of the sea.

* Azara says, "Je crois que la quantité annuelle des pluies est, dans toutes ces contrées, plus considérable qu'en Espagne."—Vol. i., p. 36.

[page] 54 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

Considering South America alone, we should be tempted to believe that trees could not possibly flourish, excepting in a very humid climate. The limit of the forest land certainly follows, in a most remarkable manner, that of the damp winds.* In the southern part of the continent, where the western gales, charged with moisture from the Pacific, prevail, every island on the broken west coast, from lat. 38° to the extreme point of Tierra del Fuego is densely covered by impenetrable forest. On the eastern side of the Cordillera, over the same extent of latitude, where a blue sky and a fine climate prove that the atmosphere has been drained of its moisture, the arid plains of Patagonia support a scanty vegetation. Within the limits of the constant south-east trade wind, the bulk of the eastern parts of the continent is ornamented by magnificent forests: the west coast, however, from lat. 4° south to lat. 32°, may be described as a desert. In this case, as before, all the vapour has been condensed by the snow - clad pinnacles of the Andes. In these two areas, determined by the prevalent winds, the forest and desert lands occupy reversed positions with respect to the great mountain axis. Between their limits a broad intermediate band, which is neither desert nor woodland, stretches across the entire continent. Central Chile and the Provinces of La Plata are included in this division. On the west coast, about four degrees south of the equator, where the trade wind loses its regularity, and heavy torrents of rain periodically fall, the desert coast of Peru assumes near Cape Blanco the character of luxuriance so celebrated at Guayaquil and on the shores of Panama.

After these facts, it will perhaps appear a sufficient answer to the question, to state that according to the South American type of vegetation, the climate of Banda Oriental is too dry for the growth of trees. But this reasoning, I apprehend, must not be extended to a general statement including other countries. The Falklands offer a more per-

* Maclaren, art. America, Encyc. Britan.

[page] 55 1832-3. ABSENCE OF TREES.

plexing case even than Maldonado. Situated under the same latitude with Tierra del Fuego, and only between two and three hundred miles distant from it, possessed of an entirely similar climate, with a geological formation almost identical, with favourable situations, and the same kind of peaty soil, yet these islands can scarcely boast of a plant deserving the title even of a bush; whilst in Tierra del Fuego, it is impossible to find an acre of land not covered by the densest forest. In this case, both the direction of the heavy gales of wind and of the currents of the sea are favourable to the transport of seeds. Canoes and other works of art, and trunks of trees, drifted from Tierra del Fuego, are frequently thrown on the shores of the Western Island. Hence perhaps it is that there are many plants common to the two countries: but with respect to trees, even some attempts which have been made to transplant them, have failed.

During our stay at Maldonado I paid particular attention to the mammalia and birds. Of the latter I procured, within the distance of a morning's walk, no less than eighty species, of which many were exceedingly beautiful—I think even more so than those of Brazil. The other orders were not neglected. Reptiles were numerous, and nine different kinds of snakes were taken. Of the indigenous mammalia, the only one now left of any size, which is common, is the Cervus Campestris. This deer is exceedingly abundant throughout the countries bordering the Plata. It is found in Northern Patagonia as far south as the Rio Negro (lat. 41°); but further southward none were seen by the officers employed in surveying the coast. It appears to prefer a hilly country; I saw very many small herds, containing from five to seven animals each, near the Sierra Ventana, and among the hills north of Maldonado. If a person crawling close along the ground, slowly advances towards a herd, the deer frequently, out of curiosity, approach to reconnoitre him. I have by this means killed, from one spot, three out of

[page] 56 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

the same herd. Although so tame and inquisitive, yet when approached on horseback, they are exceedingly wary. In this country nobody goes on foot, and the deer knows man as its enemy, only when he is mounted and armed with the bolas. At Bahia Blanca, a recent establishment in Northern Patagonia, I was surprised to find how little the deer cared for the noise of a gun: one day I fired ten times, from within eighty yards, at one animal; and it was much more startled at the ball cutting up the ground than at the report of the rifle. My powder being exhausted, I was obliged (to my shame as a sportsman be it spoken), to get up and halloo till the deer ran away.

The most curious fact with respect to this animal, is the overpoweringly strong and offensive odour which proceeds from the buck. It is quite indescribable: several times whilst skinning the specimen which is now mounted at the Zoological Museum, I was almost overcome by nausea. I tied up the skin in a silk pocket-handkerchief, and so carried it home: this handkerchief, after being well washed, I continually used, and it was, of course, as repeatedly washed; yet every time, for a space of one year and seven months, when first unfolded, I distinctly perceived the odour. This appears an astonishing instance of the permanence of some matter, which in its nature, nevertheless, must be most subtile and volatile. Frequently, when passing at the distance of half a mile to leeward of a herd, I have perceived the whole air tainted with the effluvium. I believe the smell from the buck is most powerful at the period when its horns are perfect, or free from the hairy skin. When in this state the meat is, of course, quite uneatable; but the Gauchos assert, that if buried for some time in fresh earth, the taint is removed. I have somewhere read that the islanders in the north of Scotland treat the rank carcasses of the fish-eating birds in the same manner.

The order Rodentia is here very numerous in species: of

[page] 57 1832-3. MALDONADO.

mice alone I obtained no less than eight kinds.* The largest gnawing animal in the world, the Hydrochærus Capybara (the water-hog), is here also common. One which I shot at Monte Video weighed ninety-eight pounds: its length, from the end of the snout to the stump-like tail, was three feet two inches; and its girth, three feet eight. These great Rodents are generally called "carpinchos :" they occasionally frequent the islands in the mouth of the Plata, where the water is quite salt, but are far more abundant on the borders of fresh-water lakes and rivers. Near Maldonado three or four generally live together. In the daytime they either lie among the aquatic plants, or openly feed on the turf plain.† When viewed at a distance, from their manner of walking and colour, they resemble pigs: but when seated on their haunches, and attentively watching any object with one eye, they reassume the appearance of their congeners, the cavies. Both the front and side view of their head has quite a ludicrous aspect, from the great depth of their jaw. These animals, at Maldonado, were very tame; by cautiously walking, I approached within three yards of four old ones. This tameness may probably be accounted for, by the Jaguar having been banished for some years, and by the Gaucho not thinking it worth his while to hunt them. As I approached nearer and nearer they frequently made their peculiar noise, which is a low abrupt grunt; not having much actual sound,

* These have been named and described by Mr. Waterhouse at the meetings of the Zoological Society. I must be allowed to take this opportunity of returning my cordial thanks to Mr. Waterhouse, and to the other gentlemen attached to that Society, for their kind and most liberal assistance on all occasions.

† In the stomach and duodenum of a carpincho which I opened, I found a very large quantity of a thin yellowish fluid, in which scarcely a fibre could be distinguished. Mr. Owen informs me that a part of the œsophagus is so constructed, that nothing much larger than a crowquill can be passed down. Certainly the broad teeth and strong jaws of this animal are well fitted to grind into pulp the aquatic plants on which it feeds.

[page] 58 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

but rather arising from the sudden expulsion of air: the only noise I know at all like it, is the first hoarse bark of a large dog. Having watched the four from almost within arm's length (and they me) for several minutes, they rushed into the water at full gallop, with the greatest impetuosity, and emitted, at the same time, their bark. After diving a short distance they came again to the surface, but only just showed the upper part of their heads. When the female is swimming in the water and has young ones, they are said to sit on her back. These animals are easily killed in numbers; but their skins are of trifling value, and the meat is very indifferent. I have never heard of the carpincho being found south of the Plata; but as I see in a map that there is a Laguna del Carpincho high up the Rio Salado, I suppose such must have occurred. On the islands in the Rio Parana they are exceedingly abundant, and afford the ordinary prey to the Jaguar.

The Tucutuco (Ctenomys Braziliensis) is a curious small animal, which may be briefly described as a Rodent, with the habits of a mole. It is extremely abundant in some parts of the country,* but is difficult to be procured, and still more difficult to be seen, when at liberty. It lives almost entirely under ground, and prefers a sandy soil with a gentle inclination. The burrows are said not to be deep, but of great length. They are seldom open; the earth being thrown up at the mouth into hillocks, not quite so large as those made by the mole. Considerable tracts of country are so completely undermined by these animals, that horses, in passing over, sink above their fetlocks. The tucutucos appear, to a certain degree, to be gregarious. The man who procured the specimens for me had caught six together, and he said this was a common occurrence. They are nocturnal

* The wide plains north of the Rio Colorado are undermined by these animals; and near the Strait of Magellan, where Patagonia blends with Tierra del Fuego, the whole sandy country forms a great warren for the tucutuco.

[page] 59 1832-3. BURROWING RODENT.

in their habits; and their principal food is afforded by the roots of plants, which is the object of their extensive and superficial burrows. Azara says they are so difficult to be obtained, that he never saw more than one. He states that they lay up magazines of food within their burrows. This animal is universally known by a very peculiar noise, which it makes when beneath the ground. A person, the first time he hears it, is much surprised; for it is not easy to tell whence it comes, nor is it possible to guess what kind of creature utters it. The noise consists in a short, but not rough, nasal grunt, which is repeated about four times in quick succession; the first grunt is not so loud, but a little longer, and more distinct than the three following: the musical time of the whole is constant, as often as it is uttered.* The name Tucutuco is given in imitation of the sound. In all times of the day, where this animal is abundant, the noise may be heard, and sometimes directly beneath one's feet. When kept in a room, the tucutucos move both slowly and clumsily, which appears owing to the outward action of their hind legs; and they are likewise quite incapable of jumping even the smallest vertical height. Mr. Reid, who dissected a specimen which I brought home in spirits, informs me that the socket of the thigh-bone is not attached by a ligamentum teres; and this explains, in a satisfactory manner, the awkward movements of their hinder extremities. When eating, they rest on their hind legs and hold the piece in their fore paws; they appeared also to wish to drag it into some corner. They are very stupid in making any attempt to escape ; when angry or

* At the R. Negro, in Northern Patagonia, there is an animal of the same habits, and probably a closely allied species, but which I never saw. Its noise is different from the Maldonado kind; it is repeated only twice instead of three or four times, and is more distinct and sonorous: when heard from a distance, it so closely resembles the sound made in cutting down a small tree with an axe, that I have sometimes remained in doubt concerning it.

[page] 60 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

frightened, they uttered the tucu-tuco. Of those I kept alive, several, even the first day, became quite tame, not attempting to bite or to run away; others were a little wilder.

The man who caught them asserted that very many are invariably found blind. A specimen which I preserved in spirits was in this state; Mr. Reid considers it to be the effect of inflammation in the nictitating membrane. When the animal was alive I placed my finger within half an inch of its head, and not the slightest notice was taken: it made its way, however, about the room nearly as well as the others. Considering the subterranean habits of the tucutuco, the blindness, though so frequent, cannot be a very serious evil; yet it appears strange that any animal should possess an organ constantly subject to injury. The mole, whose habits in nearly every respect, excepting in the kind of food, are so similar, has an extremely small and protected eye, which, although possessing a limited vision, at once seems adapted to its manner of life.

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the undulating grassy plains around Maldonado. Several species, of the genus Cassicus, allied to our starlings in habits and structure, and of Tyrant-flycatchers, and a mockingbird, from their numbers, give a character to the ornithology. Some of the Cassici are very beautiful, black and yellow being the prevailing colours; but Oriolus ruber, Gme., offers an exception, in having its head, shoulders, and thighs of the most splendid scarlet. This bird differs from its congeners in being solitary. It frequents marshes; and, seated on the summit of a low bush, with its mouth wide open, utters a plaintive agreeable cry, which can be heard at a long distance.

Another species,* of a purplish-black colour, with a metallic lustre, feeds on the plain in large flocks, mingled

* Le Troupiale commun of Azara (vol. iii., p. 169)—a second species of Molothrus.

[page] 61 1832-3. ORNITHOLOGY.

with other birds. Several may often be seen standing on the back of a cow or horse. While perched on a hedge, and pluming themselves in the sun, they sometimes attempt to sing, or rather to hiss: the noise is very peculiar; it resembles that of bubbles of air passing rapidly from a small orifice under water, so as to produce an acute sound. Azara states that this bird, like the cuckoo, deposits its eggs in other birds' nests. I was several times told by the country people, that there was some bird with this habit; and my assistant in collecting, who is a very accurate person, found a nest of the sparrow* of the country, with one egg in it larger than the others, and of a different colour and shape. Mr. Swainson† has remarked that with the exception of the Molothrus pecoris, the cuckoos are the only birds which can be called truly parasitical; namely, such as "fasten themselves, as it were, on another living animal, whose animal heat brings their young into life, whose food they alone live upon, and whose death would cause theirs during the period of infancy." The Molothrus pecoris is a North-American bird, and is closely allied in general habits, even in such peculiarities as standing on the backs of cattle (as its name implies), and in appearance, with the species from the plains of La Plata; it only differs in being rather smaller and of a different colour, yet the two birds would be considered by every naturalist as distinct species. It is very interesting to see so close an agreement in structure, and in habits, between allied species coming from opposite parts of a great continent. It is also very remarkable, that the cuckoos and the molothri, although opposed to each other in almost every habit, should agree in the one strange one of their parasitical propagation. The molothrus, like our starling, is

* A Zonotrichia;—the chingolo of Azara. The egg is rather less than that of the missel-thrush; it is of a nearly globular form, but with one end rather smaller than the other. The ground colour is a pale pinkish-white, with irregular spots and blotches of a pinkish brown, and others less distinct of a grayish hue. The egg is now in the museum of the Zoological Society.

† Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i., p. 217.

[page] 62 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

eminently sociable, and lives on the open plains without art or disguise :* the cuckoo, as every one knows, is a singularly shy bird; it frequents the most retired thickets, and feeds on fruit and caterpillars. In structure these birds are likewise widely removed from each other.

I will only mention two other birds, which are very common, and render themselves prominent from their habits. The Saurophagus sulphureus is typical of the great American tribe of Tyrant-flycatchers. In its structure it closely approaches the true shrikes, but in its habits may be compared to many birds. I have frequently observed it, hunting a field, hovering over one spot like a hawk, and then proceeding on to another. When thus seen suspended in the air, it might very readily at a short distance be mistaken for one of the Rapacious order; its stoop, however, is very inferior in force and rapidity. At other times the Saurophagus haunts the neighbourhood of water, and there, like a kingfisher, remaining stationary, it catches any small fish which may come near the margin. These birds are not unfrequently kept either in cages, or in courtyards with their wings cut. They soon become tame, and are very amusing from their cunning odd manners, which were described to me, as being similar to those of the common magpie. Their flight is undulatory, for the weight of the head and bill appear too great for the body. In the evening the Saurophagus takes its stand on a bush, often by the road-side, and continually repeats, without change, a shrill and rather agreeable cry, which somewhat resembles articulate words. The Spaniards say it is like the words, "Bien te veo "(I see you well), and accordingly have given it this name.

A mocking-bird, Orpheus modulator, called by the inhabitants Calandria, is remarkable, from possessing a song far superior to that of any other bird in the country: indeed, it is nearly the only bird in South America which I have observed to take its stand for the purpose of singing. The

* See Azara, vol. iii., p. 170.

[page] 63 1832-3. ORNITHOLOGY.

song may be compared to that of the Sedge warbler, but is more powerful; some harsh notes and some very high ones, being mingled with a pleasant warbling. It is heard only during the spring. At other times its cry is harsh and far from harmonious. It frequents thickets and hedges, is very active, and whilst quickly hopping about, often expands its tail. Near Maldonado these birds were tame and bold; they constantly attended in numbers the country houses, to pick the meat which was hung up on the posts or walls: if any other small bird joined the feast, the Calandria directly chased it away. On the wide uninhabited plains of Patagonia another closely allied species, O. Patagonica of D'Orbigny, which frequents the valleys clothed with spiny bushes, is a wilder bird, and has a slightly different tone of voice. It appears to me a curious circumstance, as showing the fine shades of difference in habits, that, judging from this latter respect alone, when I first saw this second species, I thought it was different from the Maldonado kind. Having afterwards procured a specimen, and comparing the two without particular care, they appeared so very similar, that I changed my opinion; but now Mr. Gould* says that they are certainly distinct; a conclusion in conformity with the trifling difference of habit, of which, however, he was not aware.

I will conclude these few ornithological observations with an account of the various carrion-feeding hawks which frequent the extratropical parts of South America. The number, tameness, and disgusting habits of these birds, make them pre-eminently striking to any one accustomed only to the birds of Northern Europe. In this list may be included four species of the Caracara or Polyborus, the Turkey buzzard, the Gallinazo, and the Condor. The Caracaras are, from their structure, placed among the eagles: we shall soon see how ill they become so high a rank. In their habits they well supply the place of our carrion-crows, magpies, and ravens; a tribe of birds which is totally wanting in South

* Mr. Gould was not at the time aware that M. D'Orbigny had described them as different.

[page] 64 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

America. To begin with the Polyborus Braziliensis : this is a common bird, and has a wide geographical range; it is most numerous on the grassy savannahs of La Plata (where it goes by the name of Carrancha), and is far from unfrequent throughout the sterile plains of Patagonia. In the desert between the rivers Negro and Colorado, numbers constantly attended the line of road to devour the carcasses of the exhausted animals which chanced to perish from fatigue and thirst. Although thus common in these dry and open countries, and likewise on the arid shores of the Pacific, it is nevertheless found inhabiting the damp impervious forests of West Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The Carranchas, together with the Polyborus Chimango, constantly attend in numbers the estancias and slaughtering-houses. If an animal dies on the plain the Gallinazo commences the feast, and then the two Caracaras pick the bones clean. These birds, although thus commonly feeding together, are far from being friends. When the Carrancha is quietly seated on the branch of a tree, or on the ground, the Chimango often continues for a long time flying backwards and forwards, up and down, in a semicircle, trying each time, at the bottom of the curve, to strike its larger relative. The Carrancha takes little notice, except by bobbing its head. Although the Carranchas frequently assemble in numbers, they are not gregarious; for in desert places they may be seen solitary, or more commonly by pairs. Besides the carrion of large animals, these birds frequent the borders of streams and sea beaches, to pick up whatever the waters may cast on shore. In Tierra del Fuego, and on the west coast of Patagonia, they must exclusively live on such supplies.

The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal great numbers of eggs. They attempt also, together with the Chimango, to pick off the scabs from the sore backs of the horses and mules. The poor animal, on the one hand, with its ears down and its back arched; and, on the other, the hovering bird, eyeing, at the distance of a yard, the disgusting morsel, form a picture, which has been described by

[page] 65 1832-3. CARRION HAWKS.

Captain Head with his own peculiar spirit and accuracy. The Carranchas kill wounded animals; but Mr. Bynoe saw one seize in the air a live partridge, which escaped, and was for some time chased on the ground. I believe this circumstance is very unusual: at all events there is no doubt that the chief part of their sustenance is derived from carrion. A person will discover the Necrophagous habits of the Carrancha, by walking out on one of the desolate plains, and there lying down to sleep. When he awakes, he will see, on each surrounding hillock, one of these birds patiently watching him with an evil eye. It is a feature in the landscape of these countries, which will be recognised by every one who has wandered over them. If a party goes out hunting with dogs and horses, it will be accompanied, during the day, by several of these attendants. After feeding, the uncovered craw protrudes; at such times, and indeed generally, the Carrancha is an inactive, tame, and cowardly bird. Its flight is heavy and slow, like that of an English rook. It seldom soars; but I have twice seen one at a great height gliding through the air with much ease. It runs (in contradistinction to hopping), but not quite so quickly as some of its congeners. At times the Carrancha is noisy, but is not generally so: its cry is loud, very harsh and peculiar, and may be likened to the sound of the Spanish guttural g, followed by a rough double r r. Perhaps the Gauchos, from this cause, have called it Carrancha. Molina, who says it is called Tharu in Chile, states, that when uttering this cry, it elevates its head higher and higher, till at last, with its beak wide open, the crown almost touches the lower part of the back. This fact, which has been doubted, is quite true; I have seen them several times with their heads backwards in a completely inverted position. The Carrancha builds a large coarse nest, either in a low cliff, or in a bush or lofty tree. To these observations I may add, on the high authority of Azara, that the Carrancha feeds on worms, shells, slugs, grasshoppers, and frogs; that it destroys young lambs by tearing the umbilical cord; and that it pursues the Gallinazo,


[page] 66 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

till that bird is compelled to vomit up the carrion it may have recently gorged. Lastly, Azara states that several Carranchas, five or six together, will unite in chase of large birds, even such as herons. All these facts show that it is a bird of very versatile habits and considerable ingenuity.

The Polyborus Chimango is considerably smaller than the last species. It is common on both sides of the continent, but does not appear to extend so far northward as the last species. It is found in Chiloe, and on the coast of Patagonia, and I have seen it in Tierra del Fuego. We have already remarked that it feeds on carrion, in common with the Carrancha. It is generally the last bird which leaves the skeleton; and may often be seen within the ribs of a cow or horse, like a bird in a cage. The Chimango often frequents the sea-coast and the borders of lakes and swamps, where it picks up small fish. It is truly omnivorous, and will eat even bread, when thrown out of a house with other offal: I was also assured that they materially injure the potato crops in Chiloe, by stocking up the roots when first planted. In the same island I myself saw them by scores following the plough, and feeding on the worms and larvæ of insects. I do not believe they ever kill birds or animals. They are more active than the Carranchas, but their flight is heavy; I never saw one soar; they are very tame; are not gregarious; commonly perch on stone walls, and not upon trees; and frequently utter a gentle, shrill scream.

The third species of Polyborus* is remarkable from the confined localities which it frequents: we met with it only in one valley in Patagonia. The last species which we have to mention is the Polyborus Novæ Zelandiæ. This bird is exceedingly numerous over the whole of the Falkland Islands, which appear to be its metropolis. I was informed by the sealers, that they are found in the Diego Ramirez rocks and the Ildefonso isles, but never on the mainland of Tierra del Fuego. Nor do they occur on Georgia or the more southern

* A species allied to "Montanus "of D'Orbigny, but distinct.

[page] 67 1832-3. CARRION HAWKS.

islands. In many respects these hawks resemble in their habits the Carranchas. They live on the flesh of dead animals and on marine productions; and on the Ramirez rocks their whole sustenance must depend on the sea. They are extraordinarily tame and fearless, and haunt the neighbourhood of houses for offal. If a hunting party kills an animal, a number soon collect and patiently await, standing on the ground on all sides. After eating, their uncovered craws are largely protruded, giving them a disgusting appearance. They readily attack wounded birds: a cormorant in this state having taken to the shore, was immediately seized on by several, and its death hastened by their blows. The Beagle was at the Falklands only during the summer, but the officers of the Adventure, who were there in the winter, mention many extraordinary instances of the boldness and rapacity of these birds. They actually pounced on a dog that was lying fast asleep close by one of the party; and the sportsmen had difficulty in preventing the wounded geese from being seized before their eyes. It is said that several together (in this respect resembling the Carranchas) wait at the mouth of a rabbit-hole, and together seize on the animal when it comes out. They were constantly flying on board the vessel when in the harbour; and it was necessary to keep a good look out to prevent the leather being torn from the rigging, and the meat or game from the stern. These birds are very mischievous and inquisitive; they will pick up almost any thing from the ground; a large black glazed hat was carried nearly a mile, as was a pair of the heavy balls, used in catching cattle. Mr. Usborne experienced during the survey a more severe loss, in their stealing a small Kater's compass in a red morocco leather case, which was never recovered. These birds are, moreover, quarrelsome and very passionate; tearing up the grass with their bills from rage. They are not truly gregarious; do not soar; their flight is heavy and clumsy; on the ground they run with extreme quickness, very much like pheasants. They are noisy, uttering several harsh cries; one of which is like that of the English rook; hence the sealers

F 2

[page] 68 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

always so call them. It is a curious circumstance that, when crying out, they throw their heads upwards and backwards, after the same manner as the Carrancha. They build on the rocky cliffs of the sea-coast, but only in the small islets, and not in the two main islands. This is a singular precaution in so tame and fearless a bird. The sealers say that the flesh of these birds when cooked, is quite white, and very good eating.

We have now only to mention the turkey-buzzard (Vultur aura), and the Gallinazo. The former is found wherever the country is moderately damp, from Cape Horn to North America. Differently from the Polyborus Braziliensis and Chimango, it has found its way to the Falkland Islands. The turkey-buzzard is a solitary bird, or at most goes in pairs. It may at once be recognised from a long distance, by its lofty, soaring, and most elegant flight. It is well known to be a true carrion feeder. On the west coast of Patagonia, among the thickly-wooded islets and broken land, it lives exclusively on what the sea throws up, and on the carcasses of dead seals. Wherever these animals are congregated on the rocks, there the vultures may be seen. The Gallinazo (Cathartes atratus) has a different range from the last species, as it never occurs to the southward of lat. 41°. Azara states that there existed a tradition that these birds, at the time of the conquest, were not to be found near Monte Video, but that they subsequently followed the inhabitants from more northern districts. At the present day they are numerous in the valley of the Colorado, which is three hundred miles due south of Monte Video. It seems probable that this additional migration has happened since the time of Azara. The Gallinazo generally prefers a humid climate, or rather the neighbourhood of fresh water; hence it is extremely abundant in Brazil and La Plata, while it is never found on the desert and arid plains of Northern Patagonia, excepting near some stream. These birds frequent the whole Pampas to the foot of the Cordillera, but I never saw or heard of one in Chile: in Peru they are preserved as

[page] 69 1832-3. CARRION HAWKS.

scavengers. These vultures certainly may be called gregarious, for they seem to have pleasure in society, and are not solely brought together by the attraction of a common prey. On a fine day a flock may often be observed at a great height, each bird wheeling round and round without closing its wings, in the most graceful evolutions. This is clearly done for sport-sake, or perhaps is connected with their matrimonial alliances.

I have now mentioned all the carrion-feeders, excepting the condor, an account of which will be more appropriately introduced when we visit a country more congenial to its habits than the plains of La Plata.

In a broad band of sand-hillocks which separate the Laguna del Potrero from the shores of the Plata, at the distance of a few miles from Maldonado, I found a group of those vitrified, siliceous tubes, which are generally supposed to have been formed by lightning entering the loose sand. These tubes resemble in every particular those from Drigg, in Cumberland, described in the Geological Transactions.* The sand-hillocks of Maldonado, not being protected by vegetation, are constantly changing their position. From this cause the tubes projected above the surface; and numerous fragments lying near, showed that they had formerly been buried to a greater depth. Four sets entered the sand perpendicularly: by working with my hands I traced one of them two feet deep; and some fragments which evidently had belonged to the same tube, when added to the other part, measured five feet three inches. The diameter of the whole was nearly equal, and therefore we must suppose that originally it extended to a much greater depth. These dimensions are however small, compared to those of the tubes from Drigg, one of which was traced to a depth of not less than thirty feet.

The internal surface is completely vitrified, glossy, and smooth. A small fragment examined under the micro-

* Geolog. Transact., vol. ii., p. 528.

[page] 70 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

scope, appeared, from the number of minute entangled air or perhaps steam bubbles, like an assay fused before the blowpipe. The sand is entirely, or in greater part, siliceous; but some points are of a black colour, and from their glossy surface possess a metallic lustre. The thickness of the wall of the tube varies from a thirtieth to a twentieth of an inch, and occasionally even equals a tenth. On the outside, the grains of sand are rounded, and have a slightly glazed appearance: I could not distinguish any sign of crystallization. In a similar manner to that described in the Geological Transactions, the tubes are generally compressed, and have deep longitudinal furrows, so as closely to resemble a shrivelled vegetable stalk, or the bark of the elm or cork tree. Their circumference is about two inches, but in some fragments which are cylindrical and without any furrows, it is double, or four inches. The compression from the surrounding loose sand, acting while the tube was still softened from the effects of the intense heat, has evidently caused the creases or furrows. Judging from the uncompressed fragments, the measure or bore of the lightning (if such a term may be used), must have been about one inch and a quarter. At Paris, M. Hachette and M. Beaudant* succeeded in making tubes, in most respects similar to these fulgurites, by passing very strong shocks of galvanism through finely-powdered glass: when salt was added, so as to increase its fusibility, the tubes were larger in every dimension. They failed both with powdered felspar and quartz. One tube, formed with pounded glass, was very nearly an inch long, namely, .982, and had an internal diameter of .019. When we hear that the strongest battery in Paris was used, and that the effect on a substance of such easy fusibility as glass, was to form tubes so diminutive, we must feel greatly astonished at the power of a shock of lightning, which, striking the sand in several places, has formed a cylinder, in one instance of at least thirty feet long, and

* Annales de Chimie et de Physique, tom. xxxvii., p. 319.

[page] 71 1832-3. FULGURITES.

having an internal bore, where not compressed, of full an inch and a half; and this in a material so extraordinarily refractory as quartz !

The tubes, as I have already remarked, enter the sand nearly in a vertical direction. One, however, which was less regular than the generality, had a deviation from a right line, which amounted, at the most considerable bend, to thirty-three degrees. From this same tube, two small branches, about a foot apart, were sent off; one pointed downwards, and the other upwards. This latter case is remarkable, as the electric fluid must have turned back at the acute angle of 26°, to the line of its main course. Besides the four tubes which I found vertical, and traced beneath the surface, there were several other groups of fragments, the original site of which without doubt was near. All occurred in a level area, sixty yards by twenty, of shifting sand, situated among some high sand-hillocks; and at the distance of about half a mile, from a chain of hills four or five hundred feet in height. The most remarkable circumstance, as it appears to me, in this case as well as in that of Drigg, and in one described by M. Ribbentrop in Germany, is the number of tubes found within such limited spaces. At Drigg, within an area of fifteen yards, three were observed, and the same number occurred in Germany. In the case which I have described, certainly more than four existed within the space of the sixty by twenty yards. As it does not appear probable that the tubes are produced by successive and distinct shocks, we must believe that the lightning, shortly before entering the ground, divides itself into separate branches.

The neighbourhood of the Rio Plata seems peculiarly subject to electric phenomena. In the year 1793,* one of the most destructive thunderstorms perhaps on record happened at Buenos Ayres: thirty-seven places within the city were struck by lightning, and nineteen people killed. From facts stated in several books of travels, I am inclined to suspect

* Azara's Voyage, vol. i., p. 36.

[page] 72 MALDONADO. 1832-3.

that thunderstorms are very common near the mouths of great rivers. Is it not possible that the mixture of large bodies of fresh water with the salt may disturb the electrical equilibrium? Even during our occasional visits to this part of South America, we heard of a ship, two churches, and a house, having been struck. Both the church and the house I saw shortly afterwards: the house belonged to Mr. Hood, the consul-general at Monte Video. Some of the effects were curious: the paper, for nearly a foot on each side of the line where the bell-wires had run, was blackened. The metal had been fused, and although the room was at least fifteen feet high, the globules dropping on the chairs and furniture, had drilled in them a chain of minute holes. A part of the wall was shattered as if by gunpowder, and the fragments had been blown off with force sufficient to dent the walls on the opposite side of the room. The frame of a looking-glass was blackened, and the gilding must have been volatilized, for a smelling-bottle, which stood on the chimney-piece, was coated with bright metallic particles, which adhered as firmly as if they had been enamelled.

[page] 73


Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by Indians — Salt lakes, geological position of — Flamingoes — R. Negro to Colorado — Sacred tree — Patagonian hare — Indian families — General Rosas — Proceed to Bahia Blanca — Sand dunes — Negro lieutenant — Bahia Blanca — Ground incrusted with Glauber salt — Punta Alta — Zorillo.


JULY 24TH, 1833.—The Beagle sailed from Maldonado, and on August the 3d she arrived off the mouth of the Rio Negro. This is the principal river on the whole line of coast between the Straits of Magellan and the Plata. It enters the sea about three hundred miles south of the estuary of the latter. About fifty years since, under the old Spanish government, a small colony was established here; and it is still the most southern position (lat. 41°) on this eastern coast of America which is inhabited by civilized man.

The country near the mouth of the river is wretched in the extreme : on the south side a long line of perpendicular cliffs commences, which exposes a section of the geological nature of the country. The strata are of sandstone, and one layer was remarkable, from being composed of a firmly-cemented conglomerate of pumice pebbles, which must have travelled more than four hundred miles, from the Andes. The surface is every where covered up by a thick bed of gravel, which extends far and wide over the open plain. Water is extremely scarce, and, where found, is almost invariably brackish. The vegetation is scanty; and although there are bushes of many kinds, all are armed with formidable thorns, which seem to warn the stranger not to enter on these inhospitable regions.

The settlement is situated eighteen miles up the river. The road follows the foot of the sloping cliff, which forms

[page] 74 RIO NEGRO. Aug. 1833.

the northern boundary of the great valley, in which the Rio Negro flows. On the way we passed the ruins of some fine "estancias," which a few years since were destroyed by the Indians. They withstood several attacks. A man present at one gave me a very lively description of what took place. The inhabitants had sufficient notice to drive all the cattle and horses into the "corral"* which surrounded the house, and likewise to mount some small cannon. The Indians were Araucanians from the south of Chile; several hundreds in number, and highly disciplined. They first appeared in two bodies on a neighbouring hill; having there dismounted, and taken off their fur mantles, they advanced naked to the charge. The only weapon of an Indian is a very long bamboo or chuzo, ornamented with ostrich feathers, and pointed by a sharp spear head. My informer seemed to remember with the greatest horror the quivering of these chuzos as they approached near. When close, the cacique Pincheira hailed the besieged to give up their arms, or he would cut all their throats. As this would probably have been the result of their entrance under any circumstances, the answer was given by a volley of musketry. The Indians, with great steadiness, came to the very fence of the corral: but to their surprise they found the posts fastened together by iron nails instead of leather thongs, and, of course, in vain attempted to cut them with their knives. This saved the lives of the Christians : many of the wounded Indians were carried away by their companions; and at last one of the under caciques being wounded, the bugle sounded a retreat. They retired to their horses, and seemed to hold a council of war. This was an awful pause for the Spaniards, as all their ammunition, with the exception of a few cartridges, was expended. In an instant the Indians mounted their horses, and galloped out of sight. Another attack was still more quickly repulsed. A cool Frenchman managed the gun; he

* The corral is an enclosure made of tall and strong stakes. Every estancia, or farming estate, has one attached to it.

[page] 75 Aug. 1833. SALINAS.

stopped till the Indians approached close, and then raked their line with grape-shot: he thus laid thirty-nine of them on the ground; and, of course, such a blow immediately routed the whole party.

The town is indifferently called El Carmen or Patagones. It is built on the face of a cliff which fronts the river, and many of the houses are excavated even in the sandstone. The river is about two or three hundred yards wide, and is deep and rapid. The many islands, with their willow-trees, and the flat headlands, seen one behind the other on the northern boundary of the broad green valley, forms, by the aid of a bright sun, a view almost picturesque. The number of inhabitants does not exceed a few hundreds. These Spanish colonies do not, like our British ones, carry within themselves the elements of growth. Many Indians of pure blood reside here: the tribe of the Cacique Lucanee constantly have their Toldos * on the outskirts of the town. The local government partly supplies them with provisions, by giving them all the old, worn out horses, and they earn a little by making horse-rugs and other articles of riding gear. These Indians are considered civilized; but what their character may have gained by a lesser degree of ferocity, is almost counterbalanced by their entire immorality. Some of the younger men are, however, improving; they are willing to labour, and a short time since a party went on a sealing voyage, and behaved very well. They were now enjoying the fruits of their labour, by being dressed in very gay, clean clothes, and by being very idle. The taste they showed in their dress was admirable; if you could have turned one of these young Indians into a statue of bronze, his drapery would have been perfectly graceful.

One day I rode to a large salt lake, or Salina, which is distant fifteen miles from the town. During the winter it consists of a shallow lake of brine, which in summer is converted into a field of snow-white salt. The layer near the

* The hovels of the Indians are thus called.

[page] 76 RIO NEGRO. Aug. 1833.

margin is from four to five inches thick, but towards the centre its thickness increases. This lake was two and a half miles long, and one broad. Others occur in the neighbourhood many times larger, and with a floor of salt, two and three feet in thickness, even when under water during the winter. One of these brilliantly-white and level expanses, in the midst of the brown and desolate plain, offers an extraordinary spectacle. A large quantity of salt is annually drawn from the salina; and great piles, some hundred tons in weight, were lying ready for exportation. It is singular that the salt, although well crystallized, and appearing quite pure, does not answer so well for preserving meat as sea salt from the Cape de Verd Islands. Although the latter is necessarily much dearer, it is constantly imported and mixed with the salt procured from these salinas. A merchant at Buenos Ayres told me that he considered the Cape de Verd salt worth fifty per cent. more than that from the Rio Negro. The season for working the salinas forms the harvest of Patagones; for on it, the prosperity of the place depends. Nearly the whole population encamps on the banks of the river, and the people are employed in drawing out the salt in bullock-waggons.

The border of the lake is formed of mud: and in this numerous large crystals of gypsum, some of which are three inches long, lie embedded; whilst on the surface, others of sulphate of magnesia lie scattered about. The Gauchos call the former the "Padre del sal," and the latter the "Madre"; they state that these progenitive salts always occur on the borders of the salinas, when the water begins to evaporate. The mud is black, and has a fetid odour. I could not, at first, imagine the cause of this, but I afterwards perceived that the froth, which the wind drifted on shore was coloured green, as if by confervæ: I attempted to carry home some of this green matter, but from an accident failed. Parts of the lake seen from a short distance appeared of a reddish colour, and this, perhaps, was owing to some infusorial animalcula. The mud in many places was thrown up by numbers of

[page] 77 Aug. 1833. SALINAS.

some kind of worm, or annelidous animal. How surprising it is that any creatures should be able to exist in a fluid, saturated with brine, and that they should be crawling among crystals of sulphate of soda and lime! And what becomes of these worms when, during a long summer, the surface at least is hardened into a solid layer of salt? Flamingoes* in considerable numbers inhabit this lake; they breed here, and their bodies are sometimes found by the workmen, preserved in the salt. I saw several wading about in search of food,—probably for the worms which burrow in the mud; and these latter, perhaps, feed on infusoria or confervæ. Thus we have a little world within itself, adapted to these little inland seas of brine.†

With respect to the geological position of the salinas, they occur either in the plains composed of shingle, and overlying various deposits, or within the grand calcareo-argillaceous formation of the Pampas. The only rule I can discover, is, that they do not occur where the substratum is granitic, as in Brazil and Banda Oriental. I know of their occasional existence over the immense territory extending from lat. 23°, near the Rio Vermejo, to 50° south. The climate may generally be considered as rather dry; at least, such is the case in Patagonia, where the salinas are most numerous. Those which I saw occurred in depressions,

* Throughout South America, the flamingo appears singularly attached to salt lakes. I saw instances of this throughout Patagonia, in the Cordillera of Northern Chile, and at the Galapagos Islands.

† In the Linnæan Transactions, vol. xi., p. 205, a minute crustaceous animal is described, under the name of Cancer salinus. It is said to occur in countless numbers in the brine pans at Lymington; but only in those in which the fluid has attained, from evaporation, considerable strength; namely, about a quarter of a pound of salt to a pint of water. This cancer is said, also, to inhabit the salt lakes of Siberia. Well may we affirm, that every part of the world is habitable ! Whether lakes of brine, or those subterranean ones hidden beneath volcanic mountains—warm mineral springs; the wide expanse and depths of the ocean; the upper regions of the atmosphere; and even the surface of perpetual snow;—all support organic beings.

[page] 78 RIO NEGRO. Aug. 1833.

whence there was no exit; in a more humid climate the water flowing from the lake would soon have hollowed a channel in the soft strata, and thus converted the depression of the soil into an ordinary valley. There is reason to believe that the whole of these great plains have been raised above the level of the sea within a recent geological period. May we not then consider the salinas as the receptacles of the washings of the sedimentary strata? On this idea we understand their absence where the land is granitic. It is manifest that these great natural evaporating dishes can only occur where the amount of annual rain is small.*

To the northward of the Rio Negro, between it and the inhabited country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have only one small settlement, recently established at Bahia Blanca. The distance in a straight line to the capital is very nearly five hundred British miles. The wandering tribes of horse Indians, which have always occupied the greater part of this country, having of late much harassed the outlying estancias, the government at Buenos Ayres equipped some time since an army under the command of General Rosas for the purpose of exterminating them. The troops were now encamped on the banks of the Colorado; a river lying about eighty miles to the northward of the Rio Negro. When General Rosas left Buenos Ayres, he struck in a direct line across the unexplored plains: and as the country was thus pretty well cleared of Indians, he left behind him, at wide

* Almost every circumstance here mentioned, occurs in the salt lakes near the borders of the Caspian. That country, like Patagonia, appears to have been recently elevated above the waters of the sea. Pallas states that the salt lakes occupy shallow depressions in the steppes; that the mud on the borders in every case is black and fetid; that beneath the crust of sea salt, sulphate of magnesia occurs, imperfectly crystallized; that the muddy sand is mixed with lentils of gypsum. We have before stated that these lakes are inhabited by small crustaceous animals; and flamingoes (Edin. New Philos. Jour., Jan. 1830) likewise frequent them. As these circumstances, apparently so trifling, occur in two distant continents, we may feel sure they are the necessary results of some common cause.—See Pallas's Travels, 1793 to 1794, p. 129-134.

[page] 79 Aug. 1833. SACRED TREE.

intervals, a small party of soldiers, with a troop of horses (a posta), so as to be enabled to keep up a communication with the capital. As the Beagle intended to call at Bahia Blanca, I determined to proceed there by land; and ultimately I extended my plan so as to travel the whole way by the postas to Buenos Ayres.

AUGUST 11TH.—Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at Patagones, a guide, and five Gauchos, who were proceeding to the army on business, were my companions on the journey. The Colorado, as I have already said, is nearly eighty miles distant: and as we travelled slowly, we were two days and a half on the road. The whole line of country deserves scarcely a better name than that of a desert. Water is found only in two small wells: it is called fresh; but even at this time of the year, during the rainy season, it was quite brackish. In the summer this must be a distressing passage; for now it was sufficiently desolate. The valley of the Rio Negro, broad as it is, has merely been excavated out of the sandstone plain; for immediately above the bank on which the town stands, a level country commences, which is interrupted only by a few trifling valleys and depressions. Every where the landscape wears the same sterile aspect; a dry gravelly soil supports tufts of brown withered grass, and low scattered bushes, armed with thorns.

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a famous tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of Walleechu. It is situated on a high part of the plain, and hence is a landmark visible at a great distance. As soon as a tribe of Indians come in sight of it, they offer their adorations by loud shouts. The tree itself is low, much branched, and thorny. Just above the root it has a diameter of about three feet. It stands by itself without any neighbour, and was indeed the first tree we saw; afterwards we met with a few others of the same kind, but they were far from common. Being winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place numberless threads, by which the various offerings, such as cigars, bread, meat, pieces of cloth, &c.,

[page] 80 RIO NEGRO. Aug. 1833.

had been suspended. Poor people not having any thing better, only pulled a thread out of their ponchos, and fastened it to the tree. The Indians, moreover, were accustomed to pour spirits and maté into a certain hole, and likewise to smoke upwards, thinking thus to afford all possible gratification to Walleechu. To complete the scene, the tree was surrounded by the bleached bones of the horses which had been slaughtered as sacrifices. All Indians of every age and sex, made their offerings; they then thought that their horses would not tire, and that they themselves should be prosperous. The Gaucho who told me this, said that in the time of peace he had witnessed this scene, and that he and others used to wait till the Indians had passed by, for the sake of stealing their offerings from Walleechu.

The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as the god itself; but it seems far more probable that they regard it as the altar. The only cause which I can imagine for this choice, is its being a landmark in a dangerous passage. The Sierra de la Ventana is visible at an immense distance; and a Gaucho told me that he was once riding with an Indian a few miles to the north of the Rio Colorado, when the latter commenced making the same loud noise, which is usual at the first sight of the distant tree; putting his hand to his head, and then pointing it in the direction of the Sierra. Upon being asked the reason of this, the Indian said in broken Spanish, "First see the Sierra." This likewise would render it probable that the utility of a distant landmark is the first cause of its adoration. About two leagues beyond this curious tree we halted for the night: at this instant an unfortunate cow was spied by the lynx-eyed Gauchos. Off they set in chase, and in a few minutes she was dragged in by the lazo, and slaughtered. We here had the four necessaries of life "en el campo,"—pasture for the horses, water (only a muddy puddle), meat, and firewood. The Gauchos were in high spirits at finding all these luxuries; and we soon set to work at the poor cow. This was the first night which I had ever passed

[page] 81 Aug. 1833. AGOUTI.

under the open sky, with the gear of the recado for my bed. There is high enjoyment in the independence of the Gaucho life—to be able at any moment to pull up your horse, and say, "Here we will pass the night." The deathlike stillness of the plain, the dogs keeping watch, the gipsy-group of Gauchos making their beds round the fire, have left in my mind a strongly-marked picture of this first night, which will not soon be forgotten.

The next day the country continued similar to that above described. It is inhabited by few birds or animals. Occasionally a deer, or a Guanaco (wild Llama) may be seen; but the Agouti (Cavia Patagonica) is the commonest quadruped. This animal here represents our hares. It differs, however, from that genus in many essential respects; for instance, it has only three toes behind. It is also nearly twice the size, weighing from twenty to twenty-five pounds. The Agouti is a true friend to the desert; it is a common feature in the landscape to see two or three hopping quickly one after the other in a straight line across these wild plains. On the eastern side of America their northern limit is formed by the Sierra Tapalguen (lat. 37° 30'), where the plains rather suddenly become greener and more humid. The limit certainly depends on this change, for near Mendoza (lat. 33° 30'), which is much further north, but where the country is very sterile, I again met the Agouti. It is not evident by what circumstances their southern limit is governed; it occurs between Port Desire and St. Julian (about 48° 30'), where there is no change in the kind of land, and only a trifling and gradual one of temperature. It is a singular fact, that although the Agouti is not now found so far south as Port St. Julian, yet that Captain Wood, in his voyage in 1670, talks of them as being numerous there. What cause can have altered, in a wide, uninhabited, and rarely-visited country, the range of an animal like this? It appears, also, from the number shot in one day at Port Desire, that they must have been considerably more abundant there formerly than at present. Azara states that the Agouti never ex-


[page] 82 RIO COLORADO. Aug. 1833.

cavates its own burrow, but uses that of the Bizcacha. Wherever this animal is present, without doubt this is true; but on the sandy plains of Bahia Blanca, where the Bizcacha is not found, the Gauchos maintain that the Agouti is its own workman. The same thing occurs with the little owls of the Pampas (Noctua cunicularia), which have so often been described as standing like sentinels at the mouths of the burrows; for in Banda Oriental, owing to the absence of the Bizcacha, they are obliged to hollow out their own habitations. Azara also says that the Agouti, except when pressed by danger, does not enter its burrow: on this point I must again differ from that high authority. At Bahia Blanca I have repeatedly seen two or three of these animals sitting on their haunches by the mouths of their holes, which, as I passed by at a distance, they quietly entered. Daily in the neighbourhood of these spots the Agouti were abundant: but differently from most burrowing animals, it wanders, commonly two or three together, to miles or leagues from its home; nor do I know whether it returns at night. The Agouti feeds and roams about by day; is shy and watchful; does not squat, or so rarely that I never saw an instance of this; it cannot run very fast; and, therefore, is frequently caught by a couple of dogs, even of mixed breed. Its manner of running more resembles that of a rabbit than of a hare. The Agouti generally produces two young ones at a birth, which are brought forth within the burrow. The flesh, when cooked, is very white; it is, however, rather tasteless and dry.

The next morning, as we approached the Rio Colorado, the appearance of the country changed; we soon came on a plain covered with turf, which, from its flowers, tall clover, and little owls, resembled the Pampas. We passed also a muddy swamp of considerable extent, which in summer dries, and becomes incrusted with various salts; and hence is called a salitral. It was covered by low succulent plants, of the same kind with those growing on the sea-shore. The Colorado, at the pass where we crossed it, is only about

[page] 83 Aug. 1833. RIO COLORADO.

sixty yards wide; generally it must be nearly double that width. Its course is very tortuous, being marked by willow-trees and beds of reeds: in a direct line the distance to the mouth of the river is said to be nine leagues, but by water twenty-five. We were delayed crossing in the canoe by some immense troops of mares, which were swimming the river in order to follow a division of troops into the interior. A more ludicrous spectacle I never beheld, than the hundreds of heads, all directed one way, with pointed ears and distended nostrils, appearing just above the water like a great shoal of some amphibious animals. Mare's flesh is the only food which the soldiers have when on an expedition. This gives them a very great facility of movement; for the distance to which horses can be driven over these plains is quite surprising: I have been assured that an unloaded horse can travel a hundred miles a day for many days successively.

The encampment of General Rosas was close to the river. It consisted of a square formed by waggons, artillery, straw huts, &c. The soldiers were nearly all cavalry; and I should think such a villanous, banditti-like army, was never before collected together. The greater number of men were of a mixed breed, between Negro, Indian, and Spaniard. I know not the reason, but men of such origin seldom have a good expression of countenance. I called on the secretary to show my passport. He began to cross-question me in the most dignified and mysterious manner. By good luck I had a letter of recommendation from the government of Buenos Ayres* to the commandant of Patagones. This was taken to General Rosas, who sent me a very obliging message; and the secretary returned all smiles and graciousness. We took up our residence in the rancho, or hovel, of a curious old Spaniard, who had served with Napoleon in the expedition against Russia.

We staid two days at the Colorado; I had little to do, for

* I am bound to express, in the strongest terms, my obligation to the Government of Buenos Ayres for the obliging manner in which passports to all parts of the country were given me, as naturalist of the Beagle.

G 2

[page] 84 RIO COLORADO. Aug. 1833.

the surrounding country was a swamp, which in summer, (December) when the snow melts on the Cordillera, is overflowed by the river. My chief amusement was watching the Indian families as they came to buy little articles at the rancho, where we staid. It was supposed that General Rosas had about six hundred Indian allies. The men were a tall, fine race, yet it was afterwards easy to see in the Fuegian savage the same countenance rendered hideous by cold, want of food, and less civilization. Some authors, in defining the primary races of mankind, have separated these Indians into two classes; but I cannot think this is correct. Among the young women or chinas, some deserve to be called even beautiful. Their hair was coarse, but bright and black; and they wore it in two plaits hanging down to the waist. They had a high colour, and eyes that glistened with brilliancy; their legs, feet, and arms were small and elegantly formed; their ankles, and sometimes their waists, were ornamented by broad bracelets of blue beads. Nothing could be more interesting than some of the family groups. A mother with one or two daughters would often come to our rancho, mounted on the same horse. They ride like men, but with their knees tucked up much higher. This habit, perhaps, arises from their being accustomed, when travelling, to ride the loaded horses. The duty of the women is to load and unload the horses; to make the tents for the night; in short to be, like the wives of all savages, useful slaves. The men fight, hunt, take care of the horses, and make the riding gear. One of their chief indoor occupations is to knock two stones together till they become round. The bolas is a very important weapon to the Indian; for with it he catches his game, and also his horse which roams free over the plain. In fighting, his first attempt is to throw the horse of his adversary with the bolas, and when entangled by the fall to kill him with the chuzo. If the balls only catch the neck or body of an animal, they are often carried away and lost. As the making the stones round is the labour of two days, the manufacture of the balls is a very common employment.

[page] 85 Aug. 1833. RIO COLORADO.

Several of the men and women had their faces painted red, but I never saw the horizontal bands which are so common among the Fuegians. Their chief pride consists in having every thing made of silver; I have seen a cacique with his spurs, stirrups, handle of his knife, and bridle made of this metal: the head - stall and reins being of wire, were not thicker than whipcord; and to see a fiery steed, wheeling about under the command of so light a chain, gave to the horsemanship a remarkable character of elegance.

General Rosas intimated a wish to see me; a circumstance which I was afterwards very glad of. He is a man of an extraordinary character, and has a most predominant influence in the country, which it seems probable he will use to its prosperity and advancement. He is said to be the owner of seventy-four square leagues of land, and to have about three hundred thousand head of cattle. His estates are admirably managed, and are far more productive of corn than any others. He first gained his celebrity by his laws for his own estancias, and by disciplining several hundred men, so as to resist with success the attacks of the Indians. There are many stories current about the rigid manner in which his laws were enforced. One of these was, that no man, on penalty of being put into the stocks, should carry his knife on a Sunday: this day being the principal one for gambling and drinking, many quarrels arose, which from the general manner of fighting with the knife often proved fatal. One Sunday the Governor came in great form to pay the Estancia a visit, and General Rosas, in his hurry, walked out to receive him with his knife, as usual, stuck in his belt. The steward touched his arm, and reminded him of the law; upon which turning to the Governor, he said he was extremely sorry, but that he must go into the stocks, and that till let out, he possessed no power even in his own house. After a little time the steward was persuaded to open the stocks, and to let him out, but no sooner was this done, than he turned to the steward and said, "You now have broken the laws, so you must take my place in the stocks."

[page] 86 RIO COLORADO. Aug. 1833.

Such actions as these delighted the Gauchos, who all possess high notions of their own equality and dignity.

General Rosas is also a perfect horseman—an acomplishment of no small consequence in a country where an assembled army elected its general by the following trial: A troop of unbroken horses being driven into a corral, were let out through a gateway, above which was a cross-bar: it was agreed, whoever should drop from the bar on one of these wild animals, as it rushed out, and should be able without saddle or bridle, not only to ride it, but also to bring it back to the door of the corral, should be their general. The person who succeeded was accordingly elected; and doubtless made a fit general for such an army. This extraordinary feat has also been performed by Rosas.

By these means, and by conforming to the dress and habits of the Gauchos, he has obtained an unbounded popularity in the country, and in consequence a despotic power. I was assured by an English merchant, that a man who had murdered another, when arrested and questioned concerning his motive, answered, "He spoke disrespectfully of General Rosas, so I killed him." At the end of a week the murderer was at liberty. This doubtless was the act of the general's party, and not of the general himself.

In conversation he is enthusiastic, sensible, and very grave. His gravity is carried to a high pitch: I heard one of his mad buffoons (for he keeps two, like the barons of old) relate the following anecdote: "I wanted very much to hear a certain piece of music, so I went to the general two or three times to ask him; he said to me, ‘ Go about your business, for I am engaged.' I went a second time; he said, ‘ If you come again I will punish you.' A third time I asked, and he laughed. I rushed out of the tent, but it was too late; he ordered two soldiers to catch and stake me. I begged by all the Saints in heaven, he would let me off; but it would not do;—when the general laughs he spares neither mad man or sound." The poor flighty gentleman looked quite dolorous, at the very recollection of the staking. This

[page] 87 Aug. 1833. ASPECT OF COUNTRY.

is a very severe punishment; four posts are driven into the ground, and the man is extended by his arms and legs horizontally, and there left to stretch for several hours. The idea is evidently taken from the usual method of drying hides. My interview passed away without a smile, and I obtained a passport and order for the government post-horses, and this he gave me in the most obliging and ready manner.

In the morning we started for Bahia Blanca, which we reached in two days. Leaving the regular encampment, we passed by the toldos of the Indians. These are round like ovens, and covered with hides; by the mouth of each a tapering chuzo was stuck in the ground. The toldos were divided into separate groups, which belonged to the different caciques' tribes, and the groups were again divided into smaller ones, according to the relationship of the owners. For several miles we travelled along the valley of the Colorado. The alluvial plains on the side appeared fertile, and it is supposed that they are well adapted to the growth of corn. Turning northward from the river, we soon entered on a country, differing from those plains that extend south of the river. The land still continued dry and sterile; but it supported many different kinds of plants, and the grass, though brown and withered, was more abundant, as the thorny bushes were less so. These latter in a short space entirely disappeared, and the plains were left without a thicket to cover their nakedness. This change in the vegetation marks the commencement of the grand calcareo-argillaceous deposit, which I have already noticed as forming the wide extent of the Pampas, and as covering the granitic rocks of Banda Oriental. From the Strait of Magellan to the Colorado, a distance of about eight hundred miles, the face of the country is every where composed of shingle: the pebbles are chiefly of porphyry, and probably owe their origin to the rocks of the Cordillera. North of the Colorado the bed thins out, and the pebbles become exceedingly small, and here the characteristic vegetation of Patagonia ceases.

[page] 88 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

Having ridden about twenty-five miles, we came to a broad belt of sand-dunes, which stretch, as far as the eye can reach, to the east and west. The sand - hillocks resting on the clay, allow small pools of water to collect, and thus afford, in this dry country, an invaluable supply of fresh water. The great advantage arising from depressions and elevations of the soil, is not often brought home to the mind. The two miserable springs in the long passage between the Rio Negro and Colorado were caused by trifling inequalities in the plain; without them not a drop of water would have been found. The belt of sand-dunes is about eight miles wide; at some former period, it probably formed the margin of a grand estuary, where the Colorado now flows. In this district, where absolute proofs of the recent elevation of the land occur, such speculations can hardly be neglected by any one, although merely considering the physical geography of the country. Having crossed the sandy tract, we arrived in the evening at one of the post-houses; and, as the fresh horses were grazing at a distance, we determined to pass the night there.

The house was situated at the base of a ridge, between one and two hundred feet high—a most remarkable feature in this country. This posta was commanded by a negro lieutenant, born in Africa: to his credit be it said, there was not a rancho between the Colorado and Buenos Ayres in nearly such neat order as his. He had a little room for strangers, and a small corral for the horses, all made of sticks and reeds; he had also dug a ditch round his house, as a defence in case of being attacked. This would, however, have been of little avail, if the Indians had come; but his chief comfort seemed to rest in the thought of selling his life dearly. A short time before, a body of Indians had travelled past in the night; if they had been aware of the posta, our black friend and his four soldiers, would assuredly have been slaughtered. I did not any where meet a more civil and obliging man, than this negro; it was therefore the more painful to see that he would not sit down and eat with us.

[page] 89 Aug. 1833. BAHIA BLANCA.

In the morning we sent for the horses very early, and started for another exhilarating gallop. We passed the Cabeza del Buey, an old name given to the head of a large marsh, which extends from Bahia Blanca. Here we changed horses, and passed through some leagues of swamps and saltpetre marshes. Changing horses for the last time, we again began wading through the mud. My animal fell, and I was well soused in black mire—a very disagreeable accident, when one does not possess a change of clothes. Some miles from the fort we met a man, who told us that a great gun had been fired, which is a signal that Indians are near. We immediately left the road, and followed the edge of a marsh, which when chased offers the best mode of escape. We were glad to arrive within the walls, when we found all the alarm was about nothing, for the Indians turned out to be friendly ones, who wished to join General Rosas.

Bahia Blanca scarcely deserves the name of a village. A few houses and the barracks for the troops are enclosed by a deep ditch and fortified wall. The settlement is only of recent standing (since 1828) ; and its growth has been one of trouble. The government of Buenos Ayres did not follow the wise example of the Spanish viceroys in purchasing the land from the Indians, as they did with the Rio Negro, but unjustly occupied it by force. Hence the need of the fortifications; hence the few houses and little cultivated land without the limits of the walls : even the cattle are not safe from the attacks of the Indians beyond the boundaries of the plain, on which the fortress stands.

The part of the harbour where the Beagle intended to anchor being distant twenty-five miles, I obtained from the Commandant a guide and horses, to take me to see whether she had arrived. Leaving the plain of green turf, which followed the course of the little brook, we soon entered on a wide level waste, consisting either of sand, saline marshes, or bare mud. Some parts were clothed by low thickets, and others with those succulent plants, which luxuriate only

[page] 90 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

where salt abounds. Bad as the country was, ostriches, deer, cavies, and armadilloes, were abundant. My guide told me, that two months before he had a most narrow escape of his life: he was out hunting, at no great distance from this part of the country, with two other men, when they were suddenly met by a party of Indians, who giving chase, soon overtook and killed his two friends. His own horse's legs were also caught by the bolas; but he jumped off, and with his knife cut them free: while doing this he was obliged to dodge round his horse, and received two severe wounds from their chuzos. Springing on the saddle, he managed, by a most wonderful exertion, just to keep ahead of the long spears of his pursuers, who followed him to within sight of the fort. From that time there was an order that no one should stray far from the settlement. I did not know of this when I started, and was surprised to observe how earnestly my guide watched a deer, which appeared to have been frightened from a distant quarter.

We found the Beagle had not arrived, and consequently set out on our return, but the horses soon tiring, we were obliged to bivouac on the plain. In the morning we had caught an armadillo, which, although a most excellent dish when roasted in its shell, did not make a very substantial breakfast and dinner for two hungry men. The ground at the place where we stopped for the night, was incrusted with a layer of Glauber salt, and hence, of course, was without water. Yet many of the smaller rodents managed to exist even here, and the tucutuco was making its odd little grunt beneath my head, during half the night. Our horses were very poor ones, and in the morning they were soon exhausted from not having had any thing to drink, so that we were obliged to walk. About noon the dogs killed a kid, which we roasted. I eat some of it, but it made me intolerably thirsty. This was the more distressing as the road, from some recent rain, was full of little puddles of clear water, yet not a drop was drinkable. I had scarcely

[page] 91 Aug. 1833. GLAUBER SALTS.

been twenty hours without water, and only part of the time under a hot sun, yet the thirst rendered me very weak. How people survive two or three days under such circumstances, I cannot imagine: at the same time, I must confess that my guide did not suffer at all, and was astonished that one day's deprivation should be so troublesome to me.

I have several times alluded to the surface of the ground being incrusted with salt. This phenomenon is quite different from that of the salinas, and much more extraordinary. In many parts of South America, wherever the climate is moderately dry, these incrustations occur; but I have nowhere seen them so abundant as near Bahia Blanca. The salt here consists of a large proportion of sulphate of soda mixed with a very little of the common muriate. As long as the ground remains moist in these salitrales (as the Spaniards improperly call them, mistaking this substance for saltpetre), nothing is to be seen but an extensive plain composed of a black, muddy soil, supporting scattered tufts of succulent plants. I was therefore much surprised, after a week's hot weather, when I first saw square miles of country, that I had previously ridden over in the former condition, white, as if from a slight fall of snow which the wind had heaped up into partial drifts. This latter appearance is chiefly due to the tendency which the salt has to crystallize, like hoar-frost, round the blades of grass, stumps of wood, or on the top of the broken ground, in lieu of the bottoms of the puddles of water. The salinas, as a general rule, occur in depressions on the more elevated plains; the salitrales, either on level tracts elevated a few feet above the level of the sea, and appearing as if lately inundated, or on alluvial land bordering rivers. In this latter case, although I am not absolutely certain, I have strong reasons for believing that the salt is often removed by the waters of the river, and is again reproduced. Several circumstances incline me to think that the black, muddy soil, generates the sulphate of soda. The whole phenomenon is well worthy the

[page] 92 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

attention of naturalists: what can be more singular than thus to see square miles of country thinly crusted over with Glauber salt? It may be asked whether plants do not decompose the muriate of soda? but whence comes the sulphuric acid? In Peru, nitrate of soda occurs in beds far thicker than these of the sulphate. Both cases are equally mysterious. I suspect that, as a general rule, the salts of soda are infinitely more common in South America than those of potash.

Two days afterwards, I again rode to the harbour, but to a nearer part of it. When not far from our destination, my companion, the same man as before, spied three people hunting on horseback. He immediately dismounted, and watching them intently, said, "They don't ride like Christians, and nobody can leave the fort." The three hunters joined company, and likewise dismounted from their horses. At last one mounted again and rode over the hill out of sight. My companion said, "We must now get on our horses: load your pistol;" and he looked to his own sword. I asked, "Are they Indians?"—"Quien sabe? (who knows?) if there are no more than three, it does not signify." It then struck me, that the one man had gone over the hill to fetch the rest of his tribe. I suggested this; but all the answer I could extort was, "Quien sabe ?" His head and eye never for a minute ceased scanning slowly the distant horizon. I thought his uncommon coolness too good a joke, and asked him why he did not return home. I was startled when he answered, " We are returning, but in a line so as to pass near a swamp, into which we can gallop the horses as far as they can go, and then trust to our own legs; so that there is no danger." I did not feel quite so confident of this, and wanted to increase our pace. He said, "No, not until they do." When any little inequality concealed us, we galloped; but when in sight continued walking. At last we reached a valley, and turning to the left, galloped quickly to the foot of a hill, he gave me his horse to hold, made the dogs lie down, and then crawled on his hands and knees to reconnoitre. He re-

[page] 93 Aug. 1833. ZORILLO.

mained in this position for some time, and at last, bursting out in laughter, exclaimed, "Mugeres !" (women !) He knew them to be the wife and sister-in-law of the major's son, hunting for ostrich's eggs. I have described this man's conduct, because he acted under the full impression that they were Indians. As soon, however, as the absurd mistake was found out, he gave me a hundred reasons, why they could not have been Indians; but all these were forgotten at the time. We then rode on in peace and quietness to a low point called Punta Alta, whence we could see nearly the whole of the great harbour of Bahia Blanca.

The wide expanse of water is choked up by numerous great mud-banks, which the inhabitants call Cangrejales, or crabberies, from the number of small crabs. The mud is so soft, that it is impossible to walk over them, even for the shortest distance. Many of the banks have their surfaces covered with long rushes, the tops of which alone are visible at high water. On one occasion, when in a boat, we were so entangled by these shallows, that we could hardly find our way. Nothing was visible, but the flat beds of mud: the day was not very clear, and there was much refraction, or as the sailors expressed it, "things loomed high." The only object within our view, which was not level, was the horizon; rushes looked like bushes unsupported in the air, and water like mud-banks, and mud-banks like water.

We passed the night in Punta Alta, and I employed myself in searching for fossil bones; this point, being a perfect catacomb for monsters of extinct races. The evening was perfectly calm and clear; the extreme monotony of the view gave it an interest, even in the midst of mud-banks and gulls, sand-hillocks, and solitary vultures. In riding back in the morning, we came across a very fresh track of a Puma, but did not succeed in finding him. We saw also a couple of Zorillos, or skunks,—odious animals, which are far from uncommon. In general appearance the Zorillo resembles a polecat, but it is rather larger, and much thicker in proportion. Conscious of its power, it roams by day about

[page] 94 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

the open plain, and fears neither dog nor man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its courage is instantly checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, which brings on violent sickness and running at the nose. Whatever is once polluted by it, is for ever useless. Azara says the smell can be perceived at a league distant; more than once, when entering the harbour of Monte Video, the wind being off shore, we have perceived the odour on board the Beagle. Certain it is, that every animal most willingly makes room for the Zorillo.

[page] 95


Bahia Blanca — Geology — Extinct quadrupeds, four Edentata, horse, ctenomys — Recent extinction — Longevity of species — Large animals do not require luxuriant vegetation — Southern Africa — Siberian fossils — Catalogue of extinct quadrupeds in South America — Two species of Ostrich, habits of — Tinochorus — Oven-bird — Armadilloes — Venomous snake, toad, lizard — Hybernation of animals — Habits of sea-pen — Indian wars and massacres — Arrow-head, antiquarian relic.


THE Beagle arrived on the 24th of August, and a week afterwards sailed for the Plata. With Captain Fitzroy's consent I was left behind, to travel by land to Buenos Ayres. I will here add some observations, which were made during this visit, and on a previous occasion, when the Beagle was employed in surveying the harbour. Not much can be made out respecting the geology. At the distance of some miles inland, an escarpment of a great argillaceo-calcareous formation of rock extends. The space near the coast consists of plains of hardened mud, and broad bands of sand-dunes, which present appearances, that can easily be accounted for by a rise of the land; and of this phenomenon,* although to a trifling amount, we have other proofs.

At Punta Alta, a low cliff, about twenty feet high, exposes a mass of partly consolidated shingle, irregularly interstratified with a reddish muddy clay, and containing numerous recent shells. We may believe a similar accumulation would now take place, on any point, where tides and waves were opposed. In the gravel a considerable number of bones were embedded. Mr. Owen, who has undertaken the description of these remains, has not yet examined them

* A few leagues further south, near the Bay of San Blas, M. D'Orbigny found great beds of recent shells elevated between 25 and 30 feet above the level of the sea.—Vol. ii., p. 43.

[page] 96 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

with care; but the following list may give some idea of their nature: 1st, a tolerably perfect head of a megatherium, and a fragment and teeth of two others; 2d, an animal of the order Edentata, as large as a pony, and with great scratching claws; 3d and 4th, two great Edentata related to the megatherium, and both fully as large as an ox or horse; 5th, another equally large animal, closely allied or perhaps identical with the Toxodon (hereafter to be described), which had very flat grinding teeth, somewhat resembling those of a rodent; 6th, a large piece of the tesselated covering like that of the armadillo, but of gigantic size; 7th, a tusk which in its prismatic form, and in the disposition of the enamel, closely resembles that of the African boar; it is probable that it belonged to the same animal with the singular flat grinders. Lastly, a tooth in the same state of decay with the others: its broken condition does not allow Mr. Owen, without further comparison, to come to any definite conclusion; but the part that is perfect, resembles in every respect the tooth of the common horse.* All these remains were found embedded in a beach which is covered at spring tides; and the space in which they were collected could not have exceeded one hundred and fifty yards square. It is a remarkable circumstance that so many different species should be found together; and it proves how numerous in kind the ancient inhabitants of this country must have been.

At the distance of about thirty miles, in another cliff of red earth, I found several fragments of bones. Among them were the teeth of a rodent, much narrower, but even larger than those of the Hydrochærus capybara; the animal which has been mentioned as exceeding in dimensions every existing member of its order. There was

* With respect to the remains of the last animal, as some doubt may be entertained by others, respecting its origin; it must be remarked, that it was fairly embedded in the gravel with the other bones; and that its state of decay was equal. To this circumstance it may be added, that the surrounding country is without fresh water, and is uninhabited, and that the settlement, itself only of five years standing, is twenty-five miles distant.

[page] 97 Aug. 1833. FOSSIL QUADRUPEDS.

also part of the head of a Ctenomys; the species being different from the Tucutuco, but with a close general resemblance.

The remains at Punta Alta were associated, as before remarked, with shells of existing species. These have not as yet been examined with scrupulous care, but it may be safely asserted, that they are most closely similar to the species now living in the same bay: it is also very remarkable, that not only the species, but the proportional numbers of each kind, are nearly the same with those now cast up on the pebble beaches. There are eleven marine species (some in an imperfect state), and one terrestrial. If I had not collected living specimens from the same bay, some of the fossils would have been thought extinct ; for Mr. Sowerby, who was kind enough to look at my collection, had not previously seen them. We may feel certain that the bones have not been washed out of an older formation, and embedded in a more recent one, because the remains of one of the Edentata were lying in their proper relative position (and partly so in a second case); which could not have happened, without the carcass had been washed to the spot where the skeleton is now entombed.

We here have a strong confirmation of the remarkable law so often insisted on by Mr. Lyell, namely, that the "longevity of the species in the mammalia, is upon the whole inferior to that of the testacea."* When we proceed to the southern part of Patagonia, I shall have occasion to describe the case of an extinct camel, from which the same result may be deduced.

From the shells being littoral species (including one terrestrial), and from the character of the deposit, we may feel absolutely certain that the remains were embedded in a shallow sea, not far from the coast. From the position of the skeleton being undisturbed, and likewise from the fact that full-grown serpulæ were attached to some of the bones,

* Principles of Geology, vol. iv., p. 40.


[page] 98 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

we know that the mass could not have been accumulated on the beach itself. At the present time, part of the bed is daily washed by the tide, while another part has been raised a few feet above the level of the sea. Hence we may infer, that the elevation has here been trifling, since the period when the mammalia, now extinct, were living. This conclusion is in harmony with several other considerations (such as the recent character of the beds underlying the Pampas deposit), but which I have not space in this work to enter on.

From the general structure of the coast of this part of South America, we are compelled to believe, that the changes of level have all (at least of late) been in one direction, and that they have been very gradual. If, then, we look back to the period when these quadrupeds lived, the land probably stood at a level, less elevated only by a few fathoms than at present. Therefore, its general configuration since that epoch cannot have been greatly modified; a conclusion which certainly would be drawn from the close similarity in every respect, between the shells now living in the bay (as well as in the case of the one terrestrial species) with those which formerly lived there.

The surrounding country, as may have been gathered from this journal, is of a very desert character. Trees nowhere occur, and only a few bushes, which are chiefly confined to depressions among the sand-hillocks, or to the borders of the saline marshes. Here, then, is an apparent difficulty: we have the strongest evidence that there has occurred no great physical change to modify the features of the country, yet in former days, numerous large animals were supported on the plains now covered by a thin and scanty vegetation.

That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has been a general assumption, which has passed from one work to another. I do not hesitate, however, to say that it is completely false; and that it has vitiated the reasoning of geologists, on some points of great interest in the ancient history of the world. The prejudice has probably been derived

[page] 99 Aug. 1833. FOSSIL QUADRUPEDS.

from India, and the Indian islands, where troops of elephants, noble forests, and impenetrable jungles, are associated together in every account. If, on the other hand, we refer to any work of travels through the southern parts of Africa, we shall find allusions in almost every page either to the desert character of the country, or to the numbers of large animals inhabiting it. The same thing is rendered evident by the many sketches which have been published of various parts of the interior. When the Beagle was at Cape Town, I rode a few leagues into the country, which at least was sufficient to render that which I had read more fully intelligible.

Dr. Andrew Smith, who, at the head of his adventurous party, has so lately succeeded in passing the Tropic of Capricorn, informs me that, taking into consideration the whole of the southern part of Africa, there can be no doubt of its being sterile country. On the southern and south-eastern coasts there are some fine forests, but with these exceptions, the traveller may pass, for days together, through open plains, covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. It is difficult to convey any accurate idea of degrees of comparative fertility; but it may be safely said, that the amount of vegetation supported at any one time* by Great Britain, exceeds, perhaps even tenfold, the quantity on an equal area, in the interior parts of Southern Africa. The fact that bullock-waggons can travel in any direction, excepting near the coast, without more than occasionally half an hour's delay, gives, perhaps, a more definite notion of its scantiness. Now if we look to the animals inhabiting these wide plains, we shall find their numbers extraordinarily great, and their bulk immense. We must enumerate the elephant, three species of rhinoceros, and as Dr. Smith is convinced two others also, the hippopotamus, giraffe, the bos caffer—as large as a full-grown bull, and the elan—but little less, two

* I mean by this to exclude the total amount, which may have been successively produced and consumed during a given period.

H 2

[page] 100 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

zebras, and the quaccha, two gnus, and several antelopes even larger than these latter animals. It may be supposed that although the species are numerous, the individuals of each kind are few. By the kindness of Dr. Smith, I am enabled to show that the case is very different. He informs me, that in lat. 24°, in one day's march with the bullock-waggons, he saw, without wandering to any great distance on either side, between one hundred and one hundred and fifty rhinoceroses, which belonged to three species. That the same day he saw several herds of giraffes, amounting together to nearly a hundred; and that, although no elephant was observed, yet they are found in this district. At the distance of a little more than one hour's march from their place of encampment on the previous night, his party actually killed at one spot eight hippopotamoses, and saw many more. In this same river there were likewise crocodiles. Of course it was a case quite extraordinary, to see so many great animals crowded together, but it evidently proves that they must exist in great numbers. Dr. Smith describes the country passed through that day, as "being thinly covered with grass, and bushes about four feet high, and still more thinly with mimosa-trees." The waggons were not prevented travelling in a nearly direct line.

Besides these large animals, every one the least acquainted with the natural history of the Cape, has read of the herds of antelopes, which can be compared only to flocks of migratory birds. The numbers indeed of the lion,* panther, and hyæna, and the multitude of birds of prey, plainly tell of the abundance of the smaller quadrupeds. As Dr. Smith remarked to me, the carnage each day in Southern Africa must indeed be terrific! I confess it is truly surprising, how such a number of animals can find support in a country producing so little food. The larger quadrupeds no doubt roam over wide extents in search of it; and their food chiefly con-

* Dr. Smith mentioned to me, that one evening seven lions were counted at one time walking on the plain, round the encampment.

[page] 101 Aug. 1833. FOSSIL QUADRUPEDS.

sists of underwood, which probably contains much nutriment in a small bulk. Dr. Smith also informs me that the vegetation has a rapid growth; no sooner is a part consumed, than its place is supplied by a fresh stock. I apprehend, however, that our ideas respecting the quantity necessary for the support of large quadrupeds are exaggerated. It should have been remembered that the camel, an animal of no mean bulk, has always been considered as the emblem of the desert.

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the vegetation must necessarily be luxuriant, is the more remarkable, because the converse is far from true. Mr. Burchell observed to me that when entering Brazil, nothing struck him more forcibly than the splendour of the South American vegetation, contrasted with that of South Africa, together with the absence of all large quadrupeds. In his Travels,* he has suggested that the comparison of the respective weights (if there were sufficient data) of an equal number of the largest herbivorous quadrupeds of each country would be extremely curious. If we take on the one side the elephant,† hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan, certainly three species of rhinoceros, and probably five; and on the

* Travels in the interior of South Africa, vol. ii., p. 207.

† The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change, was estimated (being partly weighed) at five tons and a half. The elephant actress, as I was informed, weighed one ton less; so that we may take five as the average of a full-grown elephant. I was told at the Surrey Gardens, that a hippopotamus which was sent to England cut up into pieces, was estimated at three tons and a half; we will call it three. From these premises we may give three tons and a half to each of the five rhinoceroses; perhaps a ton to the giraffe, and half to the bos caffer as well as the elan, (a large ox weighs from 1200 to 1500 pounds). This will give an average (from the above conjectures) of 2.7 of a ton for the ten largest herbivorous animals of Southern Africa. In South America, allowing 1200 pounds for the two tapirs together, 550 for the guanaco and vicuna, 500 for three deer, 300 for capybara, peccari, and a monkey, we shall have an average of 250 pounds, which I believe is overstating the result. The ratio will therefore be, as 6048 to 250, for the ten largest animals from the two countries.

[page] 102 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

other side, two tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari, capybara (after which we must choose from the monkeys to complete the number), and then place these two groups alongside each other, it is not easy to conceive ranks more disproportionate. After the above facts, we are compelled to conclude, against anterior probability,* that among the mammalia there exists no close relation between the bulk of the species, and the quantity of the vegetation, in the countries they inhabit.

With regard to the number of large quadrupeds, there certainly exists no quarter of the globe which will bear comparison with Southern Africa. After the different statements which have been given, the extremely desert character of that region will not be disputed. In the European division of the world, we must look back to the tertiary epochs, to find a condition of things among the mammalia resembling that which is now found at the Cape of Good Hope. That tertiary epoch, which we are apt to consider as abounding to an astonishing degree with large animals, because we find the remains of many ages accumulated at certain spots, could boast of but few more of the large quadrupeds, than Southern Africa does at present. If we speculate on the condition of the vegetation during that epoch, we are at least bound so far to consider existing analogies, as not to urge as absolutely necessary a luxuriant vegetation, when we see a state of things so totally different in the region to which we refer.

We know† that the extreme regions of North America,

* If we suppose the case of the discovery of a skeleton of a Greenland whale in a fossil state, not a single cetaceous animal being known to exist, what naturalist would even conjecture on the possibility of a carcass so gigantic, being supported on the minute crustacea and mollusca, living in the frozen seas of the extreme North?

† See Zoological Remarks to Capt. Back's Expedition, by Dr. Richardson. He says, "The subsoil north of latitude 56° is perpetually frozen, the thaw on the coast not penetrating above three feet, and at Bear Lake, in latitude 64°, not more than twenty inches. The frozen substratum does not of itself destroy vegetation, for forests flourish on the surface, at a distance from the coast."

[page] 103 Aug. 1833. FOSSIL QUADRUPEDS.

many degrees beyond the limit where the ground at the depth of a few feet remains perpetually congealed, are covered by forests of large and tall trees. In a like manner, in Siberia, we have woods of birch, fir, aspen, and larch, growing in a latitude* (64°), where the mean temperature of the air falls below the freezing point, and where the earth is so completely frozen, that the carcass of an animal embedded in it is perfectly preserved. With these facts we must grant, as far as quantity alone of vegetation is concerned, that the great quadrupeds of the later tertiary epochs might, in most parts of Northern Europe and Asia, have lived on the spots where their remains are now found. I do not here speak of the kind of vegetation necessary for their support; because, as there is evidence of physical changes, and as the animals have become extinct, so may we suppose that the species of plants have likewise been changed.

These remarks directly bear on the case of the Siberian animals preserved in ice. The firm conviction of the necessity of a vegetation, possessing a character of tropical luxuriance, to support such large animals, and the impossibility of reconciling this with the proximity of perpetual congelation, was one chief cause of the several theories of sudden revolutions of climate, and of overwhelming catastrophes, which were invented to account for their entombment. I am far from supposing that the climate has not changed since the period when those animals lived, which now lie buried in the ice. At present I only wish to show, that as far as quantity of food alone is concerned, the ancient rhinoceroses might have roamed over the steppes of central Siberia (the northern parts probably being under water) even in their present condition, as well as the living rhi-

* See Humboldt Fragmens Asiatiques, p. 386 : Barton's Geography of Plants: and Malte Brun. In the latter work it is said, that the limit of the growth of trees in Siberia may be drawn under the parallel of 70°.

[page] 104 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

noceroses and elephants over the Karros of Southern Africa.

After our long digression, if we return to the case of the fossil animals at Bahia Blanca, there is a difficulty from our not knowing on what food the great Edentata probably lived. If on insects and larvæ, like their nearest representatives the armadilloes and anteaters, there is an end to all conjecture. But as vegetation is the first source of life in every part of the world, I think we may safely conclude that the country around Bahia Blanca, with a very little increase of fertility, would support large animals. The plains of the Rio Negro, thickly scattered over with thorny bushes, I do not doubt would supply sufficient food equally well with the Karros of Africa. As there is evidence of a physical change to a small amount, so may we allow it to be probable that the productiveness of the soil has decreased in an equally small degree. With this concession I apprehend every difficulty is removed. On the other hand, if we imagine a luxuriant vegetation to be necessary for the support of these animals, we become involved in a series of contradictions and improbabilities.

As the notices of the remains of several quadrupeds, which I discovered in South America, are scattered in different parts of this volume, I will here give a catalogue of them. After having enlarged on the diminutive size of the present races, it may be of interest to see that formerly a very different order of things prevailed. First, the megatherium, and the four or five other large edentata, already alluded to; 6th, an immense mastodon, which must have abounded over the whole country; 7th, the horse (I do not now refer to the broken tooth at Bahia Blanca, but to more certain evidence); 8th, the toxodon, an extraordinary animal as large as a hippopotamus; 9th, a fragment of the head of an animal larger than a horse, and of a very singular character; 10th, 11th, and 12th, parts of rodents— one of considerable size; lastly, a llama or guanaco, fully as large as the camel. All these animals coexisted during an epoch

[page] 105 Aug. 1833. HABITS OF OSTRICH.

which, geologically speaking is so recent, that it may be considered as only just gone by. These remains have been presented to the College of Surgeons, where they are now in the hands of those best qualified to appreciate whatever value they may possess.

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the more interesting birds, which are common on these wild plains; and first of the Struthio Rhea, or South American ostrich. This bird is well known to abound over the plains of Northern Patagonia, and the united provinces of La Plata. It has not crossed the Cordillera; but I have seen it within the first range of mountains on the Uspallata plain, elevated between six and seven thousand feet. The ordinary habits of the ostrich are familiar to every one. They feed on vegetable matter; such as roots and grass; but at Bahia Blanca, I have repeatedly seen three or four come down at low water to the extensive mud-banks which are then dry, for the sake, as the Gauchos say, of catching small fish. Although the ostrich in its habits is so shy, wary, and solitary, and although so fleet in its pace, it falls a prey, without much difficulty, to the Indian or Gaucho armed with the bolas. When several horsemen appear in a semicircle, it becomes confounded, and does not know which way to escape. They generally prefer running against the wind; yet at the first start they expand their wings, and like a vessel make all sail. On one fine hot day I saw several ostriches enter a bed of tall rushes, where they squatted concealed, till quite closely approached. It is not generally known that ostriches readily take to the water. Mr. King informs me that at the Bay of San Blas, and at Port Valdes in Patagonia, he saw these birds swimming several times from island to island. They ran into the water both when driven down to a point, and likewise of their own accord when not frightened: the distance crossed was about 200 yards. When swimming, very little of their bodies appear above water, and their necks are extended a little forward: their progress is slow. On two occasions, I saw some ostriches swimming across the Santa

[page] 106 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

Cruz river, where its course was about four hundred yards wide, and the stream rapid. Captain Sturt, when descending the Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus in the act of swimming.

The inhabitants who live in the country readily distinguish, even at a distance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger and darker-coloured,* and has a bigger head. The ostrich, I believe the cock, emits a singular deep-toned, hissing note. When first I heard it, standing in the midst of some sand-hillocks, I thought it was made by some wild beast, for it is a sound that one cannot tell whence it comes, or from how far distant. When we were at Bahia Blanca in the months of September and October, the eggs, in extraordinary numbers, were found all over the country. They either lie scattered single, in which case they are never hatched, and are called by the Spaniards, huachos; or they are collected together into a shallow excavation, which forms the nest. Out of the four nests which I saw, three contained twenty-two eggs each, and the fourth twenty-seven. In one day's hunting on horseback sixty-four eggs were found; forty-four of these were in two nests, and the remaining twenty scattered huachos. The Gauchos unanimously affirm, and there is no reason to doubt their statement, that the male bird alone hatches the eggs, and for some time afterwards accompanies the young. The cock when on the nest lies very close; I have myself almost ridden over one. It is asserted that at such times they are occasionally fierce, and even dangerous, and that they have been known to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick and leap on him. My informer pointed out to me an old man, whom he had seen much terrified by one chasing him. I observe in Burchell's travels in South Africa, that he remarks, "having killed a male ostrich, and the feathers being dirty, it was said by the Hottentots to be a nest bird." I understand that the

* A Gaucho assured me, that he had once seen a snow-white, or Albino variety, and that it was a most beautiful bird.

[page] 107 Aug. 1833. HABITS OF OSTRICH.

male emu, in the Zoological Garden, takes charge of the nest: this habit, therefore, is common to the family.

The Gauchos unanimously affirm that several females lay in one nest. I have been positively told, that four or five hen birds have been seen to go, in the middle of the day, one after the other, to the same nest. I may add, also, that it is believed in Africa, that two females lay in one nest.* Although this habit at first appears very strange, I think the cause may be explained in a simple manner. The number of eggs in the nest varies from twenty to forty, and even to fifty; and according to Azara to seventy or eighty. Now although it is most probable, from the number of eggs found in one district being so extraordinarily great, in proportion to that of the parent birds, and likewise from the state of the ovarium of the hen, that she may in the course of the season lay a large number, yet the time required must be very long. Azara states,† that a female in a state of domestication laid seventeen eggs, each at the interval of three days one from another. If the hen were obliged to hatch her own eggs, before the last was laid the first probably would be addled; but if each laid a few eggs at successive periods, in different nests, and several hens, as is stated to be the case, combined together, then the eggs in one collection would be nearly of the same age. If the number of eggs in one of these nests is, as I believe, not greater on an average than the number laid by one female in the season, then there must be as many nests as females, and each cock bird will have its fair share of the labour of incubation; and that during a period when the females could not sit, on account of not having finished laying. I have before mentioned the great numbers of huachos, or scattered eggs; so that in one day's hunting the third part were found in this state. It appears odd that so many should be wasted. Does it not arise from the difficulty of several females associating together, and persuading an old cock to undertake the office

* Burchell's Travels, vol. i., p. 280.

† Azara, vol. iv., p. 173.

[page] 108 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

of incubation? It is evident that there must at first be some degree of association, between at least two females; otherwise the eggs would remain scattered over the wide plains, at distances far too great to allow of the male collecting them into one nest. Some have believed that the scattered eggs were deposited for the young birds to feed on. This can hardly be the case in America, because the huachos, although oftentimes found addled and putrid, are generally whole.

When at the Rio Negro, in Northern Patagonia, I repeatedly heard the Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which they called Avestruz Petise. They described it as being less than the common ostrich (which is there abundant), but with a very close general resemblance. They said its colour was dark and mottled, and that its legs were shorter, and feathered lower down than those of the common ostrich. It is more easily caught by the bolas than the other species. The few inhabitants who had seen both kinds, affirmed they could distinguish them apart from a long distance. The eggs of the small species appeared, however, more generally known; and it was remarked, with surprise, that they were very little less than those of the Rhea, but of a slightly different form, and with a tinge of pale blue. Some eggs, picked up on the plains of Patagonia, agree pretty well with this description, and I do not doubt are those of the Petise. This species occurs most rarely on the plains bordering the Rio Negro; but about a degree and a half further south they are tolerably abundant. One Gaucho, however, said he distinctly recollected having seen one, many years before, near the mouth of the Rio Colorado, which is to the north of the Rio Negro. They are said to prefer the plains near the sea. When at Port Desire, in Patagonia (lat. 48°), Mr. Martens shot an ostrich; and I looked at it, forgetting at the moment, in the most unaccountable manner, the whole subject of the Petises, and thought it was a two-third grown one of the common sort. The bird was cooked and eaten before my memory returned. Fortunately the head, neck, legs, wings, many of the larger feathers, and a large part of the skin, had

[page] 109 Aug. 1833. TWO KINDS OF OSTRICH.

been preserved. From these a very nearly perfect specimen has been put together, and is now exhibited in the museum of the Zoological Society. Mr. Gould, who in describing this new species did me the honour of calling it after my name, states, that besides the smaller size and different colour of the plumage, the beak is of considerably less proportional dimensions than in the common Rhea; that the tarsi are covered with differently-shaped scales, and that they are feathered six inches beneath the knee. In this latter respect, and in the broader feathers of the wing, this bird perhaps shows more affinity to the gallinaceous family than any other of the Struthionidæ.

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of Magellan, we found a half Indian, who had lived some years with the tribe, but had been born in the northern provinces. I asked him if he had ever heard of the Avestruz Petise? He answered by saying, "Why there are none others in these southern countries." He informed me that the number of eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably less than with the other kind, namely, not more than fifteen on an average; but he asserted that more than one female deposited them. At Santa Cruz we saw several of these birds. They were excessively wary: I think they could see a person approaching when he was so far off as not to distinguish the ostrich. In ascending the river few were seen; but in our quiet and rapid descent, many, in pairs and by fours or fives, were observed. It was remarked, and I think with truth, that this bird did not expand its wings, when first starting at full speed, after the manner of the northern kind. The fact of these ostriches swimming across the river has been mentioned. In conclusion, I may repeat that the Struthio Rhea inhabits the country of La Plata as far as a little south of the Rio Negro, in lat. 41°, and that the petise takes its place in Southern Patagonia; the part about the Rio Negro being neutral territory. Wallis saw ostriches at Batchelor's river (lat. 53° 54'), in the Strait of Magellan, which must be the extreme southern possible range of the petise. M. D'Or-

[page] 110 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

bigny, when at the Rio Negro, made great exertions to procure this bird, but never had the good fortune to succeed. He mentions it in his Travels,* and proposes (in case, I presume, of a specimen being obtained) to call it Rhea pennata: a fuller notice was given long before in Dobrizhoffer's Account of the Abipones† (A.D. 1749). He says, "You must know, moreover, that Emus differ in size and habits in different tracts of land; for those that inhabit the plains of Buenos Ayres and Tucuman are larger, and have black, white, and gray feathers ; those near to the Strait of Magellan are smaller and more beautiful, for their white feathers are tipped with black at the extremity, and their black ones in like manner terminate in white."

A very singular little bird, lately described by St. Hilaire and Lesson under the name of Tinochorus Eschscholtzii, is here common. In its habits, general appearance, and structure, it nearly equally partakes of the character of a quail and a snipe. Yet these two birds are widely contrasted in the form of their beaks, wings, and legs. The Tinochorus is found in the whole of southern South America, wherever there are sterile plains, or open dry pasture-land. We saw it as far south as the inland plains of Patagonia at Santa Cruz, in lat. 50°. On the western side of the Cordillera near Concepcion, where the forest land changes into an open country, this bird is found: from that point throughout Chile, as far as Copiapó, it frequents the most desolate places, where scarcely another living creature can exist. They are found either in pairs or small flocks of five or six; but near the Sierra Ventana I saw as many as thirty or forty together. Upon being

* Vol. ii., p. 76.— When at the Rio Negro, we heard much of the indefatigable labours of this naturalist. M. D'Alcide D'Orbigny, during the years 1826 to 1833, traversed several large portions of South America, and has made a collection, and is now publishing the results on a scale of magnificence, which at once places him in the list of American travellers second only to Humboldt.

† Vol. i. (English translation), p. 314.

[page] 111 Aug. 1833. ORNITHOLOGY.

approached they squat close, and then are very difficult to be distinguished; so that they often rise quite unexpectedly. When feeding they walk rather slowly, with their legs wide apart. They dust themselves in roads and sandy places. They frequent particular spots, and may be found there day after day. When a pair are together, if one is shot the other seldom rises; for these birds, like partridges, only take wing in a flock. In all these respects, in the muscular gizzard adapted for vegetable food, in the arched beak and fleshy nostrils, short legs and form of foot, the Tinochorus has a close affinity with quails. But directly the bird is seen flying, one's opinion is changed ; the long, pointed wings, so different from those in the gallinaceous order, the irregular manner of flight, and plaintive cry uttered at the moment of rising, recal the idea of a snipe. The sportsmen of the Beagle unanimously called it the shortbilled snipe. To this genus, or rather to that of the sandpiper, it approaches, as Mr. Gould informs me, in the shape of its wing, the length of the scapulars, the form of the tail, which closely resembles that of Tringa hypoleucos, and in the general colour of the plumage. The male bird, however, has a black mark on its breast, in the form of a yoke, which may be compared to the horseshoe on the breast of the English partridge. The nest is said to be placed on the borders of lakes, although the bird itself is an inhabitant of the parched desert.

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other South American birds. Two species of the genus Attagis, are in almost every respect ptarmigans in their habits; one in Tierra del Fuego, above the limits of forest land; the other just beneath the snow line on the Cordillera of Central Chile. A bird of another closely-allied genus, Chionis alba, which solitary species was long thought to form a family by itself, is an inhabitant of the antarctic regions; it feeds on sea-weed and shells on the tidal rocks. Although not web-footed, from some unaccountable taste it is frequently met with far out at sea. This small family of birds is one of

[page] 112 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

those which, from its varied relations, although at present offering only difficulties to the systematic naturalist, ultimately may assist in revealing the grand scheme, common to the present and past ages, on which organized beings have been created.

I may also briefly notice the genus Furnarius. It contains several species, all small birds, living on the ground, and inhabiting open, dry countries. In structure they cannot be compared to any European form. Ornithologists have generally included them among the creepers, although opposed to that family in every habit. The best known species is the common oven-bird of La Plata, the Casara or house-maker of the Spaniards, and Furnarius rufus of Viell. The nest, whence it takes its name, is placed in the most exposed situations, as on the top of a post, a bare rock, or on a cactus. It is composed of mud and bits of straw, and has strong thick walls: in shape it precisely resembles an oven, or depressed beehive. The opening is large and arched, and directly in front, within the nest, there is a partition, which reaches nearly to the roof, thus forming a passage or antechamber to the true nest.

Another and smaller species of Furnarius, something like a lark in appearance, resembles the oven-bird in many points, as in the general reddish tint of its plumage, a peculiar shrill reiterated cry, an odd manner of running by starts, &c. From its affinity, the Spaniards call it Casarita (or little housebuilder), although its nidification is quite different. The Casarita builds its nest at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical hole, which is said to extend horizontally to nearly six feet under ground. Several of the country people told me, that when boys they had attempted to dig out the nest, but had scarcely ever succeeded in getting to the end. The bird chooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by the side of a road or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca) the walls are built of hardened mud; and I noticed that one, which enclosed a courtyard where I lodged, was penetrated by round holes in a score of places. On asking the owner

[page] 113 Aug. 1833. ARMADILLOES.

the cause of this, he bitterly complained of the little casarita, several of which I afterwards observed at work. It is rather curious, that although they were constantly flitting over the low wall, they must be quite incapable of gaining an idea of thickness even after the shortest circuitous route, for otherwise they would not have made so many vain attempts. I do not doubt that each bird, as often as it came to daylight on the opposite side, was greatly surprised at the marvellous fact.

I have already mentioned nearly all the mammalia common in this country. Of armadilloes three species occur, namely, the Dasypus minutus or pichy, the Villosus or peludo, and the apar. The first extends as far south as lat. 50°, which is about ten degrees further than any other kind. A fourth species, the Mulita, only extends as far south as the Sierra Tapalguen, lat. 37° 30', which is north of Bahia Blanca. The four species have nearly similar habits; the peludo, however, is nocturnal, while the others wander by day over the open plains, feeding on beetles, larvæ, roots, and even small snakes. The apar, commonly called mataco, is remarkable by having only three moveable bands; the rest of its tesselated covering being nearly inflexible. It has the power of rolling itself into a perfect sphere, like one kind of English woodlouse. In this state it is safe from the attack of dogs; for the dog not being able to take the whole in its mouth, tries to bite one side, and the ball slips away. The smooth hard covering of the mataco offers a better defence than the sharp spines of the hedgehog. The pichy prefers a very dry soil, and the sand-dunes near the coast, where for many months it can never taste water, is its favourite resort. In the course of a day's ride, near Bahia Blanca, several were generally met with. The instant one was perceived, it was necessary in order to catch it, almost to tumble off one's horse; for if the soil was soft, the animal burrowed so quickly, that its hinder quarters had almost disappeared before one could alight. The pichy likewise often tries to escape notice, by squatting close to the ground. It appears almost


[page] 114 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

a pity to kill such nice little animals, for as a Gaucho said, while sharpening his knife on the back of one, "Son tan mansos" (they are so quiet).

Of reptiles there are many kinds: one snake (a Trigonocephalus, or more properly a Cophias), from the size of the poison channel in its fangs, must be very deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, makes this a sub-genus of the rattlesnake, and intermediate between it and the viper. In confirmation of this opinion, I observed a fact, which appears to me very curious and instructive, as showing how every character, even though it may be in some degree independent of structure, has a tendency to vary by slow degrees. The extremity of the tail of this snake is terminated by a point, which is very slightly enlarged; and as the animal glided along, it constantly vibrated the last inch; and this part striking against the dry grass and brushwood, produced a rattling noise, which could be distinctly heard at the distance of six feet. As often as the animal was irritated or surprised, its tail was shaken; and the vibrations were extremely rapid. Even as long as the body retained its irritability, a tendency to this habitual movement was evident. This Trigonocephalus has, therefore, in some respects the structure of Vipera, with the habits of a Crotalus; the noise, however, being produced by a simpler device. The expression of this snake's face was hideous and fierce; the pupil consisted of a vertical slit in a mottled and coppery iris; the jaws were broad at the base, and the nose terminated in a triangular projection. I do not think I ever saw any thing more ugly, excepting, perhaps, in some of the vampire bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect originates from the features being placed in positions, with respect to each other, somewhat proportional to those of the human face; and thus we obtain a scale of beauty.

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only one little toad, which was most singular from its colour. If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in the blackest ink, and then when dry, allowed to crawl over a board, freshly painted

[page] 115 Aug. 1833. REPTILES.

with the brightest vermilion, so as to colour the soles of its feet and parts of its stomach, a good idea of its appearance will be gained. If it is an unnamed species, surely it ought to be called diabolicus, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear of Eve. Instead of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads are, and living in damp obscure recesses, it crawls during the heat of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains, where not a single drop of water can be found. It must necessarily depend on the dew for its moisture; and this probably is absorbed by the skin, for it is known, that these reptiles possess great powers of cutaneous absorption. At Maldonado, I found one in a situation nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and thinking to give it a great treat, carried it to a pool of water; not only was the little animal unable to swim, but, I think, without help would soon have been drowned.

Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one remarkable, from its habits. It lives on the bare sand near the sea coast, and from its mottled colour, the brownish scales being speckled with white, yellowish red, and dirty blue, can hardly be distinguished from the surrounding surface. When frightened it attempts to avoid discovery by feigning death, with outstretched legs, depressed body, and closed eyes: if further molested, it buries itself with great quickness in the loose sand. This lizard, from its flattened body and short legs, cannot run quickly. It belongs to the genus Ophryessa.

I will here add a few remarks on the hybernation of animals in this part of South America. When we first arrived at Bahia Blanca, September 7th, 1832, we thought nature had granted scarcely a living creature to this sandy and dry country. By digging, however, in the ground, several insects, large spiders, and lizards were found in a half torpid state. On the 15th, a few animals began to appear, and by the 18th (three days from the equinox), every thing announced the commencement of spring. The plains were ornamented by the flowers of a pink wood sorrel, wild peas, œnotheræ, and geraniums; and the birds began to lay their

I 2

[page] 116 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

eggs. Numerous Lamellicorn and Heteromerous insects, the latter remarkable for their deeply sculptured bodies, were slowly crawling about; while the Saurian tribe, the constant inhabitants of a sandy soil, darted in every direction. During the first eleven days, whilst nature was dormant, the mean temperature taken from observations made every two hours on board the Beagle, was 51°; and in the middle of the day the thermometer seldom ranged above 55°. On the eleven succeeding days, in which all living things became so animated, the mean was 58°, and the range in the middle of the day between sixty and seventy. Here then an increase of seven degrees in mean temperature, but a greater one of extreme heat, was sufficient to awake the functions of life. At Monte Video, from which we had just before sailed, in the twenty-three days included between the 26th of July and the 19th of August, the mean temperature from 276 observations was 58°.4; the mean hottest day being 65°.5, and the coldest 46°. The lowest point to which the thermometer fell was 41°.5, and occasionally in the middle of the day it rose to 69° or 70°. Yet with this elevated temperature, almost every beetle, several genera of spiders, snails, and land shells, toads, and lizards were all lying torpid beneath stones. But we have seen that at Bahia Blanca, which is four degrees to the southward, and therefore with a climate only a very little colder, this same temperature with a rather less extreme heat, was sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings. This shows how nicely the required degree of stimulus is adapted to the general climate of the place, and how little it depends on absolute temperature. It is well known that within the tropics, the hybernation, or more properly estivation, of animals is governed by the times of drought. Near Rio de Janeiro, I was at first surprised to observe, that, a few days after some little depressions had been changed into pools of water by the rain, they were peopled by numerous full-grown shells and beetles. Humboldt has related the strange accident of a hovel having been erected over a spot, where a young crocodile lay buried in

[page] 117 Aug. 1833. SEA-PEN.

the hardened mud. He adds "The Indians often find enormous boas; which they call Uji, or water serpents, in the same lethargic state. To reanimate them, they must be irritated or wetted with water."

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte allied to Virgularia,* a kind of sea-pen. It consists of a thin, straight, fleshy stem, with alternate rows of polypi on each side, and surrounding an elastic stony axis. It varies in length from eight inches to two feet. The stem at one extremity is truncate, but at the other is terminated by a vermiform fleshy appendage, which is separated into two compartments; and in these, small, yellow, spherical ova are contained. The stony axis which gives strength to the stem, may be traced at this extremity into a mere vessel filled with granular matter. This undeveloped portion is enclosed in a transparent, elastic, irritable bag, containing a fluid in which a very distinct circulation of particles could be seen. This bag floats in one of the compartments of the fleshy terminal appendage. At low water hundreds of these zoophytes might be seen, projecting like stubble, with the truncate end upwards, a few inches above the surface of the muddy sand. When touched or pulled, they drew themselves in, suddenly and with force, so as nearly or quite to disappear. By this action, the highly elastic axis must be bent at the lower extremity, where it is naturally slightly curved; and I imagine it is by this elasticity that the zoophyte is enabled to rise again through the mud. Each polypus, though closely united to its brethren, has a distinct mouth, body, and tentacula. Of these polypi, in a large specimen, there must be many thousands; yet we see that they act by one movement; that they have one central axis connected with a system of obscure circulation; and that the ova are produced in an organ distinct from the separate individuals. Well may one be allowed to ask, what is an individual? I will add only one other observation on this zoophyte. The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of the extremity, were filled

* I believe Virgularia Patagonica of D'Orbigny.

[page] 118 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

with a yellow pulpy matter, which, examined under a microscope, presented an extraordinary appearance. The mass consisted of rounded, semi-transparent, irregular grains, aggregated together into particles of various sizes. All such particles, and the separate grains, possessed the power of rapid movement; generally revolving around different axes, but sometimes progressive. The movement was visible with a very weak power, but with the highest its cause could not be perceived. It was very different from the circulation of the fluid in the elastic bag, containing the thin extremity of the axis. On other occasions, when dissecting small marine animals beneath the microscope, I have seen particles of pulpy matter, some of large size, immediately they were disengaged, commence revolving. I have imagined, I know not with how much truth, that this granulo-pulpy matter was in process of being converted into ova. Certainly in this zoophyte such appeared to be the case.

During my stay at Bahia Blanca, while waiting for the Beagle, the place was in a constant state of excitement, from rumours of wars and victories, between the troops of Rosas and the wild Indians. One day an account came, that a small party forming one of the postas on the line to Buenos Ayres, had been found all murdered. The next day, three hundred men arrived from the Colorado, under the command of Commandant Miranda. A large portion of these men were Indians (mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of the Cacique Bernantio. They passed the night here; and it was impossible to conceive any thing more wild and savage than the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they were intoxicated; others swallowed the steaming blood of the cattle slaughtered for their suppers, and then, being sick from drunkenness, they cast it up again, and were besmeared with filth and gore.

Nam simul expletus dapibus, vinoque sepultus
Cervicem inflexam posuit, jacuitque per antrum
Immensus, saniem eructans, ac frusta cruenta
Per somnum commixta mero.

[page] 119 Aug. 1833. INDIANS.

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, with orders to follow the "rastro," or track, even if it led them to Chile. We subsequently heard that the wild Indians had escaped into the great Pampas, and from some cause the track had been missed. One glance at the rastro tells these people a whole history. Supposing they examine the track of a thousand horses, they will soon guess by seeing how many have cantered the number of men; by the depth of the other impressions, whether any horses were loaded with cargoes; by the irregularity of the footsteps, how far tired; by the manner in which the food has been cooked, whether the pursued travelled in haste; by the general appearance, how long it has been since they passed. They consider a rastro of ten days or a fortnight, quite recent enough to be hunted out. We also heard that Miranda struck from the west end of the Sierra Ventana, in a direct line to the island of Cholechel, situated seventy leagues up the Rio Negro. This is a distance of between two and three hundred miles, through a country completely unknown. What other troops in the world are so independent? With the sun for their guide, mares' flesh for food, their saddle-cloths for beds,—as long as there is a little water, these men would penetrate to the land's end.

A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these banditti-like soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of Indians at the small salinas, who had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique. The Spaniard who brought the orders for this expedition was a very intelligent man. He gave me an account of the last engagement at which he was present. Some Indians, who had been taken prisoners, gave information of a tribe living north of the Colorado. Two hundred soldiers were sent; and they first discovered the Indians by a cloud of dust from their horses' feet, as they chanced to be travelling. The country was mountainous and wild, and it must have been far in the interior, for the Cordillera was in sight. The Indians, men, women, and children, were about one hundred and ten in number, and they were nearly all

[page] 120 BAHIA BLANCA. Aug. 1833.

taken or killed, for the soldiers sabre every man. The Indians are now so terrified, that they offer no resistance in a body, but each flies, neglecting even his wife and children; but when overtaken, like wild animals, they fight against any number to the last moment. One dying Indian seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, and allowed his own eye to be forced out, sooner than relinquish his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping a knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer said, when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out for mercy, at the same time that he was covertly loosing the bolas from his waist, meaning to whirl it round his head and so strike his pursuer. "I however struck him with my sabre to the ground, and then got off my horse, and cut his throat with my knife." This is a dark picture; but how much more shocking is the unquestionable fact, that all the women who appear above twenty years old, are massacred in cold blood. When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman, he answered, "Why, what can be done? they breed so !"

Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just war because it is against barbarians. Who would believe in this age, in a Christian civilized country, that such atrocities were committed? The children of the Indians are saved, to be sold or given away as servants, or rather slaves, for as long a time as the owners can deceive them; but I believe in this respect there is little to complain of.

In the battle four men ran away together. They were pursued, and one was killed, but the other three were taken alive. They turned out to be messengers or ambassadors from a large body of Indians, united in the common cause of defence, near the Cordillera. The tribe to which they had been sent was on the point of holding a grand council; the feast of mare's flesh was ready, and the dance prepared: in the morning the ambassadors were to have returned to the Cordillera. They were remarkably fine men, very fair, above six feet high, and all under thirty years of age. The three survivors of course possessed very valuable information; and

[page] 121 Aug. 1833. INDIANS.

to extort this they were placed in a line. The two first being questioned, answered, "No se" (I do not know), and were one after the other shot. The third also said "No se;" adding, "Fire, I am a man, and can die !" Not one syllable would they breathe to injure the united cause of their country! The conduct of the cacique was very different: he saved his life by betraying the intended plan of warfare, and the point of union in the Andes. It was believed that there were already six or seven hundred Indians together, and that in summer their numbers would be doubled. Ambassadors were to have been sent to the Indians at the small salinas, near Bahia Blanca, whom I mentioned that a cacique, this same man, had betrayed. The communication, therefore, extends from the Cordillera to the east coast.

General Rosas's plan is to kill all stragglers, and having driven the remainder to a common point, in the summer, with the assistance of the Chilenos, to attack them in a body. This operation is to be repeated for three successive years. I imagine the summer is chosen as the time for the main attack, because the plains are then without water, and the Indians can only travel in particular directions. The escape of the Indians to the south of the Rio Negro, where in such a vast unknown country they would be safe, is prevented by a treaty with the Tehuelches to this effect;—that Rosas pays them so much to slaughter every Indian who passes to the south of the river, but if they fail in so doing, they themselves are to be exterminated. The war is waged chiefly against the Indians near the Cordillera; for many of the tribes on this eastern side are fighting with Rosas. The general, however, like Lord Chesterfield, thinking that his friends may in a future day become his enemies, always places them in the front ranks, so that their numbers may be thinned. Since leaving South America we have heard that this war of extermination completely failed.

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, there were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been car-

[page] 122 BAHIA BLANCA, Aug. 1833.

ried away by the Indians when young, and could now only speak the Indian tongue. From their account, they must have come from Salta, a distance in a straight line of nearly one thousand miles. This gives one a grand idea of the immense territory over which the Indians roam : yet, great as it is, I think there will not, in another half-century, be a wild Indian northward of the Rio Negro. The warfare is too bloody to last; the Christians killing every Indian, and the Indians doing the same by the Christians. It is melancholy to trace how the Indians have given way before the Spanish invaders. Schirdel* says, that in 1535, when Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages containing two and three thousand inhabitants. Even in Falconer's time (1750) the Indians made inroads as far as Lucan, Areco, and Arrecife, but now they are driven beyond the Salado. Not only have whole tribes been wholly exterminated, but the remaining Indians have become more barbarous : instead of living in large villages, and being employed in the arts of fishing, as well as of the chase, they now wander about the open plains, without home or fixed occupation.

I heard also some account of an engagement which took place, a few weeks previously to the one mentioned, at Cholechel. This is a very important station, on account of being a pass for horses; and it was, in consequence, for some time the head-quarters of a division of the army. When the troops first arrived there, they found a tribe of Indians, of whom they killed twenty or thirty. The cacique escaped in a manner which astonished every one. The chief Indians always have one or two picked horses, which they keep ready for any urgent occasion. On one of these, an old white horse, the cacique sprung, taking with him his little son. The horse had neither saddle nor bridle. To avoid the shots, the Indian rode in the peculiar method of his nation; namely, with an arm round the horse's neck, and one leg only on its back. Thus hanging on one side, he was

* Purchas's Collection of Voyages.

[page] 123 Aug. 1833. INDIANS.

seen patting the horse's head, and talking to him. The pursuers urged every effort in the chase; the Commandant three times changed his horse, but all in vain. The old Indian father and his son escaped, and were free. What a fine picture one can form in one's mind,—the naked bronze-like figure of the old man with his little boy, riding like a Mazeppa on the white horse, thus leaving far behind him the host of his pursuers !

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint, which I immediately recognised as having been a part of the head of an arrow. He told me it was found near the island of Cholechel, and that they are frequently picked up there. It was between two and three inches long, and therefore twice as large as those now used in Tierra del Fuego: it was made of opake cream-coloured flint, but the point and barbs had been intentionally broken off. It is well known that no Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I believe a small tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted; but they are widely separated from the Pampas Indians, and border close on those tribes that inhabit the forest, and live on foot. It appears, therefore, that these arrow-heads are antiquarian* relics of the Indians, before the great change in habits consequent on the introduction of the horse into South America.

* Azara has even doubted whether the Pampas Indians ever used bows.

[page] 124


Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sierra Ventana — Transportal of pebbles — Third posta — Driving horses — Bolas — Partridges and foxes — Features of country — Long-legged plover — Teru-tero — Hailstorm — Natural enclosures in Sierra Tapalguen — Flesh of puma — Meat diet — Guardia del Monte — Effects of cattle on the vegetation — Cardoon — Buenos Ayres — Corral where animals are slaughtered.


SEPTEMBER 8TH.—Having with some difficulty hired a Gaucho to accompany me, on my ride to Buenos Ayres, we started early in the morning. The distance is about four hundred miles, and nearly the whole way through an uninhabited country. Ascending a few hundred feet from the basin of green turf on which Bahia Blanca stands, we entered on a wide desolate plain. It consists of a crumbling argillaceo-calcareous rock, which, from the dry nature of the climate, supports only scattered tufts of withered grass, without a single bush or tree to break the monotonous uniformity. The weather was fine, but the atmosphere remarkably hazy; I thought the appearance foreboded a gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at some great distance in the interior, being on fire. After a long gallop, having changed horses twice, we reached the Rio Sauce. It is a deep, rapid, little stream, but not above twenty-five feet wide. The second posta on the road to Buenos Ayres stands on its banks; a little above there is a pass for horses, where the water does not reach to the horse's belly; but from that point, in its course to the sea, it is quite impassable, and hence makes a most useful barrier against the Indians.

Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose information is generally so very correct, figures it as a considerable river, rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With respect to its source, I do not doubt this is the case; for the

[page] 125 Sept. 1833. SIERRA VENTANA.

Gauchos assured me, that in the middle of the dry summer, this stream, at the same time with the Colorado, has periodical floods; which can only originate in the snow melting on the Andes. It is extremely improbable that a stream, so small as the Sauce then was, should traverse the entire width of the continent; and indeed, if it were the residue of a large river, its waters, as in other ascertained cases, would be saline. During the winter we must look to the springs round the Sierra Ventana as the source of its pure and limpid stream. I suspect the plains of Patagonia, like those of Australia, are traversed by many water-courses, which only perform their proper parts at certain periods. Probably this is the case with the water which flows into the head of Port Desire, and likewise with the Rio Chupat, on the banks of which masses of highly cellular scoriæ were found by the officers employed in the survey.

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we took fresh horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for the Sierra de la Ventana. This mountain is visible from the anchorage at Bahia Blanca; and Capt. FitzRoy calculates its height to be 3500 feet;—an altitude very remarkable on this eastern side of the continent. I am not aware that any foreigner, previous to my visit, had ascended this mountain; and indeed very few of the soldiers at Bahia Blanca knew any thing about it. Hence we heard of beds of coal, of gold and silver, of caves, and of forests, all of which inflamed my curiosity, only to disappoint it. The distance from the posta was about six leagues, over a level plain of the same character as before. The ride was, however, interesting, as the mountain began to show its true form. When we reached the foot of the main ridge, we had much difficulty in finding any water, and we thought we should have been obliged to have passed the night without any. At last we discovered some, by looking close to the mountain, for at the distance even of a few hundred yards, the streamlets were buried and entirely lost in the friable calcareous stone, and loose detritus. I do not think nature ever made a more solitary,

[page] 126 SIERRA VENTANA. Sept. 1833.

desolate pile of rock;—it well deserves its name of Hurtado, or separated. The mountain is steep, extremely rugged, and broken, and so entirely destitute of trees and even bushes, that we actually could not find a skewer to stretch out our meat over the fire made of thistle* stalks. The strange aspect of this mountain is contrasted by the sea-like plain, which not only abuts against its steep sides, but likewise separates the parallel ranges. The uniformity of the colouring gives, also, an extreme quietness to the view;—the whitish gray of the quartz rock, and the light brown of the withered grass of the plain, being unrelieved by any brighter tint. From custom, one expects to see in the neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain a broken country, strewed over with huge fragments. Here nature shows, that the last movement before the bed of the sea is changed into dry land, may sometimes be one of tranquillity. Under these circumstances, I was curious to observe how far from the parent rock any pebbles could be found. On the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the settlement, there were some of quartz, which certainly must have come from this source : the distance is forty-five miles.

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the saddle-cloths, under which we slept, was in the morning frozen. From the sharpness of the cold, I supposed we were already at a considerable elevation, although, to the eye, the plain had appeared horizontal. In the morning (9th September) the guide told me to ascend the nearest ridge, which he thought would lead me to the four peaks that crown the summit. The climbing up such rough rocks was very fatiguing, the sides were so indented, that, what was gained in one five minutes, was often lost in the next. At last, when I reached the ridge, my disappointment was extreme in finding a precipitous valley as deep as the plain, which cut the chain transversely in two, and separated me from the four

* I call these thistle stalks for the want of a more correct name. I believe it is a species of Eryngium.

[page] 127 Sept. 1833. SIERRA VENTANA.

points. This valley is very narrow, but flatbottomed, and it forms a fine horse-pass for the Indians, as it connects the plains on the northern and southern sides of the range. Having descended, and while crossing it, I saw two horses grazing: I immediately hid myself in the long grass, and began to reconnoitre; but as I could see no signs of Indians, I proceeded cautiously on my second ascent. It was late in the day, and this part of the mountain, like the other, was steep and rugged. I was on the top of the second peak by two o'clock, but got there with extreme difficulty; every twenty yards I had the cramp in the upper part of both thighs, so that I was afraid I should not have been able to have descended. It was also necessary to return by another road, as it was out of the question to pass over the saddle-back. I was therefore obliged to give up the two higher peaks. Their altitude was but little greater, and every purpose of geology had been answered; so that the attempt was not worth the hazard of any further exertion. I presume the cause of the cramp was the great change in the kind of muscular action, from that of hard riding to that of still harder climbing. It is a lesson worth remembering, as in some cases it might cause much difficulty.

I have already said the mountain is composed of white quartz rock, and with it a little glossy clay-slate is associated. At the height of a few hundred feet above the plain, patches of conglomerate adhered in several places to the solid rock. They resembled in hardness, and in the nature of the cement, the masses which may be seen daily forming on some coasts. I do not doubt these pebbles were, in a similar manner, aggregated, at a period when the great calcareous formation was depositing beneath the surrounding sea. We may believe that the jagged and battered forms of the hard quartz yet show the effects of the waves of an open ocean.

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even the view was insignificant;—a plain like the sea, but without its beautiful colour and defined outline. The scene, however, was novel, and a little danger, like salt to meat, gives it

[page] 128 SIERRA VENTANA. Sept. 1833.

a relish. That the danger was very little was certain, for my two companions made a good fire—a thing which is never done when it is suspected that Indians are near. I reached the place of our bivouac by sunset, and drinking much maté, and smoking several cigaritos, soon made up my bed for the night. The wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept more comfortably.

SEPTEMBER 10TH.—In the morning, having fairly scudded before the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the Sauce posta. On the road we saw great numbers of deer, and near the mountain a guanaco. The plain, that abuts against the Sierra, is traversed by some curious gullies, of which one was about twenty feet wide, and at least thirty deep; we were obliged in consequence to make a considerable circuit, before we could find a pass. We staid the night at the posta, the conversation, as was generally the case, being about the Indians. The Sierra Ventana was formerly a great place of resort; and three or four years ago there was much fighting here. My guide had been present when many men were killed: the women escaped to the top of the ridge, and fought most desperately with big stones; many thus saving themselves.

SEPTEMBER 11TH.—Proceeded to the third posta in company with the lieutenant who commanded it. The distance is called fifteen leagues; but it is only guess-work and is generally overstated. The road was uninteresting, over a dry grassy plain; and on our left hand at a greater or less distance there were some low hills; a chain of which, we crossed close to the posta. Before our arrival, we met a large herd of cattle and horses, guarded by fifteen soldiers; but we were told many had been lost. It is very difficult to drive animals across the plains; for if in the night a lion, or even a fox, approaches, nothing can prevent the horses dispersing in every direction; and a storm will have the same effect. A short time since, an officer left Buenos Ayres with 500 horses, and when he arrived at the army he had under twenty.

Soon afterwards we perceived by the cloud of dust, that a

[page] 129 Sept. 1833. INDIANS.

party of horsemen were coming towards us; when far distant my companions knew them to be Indians, by their long hair streaming behind their backs. The Indians generally have a fillet round their heads, but never any covering; and their black hair blowing across their swarthy faces, heightens to an uncommon degree, the wildness of their appearance. They turned out to be a party of Bernantio's friendly tribe, going to a salina for salt. The Indians eat much salt, their children sucking it like sugar. This habit is very different from that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the same kind of life, eat scarcely any. The Indians gave us good-humoured nods as they passed at full gallop, driving before them a troop of horses, and followed by a train of lanky dogs.

SEPTEMBER 12TH AND 13TH.—I staid at this posta two days, waiting for a troop of soldiers, which, General Rosas had the kindness to send to inform me, would shortly travel to Buenos Ayres; and he advised me to take the opportunity of such an escort. In the morning we rode to some neighbouring hills to view the country, and to examine the geology. After dinner the soldiers divided themselves into two parties for a trial of skill with the bolas. Two spears were stuck in the ground thirty-five yards apart, but they were struck and entangled only once in four or five times. The balls can be thrown fifty or sixty yards, but with little certainty. This, however, does not apply to a man on horseback; for when the speed of the horse is added to the force of the arm, it is said, that they can be whirled with effect to the distance of eighty yards.* In the middle of the day two men had ar-

* As a proof of the force with which the balls are hurled, I may mention an anecdote that happened at the Falkland Islands. At the time the Spaniards murdered some of their own countrymen, and all the Englishmen, a young Spaniard was running away, when a great tall Indian, by name Luciano, came at full gallop after him, shouting to him to stop, and saying that he only wanted to speak to him. Just as the Spaniard was on the point of reaching the boat, Luciano threw the balls: they struck him on the legs, with such a jerk, as to throw him down and to render him for some time insensible. The man, after Luciano had had his talk, was al-


[page] 130 PAMPAS. Sept. 1833.

rived, who brought a parcel from the next posta to be forwarded to the general; so that besides these two, our party consisted of myself and guide, the lieutenant and his four soldiers. The latter were strange beings; the first a fine young negro; the second half Indian and negro; and the two others nondescripts; namely, an old Chilian miner, the colour of mahogany, and another partly a mulatto; but two such mongrels, with such detestable expressions, I never saw before. At night, when they were sitting round the fire, and playing at cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa scene. They were seated under a low cliff, so that I could look down upon them; around the party were lying dogs, arms, remnants of deer and ostriches; and their long spears were stuck in the turf. Further in the dark background, their horses were tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness of the desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking, a soldier, leaving the fire, would place his head close to the ground, and thus slowly scan the horizon. Even if the noisy teru-tero uttered its scream, there would be a pause in the conversation, and every head, for a moment a little inclined.

What a life of misery these men appear to us to lead ! They were at least ten leagues from the Sauce posta, and since the murder committed by the Indians, twenty from another. The Indians are supposed to have made their attack in the middle of the night; for very early in the morning after the murder, they were luckily seen approaching this posta. The whole party, however, escaped, together with the troop of horses; each one taking a line for himself, and driving with him as many animals as he was able to manage.

The little hovel, built of thistle-stalks, in which they slept, neither kept out the wind or rain; indeed in the latter case the only effect the roof had, was to condense it into larger

lowed to escape. He told us that his legs were marked by great weals, where the thong had wound round, as if he had been flogged with a whip.

[page] 131 Sept. 1833. HUNTING PARTY.

drops. They had nothing to eat excepting what they could catch, such as ostriches, deer, armadilloes, &c., and their only fuel was the dry stalks of a small plant, somewhat resembling an aloe. The sole luxury which these men enjoyed was smoking the little paper cigars, and sucking maté. I used to think the carrion vulture, man's constant attendant on these dreary plains, while seated on some little eminence, seemed by its very patience to say, "Ah! when the Indians come we shall have a feast."

In the morning we all sallied forth to hunt, and although we had not much success, there were some animated chases. Soon after starting the party separated, and so arranged their plans, that at a certain time of the day (in guessing which they show much skill) they should all meet from different points of the compass on a plain piece of ground, and thus drive together the wild animals. One day I went out hunting at Bahia Blanca, but the men there merely rode in a crescent, each being about a quarter of a mile apart from the other. A fine male ostrich being turned by the headmost riders, tried to escape on one side. The Gauchos pursued at a reckless pace, twisting their horses about with the most admirable command, and each man whirling the balls round his head. At length the foremost threw them, revolving through the air: in an instant the ostrich rolled over and over, its legs fairly lashed together by the thong.

The plains abound with three kinds of partridge,* two of which are as large as hen pheasants. Their destroyer, a small and pretty fox, was also singularly numerous; in the course of the day we could not have seen less than forty or fifty. They were generally near their earths, but the dogs killed one. When we returned to the posta, we found two of the party returned who had been hunting by themselves. They had killed a puma, and had found an ostrich's nest with twenty-seven eggs in it. Each of these is said to equal in

* Two species of Tinamus, and Eudromia elegans of D 'Orbigny, which can only be called a partridge with regard to its habits.

K 2

[page] 132 PAMPAS. Sept. 1833.

weight eleven hens' eggs; so that we obtained from this one nest as much food as 297 hens' eggs would have yielded.

SEPTEMBER 14TH.—As the soldiers belonging to the next posta meant to return, and we should together make a party of five, and all armed, I determined not to wait* for the expected troops. After galloping some leagues, we came to a low swampy country, which extends for nearly eighty miles to the northward, as far as the Sierra Tapalguen. In some parts there were fine damp plains, covered with grass, while others had a soft, black, and peaty soil. There were also many extensive but shallow lakes, and large beds of reeds. The country on the whole resembled the better parts of the Cambridgeshire fens. At night we had some difficulty in finding, amidst the swamps, a dry place for our bivouac.

SEPTEMBER 15TH.—Rose very early in the morning, and shortly after passed the posta, where the Indians had murdered the five soldiers. The officer had eighteen chuzo wounds in his body. By the middle of the day, after a hard gallop, we reached the fifth posta: on account of some difficulty in procuring horses we staid there the night. As this point was the most exposed on the whole line, twenty-one soldiers were stationed there; at sunset they returned from hunting, bringing with them seven deer, three ostriches, and many armadilloes and partridges. When riding through the country, it is a common practice to set fire to the plain; and hence at night, as on this occasion, the horizon was illuminated in several places by brilliant conflagrations. This is done partly for the sake of puzzling any stray

* The lieutenant pressed me much to stop. As he had been very obliging—not only providing me with food, but lending me his private horses—I wanted to make him some remuneration. I asked my guide whether I might do so, but he told me certainly not; that the only answer I should receive, probably would be, "We have meat for the dogs in our country, and therefore do not grudge it to a Christian." It must not be supposed that the rank of lieutenant in such an army, would at all prevent the acceptance of payment: it was only the high sense of hospitality, which every traveller is bound to acknowledge as nearly universal throughout these provinces.

[page] 133 Sept. 1833. PAMPAS.

Indians, but chiefly for improving the pasture. In grassy plains unoccupied by the larger ruminating quadrupeds, it seems necessary to remove by fire the superfluous vegetation, so as to render serviceable the new year's growth.

The rancho at this place did not boast even of a roof, but merely consisted of a ring of thistle-stalks, to break the force of the wind. It was situated on the borders of an extensive but shallow lake, swarming with wild fowl, among which the black-necked swan was conspicuous.

The kind of plover, which appears is if mounted on stilts, (Himantopus melanura) is here common in flocks of considerable size. It has been wrongfully accused of inelegance; when wading about in shallow water, which is its favourite resort, its gait is far from awkward. These birds in a flock utter a noise, that singularly resembles the cry of a pack of small dogs in full chase: waking in the night, I have more than once been for a moment startled at the distant sound. The teru-tero (Vanellus cayanensis), is another bird, which often disturbs the stillness of the night. In appearance and habits it resembles in many respects our peewits; its wings, however, are armed with sharp spurs, like those on the legs of the common cock. As our peewit takes its name from the sound of its voice, so does the teru-tero. While riding over the grassy plains, one is constantly pursued by these birds, which appear to hate mankind, and I am sure deserve to be hated, for their never-ceasing, unvaried, harsh screams. To the sportsman they are most annoying, by telling every other bird and animal of his approach: to the traveller in the country, they may possibly, as Molina says, do good, by warning him of the midnight robber. During the breeding season, they attempt, like our peewits, by feigning to be wounded, to draw away from their nests dogs and other enemies. The eggs of this bird are esteemed a great delicacy.

SEPTEMBER 16TH.—To the seventh posta at the foot of the Sierra Tapalguen. The country was quite level, with a coarse herbage and a soft peaty soil. The hovel was there remarkably neat, the posts and rafters being made of about a

[page] 134 PAMPAS. Sept. 1833.

dozen dry thistle-stalks bound together with thongs of hide; and by the aid of these Ionic-like columns the roof and sides were thatched with reeds. We were here told a fact, which I would not have credited, if I had not had partly ocular proof of it; namely, that, during the previous night, hail as large as small apples, and extremely hard, had fallen with such violence, as to kill the greater number of the wild animals. One of the men had already found thirteen deer (Cervus campestris) lying dead, and I saw their fresh hides; another of the party, a few minutes after my arrival, brought in seven more. Now I well know, that one man without dogs, would hardly have killed seven deer in a week. The men believed they had seen about fifteen dead ostriches (part of one of which we had for dinner); and they said that several were running about evidently blind in one eye. Numbers of smaller birds, as ducks, hawks, and partridges, were killed. I saw one of the latter with a black mark on its back, as if it had been struck with a paving-stone. A fence of thistle-stalks round the hovel, was nearly broken down, and my informer putting his head out to see what was the matter, received a severe cut, and now wore a bandage. The storm was said to have been of limited extent: we certainly saw from our last night's bivouac a dense cloud and lightning in this direction. It is marvellous how such strong animals as deer could thus have been killed; but I have no doubt, from the evidence I have given, that the story is not in the least exaggerated. I am glad, however, to have its credibility supported by the Jesuit Drobrizhoffer,* who, speaking of a country much to the northward, says, hail fell of an enormous size and killed vast numbers of cattle: the Indians hence called the place Lalegraicavalca, meaning "The little white things."

Having finished our dinner of hail-stricken meat, we crossed the Sierra Tapalguen; a low range of hills, a few hundred feet in height, which commences at Cape Corrientes.

* History of the Abipones, vol. ii., p. 6.

[page] 135 Sept. 1833. NATURAL ENCLOSURE.

The rock in this part is pure quartz; further eastward I understand it is granitic. The hills are of a remarkable form; they consist of flat patches of table-land, surrounded by low but perpendicular cliffs, like the outliers of a sedimentary deposit. The hill which I ascended was very small, not above a couple of hundred yards in diameter; but I saw others larger. One which goes by the name of the "Corral," is said to be two or three miles in diameter, and encompassed on all sides by perpendicular cliffs, between thirty and forty feet high, excepting at one spot, where the entrance lies. Falconer* gives a curious account of the Indians driving within it troops of wild horses, and then by guarding the entrance, keeping them secure. I have never heard of any other instance of table-land in a formation of quartz, and which, in the hill I examined, had neither cleavage or stratification. I was told that the rock of the "Corral "was white, and would strike fire.

We did not reach the posta on the Rio Tapalguen till after it was dark. At supper, from something which was said, I was suddenly struck with horror at thinking that I was eating one of the favourite dishes of the country, namely, a half-formed calf, long before its proper time of birth. It turned out to be Puma; the meat is very white, and remarkably like veal in taste. Dr. Shaw was laughed at for stating that, "the flesh of the lion is in great esteem, having no small affinity with veal, both in colour, taste, and flavour." Such certainly is the case with the Puma. The Gauchos differ in their opinion, whether the Jaguar is good eating, but are unanimous in saying that cat is excellent.

SEPTEMBER 17TH.—We followed the course of the Rio Tapalguen, through a very fertile country, to the ninth posta. Tapalguen itself, or the town of Tapalguen, if it may be so called, consists of a perfectly level plain, studded over as far as the eye can reach, with the toldos, or oven-

* Falconer's Patagonia, p. 70.

[page] 136 PAMPAS. Sept. 1833.

shaped huts of the Indians. The families of the friendly Indians, who were fighting on the side of Rosas, resided here. We met and passed many young Indian women, riding by two or three together on the same horse: they, as well as many of the young men, were strikingly handsome,—their fine ruddy complexions being the picture of health. Besides the toldos, there were three ranchos; one inhabited by the Commandant, and the two others by Spaniards with small shops.

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been several days without tasting any thing besides meat: I did not at all dislike this new regimen; but I felt as if it would only have agreed with very hard exercise. I have heard that patients in England, when desired to confine themselves exclusively to an animal diet, even with the hope of life before their eyes, have hardly been able to endure it. Yet the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together, touches nothing but beef. But they eat, I observe, a very large proportion of fat, which is of a less animalized nature; and they particularly dislike dry meat, such as that of the Agouti. It is, perhaps, from this regimen that the Gauchos, like other carnivorous animals, can abstain long from food. I was told that at Tandeel, some troops voluntarily pursued a party of Indians for three days, without eating or drinking.

We saw in the shops, many articles, such as horsecloths, belts, and garters, woven by the Indian women. The patterns were very pretty, and the colours brilliant; the workmanship of the garters was so good, that an English merchant at Buenos Ayres, maintained they must have been manufactured in England, till he found the tassels had been fastened by split sinew.

SEPTEMBER 18TH.—We had a very long ride this day. At the twelfth posta, which is seven leagues south of Rio Salado, we came to the first estancia with cattle and white women. Afterwards we had to ride for many miles through a country flooded with water above our horses' knees. By crossing the stirrups, and riding Arab-like with our legs bent up, we

[page] 137 Sept. 1833. PAMPAS.

contrived to keep tolerably dry. It was nearly dark when we arrived at the Salado; the stream was deep, and about forty yards wide; in summer, however, its bed becomes almost dry, and the little remaining water nearly as salt as that of the sea. We slept at one of the great estancias of General Rosas. It was fortified, and of such an extent, that arriving in the dark I thought it was a town and fortress. In the morning we saw immense herds of cattle, as well we might, the general here having seventy-four square leagues of land. Formerly nearly three hundred men were employed about this estate, and they defied all the attacks of the Indians.

SEPTEMBER 19TH.—Passed the Guardia del Monte. This is a nice scattered little town, with many gardens, full of peach and quince trees. The plain here looked like that around Buenos Ayres; the turf being short and bright green, with beds of clover and thistles, and with bizcacha holes. I was very much struck with the marked change in the aspect of the country after having crossed the Salado. From a coarse herbage we passed on to a carpet of fine green verdure. I at first attributed this to some change in the nature of the soil, but the inhabitants assured me that in this part, as well as in Banda Oriental, where there was as great a difference between the country around Monte Video and the thinly-inhabited savannahs of Colonia, that the whole was to be attributed to the manuring and grazing of the cattle. I am not botanist enough to say, whether the change is owing to the introduction of new species, to the altered growth of the same, or to a difference in their proportional numbers. Azara has also observed with astonishment this change: he is likewise much perplexed by the immediate appearance of plants not occurring in the neighbourhood, on the borders of any track that leads to a newly-constructed hovel. In another part he says,* "Ces chevaux (sauvages) ont la manie de préférer les chemins, et le bord des routes pour déposer leurs excrémens, dont on trouve des monceaux dans ces endroits." Does this not

* Azara's Voyage, vol. i., p. 373.

[page] 138 PAMPAS. Sept. 1833.

partly explain the circumstance? We thus have lines of richly-manured land serving as channels of communication across wide districts.

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two European plants, now become excessively common. The fennel in great profusion covers the ditch banks in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, and other towns. But the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)* has a far wider range: it occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it in unfrequented spots in Chile, Entre Rios, and Banda Oriental. In the latter country alone, very many (probably several hundred) square miles are covered by one mass of these prickly plants, and are impenetrable by man or beast. Over the undulating plains, where these great beds occur, nothing else can live. Before their introduction, however, I apprehend the surface supported as in other parts a rank herbage. I doubt whether any case is on record, of an invasion on so grand a scale of one plant over the aborigines. As I have already said, I nowhere saw the cardoon south of the Salado; but it is probable that in proportion as that country becomes inhabited, the cardoon will extend its limits. The case is different with the giant thistle (with variegated leaves) of the Pampas, for I met with it in the valley of the Sauce. According to the principles so well laid down by Mr. Lyell,

* D'Orbigny (vol. i., p. 474), says that the cardoon and artichoke are both found wild. Dr. Hooker (Botanical Magazine, vol. lv., p. 2862), has described a variety of the Cynara from this part of South America under the name of inermis. He states that botanists are now generally agreed that the cardoon and the artichoke are varieties of one plant. I may add, that an intelligent farmer assured me, he had observed in a deserted garden, some artichokes changing into the common cardoon. Dr. Hooker believes that Head's vivid description of the thistle of the Pampas applies to the cardoon; but this is a mistake. Captain Head referred to the plant, which I have mentioned a few lines lower down, under the title of giant thistle. Whether it is a true thistle I do not know; but it is quite different from the cardoon, and more like a thistle properly so called.

[page] 139 Sept. 1833. BUENOS AYRES.

few countries have undergone more remarkable changes, since the year 1535, when the first colonist of La Plata landed with seventy-two horses. The countless herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, not only have altered the whole aspect of the vegetation, but they have almost banished the guanaco, deer, and ostrich. Numberless other changes must likewise have taken place; the wild pig in some parts probably replaces the peccari; packs of wild dogs may be heard howling on the wooded banks of the less frequented streams; and the common cat, altered into a large and fierce animal, inhabits rocky hills. I have alluded to the invasion of the cardoon: in a like manner, the islands near the mouth of the Parana, are thickly clothed with peaches and orange-trees, springing from seeds carried there by the waters of the river.

While changing horses at the Guardia, several people questioned us much about the army,—I never saw any thing like the enthusiasm for Rosas, and for the success of the "most just of all wars, because against barbarians." This expression it must be confessed is very natural, for till lately, neither man, woman, nor horse, was safe from the attacks of the Indians. We had a long day's ride over the same rich green plain abounding with various flocks, and with here and there a solitary estancia, and its one ombu tree. In the evening it rained heavily: on arriving at a post-house, we were told by the owner that if we had not a regular passport we must pass on, for there were so many robbers he would trust no one. When he read, however, my passport, which began with "El Naturalista Don Carlos, &c." his respect and civility were as unbounded, as his suspicions had been before. What a naturalist may be, neither he nor his countrymen, I suspect, had any idea; but probably my title lost nothing of its value from that cause.

SEPTEMBER 20TH.—We arrived by the middle of the day at Buenos Ayres. The outskirts of the city looked quite pretty, with the agave hedges, and groves of olive, peach, and willow trees, all just throwing out their fresh green leaves. I rode to the house of Mr. Lumb, an English merchant, to

[page] 140 BUENOS AYRES. Sept. 1833.

whose kindness and hospitality, during my stay in the country, I was greatly indebted.

The city of Buenos Ayres is large*; and I should think one of the most regular in the world. Every street is at right angles to the one it crosses, and the parallel ones being equidistant, the houses are collected into solid squares of equal dimensions, which are called quadras. On the other hand, the houses themselves are hollow squares; all the rooms opening into a neat little courtyard. They are generally only one story high, with flat roofs, which are fitted with seats, and are much frequented by the inhabitants in summer. In the centre of the town is the Plaza, where the public offices, fortress, cathedral, &c., stand. Here also, the old viceroys, before the revolution, had their palaces. The general assemblage of buildings possesses considerable architectural beauty, although none individually can boast of any.

The great corral where the animals are kept for slaughter to supply food to this beef-eating population, is one of the spectacles best worth seeing. The strength of the horse as compared to that of the bullock is quite astonishing: a man on horseback having thrown his lazo round the horns of a beast, can drag it any where he chooses. The animal having ploughed up the ground with outstretched legs, in vain efforts to resist the force, generally dashes at full speed to one side; but the horse immediately turning to receive the shock, stands so firmly, that the bullock is almost thrown down, and one would think, would certainly have its neck dislocated. The struggle is not, however, one of fair strength; the horse's girth being matched against the bullock's extended neck. In a similar manner a man can hold the wildest horse, if caught with the lazo, just behind the ears. When the bullock has been dragged to the spot where it is to be slaughtered, the matador with great caution cuts the hamstrings. Then is given the death bellow; a noise more

* Is said to contain 60,000 inhabitants. Monte Video, the second town of importance on the banks of the Plata, has 15,000.

[page] 141 Sept. 1833. BUENOS AYRES.

expressive of fierce agony than any I know: I have often distinguished it from a long distance, and have always known that the struggle was then drawing to a close. The whole sight is horrible and revolting, the ground is almost made of bones; and the horses, and riders are drenched with gore.

[page] 142


Excursion to St. Fe — Thistle beds — Habits and range of Bizcacha — Little owl — Saline streams — Level plains — Mastodon — St. Fe — Change in landscape — Geology — Tooth of extinct horse — Range of fossil quadrupeds — Pampas full of remains — Effects of great droughts — Droughts periodical — Parana — Habits of Jaguar — Scissor-beak — Kingfisher, parrot, and scissor-tail — Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State of government.


SEPTEMBER 27TH.—In the evening I set out on an excursion to St. Fe, which is situated nearly three hundred English miles from Buenos Ayres, on the banks of the Parana. The roads in the neighbourhood of the city, after the rainy weather were extraordinarily bad. I should never have thought it possible for a bullock waggon to have crawled along: as it was, they scarcely went at the rate of a mile an hour, and a man was kept ahead, to survey the best line for making the attempt. The bullocks were terribly jaded: it is a great mistake to suppose that with improved roads, and an accelerated velocity of travelling, the sufferings of the animals increase in the same proportion. We passed a train of waggons and a troop of beasts on their road to Mendoza. The distance is about 580 geographical miles, and the journey is generally performed in fifty days. These waggons are very long, narrow, and thatched with reeds; they have only two wheels, the diameter of which in some cases is even ten feet. Each is drawn by six bullocks which are urged on by a goad at least twenty feet long: this is suspended from within the roof; for the wheel bullocks a smaller one is kept; and for the intermediate pair, a point projects at right angles from the middle of the long one. The whole apparatus looked like some implement of war.

SEPTEMBER 28TH.—We passed the small town of Luxan,

[page] 143 Sept. 1833. BIZCACHA.

where there is a wooden bridge over the river—a most unusual convenience in this country. We passed also Areco. The plains appeared level, but were not so in fact; for in various places the horizon was distant. The estancias are here wide apart; for there is little good pasture, owing to the land being covered by beds either of an acrid clover, or of the great thistle. The latter, well known from the animated description given by Sir F. Head, were at this time of the year two-thirds grown; in some parts they were as high as the horse's back, but in others they had not yet sprung up, and the ground was bare and dusty as on a turnpike road. The clumps were of the most brilliant green, and they made a pleasing miniature-likeness of broken forest land. When the thistles are fully grown, the great beds are impenetrable, except by a few tracks, as intricate as those in a labyrinth. These are only known to the robbers, who at this season inhabit them, and sally forth at night to rob, and cut throats, with impunity. Upon asking at a house whether robbers were numerous, I was answered, "The thistles are not up yet;"—the meaning of which reply was not at first very obvious. There is little interest in passing over these tracts, for they are inhabited by few animals or birds, excepting the bizcacha and its friend the little owl.

The bizcacha* is well known to form a prominent feature in the zoology of the Pampas. It is found as far south as the Rio Negro, in lat. 41°, but not beyond. It cannot, like the agouti, subsist on the gravelly and desert plains of Patagonia, but prefers a clayey or sandy soil, which produces a different and more abundant vegetation. Near Mendoza, at the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs in close neighbourhood with the allied alpine species. It is a very curious circumstance in its geographical distribution, that it has never been seen, fortunately for the inhabitants, in Banda Oriental, to the eastward of the river Uruguay: yet in that province

* The bizcacha (Calomys bizcacha) somewhat resembles a large rabbit, but with bigger gnawing teeth and a long tail: it has, however, only three toes behind, like the agouti. During the last three or four years, the skins of these animals have been sent to England for the sake of the fur.

[page] 144 PAMPAS. Sept. 1833.

there are plains which appear admirably adapted to its habits. That river has formed an insuperable obstacle to its migration; although the broader barrier of the Parana has been passed, and the bizcacha is common in Entre Rios (the province between the two rivers), directly on the opposite shore of the Uruguay. Near Buenos Ayres these animals are exceedingly common. Their most favourite resort appears to be those parts of the plain, which during one half the year are covered with giant thistles, to the exclusion of other plants. The Gauchos affirm that it lives on roots; which, from the great strength of its gnawing teeth, and the kind of localities frequented by it, seems probable. As in the case of the rabbit, a few holes are commonly placed together. In the evening the bizcachas come out in numbers, and there quietly sit on their haunches. They are at such times very tame, and a man on horseback passing by, seems only to present an object for their grave contemplation. They do not wander far from their burrows. They run very awkwardly, and, when hurrying out of danger, from their elevated tails and short front legs much resemble great rats. Their flesh, when cooked, is very white and good, but it is seldom used.

The bizcacha has one very singular habit; namely, dragging every hard object to the mouth of its burrow. Around each group of holes many bones of cattle, stones, thistle-stalks, hard lumps of earth, dry dung, &c., are collected into a scattered heap, which frequently amounts to as much as a wheelbarrow would contain. I was credibly informed that a gentleman, when riding on a dark night, dropped his watch; he returned in the morning, and by searching the neighbourhood of every bizcacha hole on the line of road, as he expected, soon found it. This habit of picking up whatever may be lying on the ground any where near its habitation, must cost much trouble. For what purpose it is done I am quite unable to form even the most remote conjecture: it cannot be for defence, because the rubbish is chiefly placed above the mouth of the burrow, which enters the ground at a very small inclination. No doubt there must exist some good

[page] 145 Sept. 1833. PAMPAS.

reason; but the inhabitants of the country are quite ignorant respecting it.

The little owl (Noctua cunicularia), which has been so often mentioned, on the plains of Buenos Ayres exclusively inhabits the holes of the bizcacha; but in Banda Oriental it is its own workman. During the open day, but more especially in the evening, these birds may be seen in every direction standing frequently by pairs on the hillock near their burrows. If disturbed they either enter the hole, or, uttering a shrill harsh cry, move with a remarkably undulatory flight to a short distance, and then turning round, steadily gaze at their pursuer. Occasionally in the evening they may be heard hooting. I found in the stomachs of two which I opened the remains of mice, and I one day saw a small snake killed and carried away. It is said these latter animals are their common prey during the daytime. I may here mention, as showing on what various kinds of food owls subsist, that a species that was killed among the islets of the Chonos Archipelago, had its stomach full of good-sized crabs.

In the evening we crossed the Rio Arrecife, on a simple raft made of barrels lashed together, and slept at the post-house on the other side. I this day paid horse hire for thirty-one leagues; and although the sun was glaring hot I was but very little fatigued. When Captain Head talks of riding fifty leagues a day, I do not imagine the distance is equal to 150 English miles. At all events the thirty-one leagues was only 76 miles in a straight line, and in an open country I should think four additional miles for turnings would be a sufficient allowance.

29TH AND 30TH.—We continued to ride over plains of the same character. At San Nicholas I first saw the noble river of the Parana. At the foot of the cliff on which the town stands, some large vessels were at anchor. Before arriving at Rozario, we crossed the Saladillo, a stream of fine clear running water, but too saline to drink. Rozario is a large town built on a dead level plain, which forms


[page] 146 PAMPAS. Oct. 1833.

a cliff about sixty feet high over the Parana. The river here is very broad, with many islands, which are low and wooded, as is also the coast of the opposite shore. The view would resemble that of a great lake, if it were not for the linear-shaped islets, which alone give the idea of running water. The cliffs are the most picturesque part; sometimes they are absolutely perpendicular, and of a red colour; at other times in large broken masses, covered with cacti and mimosa-trees. The real grandeur, however, of an immense river like this, is derived from reflecting how important a means of communication and commerce, it forms between one nation and another; to what a distance it travels; and from how vast a territory it drains the great body of fresh water which flows past your feet.

For many leagues north and south of San Nicholas and Rozario, the country is really level. Scarcely any thing which travellers have written about its extreme flatness, can be considered as exaggeration. Yet I could never find a spot, where, by slowly turning round, objects were not seen at greater distances in some directions than in others; and this manifestly proves inequality in the plain. At sea, a person's eye being six feet above the surface of the water, his horizon is two miles and four-fifths distant. In like manner, the more level the plain, the more nearly does the horizon approach within these narrow limits: and this, in my opinion, entirely destroys that grandeur, which one would have imagined that a vast level plain would have possessed.

OCTOBER 1ST.—We started by moonlight and arrived at the Rio Tercero by sunrise. This river is also called the Saladillo, and it deserves the name, for the water is brackish.

I staid here the greater part of the day, searching for fossil bones. Falconer mentions having seen, in the bed of this river, great bones, and the case of a giant armadillo. By good fortune, I discovered a tooth embedded in a layer of rock marl, which was afterwards found exactly to fit the socket in the head of a strange animal, the Toxodon, which

[page] 147 Oct. 1833. MASTODON.

will presently be mentioned. Hearing also of the remains of one of the old giants, which a man told me he had seen on the banks of the Parana, I procured a canoe, and proceeded to the place. Two groups of immense bones projected in bold relief from the perpendicular cliff. They were, however, so completely decayed, that I could only bring away small fragments of one of the great molar-teeth; but these were sufficient to show that the remains belonged to a species of Mastodon. The men who took me in the canoe, said they had long known of them, and had often wondered how they had got there: the necessity of a theory being felt, they came to the conclusion, that, like the bizcacha, the mastodon formerly was a burrowing animal! In the evening we rode another stage, and crossed the Monge, another brackish stream, bearing the dregs of the washings of the Pampas.

OCTOBER 2D. — We passed through Corunda, which, from the luxuriance of its gardens, was one of the prettiest villages I saw. From this point to St. Fe the road is not very safe. The western side of the Parana further northward, ceases to be inhabited; and hence the Indians sometimes come down, and waylay travellers. The nature of the country also favours this, for instead of a grassy plain, there is an open woodland, composed of low prickly mimosas. We passed some houses that had been ransacked and since deserted; we saw also a spectacle, which my guides viewed with high satisfaction; it was the skeleton of an Indian with the dried skin hanging on the bones, suspended to the branch of a tree.

In the morning we arrived at St. Fe. I was surprised to observe how great a change of climate a difference of only three degrees of latitude between this place and Buenos Ayres had caused. This was evident from the dress and complexion of the men—from the increased size of the ombu-trees—the number of new cacti and other plants—and especially from the birds. In the course of an hour I remarked

L 2

[page] 148 ST. FE. Oct. 1833.

half-a-dozen of the latter, which I had never seen at Buenos Ayres. Considering that there is no natural boundary between the two places, and that the character of the country is nearly similar, the difference was much greater than I should have expected.

OCTOBER 3D AND 4TH.—I was confined to my bed by a headach for these two days. A goodnatured old woman, who attended me, wished me to try many odd remedies. A common practice is, to bind an orange-leaf, or a bit of black plaster, to each temple; and a still more general plan is, to split a bean into halves, moisten them, and place one on each temple, where they will easily adhere. It is not thought proper ever to remove the beans or plaster, but to allow them to drop off; and sometimes, if a man, with patches on his head, is asked, what is the matter? he will answer, "I had a headache the day before yesterday."

St. Fe is a quiet little town, and is kept clean, and in good order. The governor, Lopez, was a common soldier at the time of the revolution; but has now been seventeen years in power. This stability of government is owing to his tyrannical habits; for tyranny seems as yet better adapted to these countries, than republicanism. The governor's favourite occupation is hunting Indians: a short time since he slaughtered forty-eight, and sold the children at the rate of three or four pounds apiece.

OCTOBER 5TH.—We crossed the Parana to St. Fe Bajada, a town on the opposite shore. The passage took some hours, as the river here consisted of a labyrinth of small streams, separated by low wooded islands. I had a letter of introduction to an old Catalonian Spaniard, who treated me with the most uncommon hospitality. The Bajada is the capital of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town contained 6000 inhabitants, and the province 30,000; yet, few as they are, none have suffered more from bloody and desperate revolutions. They boast here of representatives, ministers, a standing army, and governors: so it is no wonder that they have

[page] 149 Oct. 1833. FOSSIL HORSE.

their revolutions. At some future day this must be one of the richest countries of La Plata. The soil is varied and productive, and its almost insular form gives it two grand lines of communication by the rivers Parana and Uruguay.

I was delayed here five days, and employed myself in examining the geology of the surrounding country, which was very interesting. We here see beds of sand, clay, and limestone, containing sea-shells and sharks' teeth, passing above into an indurated marl, and from that into the red clayey earth of the Pampas, with its calcareous concretions and the bones of terrestrial animals. This vertical section clearly tells us, of a large bay of pure salt-water, gradually encroached on, and at last becoming the bed of a muddy estuary, into which floating carcasses were swept. I found near the Bajada a large piece, nearly four feet across, of the giant armadillo-like case; also a molar tooth of a mastodon, and fragments of very many bones, the greater number of which were rotten, and as soft as clay.

A tooth which I discovered by one point projecting from the side of a bank, interested me much, for I at once perceived that it had belonged to a horse. Feeling much surprise at this, I carefully examined its geological position, and was compelled to come to the conclusion,* that a horse, which cannot from a comparison of the tooth alone, be distinguished from the existing species,† lived as a contemporary with the various great monsters that formerly inhabited South America. Mr. Owen and myself, at the College of Surgeons, compared this tooth with a fragment of another, probably belonging to the Toxodon, which was embedded at the dis-

* The broken tooth mentioned at Bahia Blanca must not be forgotten.

† As this horse existed at the same time with animals now extinct, it is not probable, that it is the same species with the recent kind, although from the similarity of the teeth it must have been closely allied. Cuvier, talking of the remains of the horse, found fossil under similar conditions in Europe, remarks, "It is not possible to say whether it was one of the species now existing or not, because the skeletons of these species are so like each other, that they cannot be distinguished by the mere comparison of isolated fragments."—Theory of the Earth, English translation, p. 285.

[page] 150 ST. FE. Oct. 1833.

tance only of a few yards in the same earthy mass. No sensible difference in their state of decay could be perceived; they were both tender, and partially stained red. If the horse did not coexist with the Toxodon, the tooth must by some accident, not very easily understood, have been embedded within the last three centuries (the period of the introduction of the horse), with the remains of those animals, which ages since perished, when the Pampas was covered by the waters of the sea. Now, I may ask, will any one credit that two teeth of nearly equal size, buried in the same substance close together, after a period of so vast an inequality, could exist in the same condition of decay? We must conclude otherwise. Certainly it is a marvellous event in the history of animals, that a native kind should have disappeared* to be succeeded in after ages by the countless herds introduced with the Spanish colonist! But our surprise should be modified when it is already known, that the remains of the Mastodon angustidens (the tooth formerly alluded to as embedded near that of the horse, probably belonged to this species) have been found both in South America, and in the southern parts of Europe.

With regard to North America, Cuvier says† the Elephas primigenius "has left thousands of its carcasses from Spain to the shores of Siberia, and it has been found in the whole of North America." The fossil ox, in a like manner, he writes,‡ is buried "dans toute la partie boréale des deux continens, puisque on en a d'Allemagne, d'Italie, de Prussie, de la Sibérie occidentale et orientale, et de l'Amérique." I may here add that horses' bones, mingled with those of the mastodon, have several times been transmitted for sale from North America to England; but it has always been imagined, from the simple fact of their being horses' bones, that they had been accidentally mingled with the fossils. Among the

* I need not here state, that there is no kind of evidence to support the belief, that a horse existed in America previously to the age of Columbus.

† Theory of the Earth, p. 281 (English translation).

‡ Ossemens Fossiles, vol. iv., p. 147.

[page] 151 Oct. 1833. ZOOLOGICAL PROVINCES.

remains brought home by Captain Beechey from the west coast of the same continent, in the frozen region of 66° north, Dr. Buckland* has described the astragalus metacarpus, and metatarsus of the horse, which were associated with the remains of the Elephas primigenius, and of the fossil ox. Thus we have an elephant, an ox, and a horse (the species of the latter is only presumed to be identical), common to Europe and to North America.

Very few species of living quadrupeds,† which are altogether terrestrial in their habits, are common to the two continents, and these few are chiefly confined to the extreme frozen regions of the north. The separation, therefore, of the Asiatic and American zoological provinces appears formerly to have been less perfect than at present. The remains of the elephant and of the ox have been found on the banks of the Anadir (long. 175° E.), on the extreme part of Siberia, nearest the American coast: and the former remains, according to Chamisso, are common in the peninsula of Kamtschatka. On the opposite shores, likewise, of the narrow strait which divides these two great continents, we know, from the discoveries of Kotzebue and Beechey, that the remains of both animals occur abundantly: and as Dr. Buckland has shown they are associated with the bones of the horse, the teeth of which animal in Europe, according to Cuvier, accompany by thousands the remains of the pachydermata of the later periods. With these facts, we may safely look at this quarter, as the line of communication (now interrupted by the steady progress of geological change) by which the elephant, the ox, and the horse, entered America, and peopled its wide extent.‡

* See the admirable Appendix to Beechey's Voyage, p. 592 (quarto edition).

† See Dr. Richardson's very interesting Report on North American Zoology for the British Association of 1836.

‡ I do not here mean to fix on the more northern parts of the old world as the parent country of these two animals. I only want to point out the channel of communication—not the course of the stream—

[page] 152 ST. FE. Oct. 1833.

The occurrence of the fossil horse and of Mastodon angustidens in South America, is a much more remarkable circumstance than that of the animals mentioned above in the northern half of the continent; for if we divide America, not by the Isthmus of Panama, but by the southern part of Mexico,* in lat. 20°, where the great table-land presents an obstacle to the migration of species, by affecting the climate, and by forming, with the exception of some valleys and of a fringe of low land on the coast, a broad barrier; we shall then have two zoological provinces strongly contrasted with each other. Some few species alone have passed the barrier, and may be considered as wanderers, such as the puma, opossum, kinkajou, and peccari. The mammalogy of South America is characterized by possessing several species of the genera of llama, cavy (and the allied animals), tapir, peccari, opossum, anteater, sloth, and armadillo. If North America had possessed species of these genera proper to it, the distinction of the two provinces could not have been drawn; but the presence of a few wanderers scarcely affects the case. North America, on the other hand, is characterized by its numerous rodents,† and by four genera of solid horned ruminants,‡ of which section the southern half does not possess a single species.

whether from west to east, or the reverse. Perhaps, when we recollect how extraordinarily the Pachydermata abounded during the Tertiary epochs in the Old World, and that the representatives of these animals now only exist in that quarter, it may seem most probable that the migration took place from Asia to America.

* This is the division followed by Lichtenstein, Swainson, and Richardson. The section from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, given by Humboldt in the Atlas to Polit. Essay on Kingdom of N. Spain, will show how immense a barrier the Mexican table-land forms.

† Dr. Richardson (Report to Brit. Assoc., p. 157), talking of the identification of a Mexican animal with the Synetheres prehensilis, says, "We do not know with what propriety, but, if correct, it is, if not a solitary instance, at least very nearly so, of a rodent animal being common to North and South America."

Dicranocerus furcifer, Capra Americana, Ovis montana, Bos Americana, and Moschatus.—Report to Brit. Assoc., p. 159.

[page] 153 Oct. 1833. ZOOLOGICAL PROVINCES.

This distinction of the two zoological provinces does not appear always to have existed. At the present day the order of Edentata is much more strongly developed in South America, than in any other part of the world: and concluding from the fossil remains, which were discovered at Bahia Blanca, such must have been the case during a former epoch. In America, north of Mexico, not one of this order is now found: yet, as is well known, the gigantic megalonyx, considered by Cuvier as a species of Megatherium, has been found only in that country; and as it appears from recent observations,* the Megatherium Cuvierii itself likewise occurs there. Mr. Owen showed me the tibia of some large animal, which Sir Philip Egerton had purchased out of a collection of the remains of the mastodon brought from North America. Mr. Owen says it certainly belongs to one of the Edentata, and it so closely resembles a bone which I found embedded, together with fragments of the great armadillo-like covering, in Banda Oriental, that it probably forms a species of the same genus. Lastly, among the fossils brought home by Captain Beechey from the N.W. coast, there was a cervical vertebra, which, when compared by Mr. Pentland† with the skeletons at Paris, was found to resemble that of the sloth and anteater more than that of any other animal, although having some points of essential difference.

Of the Pachydermata four or five species are now found in America; but, as in the case of the Edentata, none are peculiar to the continent north of Mexico; and one alone seems to exist there as a wanderer. Yet the account of the multitude of bones of the mastodon and elephant, which have been discovered in the salt-licks of North America, is familiar to every one. The remains of the Mastodon giganteum have been found nowhere else; but those of the Elephas primigenius are common to a large part of the

* Ed. New Phil. Journal. July, 1828, p. 327. From a paper by Mr. Cooper in the Lyceum of Natural History of New York.

† See Dr. Buckland. Appendix to Beechey's Voyage, p. 597.

[page] 154 ST. FE. Oct. 1833.

terrestrial globe.* This elephant must have existed in Mexico; and Cuvier,† judging from a fragment of a tusk, thinks it even extended to the neighbourhood of Quito in South America. In the latter country three species of Mastodon have been discovered. One of these, M. angustidens, is common to Europe. It is singular that its remains, as yet, have never been brought from North America; nevertheless, considering that it was a contemporary of the extinct animals above mentioned, it seems highly probable that it arrived by the same line of communication on the N.W. coast. As its remains have frequently been found at a great elevation in the Cordillera, perhaps its habits led it to follow that chain of mountains from north to south.

After these facts, it is only in conformity with what we might almost have expected, that the horse, belonging to the same order of Pachydermata, should formerly have inhabited both North and South America, It is interesting thus to discover an epoch anterior to the division, as far at least as two important orders among the mammalia are concerned, of the continent into two separate zoological provinces. The geologist who believes in considerable oscillations of level in the crust of the globe within recent periods, will not fear to speculate either on the elevation of the Mexican platform, as a cause of the distinction, or on the submergence of land in the West Indian seas,—a circumstance which is perhaps indicated by the zoology of those islands.‡

* I may observe that at the present day both species of elephants have wide ranges. The African one is found from the Senegal to the Cape of Good Hope, a distance of about 3000 miles. The Asiatic kind formerly had an equal range, namely, from the banks of the Indus to the East Indian Isles. The hippopotamus is believed to have reached from the Cape to Egypt.

† Ossemens Fossiles, vol. i., p. 158. Cuvier says he cannot decide positively, not having seen a molar tooth.

‡ Dr. Richardson (Report for 1836, to Brit. Assoc., p. 157) says, " the spotted cavy (cælogenys), and perhaps a species of cavia, and one dasyprocta, extend from South America to the West Indies and Mexico." Cuvier says the Kinkajou is found in the larger Antilles, but others

[page] 155 Oct. 1833. GREAT DROUGHT.

The number of bones embedded in the grand estuary deposit of the Pampas must he very great; I myself heard of, and saw many groups. The names of such places as "the stream of the animal," "the hill of the giant," tell the same story. At other times I heard of the marvellous property of certain rivers, which had the power of changing small bones into large; or as some maintained, the bones themselves grew. As far as I am aware, not one of these animals, as was formerly supposed, perished in the marshes, or muddy river-beds of the present land, but their bones have been exposed by the streams intersecting the deposit in which their remains were formerly buried. We may therefore conclude that the whole area of the Pampas is one wide sepulchre for these extinct quadrupeds.

While travelling through the country, I received several vivid descriptions of the effect of a great drought; and the account of this may throw some light on the cases, where vast numbers of animals of all kinds, have been embedded together. The period included between the years 1827 and 1830 is called the "gran seco" or the great drought. During this time, so little rain fell, that the vegetation, even to the thistles, failed; the brooks were dried up, and the whole country assumed the appearance of a dusty high-road. This was especially the case in the northern part of the province of Buenos Ayres, and the southern part of St. Fe. Very great numbers of birds, wild animals, cattle, and horses, perished from the want of food and water. A man told me, that the deer* used to come into his courtyard to the well,

affirm that this is an error: according to M. Gervais, the Didelphis crancrivora inhabits the Antilles. A tooth of the Mastodon has been brought from Bahama (Ed. New Phil. Journal, July, 1826, p. 395). We cannot, however, from this conclude, that the Mastodon formerly inhabited those islands, for the carcass might have been floated there. Some mammalia certainly are peculiar to the Archipelago.

* In Capt. Owen's Surveying Voyage (vol. ii., p. 274) there is a curious account of the effects of a drought on the elephants, at Benguela (west coast of Africa). "A number of these animals had sometime since entered the

[page] 156 ST. FE. Oct. 1833.

which he had been obliged to dig to supply his own family with water; and that the partridges had hardly strength to fly away when pursued. The lowest estimation of the loss of cattle in the province of Buenos Ayres alone, was taken at one million head. A proprietor at San Pedro had previously to these years 20,000 cattle; at the end not one remained. San Pedro is situated in the middle of the finest country; and even now again abounds with animals; yet, during the latter part of the "gran seco," live cattle were brought in vessels for the consumption of the inhabitants. The animals roamed from their estancias, and wandering far to the southward, were mingled together in such multitudes, that a government commission was sent from Buenos Ayres to settle the disputes of the owners. Sir Woodbine Parish informed me of another and very curious source of dispute; the ground being so long dry, such quantities of dust were blown about, that in this open country the landmarks became obliterated, and people could not tell the limits of their estates.

I was informed by an eyewitness, that the cattle in herds of thousands rushed into the Parana,* and being exhausted by hunger they were unable to crawl up the muddy banks, and thus were drowned. The arm which runs by San Pedro was so full of putrid carcasses, that the master of a vessel told me, that the smell rendered it quite impossible to pass that way. Without doubt several hundred thousand animals thus perished in the river. Their bodies when putrid floated down the stream, and many in all probability were deposited

town, in a body, to possess themselves of the wells, not being able to procure any water in the country. The inhabitants mustered, when a desperate conflict ensued, which terminated in the ultimate discomfiture of the invaders, but not until they had killed one man, and wounded several others." The town is said to have a population of nearly three thousand !

* Azara talks of the fury of the wild horses rushing into the marshes during a dry season: "et les premiers arrivés sont foulés, et écrasés par ceux, qui les suivent. Il m'est arrivé plus d'une fois de trouver plus de mille cadavres de chevaux sauvages morts de cette façon."—Vol. i., p. 374.

[page] 157 Oct. 1833. GREAT DROUGHT.

in the estuary of the Plata. All the small rivers became highly saline, and this caused the death of vast numbers in particular spots; for when an animal drinks of such water it does not recover. I noticed, but probably it was the effect of a gradual increase, rather than of any one period, that the smaller streams in the Pampas were paved with a breccia of bones.* Subsequently to this unusual drought a very rainy season commenced, which caused great floods. Hence it is almost certain, that some thousands of these skeletons were buried by the deposits of the very next year. What would be the opinion of a geologist, viewing such an enormous collection of bones, of all kinds of animals and of all ages, thus embedded in one thick earthy mass? Would he not attribute it to a flood having swept over the surface of the land, rather than to the common order of things?

These droughts to a certain degree seem to be periodical; I was told the dates of several others, and the intervals were about fifteen years. A tendency to periodical droughts is, I believe, common in most dry climates :† such certainly is the case in Australia. Captain Sturt says they return after every ten and twelve years, and are then followed by excessive rains, which gradually become less and less, till another drought is the consequence. The year 1826 and the two following were singularly dry in Australia, and the latter were the first of the " gran seco." I mention this, because

* In the neighbourhood of the great towns on the shores of the Plata, the number of bones strewed over the ground is truly astonishing. Since our return I have been informed, that ships have been freighted to this country with a cargo of bones. That cattle should be fattened on turnips manured with the bones of animals that lived in the southern hemisphere, is a curious fact in the commerce of the world In the East Indies the luxurious drink wine cooled with North-American ice, which in its journey has twice crossed the equator !

† Perhaps in every country, but the effect is more marked where the mean annual quantity of rain is small. I have seen the trunk of an old tree in England, in which the successive rings showed a tendency to periodical increase and diminution of size; about every tenth ring being small. See Mr. Babbage's Ninth Bridgewater Treatise. Note M.

[page] 158 RIO PARANA. Oct. 1833.

General Beatson in his account of the island of St. Helena, has remarked that variations in climate sometimes appear to be the effect of the operation of some very general cause. He says (page 43), "The severe drought felt here in 1791 and 1792, was far more calamitous in India. Doctor Anderson states, in a letter to Colonel Kyd, dated the 9th of August, 1792, that, owing to a failure of rain, during the above two years, one half of the inhabitants in the northern provinces had perished by famine; and the remainder were so feeble and weak, that on the report of rice coming from the Malabar coast, 5000 poor people left Rajamundy, and very few of them reached the sea-side, although the distance is only 50 miles. It appears by Mr. Bryan Edwards's History of the West Indies, that the seasons 1791-2 were unusually dry at the island of Montserrat." Barrow* in the latter part of 1792, when at the Cape de Verd islands says, "In fact a drought of three years' continuance, and consequent famine for almost the same period, had nearly desolated the island."

OCTOBER 12TH.—I had intended to have pushed my excursion further, but not being quite well, I was compelled to return by a balandra, or one-masted vessel of about a hundred tons burden, which was bound to Buenos Ayres. As the weather was not fair, we moored early in the day to a branch of a tree on one of the islands. The Parana is full of islands, which undergo a constant round of decay and renovation. In the memory of the master several large ones had disappeared, and others again had been formed and protected by vegetation. They are composed of muddy sand, without even the smallest pebble, and were then about four feet above the level of the river; but during the periodical floods they are inundated. They all present one character; numerous willows and a few other trees are bound together by a great variety of creeping plants, thus forming a thick jungle. These thickets afford a retreat for carpinchos and jaguars.

* Voyage to Cochin China, p. 67.

[page] 159 Oct. 1833. JAGUAR.

The fear of the latter animal, quite destroyed all pleasure in scrambling through the woods. This evening I had not proceeded a hundred yards, before finding indubitable signs of the recent presence of the tiger, I was obliged to come back. On every island there are tracks; and as on the former excursion "el rastro de los Indios" had been the subject of conversation, so in this was "el rastro del tigre."

The wooded banks of the great rivers appear to be the favourite haunt of the jaguar; but south of the Plata, I was told, they frequented the reeds bordering lakes: wherever they are, they seem to require water. The jaguar has been killed on the banks of the Rio Negro, in lat. 41°; and Falconer states that the lake Nahuel-huapi, takes its name from the Indian word for tiger: the latitude of this lake is about 42°; which corresponds to the situation of the Pyrenees in the northern hemisphere. These animals are particularly abundant on the isles of the Parana; their common prey is the carpincho, so that it is generally said, where the carpinchos are plentiful there is little danger of the jaguar. Falconer states, that near the mouth of the Plata, on the southern side, the jaguars are numerous, and that they chiefly live on fish; this account I have heard repeated. On the Parana they have killed many wood-cutters, and have even entered vessels at night. There is a man now living in the Bajada, who, coming up from below when it was dark, was seized on the deck; he escaped, however, with the loss of the use of one arm. When the floods drive these animals from the islands they are most dangerous. I was told, that a few years since, a very large one found its way into a church at St. Fe: two padres entering one after the other were killed, and a third, who came to see what was the matter, escaped with difficulty. The beast was destroyed by being shot from a corner of the building which was unroofed. They commit also at these times great ravages among the cattle and horses. It is said they kill their prey by breaking the vertebræ of the neck. If driven from the carcass they seldom return to it. The Gauchos say that the jaguar, when

[page] 160 RIO PARANA. Oct. 1833.

wandering about at night, is much tormented by the foxes yelping as they follow him. This is a curious coincidence with the fact which is generally affirmed of the jackals accompanying, in a similarly officious manner, the East Indian tiger. The jaguar is a noisy animal, roaring much by night, and especially before bad weather.

One day, when hunting on the banks of the Uruguay, I was shown certain trees, to which these animals are said constantly to recur, for the purpose of sharpening their claws. I saw three well-known trees; in front the bark was worn smooth, and on each side there were deep scratches, or rather grooves, extending in an oblique line, nearly a yard in length. The scars were of different ages. A common method of ascertaining whether a jaguar is in the neighbourhood, is to examine these trees. I imagine this habit of the jaguar is exactly similar to one, which may any day be seen in the common cat, as with outstretched legs and exserted claws it scrapes the leg of a chair. Some such habit must be also common to the puma, for on the bare hard soil of Patagonia I have frequently seen scores so deep, that no other animal could have made them. The object of this practice is, I should think, to blunt rather than to sharpen (as the Gauchos say), the points of their claws, which are so seldom used. The jaguar is killed, without much difficulty, by the aid of dogs baying and driving him up a tree, where he is despatched with bullets.

Owing to bad weather we remained two days at our moorings. Our only amusement was catching fish for our dinner: there were several kinds, and all good eating. A fish called the "armado" (a Silurus), is remarkable from a harsh grating noise it makes when caught by hook and line, and which can be distinctly heard when the fish is beneath the water. This same fish has the power of firmly catching hold of any object, such as the blade of an oar or the fishing-line, with the strong spine both of its pectoral and dorsal fin. In the evening the weather was quite tropical, the thermometer standing at 79°. Numbers of fireflies were hovering about,

[page] 161 Oct. 1833. SCISSOR-BEAK.

and the musquitoes were very troublesome. I exposed my hand for five minutes, and it was soon black with them; I do not suppose there could have been less than fifty, all busy sucking.

OCTOBER 15TH.—We got under way and passed Punta Gorda, where there is a colony of tame Indians, from the province of Missiones. We sailed rapidly down the current, but before sunset, from a silly fear of bad weather, we brought to in a narrow arm of the river. I took the boat and rowed some distance up this creek. It was very narrow, winding, and deep; on each side, a wall thirty or forty feet high, formed by trees intwined with creepers, gave to the canal a singularly gloomy appearance. I here saw a very extraordinary bird, called the Scissor-beak (Rhyncops nigra). It has short legs, web feet, extremely long-pointed wings, and is of about the size of a tern. The beak is flattened laterally, that is, in a plane at right angles to that of a spoonbill, or duck. It is as flat and elastic as an ivory paper-cutter, and the lower mandible, differently from every other bird, is an inch and a half longer than the upper. I will here detail all I know of the habits of the scissor-beak. It is found both on the east and west coasts, between lat. 30° and 45°, and frequents either salt or fresh water. The specimen now at the Zoological Society was shot at a lake near Maldonado, from which the water had been nearly drained, and which, in consequence, swarmed with small fry. I there saw several of these birds, generally in small flocks, flying backwards and forwards, close to the surface of the lake. They kept their bills wide open, and with the lower mandible half buried in the water. Thus skimming the surface, they ploughed it in their course: the water was quite smooth, and it formed a most curious spectacle to behold a flock, each bird leaving its narrow wake on the mirror-like surface. In their flight they frequently twist about with extreme rapidity, and so dexterously manage, that with their projecting lower mandible they plough up small fish, which are secured by the upper half of their scissor-like bills. This fact I repeatedly saw, as,


[page] 162 RIO PARANA. Oct. 1833.

like swallows, they continued to fly backwards and forwards, close before me. Occasionally when leaving the surface of the water their flight was wild, irregular, and rapid; they then also uttered loud harsh cries. When these birds are fishing, the length of the primary feathers of the wings is seen to be quite necessary, in order to keep the latter dry. When thus employed, their forms resemble the symbol by which many artists represent marine birds. The tail is much used in steering their irregular course.

These birds are common far inland along the course of the Rio Parana; it is said they remain during the whole year, and breed in the marshes. During the day they rest in flocks on the grassy plains, at some distance from the water. Being at anchor, as I have said, in one of the deep creeks between the islands of the Parana, as the evening drew to a close, one of these scissor-beaks suddenly appeared. The water was quite still, and many little fish were rising. The bird continued for a long time to skim the surface, flying in its wild and irregular manner up and down the narrow canal, now dark with the growing night and the shadows of the overhanging trees. At Monte Video I observed that some large flocks during the day remained on the mud-banks at the head of the harbour, in the same manner as on the grassy plains near the Parana; and every evening they took flight direct to seaward. From these facts, I suspect that the Rhyncops generally fishes by night, at which time many of the lower animals come most abundantly to the surface. M. Lesson states that he has seen these birds opening the shells of the mactræ, buried in the sand-banks on the coast of Chile: from their weak bills, with the lower mandible so much produced, their short legs and long wings, it is very improbable that this can be a general habit.

In our course down the Parana, I only observed three other birds, whose habits are worth mentioning. One is a small kingfisher (Alcedo Americana); it has a longer tail than the European species, and hence does not sit in so stiff and upright a position. Its flight also, instead of being direct

[page] 163 Oct. 1833. ORNITHOLOGY.

and rapid, like the course of an arrow, is weak and undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. It utters a low note, like the clicking together of two small stones. A small green parrot,* with a gray breast, appears to prefer the tall trees on the islands, to any other situation, for its building-place. A number of nests are placed so close together, as to form one great mass of sticks. These parrots always live in flocks, and commit great ravages on the cornfields. I was told, that near Colonia 2500 were killed in the course of one year. A bird (Milvulus forficatus) with a forked tail, terminated by two long feathers, and named by the Spaniards scissor-tail, is very common near Buenos Ayres. It commonly sits on a branch of the ombu tree, near the house, and thence takes a short flight in pursuit of insects, and returns to the same spot. When on the wing, it presents, in its manner of flight and general appearance, a caricature-likeness of the common swallow. It has the power in the air of turning very shortly, and in so doing, opens and shuts its tail, sometimes in a horizontal or lateral, and sometimes in a vertical direction, just like a pair of scissors. In structure, this bird is a true tyrant-flycatcher, although in its habits certainly allied to the swallows.

OCTOBER 16TH.—Some leagues above Rozario the western shore was bounded by perpendicular cliffs, which extended in a long line to below San Nicholas. Hence the coast more resembled that of the sea, than that of a fresh-water river. It is a great drawback to the scenery of the Parana, that, from the soft nature of its banks, the water is very muddy. The Uruguay, flowing through a granitic country, is much clearer; and I am told, that where the two channels unite at the head of the Plata, the waters may for a long distance be distinguished by their black and red colours. In the evening, the wind not being quite fair, as usual we immediately moored, and the next day, as it blew rather freshlv, though

* La jeune Veuve of Azara. Latham Gen. Hist., vol. ii., p. 192.

M 2

[page] 164 RIO PARANA. Oct. 1833.

with a favouring current, the master was much too indolent to think of starting. At Bajada, he was described to me as "hombre muy aflicto,"—a man always miserable to get on; but certainly he bore all delays with admirable resignation. He was an old Spaniard, and had been many years in this country. He professed a great liking to the English, but stoutly maintained that the battle of Trafalgar was merely won by the Spanish captains having been all bought over; and that the only really gallant action on either side was performed by the Spanish admiral. It struck me as rather characteristic, that this man should prefer his countrymen being thought the worst of traitors, rather than unskilful or cowardly.

18TH AND 19TH.—We continued slowly to sail down the noble stream : the current helped us but little. Azara has estimated that even near the sources between latitudes 16° 24' and 22° 57', the river has only a fall of one foot for each mile of latitude; lower down, this must be much diminished. It is stated that a rise of seven feet at Buenos Ayres can be perceived sixty leagues up the course of the Parana. We met, during our descent, very few vessels. One of the best gifts of nature seems here wilfully thrown away, in so grand a channel of communication being left unoccupied. A river in which ships might navigate from a temperate country, as surprisingly abundant in certain productions as destitute of others, to another possessing a tropical climate, and a soil which, according to the best of judges, M. Bonpland, is perhaps unequalled in fertility, in any part of the world. How different would have been the aspect of this river, if English colonists had by good fortune first sailed up the Plata! What noble towns would now have occupied its shores! Till the death of Francia, the Dictator of Paraguay, these two countries must remain distinct, as if placed on opposite sides of the globe. And when the old, bloody-minded tyrant is gone to his long account, Paraguay will be torn by revolutions, violent in proportion to the previous unnatural calm. That country

[page] 165 Oct. 1833. BUENOS AYRES.

will have to learn, like every other South American state, that a republic cannot succeed, till it contains a certain body of men imbued with the principles of justice and honour.

OCTOBER 20TH.—Being arrived at the mouth of the Parana, and as I was very anxious to reach Buenos Ayres, I went on shore at Las Conchas, with the intention of riding there. Upon landing, I found to my great surprise, that I was to a certain degree a prisoner. A violent revolution having broken out, all the ports were laid under an embargo. I could not return to my vessel, and as for going by land to the city, it was out of the question. After a long conversation with the Commandant, I obtained permission to go, the next day, to General Rolor, who commanded a division of the rebels, on this side of the capital. In the morning I rode to the encampment. The general, officers, and soldiers, all appeared, and I believe really were, great villains. The general the very evening before he left the city, voluntarily went to the governor, and with his hand to his heart, pledged his word of honour, that he would remain faithful to the last. The general told me, that the city was in a state of close blockade, and that all he could do was to give me a passport to the commander-in-chief of the rebels at Quilmes. We had, therefore, to take a great sweep round the city, and it was with much difficulty that we procured horses. My reception at the encampment was quite civil, but I was told it was impossible that I could be allowed to enter the city. I was very anxious about this, as I anticipated the Beagle's departure from the Rio Plata, earlier than it took place. Having mentioned, however, General Rosas's obliging kindness to me when at the Colorado, magic itself could not have altered circumstances quicker than did this conversation. I was instantly told that though they could not give me a passport, if I chose to leave my guide and horses, I might pass their sentinels. I was too glad to accept of this, and an officer was sent with me to give directions, that I might not be stopped at the bridge. The road for the space of a league was quite deserted. I met one party of

[page] 166 BUENOS AYRES. Oct. 1833.

soldiers, who were satisfied by gravely looking at an old passport : and at length I was not a little pleased, to find myself within the city.

This revolution was supported by scarcely any pretext of grievances. But in a state which, in the course of nine months (from February to October, 1820), underwent fifteen changes in its government—each governor, according to the constitution, being elected for three years—it would be the height of illiberality, to ask for pretexts. In this case a party of men, who being attached to Rosas, were disgusted with the governor Balcarce, to the number of seventy left the city, and with the cry of Rosas, the whole country took arms. The city was then blockaded, no provisions, cattle, or horses, were allowed to enter; besides this, there was only a little skirmishing, and a few men daily killed. The outside party well knew, that by stopping the supply of meat, they would certainly be victorious. General Rosas could not have known of this rising; but it appears to me quite consonant with the plans of his party. A year ago he was elected governor, but he refused it, without the Sala would also confer on him extraordinary powers. This was refused, and since then his party have shown, that no other governor can keep his place. The warfare on both sides was avowedly protracted, till it was possible to hear from Rosas. A note arrived a few days after I left Buenos Ayres, which stated that the General disapproved of peace having been broken, but that he thought the outside party had justice on their side. On the bare reception of this, the Governor, ministers, and part of the military, to the number of some hundreds, fled from the city. The rebels entered, elected a new governor, and were paid for their services to the number of 5500 men. From these proceedings, it was clear that Rosas ultimately would become the dictator: to the term king, the people in this, as in other republics, have a particular dislike. Since leaving South America, we have heard that Rosas has been elected, with powers, and for a time altogether opposed to the constitutional principles of the republic.

[page] 167


Monte Video — Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — Horse swimming — Value of an Estancia — Cattle, how counted — Geology — Great thistle-beds — Rio Negro — Perforated pebbles — Shepherd dogs — Horses broken in, Gauchos riding, feats with lazo — Toxodon — Armadillo-like gigantic covering — Great tail — Return to Monte Video — Character of inhabitants.


HAVING been delayed for nearly a fortnight in the city, I was glad to escape on board a packet bound for Monte Video. A town in a state of blockade must always be a disagreeable place of residence; in this case moreover there were constant apprehensions from robbers within. The sentinels were the worst of all; for, from their office and from having arms in their hands, they robbed with a degree of authority, which other men could not imitate.

Our passage was a very long and tedious one. The Plata looks like a noble estuary on the map; but it is in truth a poor affair. A wide expanse of muddy water, has neither grandeur nor beauty. At one time of the day the two shores, both of which are extremely low, could just be distinguished from the deck. On arriving at Monte Video I found the Beagle would not sail for some time, so I prepared for a short excursion in this part of Banda Oriental. Every thing which I said about the country near Maldonado is applicable to this; the land, however, with the one exception of the Green Mount, 450 feet high, from which it takes its name, is far more level. Very little of the undulating grassy plain is enclosed; but near the town there are a few hedge banks, covered with agaves, cacti, and fennel.

NOVEMBER 14TH.—We left Monte Video in the afternoon. I intended to proceed to Colonia del Sacramiento, situated on the northern bank of the Plata and opposite to

[page] 168 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

Buenos Ayres, and thence following up the Uruguay, to the village of Mercedes on the Rio Negro (one of the many rivers of this name in South America), and from this point to return direct to Monte Video. We slept at the house of my guide at Canelones. In the morning we rose early in the hopes of being able to ride a good distance; but it was a vain attempt, for all the rivers were flooded. We passed in boats the streams of Canelones, St. Lucia, and San Josè, and thus lost much time. On a former excursion I crossed the Lucia, near its mouth, and I was surprised to observe how easily our horses, although not used to swim, passed over a width of at least six hundred yards. On mentioning this at Monte Video I was told that a vessel containing some mountebanks and their horses, being wrecked in the Plata, one horse swam seven miles to the shore. In the course of the day I was amused by the dexterity with which a Gaucho forced a restive horse to swim a river. He stripped off his clothes, and jumping on its back, rode into the water till it was out of its depth; then slipping off over the crupper, he caught hold of the tail, and as often as the horse turned round, the man frightened it back, by splashing water in its face. As soon as the horse touched the bottom on the other side, the man pulled himself on, and was firmly seated, bridle in hand, before the horse gained the bank. A naked man, on a naked horse, is a fine spectacle; I had no idea how well the two animals suited each other. The tail of a horse is a very useful appendage; I have passed a river in a boat with four people in it, which was ferried across in the same way as the Gaucho. If a man and horse have to cross a broad river, the best plan is for the man to catch hold of the pummel or mane, and help himself with the other arm.

We slept, and staid the following day at the post of Cufre. In the evening the postman or letter-carrier arrived. He was a day after his time, owing to the Rio Rozario being flooded. It would not, however, be of much consequence; for, although he had passed through some of the principal

[page] 169 Nov. 1833. COLONIA DEL SACRAMIENTO.

towns in Banda Oriental, his luggage consisted of two letters. The view from the house was pleasing; an undulating green surface, with distant glimpses of the Plata. I find I look at this province with very different eyes, from what I did upon my first arrival. I recollect I then thought it singularly level; but now, after galloping over the Pampas, my only surprise is, what could have induced me ever to have called it level. The country is a series of undulations, in themselves perhaps not absolutely great, but as compared to the plains of St. Fe, real mountains. From these inequalities, there is an abundance of small rivulets, and the turf is green and luxuriant.

NOVEMBER 17TH.—We crossed the Rozario, which was deep and rapid, and passing the village of Colla, arrived at mid-day at Colonia del Sacramiento. The distance is twenty leagues, through a country covered with fine grass, but poorly stocked with cattle or inhabitants. I was invited to sleep at Colonia, and to accompany on the following day a gentleman to his estancia, where there were some limestone rocks. The town is built on a stony promontory something in the same manner as at Monte Video. It is strongly fortified; but both fortifications and town suffered much from the Brazilian war. It is very ancient; and the irregularity of the streets, and the surrounding groves of old orange and peach trees gave it a pretty appearance. The church is a curious ruin; it was used as a powder-magazine, and was struck by lightning in one of the ten thousand thunderstorms of the Rio Plata. Two-thirds of the building were blown away to the very foundation; and the rest stands a shattered and curious monument, of the united powers of lightning and gunpowder. In the evening I wandered about the half-demolished walls of the town. It was the chief seat of the Brazilian war;—a war most injurious to this country, not so much in its immediate effects, as in being the origin of a multitude of generals and all other grades of officers. More generals are numbered (but not paid) in the United Provinces of la Plata, than in the United Kingdom of Great

[page] 170 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

Britain. These gentlemen have learned to like power, and do not object to a little skirmishing. Hence there are many, always on the watch to create disturbance and to overturn a government, which as yet has never rested on any stable foundation. I noticed however, both here and in other places, a very general interest in the ensuing election for the President; and this appears a good sign for the prosperity of this little country. The inhabitants do not require much education in their representatives; I heard some men discussing the merits of those for Colonia; and it was said that, "although they were not men of business, they could all sign their names :" with this every reasonable man was satisfied.

18TH.— Rode with my host to his estancia, at the Arroyo de San Juan. In the evening we took a ride round the estate. It contained two square leagues and a half; and was situated in what is called a rincon; that is, one side was fronted by the Plata, and the two others guarded by impassable brooks. There was an excellent port for little vessels, and an abundance of small wood, which is valuable as supplying fuel to Buenos Ayres. I was curious to know the value of so complete an estancia. Of cattle there were 3000, and it would well support three or four times that number; of mares 800, together with 150 broken horses, and 600 sheep. There was plenty of water and limestone, a rough house, excellent corrals, and a peach orchard. For all this he had been offered 2000l., and only wanted 500l. additional, and probably would sell it for less. The chief trouble with an estancia, is driving the cattle twice a week to a central spot, in order to make them tame, and to count them. This latter operation would be thought difficult, where there are ten or fifteen thousand head together. It is managed on the principle that the cattle invariably divide themselves into little troops of from forty to one hundred. Each troop is recognised by a few peculiarly marked animals, and its number is known: so that, one being lost out of ten thousand, it is perceived by its absence from one of the tropillas.

[page] 171 Nov. 1833. RIO URUGUAY.

During a stormy night the cattle all mingle together; but the next morning the tropillas separate as before.

NOVEMBER 19TH.—Passing the village of Las Vacas, we slept at a house of a North American, who worked a lime-kiln on the Arroyo de las Vivoras. In the morning we rode to a projecting headland on the banks of the river, called Punta Gorda. On the way we tried to find a jaguar. There were plenty of fresh tracks, and we visited the trees, on which they are said to sharpen their claws; but we did not succeed in disturbing one. From this point the Rio Uruguay presented to our view a noble volume of water. From the clearness and rapidity of the stream, its appearance was far superior to that of its neighbour the Parana. On the opposite coast, several branches from the latter river entered the Uruguay. As the sun was shining, the two colours of the waters could be seen quite distinct. The geological section presented by the cliffs was interesting. At St. Fe, a stratum with marine remains was seen gradually passing into an estuary deposit. Here we have an alternation of action;—a circumstance no ways improbable in a great bay. A formation of red earthy clay, with nodules of marl, and in every respect identical with that of the Pampas, is covered by a white limestone, containing large extinct oysters, and other marine shells; and over this again, is placed the reddish earthy matter, as in the rest of Banda Oriental.

In the evening we proceeded on our road towards Mercedes on the Rio Negro. At night we asked permission to sleep at an estancia, at which we happened to arrive. It was a very large estate, being ten leagues square, and the owner is one of the greatest landowners in the country. His nephew had charge of it, and with him there was a captain in the army, who the other day ran away from Buenos Ayres. Considering their station, their conversation was rather amusing. They expressed, as was usual, unbounded astonishment at the globe being round, and could scarcely credit that a hole would, if deep enough, come out on the other side. They had, however, heard of a

[page] 172 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

country where there were six months light and six of darkness, and where the inhabitants were very tall and thin! They were curious about the price and condition of horses and cattle in England. Upon finding out we did not catch our animals with the lazo, they cried out, "Ah then, you use nothing but the bolas :" the idea of an enclosed country was quite novel to them. The captain at last said, he had one question to ask me, which he should be very much obliged if I would answer with all truth. I trembled to think how deeply scientific it would be: it was, "Whether the ladies of Buenos Ayres were not the handsomest in the world." I replied, "Charmingly so." He added, I have one other question: "Do ladies in any other part of the world wear such large combs?" I solemnly assured him they did not. They were absolutely delighted. The captain exclaimed, "Look there! a man who has seen half the world says it is the case; we always thought so, but now we know it." My excellent judgment in beauty procured me a most hospitable reception; the captain forced me to take his bed, and he would sleep on his recado.

21ST.—Started at sunrise, and rode slowly during the whole day. The geological nature of this part of the province was different from the rest, and closely resembled that of the Pampas. In consequence, there were immense beds of the thistle, as well as of the cardoon: the whole country, indeed, may be called one great bed. The two sorts grow separate, each plant in company with its own kind. The cardoon is as high as a horse's back, but the Pampas thistle is often higher than the crown of the rider's head. To leave the road for a yard is out of the question; and the road itself is partly, and in some cases entirely, closed. Pasture, of course, there is none; if cattle or horses once enter the bed, they are for the time completely lost. Hence it is very hazardous to attempt to drive cattle at this season of the year; for when jaded enough to face the thistles, they rush among them, and are seen no more. In these districts there are very few estancias, and these few are situated in the

[page] 173 Nov. 1833. HILL OF BEADS.

neighbourhood of damp valleys, where fortunately neither of these overwhelming plants can exist. As night came on before we arrived at our journey's end, we slept at a miserable little hovel, inhabited by the poorest people. The extreme, though rather formal courtesy, of our host and hostess, considering their grade of life, was quite delightful.

NOVEMBER 22D.—Arrived at an estancia on the Berquelo belonging to a very hospitable Englishman, to whom I had a letter of introduction from my friend Mr. Lumb. I staid here three days. One morning I rode with my host to the Sierra del Pedro Flaco, about twenty miles up the Rio Negro. Nearly the whole country was covered with good, though coarse grass, which was as high as a horse's belly; yet there were square leagues without a single head of cattle. The province of Banda Oriental, if well stocked, would support an astonishing number of animals; at present the annual export of hides from Monte Video amounts to three hundred thousand; and the home consumption, from waste, is very considerable. The view of the Rio Negro from the Sierra was the most picturesque which I any where saw. The river, broad, deep, and rapid, wound at the foot of a rocky precipitous cliff: a belt of wood followed its course, and the horizon was terminated by the distant undulations of the plain of turf.

When in this neighbourhood I several times heard of the Sierra de las Cuentas; a hill distant many miles to the northward. The name signifies hill of beads. I was assured that vast numbers of little round stones, of various colours, each with a small cylindrical hole, are found there. Formerly the Indians used to collect them, for the purpose of making necklaces and bracelets — a taste, I may observe, which is common to all savage nations, as well as to the most polished. I did not know what to understand from this story, but upon mentioning it at the Cape of Good Hope to Dr. Andrew Smith, he told me that he recollected finding on the south-eastern coast of Africa, about one hundred miles to the eastward of St. John's river, some

[page] 174 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

quartz crystals with their edges blunted from attrition, and mixed with gravel on the sea-beach. Each crystal was about five lines in diameter, and from an inch to an inch and a half in length. Many of them had a small canal extending from one extremity to the other, perfectly cylindrical, and of a size that readily admitted a coarse thread, or a piece of fine catgut. Their colour was red or dull white. The natives were acquainted with this structure in crystals. I have mentioned these circumstances, because, although no crystallized body is at present known to assume this form, it may lead some future traveller to investigate the real nature of such stones.

While staying at this estancia, I was amused with what I saw and heard of the shepherd dogs of the country.* When riding, it is a common thing to meet a large flock of sheep guarded by one or two dogs, at the distance of some miles from any house or man. I often wondered how so firm a friendship had been established. The method of education consists in separating the puppy, while very young, from the bitch, and in accustoming it to its future companions. An ewe is held three or four times a day for the little thing to suck; and a nest of wool is made for it in the sheep-pen; at no time is it allowed to associate with other dogs, or with the children of the family. The puppy is, moreover, generally castrated; so that, when grown up, it can scarcely have any feelings in common with the rest of its kind. From this education it has no wish to leave the flock, and just as another dog will defend its master, man, so will these, the sheep. It is amusing to observe, when approaching a flock, how the dog immediately advances barking, and the sheep all close in his rear, as if round the oldest ram. These dogs are also easily taught to bring home the flock, at a certain hour in the evening. Their most troublesome fault, when young, is their desire of playing with the sheep; for

* M. D'Orbigny has given nearly a similar account of these dogs, vol. i., p. 175.

[page] 175 Nov. 1833. SHEPHERD DOGS.

in their sport they sometimes gallop their poor subjects most unmercifully.

The shepherd dog comes to the house every day for some meat, and immediately it is given him, he skulks away as if ashamed of himself. On these occasions the house-dogs are very tyrannical, and the least of them will attack and pursue the stranger. The minute, however, the latter has reached the flock, he turns round, and begins to bark, and then all the house-dogs take very quickly to their heels. In a similar manner a whole pack of the hungry wild dogs will scarcely ever (and I was told by some, never) venture to attack a flock guarded even by one of these faithful shepherds. The whole account appears to me a curious instance of the pliability of the affections in the dog race; and yet, whether wild, or however educated, with a mutual feeling of respect or fear for those that are fulfilling their instinct of association. For we can understand on no principle, the wild dogs being driven away by the single one with its flock, except that they consider, from some confused notion, that the one thus associated gains power, as if in company with its own kind. F. Cuvier has observed, that all animals that readily enter into domestication, consider man as a member of their society, and thus fulfil their instinct of association. In the above case the shepherd dogs rank the sheep as their fellow brethren; and the wild dogs, though knowing that the individual sheep are not dogs, but are good to eat, yet partly consent to this view, when seeing them in a flock with a shepherd dog at their head.

One evening a "domidor" (a subduer of horses) came for the purpose of breaking in some colts. I will describe the preparatory steps, for I believe they have not been mentioned by other travellers. A troop of wild young horses is driven into the corral, or large enclosure of stakes, and the door is shut. We will suppose that one man alone has to catch and mount a horse, which as yet had never felt bridle or saddle. I conceive, except by a Gaucho, such a feat would

[page] 176 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

be utterly impracticable. The Gaucho picks out a full-grown colt; and as the beast rushes round the circus, he throws his lazo so as to catch both the front legs. Instantly the horse rolls over with a heavy shock, and, whilst struggling on the ground, the Gaucho, holding the lazo tight, makes a circle, so as to catch one of the hind legs, just beneath the fetlock, and draws it close to the two front. He then hitches the lazo, so that the three legs are bound together. Then sitting on the horse's neck, he fixes a strong bridle, without a bit, to the lower jaw. This he does by passing a narrow thong through the eye-holes, at the end of the reins, and several times round both jaw and tongue. The two front legs are now tied closely together with a strong leathern thong, fastened by a slip-knot. The lazo, which bound the three together, being then loosed, the horse rises with difficulty. The Gaucho now holding fast the bridle fixed to the lower jaw, leads the horse outside the corral. If a second man is present (otherwise the trouble is much greater) he holds the animal's head, whilst the first puts on the horsecloths and saddle, and girths the whole together. During this operation, the horse, from dread and astonishment at thus being bound round the waist, throws himself, over and over again, on the ground, and, till beaten, is unwilling to rise. At last, when the saddling is finished, the poor animal can hardly breathe from fear, and is white with foam and sweat. The man now prepares to mount, by pressing heavily on the stirrup, so that the horse may not lose its balance; and at the moment he throws his leg over the animal's back he pulls the slip-knot, and the beast is free. Some "domidors "pull the knot while the animal is lying on the ground, and, standing over the saddle, allow it to rise beneath them. The horse, wild with dread, gives a few most violent bounds, and then starts off at full gallop : when quite exhausted, the man, by patience, brings him back to the corral, where reeking hot, and scarcely alive, the poor beast is let free. Those animals which will not gallop away, but obstinately throw

[page] 177 Nov. 1833. HORSEMANSHIP.

themselves on the ground, are by far the most troublesome. This process is tremendously severe,* but in two or three trials the horse is tamed. It is not, however, for some weeks that the animal is ridden with the iron bit and solid ring; for it must learn to associate the will of its rider with the feel of the rein, before the most powerful bridle can be of any service.

The Gauchos are well known to be perfect riders. The idea of being thrown, let the horse do what it likes, never enters their head. Their criterion of a good rider, is a man who can manage an untamed colt, or who, if his horse falls, alights on his own feet, or can perform other such exploits. I have heard of a man betting that he would throw his horse down twenty times, and that nineteen out of these he would not fall himself. I recollect seeing a Gaucho riding a very stubborn horse, which three times successively reared so high as to fall backwards with great violence. The man judged with uncommon coolness the proper moment for slipping off, not an instant before or after the right time. Directly the horse rose the man jumped on his back, and at last they started at a gallop. The Gaucho never appears to exert any muscular force. I was one day watching a good rider, as we were galloping along at a rapid pace, and thought to myself, "surely if the horse starts, you appear so careless on your seat you must fall." At this moment, a male ostrich sprang from its nest right beneath the horse's nose. The young colt bounded on one side, like a stag; but as for the man, all that

* Animals are so abundant in these countries that humanity and self-interest are not closely united; therefore the former is scarcely known. One day, riding in the Pampas with a very respectable " Estanciero," my horse, being tired, lagged behind. The man often shouted to me to spur him. When I remonstrated that it was a pity, for the horse was quite exhausted, he cried out, "Why not?—never mind—spur him—it is my horse." I had then some difficulty in making him comprehend that it was for the horse's sake, and not on his account, that I did not choose to use my spurs. He exclaimed, with a look of great surprise, "Ah Don Carlos que cosa !" It was clear that such an idea had never before entered his head.


[page] 178 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

could be said, was, that he started and took fright, as part of his horse.

In Chile and Peru more pains are taken with the mouth of the horse than in La Plata, and this is evidently a consequence of the more intricate nature of the country. In Chile a horse is not considered perfectly broken till he can be brought up standing, in the midst of his full speed, on any particular spot,—for instance, on a cloak thrown on the ground: or, again, will charge a wall, and rearing, scrape the surface with his hoofs. I have seen an animal bounding with spirit, yet merely reined by a fore-finger and thumb, taken at full gallop across a courtyard, and then made to wheel round the post of a verandah with great speed, but at so equal a distance, that the rider, with outstretched arm, all the while kept one finger rubbing the post. Then making a demi-volte in the air, with the other arm outstretched in a like manner, he wheeled round, with astonishing force, in an opposite direction.

Such a horse is well broken; and although this at first may appear useless, it is far otherwise. It is only carrying that which is daily necessary into perfection. When a bullock is checked and caught by the lazo, it will sometimes gallop round and round in a circle, and the horse being alarmed at the great strain, if not well broken, will not readily turn like the pivot of a wheel. In consequence many men have been killed; for if the lazo once takes a twist round a man's body, it will instantly, from the power of the two opposed animals, almost cut him in twain. On the same principle the races are managed; the course is only two or three hundred yards long, the desideratum being to have horses that can make a rapid dash. The race-horses are trained not only to stand with their hoofs touching a line, but to draw all four feet together, so as at the first spring to bring into play the full action of the hind quarters. In Chile I was told an anecdote, which I believe was true; and it offers a good illustration of the use of a well-broken animal. A respectable man riding one day met two others, one of

[page] 179 Nov. 1833. HORSEMANSHIP.

whom was mounted on a horse, which he knew to have been stolen from himself. He challenged them; they answered him by drawing their sabres and giving chase. The man, on his good and fleet beast kept just ahead : as he passed a thick bush he wheeled round it, and brought up his horse to a dead check. The pursuers were obliged to shoot on one side and ahead. Then instantly dashing on, right behind them, he buried his knife in the back of one, wounded the other, recovered his horse from the dying robber, and rode home. For these feats of horsemanship two things are necessary: a most severe bit, like the Mameluke, the power of which though seldom used, the horse knows full well; and large blunt spurs, that can be applied either as a mere touch, or as an instrument of extreme pain. I conceive that with English spurs, the slightest touch of which pricks the skin, it would be impossible to break in a horse after the South-American fashion.

At an estancia near Las Vacas, large numbers of mares, are weekly slaughtered for the sake of their hides, although worth only five paper dollars, or about half-a-crown apiece. It seems at first strange that it can answer to kill mares for such a trifle; but as it is thought ridiculous in this country, ever to break in, or to ride a mare, they are of no value, except for breeding. The only thing for which I ever saw mares used was to tread out wheat from the ear; for which purpose they were driven round a circular enclosure, where the wheat-sheaves were strewed. The man employed for slaughtering the mares, happened to be celebrated for his dexterity with the lazo. Standing at the distance of twelve yards from the mouth of the corral, he has laid a wager that he would catch by the legs every animal, without missing one, as it rushed past him. There was another man who said he would enter the corral on foot, catch a mare, fasten her front legs together, drive her out, throw her down, kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying (which latter is a tedious job); and he engaged that he would perform this whole operation on twenty-two animals in one day. Or, he would

N 2

[page] 180 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

kill and take the skin off fifty in the same time. This would have been a prodigious task, for it is considered a good day's work to skin and stake the hides of fifteen or sixteen animals.

NOVEMBER 26TH.—I set out on my return in a direct line for Monte Video. Having heard of some giant's bones at a neighbouring farm-house on the Sarandis, a small stream entering the Rio Negro, I rode there accompanied by my host, and purchased for the value of eighteen pence, the head of an animal equalling in size that of the hippopotamus. Mr. Owen in a paper read before the Geological Society,* has called this very extraordinary animal, Toxodon, from the curvature of its teeth. The following notice is taken from the proceedings of that society : Mr. Owen says, judging from the portion of the skeleton preserved, the Toxodon, as far as dental characters have weight, must be referred to the rodent order. But from that order it deviates in the relative position of its supernumerary incisors, in the number and direction of the curvature of its molars, and in some other respects. It again deviates, in several parts of its structure which Mr. Owen enumerated, both from the Rodentia, and the existing Pachydermata, and it manifests an affinity to the Dinotherium and the Cetaceous order. Mr. Owen, however, observed, that "the development of the nasal cavity and the presence of frontal sinuses, renders it extremely improbable that the habits of the Toxodon were so exclusively aquatic as would result from the total absence of hinder extremities; and concludes, therefore, that it was a quadruped, and not a Cetacean; and that it manifested an additional step in the gradation of mammiferous forms leading from the Rodentia, through the Pachydermata to the Cetacea; a gradation of which the water-hog of South America (Hydrochærus capybara) already indicates the commencement amongst existing Rodentia, of which order it is interesting to observe this species is the largest, while at

* Read, April 19th, 1837. A detailed account will appear in the first part of the zoology of the voyage of the Beagle.

[page] 181 Nov. 1833. TOXODON.

the same time it is peculiar to the continent in which the remains of the gigantic Toxodon were discovered."

The people at the farm-house told me that the remains were exposed, by a flood having washed down part of a bank of earth. When found, the head was quite perfect; but the boys knocked the teeth out with stones, and then set up the head as a mark to throw at. By a most fortunate chance, I found a perfect tooth, which exactly fits one of the sockets in this skull, embedded by itself on the banks of the Rio Tercero, at the distance of about 180 miles from this place. Near the Toxodon I found the fragments of the head of an animal, rather larger than the horse, which has some points of resemblance with the Toxodon, and others perhaps with the Edentata. The head of this animal, as well as that of the Toxodon, and especially the former, appear so fresh, that it is difficult to believe they have lain buried for ages under ground. The bone contains so much animal matter, that when heated in the flame of a spirit-lamp, it not only exhales a very strong animal odour, but likewise burns with a slight flame.*

At the distance of a few leagues I visited a place where the remains of another great animal, associated with large pieces of armadillo-like covering, had been found. Similar pieces were likewise lying in the bed of the stream, close to the spot where the skeleton of the Toxodon had been exposed. These portions are dissimilar from those mentioned at Bahia Blanca. It is a most interesting fact thus to discover, that more than one gigantic animal in former ages was protected by a coat of mail,† very similar to the kind now

* I must express my obligation to Mr. Keane, at whose house I was staying on the Berquelo, and to Mr. Lumb at Buenos Ayres, for without their assistance, these valuable remains would never have reached England.

† I may here just mention, that I saw in the possession of a clergyman near Monte Video, the terminal portion of a tail, which precisely resembled, but on a gigantic scale, that of the common armadillo. The fragment was 17 inches long, 11½ in circumference at the upper end, and 8½ at the extreme point. As we do not know what proportion the tail

[page] 182 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

found on the numerous species of armadillo, and exclusively confined to that South-American genus.

By the middle of the day on the 28th we arrived at Monte Video, having been two days and a half on the road. The country for the whole way was of a very uniform character, some parts being rather more rocky and hilly than near the Plata. Not far from Monte Video we passed through the village of Las Pietras, so named from some large rounded masses of syenite. Its appearance was rather pretty. In this country, a few fig-trees around the houses, and a site elevated a hundred feet above the general level, ought always to be called picturesque.

During the last six months, I have had an opportunity of seeing a little of the character of the inhabitants of these provinces. The Gauchos, or countrymen, are very superior to those who reside in the towns. The Gaucho is invariably most obliging, polite, and hospitable. I did not meet even with one instance of rudeness or inhospitality. He is modest, both respecting himself and country, at the same time being a spirited, bold fellow. On the other hand, there is much blood shed, and many robberies committed. The constant presence of the knife is the chief cause of the former. It is lamentable to hear how many lives are lost in trifling quarrels. In fighting, each party tries to mark the face of his adversary, by slashing his nose or eyes; as is often attested by deep and horrid-looking scars. Robberies are a natural consequence of universal gambling, much drinking, and extreme indolence. At Mercedes, I asked two men why they did not work. One gravely said the days were too long, the other that he was too poor. The number of horses, and the profusion of food, are the destruction of all industry. Moreover, there are so many feast-days; and then nothing can succeed without it is begun

bore to the body of the animal, we cannot compare it with that of any living species. But at the same time we may conjecture that, in all probability, this extinct monster was from six to ten feet long.

[page] 183 Nov. 1833. BANDA ORIENTAL.

when the moon is on the increase; so that half the month is lost from these two causes.

Police and justice are quite inefficient. If a man who is poor, commits murder, and is taken, he will be imprisoned, and perhaps even shot; but if he is rich and has friends, he may rely on it, no very severe consequence will ensue. It is curious that the most respectable people in the country invariably assist a murderer to escape. They seem to think the individual sins against the governing powers and not against the state. A traveller has no protection besides his fire-arms : and the constant habit of carrying them, is the main check to a more frequent occurrence of robbery.

The character of the higher and more educated classes, who reside in the towns, partakes, but perhaps in a lesser degree, of the good parts of the Gaucho, but is I fear stained by many vices of which he is free. Sensuality, mockery of all religion, and the grossest corruption, are far from uncommon. Nearly every public officer can be bribed. The head man in the post-office sold forged government franks. The governor and prime minister openly combined to plunder the state. Justice, where gold came into play, was hardly expected by any one. I knew an Englishman, who went to the chief justice (he told me that not understanding the ways of the place, he trembled as he entered the room), and said, "Sir, I have come to offer you 200 dollars (value about five pounds sterling) if you will arrest before a certain time a man who has cheated me. I know it is against the law, but my lawyer (naming him) recommended me to take this step." The chief justice smiled acquiescence, thanked him, and the man before night was safe in prison. With this entire want of principle in many of the leading men, with the country full of ill-paid turbulent officers, the people yet hope that a democratic form of government can succeed !

On first entering society in these countries, two or three features strike one as particularly remarkable. The polite and dignified manners pervading every grade of life; the excellent

[page] 184 BANDA ORIENTAL. Nov. 1833.

taste displayed by the women in their dresses; and the equality amongst all ranks. At the Rio Colorado some men who kept the humblest shops, used to dine with General Rosas. A son of a major at Bahia Blanca gained his livelihood by making paper cigars, and he wished to accompany me, as guide or servant, to Buenos Ayres, but his father objected on the score of the danger alone. Many officers in the army can neither read nor write, yet all meet in society as equals. In Entre Rios, the Sala consisted of only six representatives. One of them kept a common shop, and evidently was not degraded by the office. All this is what would be expected in a new country; nevertheless, the absence of gentlemen by profession appears to an Englishman something strange.

When speaking of these countries, the manner in which they have been brought up by their unnatural parent, Spain, should always be borne in mind. On the whole, perhaps, more credit is due for what has been done, than blame for that which may be deficient. It is impossible to doubt but that the extreme liberalism of these countries, must ultimately lead to good results. The very general toleration of foreign religions, the regard paid to the means of education, the freedom of the press, the facilities offered to all foreigners, and especially, as I am bound to add, to every one professing the humblest pretensions to science, should be recollected with gratitude, by those who have visited Spanish South America.*

* I cannot conclude without adding my testimony to the spirit and accuracy of "Head's Rough Notes." I do not think the picture is at all more exaggerated than every good one must be—that is, by taking the strong examples, and neglecting those of lesser interest.

[page] 185


Rio Plata — Flocks of butterflies — Beetles alive in the sea — Aeronaut spiders — Pelagic animals — Phosphorescence of sea — Port Desire — Spanish settlements — Zoology — Guanaco — Excursion to head of harbour — Indian grave — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia, successive terraces, transport of pebbles — Fossil gigantic llama — Types of organization constant — Change in zoology of America — Causes of extinction.


DECEMBER 6TH, 1833.—The Beagle sailed from the Rio Plata, never again to enter its muddy stream. Our course was directed to Port Desire, on the coast of Patagonia. Before proceeding any further, I will here put together a few observations made at sea.

Several times when the ship has been some miles off the mouth of the Plata, and at other times when off the shores of Northern Patagonia, we have been surrounded by insects. One evening, when we were about ten miles from the Bay of San Blas, vast numbers of butterflies, in bands or flocks of countless myriads, extended as far as the eye could range. Even by the aid of a glass it was not possible to see a space free from butterflies. The seamen cried out "it was snowing butterflies," and such in fact was the appearance. More species than one were present, but the main part belonged to a kind very similar to, but not identical with, the common English Colias edusa.* Some moths and hymenoptera accompanied the butterflies; and a fine Calosoma flew on board. Other instances are known of this beetle having been caught far out at sea; and this is the more remarkable, as the greater number of the Carabidæ seldom or never take wing. The day had been

* I am indebted to Mr. Waterhouse for naming these and other insects.

[page] 186 RIO PLATA. Dec. 1833.

fine and calm, and the one previous to it equally so, with light and variable airs. Hence we cannot suppose that the insects were blown off the land, but we must conclude that they voluntarily took flight. The great bands of the Colias seem at first to afford an instance like those on record of the migrations of Vanessa cardui;* but the presence of other insects makes the case distinct, and not so easily intelligible. Before sunset, a strong breeze sprung up from the north, and this must have been the cause of tens of thousands of the butterflies and other insects having perished.

On another occasion, when seventeen miles off Cape Corrientes, I had a net overboard to catch pelagic animals. Upon drawing it up, to my surprise I found a considerable number of beetles in it, and although in the open sea, they did not appear much injured by the salt water. I lost some of the specimens, but those which I preserved, belonged to the genera, colymbetes, hydroporus, hydrobius (two species), notaphus, cynucus, adimonia, and scarabæus. At first, I thought that these insects had been blown from the shore; but upon reflecting that out of the eight species, four were aquatic, and two others partly so in their habits, it appeared to me most probable that they were floated into the sea, by a small stream which drains a lake near Cape Corrientes. On any supposition, it is an interesting circumstance to find insects, quite alive, swimming in the open ocean, seventeen miles from the nearest point of land. There are several accounts of insects having been blown off the Patagonian shore. Captain Cook observed it, as did more lately Captain King in the Adventure. The cause probably is due to the want of shelter, both of trees and hills, so that an insect on the wing with an off-shore breeze, would be very apt to be blown out to sea. The most remarkable instance I ever knew of an insect being caught far from the land, was that of a large grasshopper (Acrydium), which flew on board, when the

* Lyell's Geology, vol. iii., p. 63.

[page] 187 Dec. 1833. AERONAUT SPIDERS.

Beagle was to windward of the Cape de Verd Islands, and when the nearest point of land, not directly opposed to the trade-wind, was Cape Blanco on the coast of Africa, 370 miles distant.*

On several occasions, when the vessel has been within the mouth of the Plata, the rigging has been coated with the web of the Gossamer Spider. One day (November 1st, 1832) I paid particular attention to the phenomenon. The weather had been fine and clear, and in the morning the air was full of patches of the flocculent web, as on an autumnal day in England. The ship was sixty miles distant from the land, in the direction of a steady though light breeze. Vast numbers of a small spider, about one-tenth of an inch in length, and of a dusky red colour were attached to the webs. There must have been, I should suppose, some thousands on the ship. The little spider when first coming in contact with the rigging, was always seated on a single thread, and not on the flocculent mass. This latter seems merely to be produced by the entanglement of the single threads. The spiders were all of one species, but of both sexes, together with young ones. These latter were distinguished by their smaller size, and more dusky colour. I will not give the description of this spider, but merely state that it does not appear to me to be included in any of Latreille's genera. The little aeronaut as soon as it arrived on board, was very active, running about; sometimes letting itself fall, and then reascending the same thread; sometimes employing itself in making a small and very irregular mesh in the corners between the ropes. It could run with facility on the surface of water. When disturbed it lifted up its front legs, in the attitude of attention. On its first arrival it appeared very thirsty, and with exserted maxillæ drank eagerly of the fluid; this same circumstance

* The flies which frequently accompany a ship for some days on its passage from harbour to harbour, wandering from the vessel, are soon lost, and all disappear.

[page] 188 RIO PLATA. Dec. 1833.

has been observed by Strack: may it not be in consequence of the little insect having passed through a dry and rarefied atmosphere? Its stock of web seemed inexhaustible. While watching some that were suspended by a single thread, I several times observed that the slightest breath of air bore them away out of sight, in a horizontal line. On another occasion (25th) under similar circumstances, I repeatedly observed the same kind of small spider, either when placed, or having crawled, on some little eminence, elevate its abdomen, send forth a thread, and then sail away in a lateral course, but with a rapidity which was quite unaccountable. I thought I could perceive that the spider before performing the above preparatory steps, connected its legs together with the most delicate threads, but I am not sure, whether this observation is correct.

One day, at St. Fe, I had a better opportunity of observing some similar facts. A spider which was about three-tenths of an inch in length, and which in its general appearance resembled a Citigrade (therefore quite different from the gossamer), while standing on the summit of a post, darted forth four or five threads from its spinners. These glittering in the sunshine, might be compared to rays of light; they were not, however, straight, but in undulations like a film of silk blown by the wind. They were more than a yard in length, and diverged in an ascending direction from the orifices. The spider then suddenly let go its hold, and was quickly borne out of sight. The day was hot and apparently quite calm; yet under such circumstances the atmosphere can never be so tranquil,as not to affect a vane so delicate as the thread of a spider's web. If during a warm day we look either at the shadow of any object cast on a bank, or over a level plain at a distant landmark, the effect of an ascending current of heated air will almost always be evident. And this probably would be sufficient to carry with it so light an object as the little spider on its thread. The circumstance of spiders of the same species but of different sexes and ages, being found on several occasions at the distance of many leagues from the

[page] 189 Dec. 1833. AERONAUT SPIDERS.

land, attached in vast numbers to the lines, proves that they are the manufacturers of the mesh, and that the habit of sailing through the air, is probably as characteristic of some tribe, as that of diving is of the Argyroneta. We may then reject Latreille's supposition, that the gossamer owes its origin to the webs of the young of several genera, as Epeira or Thomisa: although, as we have seen that the young of other spiders do possess the power of performing aerial voyages.*

During our different passages south of the Plata, I often towed astern a net made of bunting, and thus caught many curious animals. The structure of the Beroe (a kind of jelly fish) is most extraordinary, with its rows of vibratory ciliæ, and complicated though irregular system of circulation. Of Crustacea, there were many strange and undescribed genera. One, which in some respects is allied to the Notopods (or those crabs which have their posterior legs placed almost on their backs, for the purpose of adhering to the under side of ledges), is very remarkable from the structure of its hind pair of legs. The penultimate joint, instead of being terminated by a simple claw, ends in three bristle-like appendages of dissimilar lengths,—the longest equalling that of the entire leg. These claws are very thin, and are serrated with teeth of an excessive fineness, which are directed towards the base. The curved extremities are flattened, and

* I was not at the time aware of M. Virey's very curious observations, (Bulletin des Sciences Natur., tom. xix., p. 130) which seem to prove that small spiders, in an atmosphere perfectly tranquil, and without the aid of any web, have the power of darting through the air. M. Virey, believes that by means of a rapid vibration of their feet, they walk the air. Although in his case, the conclusion seems almost inevitable, yet in the one I have described, we must suppose that the several threads which were sent forth, served as sails for the atmospheric currents to act on. After reading M. Virey's account, it appears to me far from improbable, that the little aeronaut actually did unite, as was suspected, its feet together by some fine lines; thus forming artificial wings. I regret I did not determine this point with accuracy; for it would be a curious fact, that a spider should thus be able to take flight by the aid of temporary wings.

[page] 190 ATLANTIC OCEAN. Dec. 1833.

on this part five most minute cups are placed, which seem to act in the same manner as the suckers on the arms of the cuttle-fish. As the animal lives in the open sea, and probably wants a place of rest, I suppose this beautiful structure is adapted to take hold of the globular bodies of the Medusæ, and other floating marine animals.

In deep water, far from the land, the number of living creatures is extremely small: south of the latitude 35°, I never succeeded in catching any thing besides some beroe, and a few species of minute crustacea belonging to the Entomostraca. In shoaler water, at the distance of a few miles from the coast, very many kinds of crustacea and some other animals were numerous, but only during the night. Between latitudes 56° and 57° south of Cape Horn the net was put astern several times; it never, however, brought up any thing besides a few of two extremely minute species of Entomostraca. Yet whales and seals, petrels and albatross, are exceedingly abundant throughout this part of the ocean. It has always been a source of mystery to me, on what the latter, which live far from the shore, can subsist. I presume the albatross, like the condor, is able to fast long; and that one good feast on the carcass of a putrid whale lasts for a long siege of hunger. It does not lessen the difficulty to say, they feed on fish; for on what can the fish feed? It often occurred to me, when observing how the waters of the central and intertropical parts of the Atlantic,* swarmed with Pteropoda, Crustacea, and Radiata, and with their devourers the flying-fish, and again with their devourers the bonitos and albicores, that the lowest of these pelagic animals perhaps possess the power of decomposing carbonic acid gas, like the members of the vegetable kingdom.

While sailing in these latitudes on one very dark night,

* From my experience, which has been but little, I should say that the Atlantic was far more prolific than the Pacific, at least, than in that immense open area, between the west coast of America and the extreme eastern isles of Polynesia.

[page] 191 Dec. 1833. PHOSPHORESCENCE OF THE SEA.

the sea presented a wonderful and most beautiful spectacle. There was a fresh breeze, and every part of the surface, which during the day is seen as foam, now glowed with a pale light. The vessel drove before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorus, and in her wake she was followed by a milky train. As far as the eye reached, the crest of every wave was bright, and the sky above the horizon, from the reflected glare of these livid flames, was not so utterly obscure, as over the rest of the heavens.

As we proceed further southward, the sea is seldom phosphorescent; and off Cape Horn, I do not recollect more than once having seen it so, and then it was far from being brilliant. This circumstance probably has a close connexion with the scarcity of organic beings in that part of the ocean. After the elaborate paper* by Ehrenberg, on the phosphorescence of the sea, it is almost superfluous on my part to make any observations on the subject. I may however add, that the same torn and irregular particles of gelatinous matter, described by Ehrenberg, seem in the southern as well as in the northern hemisphere, to be the common cause of this phenomenon. The particles were so minute as easily to pass through fine gauze; yet many were distinctly visible by the naked eye. The water when placed in a tumbler and agitated gave out sparks, but a small portion in a watch-glass, scarcely ever was luminous. Ehrenberg states, that these particles all retain a certain degree of irritability. My observations, some of which were made directly after taking up the water, would give a different result. I may also mention, that having used the net during one night I allowed it to become partially dry, and having occasion twelve hours afterwards, to employ it again, I found the whole surface sparkled as brightly as when first taken out of the water. It does not appear probable in this case, that the particles could have remained so long alive. I remark

* An abstract is given in No. IV. of the Magazine of Zoology and Botany.

[page] 192 ATLANTIC OCEAN. Dec. 1833.

also in my notes, that having kept a Medusa of the genus Dianæa, till it was dead, the water in which it was placed became luminous. When the waves scintillate with bright green sparks, I believe it is generally owing to minute crustacea. But there can be no doubt that very many other pelagic animals, when alive, are phosphorescent.

On two occasions I have observed the sea luminous at considerable depths beneath the surface. Near the mouth of the Plata some circular and oval patches, from two to four yards in diameter, and with defined outlines, shone with a steady, but pale light; while the surrounding water only gave out a few sparks. The appearance resembled the reflection of the moon, or some luminous body; for the edges were sinuous from the undulation of the surface. The ship, which drew thirteen feet water, passed over, without disturbing, these patches. Therefore we must suppose that some animals were congregated together at a greater depth than the bottom of the vessel.

Near Fernando Noronha the sea gave out light in flashes. The appearance was very similar to that which might be expected from a large fish moving rapidly through a luminous fluid. To this cause the sailors attributed it; at the time, however, I entertained some doubts, on account of the frequency and rapidity of the flashes. With respect to any general observations, I have already stated that the display is very much more common in warm than in cold countries. I have sometimes imagined that a disturbed electrical condition of the atmosphere was most favourable to its production. Certainly I think the sea is most luminous after a few days of more calm weather than ordinary, during which time it has swarmed with various animals. Observing that the water charged with gelatinous particles is in an impure state, and that the luminous appearance in all common cases is produced by the agitation of the fluid in contact with the atmosphere, I have always been inclined to consider that the phosphorescence was the result of the decomposition of the organic particles, by which process (one is tempted

[page] 193 Dec. 1833. PORT DESIRE.

almost to call it a kind of respiration) the ocean becomes purified.

DECEMBER 23D.—We arrived at Port Desire, situated in lat. 47°, on the coast of Patagonia. The creek runs for about twenty miles inland, with an irregular width. The Beagle anchored a few miles within the entrance in front of the ruins of an old Spanish settlement.

The same evening I went on shore. The first landing in any new country is very interesting, and especially when, as in this case, the whole aspect bears the stamp of a marked and individual character. At the height of between two and three hundred feet, above some masses of porphyry, a wide plain extends, which is truly characteristic of Patagonia. The surface is quite level, and is composed of well-rounded shingle mixed with a whitish earth. Here and there scattered tufts of brown wiry grass are supported, and still more rarely some low thorny bushes. The weather is dry and pleasant, for the fine blue sky is but seldom obscured. When standing in the middle of one of these desert plains, the view on one side is generally bounded by the escarpment of another plain, rather higher, but equally level and desolate; and on the other side it becomes indistinct from the trembling mirage which seems to rise from the heated surface.

The plains are traversed by many broad, flat-bottomed valleys, and in these the bushes grow rather more abundantly. The present drainage of the country is quite insufficient to excavate such large channels. In some of the valleys ancient stunted trees, growing in the very centre of the dry watercourse, seem as if placed to prove how long a time had elapsed, since any flood had passed that way. We have evidence, from shells lying on the surface, that the plains of gravel have been elevated within a recent epoch above the level of the sea; and we must look to that period for the excavation of the valleys by the slowly-retiring waters. From the dryness of the climate, a man may walk for days together over these plains without finding a single drop of water. Even at the base of the porphyry hills, there


[page] 194 PATAGONIA. Dec. 1833.

are only a few small wells containing but little water, and that rather saline and half putrid.

In such a country the fate of the Spanish settlement was soon decided; the dryness of the climate during the greater part of the year, and the occasional hostile attacks of the wandering Indians, compelled the colonists to desert their half-finished buildings. The style, however, in which they were commenced, showed the strong and liberal hand of Spain in the old time. The end of all the attempts to colonize this side of America south of 41°, have been miserable. At Port Famine, the name expresses the lingering and extreme sufferings of several hundred wretched people, of whom one alone survived to relate their misfortunes. At St. Joseph's bay, on the coast of Patagonia, a small settlement was made; but during one Sunday the Indians made an attack and massacred the whole party, excepting two men, who were led captive many years among the wandering tribes. At the Rio Negro I conversed with one of these men, now in extreme old age.

The zoology of Patagonia is as limited as its Flora.* On the arid plains a few black beetles (Heteromera) might be seen slowly crawling about, and occasionally a lizard darting from side to side. Of birds we have three carrion hawks, and in the valleys a few finches and insect feeders. The Ibis malanops (a species said to be found in central Africa) is not uncommon on the most desert parts. In the stomachs of these birds I found grasshoppers, cicadæ, small lizards, and even scorpions.† At one time of the year they go in flocks, at another in pairs: their cry is very loud and singular, and resembles the neighing of the guanaco.

* I found here a species of cactus, described by Professor Henslow under the name of Opuntia Darwinii (Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i., p. 466), which was remarkable by the irritability manifested by the stamens, when I inserted in the flower either a piece of stick, or the end of my finger. The segments of the periant also closed on the pistil, but more slowly than the stamens.

† These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one cannibal scorpion quietly devouring another.

[page] 195 Dec. 1833. GUANACO.

I will here give an account of this latter animal, which is very common, and is the characteristic quadruped of the plains of Patagonia. The Guanaco, which by some naturalists is considered as the same animal with the Llama, but in its wild state, is the South American representative of the camel of the East. In size it may be compared to an ass, mounted on taller legs, and with a very long neck. The guanaco abounds over the whole of the temperate parts of South America, from the wooded islands of Tierra del Fuego, through Patagonia, the hilly parts of La Plata, Chile, even to the Cordillera of Peru. Although preferring an elevated site, it yields in this respect to its near relative the Vicuna. On the plains of Southern Patagonia, we saw them in greater numbers than in any other part. Generally they go in small herds, from half a dozen to thirty together; but on the banks of the St Cruz we saw one herd which must have contained at least five hundred. On the northern shores of the Strait of Magellan they are also very numerous.

Generally the guanacoes are wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes told me, that he one day saw through a glass a herd of these beasts, which evidently had been frightened, running away at full speed, although their distance was so great that they could not be distinguished by the naked eye. The sportsman frequently receives the first intimation of their presence, by hearing, from a long distance, the peculiar shrill neighing note of alarm. If he then looks attentively, he will perhaps see the herd standing in a line on the side of some distant hill. On approaching them, a few more squeals are given, and then off they set at an apparently slow, but really quick canter, along some narrow beaten track to a neighbouring hill. If, however, by chance he should abruptly meet a single animal, or several together, they will generally stand motionless, and intently gaze at him; then perhaps move on a few yards, turn round, and look again. What is the cause of this difference in their shiness? Do they mistake a man in the distance for their chief enemy the puma? Or does curiosity overcome their timidity? That they are curious is certain; for if a person lies on the ground, and

O 2

[page] 196 PATAGONIA. Dec. 1833.

plays strange antics, such as throwing up his feet in the air, they will almost always approach by degrees to reconnoitre him. It was an artifice that was repeatedly practised by our sportsmen with success, and it had moreover the advantage of allowing several shots to be fired, which were all taken as parts of the performance. On the mountains of Tierra del Fuego, and in other places, I have more than once seen a guanaco, on being approached, not only neigh and squeal, but prance and leap about in the most ridiculous manner, apparently in defiance as a challenge. These animals are very easily domesticated, and I have seen some thus kept near the houses, although at large on their native plains. They are in this state very bold, and readily attack a man, by striking him from behind with both knees. It is asserted, that the motive for these attacks is jealousy on account of their females. The wild guanacoes, however, have no idea of defence; even a single dog will secure one of these large animals, till the huntsman can come up. In many of their habits they are like sheep in a flock. Thus when they see men approaching in several directions on horseback, they soon became bewildered, and know not which way to run. This greatly facilitates the Indian method of hunting, for they are thus easily driven to a central point, and are encompassed.

The guanacoes readily take to the water: several times at Port Valdes they were seen swimming from island to island. Byron, in his voyage, says he saw them drinking salt water. Some of our officers likewise saw a herd apparently drinking the briny fluid from a salina near Cape Blanco. I imagine in several parts of the country, if they do not drink salt water, they drink none at all. In the middle of the day, they frequently roll in the dust, in saucer-shaped hollows. The males fight together; two one day passed quite close to me, squealing and trying to bite each other; and several were shot with their hides deeply scored. Herds sometimes appear to set out on exploring-parties : at Bahia Blanca, where, within thirty miles of the coast, these animals are extremely unfrequent, I one day saw the tracks of thirty or forty, which had come in a direct line

[page] 197 Dec. 1833. GUANACO.

to a muddy salt-water creek. They then must have perceived that they were approaching the sea, for they had wheeled with the regularity of cavalry, and had returned back in as straight a line as they had advanced. The guanacoes have one singular habit, which is to me quite inexplicable; namely, that on successive days they drop their dung in the same defined heap. I saw one of these heaps which was eight feet in diameter, and necessarily was composed of a large quantity. Frezier remarks on this habit as common to the guanaco as well as to the llama;* he says it is very useful to the Indians, who use the dung for fuel, and are thus saved the trouble of collecting it.

The guanacoes appear to have favourite spots for dying in. On the banks of the St. Cruz, the ground was actually white with bones, in certain circumscribed spaces, which were generally bushy and all near the river. On one such spot I counted between ten and twenty heads. I particularly examined the bones; they did not appear, as some scattered ones which I had seen, gnawed or broken, as if dragged together by beasts of prey. The animals in most cases, must have crawled, before dying, beneath and amongst the bushes. Mr. Bynoe informs me that during the last voyage, he observed the same circumstance on the banks of the Rio Gallegos. I do not at all understand the reason of this, but I may observe, that the wounded guanacoes at the St. Cruz, invariably walked towards the river. At St. Jago in the Cape de Verd islands I remember having seen in a retired ravine a corner under a cliff, where numerous goats' bones were collected: we at the time exclaimed, that it was the burial-ground of all the goats in the island. I mention these trifling circumstances, because in certain cases they might explain the occurrence of a number of uninjured bones in a cave, or buried under alluvial accumulations; and likewise the cause, why certain mammalia are more commonly embedded than others in sedimentary deposits. Any great

* D'Orbigny says (vol. ii., p. 69) that all the species of the genus have this habit.

[page] 198 PATAGONIA. Dec. 1833.

flood of the St. Cruz, would wash down many bones of the guanaco, but probably not a single one of the puma, ostrich, or fox. I may also observe, that almost every kind of waterfowl when wounded takes to the shore to die; so that the remains of birds, from this cause alone and independently of other reasons, would but rarely be preserved in a fossil state.

One day the yawl was sent under the command of Mr. Chaffers with three days' provisions to survey the upper part of the harbour. In the morning we searched for some watering-places, mentioned in an old Spanish chart. We found one creek, at the head of which there was a trickling rill (the first we had seen) of brackish water. Here the tide compelled us to wait several hours; and in the interval I walked some miles into the interior. The plain as usual, consisted of gravel, mingled with soil resembling chalk in appearance, but very different from it in nature. From the softness of these materials it was worn into many gullies. There was not a tree, and excepting the guanaco, which stood on the hill-top a watchful sentinel over its herd, scarcely an animal or a bird. All was stillness and desolation. One reflected how many ages the plain had thus lasted, and how many more it was doomed thus to continue. Yet in passing over these scenes, without one bright object near, an ill-defined but strong sense of pleasure is vividly excited.

In the evening we sailed a few miles further up, and then pitched the tents for the night. By the middle of the next day, the yawl was aground, and from the shoalness of the water could not proceed any higher. The water being found partly fresh Mr. Chaffers took the dingey, and went up two or three miles further, where she also grounded, but in a fresh-water river. The water was muddy, and though the stream was most insignificant in size, it would be difficult to account for its source, except from the melting snow on the the Cordillera. At the spot where we bivouacked, we were surrounded by bold cliffs and steep pinnacles of porphyry. I do not think I ever saw a spot, which appeared more

[page] 199 Dec. 1833. PORT ST. JULIAN.

secluded from the rest of the world, than this rocky crevice in the wide plain.

The second day after our return to the anchorage, a party of officers and myself went to ransack an old Indian grave, which I had found on the summit of a neighbouring hill. Two immense stones, each probably weighing at least a couple of tons, had been placed in front of a ledge of rock, about six feet high. At the bottom of the grave on the hard rock, there was a layer of earth about a foot deep, which must have been brought up from the plain below. Above it a pavement of flat stones was placed, on which others were piled, so as to fill up the space between the ledge and the two great blocks. To complete the grave, the Indians had contrived to detach from the same ledge a huge fragment, and to throw it over the pile so as to rest on the two blocks. We undermined the grave on both sides, but could not find any relics, or even bones. The latter probably had decayed long since (in which case the grave must have been of extreme antiquity), for I found in another place some smaller heaps, beneath which a very few crumbling fragments could yet be distinguished, as having belonged to a man. Falconer states, that where an Indian dies he is buried, but that subsequently his bones are carefully taken up and carried, let the distance be ever so great, to be deposited near the sea-coast. This custom, I think, may be accounted for, by recollecting that before the introduction of horses, these Indians must have led nearly the same life as the Fuegians, and therefore generally resided in the neighbourhood of the sea. The common prejudice of lying where one's ancestors have lain, would make the now roaming Indians bring the less perishable part of their dead to their ancient burial-grounds.

JANUARY 9TH, 1834.—Before it was dark the Beagle anchored in the fine spacious harbour of Port St. Julian, situated about one hundred and ten miles to the south of Port Desire. We remained here eight days. The country is nearly similar to that of Port Desire, but, perhaps, rather more sterile. One day a party accompanied Captain Fitz-

[page] 200 PATAGONIA. Jan. 1834.

Roy on a long walk round the head of the harbour. We were eleven hours without tasting any water, and some of the party were quite exhausted. From the summit of a hill (since well named Thirsty Hill) a fine lake was spied, and two of the party proceeded with concerted signals to show whether it was fresh water. What was our disappointment to find a snow-white expanse of salt, crystallized in great cubes! We attributed our extreme thirst to the dryness of the atmosphere; but whatever the cause might be, we were exceedingly glad late in the evening to get back to the boats. Although we could nowhere find, during our whole visit, a single drop of fresh water, yet some must exist; for by an odd chance I found on the surface of the salt water, near the head of the bay, a Colymbetes not quite dead, which in all probability had lived in some not far distant pool. Three other kinds of insects,—a Cincindela, like hybrida, Cymindis, and a Harpalus, which all live on muddy flats occasionally overflowed by the sea, and one other beetle found dead on the plain,—completes the list of coleoptera. A good-sized fly (Tabanus) was extremely numerous, and tormented us by its painful bite. The common horsefly, which is so troublesome in the shady lanes of England, belongs to this genus. We here have the puzzle, that so frequently occurs in the case of musquitoes; on the blood of what animals do these insects commonly feed ? The guanaco is nearly the only warmblooded quadruped, and they are present in numbers quite inconsiderable, compared to the multitude of flies.

The foundation of porphyry is not here present, as it was at Port Desire, and in consequence the tertiary deposits are arranged with greater regularity. Five successive plains of different altitudes are very distinct. The lower one is a mere fringe nearly on a level with the sea, but the upper one is elevated 950 feet. This latter is represented in this neighbourhood only by a few truncate conical hills, of exactly the same height. It was very interesting to stand on one of these flat patches of gravel, and viewing the wide surrounding country, to speculate on the enormous quantity of matter which must

[page] 201 Jan. 1834. GEOLOGY.

have been removed, thus to leave these mere points, as meaures of the former table-land.

I will now give a brief sketch of the geology of the grand tertiary formation of Patagonia, which extends from the Strait of Magellan to the Bay of S. Antonio. In Europe, deposits of the more recent eras have generally been accumulated in small basins or trough-shaped hollows. In South America, however, the entire plains of Patagonia extending seven hundred miles in length, and backed on the one hand by the chain of the Andes, and fronted on the other by the shores of the Atlantic, are thus constituted. Moreover the northern boundary is merely assumed in consequence of a mineralogical change in the strata: if organic remains were present, it probably would be found to be only an artificial limit. Again to the northward (1300 miles distant from the Strait of Magellan) we have the Pampas deposit, which though very different in composition, belongs to the same epoch with the superficial covering of the plains of Patagonia.

The cliffs on the coast give the following section: The lower part consists of a soft sandstone, containing large concretions of a harder nature. These strata contain many organic remains—immense oysters nearly a foot in diameter, curious pectens, echini, turritellæ, and other shells, of which the greater portion are extinct, but a few resemble those now existing on the coast.* Above these fossiliferous beds, a mass of soft friable stone or earth is superimposed, which, from its extreme whiteness, has been mistaken for chalk. It is, however, quite different; and closely resembles the less argillaceous varieties of decomposed felspar. This substance never contains organic remains. Lastly, the cliff is surmounted by a thick bed of gravel, almost exclusively derived from porphyritic rocks. For the sake of making the following description more easily intelligible, I have subjoined an imaginary section of the plains near the coast.

* The geologist must recollect this is a mere sketch, and that the fossil shells have not yet been carefully examined.

[page] 202 PATAGONIA. Jan. 1834.

It must be observed, that the width of each plain is in nature very much greater in proportion to the height, than here represented.

[page] 203 Jan. 1834. GEOLOGY.

The whole series is horizontally stratified, and I do not recollect ever seeing any signs of violence, not even such as a fault. The gravel covers the entire surface of the land, from the Rio Colorado to the Strait of Magellan, a space of 800 miles, and is one chief cause of the desert character of Patagonia. Judging from a section across the continent at the St. Cruz river, and from some other reasons, I believe the gravel beds gradually thickening as they ascend, every where reach the base of the Cordillera. It is to these mountains we must look for the parent rocks, of at least a large portion of the well-rounded fragments. I apprehend so great an area covered by shingle, could scarcely be pointed out in any other part of the world.

Having said thus much of the constitution, let us look at the external configuration of the mass. The level plains are cut off along the whole line of coast by perpendicular cliffs, which are necessarily of different altitudes, because any one of the successive terraces, which, as I have already noticed, rise like steps one above the other, may form the sea cliff. These steps are often several miles broad; but from one point of view I have seen four very distinct lines of escarpment abutting one over the other. Having observed that the plains appeared to run for great distances along the coast at the same level, I measured barometrically the elevation of some of them, and compared these measurements, and took all those made by the officers employed in the survey. I was astonished to find at how great distances, even of 600 miles, plains occurred that had, within a few feet of difference, the same elevation. I believe I can distinguish seven or eight distinct terraces which occur along the line of coast, and which include heights between 1200 feet and the level of the sea. It will be understood that they are not always present, for the lower ones have in some parts been removed by the action of the sea sooner than in others. When any broad valley enters the country, the terraces sweep round and run up on each side; in which case, the correspondence on the opposite sides is beautifully illustrated.

[page] 204 PATAGONIA. Jan. 1834.

I have called these step-like plains level, because they appear to be absolutely so to the eye, but in truth they rise a little between the edge of one line of cliff and the base of the next above it. Their slope is about the same as that of the gradually shoaling bottom of the neighbouring sea. The elevation of 350 feet is gained by three steps; one of about 100 feet, the second 250, and the third 350. Over these three plains marine remains are frequently scattered, but they are especially abundant on the lower one. The shells are the same as the now existing littoral species, and the muscle and turbo yet partially retain their blue and purple colours.

We have now stated the problem, which is to be explained so as to connect together these various phenomena. At first I could only understand the grand covering of gravel, by the supposition of some epoch of extreme violence, and the successive lines of cliff, by as many great elevations, the precise action of which I could not however follow out. Guided by the "Principles of Geology," and having under my view the vast changes going on in this continent, which at the present day seems the great workshop of nature, I came to another, and I hope more satisfactory conclusion. The importance of any view which may explain the agency by which such vast beds of shingle have been transported over the surface of the successive plains, cannot be doubted. Whatever the cause may have been, it has determined the condition of this desert country, with respect to its form, nature, and capabilities of supporting life.

There are proofs, that the whole coast has been elevated to a considerable height within the recent period; and on the shores of the Pacific, where successive terraces likewise occur, we know that these changes have latterly been very gradual. There is indeed reason for believing, that the uplifting of the ground during the earthquakes in Chile, although only to the height of two or three feet, has been a disturbance which may be considered as a great one, in comparison to the series of lesser and scarcely sensible movements which are likewise in progress. Let us then imagine

[page] 205 Jan. 1834. GEOLOGY.

the consequence of the shoaling bed of an ocean, elevated at a perfectly equable rate, so that the same number of feet should be converted into dry land in each succeeding century. Every part of the surface would then have been exposed for an equal length of time to the action of the beach-line, and the whole in consequence equally modified. The shoaling bed of the ocean would thus be changed into a sloping land, with no marked line on it. If, however, there should occur a long period of repose in the elevations, and the currents of the sea should tend to wear away the land (as happens along this whole coast), then there would be formed a line of cliff. Accordingly as the repose was long, so would be the quantity of land consumed, and the consequent height of such cliffs. Let the elevations recommence, and another sloping bank (of shingle, or sand, or mud, according to the nature of the successive beach-lines) must be formed, which again will be broken by as many lines of cliff, as there shall be periods of rest in the action of the subterranean forces. Now this is the structure of the plains of Patagonia; and such gradual changes harmonize well with the undisturbed strata, extending over so many hundred miles.

I must here observe, that I am far from supposing that the entire coast of this part of the continent has ever been lifted up, to the height of even a foot, at any one moment of time; but, drawing our analogies from the shores of the Pacific, that the whole may have been insensibly rising, with every now and then a paroxysmal or accelerated movement in certain spots. With respect to the alternation of the periods of such continued rise and those of quiescence, we may grant that they are probable, because such alternation agrees with what we see in the action, not only of a single volcano, but likewise of the disturbances affecting whole regions of the earth. At the present day, to the north of the parallel 44°, the subterranean forces are constantly manifesting their power over a space of more than one thousand miles. But to the southward of that line, as far as Cape Horn, an earthquake is seldom or never experienced, and

[page] 206 PATAGONIA. Jan. 1834.

there is not a single point of eruption; yet in former ages, as we shall hereafter show, deluges of lava flowed from that very part. It is in conformity with our hypothesis that this southern region of repose, is at present suffering from the inroads of the ocean, as attested by the long line of cliff on the Patagonian coast. Such we believe to have been the causes of this singular configuration of the land. Nevertheless, we confess that it at first appears startling, that the most marked intervals between the heights of the successive plains should, instead of some great and sudden action of the subterranean forces, only indicate a longer period of repose.

In explaining the widely-spread bed of gravel, we must first suppose a great mass of shingle to be collected by the action of innumerable torrents, and the swell of an open ocean, at the submarine basis of the Andes, prior to the elevation of the plains of Patagonia. If such a mass should then be lifted up, and left exposed during one of the periods of subterranean repose; a certain breadth, for instance a mile, would be washed down, and spread out over the bottom of the invading waters. (That the sea near the coast can carry out pebbles, we may feel sure from the circumstance of their gradual decrease in size, according to the distance from the coast-line.)

If this part of the sea should now be elevated, we should have a bed of gravel, but it would be of less thickness than in the first mass, both because it is spread over a larger area, and because it has been much reduced by attrition. This process being repeated, we might carry beds of gravel, always decreasing in thickness (as happens in Patagonia) to a considerable distance from the line of parent rock.* For instance, on the banks of the St. Cruz at the distance of one hundred

* It is needless to point out to the geologist, that this view, if correct, will account, without the necessity of any sudden rush of water, for the general covering of mixed shingle, so common in many parts of Europe, and likewise for the occurrence of widely-extended strata of conglomerate; for the superficial beds might, during a period of subsidence, be covered by fresh deposits.

[page] 207 Jan. 1834. GEOLOGY.

miles above the mouth of the river, the bed of gravel is 212 feet thick, whereas, near the coast, it seldom exceeds 25 or 30 feet; the thickness being thus reduced to nearly one-eighth.

I have already stated that the gravel is separated from the fossiliferous strata by some white beds of a friable substance, singularly resembling chalk, but which cannot be compared, as far as I am aware, with any formation in Europe. With respect to its origin, I may observe that the well-rounded pebbles all consist of various felspathic porphyries; and that, from their prolonged attrition, during the successive remodellings of the whole mass, much sediment must have been produced. I have already remarked that the white earthy matter more closely resembles decomposed felspar, than any other substance. If such is its origin, it would always, from its lightness, be carried further to seaward than the pebbles. But as the land was elevated, the beds would be brought nearer the coast-line, and so become covered by the fresh masses of gravel which were travelling outwards. When these white beds were themselves elevated, they would hold a position intermediate between the gravel and the common foundation, or the fossiliferous strata. To explain my meaning more clearly, let us suppose the bottom of the present sea covered to a certain distance from the coast-line, with pebbles gradually decreasing in size, and beyond it by the white sediment. Let the land rise, so that the beach-line, by the fall of the water, may be carried outwards; then likewise the gravel, by the same agency as before, will be transported so much further from the coast, and will cover the white sediment, and these beds again will invade the more distant parts of the bottom of the sea. By this outward progress, the order of superposition must always be gravel, white sediment, and the fossiliferous strata.

Such is the history of the changes by which the present condition of Patagonia has, I believe, been determined. These changes all result from the assumption of a steady but very gradual elevation, extending over a wide area, and

[page] 208 PATAGONIA. Jan. 1834.

interrupted at long intervals by periods of repose. But we must now return to Port St. Julian. On the south side of the harbour, a cliff of about ninety feet in height intersects a plain constituted of the formations above described; and its surface is strewed over with recent marine shells. The gravel, however, differently from that in every other locality, is covered by a very irregular and thin bed of a reddish loam, containing a few small calcareous concretions. The matter somewhat resembles that of the Pampas, and probably owes its origin either to a small stream having formerly entered the sea at that spot, or to a mud-bank similar to those now existing at the head of the harbour. In one spot this earthy matter filled up a hollow, or gully, worn quite through the gravel, and in this mass a group of large bones was embedded. The animal to which they belonged, must have lived, as in the case at Bahia Blanca, at a period long subsequent to the existence of the shells now inhabiting the coast. We may feel sure of this, because the formation of the lower terrace or plain, must necessarily have been posterior to those above it, and on the surface of the two higher ones, sea-shells of recent species are scattered. From the small physical change, which the last one hundred feet elevation of the continent could have produced, the climate, as well as the general condition of Patagonia, probably was nearly the same, at the time when the animal was embedded, as it now is. This conclusion is moreover supported by the identity of the shells belonging to the two ages. Then immediately occurred the difficulty, how could any large quadruped have subsisted on these wretched deserts in lat. 49° 15'? I had no idea at the time, to what kind of animal these remains belonged. The puzzle, however, was soon solved when Mr. Owen examined them; for he considers that they formed part of an animal allied to the guanaco or llama, but fully as large as the true camel. As all the existing members of the family of Camelidæ are inhabitants of the most sterile countries, so may we suppose was this extinct kind. The structure of the cervical vertebræ, the transverse processes

[page] 209 Jan. 1834. FOSSIL REMAINS.

not being perforated for the vertebral artery, indicates its affinity: some other parts, however, of its structure, probably are anomalous.

The most important result of this discovery, is the confirmation of the law that existing animals have a close relation in form with extinct species. As the guanaco is the characteristic quadruped of Patagonia, and the vicuna of the snow-clad summits of the Cordillera, so in bygone days, this gigantic species of the same family must have been conspicuous on the southern plains. We see this same relation of type between the existing and fossil Ctenomys, between the capybara (but less plainly, as shown by Mr. Owen) and the gigantic Toxodon; and lastly, between the living and extinct Edentata. At the present day, in South America, there exist probably nineteen species of this order, distributed into several genera; while throughout the rest of the world there are but five. If, then, there is a relation between the living and the dead, we should expect that the Edentata would be numerous in the fossil state. I need only reply by enumerating the megatherium, and the three or four other great species, discovered at Bahia Blanca; the remains of some of which are also abundant over the whole immense territory of La Plata. I have already pointed out the singular relation between the armadilloes and their great prototypes, even in a point apparently of so little importance as their external covering.

The order of rodents at the present day, is most conspicuous in South America, on account of the vast number* and size of the species, and the multitude of individuals: according to the same law, we should expect to find their representatives in a fossil state. Mr. Owen has shown how far the Toxodon is thus related; and it is moreover not

* In my collection Mr. Waterhouse distinguishes twenty-seven species of mice; to these must be added about thirteen more, known from the works of Azara, and other naturalists; so that we have forty species, which have actually been described as coming from between the Tropic and Cape Horn.


[page] 210 PATAGONIA. Jan. 1834.

improbable that another large animal has likewise a similar affinity.

The teeth of the rodent nearly equalling in size those of the Capybara, which were discovered near Bahia Blanca, must also be remembered.

The law of the succession of types, although subject to some remarkable exceptions, must possess the highest interest to every philosophical naturalist, and was first clearly observed in regard to Australia, where fossil remains of a large and extinct species of Kangaroo and other marsupial animals were discovered buried in a cave. In America the most marked change among the mammalia has been the loss of several species of Mastodon, of an elephant, and of the horse. These Pachydermata appear formerly to have had a range over the world, like that which deer and antelopes now hold. If Buffon had known of these gigantic armadilloes, llamas, great rodents, and lost pachydermata, he would have said with a greater semblance of truth, that the creative force in America had lost its vigour, rather than that it had never possessed such powers.

It is impossible to reflect without the deepest astonishment, on the changed state of this continent. Formerly it must have swarmed with great monsters, like the southern parts of Africa, but now we find only the tapir, guanaco, armadillo, and capybara; mere pigmies compared to the antecedent races. The greater number, if not all, of these extinct quadrupeds lived at a very recent period; and many of them were contemporaries of the existing molluscs. Since their loss, no very great physical changes can have taken place in the nature of the country. What then has exterminated so many living creatures? In the Pampas, the great sepulchre of such remains, there are no signs of violence, but on the contrary, of the most quiet and scarcely sensible changes. At Bahia Blanca I endeavoured to show the probability that the ancient Edentata, like the present species, lived in a dry and sterile country, such as now is found in that neighbourhood. With respect to the camel-like llama of Patagonia,

[page] 211 Jan. 1834. CAUSES OF EXTINCTION.

the same grounds which, before knowing more than the size of the remains, perplexed me, by not allowing any great change of climate, now that we can guess the habits of the animal, are strangely confirmed. What shall we say of the death of the fossil horse? Did those plains fail in pasture, which afterwards were overrun by thousands and tens of thousands of the successors of the fresh stock introduced with the Spanish colonist? In some countries, we may believe, that a number of species subsequently introduced, by consuming the food of the antecedent races, may have caused their extermination; but we can scarcely credit that the armadillo has devoured the food of the immense Megatherium, the capybara of the Toxodon, or the guanaco of the camel-like kind. But granting that all such changes have been small, yet we are so profoundly ignorant concerning the physiological relations, on which the life, and even health (as shown by epidemics) of any existing species depends, that we argue with still less safety about either the life or death of any extinct kind.

One is tempted to believe in such simple relations, as variation of climate and food, or introduction of enemies, or the increased numbers of other species, as the cause of the succession of races. But it may be asked whether it is probable than any such cause should have been in action during the same epoch over the whole northern hemisphere, so as to destroy the Elephas primigenus, on the shores of Spain, on the plains of Siberia, and in Northern America; and in a like manner, the Bos urus, over a range of scarcely less extent? Did such changes put a period to the life of Mastodon angustidens, and of the fossil horse, both in Europe and on the Eastern slope of the Cordillera in Southern America? If they did, they must have been changes common to the whole world; such as gradual refrigeration, whether from modifications of physical geography, or from central cooling. But on this assumption, we have to struggle with the difficulty that these supposed changes, although scarcely sufficient to affect molluscous

P 2

[page] 212 PATAGONIA. Jan. 1834.

animals either in Europe or South America, yet destroyed many quadrupeds in regions now characterized by frigid, temperate, and warm* climates! These cases of extinction forcibly recal the idea (I do not wish to draw any close analogy) of certain fruit-trees, which, it has been asserted, though grafted on young stems, planted in varied situations, and fertilized by the richest manures, yet at one period, have all withered away and perished. A fixed and determined length of life has in such cases been given to thousands and thousands of buds (or individual germs), although produced in long succession. Among the greater number of animals, each individual appears nearly independent of its kind; yet all of one kind may be bound together by common laws, as well as a certain number of individual buds in the tree, or polypi in the Zoophyte.

I will add one other remark. We see that whole series of animals, which have been created with peculiar kinds of organization, are confined to certain areas; and we can hardly suppose these structures are only adaptations to peculiarities of climate or country; for otherwise, animals belonging to a distinct type, and introduced by man, would not succeed so admirably, even to the extermination of the aborigines. On such grounds it does not seem a necessary conclusion, that the extinction of species, more than their creation, should exclusively depend on the nature (altered by physical changes) of their country. All that at present can be said with certainty, is that, as with the individual, so with the species, the hour of life has run its course, and is spent.

* The Elephas primigenus is thus circumstanced, having been found in Yorkshire (associated with recent shells: Lyell, vol. i., chap. vi.), in Siberia, and in the warm regions of lat. 31°, in North America. The remains of the Mastodon occur in Paraguay (and I believe in Brazil, in lat. 12°), as well as in the temperate plains south of the Plata.

[page] 213


Santa Cruz — Expedition up river — Indians — Character of Patagonia — Basaltic platform — Immense streams of lava — Non-transport of blocks by river — Excavation of valley — Condor, range and habits — Cordillera — Erratic boulders of great size — Indian relics — Return to the ship.


APRIL 13TH.—The Beagle anchored within the mouth of the Santa Cruz. This river is situated about sixty miles south of Port St. Julian. During the last voyage, Captain Stokes proceeded thirty miles up, but then, from the want of provisions, was obliged to return. Excepting what was discovered at that time, scarcely any thing was known about this large river. Captain FitzRoy now determined to follow its course as far as time would allow. On the 18th, three whale-boats started, carrying three weeks' provisions; and the party consisted of twenty-five souls—a force which would have been sufficient to have defied a host of Indians. With a strong flood-tide, and a fine day, we made a good run, soon drank some of the fresh water, and were at night nearly above the tidal influence.

The river here assumed a size and appearance, which, even at the highest point we ultimately reached, was scarcely diminished. It was generally from three to four hundred yards broad, and in the middle about seventeen feet deep. The rapidity of the current, which in its whole course runs at the rate of from four to six knots an hour, is perhaps its most remarkable feature. The water is of a fine blue colour, but with a slight milky tinge, and not so transparent as at first sight would have been expected. It flows over a bed of pebbles, like those which compose the beach and surrounding plains. Although its course is winding, it runs through a valley which extends in a direct line to the west-

[page] 214 PATAGONIA. April, 1834.

ward. This valley varies from five to ten miles in breadth; it is bounded by step-formed terraces, which rise in most parts one above the other to the height of five hundred feet, and have on the opposite sides a remarkable correspondence.

APRIL 19TH.—Against so strong a current, it was of course quite impossible to row or sail. Consequently the three boats were fastened together head and stern, two hands left in each, and the rest came on shore to track. As the general arrangements, made by Captain FitzRoy, were very good for facilitating the work of all, and as all had a share of it, I will describe the system. The party, including every one, was divided into two spells, each of which hauled at the tracking line alternately for an hour and a half. The officers of each boat lived with, ate the same food, and slept in the same tent with their crew, so that each boat was quite independent of the others. After sunset, the first level spot where any bushes were growing, was chosen for our night's lodging. Each of the crew took it in turns to be cook. Immediately the boat was hauled up, the cook made his fire; two others pitched the tent; the coxswain handed the things out of the boat; the rest carried them up to the tents, and collected firewood. By this order, in half an hour, every thing was ready for the night. A watch of two men and an officer was always kept, whose duty it was to look after the boats, keep up the fire, and guard against Indians. Each in the party had his one hour every night.

During this day we tracked but a short distance, for there were many islets, covered by thorny bushes, and the channels between them were shallow.

APRIL 20TH.—We passed the islands and set to work. Our regular day's march, although it was hard enough, carried us on an average only ten miles in a straight line, and perhaps fifteen or twenty altogether. Beyond the place where we slept last night the country is completely terra incognita, for it was there that Captain Stokes turned back. We saw in the distance a great smoke, and found the skeleton of a horse, so we knew that Indians were in the neigh-

[page] 215 April, 1834. SANTA CRUZ.

bourhood. On the next morning (21st) tracks of a party of horse, and marks left by the trailing of the chuzos were observed on the ground. It was generally thought they must have reconnoitred us during the night. Shortly afterwards we came to a spot, where from the fresh footsteps of men, children, and horses, it was evident the party had crossed the river.

APRIL 22D.—The country remained the same, and was extremely uninteresting. The complete similarity of the productions throughout Patagonia, is one of its most striking characters. The level plains of arid shingle support the same stunted and dwarf plants; and in the valleys the same thorn-bearing bushes grow. Every where we see the same birds and insects. Even the very banks of the river, and of the clear streamlets which entered it, were scarcely enlivened by a brighter tint of green. The curse of sterility is on the land, and the water flowing over a bed of pebbles partakes of the same curse. Hence the number of waterfowl is very scanty; for what is there to support life in the stream of this barren river?

Patagonia, poor as she is in some respects, can, however, boast of a greater stock of small rodents* than, perhaps, any other country in the world. Several species of mice are externally characterized by large thin ears and a very fine fur. These little animals swarm amongst the thickets in the valleys, where they cannot for months together taste a drop of water. They all seem to be cannibals, for no sooner was a mouse caught in one of my traps than it was devoured by others. A small and delicately-shaped fox, which is likewise very abundant, probably derives its entire support from these small animals. The guanaco is also in his proper district; herds of fifty or a hundred were common; and, as I have said, we saw one which must have contained at least

* The deserts of Syria are characterized, according to Volney (vol. i., p. 351), by woody bushes, numerous rats, gazelles, and hares. In the landscape of Patagonia, the guanaco replaces the gazelle, and the agouti the hare.

[page] 216 PATAGONIA. April, 1834.

five hundred. The puma with the condor in its train, follows and preys upon these animals. The footsteps of the former were to be seen almost every where on the banks of the river; and the remains of several guanaco, with their necks dislocated, and bones broken, showed how they had met their death.

APRIL 24TH.—Like the navigators of old when approaching an unknown land, we examined and watched for the most trivial sign of a change. The drifted trunk of a tree, or a boulder of primitive rock, was hailed with joy, as if we had seen a forest growing on the flanks of the Cordillera. The top, however, of a heavy bank of clouds, which remained almost constantly in one position, was the most promising sign, and eventually turned out true. At first the clouds were mistaken for the mountains themselves, instead of the masses of vapour condensed by their icy summits.

26TH.—We this day met with a marked change in the geological structure of the plains. From the first starting I had carefully examined the gravel in the river, and for the two last days had noticed the presence of a few small pebbles of a very cellular basalt. These gradually increased in number and in size, but none equalled in dimensions a man's head. This morning, however, pebbles of the same rock, but more compact, suddenly became abundant, and in the course of half an hour, we saw at the distance of five or six miles the angular edge of a great basaltic platform. When we arrived at its base we found the stream bubbling among the fallen blocks. For the next twenty-eight miles, the river-course was encumbered with these basaltic masses. Above that limit, immense fragments belonging to a primitive formation, but derived from the surrounding alluvium, were equally numerous. In both cases no fragments at all remarkable in size or number had been washed down the stream, more than three or four miles below either the parent rock, or the mass of alluvium from which they were derived. Considering the singular rapidity of the great body of water in the St. Cruz, and that no still reaches occur in

[page] 217 April, 1834. BASALTIC PLATFORM.

any part, these examples are most striking of the inefficiency of rivers in transporting even moderately-sized fragments.

The basaltic cliffs are obscurely divided by lines of more cellular or amygdaloidal varieties, and the strata appear to the eye perfectly horizontal. They overlie the great tertiary deposits, and are covered (except where denuded in some of the lower terraces) by the usual beds of gravel. The basalt is clearly nothing more than lava, which has flowed beneath the sea; but the eruptions must have been on the grandest scale. At the point where we first met this formation, the mass was about 120 feet in thickness; following the river-course, it imperceptibly rose and became thicker, so that at forty miles above the first station it was 320 feet. What the thickness may be close to the Cordillera, I have no means of knowing, but the platform there attains an elevation between two and three thousand feet above the level of the sea: we must therefore look to the mountains of that great chain for its source; and worthy of such a source are streams, that have flowed over the bed of an ocean to a distance of one hundred miles.

A fine section of the basaltic platform is presented by the cliffs on both sides of the valley. At the first glance it is evident the strata must at one time have been united. What power then has removed along a whole line of country, a solid mass of very hard rock, which had an average thickness of about three hundred feet, and a breadth varying from rather less than two to four miles? The river, though it has so little power in transporting even inconsiderable fragments, yet in the lapse of ages might produce an effect by its gradual erosion, of which it is difficult to judge the limit. But in this case, independently of the insignificance of such agency, good reasons can be assigned for believing that this valley was formerly occupied by an arm of the sea. It is needless in this work to detail arguments, which chiefly rest on the form and nature of the banks, on the manner in which the valley near the foot of the Andes expands into a great bay, and on the occurrence of a few sea-shells lying in the

[page] 218 PATAGONIA. April, 1834.

bed of the river. If I had space I could prove that South America was formerly here cut off by a strait joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, like that of Magellan. But it may yet be asked, how has the solid basalt been removed? Geologists formerly would have brought into play, the violent action of some overwhelming debacle; but in this case such a supposition would have been quite inadmissible; because the same step-like terraces, that front the Patagonian coast, sweep up on each side of the valley. No possible action of any flood could have thus modelled the land in these two situations; and by the formation of such terraces the valley itself has been hollowed out. Although we know that there are tides, which run within the narrows of the Strait of Magellan at the rate of eight knots an hour, yet we must confess it makes the head almost giddy to reflect on the number of years, century after century, which the tides unaided by a heavy surf, must have required to have corroded so vast an area and thickness of solid rock. Nevertheless, we must believe that the strata undermined by the waters of this ancient strait, were broken up into huge fragments, and there lying scattered on the beach, were reduced to smaller blocks, then to pebbles, and lastly to the most impalpable mud, which the tides drifted into the bed, either of the Eastern or Western Ocean.

With the change in the geological structure of the plains the character of the landscape likewise altered. While rambling up some of the narrow and rocky defiles, I could almost have fancied myself transported back again to the barren valleys of St. Jago. Among the basaltic cliffs, I found some plants which I had seen nowhere else, but others I recognised as being wanderers from Tierra del Fuego. These porous rocks serve as a reservoir for the scanty rain-water, and consequently on the line where the igneous and sedimentary formations unite, several small springs (most rare occurrences in Patagonia) burst forth; and they could be distinguished at a distance by the circumscribed patch of bright green herbage.

[page] 219 April, 1834. CONDOR.

APRIL 27TH.—The bed of the river became rather narrower, and hence the stream more rapid. It here ran at the rate of six knots an hour. From this cause, and from the many great angular fragments, tracking the boats became both dangerous and laborious.

This day I shot a condor. It measured from tip to tip of the wings, eight and a half feet, and from beak to tail, four feet. It is a magnificent spectacle to behold several of these great birds seated on the edge of some steep precipice. I will here describe all I have observed respecting their habits. The condor is known to have a wide geographical range, being found on the west coast of South America, from the Strait of Magellan throughout the entire range of the Cordillera. On the Patagonian shore, the steep cliff near the mouth of the Rio Negro in lat. 41°, was the most northern point where I saw these birds, or heard of their existence. They have there wandered about four hundred miles from the great central line of their habitation in the Andes. Further south, among the bold precipices which form the head of Port Desire, they are not uncommon; yet only a few stragglers occasionally visit the sea-coast. A line of cliff near the mouth of St. Cruz, is frequented by these birds, and about eighty miles up the river, where first the sides of the valley were formed by steep basaltic precipices, the condor again appeared, although in the intermediate space not one had been seen. From these and similar facts, the presence of this bird seems chiefly to be determined by the occurrence of perpendicular cliffs. In Patagonia, the condors either by pairs or many together, both sleep and breed on the same overhanging ledges. In Chile, during the greater part of the year, they haunt the lower country near the shores of the Pacific, and at night several roost in one tree; but in the early part of summer, they retire to the most inaccessible parts of the inner Cordillera, there to breed in peace.

With respect to their propagation, I was told by the country people in Chile, that the condor makes no sort of

[page] 220 PATAGONIA. April, 1834.

nest, but in the months of November and December lays two large white eggs on a shelf of bare rock. On the Patagonian coast I could not see any sort of nest among the cliffs, where the young ones were standing. It is said the young condors cannot fly for an entire year. At Concepcion, on the fifth of March (corresponding to our September), I saw a young bird, which, though in size little inferior to an old one, was completely covered by down like that of a gosling, but of a blackish colour. I feel sure this bird could not have used its wings for flight for many months. After the period when the young condors can fly, and apparently as well as the old birds, they yet remain both roosting at night on the same ledge, and hunting by day with their parents. Before, however, the young bird has the ruff round its neck turned white, it may often be seen hunting by itself. At the mouth of the St. Cruz, during part of April and May, a pair of old birds might be seen every day either perched on a certain ledge, or sailing about in company with a single young one, which latter though full fledged, had not its ruff white. I should think, especially when recollecting the state in which the Concepcion bird was on the previous month, that this young condor had not been hatched from an egg of that summer. As there were no other young birds, it seems probable that the condor only lays once in two years.

These birds generally live by pairs; but among the inland basaltic cliffs of the St. Cruz, I found a spot, where scores most usually haunt. On coming suddenly to the brow of the precipice, it was a fine sight to see between twenty and thirty of these great birds start heavily from their resting-place, and wheel away in majestic circles. From the quantity of dung on the rocks, they must long have frequented this cliff, and probably they both roost and breed there. Having gorged themselves with carrion on the plains below, they retire to these favourite ledges, to digest their food. From these facts, the condor must to a certain

[page] 221 April, 1834. CONDOR.

degree, like the gallinazo, be considered a gregarious bird. In this part of the country they live altogether on the guanacoes, which either have died a natural death, or, as more commonly happens, have been killed by the pumas. I believe, from what I saw in Patagonia, that they do not on ordinary occasions extend their daily excursions to any great distance from their regular sleeping-places.

The condors may oftentimes be seen at a great height, soaring over a certain spot in the most graceful spires and circles. On some occasions I am sure that they do this for sport, but on others, the Chileno countrymen tell you that they are watching a dying animal, or the puma devouring its prey. If the condors glide down, and then suddenly all rise together, the Chileno knows that it is the puma which, watching the carcass, has sprung out to drive away the robbers. Besides feeding on carrion, the condors will frequently attack young goats and lambs. Hence the shepherd dogs are trained, the moment the enemy passes over, to run out, and looking upwards, to bark violently. The Chilenos destroy and catch numbers. Two methods are used; one is to place a carcass within an enclosure of sticks on a level piece of ground, and when the condors are gorged, to gallop up on horseback to the entrance, and thus enclose them: for when this bird has not space to run, it cannot give its body sufficient momentum to rise from the ground. The second method is to mark the trees in which, frequently to the number of five or six, they roost together, and then at night to climb up and noose them. They are such heavy sleepers, as I have myself witnessed, that this is not a difficult task. At Valparaiso, I have seen a living condor sold for sixpence, but the common price is eight or ten shillings. One which I saw brought in, had been lashed with rope, and was much injured; yet, the moment the line was cut by which its bill was secured, although surrounded by people, it began ravenously to tear a piece of carrion. In a garden at the same place, between twenty and thirty were kept alive. They were fed only once a week, but they

[page] 222 PATAGONIA. April, 1834.

appeared in pretty good health.* The Chileno countrymen assert that the condor will live and retain its powers, between five and six weeks without eating. I cannot answer for the truth of this, but it is a cruel experiment, which very likely has been tried.

When an animal is killed in the country, it is well known that the condors, like other carrion vultures, soon gain intelligence of it, and congregate in an inexplicable manner. In most cases it must not be overlooked, that the birds have discovered their prey, and have picked the skeleton clean, before the flesh is in the least tainted. Remembering the opinions of M. Audubon, on the little smelling powers of such birds,† I tried in the above-mentioned garden the following experiment: The condors were tied, each by a rope, in a long row at the bottom of a wall. Having folded up a piece of meat in white paper, I walked backwards and forwards, carrying it in my hand at the distance of about three yards, but no notice whatever was taken. I then threw it on the ground, within one yard of an old cock bird; he looked at it for a moment with attention, but then regarded it no more. With a stick I pushed it closer and closer, until at last he touched it with his beak ; the paper was then instantly torn off with fury, and at the same moment, every bird in the long row began

* I noticed that several hours before any of the condors died, all the lice, with which they are infested, crawled to the outside feathers. I was told that this was always the case.

† In the case of the Vultur aura, Mr. Owen, in some notes read before the Zoological Society, has demonstrated from the developed form of the olfactory nerves, that this bird must possess an acute sense of smell. It was mentioned on the same evening, that on two occasions, persons in the West Indies having died, and their bodies not being buried till they smelt offensively, these birds congregated in numbers on the roof of the house. This instance appears quite conclusive, as it was evident they had gained the intelligence by the powers of smell alone, and not of sight. It would appear from the various facts recorded, that carrion-feeding hawks possess both the sense of sight and smell in an eminent degree.

[page] 223 April, 1834. CONDOR.

struggling and flapping its wings. Under the same circumstances, it would not have been possible to have deceived a dog.

I may remark, that oftentimes when lying down to rest on the open plains, and on looking upwards, I have seen carrion hawks, sailing through the air at a great height. Where the country is level I do not believe a space of the heavens, of more than 15° above the horizon, is commonly viewed with any attention by a person either walking or on horseback. If such is the case, and the vulture is on the wing at a height of between three and four thousand feet, before it could come within the above range of vision, its distance in a straight line from the beholder's eye, would be rather more than two British miles. Might it not thus readily be overlooked? When an animal is killed by the sportsman in a lonely valley, may he not all the while be watched from above by the sharp-sighted bird? And will not the manner of its descent proclaim throughout the district to the whole family of carrion-feeders, that their prey is at hand?

When the condors in a flock are wheeling round and round any spot, their flight is beautiful. Except when rising from the ground, I do not recollect ever having seen one of these birds flap its wings. Near Lima, I watched several for nearly half an hour, without once taking off my eyes. They moved in large curves, sweeping in circles, descending and ascending without once flapping. As they glided close over my head, I intently watched, from an oblique position, the outlines of the separate and terminal feathers of the wing, if there had been the least vibratory movement, these would have been blended together, but they were seen distinct against the blue sky. The head and neck were moved frequently, and apparently with force, and it appeared as if the extended wings formed the fulcrum on which the movements of the neck, body, and tail, acted. If the bird wished to descend, the wings were for a moment collapsed; and then when again expanded with an altered inclination,

[page] 224 PATAGONIA. April, 1834.

the momentum gained by the rapid descent seemed to urge the bird upwards, with the even and steady movement of a paper kite. In the case of any bird soaring, its motion must be sufficiently rapid, so that the action of the inclined surface of its body on the atmosphere, may counterbalance its gravity. The force to keep up the momentum of a body moving in a horizontal plane in that fluid (in which there is so little friction) cannot be great, and this force is all that is wanted. The movement of the neck and body of the condor, we must suppose, is sufficient for this. However this may be, it is truly wonderful and beautiful to see so great a bird, hour after hour, without any apparent exertion, wheeling and gliding over mountain and river.

APRIL 29TH.—From some high land we hailed with joy the white summits of the Cordillera, as they were seen occasionally peeping through their dusky envelope of clouds. During the few succeeding days, we continued to get on slowly, for we found the river-course very tortuous, and strewed with immense fragments of various ancient slaty rocks, and of granite. The plain bordering the valley had here attained an elevation of about 1100 feet, and its character was much altered. The well-rounded pebbles of porphyry were in this part mingled with many immense angular fragments of basalt and of the rocks above mentioned. The first of these erratic blocks which I noticed, was sixty-seven miles distant from the nearest mountain; another which had been transported to rather a less distance, measured five yards square, and projected five feet above the gravel. Its edges were so angular, and its size so great, that I at first mistook it for a rock in situ, and took out my compass to observe the direction of its cleavage. The plains here were not quite so level as those nearer the coast, but yet, they betrayed little signs of any violent action. Under these circumstances, it would be difficult, as it appears to me, to explain this phenomenon on any theory, excepting through that of transport by ice while the country was under water. But this is a subject to which I shall again recur.

[page] 225 May, 1834. VALLEY OF ST. CRUZ.

During the two last days we met with signs of horses, and with several small articles which had belonged to the Indians,—such as parts of a mantle and a bunch of ostrich feathers—but they appeared to have been lying long on the ground. Between the place where the Indians had so lately crossed the river and this neighbourhood, though so many miles apart, the country appears to be quite unfrequented. At first, considering the abundance of the guanacoes, I was surprised at this; but it is explained by the stony nature of the plains, which would soon disable an unshod horse from taking part in the chase. Nevertheless, in two places in this very central region, I found small heaps of stones, which I do not think could have been accidentally thrown together. They were placed on points, projecting over the edge of the highest lava cliff, and they resembled, but on a small scale, those near Port Desire.

MAY 4TH.—Captain FitzRoy determined to take the boats no higher. The river had a winding course, and was very rapid; and the appearance of the country offered no temptation to proceed any further. Every where we met with the same productions, and the same dreary landscape. We were now one hundred and forty miles distant from the Atlantic, and about sixty from the nearest arm of the Pacific. The valley in this upper part expanded into a wide basin, bounded on the north and south by the basaltic platforms, and fronted by the long range of the snow-clad Cordillera. But we viewed these grand mountains with regret, for we were obliged to imagine their form and nature, instead of standing, as we had hoped, on their crest, and looking down on the plain below. Besides the useless loss of time which an attempt to ascend any higher would have cost us, we had already been for some days on half allowance of bread. This, although really enough for any reasonable men, was, after our hard day's march, rather scanty food. Let those alone who have never tried it, exclaim about the comfort of a light stomach and an easy digestion.

5TH.—Before sunrise we commenced our descent. We


[page] 226 PATAGONIA. May, 1834.

shot down the stream with great rapidity, generally at the rate of ten knots an hour. In this one day we effected what had cost us five-and-a-half hard days' labour in ascending. On the 8th, we reached the Beagle after our twenty-one days' expedition. Every one excepting myself had cause to be dissatisfied; but to me the ascent afforded a most interesting section of the great tertiary formation of Patagonia.

[page] 227


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival — Good Success Bay — Interview with savages — Scenery of the forests — Sir J. Banks's hill — Cape Horn — Wigwam Cove — Miserable condition of savages — Beagle channel — Fuegians — Ponsonby Sound — Equality of condition among natives — Bifurcation of Beagle channel — Glaciers — Return to ship.


DECEMBER 17TH, 1832.—Having now finished with Patagonia, I will describe our first arrival in Tierra del Fuego. A little after noon we doubled Cape St. Diego, and entered the famous strait of Le Maire. We kept close to the Fuegian shore, but the outline of the rugged, inhospitable Staten land was visible amidst the clouds. In the afternoon we anchored in the bay of Good Success. While entering we were saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of this savage land. A group of Fuegians partly concealed by the entangled forest, were perched on a wild point overhanging the sea; and as we passed by, they sprang up, and waving their tattered cloaks sent forth a loud and sonorous shout. The savages followed the ship, and just before dark we saw their fire, and again heard their wild cry. The harbour consists of a fine piece of water half surrounded by low rounded mountains of clay-slate, which are covered to the water's edge by one dense gloomy forest. A single glance at the landscape was sufficient to show me, how widely different it was from any thing I had ever beheld. At night it blew a gale of wind, and heavy squalls from the mountains swept past us. It would have been a bad time out at sea, and we, as well as others, may call this Good Success Bay.

In the morning, the Captain sent a party to communicate with the Fuegians. When we came within hail, one of the four natives who were present advanced to receive us, and

Q 2

[page] 228 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Dec. 1832.

began to shout most vehemently, wishing to direct us where to land. When we were on shore the party looked rather alarmed, but continued talking and making gestures with great rapidity. It was without exception the most curious and interesting spectacle I had ever beheld. I could not have believed how wide was the difference, between savage and civilized man. It is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, in as much as in man there is a greater power of improvement. The chief spokesman was old, and appeared to be the head of the family ; the three others were powerful young men, about six feet high. The women and children had been sent away. These Fuegians are a very different race from the stunted miserable wretches further to the westward. They are much superior in person, and seem closely allied to the famous Patagonians of the Strait of Magellan. Their only garment consists of a mantle made of guanaco skin, with the wool outside; this they wear just thrown over their shoulders, as often leaving their persons exposed as covered. Their skin is of a dirty coppery red colour.

The old man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head, which partly confined his black, coarse, and entangled hair. His face was crossed by two broad transverse bars; one painted bright red reached from ear to ear, and included the upper lip; the other, white like chalk, extended parallel and above the first, so that even his eyelids were thus coloured. Some of the other men were ornamented by streaks of black powder, made of charcoal. The party altogether closely resembled the devils which come on the stage in such plays as Der Freischutz.

Their very attitudes were abject, and the expression of their countenances distrustful, surprised, and startled. After we had presented them with some scarlet cloth, which they immediately tied round their necks, they became good friends. This was shown by the old man patting our breasts, and making a chuckling kind of noise, as people do when feeding chickens. I walked with the old man, and

[page] 229 Dec. 1832. FUEGIANS.

this demonstration of friendship was repeated several times; it was concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me on the breast and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom for me to return the compliment, which being done, he seemed highly pleased. The language of these people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called articulate. Captain Cook has compared it to a man clearing his throat, but certainly no European ever cleared his throat with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds.

They are excellent mimics: as often as we coughed or yawned, or made any odd motion, they immediately imitated us. Some of our party began to squint and look awry; but one of the young Fuegians (whose whole face was painted black, excepting a white band across his eyes) succeeded in making far more hideous grimaces. They could repeat with perfect correctness, each word in any sentence we addressed them, and they remembered such words for some time. Yet we Europeans all know how difficult it is to distinguish apart the sounds in a foreign language. Which of us, for instance, could follow an American Indian through a sentence of more than three words? All savages appear to possess, to an uncommon degree, this power of mimicry. I was told almost in the same words, of the same ludicrous habits among the Caffres: the Australians, likewise, have long been notorious for being able to imitate and describe the gait of any man, so that he may be recognised. How can this faculty be explained? is it a consequence of the more practised habits of perception and keener senses, common to all men in a savage state, as compared to those long civilized?

When a song was struck up by our party, I thought the Fuegians would have fallen down with astonishment. With equal surprise they viewed our dancing; but one of the young men, when asked, had no objection to a little waltzing. Little accustomed to Europeans as they appeared to be, yet they knew, and dreaded our fire-arms; nothing would tempt them to take a gun in their hands. They begged for

[page] 230 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Dec. 1832.

knives, calling them by the Spanish word "cuchilla." They explained also what they wanted, by acting as if they had a piece of blubber in their mouth, and then pretending to cut instead of tear it.

It was interesting to watch the conduct of these people towards Jemmy Button (one of the Fuegians* who had been taken, during the former voyage, to England): they immediately perceived the difference between him and the rest, and held much conversation between themselves on the subject. The old man addressed a long harangue to Jemmy, which it seems was to invite him to stay with them. But Jemmy understood very little of their language, and was, moreover, thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen. When York Minster (another of these men) came on shore, they noticed him in the same way, and told him he ought to shave; yet he had not twenty dwarf hairs on his face, whilst we all wore our untrimmed beards. They examined the colour of his skin, and compared it with ours. One of our arms being bared, they expressed the liveliest surprise and admiration at its whiteness. We thought that they mistook two or three of the officers, who were rather shorter and fairer (though adorned with large beards), for the ladies of our party. The tallest amongst the Fuegians was evidently much pleased at his height being noticed. When placed back to back with the tallest of the boat's crew, he tried his best to edge on higher ground, and to stand on tiptoe. He opened his mouth to show his teeth, and turned his face for a side view; and all this was done with such alacrity, that I dare say he thought himself the handsomest man in Tierra del Fuego. After the first feeling on our part of grave astonishment was over, nothing could be more ludicrous or interesting than the odd mixture of surprise and imitation which these savages every moment exhibited.

* Captain FitzRoy has given a history of these people. Four were taken to England; one died there, and the three others (two men and one woman) were now brought back and settled in their own country.

[page] 231 Dec. 1832. TIERRA DEL FUEGO.

The next day I attempted to penetrate some way into the country. Tierra del Fuego may be described as a mountainous country, partly submerged in the sea, so that deep islets and bays occupy the place where valleys should exist. The mountain sides (except on the exposed western coast) are covered from the water's edge upwards by one great forest. The trees reach to an elevation of between 1000 and 1500 feet; and are succeeded by a band of peat, with minute alpine plants; and this again is succeeded by the line of perpetual snow, which, according to Captain King, in the Strait of Magellan descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet. To find an acre of level land in any part of the country is most rare. I recollect only one little flat near Port Famine, and another of rather larger extent near Goeree Road. In both these cases, and in all others, the surface was covered by a thick bed of swampy peat. Even within the forest the ground is concealed by a mass of slowly putrefying vegetable matter, which, from being soaked with water, yields to the foot.

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way through the wood, I followed the course of a mountain torrent. At first, from the waterfalls and number of dead trees, I could hardly crawl along; but the bed of the stream soon became a little more open, from the floods having swept the sides. I continued slowly to advance for an hour along the broken and rocky banks; and was amply repaid by the grandeur of the scene. The gloomy depth of the ravine well accorded with the universal signs of violence. On every side were lying irregular masses of rock and up-torn trees; other trees, though still erect, were decayed to the heart and ready to fall. The entangled mass of the thriving and the fallen reminded me of the forests within the tropics;—yet there was a difference; for in these still solitudes, Death, instead of Life, seemed the predominant spirit. I followed the watercourse till I came to a spot where a great slip had cleared a straight space down the mountain side. By this road I ascended to a considerable elevation, and obtained a good view of the surrounding woods. The trees all belong to one kind,

[page] 232 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Dec. 1832.

the Fagus betuloides, for the number of the other species of beech, and of the Winter's bark, is quite inconsiderable. This tree keeps its leaves throughout the year; but its foliage is of a peculiar brownish-green colour, with a tinge of yellow. As the whole landscape is thus coloured, it has a sombre, dull appearance; nor is it often enlivened by the rays of the sun.

DECEMBER 20TH.—One side of the harbour is formed by a hill about 1500 feet high, which Captain FitzRoy has called after Sir J. Banks, in commemoration of his disastrous excursion, which proved fatal to two of his party, and nearly so to Dr. Solander. The snowstorm, which was the cause of their misfortune, happened in the middle of January, corresponding to our July, and in the latitude of Durham! I was anxious to reach the summit of this mountain to collect alpine plants; for flowers of any kind, in the lower part, were few in number. We followed the same watercourse as on the previous day, till it dwindled away, and then were compelled to crawl blindly among the trees. These, from the effects of the elevation, and of the impetuous winds, were low, thick, and crooked. At length we reached that which from a distance appeared like a carpet of fine green turf, but which, to our vexation, turned out to be a compact mass of little beech-trees about four or five feet high. These were as thick together as box in the border of a flower-garden, and we were obliged to struggle over the flat but treacherous surface. After a little more trouble we gained the peat, and then the bare slate rock.

A ridge connected this hill with another, distant some miles, and more lofty, so that patches of snow were lying on it. As the day was not far advanced, I determined to walk there and collect along the road. It would have been very hard work, had it not been for a well-beaten and straight path made by the guanacoes; for these animals, like sheep, always follow the same line. When we reached the hill we found it the highest in the immediate neighbourhood, and the waters flowed to the sea in opposite directions. We obtained a

[page] 233 Dec. 1832. CAPE HORN.

wide view over the surrounding country: to the northward a swampy moorland extended, but to the southward we had a scene of savage magnificence, well becoming Tierra del Fuego. There was a degree of mysterious grandeur in mountain behind mountain, with the deep intervening valleys, all covered by one thick, dusky mass of forest. The atmosphere, likewise, in this climate (where gale succeeds gale, with rain, hail, and sleet), seems blacker than any where else. In the Strait of Magellan looking due south from Port Famine, the distant channels between the mountains appear from their gloominess to lead beyond the confines of this world.

DECEMBER 21ST.—The Beagle got under way: and on the succeeding day, favoured to an uncommon degree by a fine easterly breeze, we closed in with the Barnevelts, and, running past Cape Deceit with its stony peaks, about three o'clock doubled the weatherbeaten Cape Horn. The evening was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view of the surrounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute, and before night sent us a gale of wind directly in our teeth. We stood out to sea, and on the second day again made the land, when we saw on our weather-bow this notorious promontory in its proper form—veiled in a mist, and its dim outline surrounded by a storm of wind and water. Great black clouds were rolling across the heavens, and squalls of rain, with hail, swept by us with extreme violence; so that the captain determined to run into Wigwam Cove. This is a snug little harbour, not far from Cape Horn; and here, at Christmas-eve, we anchored in smooth water. The only thing which reminded us of the gale outside, was every now and then a puff from the mountains, which seemed to wish to blow us out of the water.

DECEMBER 25TH.—Close by the cove, a pointed hill, called Kater's Peak, rises to the height of 1700 feet. The surrounding islands all consist of conical masses of greenstone, associated sometimes with less regular hills of baked

[page] 234 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Dec. 1832.

and altered clay-slate. This part of Tierra del Fuego may be considered as the extremity of the submerged chain of mountains already alluded to. The cove takes its name of "Wigwam" from some of the Fuegian habitations; but every bay in the neighbourhood might be so called with equal propriety. The inhabitants living chiefly upon shell-fish, are obliged constantly to change their place of residence; but they return at intervals to the same spots, as is evident from the pile of old shells, which must often amount to some tons in weight. These heaps can be distinguished at a long distance by the bright green colour of certain plants, which invariably grow on them. Among these may be enumerated the wild celery and scurvy grass, two very serviceable plants, the use of which has not been discovered by the natives.

The Fuegian wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions, a haycock. It merely consists of a few broken branches stuck in the ground, and very imperfectly thatched on one side with a few tufts of grass and rushes. The whole cannot be so much as the work of an hour, and it is only used for a few days. At Goeree Roads I saw a place where one of these naked men had slept, which absolutely offered no more cover than the form of a hare. The man was evidently living by himself, and York Minster said he was "very bad man," and that probably he had stolen something. On the west coast, however, the wigwams are rather better, for they are covered with seal-skins. We were detained here several days by the bad weather. The climate is certainly wretched; the summer solstice was now passed, yet every day snow fell on the hills, and in the valleys there was rain, accompanied by sleet. The thermometer generally stood about 45°, but in the night fell to 38° or 40°. From the damp and boisterous state of the atmosphere, not cheered by a gleam of sunshine, one fancied the climate even worse than it really was.

At a subsequent period the Beagle anchored for a couple of days under Wollaston Island, which is a short way to the northward. While going on shore we pulled alongside a

[page] 235 Dec. 1832. INHABITANTS.

canoe with six Fuegians. These were the most abject and miserable creatures I any where beheld.* On the east coast the natives, as we have seen, have guanaco cloaks, and on the west, they possess seal-skins. Amongst these central tribes the men generally possess an otter-skin, or some small scrap about as large as a pocket-handkerchief, which is barely sufficient to cover their backs as low down as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side. But these Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even one full-grown woman was absolutely so. It was raining heavily, and the fresh water, together with the spray, trickled down her body. In another harbour not far distant, a woman, who was suckling a recently-born child, came one day alongside the vessel, and remained there whilst the sleet fell and thawed on her naked bosom, and on the skin of her naked child. These poor wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices discordant, their gestures violent and without dignity. Viewing such men, one can hardly make oneself believe they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants of the same world. It is a common subject of conjecture what pleasure in life some of the less gifted animals can enjoy: how much more reason-

* I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. The South Sea islander of either race is comparatively civilized. The Esquimaux, in his subterranean hut, enjoys some of the comforts of life, and in his canoe, when fully equipped, manifests much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern Africa, prowling about in search of roots, and living concealed on the wild and arid plains, are sufficiently wretched. But the Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest the Fuegian. He can, however, boast of his boomerang, his spear and throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, tracking animals, and scheme of hunting. Although thus superior in acquirements, it by no means follows that he should likewise be so in capabilities. Indeed, from what we saw of the Fuegians, who were taken to England, I should think the case was the reverse.

[page] 236 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Dec. 1832.

ably the same question may be asked with respect to these barbarians. At night, five or six human beings, naked and scarcely protected from the wind and rain of this tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet ground coiled up like animals. Whenever it is low water, they must rise to pick shell-fish from the rocks; and the women, winter and summer, either dive to collect sea eggs, or sit patiently in their canoes, and, with a baited hair-line, jerk out small fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale discovered, it is a feast: such miserable food is assisted by a few tasteless berries and fungi. Nor are they exempt from famine, and, as a consequence, cannibalism accompanied by parricide.

The tribes have no government or head, yet each is surrounded by other hostile ones, speaking different dialects; and the cause of their warfare would appear to be the means of subsistence. Their country is a broken mass of wild rock, lofty hills, and useless forests: and these are viewed through mists and endless storms. The habitable land is reduced to the stones which form the beach; in search of food they are compelled to wander from spot to spot, and so steep is the coast, that they can only move about in their wretched canoes. They cannot know the feeling of having a home, and still less that of domestic affection; unless indeed the treatment of a master to a laborious slave can be considered as such. How little can the higher powers of the mind be brought into play! What is there for imagination to picture, for reason to compare, for judgment to decide upon? to knock a limpet from the rock does not even require cunning, that lowest power of the mind. Their skill in some respects may be compared to the instinct of animals; for it is not improved by experience: the canoe, their most ingenious work, poor as it is, has remained the same, for the last two hundred and fifty years.

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have they come? What could have tempted, or what change compelled a tribe of men to leave the fine regions of

[page] 237 Jan. 1833. INHABITANTS.

the north, to travel down the Cordillera or backbone of America, to invent and build canoes, and then to enter on one of the most inhospitable countries within the limits of the globe? Although such reflections must at first occupy one's mind, yet we may feel sure that many of them are quite erroneous. There is no reason to believe that the Fuegians decrease in number; therefore we must suppose that they enjoy a sufficient share of happiness (of whatever kind it may be) to render life worth having. Nature by making habit omnipotent, and its effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the climate and the productions of his country.

JANUARY 15TH, 1833.—The Beagle anchored in Goeree Roads. Captain FitzRoy having determined to settle the Fuegians, according to their wishes, in Ponsonby Sound, four boats were equipped to carry them there through the Beagle channel. This channel which was discovered by Captain FitzRoy during the last voyage, is a most remarkable feature in the geography of this, or indeed of any other country. Its length is about 120 miles with an average breadth, not subject to any very great variations, of about two miles. It is throughout the greater part so extremely straight, that the view, bounded on each side by a line of mountains, gradually becomes indistinct in the perspective. This arm of the sea may be compared to the valley of Lochness in Scotland, with its chain of lakes and entering friths. At some future epoch the resemblance perhaps will become complete. Already in one part we have proofs of a rising of the land in a line of cliff, or terrace, composed of coarse sandstone, mud, and shingle, which forms both shores. The Beagle channel crosses the southern part of Tierra del Fuego in an east and west line; in its middle, it is joined on the south side by an irregular channel at right angles to it, which has been called Ponsonby Sound. This is the residence of Jemmy Button's tribe and family.

JANUARY 19TH.—Three whale boats and the yawl, with a

[page] 238 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Jan. 1833.

party of twenty-eight, started under the command of Captain FitzRoy. In the afternoon we entered the eastern mouth of the channel, and shortly afterwards found a snug little cove, concealed by some surrounding islets. Here we pitched our tents, and lighted our fires. Nothing could look more comfortable than this scene. The glassy water of the little harbour, with the trees sending their branches over the rocky beach, the boats at anchor, the tents supported by the crossed oars, and the smoke curling up the wooded valley, formed a picture of quiet retirement. The next day (20th) we smoothly glided onwards in our little fleet, and came to a more inhabited district. Few if any of these natives could ever have seen a white man; certainly nothing could exceed their astonishment at the apparition of the four boats. Fires were lighted on every point (hence the name of the land), both to attract our attention, and to spread far and wide the news. Some of the men ran for miles along the shore. As we passed under one cliff, four or five men suddenly appeared above us, forming the most wild and savage group that can be imagined. They were absolutely naked, with long streaming hair, and with rugged staffs in their hands: springing from the ground they waved their arms around their heads, and sent forth the most hideous yells.

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. At first they were not inclined to be friendly; for until the captain pulled in ahead of the other boats, they kept their slings in their hands. We soon, however, delighted them by trifling presents, such as tying red tape round their heads. It was as easy to please, as it was difficult to satisfy these savages. Young and old, men and children, never ceased repeating the word "yammerschooner," which means "give me." After pointing to almost every object, one after the other, even to the buttons on our coats, and saying their favourite word in as many intonations as possible, they would then use it in a neuter sense, and vacantly repeat "yammerschooner." After yammerschoonering for any article very eagerly, they would

[page] 239 Jan. 1833. BEAGLE CHANNEL.

by a simple artifice point to their young women or little children, as much as to say, "If you will not give it me, surely you will to such as these?"

At night we endeavoured in vain to find an uninhabited cove; and at last were obliged to bivouac not far from a party of natives. They were very inoffensive as long as they were few in numbers, but in the morning (21st) being joined by others they showed symptoms of hostility. An European labours under great disadvantages, when treating with savages like these, who have not the least idea of the power of fire-arms. In the very act of levelling his musket, he appears to the savage far inferior to a man armed with a bow and arrow, a spear, or even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them our superiority except by striking a fatal blow. Like wild beasts they do not appear in all cases to compare numbers; for each individual if attacked, instead of retiring, will endeavour to dash your brains out with a stone, as certainly as a tiger under similar circumstances would tear you. Captain FitzRoy on one occasion, being very anxious from good reasons to frighten away a small party, twice fired his pistol close by the side of a native. The man both times looked astounded, and carefully but quickly rubbed his head; he then stared awhile, and gabbled to his companions; but he never seemed to think of running away. We can hardly put ourselves in the position of these savages, to understand their actions. In the case of the Fuegian, the possibility of such a sound as the report of a gun close to his ear, could never have entered his mind. He perhaps literally did not for a second know whether it was a sound or a blow, and therefore very naturally rubbed his head. In a similar manner, when a savage sees a mark struck by a bullet, it may be some time before he is able at all to understand how it is effected; for the fact of a body being invisible from its velocity, would perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. Moreover, the extreme force of a bullet, that penetrates a hard substance without tearing it, may convince the savage that it has no force at all. Certainly I believe that many savages of the lowest grade,

[page] 240 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Jan. 1833.

such as these of Tierra del Fuego, have seen objects struck, and even small animals killed by the musket, without being in the least aware how deadly an instrument it was.

22D.—After having passed an unmolested night, in what would appear to be neutral territory. between Jemmy's tribe and the people we saw yesterday, we sailed pleasantly along. The scenery in this part had a peculiar and very magnificent character; although the effect was lessened from the lowness of the point of view in a boat, and from looking down the valley and hence losing all the beauty of a succession of ridges. The mountains attained an elevation of about 3000 feet, and were terminated by sharp and jagged points. They rose in one unbroken sweep from the water's edge, and were covered to the height of fourteen or fifteen hundred feet by the dusky-coloured forest. It was most curious to observe, how level and truly horizontal the line on the mountain side was, as far as the eye could range, at which trees ceased to grow. It precisely resembled the high-water mark of drift weed on a sea-beach.

At night we slept close to the junction of Ponsonby Sound with the Beagle channel. A small family of Fuegians, who were living in the cove, were very quiet and inoffensive, and soon joined our party round the blazing fire. We were well clothed, and though sitting close to the fire, were far from too warm; yet these naked savages, though further off, were observed to our great surprise, to be streaming with perspiration at undergoing such a roasting. They seemed, however, very well pleased, and all joined in the chorus of the seamen's songs: but the manner in which they were invariably a little behindhand was quite ludicrous.

During the night the news had spread, and early in the morning (23d) a fresh party arrived. Several of them had run so fast that their noses were bleeding, and their mouths frothed from the rapidity with which they talked, and with their naked bodies all bedaubed with black, white, and red, they looked like so many demoniacs who had been fighting. We then proceeded down Ponsonby Sound to the spot

[page] 241 Jan. 1833. BEAGLE CHANNEL.

where poor Jemmy expected to find his mother and relations. We staid there five days. Captain FitzRoy has given an account of all the interesting events which there happened.

During the succeeding year we paid another visit to the Fuegians, and the Beagle herself followed the same course which I have just described as having been taken in the boats. I was amused by finding what a difference the circumstance of being quite superior in force made, in the interest of beholding these savages. While in the boats I got to hate the very sound of their voices, so much trouble did they give us. The first and last word was "yammerschooner." When, entering some quiet little cove, we have looked round and thought to pass a quiet night, the odious word "yammerschooner" has shrilly sounded from some gloomy nook, and then the little signal smoke has curled upwards to spread the news. On leaving some place we have said to each other, "Thank Heaven, we have at last fairly left these wretches !" when one more faint halloo from an all-powerful voice, heard at a prodigious distance, would reach our ears, and clearly could we distinguish—"yammerschooner." But on the latter occasion, the more Fuegians the merrier; and very merry work it was. Both parties laughing, wondering, gaping at each other; we pitying them, for giving us good fish and crabs for rags, &c.; they grasping at the chance of finding people so foolish as to exchange such splendid ornaments for a good supper. It was most amusing to see the undisguised smile of satisfaction with which one young woman, with her face painted black, tied with rushes several bits of scarlet cloth round her head. Her husband, who enjoyed the very universal privilege in this country of possessing two wives, evidently became jealous of all the attention paid to his young wife; and, after a consultation with his naked beauties, was paddled away by them.

Some of the Fuegians plainly showed that they had a fair idea of barter. I gave one man a large nail (a most valuable present) without making any signs for a return; but he immediately picked out two fish, and handed them up on the


[page] 242 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Jan. 1833.

point of his spear. If any present was designed for one canoe, and it fell near another, it was invariably given to the right owner. We were always much surprised at the little notice, or rather none whatever, which was evinced respecting many things, even such as boats, the use of which must have been evident. Simple circumstances,—such as the whiteness of our skins, the beauty of scarlet cloth or blue beads, the absence of women, our care in washing ourselves,—excited their admiration far more than any grand or complicated object, such as the ship. Bougainville has remarked concerning these very people that they treat the "chef d'œuvres de l'industrie humaine, comme ils traitent les loix de la nature et ses phénomènes."

The perfect equality among the individuals composing these tribes, must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilized always have the most artificial governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at a far higher grade than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders,—who although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantages, such as the domesticated animals or other valuable presents, it seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise till there is property of some sort by which he might manifest and still increase his authority.

JANUARY 28TH.—In the evening, Captain FitzRoy sent two boats back to the ship from Ponsonby Sound, and with

[page] 243 Jan. 1833. BEAGLE CHANNEL.

the two others proceeded to survey the western end of the Beagle channel. The view in this central part was very remarkable. Looking towards either hand, no object intercepted the vanishing points of this long canal of the mountains. The circumstance of its being an arm of the sea was rendered very evident by several huge whales spouting in different directions. On one occasion I saw two of these monsters, probably male and female, slowly swimming one after the other, within less than a stone's throw of the shore, over which the beech extended its branches.

We sailed on till it was dark, and then pitched our tents in a quiet creek. The greatest luxury here is to find a beach of pebbles, for they are both dry and yield to the body. The peaty soil is damp; rock is uneven and hard; sand gets into one's meat, when cooked and eaten boat-fashion; but when lying in our blanket bags, on a good bed of smooth pebbles, we passed most comfortable nights.

It was my watch till one o'clock. There is something very solemn in these scenes. At no time does the consciousness in what a remote corner of the world you are then buried, come so strongly before your mind. Every thing tends to this effect; the stillness of the night is interrupted only by the heavy breathing of the seamen beneath the tents, and sometimes by the cry of a night bird. The occasional barking also of a dog, heard in the distance, reminds one that it is the land of the savage.

29TH.—Early in the morning we arrived at the point where the Beagle channel divides itself into two arms; and we entered the northern one. The scenery here becomes even grander than before. The lofty mountains on the north side compose the granitic axis, or backbone of the whole country. They were covered by a wide mantle of perpetual snow, and numerous cascades poured their waters, through the woods, into the narrow channel below. In many parts magnificent glaciers extended from the mountain side to the water's edge. It is scarcely possible to imagine any thing more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of the glacier, and especially when

R 2

[page] 244 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Jan. 1833.

contrasted with the dead white of an expanse of snow. As fragments fell from the glacier into the water, they floated away, and the channel with its icebergs represented in miniature the polar sea. When we reached the western mouth of this branch of the channel, we sailed amongst many unknown islands, and then proceeded by the outer coast to the entrance of the other arm. Thence we returned to Ponsonby Sound, saw the Fuegians, and arrived at the ship after our twenty-days' excursion.

[page] 245


Falkland Islands — Excursion round island — Aspect — Cattle, horses, rabbit, wolf-like fox — Fire made of bones — Art in making fire — Manner of hunting wild cattle — Geology, fossil shells — Valleys filled with great fragments, scenes of violence — Penguin — Geese — Eggs of doris — Zoophytes, coralline phosphorescent — Compound animals.


MARCH 16TH, 1834.—The Beagle anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island.* This archipelago is situated in nearly the same latitude as the mouth of the Strait of Magellan. It covers a space of about 120 by 60 geographical miles, and is a little more than half the size of Ireland. After the possession of these miserable islands had been contested by France, Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited. The government of Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private individual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done before, for a penal settlement. England claimed her right and seized them. The Englishman who was left in charge of the flag was consequently murdered. A British officer was next sent, unsupported by any power : and when we arrived, we found him in charge of a population, of which rather more than half were runaway rebels and murderers.

The theatre is worthy of the scenes acted on it. An undulating land, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is every where covered by a peaty soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous brown colour. Here and there a peak or ridge of gray quartz rock, breaks through the smooth surface. Every one has heard of the climate of these regions; it may be compared to that which is experienced at the height of between one and two thousand feet, on the mountains of North

* In the same month, also, of the previous year, the Beagle visited these islands.

[page] 246 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

Wales; having however less sunshine and less frost, but more wind and rain.

MARCH 16TH.—I will now describe a short excursion which I made round a part of this island. In the morning I started with six horses and two Gauchos: the latter were capital men for the purpose, and well accustomed to living on their own resources. The weather was very boisterous and cold, with heavy hailstorms. We got on, however, pretty well; but excepting in the geology, nothing could be less interesting than our day's ride. The country is uniformly the same undulating moorland; the surface being covered by light brown withered grass and a few very small shrubs, all springing out of an elastic peaty soil. In the valleys here and there might be seen a small flock of wild geese, and every where the ground was so soft, that the snipe was able to feed. Besides these two kinds of birds, there were few others. There is one main range of hills, nearly two thousand feet in height, and composed of quartz rock, the rugged and barren crests of which gave us some trouble to cross. On the south side we came to the best country for wild cattle; we met however no great number, for they had lately been much harassed.

In the evening we came across a small herd. One of my companions, St. Jago by name, soon separated a fat cow; he threw the bolas, and it struck her legs, but failed in becoming entangled. Then dropping his hat to mark the spot where the balls were left, while at full gallop he uncoiled his lazo, and after a most severe chase, again came up to the cow, and caught her round the horns. The other Gaucho had gone on ahead with the horses, so that St. Jago had some difficulty in killing the furious beast. He managed to get her on a level piece of ground, by taking advantage of her as often as she rushed at him; and when she would not move, my horse, from having been trained, would canter up, and with his chest give her a violent push. But when on level ground it does not appear an easy job for one man to kill a beast mad with terror. Nor would it be so, if

[page] 247 March, 1834. WILD CATTLE.

the horse, when left to itself without its rider, did not soon learn, for its own safety, to keep the lazo tight; so that, if the animal moves forward, the horse moves just as quickly so much away; otherwise, it stands motionless leaning on one side. This horse, however, was a young one, and would not stand still, but gave in to the cow as she struggled. It was admirable to see with what dexterity St. Jago dodged behind the beast, till at last he contrived to give the fatal touch to the main tendon of the hind leg; after which, driving his knife into the head of the spinal marrow, the cow dropped as if struck by lightning. He cut off pieces of flesh with the skin to it, but without any bones, sufficient for our expedition. We then rode on to our sleeping-place, and had for supper "carne con cuero," or meat roasted with the skin on it. This is as superior to common beef, as venison is to mutton. A large circular piece taken from the back, is roasted on the embers with the hide downwards and in the form of a saucer, so that none of the gravy is lost. If any worthy alderman had supped with us that evening, "carne con cuero," without doubt, would soon have been celebrated in London.

During the night it rained, and the next day (17th) was very stormy, with much hail and snow. We rode across the island to the neck of land which joins the Rincon del Toro (the great peninsula at the S.W. extremity) to the rest of the island. From the greater number of cows which have been killed, there is a large proportion of bulls. These wander about by twos and threes, or by themselves, and are very savage. I never saw such magnificent beasts; they truly resembled the ancient sculptures, in which the size of the neck and head is but seldom equalled among tame animals. The young bulls ran away for a short distance, but the old ones did not stir a step, except to rush at man and horse; and many of the latter have thus been killed. One old bull crossed a boggy stream, and took up his stand on the opposite side to us. We in vain tried to drive him away, and failing, were obliged to make a large circuit. The Gauchos in revenge

[page] 248 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

determined to render him for the future innocuous. It was very interesting to see how art completely mastered force. One lazo was thrown over his horns, as he rushed at the horse, and another round his hind legs: in a minute the monster was stretched harmless on the ground. After the lazo has once been tightly drawn round the horns of a furious animal, it does not at first appear an easy thing to disengage it again; nor, I apprehend, would it be so, if the man was by himself, and he did not wish to kill the beast. By the aid, however, of a second person throwing his lazo, so as to catch both hind legs, it is quickly managed: for the animal, as long as its hind legs are kept outstretched, is quite powerless, and the first man can with his hands loosen his lazo, and then quietly mount his horse; but the moment the second man, by backing ever so little, relaxes the strain, the lazo slips off the legs of the struggling beast, which thus rises free, shakes himself, and vainly rushes after his antagonist.

During our whole ride we only saw one troop of wild horses. These animals, as well as the cattle, were introduced by the French in 1764, since which time they have greatly increased. It is a curious fact, that the horses have never left the eastern end of the island, although there is no natural boundary to prevent them from roaming, and that part of the island is not more tempting than the rest. The Gauchos, though asserting this to be the case, are unable to account for the circumstance. The horses appear to thrive well, yet they are small sized, and have lost so much strength, that they are unfit to be used in taking wild cattle with the lazo. In consequence, it is necessary to go to the great expense of importing fresh horses from the Plata. At some future period the southern hemisphere probably will have its breed of Falkland ponies, as the northern has that of Shetland.

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced, and has succeeded very well; so that they abound over large parts of the island. Yet, like the horses, they are confined

[page] 249 March, 1834. WILD ANIMALS.

within certain limits; for they have not crossed the central chain of hills; nor would they have extended even so far as the base, if, as the Gauchos informed me, small colonies had not been carried there. I should not have supposed that these animals, natives of northern Africa, could have existed in a climate so extremely humid as this, and which enjoys so little sunshine that even wheat ripens only occasionally. It is asserted that in Sweden, which any one would have thought a more favourable climate, the rabbit cannot live out of doors. The first few pair moreover had here to contend against pre-existing enemies, in the fox, and some large hawks. The French naturalists have considered the black variety a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellanicus.* They imagined that Magellan, when talking of an animal under the name of "conejos," in the Strait of Magellan, referred to this species; but he was alluding to a small cavy, which to this day is thus called. The Gauchos laughed at the idea of the black kind being different from the gray, and they said that at all events it had not extended its range any further than the other; that the two were never found separate; and that they readily bred together, and produced piebald offspring. Of the latter I now possess a specimen, and it is marked about the head, differently from the French specific description. This circumstance shows how cautious naturalists should be in making species; for even Cuvier, on looking at the skull of one of these rabbits, thought it was probably distinct.

The only quadruped native to the island, is a large wolf-like fox,† which is common to both East and West Falkland. I

* Lesson's Zoology of the Voyage of the Coquille, vol. i., p. 168. All the early voyagers, and especially Bougainville, distinctly state that the wolf-like fox was the only native animal on the island. The distinction of this rabbit as a species, is taken from peculiarities in the fur, from the shape of the head, and from the shortness of the ears. I may here observe that the difference between the Irish and English hare, rests upon nearly similar characters, only more strongly marked.

† I have reason to believe there is likewise a field-mouse. The com-

[page] 250 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

have no doubt it is a peculiar species, and confined to this archipelago; because many sealers, Gauchos, and Indians, who have visited these islands, all maintain that no such animal is found in any part of South America. Molina, from a similarity in habits, thought this was the same with his "cul-peu;"* but I have seen both, and they are quite distinct. These wolves are well known, from Byron's account of their tameness and curiosity; which the sailors, who ran into the water to avoid them, mistook for fierceness. To this day their manners remain the same. They have been observed to enter a tent, and actually pull some meat from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. The Gauchos, also, have frequently killed them in the evening, by holding out a piece of meat in one hand, and in the other a knife ready to stick them. As far as I am aware, there is no other instance in any part of the world, of so small a mass of broken land, distant from a continent, possessing so large a quadruped peculiar to itself. Their numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already banished from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of the neck of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkeley Sound. Within a very few years after these islands shall have become regularly settled, in all probability this fox will be classed with the dodo, as an animal which has perished from the face of the earth. Mr. Lowe, an intelligent person who has long been acquainted with these islands, assured me, that all the foxes from the western island were smaller and of a redder colour than those from the eastern. In the four specimens which were brought to England in the Beagle† there was some variation, but the difference with respect to

mon European rat and mouse have roamed from the habitations, and have settled themselves at various points. The common hog has also run wild.

* The "culpeu" is the Vulpes Magellanicus brought home by Captain King from the Strait of Magellan. It is common in Chile.

† Captain FitzRoy has presented two of these foxes to the British Museum, where Mr. Gray had the kindness to compare them in my presence.

[page] 251 March, 1834. FALKLAND ISLANDS.

the islands could not be perceived. At the same time the fact is far from improbable.

At night (17th) we slept on the neck of land which forms the south-west peninsula. The valley was pretty well sheltered from the cold wind; but there was very little brushwood for fuel. The Gauchos, however, soon found what, to my great surprise, made nearly as hot a fire as coals; this was the skeleton of a bullock lately killed, from which the flesh had been picked by the Caracaras. They told me that in winter they had often killed a beast, cleaned the flesh from the bones with their knives, and then with these same bones roasted the meat for their suppers.

18TH.—It rained during nearly the whole day. At night we managed, however, with our saddle-cloths, to keep ourselves pretty well dry and warm; but the ground on which we slept was on each occasion nearly in the state of a bog, and there was not a dry spot to sit down on after our day's ride. I have in another part stated how singular it is that trees should be entirely absent from these islands, while they cover the whole surface of Tierra del Fuego. The largest bush in the island (belonging to the family of Compositæ) is scarcely so tall as our gorze. The best fuel is afforded by a green little bush, about the size of common heath, which has the useful property of burning while fresh and green. It was very surprising to see the Gauchos, in the midst of rain, and every thing soaking wet, with nothing more than a tinder-box and piece of rag, immediately make a fire. They sought beneath the tufts of grass and bushes for a few dry twigs, and these they rubbed into fibres; then surrounding them with coarser twigs, something like a bird's nest, they put the rag with its spark of fire in the middle, and covered it up. The nest being then held up to the wind, by degrees it smoked more and more, and at last burst out in flames. I do not think any other method would have had a chance of succeeding with such damp materials.

19TH.—Each morning, from not having ridden for some time previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to hear

[page] 252 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

the Gauchos, who have from infancy almost lived on horseback, say that, under similar circumstances, they always suffer. St. Jago told me, that having been confined for three months by illness, he went out hunting wild cattle, and in consequence, for the next two days, his thighs were so stiff that he was obliged to lie in bed. This shows that the Gauchos, although they do not appear to do so, yet really must exert much muscular effort in riding. The hunting wild cattle, in a country so difficult to pass as this is on account of the swampy ground, must be very hard work. The Gauchos say they often pass at full speed over ground which would be impassable at a slower pace; in the same manner as a man is able to skate across thin ice. When hunting, the party endeavours to get as close as possible to the herd without being discovered. Each man carries four or five pair of the bolas; these he throws one after the other at as many cattle, which, when once entangled, are left for some days, till they become a little exhausted by hunger and struggling. They are then let free and driven towards a small herd of tame animals, which have been brought to the spot on purpose. From their previous treatment, being too much terrified to leave the herd, they are easily driven, if their strength lasts out, to the settlement.

The weather continued so very bad, that we determined to make a push, and try to reach the vessel before night. From the quantity of rain which had fallen, the surface of the whole country was swampy. I suppose my horse fell at least a dozen times, and sometimes the whole six were floundering in the mud together. All the little streams are bordered by soft peat, which makes it very difficult for the horses to leap them without falling. To complete our discomforts, we were obliged to cross the head of a creek, in which the water was as high as the backs of the horses, and the little waves, owing to the violence of the wind, broke over us, and made us very wet and cold. Even the iron-framed Gauchos professed themselves glad when they reached the settlement, after our little excursion.

[page] 253 March, 1834. GEOLOGY.

The geological structure of these islands is in most respects simple. The lower country consists of clay-slate and sandstone associated together, and the hills of white granular quartz rock. The strata of the latter are frequently arched with perfect symmetry, and the appearance of some of the masses is in consequence most singular. Pernety* has devoted several pages to the description of a hill of ruins, the successive strata of which he has justly compared to the seats of an amphitheatre. The quartz rock must have been quite pasty when it underwent such remarkable flexure without being shattered into fragments. As a passage between the quartz and the sandstone can be traced, it seems probable that the former owes its origin to the sandstone having been heated to such an excess, that it became viscid, and upon cooling crystallized. While in the soft state it must have been pushed up through the overlying beds.

The sandstone and clay-slate contain numerous casts of organic remains. These chiefly consist of shells allied to terebratula, of encrinites, of a branching coral divided into alternate compartments, and lastly, of an obscure impression of the lobes of a trilobite. These fossils possess great interest, because none hitherto have been brought to Europe from a latitude nearly so far south. Mr. Murchison, who had the kindness to look at my specimens, says that they have a close general resemblance to those belonging to the lower division of his Silurian system; and Mr. James Sowerby is of opinion that some of the species are identical. This would be a most remarkable circumstance in the ancient natural history of the world; for shells now living in latitude 50° on opposite sides of the equator, are totally distinct. From the similarity of the Falkland fossils with those in England which are associated with remains that indicate a climate of a tropical character, we may I presume infer that, during this same epoch, nearly the whole world was thus circumstanced.

* Pernety, Voyage aux Isles Malouines, p. 526.

[page] 254 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

In many parts of the island, the bottoms of the valleys are covered in an extraordinary manner, by myriads of great angular fragments of the quartz rock. These have been mentioned with surprise by every voyager since the time of Pernety. The whole may be called "a stream of stones." The blocks vary in size, from that of a man's chest to ten or twenty times as large, and occasionally they altogether exceed such measures. Their edges show no signs of being water-worn, but are only a little blunted. They do not occur thrown together in irregular piles, but are spread out into level sheets, or great streams. It is not possible to ascertain their thickness, but the water of small streamlets could be heard trickling through the stones many feet below the surface. The actual depth is probably much greater, because the crevices between the lower fragments must long ago have been filled up with sand, and the bed of the rivulet thus raised. The width of these beds varies from a few hundred feet to a mile; but the peaty soil daily encroaches on the borders, and even forms islets wherever a few fragments happen to lie close together. In a valley south of Berkeley Sound, which some of our party called the "great valley of fragments" it was necessary to cross an uninterrupted band half a mile wide, by jumping from one pointed stone to another. So large were the fragments, that being overtaken by a shower of rain, I readily found good shelter beneath one of them.

Their little inclination is the most remarkable circumstance in these "streams of stones." On the hill-sides I have seen them sloping at an angle of ten degrees with the horizon; but in some of the level, broad-bottomed valleys, the inclination is only just sufficient to be clearly perceived. On so rugged a surface there was no means of measuring the angle; but to give a common illustration, I may say that the slope alone would not have checked the speed of an English mail-coach. In some places, a continuous stream of these fragments followed up the course of a valley, and even extended to the very crest of the hill. On these

[page] 255 March, 1834. STREAMS OF STONES.

crests huge masses, exceeding in dimensions any small building, seemed to stand arrested in their headlong course: there, also, the curved strata of the archways lay piled over each other, like the ruins of some vast and ancient cathedral. In endeavouring to describe these scenes of violence, one is tempted to pass from one simile to another. We may imagine, that streams of white lava had flowed from many parts of the mountains into the lower country, and that, when consolidated, they had been rent by some enormous convulsion into myriads of fragments. The expression, "streams of stones" which immediately occurred to every one, conveyed the same idea. These scenes are, on the spot, rendered more striking, by the contrast of the low, rounded forms of the neighbouring hills.

I was much interested by finding on the highest peak of one range (about 700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment, lying on its convex or upper surface. Must we believe that it was fairly pitched up in the air, and thus turned? Or, with more probability, that there existed formerly a part of the same range more elevated than the point on which this monument of a great convulsion of nature now lies. As the fragments in the valleys are neither rounded nor the crevices filled up with sand, we must infer that the period of violence was subsequent to the land having been raised above the waters of the sea. In a transverse section within these valleys the bottom is nearly level, or rises but very little towards either side. Hence the fragments appear to have travelled from the head of the valley; but in reality it seems most probable, either that they have been hurled down from the nearest slopes, or that masses of rock were broken up in the position they formerly occupied; and that since, by a vibratory movement of overwhelming force,* the

* "Nous n'avons pas été moins saisis d'étonnement à la vue de l'innombrable quantité de pierres de toutes grandeurs, bouleversées les unes sur les autres, et cependant rangées, comme si elles avoient été amoncelées négligemment pour remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les effets prodigieux de la nature."— Pernety, p. 526.

[page] 256 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

fragments have been levelled into one continuous sheet. If during the earthquake* which in 1835 overthrew Concepcion, in Chile, it was thought wonderful that small bodies should have been pitched a few inches from the ground, what must we say to a movement which has caused fragments, many tons in weight (like so much sand on a vibrating board), to move onwards and find their level? I have seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, the evident marks where stupendous mountains have been broken into pieces like so much thin crust, and the strata thrown on their vertical edges; but never did any scene, like the " streams of stones," so forcibly convey to my mind the idea of a convulsion of which in historical records we might in vain seek for any counterpart.

I have little to remark on the zoology of these islands. I have before described the Polyborus or Caracara. There are some other hawks, owls, and a few small land-birds. The waterfowl† are particularly numerous, and they must formerly, from the accounts of old navigators, have been much more so. One day, having placed myself between a penguin (Aptenodytes demersa) and the water, I was much amused by watching its habits. It was a brave bird; and till reaching the sea, it regularly fought and drove me backwards. Nothing less than heavy blows would have stopped him; every inch gained he firmly kept, standing close before me, erect and determined. When thus opposed he continually rolled his head from side to side, in a very odd manner, as if the power of distinct vision only lay in the anterior and

* An inhabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of judging, assured me that, during the several years he had resided on these islands, he had never felt the slightest shock of an earthquake.

† I may mention, that I one day observed a cormorant playing with a fish which it had caught. Eight times successively the bird let its prey go, then dived after it, and although in deep water, brought it each time to the surface. In the Zoological Gardens I have seen the otter treat a fish in the same manner, much as a cat does a mouse. I do not know of any other instance where dame Nature appears so wilfully cruel.

[page] 257 March, 1834. ORNITHOLOGY.

basal part of each eye. This bird is commonly called the jackass penguin, from its habit, while on shore, of throwing its head backwards, and making a loud strange noise, very like the braying of that animal; but while at sea, and undisturbed, its note is very deep and solemn, and is often heard in the night-time. In diving, its little plumeless wings are used as fins; but on the land, as front legs. When crawling (it may be said on four legs) through the tussocks, or on the side of a grassy cliff, it moved so very quickly that it might readily have been mistaken for a quadruped. When at sea and fishing, it comes to the surface, for the purpose of breathing, with such a spring, and dives again so instantaneously, that I defy any one at first sight to be sure that it is not a fish leaping for sport.

Two kinds of geese frequent the Falklands. The upland species (Anas leucoptera) is common in pairs, and in small flocks, throughout the island. They do not migrate, but build on the small outlying islets. This is supposed to be from fear of the foxes: and it is perhaps from the same cause that these birds, though very tame by day, are shy and wild in the dusk of the evening. They live entirely on vegetable matter. The rock-goose, so called from living exclusively on the sea-beach (Anas antarctica), is common both here and on the west coast of America, as far north as Chile. In the deep and retired channels of Tierra del Fuego, the snow-white gander, invariably accompanied by his darker consort, and standing close by each other on some distant rocky point, is a common feature in the landscape.

In these islands a great loggerheaded duck or goose (Anas brachyptera), which sometimes weighs twenty-two pounds, is very abundant. These birds were in former days called, from their extraordinary manner of paddling and splashing upon the water, race-horses; but now they are named, much more appropriately, steamers. Their wings are too small and weak to allow of flight, but by their aid, partly swimming and partly flapping the surface of the water, they move very quickly. The manner is something like that by which the common house-


[page] 258 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

duck escapes when pursued by a dog; but I am nearly sure that the steamer moves its wings alternately, instead of both together, as in other birds. These clumsy, loggerheaded ducks make such a noise and splashing, that the effect is exceedingly curious.

Thus we find in South America three birds, which use their wings for other purposes besides flight: the penguin as fins, the steamer as paddles, and the ostrich as sails to a vessel. The steamer is able to dive only a very short distance. It feeds entirely on shell-fish from the kelp and tidal rocks; hence the beak and head, for the purpose of breaking them, are surprisingly heavy and strong. So strong is the head, that I have scarcely been able to fracture it with my geological hammer; and all our sportsmen soon discovered how tenacious these birds were of life. When pluming themselves in the evening in a flock, they make the same odd mixture of sounds which bullfrogs do within the Tropics.

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as at the Falkland Islands, I made many observations on the lower marine animals,* but they are of little general interest. I will only mention one class of facts, relating to certain zoophytes in the more highly organized division of that class. Several genera (flustra, eschara, cellaria, crisia, and others) agree in having singular

* While at the Falklands, during the autumn of the southern hemisphere, most of the lower marine animals were breeding. I was surprised to find on counting the eggs of a large white Doris (this sea-slug was three and a half inches long) how extraordinarily numerous they were. From two to five eggs (each three-thousandths of an inch in diameter) were contained in a spherical little case. These were arranged two deep in transverse rows forming a ribbon. The ribbon adhered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One, which I found, measured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By counting how many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the row, and how many rows in an equal length of the ribbon, on the most moderate computation there were six hundred thousand eggs. Yet this Doris was certainly not very common: although I was often searching under the stones I saw only seven individuals.

[page] 259 March, 1834. COMPOUND ANIMALS.

moveable organs, like those of Flustra avicularia (found in the European seas), attached to their cells. The organ, in the greater number of cases, very closely resembles the head of a vulture; but the lower mandible can be opened much wider, so as to form even a straight line with the upper. The head itself possesses considerable powers of movement, by means of a short neck. In one zoophyte the head itself was fixed, but the lower jaw free: in another it was replaced by a triangular hood, with a beautifully-fitted trap-door, which evidently answered to the lower mandible. A species of stony eschara had a structure somewhat similar. In the greater number of species, each shell was provided with one head, but in others each had two.

The young cells at the end of the branches necessarily contained quite immature polypi, yet the vulture-heads attached to them, though small, were in every respect perfect. When the polypus was removed by a needle from any of the cells, these organs did not appear in the least affected. When one of the latter was cut off from a cell, the lower mandible retained its power of opening and closing. Perhaps the most singular part of their structure is, that when there were more rows of cells than two, both in a Flustra and an Eschara, the central cells were furnished with these appendages, of only one-fourth the size of the lateral ones. Their movements varied according to the species :—in some I never saw the least motion; while others, with the lower mandible generally wide open, oscillated backwards and forwards at the rate of about five seconds each turn; others moved rapidly and by starts. When touched with a needle the beak generally seized the point so firmly, that the whole branch might be shaken.

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production of the gemmules. I could not trace any connexion between them and the polypus. From their formation being completed before that of the latter; from the independence of their movements; from the difference of their size in different parts of the branch; I have little doubt that in their

S 2

[page] 260 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

functions they are related rather to the axis than to any of the polypi. In a similar manner, the fleshy appendage at the extremity of the sea-pen forms part of the zoophyte as a whole, as much as the roots of a tree do of the whole and not of the individual buds. Without doubt this is a very curious variation in the structure of a zoophyte: for the growing part in most other cases does not manifest the least irritability or power of movement.

I will mention one other kind of structure quite as anomalous. A small and elegant Crisia is furnished, at the corner of each cell, with a long and slightly-curved bristle, which is fixed at the lower end by a joint. It terminates in the finest point, and has its outer or convex side serrated with delicate teeth or notches. Having placed a small piece of a branch under the microscope, I was exceedingly surprised to see it suddenly start from the field of vision by the movement of these bristles, which acted as oars. Irritation generally produced this motion, but not always. When the coralline was laid flat on that side from which the toothed bristles projected, they were necessarily all pressed together and entangled. This scarcely ever failed to excite a considerable movement among them, and evidently with the object of freeing themselves. In a small piece, which was taken out of water and placed on blotting-paper, the movement of these organs was clearly visible for a few seconds by the naked eye.

In the case of the vulture-heads, as well as in that of the bristles, all that were on one side of a branch, moved sometimes coinstantaneously, sometimes in regular order one after the other; at other times the organs on both sides the branch moved together; but generally all were independent of each other, and entirely so of the polypi. In the Crisia, if the bristles were excited to move by irritation in any one branch, generally the whole zoophyte was affected. In the instance where the branch started from the simultaneous movement of these appendages, we see as perfect a transmission of will as in a single animal. The case, indeed, is not different from

[page] 261 March, 1834. COMPOUND ANIMALS.

that of the sea-pen, which when touched drew itself into the sand. I will state one other instance of uniform action, though of a very different nature, in a zoophyte* closely allied to Clytia, and therefore very simply organized. Having kept a large tuft of it in a basin of salt water, when it was dark I found that as often as I rubbed any part of a branch, the whole became strongly phosphorescent with a green light: I do not think I ever saw any object more beautifully so. But the remarkable circumstance was, that the flashes of light always proceeded up the branches, from the base towards the extremities.

The examination of these compound animals was always very interesting to me. What can be more remarkable than to see a plant-like body producing an egg, furnished with setæ, and having independent movements, which soon becomes fixed, branches into numberless arms, and these, though crowded with polypi, yet in some cases possessing independent organs of movement, and obeying uniform impulses of will? The polypi are frequently animals of no simple organization; and in most respects certainly are to be considered as true individuals. It is therefore more curious to observe, in the young and terminal cells, their gradual formation, from the growth of the simple horny substance of which so many zoophytes are composed. The known organization of a tree should remove all surprise at the union of many individuals together, and their relation to a common body. Indeed we might expect, according to the apparent law, that any structure which prevails in one class will be produced in a lesser degree in some others—that since so many plants are compound, so would some animals be thus constructed. It requires, however, a greater effort of reason to view a bud as an individual, than a polypus furnished with a mouth and intestines; and therefore the union does not appear so strange.

* This coralline emitted a very strong and disagreeable odour, when freshly taken from the sea.

[page] 262 FALKLAND ISLANDS. March, 1834.

Our conception of a compound animal,* where in some respects the individuality of each is not completed, may be aided, by reflecting on the production of two distinct creatures by bisecting one with a knife, or where nature herself performs the task. We may consider the polypi in a zoophyte, or the buds in a tree, as cases where the division of the individual has not been completely effected. In this kind of generation, the individuals seem produced only with relation to the present time; their numbers are multiplied, but their life is not extended beyond a fixed period. By the other, and more artificial kind, through intermediate steps or ovules, the relation is kept up through successive ages. By the latter method many peculiarities, which are transmitted by the former, are obliterated, and the character of the species is limited; while on the other hand, certain peculiarities (doubtless adaptations) become hereditary and form races. We may fancy that in these two circumstances we see a step towards the final cause of the shortness of life.

* With regard to associated life, animals of other classes besides the mollusca and radiata present obscure instances of it. The bee could not live by itself. And in the neuter, we see an individual produced which is not fitted for the reproduction of its kind—that highest point at which the organization of all animals, especially the lower ones, tends—therefore such neuters are born as much for the good of the community, as the leaf-bud is for the tree.

[page] 263


Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Geology — Deep water in channels — Erratic boulders — Climate — Limit of fruit trees — Mean temperature — Luxuriant forests — Rigour of antarctic islands — Contrast with the north — Snow-line, great flexure of — Glaciers — Icebergs transport fragments of rock — Glacier in low latitude — Absence of erratic blocks in intertropical regions — Glaciers and tropical vegetation — Comparison with northern hemisphere — Siberian animals in ice — Embedded in cold mud — Edible fungus — Zoology — Fucus giganteus — Leave Tierra del Fuego.


In the end of May, 1834, we entered for the second time the eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan. Having beat our way against wind and wave we anchored at Gregory Bay, and had an interview with the so-called gigantic Patagonians; of whom Captain FitzRoy has given so good an account. The country on both sides of the strait, in this part, consists of level plains, like those of the rest of Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little past the second narrow, may be considered as the point where the land begins to assume the marked features of Tierra del Fuego. On the east coast, south of the Strait, broken park-like scenery in a like manner connects these two countries, which are opposed to each other in almost every point. It is truly surprising to find in a space of twenty miles such a change in the landscape. If we take rather a greater distance, as between Port Famine and Gregory Bay, that is about sixty miles, the difference is still more wonderful. At the former place we have rounded mountains concealed by impervious forests, which are drenched with the rain, brought by an endless succession of gales; while at Cape Gregory there is a clear and bright blue sky over the dry and sterile plains. The atmospheric cur-

[page] 264 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

rents,* although rapid, turbulent, and unconfined by any apparent limits, yet seem to follow, like a river in its bed, a regularly determined course.

JUNE 1ST.—We anchored in the fine bay of Port Famine. It was now the beginning of winter, and I never saw a more cheerless prospect; the dusky woods piebald with snow, could be only indistinctly seen through a drizzling hazy atmosphere. We were, however, lucky in getting two fine days. On one of these, Mount Sarmiento, a distant mountain 6800 feet high, presented a very noble spectacle. I was frequently surprised, in the scenery of Tierra del Fuego, at the little apparent elevation of mountains really lofty. I suspect it is owing to a cause, which would not at first be imagined, namely, that the whole mass, from the summit to the water's edge, is generally in full view. I remember having seen a mountain, first from the Beagle channel, where the whole sweep from the summit to the base was full in view, and then from Ponsonby Sound across several successive ridges; and it was curious to observe in the latter case, as each fresh step afforded means of judging of the distance, how the mountain appeared to rise in height.

The Fuegians twice came and plagued us. As there were many instruments, clothes, and men on shore, it was thought necessary to frighten them away. The first time, a few great guns were fired, when they were far distant. It was most ludicrous to watch through a glass the Indians, as often as the shot struck the water, take up stones, and as a bold defiance, throw them towards the ship, though about a mile and a half distant! A boat was then sent with orders to fire a few musket-shot wide of them. The Fuegians hid them-

* The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry. January 29th, being at anchor under Cape Gregory; a very hard gale from W. by S., clear sky with few cumili; temperature 57°, due point 36°, difference 21°. On January 15th, at Port St. Julian: in the morning light winds with much rain, followed by a very heavy squall with rain,—settled into heavy gale with large cumili,—cleared up, blowing very strong from SSW. Temperature 60°, due point 42°,—differnece 18°.

[page] 265 June, 1834. PORT FAMINE.

selves behind the trees; and for every discharge of the musket they fired their arrows: all, however, fell short of the boat, and the officer as he pointed at them laughed. This made the Fuegians frantic with passion, and they shook their mantles in vain rage. At last seeing the balls cut and strike the trees, they ran away; and we were left in peace and quietness.

On a former occasion, when the Beagle was here in the month of February, I started one morning at four o'clock to ascend Mount Tarn, which is 2600 feet high, and is the most elevated point in this immediate neighbourhood. We went in a boat to the foot of the mountain (but not to the best part), and then began our ascent. The forest commences at the line of high-water mark, and during the two first hours I gave over all hopes of reaching the summit. So thick was the wood, that it was necessary to have constant recourse to the compass; for every landmark, though in a mountainous country, was completely shut out. In the deep ravines, the death-like scene of desolation exceeded all description; outside it was blowing a gale, but in these hollows, not even a breath of wind stirred the leaves of the tallest trees. So gloomy, cold, and wet was every part, that not even the fungi, mosses, or ferns, could flourish. In the valleys it was scarcely possible to crawl along, they were so completely barricaded by the great mouldering trunks, which had fallen down in every direction. When passing over these natural bridges, one's course was often arrested by sinking knee deep into the rotten wood; at other times, when attempting to lean against a firm tree, one was startled by finding a mass of decayed matter ready to fall at the slightest touch. We at last found ourselves among the stunted trees, and then soon reached the bare ridge, which conducted us to the summit. Here was a view characteristic of Tierra del Fuego;—irregular chains of hills, mottled with patches of snow, deep yellowish-green valleys, and arms of the sea intersecting the land in many directions. The strong wind was piercingly cold, and the atmosphere rather hazy, so that we did not stay

[page] 266 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

long on the top of the mountain. Our descent was not quite so laborious as our ascent; for the weight of the body forced a passage, and all the slips and falls were in the right direction.

Captain King has given a sketch of the geology of Tierra del Fuego, to which I have little to add. A great formation of clay-slate, rarely containing organic remains, but sometimes presenting casts of a kind of ammonite, is fronted on the east side by plains belonging probably to two tertiary epochs. On the west coast, a prolongation of the grand crevice of the Andes, from which so much heat has escaped from the interior of the globe, has metamorphosed the slate. There is, however, a double line, the structure of which I do not quite comprehend. The interior one consists of granite and mica slate; the exterior one (perhaps more modern), of greenstone, porphyritic and other curious trappean rocks. Almost every one at first thinks that this country owes its grand name of "the Land of Fire" to the number of its volcanoes. Such, however, is not the case: I did not see even a pebble of any volcanic rock, except in Wollaston Island, where some rounded masses of scoriæ were embedded in a conglomerate of no modern date. In a geological point of view this circumstance allows us to consider the grand linear train of ancient and modern volcanoes, which fall on parallel fissures in the Andes, as extending from lat. 55° 40' south to 60° north, a distance little less than seven thousand geographical miles.

Perhaps the most curious feature in the geology of this country, is the extent to which the land is intersected by arms of the sea. These channels, as Captain King remarks, are irregular and dotted with islands, where the granitic and trappean rocks occur, but in the clay-slate formation are so straight, that in one instance "a parallel ruler placed on the map upon the projecting points of the south shore, extended across, also touched the headlands of the opposite coast."

I have heard Captain FitzRoy remark, that on entering any of these channels from the outer coast, it is always ne-

[page] 267 June, 1834. GEOLOGY.

cessary to look out directly for anchorage; for further inland the depth soon becomes extremely great. Captain Cook, in entering Christmas Sound, had first 37 fathom, then 40, 60, and, immediately afterwards, no soundings with 170. This structure of the bottom, I presume, must arise from the sediment deposited near the mouths of the channels, by the opposed tides and swell; and likewise from the enormous degradation of the coast rocks, caused by an ocean harassed by endless gales.

The Strait of Magellan is extremely deep in most parts, even close to the shore. About mid-channel eastward of Cape Froward, Captain King found no bottom with 1536 feet: if, therefore, the water should be drained off, Tierra del Fuego would present a far more lofty range of mountains than it does at present. I will not here enter on any speculations regarding the causes which have produced this remarkable structure, in a district in which the latter movements at least have been those of elevation. I may, however, observe, that pebbles, and great boulders of various and peculiar crystalline rocks, which have undoubtedly travelled from the south-west coast, lie scattered over the whole of the eastern part of Tierra del Fuego. One enormous block of syenite near St. Sebastian Bay was barn-shaped, and had a girth of 47 feet; it projected five feet above the sand, and appeared to be deeply buried. The very nearest point to which we can look for the parent rock, is about ninety miles distant. On the shores of the Strait of Magellan, near Port Famine, numerous semi-rounded fragments of various granites and hornblendic rocks are strewed on the beach, and on the sides of the mountain, to an elevation of thirty or forty feet. Now to this point the high road from the Southern and Western shores passes directly over the great abyss of more than 1500 feet deep. Whatever may have been the means of transport, it has not been one of indiscriminate violence: for the two places, St. Sebastian Bay and Shoal Harbour, where the great fragments are most numerous, certainly existed previously to the last and

[page] 268 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

smallest change of level, as channels connecting the Strait of Magellan, in the one case with the open sea, and in the other with Otway Water.

The climate of the southern part of South America presents many phenomena of the highest interest. It has long been observed that there exists some essential difference between it, and that of the countries in the northern hemisphere. I have already remarked on the surprising contrast between the rank vegetation of the broken west coast, consequent on the humid climate, as compared with the dry and sterile plains of Patagonia. The clouded and boisterous state of the atmosphere is necessarily accompanied by a decrease in extreme temperature; hence we find that fruits which ripen well, and are very abundant, such as the grape and fig, in lat. 41° on the east coast, succeed very poorly in a lower latitude on the opposite side of the continent.* The result is more strongly marked, if we take Europe as the standard of comparison. In Chiloe, lat. 42°, corresponding to the northern parts of Spain, peaches require the greatest care, and seldom produce fruit; but strawberries and apples succeed to admiration. At Valdivia, lat. 40°, or that of Madrid, standard peaches bear abundantly; grapes and figs ripen, but are far from common; olives seldom even partially ripen, and oranges not at all; yet in Europe this is the parallel most productive of these fruits. Even at Concepcion, lat. 36°, oranges are not abundant, though the other named fruits succeed perfectly. At the Falklands, in the same latitude as the south of England, wheat very seldom comes to maturity; but we ought to feel little surprise at this, when we hear that in Chiloe (lat. 42°) the inhabitants are frequently compelled to cut their corn before it is ready, and bring it into their houses to dry.

With respect to the climate of Tierra del Fuego during

* As there are no settlements on the Patagonian coast, there are few means of comparison. Cherry-trees left by the Spaniards at Port Desire, lat. 48°, still bear fruit, whereas, in Chiloe, on the west coast, 360 miles further north, I believe they do not succeed.

[page] 269 June, 1834. CLIMATE.

the colder parts of the year, Captain King has published some most interesting tables in the Geographical Journal.* The Beagle during this voyage, was employed in the extreme southern parts of the country, from December 18th to February 20th. From the appearance of the vegetation during the first part, and from the weather we experienced at the Falkland Islands, subsequent to the last date, I feel little doubt that these sixty-five days included the best part of the summer. Perhaps if another fortnight had been added, the mean would have been a little higher. The first eighteen of these days were spent partly at sea, near Cape Horn, and we were drifted for a short time by bad weather to nearly ninety miles to the southward. The mean temperature, from observations made every two hours by the officers on board the Beagle, was 45°. During the succeeding thirty-seven days† the Beagle was at anchor in different harbours a few leagues north of Cape Horn, and then the mean from observations at 6 A.M., noon, and 6 P.M., was 50°. The mean, therefore, between these two periods, which include the hottest part of the year, is only 47°.5. The latter of the two periods was unusually warm, but the former much the contrary, and the station where the observations were made was a little further to the southward. The whole of these observations apply to the extreme islands: Captain King's were made in a central position 1° 45' further northward. If from the above considerations we add two degrees and a half to the mean obtained this voyage, the result (50°) will probably give the temperature of the hottest part of the year in central Tierra del Fuego. Captain King gives as the mean temperature of June 32°.97, of July 33°.03, of the first twelve days in August 33°.25;

* Journal of the Royal Geographical Society for the years 1830, 1831.

† The mean of the maxima of these thirty-seven days was only 55°.5, and of the minima 45°.3,—the mean range thus being 10°.2. For the whole sixty-five days, the mean of the maxima was only 51°.7, which certainly is a very wretched summer, and shows how little bright sunshine there can be.

[page] 270 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

answering to our December, January, and February, which three months appear to be the coldest, and the mean of these is 33°.08.* Dublin is nearly in the same latitude in the northern hemisphere as Port Famine is in the southern, and we will take its temperature as a means of comparison.

Latitudes. Summer
Difference. Mean of
Summer and
Dublin† . . .
53° 21' N. 59° .54 39° .2 20° .34 49o .37
Port Famine .
53   38' S. 50      
  33  .08 16   .92  41  .54
Difference .
0   17' 
  9  .54     6  .12    3   .42     7  .83

It will be seen by this that the temperature at Port Famine is very considerably lower, both during summer and winter, than at Dublin, and that at the former the difference between the seasons is not so great, or that the climate is there more equable. It seems the general opinion of those who have visited this country, that the frosts are not so severe or so long as in England. The sealers say that throughout the year they wear the same quantity of clothing. Nevertheless Captain King states, that during the winter of 1828 the temperature was once as low as‡ 12°.6. I have drawn up these rough and approximate statements merely for the sake of illustrating some of the following remarks.

* This mean must be a little too low, because the whole of August is not included. I see Von Buch says, "we can hardly assign to Saltenfiord, Norway (in lat. 67°, or 13° 22' nearer the pole than Port Famine) a higher mean temperature than 34°, nor a higher temperature for the warm month of July than 57°.8." (Travels through Norway, p. 123.) Captain King gives as the mean for February, which probably is the hottest month at Port Famine, only at 51°.1. Some observations made at the Falkland Islands (2° 13' north of Port Famine) which are often quoted, give as the mean for the whole year 47°.3, and for the summer 53°.1. These results are very much higher than what I should have anticipated, from the climate of the neighbouring mainland.

† This line is taken from Barton's Lectures on the Geography of Plants.

‡ In this wretched climate, subject to such extreme cold, is it not most wonderful, that human beings should be able to exist unclothed and without shelter?

[page] 271 June, 1834. VEGETATION.

The kind of climate here described appears to be common to the southern parts of the whole of the southern hemisphere. Although so inhospitable to our feelings, and to most of the plants from the warmer parts of Europe, yet it is most favourable to the native vegetation. The forests, which cover the entire country between the latitudes of 38° and 45°, rival in luxuriance those of the glowing intertropical regions. Whilst in Chiloe (lat. 42°) I could almost have fancied myself in Brazil. Stately trees of many kinds, with smooth and highly coloured barks, are loaded by parasitical plants of the monocotyledonous structure; large and elegant ferns are numerous; and arborescent grasses intwine the trees into one entangled mass, to the height of thirty or forty feet above the ground. Palm-trees grow in lat. 37°; an arborescent grass very like a bamboo in 40°; and another closely-allied kind, of great length but not erect, even as far south as 45°.

In another part of this same hemisphere, which has so uniform a character owing to its large proportional area of sea, Forster found parasitical orchideous plants living south of lat. 45° in New Zealand. Tree-ferns thrive luxuriantly near Hobart Town, in Van Diemen's Land. I measured one there which was exactly six feet in circumference; and its height from the ground to the base of the fronds appeared to be very little under twenty. Mr. Brown says* "an arborescent species of the same genus (Dicksonia) was found by Forster, in New Zealand, at Dusky Bay, in nearly 46° S., the highest latitude in which tree-ferns have yet been observed. It is remarkable that, although they have so considerable a range in the southern hemisphere, no tree-fern has been found beyond the northern tropic: a distribution in the two hemispheres somewhat similar to this has been already noticed respecting the Orchideæ that are parasitical on trees."

Even in Tierra del Fuego, Captain King describes the " vegetation thriving most luxuriantly, and large woody stem-

* Appendix to Flinder's Voyage, pp. 575 and 584.

[page] 272 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

med trees of Fuchsia and Veronica, in England considered and treated as tender plants, in full flower, within a very short distance of the base of a mountain covered for two-thirds down with snow, and with the temperature at 36°." He states, also, that humming-birds were seen sipping the sweets of the flowers, "after two or three days of constant rain, snow, and sleet, during which time the thermometer had been at the freezing point." I myself have seen parrots feeding on the seeds of the winter's bark, south of latitude 55°.

Although the limit of an almost tropical vegetation extends thus far southward, yet the dearth of living things, both vegetable and animal, on the islands situated even far without the antarctic circle, is surprising, compared with the corresponding parallels in the northern hemisphere. In South Shetland in lat. 62° to 63° (same as Ferroe, or southern part of Norway) Weddell* states, "None of the islands afford any vegetation save a short straggling grass, which is found in very small patches in places where there happens to be a little soil. This, together with a moss similar to that which is found in Iceland, appears in the middle of January, at which time the islands are partially clear of snow." In Deception Island, one of the same group, Lieutenant Kendall, says,† "There was nothing in the shape of vegetation except a small kind of lichen." The island itself is partly composed of ice and volcanic ashes interstratified. Another curious proof of the rigour of the climate is mentioned: "Having observed a mound on the hill immediately above this cove, I opened it, and found a rude coffin, the rotten state of which bespoke its having been long consigned to the earth; but the body had undergone scarcely any decomposition. The legs were doubled up, and it was dressed in the jacket and cap of a sailor, but neither they nor the countenance were similar to those of an Englishman."

Sandwich Land, which is nearly three degrees further from

* Weddell's Voyage, p. 133.

† Geographical Journal, 1830, pp. 65 and 66.

[page] 273 June, 1834. ANTARCTIC ISLANDS.

the pole, is thus described by Captain Cook (February 1st, hottest time in the year, and in same latitude as north of Scotland): "Every part was blocked or filled up with ice, and the whole country, from the summits of the mountains down to the very brink of the cliffs which terminate the coast, covered many fathoms thick with everlasting snow. The cliffs alone were all which was to be seen like land." Again he adds, talking of two islets, "These only were clear of snow, and seemed covered with a green turf." In Georgia, lat. 54° to 55°, the bays are terminated by ice cliffs of considerable height, and, according to Cook, the country "in the very height of summer, is in a manner wholly covered many fathoms deep with frozen snow, but more especially on the south-west coast." The only vegetable is " a strong-bladed grass growing in tufts, wild burnet, and a plant like moss." Although 96 miles long and about ten broad, it possesses not a single quadruped, and only one land bird, namely a small titlark (an Anthus), a specimen of which I procured in the Falklands. This bird, if undescribed, certainly well deserves the name of antarcticus, for although not living within that circle, it inhabits a more inhospitable region than any other terrestrial animal. Anderson, in Cook's Voyage, says, even in Kerguelen Land (an island 120 miles long by 60 broad, and situated in lat. 50°, corresponding to the extreme southern point of England), "The whole catalogue of plants does not exceed sixteen or seventeen, including some sorts of moss, and a beautiful species of lichen which grows upon the rocks higher up than the rest of the vegetable productions. Nor is there even the least appearance of a shrub in the whole country." It is doubtful whether there is a single land bird; and then he adds, "The hills are of a moderate height; yet many of their tops were covered with snow* at this time, though answering to our June." These statements forcibly prove the intemperance of the climate even far without the frozen limits of the antarctic circle.

* I have reason to believe, that icebergs are formed on the coast during a part of the year.


[page] 274 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

There are no direct observations, by which to judge of the mean temperature of the year in these southern islands. But after reading the above accounts, it will readily be granted that it must be very low. Even in Georgia, in lat. 54°-55°, it is not improbable that the soil is perpetually frozen at a few feet beneath the surface. At Deception Island in lat. 62°-63° from the preservation of the dead body alluded to, and the interstratification of ice with the volcanic ashes, we may feel almost sure that such must be the case. In the northern hemisphere, it is only on the great continents that so low a mean temperature is found in corresponding latitudes. In North America, according to Richardson,* north of lat. 56°, the thaw does not penetrate to a greater depth than three feet. In the Steppes of Siberia, Humboldt† states that to the northward of 62°, the ground between twelve and fifteen feet below the surface is always frozen. In the space, however, between these tw o great northern continents, the line of perpetual congelation rises considerably towards the north.

It is a remarkable meteorological fact, that in the northern and southern hemispheres, a low mean temperature, in latitudes without the frigid zone, is the result of a directly opposite condition of things. In the northern hemisphere the atmosphere is rendered extremely cold, from the radiation of a large extent of country during a long winter; nor is it moderated by the warmer currents of any neighbouring sea : hence the extreme cold of the winter more than counterbalances the heat of summer. In the southern hemisphere, on the other hand, although the winter is moderate, the summer is cold; for a sky constantly clouded rarely permits the rays of the sun to warm the surface (itself a bad absorbent) of the great ocean: hence, the mean temperature of the year falls below the freezing point. It will at once be evident, that a kind of vegetation which requires an equable temperature, will approach much nearer

* Appendix to Back's Expedition,

† Fragmens Asiatiques, vol. ii., p. 386.

[page] 275 June, 1834. HEIGHT OF SNOW-LINE.

the line of perpetual congelation in a climate such as this of the southern hemisphere, than in the opposite one subject to extremes.

The height of the plane of perpetual snow in any country, seems chiefly to be determined by the extreme heat of summer, rather than by the mean of the year. As the summer in Tierra del Fuego is so very wretched, we ought not to feel surprised at the fact stated by Capt. King,—that in the Strait of Magellan, the line descends to about 3500 or 4000 feet. In the northern hemisphere, we must travel about fourteen degrees nearer the pole to meet with so low a limit, namely, between lat. 67° and 70° on the mountains of Norway.

In the Cordillera of South America, between latitudes 41° and 43° 30', the culminant peaks have altitudes pretty nearly equal. Several were measured by the officers of the Beagle with considerable care, by angles of elevation, the positions of the mountains being accurately known. Osorno is 7550 feet; mountain south of Osorno 5609; Minchinmadiva 7046; northern end of same range 6862; Corcovado 7510; Yntales 6725. Not only these points, but a great part of the range* was thickly clothed with snow, in the beginning of February (answering to our August), which descended some way down the mountains, and presented to a distant beholder a perfectly horizontal line. We were assured that the snow, which it appeared must inevitably be the case, remained throughout the year. On January 26th, after a week of uncommonly fine weather, Mr. King measured with a pocket sextant, the angle of this line with the summit of the Corcovado; and subtracting the result from the total height, the snow-line was found to descend to 4480 feet. It is possible that there may have existed some unknown cause of error; but as the average height of the few highest

* Mr. Sulivan, who surveyed this part of Chiloe, informs me, that between Osorno and Yntales, there are probably many mountains which rise to a height of nearly 6000 feet. He says he does not recollect any one summit, which (during January) was not covered with snow.

T 2

[page] 276 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

peaks in the snow-clad range is under 7000 feet, it is evident that the height of the snow-line cannot at most much exceed 6000 feet.

As this is a point of interest, I shall mention a few other circumstances, by which I think we may come to a nearly definite conclusion. On February 2d (1835) I obtained the last view of the Cordillera; on that day the lower line of the snow descended some way (so as to form a considerable angle with the summit, when viewed from a distance of 61 miles) on the mountain south of Osorno (lat. 41° 20'), which stands by itself, and has a height of 5607 feet. Since arriving in England I have received a letter from Mr. Douglas in Chiloe, who, describing some volcanic phenomena, accidentally mentions the snow-line. He says, on February 20th (same year), on the volcano of Minchinmadiva (lat. 42° 48'), which has an elevation of 7046 feet, lava was ejected from a crater "just above the verge of the snow." Again, on February 27th, he alludes to the summit of the Corcovado (7510 feet) being covered with snow, as was Yntales* (6725 feet) in lat. 43° 30'. Again Mr. Douglas, speaking of the Corcovado, says, "On the 16th of March the snow appeared to cover one-fifth of its (visible) perpendicular height." By this date the snow-line must have attained its greatest height (if, indeed, fresh snow had not fallen); and, as the Corcovado rises in an unbroken slope close to the sea, the proportion covered by snow might be judged of, with some degree of accuracy. The height of the Corcovado (7510 feet) was obtained by three angular measurements, made by the officers on the survey, and the mean nearly agreed with the three separate results. Reflecting on all these circumstances, we may conclude with perfect safety, that the limit of perpetual snow, between the latitudes 41° and 43°, cannot much, if at all, exceed 6000 feet.

Proceeding northward along the Cordillera we find a very

* On January 15th, Yntales, seen from the Northern Chonos Islands, was entirely covered by snow.

[page] 277 une, 1834. HEIGHT OF SNOW-LINE.

different condition of things. In the pass of the Portillo (to the southward of 33°) Dr. Gillies determined barometrically the height of the double range; and he found the two ridges to be respectively 13,210 and 14,365 feet. On March 21st and 22d (1835), shortly before fresh snow fell, I crossed these mountains,* and although there were large masses of snow, there were much greater spaces at some height on each side uncovered. Dr. Gillies† says, "the summit (of the volcano of Peuquenes) is generally‡ covered with snow, and its elevation cannot be less than 15,000 above the level of the sea." From these statements, compared with my observations, the snow-line when I crossed certainly was considerably above 14,365,—we may assume 15,000 as about the limit. From the results obtained by Humboldt, Pentland, Gillies, and King, we are enabled to draw up the following table of the extraordinary range of the snow-line, on the Cordillera of South America :


Height in feet
of Snow-line.
Equatorial region :
Mean result.

15,748   Humboldt.
Lat. 16°-18° S.

17,000   Pentland.§
Central Chile,
Lat. 33° S.


Lat. 41°-43° S.

6,000   Officers of the Beagle.
Tierra del Fuego,
54° S.



* I crossed the Uspallata Pass on April 5th. The height, as given by Mr. Pentland (Geographical Journal), is 12,454. In the ravines there were some inconsiderable patches of snow, but the general surface was quite bare.

† The Edinburgh Journal of Natural and Geographical Science, August, 1830, p. 316.

‡ I have reason to suspect that the snow-line in Chile is subject to ex-

[page] 278 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

In considering this table, and beginning from the south, we observe, that through the first twelve degrees, the height of the snow-line rises only a little more than 2000 feet. In this space the climate and productions of the country are in many respects very uniform. In the succeeding nine degrees the rise is no less than nine thousand feet. Before any one pronounces this to be impossible, let him reflect well that the height of the snow-line very much depends on the heat of summer. In Chiloe no fruit, excepting apples and strawberries, comes to perfection; it is even oftentimes necessary to carry the barley and corn into the houses to be ripened :* on the other hand, in central Chile, even the sugar-cane† has been cultivated out of doors, and during a long summer of seven months the sky is seldom clouded, and rain never falls. The island of Chiloe, as well as the neighbouring main-

treme variation. I was told, that during one remarkably dry and long summer, all the snow disappeared from Aconcagua. Not being at the time aware of the extraordinary elevation of this mountain (23,000), I did not closely cross-question my informers. It must be remembered that even in ordinary summers the sky is generally cloudless for six or seven months, that no fresh snow falls, and that the atmosphere is excessively dry. It may be asked whether vast quantities of snow would not, under this condition of circumstances, be evaporated? so that it might be possible that all the snow should disappear from a mountain without the temperature having risen above the freezing point. Mr. Miers (vol. i., p. 384) says he passed the Cordillera by the Cumbre Pass on May 30th, 1819, "when not the smallest vestige of snow was observable in any part of the Andes." Yet Aconcagua is in full view in the approach to this pass. Mr. Miers, in another part (p. 383), makes a general assertion to the same effect.

§ See Mr. Pentland's most interesting paper in the Geograph. Journal, read March 1835.

|| Journal of Geograph. Soc., vol. i., p. 165.

* For this fact I may quote, as additional authority, Aguerros Descripcion Historial de la Provincia de Chiloé, 1791, p. 94.

† Miers's Chile, vol. i., p. 415. It is said that the sugar-cane grew at Ingenio, lat. 32°-33°, but not in sufficient quantity to make the manufacture profitable. In the valley of Quillota, south of Ingenio, I saw some large date palm-trees.

[page] 279 June, 1834. GLACIERS.

land, is concealed by one dense forest, dripping with moisture, and abounding with ferns and other plants that love a humid atmosphere : while the soil of central Chile, where not irrigated, is arid and nearly desert. These two countries, so remarkably opposed to each other in every character, blend together rather suddenly near Concepcion, in lat. 37°. I do not doubt, the plain of perpetual snow undergoes an extraordinary flexure in the district where the forest ceases; for trees indicate a rainy climate, and hence a clouded state of atmosphere.*

From central Chile to Bolivia, a space of 16°, the rise of the snow-line is only 2000 feet. If Bolivia possessed an atmosphere as clear as that of Chile, the limit in all probability would be even higher than the present 17,000. The cause why the limit in the equatorial regions should be lower than in a latitude seventeen degrees to the southward, I leave to those to explain, who have more means of information respecting the dryness and clouded state of the atmosphere in the respective regions.

The presence of glaciers depends on the accumulation of a large mass of snow, subject to some variations of temperature, sufficient partially to thaw, and then reconsolidate the

* The average degree of atmospheric transparency seems to be a most important element in determining the climate of any place. Dr. Richardson (Report to Brit. Assoc. for 1836, p. 131) has remarked that Professor Leslie, from experimenting on the effects of radiation only in an insular climate, deduced theoretical inferences respecting the mean temperature of the year, extremely different from the results obtained under the clear atmosphere of the polar regions. I apprehend central Chile will bear comparison with any part of the world for the clearness of its sky, and Chiloe, for one of an opposite condition : therefore we should not feel surprised, if the effects of two such opposite climates at first appear and malous. The remarkable difference in the height of the snow-line, on the opposite sides of the Himmalaya, has been explained by Humboldt and Jacquemont, on the same principle : and in a like manner, the difference between the heights on the Pyrenees and on Caucasus, the latter mountains being characterized by a climate more excessive, than that of the former.

[page] 280 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

mass in its downward course. They have been aptly compared to gigantic icicles. The lower limit of glaciers, must depend on that of the parent snow, greatly affected by the form of the land: in Tierra del Fuego the snow-line descends very low, and the mountain sides are abrupt; therefore we might expect to find glaciers extending far down their flanks.* Nevertheless, when on first beholding, in the middle of summer, many of the creeks on the northern side of the Beagle channel terminated by bold precipices of ice overhanging the salt water, I felt greatly astonished. For the mountains from which they descended, were far from being very lofty. Captain FitzRoy from angular measurements considers the general range to have an elevation rather under 4000 feet, with one point called Chain Mountain rising to 4300. Further inland, there is indeed a more lofty mountain of 7000 feet, but it is not directly connected with the glaciers to which I now allude. This range, which exceeds by so little the height of some mountains in Britain, which yet sends down in the middle of summer its frozen streams to the sea-coast, is situated in the latitude of the Cumberland hills.

I was much interested by observing the great difference between the matter brought down by torrents and by glaciers. In the former case a spit of gravel is formed, but in the latter a pile of boulders. On one occasion, the boats being hauled on shore, within the distance of half a mile from a glacier, we were admiring the perpendicular cliff of blue ice, and wishing that some more fragments would fall off, like those we saw floating on the water, at a distance of more than a mile from their source. At last, down came a mass

* In the Alps, Saussure gives 8793 feet as the mean of the lower limit of the snow-line. At Mont Blanc the glacier of Montanvert is said (Encyclo. Metropol.) to descend 12,000 feet below the summit of the mountain, and this will make its base 5160 feet lower than the line of snow. In Norway (See Von Buch) where a glacier first comes down to the water's edge (lat. 67°), it is 3800 below the same line: in Tierra del Fuego the difference must be very nearly the same as in the last case.

[page] 281 June, 1834. GLACIERS.

with a roaring noise, and immediately we saw the smooth outline of a wave travelling towards us. The men ran down as quickly as they could to the boats; for the chance of their being dashed to pieces was evident. One of the seamen just caught hold of the bows, as the curling breaker reached it: he was knocked over and over but not hurt; and the boats, though thrice lifted on high and let fall again, received no damage. This was most fortunate for us, for we were a hundred miles distant from the ship, and we should have been left without provisions or fire-arms.

I had previously observed that some large fragments of rock on the beach had been lately displaced: but until seeing this wave I did not understand the cause. The structure of the creek in which this happened was very curious. One side was formed by a spur of mica slate (of which rock the surrounding mountains were composed); the head by a cliff of ice about forty feet high; and the other side by a promontory which was built up of huge rounded fragments of granite and mica slate, and was more than fifty feet in height. To account for the present position of these blocks, where they must have long remained, for old trees were growing on the upper parts; we must suppose, either that the glacier formerly advanced half a mile further outward, or that the land stood at a rather different level. Whether we are able fully to account, or not, for the height and size of this promontory of boulders, certainly it must have been the work of the glacier. One semi-rounded fragment of granite lying just above high-water mark, was of enormous dimensions. It projected six feet above the sand, and was buried to an unknown depth: its shape was oval with a circumference of thirty yards, so that the longer axis probably measured about ten or eleven. This fragment must have come from the higher parts of the range; for the base of the mountain was entirely composed of mica slate.

The waves caused by the fall of the ice must be a most powerful agent in rounding and heaping together these huge fragments, and likewise in wearing away projecting points of

[page] 282 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

the solid rock. In Georgia, situated in the very same latitude, Cook, speaking of the great ice-cliffs at the head of every harbour, says, "pieces were continually breaking off, and floating out to sea, and a great fall happened while we were in the bay, which made a noise like cannon." He adds, "It can hardly be doubted, that a great deal of ice is formed here in winter, which in the spring is broken off, and dispersed over the sea. Mr. Sorrell, the boatswain of the Beagle, who has long been accustomed to these seas, informs me, that at this season he has seen small icebergs, with mud and gravel on them, floating from the shores. I have heard from another quarter of the same circumstance. Captain Hunter* says, he met numerous ice-islands in this neighbourhood, and that "many were half black apparently with earth from the land, to which they had adhered, or else with mud from the bottom on which they had been formed." By the latter method large fragments might easily be transported, and unless the iceberg should be upset, they would never be discovered. Nevertheless, the islands of ice floating in the southern ocean, and especially those occurring far south, appear generally to be quite free from all impurities excepting the dung of seafowl. Captain Biscoe, who extended his enterprising researches so far towards the antarctic pole, informs me in a letter that he never observed in a single instance† any mud or fragments of stone on the numerous icebergs which he encountered during his voyage.

Glaciers occur at the head of the sounds along the whole western coast of the southern part of South America. Looking at the chart I find sixteen places mentioned: besides these I know of several others, such as those in the Beagle channel and at the foot of Mount Sarmiento. The sounds, moreover, were not all traced to the head, and it is in this part that the glaciers most frequently occur. Of the sixteen referred to, many include several frozen arms coming down

* Hunter's Voyage to Port Jackson, p. 102.

† Mr. Sorrell says, that he once saw an iceberg to the eastward of South Shetland, with a considerable block of rock lying on it.

[page] 283 June, 1834. GLACIERS.

from one vast body of ice. In the Canal of the Mountains, for instance, no less than nine descend from a mountain, the whole side of which, according to the chart, is covered by a glacier of the extraordinary length of twenty-one miles, and with an average breadth of a mile and a half. It must not be supposed that the glacier merely ascends some valley for the twenty-one miles, but it extends apparently at the same height for that length, parallel to the sound; and here and there sends down an arm to the sea-coast.* There are other glaciers having a similar structure and position, with a length of ten and fifteen miles.

I will now specify a few of the more remarkable cases, taken from Captain King's paper, to which I have so often referred. The canal of St. Andrew is said by Lieutenant Skyring to be "suddenly and boldly closed by tremendous and astonishing glaciers." The highest mountain in this part (Mount Stokes) was ascertained during our ascent of the river of St. Cruz to be 6200 feet, and this certainly exceeds considerably the height of the general range. About ninety miles to the northward, Sir G. Eyre's Sound, in the latitude of Paris, has its several arms terminated by glaciers. Mr. Bynoe, the surgeon of the Beagle, who accompanied the boat when this part was surveyed, informs me that about mid-channel, and more than twenty miles from the head of the sound, there were great numbers of floating masses of ice. Standing in the boat he supposes he saw about fifty: he, together with four of the boat's crew, landed on one, which although only two or three feet above the surface of the water, felt quite steady, and easily supported their weight. On the surface, in the central part, a mass of granite, of an angular form, was partly embedded; and the

* I may remark that in the chart, the greater number of the creeks which receive the glaciers, have crosses drawn in front, which signify projecting masses of rock. After what we have seen in the Beagle channel, I suspect that they are detached masses brought down by the overwhelming force of the glaciers.

[page] 284 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

ice had thawed all round it, so as to form a shallow pool of water. It was a cube of nearly two feet; and Mr. Bynoe with a maul knocked off, and brought away, a piece as large as a man's head. The iceberg was still floating, and drifting outwards: even if it had been stranded in the immediate neighbourhood, the block of granite would have rested on the clay-slate of the surrounding mountains. For the parent rock we must look to the higher parts of the range, near the head of the sound.

Again, a few miles to the northward I see in the chart an Iceberg Sound, which no doubt was so called from the number of floating masses of ice. It may be recollected that in this latitude, on the opposite side of the Cordillera, the plains of St. Cruz, at the distance of fifty and sixty miles from the mountains, were strewed with great fragments of rock. Of these, one was sixty feet in circumference, and another, which was angular, measured five yards square;—both being partly buried in the gravel, so that their thickness was unknown. As it is probable that the plains were covered by the sea within a period geologically recent, and as we absolutely know, that icebergs at the present day, both in the same latitude and even further northward, are transporting angular blocks from the opposite side of the Cordillera, the explanation of the St. Cruz case through the same means of transport, is rendered so evidently probable, that we are not justified in doubting to receive it: more especially as the unbroken surface of those plains, and the terrace-formed valley, opposes a very great difficulty to the admission of any violent debacle. The latitudes which we have now been talking of, correspond to the southern extremity of Cornwall, and the northern provinces of France.

I will add only one other case; namely, the occurrence of glaciers at the level of the sea, in the gulf of Penas, latitude 46° 40'. A glacier is represented in the charts as in one part abutting on a flat swamp often inundated, and in ano-

[page] 285 June, 1834. GLACIERS.

ther reaching to the head of Kelly Harbour. The accompanying wood-cut is copied from the published charts.

Captain King says its length is fifteen miles, and from the chart one part is seven broad; it is also described as being lofty; so that we here have an enormous mountain, covering a wide area, composed of ice. If we compare its situation with countries in the northern hemisphere, the corresponding parallel crosses the Alps of Switzerland. Or we may state the case stronger, by saying that glaciers here descend to the sea within less than nine degrees of latitude, from where palms grow, less than two and a half from arborescent grasses, and (looking to the westward in the same hemisphere) less than two from orchideous parasites, and within a single degree of tree-ferns! In Norway, Von Buch found glaciers descending to the sea at Kunnen in latitude 67°; that is twenty degrees nearer the pole, than in this hemisphere;—a difference of latitude rather greater than that between the snow-lines of equal altitude in the same two countries.

The survey of the inner coast terminated at the gulf of Penas, so that I am far from knowing whether glaciers are not

[page] 286 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

found much further northward: and considering the immense size of the one just described, it is extremely improbable that it should be the last. On the island of Chiloe, which fronts the Cordillera as the Jura does the Alps, many angular fragments of granite, of an enormous size, which appear to have crossed the inland arm of sea, lie scattered at different heights over the country. Although situated between the parallels of 41° and 43°, I know of no sound objection to the supposition that these might formerly have been floated across, on icebergs produced by the fall of glaciers. We are not bound to suppose that the latitude 46° 40' has always been the northern limit of such phenomena, even if it should be so at present. We have endeavoured to show that the snow-line in the parallel of Chiloe has an elevation of about 6000 feet; and since on Mont Blanc the glaciers descend 5160 feet beneath the line of perpetual snow, we might at present expect to find them in front of Chiloe at a very small altitude above the level of the sea.

With respect to the position of the glaciers, they seem to occur only within the deep sounds which penetrate the central Cordillera. This may be attributed chiefly to the subordinate elevation of the outer lines. When we consider the vast dimensions and number of these glaciers, the effect produced on the land must be very great. Every one has heard of the mass of rubbish propelled by the glaciers of Switzerland, as they slowly creep onwards. In the same manner in Tierra del Fuego, on a still night the cracking and groaning of the great moving mass may be distinctly heard. The same force, which is known to uproot whole forests of lofty trees, must, when grating over the surface, tear from the flanks of the mountain many huge fragments of rock. Beneath each glacier, also, a roaring torrent drains the upper part of the ice. To these effects, which are common to all cases, there must be added, in this country, the wear and tear of the waves produced by each successive fall. Nor can this agency be inconsiderable, when we remember that it goes on night and day, century after century. We must look

[page] 287 June, 1834. GLACIERS.

at every portion of the mountain as having, during the gradual rising of the land, been successively exposed to the action of these combined forces.

It is, perhaps, useless to speculate on the effects of earthquakes without some positive data. But as we find in the immediate neighbourhood of that great glacier, which stands in the latitude of the Alps, Byron* mentioning with surprise the quantities of sea-shells lying on all the hill-tops (a fact which may be taken as a proof of recent continental elevations); and Bulkeley,† in his narrative, saying, "This day we felt four great earthquakes, three of which were very terrible;" we may feel well assured, that the same power, which in Chile causes such vast masses of rock and soil to fall from the sea-cliffs, has oftentimes precipitated fragments far more immense, of a mass traversed by great fissures, already in motion, and resting on an inclined plane. I cannot imagine any scene of more terrific violence, than the waves produced by such a fall: we know that they are very bad from the mere oscillation, consequent on the movements of the ground; but in this case I can readily believe that the water would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest inlet, and then returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl about rocks of vast size like so much chaff.

In after ages, with a climate modified by the process of such physical changes as are now going on throughout the greater part of this continent, the effects which had been produced by these glaciers would appear inexplicable, to a person who doubted the possibility of their occurrence in such latitudes. He would see in the most retired and protected valleys (the present channels) beaches composed of great rounded boulders, such as those heaped up on the shore of the most turbulent ocean. Then perhaps he would speculate, either that the outer chain of mountains had been elevated

* Byron's Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Wager.

† Bulkeley's and Cummin's Faithful Narrative of the loss of the Wager. The earthquake happened August 25, 1741.

[page] 288 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

subsequently to the interior ones, so as to protect a coast hitherto exposed, or that overwhelming deluges had swept down the valleys, and in some manner produced, in one day, the effects of attrition which on ordinary occasions require the prolonged action of centuries.

If we could at the present day submerge the greater part of Tierra del Fuego, or leave unelevated that which we know has recently been gained, an island with a few small outliers would be formed, similar to Georgia, and situated in exactly the same latitude. Have we in such case the slightest right to deny the probability that the snow-line would descend nearly to the water's edge, and that every valley would be "terminated by a wall of ice," and that "in winter masses would be broken off and dispersed over the sea?"—all of which circumstances are now happening in Georgia. The currents, which always set from the westward towards the east, would drift these floating masses through the channels towards the eastern side. And as we know that icebergs at the present day, in both hemispheres, occasionally transport fragments of rock, so we cannot deny that those of Tierra del Fuego might formerly have done so. When the land was elevated, the fragments of rock would be found deposited on the eastern side of the continent, in bands representing the ancient channels. Whether or not the hypothesis of their transport be true, such is the position of the erratic blocks in Tierra del Fuego.

With respect to the general theory of the transport by great fragments of ice, especially of such as are angular, I may add a few remarks. Humboldt having observed that none occurred over the vast intertropical plains of the eastern side of South America, believed that they were entirely absent from the whole continent. As far as I am able to discover from the works of travellers, and from what I have myself seen, the remark holds good in the countries on both sides of the Cordillera as far south as central Chile. Azara has particularly stated such to be the case in Chaco. With respect to the tributaries of the Amazons, nothing can more

[page] 289 June, 1834. ERRATIC BLOCKS.

strongly prove it than La Condamine's* story. He says, " Below Borja even for four or five hundred leagues, a stone, even a single flint, is as great a rarity as a diamond would be. The savages of those countries don't know what a stone is, and have not even a notion of it. It is diversion enough to see some of them when they come to Borja, and first meet with stones, express their admiration at them with signs, and be eager to pick them up, loading themselves therewith as with a valuable merchandise." It is therefore a remarkable circumstance that as soon as we reach the colder latitudes in the southern hemisphere (from 41° to Cape Horn), the same phenomenon occurs, almost on as grand a scale and with similar limits, as in the northern parts both of the Old and New World. Neither in the southern nor in the northern hemisphere do the fragments, coming from the polar regions, or from other mountain groups, arrive within a considerable distance of the lines of the tropics.

We must couple the absence of erratic blocks along that part of the Andes which is situated under a warmer climate, with the similar non-occurrence, as I am informed by Professor Royle, in Northern India round the flanks of the Himmalaya;—those loftiest pinnacles on the face of the globe. With regard to Southern Africa, from lat. 35° to the tropic, Dr. Andrew Smith, who has visited as a naturalist so large a portion of the interior, assures me he has never seen any thing of the kind. Nor do I recollect meeting with any mention of them, in the works of the numerous travellers in the equatorial regions of the same continent. The same remark certainly holds good with Australia in the parallel of Sydney, but perhaps is more doubtful with respect to Van Diemen's Land.† To my mind these negative facts‡ have

* La Condamine's Voyage (English translation), p. 24.

† I will here put together all the (apparent?) exceptions which I have met with to the supposed law that erratic blocks are absent in the intertropical regions of the world. First, in the Bulletin de la Société Géologique, 1837, p. 234, there is an account of some erratic blocks near Macao (lat. 22° N.); but as it is distinctly stated they are all of granite,


[page] 290 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

very great weight in support of the mass of positive evidence which Mr. Lyell* has brought to bear upon the question.

and the greater number of even the same coloured variety, as the granitic rock, on which they rest, the case need not be considered. Secondly, in a late number of the Madras Journal, Dr. Benza has described some erratic blocks lying on a plain between the Neilgherries (lat. 12° N.) and Madras. He states that the foundation-rock of the country is gneiss, "while the granite clusters are more elevated, and affect either a prismatic form, or are piled up one on the other, like logging stones." Dr. Benza had the kindness to inform me that these masses are very large, and that several are piled one upon the other. Again, Brongniart says (Tableau de Terrains, p. 83), "On cite aussi dans l'Inde, au pays d'Hyderabad (lat. 17° N.), des blocs énormes de granite, amoncelés les uns sur les autres "(Deluc neveu). Every one must draw his own conclusions from these accounts, regarding the probability of erratic blocks being heaped up, one upon the other, like logging stones. The same doubt likewise partly applies to the Macao case. With respect to the boulders of Hyderabad, Dr. T. Christie has distinctly stated (Edin. New Phil. Jour., Oct. 1828, p. 102), that they are in situ, and has explained their origin. For my own part, I cannot forget that whole granitic hills at the Cape of Good Hope, which, from weathering, have assumed a boulder-like form, were once described as transported masses. The two next cases do not properly come under consideration, for they refer to masses lying in the valleys of lofty mountains. We must not overlook such accidents as bursting of lakes, earthquakes, and the action of former coast-lines. Helms, in his Travels (English translation, p. 45), states he was astonished to find the highest snow-capped mountains near Potosi (20° N.) covered with a stratum of rounded granitic stones. He supposes they must have come from Tucuman, which is several hundred miles distant: yet at p. 55 he says, at Iocalla (a few leagues only from Potosi), "a mass of granite many miles in length, rises in huge weatherbeaten rocks :" the whole account is to me quite unintelligible. Lastly, M. Gay (Annales des Sciences, 1833) describes granitic boulders within the valley of Cauquenes (lat. 33°-34° S.), in the Cordillera. I visited this place: the boulders and pebbles are not large, and those beyond the mouth of the valley are small. The case did not appear to me nearly so extraordinary as it seems to have struck M. Gay. I cannot agree with his assertion that this rock is not found in that part of the Cordillera: but this is a subject which I shall discuss in a future work.

‡ The absence of great embedded fragments in the formations of the secondary epoch, when we know that the climate was of a more tropical character, is a fact of the same kind.

[page] 291 June, 1834. RECAPITULATION.

The circumstance of a luxuriant vegetation with a tropical character so largely encroaching on the temperate zones, under the same kind of climate that allows of a limit of perpetual snow of little altitude, and consequent descent of the glaciers into the sea, is very important; because it has been argued, with great apparent truth, that as there is the strongest presumptive evidence of a gradual cooling down of the climate (or rather of a less favourable state for tropical productions) in Europe, it is most unphilosophical to imagine that formerly glaciers could have acted where they do not now occur. It may be asked; what are the circumstances in the southern hemisphere that produce such results? Must we not attribute them to the large proportional area of water; and do not plain geological inferences compel us to allow, that during the epoch anterior to the present, the northern hemisphere more closely approached to that condition, than it now does?

We are all so much better acquainted with the position of places in our own, than in any other quarter of the globe, that I will recapitulate what is actually taking place in the southern hemisphere,† only transporting in imagination each part to a corresponding latitude in the north. On this supposition, in the southern provinces of France, magnificent forests, intwined by arborescent grasses, and the trees loaded with parasitical plants, would cover the face of the country. In the latitude of Mont Blanc, but on an island as far eastward as central Siberia, tree-ferns and parasitical orchideæ would thrive amidst the thick woods. Even as far north as central Denmark, humming-birds might be seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and parrots feeding amidst the evergreen woods, with which the mountains would be clothed down to the water's edge. Nevertheless, the southern part of Scot-

* Anniversary Address to the Geological Society, Feb. 19, 1836, p. 30; and Principles of Geology, vol. i., p. 269, and vol. iv., p. 47, fifth edition.

† It is in the southern hemisphere that we find elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotomuses, and lions, as far south as lat. 34° 35'. In South America the jaguar occurs in 42°, and the puma in 53°.

U 2

[page] 292 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

land (only removed twice as far to the westward) would present an island "almost wholly covered with everlasting snow," and having each bay terminated by ice-cliffs, from which great masses yearly detached, would sometimes bear with them fragments of rock. This island would only boast of one land bird, a little grass and moss; yet in the same latitude the sea might swarm with living creatures. A chain of mountains, which we will call the Cordillera, running north and south through the Alps (but having an altitude much inferior to the latter), would connect them with the central part of Denmark. Along this whole line nearly every deep sound would end in "bold and astonishing glaciers." In the Alps themselves (with their altitude reduced by about half) we should find proofs of recent elevations, and occasionally terrible earthquakes would cause such masses of ice to be precipitated into the sea, that waves tearing all before them, would heap together enormous fragments, and pile them up in the corners of the valleys. At other times, icebergs, "charged with no inconsiderable blocks of granite,"* would be floated from the flanks of Mont Blanc, and then stranded on the outlying islands of the Jura. Who then will deny the possibility of these things having actually taken place in Europe during a former period, and under circumstances known to be different from the present, when on merely looking to the other hemisphere, we see they are among the daily order of events?

To the northward of our new Cape Horn, we should only have certain knowledge of a few island groups, situated in the latitude of the south part of Norway, and others in that of Ferroe. These, in the middle of summer, would be buried under snow, and surrounded by walls of ice; so that scarcely a living thing of any kind would be supported on the land. If some bold navigator attempted to penetrate beyond these islands towards the pole, he would run a

* Geographical Journal. Capt. King uses these words when alluding to the case in Sir G. Eyre's Sound, which I have more fully described from the information of Mr. Bynoe.

[page] 293 June, 1834. ANIMALS PRESERVED IN ICE.

thousand dangers, and only meet an ocean strewed with mountain-masses of ice.

At the Ferroe islands (or we may say a little to the southward of the Wiljui, where Pallas found (in lat. 64° N.) the frozen rhinoceros), a body buried under the surface of the soil would undergo so little decomposition, that years afterwards (as in the instance mentioned at South Shetland, 62°-63° S.), every feature might be recognised perfect and unchanged. I particularly allude to this circumstance, because the case of the Siberian animals preserved with their flesh in the ice, offers the same apparent difficulty with the glaciers; namely, the union in the same hemisphere of a climate in some senses severe, with one allowing of the life of those forms which at present, although abounding without the tropics, do not approach the frozen zones.

The perfect preservation of the Siberian animals, perhaps presented, till within a few years, one of the most difficult problems which geology ever attempted to solve. On the one hand it was granted, that the carcasses had not been drifted from any great distance by any tumultuous deluge, and on the other it was assumed as certain, that when the animals lived, the climate must have been so totally different, that the presence of ice in the vicinity was as incredible, as would be the freezing of the Ganges. Mr. Lyell in his "Principles of Geology"* has thrown the greatest light on this subject, by indicating the northerly course of the existing rivers with the probability that they formerly carried carcasses in the same direction ; by showing (from Humboldt) how far the inhabitants of the hottest countries sometimes wander; by insisting on the caution necessary in judging of habits between animals of the same genius, when the species are not identical; and especially by bringing forward in the clearest manner the probable change from an insular to an extreme climate, as the

* In the fourth and subsequent editions.

[page] 294 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

consequence of the elevation of the land, of which proofs have lately been brought to light.*

In a former part of this volume, I have endeavoured to prove, that as far as regards the quantity of food, there is no difficulty in supposing that these large quadrupeds inhabited sterile regions, producing but a scanty vegetation. With respect to temperature, the woolly covering both of the elephant and the rhinoceros seems at once to render it at least probable (although it has been argued that some animals living in the hottest regions are thickly clothed) that they were fitted for a cold climate. I suppose no reason can be assigned why, during a former epoch, when the pachydermata abounded over the greater part of the world, some species should not have been fitted for the northern regions, precisely as now happens with deer and several other animals.† If, then, we believe that the climate of Siberia, anteriorly to the physical changes above alluded to, had some resemblance with that of the southern hemisphere at the present day—a circumstance which harmonizes well with other facts,‡ as I think has

* Wrangel's Voyage in the Icy Sea in the years 1821, 1822, and 1823. Edited by Professor Parrot, of Dorpat, Berlin, 1826.

† Dr. Fleming first brought this notion forward in two papers published in the Edinburgh Philosoph. Journ. (April, 1829, and Jan. 1830). He adduces the case of allied species of the bear, fox, hare, and ox, living under widely different climates.

‡ Since writing the above, I have been much interested by reading an account by Professor Esmark, which proves that formerly, glaciers in Norway descended to a lower altitude than at present; and therefore, that they came down to the level of the sea in a lower latitude. This, according to generally-received ideas, would indicate a colder climate, and so it was considered to do by Professor Esmark; for he argues from it in favour of Whiston's hypothesis, that the "earth in its aphelion was covered with ice and snow." Professor Esmark describes a glacier-dike, in lat. 58° 57', as "lying close to the level of the sea, in a district, where you find only a few heaps of perpetual snow in the hollows of the mountains." He says, "Not only the dike itself, but the whole horizontal surface, exhibits proofs that there has been a glacier here, for the plain exactly resembles

[page] 295 June, 1834. ANIMALS PRESERVED IN ICE.

been shown by the imaginary case, when we transported existing phenomena from one to the other hemisphere,—the following conclusions may be deduced as probable: First, that the degree of cold formerly was not excessive; secondly, that snow did not for a long time together cover the ground (such not being the case at the extreme parts 55°-56° of S. America); thirdly, that the vegetation partook of a more tropical character than it now does in the same latitudes; and lastly, that at but a short distance to the northward of the country thus circumstanced (even not so far as where Pallas found the entire rhinoceros), the soil might be perpetually congealed: so that if the carcass of any animal should once be buried a few feet beneath the surface, it would be preserved for centuries.

Both Humboldt* and Lyell have remarked, that at the present day, the bodies of any animals, wandering beyond the line of perpetual congelation which extends as far south as 62°, if once embedded by any accident a few feet beneath the surface, would be preserved for an indefinite length of time: the same would happen with carcasses drifted by the rivers; and by such means the extinct mammalia may have been entombed. There is only one small step wanting, as it appears to me, and the whole problem would be solved with a degree of simplicity very striking, compared with the several theories first invented. From the account given by

those which I found adjoining the glaciers presently existing between Londfiord and Lomb." (See Ed. New Phil. Journal, p. 117, October 1826.) These facts afford a very strong and admirable confirmation of the view, that the climate of Europe has been gradually changing, from a character resembling that of the southern hemisphere, to its present condition. For on this hypothesis, we might have anticipated, that proofs would have been discovered, that glaciers formerly descended to a lower altitude than they now do; and yet, that the organic remains of that epoch, instead of a former period of refrigeration, would have indicated a climate of a more tropical character;—a conclusion, which may be deduced from plain geological evidence.

* See Humboldt, Fragmens Asiatiques, vol. ii., pp. 385-395.

[page] 296 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

Mr. Lyell of the Siberian plains, with their innumerable fossil bones, the relics of many successive generations, there can be little doubt that the beds were accumulated either in a shallow sea, or in an estuary. From the description given in Beechey's voyage of Eschscholtz Bay, the same remark is applicable to the north-west coast of America : the formation there appears identical with the common littoral deposits* recently elevated, which I have seen on the shores of the southern part of the same continent. It seems also well established, that the Siberian remains are only exposed where the rivers intersect the plain. With this fact, and the proofs of recent elevation, the whole case appears to be precisely similar to that of the Pampas : namely, that the carcasses were formerly floated into the sea, and the remains covered up in the deposits which were then accumulating. These beds have since been elevated; and as the rivers excavate their channels the entombed skeletons are exposed.

Here then, is the difficulty: how were the carcasses preserved at the bottom of the sea? I do not think it has been sufficiently noticed, that the preservation of the animal with its flesh was an occasional event, and not directly consequent on its position far northward. Cuvier† refers to the voyage of Billing as showing that the bones of the elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros, are nowhere so abundant as on the islands between the mouths of the Lena and Indigirska. It is even said that excepting some hills of rock, the whole is composed of sand, ice, and bones. These islands lie to the northward of the place where Adams found the mammoth with its flesh preserved, and even ten degrees north of the Wiljui, where the rhinoceros was discovered in a like condition. In the case of the bones we may suppose that the carcasses were

* See some remarks by Dr. Buckland on the similarity of this formation with the deposits so commonly found over a great part of Europe. Appendix to Beechey's Voyage, p. 609.

† Ossemens Fossiles, vol. i., p. 151.

[page] 297 June, 1834. EDIBLE FUNGUS.

drifted into a deeper sea, and there remaining at the bottom, the flesh decomposed.* But in the second and more extraordinary case, where putrefaction seems to have been arrested, the body probably was soon covered up by deposits which were then accumulating. It may be asked, whether the mud a few feet deep, at the bottom of a shallow sea which is annually frozen, has a temperature higher than 32°? It must be remembered how intense a degree of cold is required to freeze salt water; and that the mud at some depth below the surface, would have a low mean temperature, precisely in the same manner as the subsoil on the land is frozen in countries which enjoy a short but hot summer. If this be possible,† the entombment of these extinct quadru-

* Under these circumstances of slow decomposition, the surrounding deposits would probably be impregnated with much animal matter; and thus the peculiar odour perceived in the neighbourhood of the strata containing fossil bones at Eschscholtz Bay, may be accounted for. See Appendix to Beechey's Voyage.

† With respect to the possibility of even ice accumulating at the bottom of the sea, I shall only refer to the following passage taken from the English translation of the Expedition to the East Coast of Greenland, by Captain W. Graah, Danish Royal Navy. "Nor is this the only danger to be apprehended: the ice off this blink, even to a considerable distance from it, being said to shoot up from the bottom of the sea in such a manner, and in such masses, as in many years to make it utterly impassable. How to account for the phenomenon to which I have just adverted I know not, unless by supposing that the bottom of the sea itself is hereabouts like the dry land covered with a thick crust of ice. But whether this crust is formed upon the spot, or is the remains of icebergs and the heavy drift-ice frozen to the bottom during severe winters, or a portion of the land-ice, which loaded with stones and fragments of the crumbling hill has protruded itself into the sea, is a problem impossible, perhaps to solve." Again he says: "We passed it without any accident, and without having observed any thing of that upheaving of the ice off it, to which allusion has been made, though the fact of its occurrence cannot be doubted, the very name of the place, Puisortok, being thence derived." It seems fully established on excellent testimony (see Journ. of Geograph. Soc., vol. v., p. 12, and vol. vi., p. 416; also a collection of notices in Edinburgh Journal of Nat. and Geograph. Soc., vol. ii., p. 55), that freshwater rivers in Russia and Siberia, and even in England, often freeze at

[page] 298 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

peds is rendered very simple; and with regard to the conditions of their former existence, the principal difficulties have, I think, already been removed.


Having concluded this long discussion on the analogies which may be drawn from the existing climate of the southern parts of America, together with its productions, we will return to the description of Tierra del Fuego.

There is one vegetable production in this country which is worthy of mention, as it affords a staple article of food to the aborigines. It is a globular fungus of a bright yellow colour, and of about the size of a small apple, which adheres in vast numbers to the bark of the beech-trees. It probably forms a new genus, allied to the morell. In the young state it is elastic and turgid, from being charged with moisture. The external skin is smooth, yet slightly marked with small circular pits, like those from the smallpox. When cut in two, the inside is seen to consist of a white fleshy substance, which viewed under a high power resembles, from the numerous thread-like cylinders, vermicelli. Close beneath the surface, cup-shaped balls, about one-twelfth of an inch in diameter, are arranged at regular intervals. These cups are filled with a slightly adhesive, yet elastic, colourless, quite transparent matter; and from the latter character they at first appeared empty. These little gelatinous balls could be easily detached from the surrounding mass, except at the upper extremity, where the edge divided itself into threads, which mingled with the rest of the vermicelli-like mass. The external skin directly above each of the balls is pitted, and as the fungus grows old, it is ruptured, and the gelatinous mass, which no doubt contains the sporules, is disseminated.

the bottom, and that the flakes of ice when they rise to the surface, often "bring with them large stones." All that seems to be required in producing ground-ice, is, that there should be sufficient movement in the fluid, so that the whole is cooled down to the freezing point, and then the water crystallizes, wherever there is a point of attachment.

[page] 299 June, 1834. EDIBLE FUNGUS.

After this process of fructification has taken place, the whole surface becomes honeycombed, with empty cells (as represented in the accompanying woodcut), and the fungus shrinks, and grows tougher. In this state it is eaten by the Fuegians, in large quantities, uncooked, and when well chewed has a mucilaginous and slightly sweet taste, together with a faint odour like that of a mushroom. Excepting a few berries of a dwarf arbutus, which need hardly be taken into the account, these poor savages never eat any other vegetable food besides this fungus.*

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of the forests,† in which two or three species of trees grow, to the exclusion of all others. Above the forest land, there are many dwarf alpine plants, which all spring from the mass of peat, and help to compose it. The central part of Tierra del Fuego, where the clay-slate formation

* In New Zealand, before the introduction of the potato, the root of the fern was consumed in large quantities. At the present day I should think Tierra del Fuego was the only country in the world, where a cryptogamic plant afforded a staple article of food.

† Captain FitzRoy informs me that in April (our October) the leaves of those trees which grow near the base of the mountains change colour, but not those in the more elevated parts. I remember having read some observations showing, that in England the leaves fall earlier in a warm and fine autumn, than in a late and cold one. This change in the colour being retarded in the more elevated and therefore colder situations, must be owing to the same general law of vegetation. The trees of Tierra del Fuego during no part of the year entirely shed their leaves.

[page] 300 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

occurs, is most favourable to the growth of trees; on the outer coast the poorer granitic soil, and a situation more exposed to the violent winds, do not allow of their attaining any great size. Near Port Famine I have seen more large trees than any where else: I measured a winter's bark which was four feet six inches in girth, and several of the beech were thirteen feet. Captain King also mentions one of the latter which was seven feet in diameter, seventeen feet above the roots.

The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been expected from the nature of its climate and vegetation, is very poor. Of mammalia, besides Cetacea and Phocæ, there is one bat, a mouse with grooved front teeth (Reithrodon of Waterhouse), and two other species, the tucutuco (the greater number of these rodents are confined to the eastern and dry part), a fox, sea-otter, guanaco, and one deer. The latter animal is rare, and is not, I believe, to be found south of the Strait of Magellan, as happens with the others.

Observing the general correspondence of the cliffs of soft sandstone, mud, and shingle, on the opposite sides of the Strait, together with those on some intervening islands, one is strongly tempted to believe that the land was once joined, and thus allowed animals so delicate and helpless as the tucutuco, and Reithrodon, to pass over. The correspondence of the cliffs is far from proving any junction; because such cliffs generally are formed by the intersection of sloping deposits, which, before the elevation of the land, had been accumulated near the then existing shores. It is, however, a remarkable coincidence, that in the two large islands cut off by the Beagle channel from the rest of Tierra del Fuego, one has cliffs composed of matter that may be called stratified alluvium, which front similar ones on the opposite side of the channel,—while the other is exclusively bordered by the older rocks: in the former, called Navarin Island, both foxes and guanacoes occur; but in the latter, Hoste Island, although similar in every respect, and only separated by a channel a little more than half a mile wide, I have the word of Jemmy

[page] 301 June, 1834. ZOOLOGY.

Button for saying that neither of these animals are found. I must confess to an exception to the rule, in the presence of a small mouse, of a species occurring likewise in Patagonia.

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds: occasionally the plaintive note of a white tufted tyrant-flycatcher may be heard, concealed near the summit of the most lofty trees; and more rarely the loud strange cry of a black woodpecker, with a fine scarlet crest on its head. A little, dusky-coloured wren (Scytalopus fuscus) hops in a skulking manner among the entangled mass of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the creeper (Synallaxis Tupinieri) is the commonest bird in the country. Throughout the beech forests, high up and low down, in the most gloomy, wet, and impenetrable ravines, it may be met with. This little bird no doubt appears more numerous than it really is, from its habit of following, with seeming curiosity, any person who enters these silent woods: continually uttering a harsh twitter, it flutters from tree to tree, within a few feet of the intruder's face. It is far from wishing for the modest concealment of the true creeper (Certhia familiaris), nor does it, like that bird, run up and down the trunks of trees; but industriously, after the manner of a willow wren, hops about, and searches for insects on every twig and branch. In the more open parts three or four species of finches, a thrush, a starling (or Icterus), two furnarii, and several hawks and owls occur.

The absence of any species whatever in the whole class of Reptiles is a marked feature in the zoology of this country, as well as in that of the Falkland Islands. I do not ground this statement merely on my own observation, but I heard it from the Spanish inhabitants of the latter place, and from Jemmy Button with regard to Tierra del Fuego. On the banks of the St. Cruz in 50° south, I saw a frog; and it is not improbable that these animals, as well as lizards, may be found as far south as the Strait of Magellan, where the country retains the character of Patagonia; but within the

[page] 302 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

damp and cold limit not one occurs. That the climate would not have suited some of the orders, such as lizards, might have been foreseen; but with respect to frogs, this was not so obvious.

Coleopterous insects occur in very small numbers. Until I had endeavoured by every means to find them, I could not believe, that a country as large as Scotland, covered with vegetable productions, and with a variety of stations, would ever have been so unproductive. The greater part of my small collection consists of alpine insects (Harpalidæ and Heteromera) found beneath stones, above the limit of the forest. Lower down, with the exception of some few Curculiones scarcely any could be found. The Chrysomelidæ, which are so pre-eminently characteristic of the Tropics, are here almost entirely absent.* This must depend on the climate; for the quantity of vegetable matter is superfluously great. In the hottest part of the summer the mean of the maxima for thirty-seven successive days was 55°, and the thermometer on some of the days rose to 60°; yet there were no orthoptera, very few diptera, lepidoptera, or hymenoptera. In the pools of water I found but few aquatic beetles, and not any fresh-water shells. Succinea at first appears an exception; but here it must be called a terrestrial species, for it lives on the damp herbage far from water. Land shells could only be procured in the same situations with the alpine beetles. I have already contrasted the climate, as well as the general appearance of Tierra del Fuego with that of Patagonia; and the difference is strongly exemplified in the entomology.

* I believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single specimen of a Melasoma. Mr. Waterhouse, who was good enough to look at my collection from this place, tells me, that of the Harpalidæ there are eight or nine species,—the forms of the greater number being very peculiar; of Heteromera, four or five species; of Rhyncophora six or seven; and of the following families one species in each : Staphylinidæ, Elateridæ, Cebrionidæ, Melolonthidæ. The species in the other orders, were even fewer. In all the orders, the scarcity of the individuals was even more remarkable than that of the species.

[page] 303 June, 1834. ZOOLOGY.

I do not believe they have a species in common; certainly the general character of the insects is widely different.

If we turn from the land to the sea, we shall find the latter as abundantly stocked with living creatures as the former is poorly so. In all parts of the world a rocky and partially protected shore perhaps supports, in a given space, a greater number of individual animals than any other kind of station. Here, under every stone, numerous crawling creatures swarmed, and especially crustacea of the family of Cymothoades. The number of Sphæroma was truly wonderful: as these animals, when coiled up, have some resemblance to Trilobites, they were an interesting sight to a geologist. On the tidal rocks patelliform shells of large size were very abundant. Even at the depth of forty or fifty fathoms, the bottom of the sea was far from sterile, as was shown by the abundance of small strong corallines.

There is one marine production, which from its importance is worthy of a particular history. It is the kelp or Fucus giganteus of Solander. This plant grows on every rock from low-water mark to a great depth, both on the outer coast and within the channels. I believe, during the voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, not one rock near the surface was discovered, which was not buoyed by this floating weed. The good service it thus affords to vessels navigating near this stormy land is evident; and it certainly has saved many a one from being wrecked. I know few things more surprising than to see this plant growing and flourishing amidst those great breakers of the western ocean, which no mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can long resist. The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and seldom has a diameter of so much as an inch. A few taken together are sufficiently strong to support the weight of the large loose stones to which in the inland channels they grow attached; and some of these stones are so heavy, that when drawn to the surface they can scarcely be lifted into a boat by one person.

Captain Cook, in his second voyage, says, that at Kerguelen Land "some of this weed is of a most enormous

[page] 304 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

length, though the stem is not much thicker than a man's thumb. I have mentioned, that on some of the shoals upon which it grows, we did not strike ground with a line of twenty-four fathoms. The depth of water, therefore, must have been greater. And as this weed does not grow in a perpendicular direction, but makes a very acute angle with the bottom, and much of it afterwards spreads many fathoms on the surface of the sea, I am well warranted to say that some of it grows to the length of sixty fathoms and upwards." Certainly at the Falkland Islands, and about Tierra del Fuego, extensive beds frequently spring up from ten and fifteen fathom water. I do not suppose the stem of any other plant attains so great a length as 360 feet, as stated by Captain Cook. Its geographical range is very considerable; it is found from the extreme southern islets near Cape Horn, as far north, on the eastern coast (according to information given me by Mr. Stokes), as lat. 43°,—and on the western it was tolerably abundant, but far from luxuriant, at Chiloe, in lat. 42°. It may possibly extend a little further northward, but is soon succeeded by a different species. We thus have a range of fifteen degrees in latitude; and as Cook, who must have been well acquainted with the species, found it at Kerguelen Land, no less than 140° in longitude.

The number of living creatures of all orders, whose existence intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful. A great volume might be written, describing the inhabitants of one of these beds of sea-weed. Almost every leaf, excepting those that float on the surface, is so thickly incrusted with corallines, as to be of a white colour. We find exquisitely-delicate structures, some inhabited by simple hydra-like polypi, others by more organized kinds, and beautiful compound Ascidiæ.* On the flat surfaces of the leaves various patelliform shells, Trochi, uncovered molluscs, and some bivalves are attached. Innumerable crustacea frequent every part of

* I have reason to believe that many of these animals are exclusively confined to this station.

[page] 305 June, 1834. FUCUS GIGANTEUS.

the plant. On shaking the great entangled roots, a pile of small fish, shells, cuttle-fish, crabs of all orders, sea-eggs, starfish, beautiful Holuthuriæ (some taking the external form of the nudibranch molluscs), Planariæ, and crawling nereidous animals of a multitude of forms, all fall out together. Often as I recurred to a branch of the kelp, I never failed to discover animals of new and curious structures. In Chiloe, where, as I have said, the kelp did not thrive very well, the numerous shells, corallines, and crustacea were absent; but there yet remained a few of the flustraceæ, and some compound Ascidiæ; the latter, however, were of different species from those in Tierra del Fuego. We here see the fucus possessing a wider range than the animals which use it as an abode.

I can only compare these great aquatic forests of the southern hemisphere with the terrestrial ones in the intertropical regions. Yet if the latter should be destroyed in any country, I do not believe nearly so many species of animals would perish, as, under similar circumstances, would happen with the kelp. Amidst the leaves of this plant numerous species of fish live, which nowhere else would find food or shelter; with their destruction the many cormorants, divers, and other fishing birds, the otters, seals, and porpoises, would soon perish also; and lastly, the Fuegian savage, the miserable lord of this miserable land, would redouble his cannibal feast, decrease in numbers, and perhaps cease to exist.

JUNE 8TH.—We weighed anchor early in the morning, and left Port Famine. Captain FitzRoy determined to leave the Strait of Magellan by the Magdalen channel, which had not long been discovered. Our course lay due south, down that gloomy passage which I have before alluded to, as appearing to lead to another and worse world. The wind was fair, but the atmosphere was very thick; so that we missed much curious scenery. The dark ragged clouds were rapidly driven over the mountains, from their summits nearly to their bases. The glimpses which we caught through the


[page] 306 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. June, 1834.

dusky mass were highly interesting: jagged points, cones of snow, blue glaciers, strong outlines marked on a lurid sky, were seen at different distances and heights. In the midst of such scenery we anchored at Cape Turn, close to Mount Sarmiento, which was then hidden in the clouds. At the base of the lofty and almost perpendicular sides of our little cove, there was one deserted wigwam, and it alone reminded us that man sometimes wandered in these desolate regions. But it would be difficult to imagine a scene where he seemed to have less claims, or less authority. The inanimate works of nature—rock, ice, snow, wind, and water—all warring with each other, yet combined against man—here reigned in absolute sovereignty.

JUNE 9TH.—In the morning we were delighted by seeing the veil of mist gradually rise from Sarmiento, and display it to our view. This mountain, which is one of the highest in Tierra del Fuego, has an elevation of 6800 feet. Its base, for about an eighth of its total height, is clothed by dusky woods, and above this a field of snow extends to the summit. These vast piles of snow, which never melt, and seem destined to last as long as the world holds together, present a noble and even sublime spectacle. The outline of the mountain was admirably clear and defined. Owing to the abundance of light reflected from the white and glittering surface, no shadows are cast on any part ; and those lines which intersect the sky can alone be distinguished : hence the mass stood out in the boldest relief. Several glaciers descended in a winding course, from the snow to the sea-coast: they may be likened to great frozen Niagaras; and perhaps these cataracts of blue ice are to the full as beautiful as the moving ones of water. By night we reached the western part of the channel; but the water was so deep that no anchorage could be found. We were in consequence obliged to stand off and on, in this narrow arm of the sea, during a pitch-dark night of fourteen hours long.

JUNE 10TH.—In the morning we made the best of our way into the open Pacific. The Western coast generally

[page] 307 June, 1834. TIERRA DEL FUEGO.

consists of low, rounded, quite barren, hills of granite and greenstone. Sir John Narborough called one part South Desolation, because it is "so desolate a land to behold;" and well indeed might he say so. Outside the main islands there are numberless scattered rocks, on which the long swell of the open ocean incessantly rages. We passed out between the East and West Furies, and a little further northward there are so many breakers that the sea is called the Milky Way. One sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwreck, peril, and death; and with this sight, we bade farewell for ever to Tierra del Fuego.

X 2

[page] 308


Valparaiso — Excursion to base of Andes — Structure of land — Ascend Bell of Quillota — Shattered masses of greenstone — Immense valleys — Mines — State of miners — Santiago — Hot baths of Cauquenes — Gold mines — Grinding mills — Perforated stones — Habits of puma — El turco and tapacolo — Humming-birds.


JULY 23D.—The Beagle anchored late at night in the bay of Valparaiso, the chief seaport of Chile. When morning came, every thing appeared delightful. After Tierra del Fuego, the climate felt quite delicious—the atmosphere so dry, and the heavens so clear and blue, with the sun shining brightly, that all nature seemed sparkling with life. The view from the anchorage is very pretty. The town is built at the very foot of a range of hills, about 1600 feet high, and rather steep. From its position, it consists of one long, straggling street, which runs parallel to the beach, and wherever a ravine comes down, the houses are piled up on each side of it. The rounded hills, being only partially protected by a very scanty vegetation, are worn into numberless little gullies, which expose a singularly bright red soil. From this cause, and from the low whitewashed houses with tile roofs, the view reminded me of St. Cruz in Teneriffe. In a north-easterly direction there are some fine glimpses of the Andes: but these mountains appear much grander when viewed from the neighbouring hills; the great distance at which they are situated can then more readily be perceived. The volcano of Aconcagua is particularly magnificent. This huge and irregularly conical mass has an elevation greater than that of Chimborazo; for, from measurements made by the officers in the Beagle, its height is no less than 23,000 feet. The Cordillera, however, viewed from

[page] 309 Aug. 1834. VALPARAISO.

this point, owe the greater part of their beauty to the atmosphere through which they are seen. When the sun was setting in the Pacific, it was admirable to watch how clearly their rugged outlines could be distinguished, yet how varied and how delicate were the shades of their colour.

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Richard Corfield, an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality and kindness I was greatly indebted, in having afforded me a most pleasant residence during the Beagle's stay in Chile. The immediate neighbourhood of Valparaiso is not very productive to the naturalist. The surrounding hills consist of a granitic formation, which sometimes assumes the character of gneiss, and sometimes of granite. Their summits are flat-topped, and their flanks rounded. I have before stated, that forests cover that side of the Cordillera which fronts the prevailing winds. Here, during the summer, which forms the longer portion of the year, the winds blow steadily from the southward, and a little off shore, so that rain never falls: during the three winter months it is however sufficiently abundant. The vegetation in consequence is very scanty. Except in some deep valleys, trees nowhere occur, and only a little grass and a few low bushes are scattered over the less steep parts of the hills. When we reflect that, at the distance of 350 miles to the southward, this side of the Andes is completely hidden by one impenetrable forest, the contrast is very remarkable.

I took several long walks while collecting objects of natural history. The country is pleasant for exercise. There are many very beautiful flowers, and as in most other dry climates, the plants and shrubs possess strong and peculiar odours; even one's clothes by brushing through them became scented. I did not yet cease from wonder, at finding each succeeding day as fine as the foregoing. What a difference does climate make in the enjoyment of life! How opposite are the sensations when viewing black mountains half-enveloped in clouds, and seeing another range through the light

[page] 310 CHILE. Aug. 1834.

blue haze of a fine day! The one for a time may be very sublime; the other is all gaiety and happy life.

AUGUST 14TH.—I set out on a riding excursion, for the purpose of geologizing the basal parts of the Andes, which alone at this time of the year were not shut up by the winter snow. Our first day's ride was northward along the sea-coast. After dark we reached the Hacienda of Quintero, the estate which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. My object in coming here was to see the great beds of shells, which are elevated some yards above the level of the sea. They nearly all consist of one species of Erycina; and these shells at the present day live together in great numbers, on the sandy flats. So wonderfully numerous are those forming the beds, that for years they have been quarried, and burnt for the lime, with which the large town of Valparaiso is supplied. As any change of level, even in this neighbourhood, has often been disputed, I may add, that I saw dead barnacles adhering to points of solid rock which were now so much elevated, that even during gales of wind they would scarcely be wetted by the spray.

15TH.—We returned towards the valley of Quillota. The country was exceedingly pleasant; just such as poets would call pastoral: green open lawns, separated by small valleys with rivulets, and the cottages, we will suppose of the shepherds, scattered on the hill-sides. We were obliged to cross the ridge of the Chilecauquen. At its base there were many fine evergreen forest-trees, but these only flourished in the ravines, where there was running water. Any person who had seen only the country near Valparaiso, would never have imagined that there had been such picturesque spots in Chile. As soon as we reached the brow of the Sierra, the valley of Quillota was immediately under our feet. The prospect was one of remarkable artificial luxuriance. The valley is very broad and quite flat, and is thus easily irrigated in all parts. The little square gardens are crowded with orange and olive trees, and every sort of vegetable. On each side huge bare mountains rise, and this from the contrast renders the patch-

[page] 311 Aug. 1834. CHILE.

work valley the more pleasing. Whoever called " Valparaiso" the " Valley of Paradise," must have been thinking of Quillota. We crossed over to the Hacienda de San Isidoro, situated at the very foot of the Bell mountain.

Chile, as may be seen in the maps, is a narrow strip of land between the Cordillera and the Pacific; and this strip is itself traversed by several mountain-lines, which in this part run parallel to the great range. Between these outer lines, and the main Cordillera, a succession of level basins, generally opening into each other by narrow passages, extend far to the southward. In these the principal towns are situated, as San Felipe, Santiago, S. Fernando. These basins or plains, together with the transverse flat valleys (like that of Quillota) which connect them with the coast, I have little doubt, are the bottoms of ancient inlets and deep bays, such as at the present day intersect every part of Tierra del Fuego, and the west coast of Patagonia. Chile must formerly have resembled the latter country, in the configuration of its land and water. This resemblance was occasionally seen with great force, when a level fog-bank covered, as with a mantle, all the lower parts of the country: the white vapour curling into the ravines, beautifully represented little coves and bays; and here and there a solitary hillock peeping up, showed that it had formerly stood there as an islet. The contrast of these flat valleys and basins with the irregular mountains, gave the scenery a character which to me was novel and very interesting.

From the natural slope to seaward of these plains, they are very easily irrigated, and in consequence singularly fertile. Without this process the land would produce scarcely any thing; for during the whole summer the sky is cloudless. The mountains and hills are dotted over with bushes and low trees, and excepting these, the vegetation is very scanty. Each landowner in the valley possesses a certain portion of hill-country, where his half-wild cattle, in considerable numbers, manage to find sufficient pasture. Once every year there is a grand " rodeo,"

[page] 312 CHILE. Aug. 1834.

when all the cattle are driven down, counted, and marked, and a certain number separated to be fattened in the irrigated fields. Wheat is extensively cultivated, and also a good deal of Indian corn: a kind of bean is, however, the staple article of food for the common labourers. The orchards produce an overflowing abundance of peaches, figs, and grapes. With all these advantages, the inhabitants of the country ought to be much more prosperous than they are.

AUGUST 16TH.—The mayor-domo of the Hacienda was good enough to give me a guide and fresh horses; and in the morning we set out to ascend the Campana, or Bell mountain, which is 6400 feet high. The paths were very bad, but both the geology and scenery amply repaid the trouble. We reached, by the evening, a spring called the Agua del Guanaco, which is situated at a great height. This must be an old name, for it is very many years since a guanaco has drunk its waters. During the ascent I noticed that nothing grew on the northern slope but bushes, whilst on the southern there was a sort of bamboo, about fifteen feet high. In a few places there were palms, and I was surprised to see one at an elevation of at least 4500 feet. These palms are, for their family, ugly trees. Their stem is very large, and of a curious form, being thicker in the middle than at the base or top. They are excessively numerous in some parts of Chile, and valuable on account of a sort of treacle made from the sap. On one estate near Petorca, they tried to count them, but failed, after having numbered several hundred thousand. Every year in August (early spring time) very many are cut down, and when the trunk is lying on the ground, the crown of leaves is lopped off. The sap then immediately begins to flow from the upper end, and continues so doing for some months: it is, however, necessary that a thin slice should be shaved off from that end every morning, so as to expose a fresh surface. A good tree will give ninety gallons, and all this must have been contained in the vessels of the apparently dry trunk. It is said that the sap flows much more quickly on those days when the sun is powerful; and likewise,

[page] 313 Aug. 1834. BELL OF QUILLOTA.

that it is absolutely necessary to take care, in cutting down the tree, that it should fall with its head upwards on the side of the hill; for if it falls down the slope, scarcely any sap will flow; although in that case, one would have thought that the action would have been aided, instead of checked, by the force of gravity. The sap is concentrated by boiling, and is then called treacle, which it very much resembles in taste.

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and prepared to pass the night. The evening was fine, and the atmosphere so clear, that the masts of the vessels at anchor in the bay of Valparaiso, although no less than twenty-six geographical miles distant, could be distinguished clearly, as little black streaks. A ship doubling the point under sail appeared as a bright white speck. Anson expresses much surprise, in his voyage, at the distance his vessels were discovered from the coast; but he did not sufficiently allow for the height of the land, and the great transparency of the air.

The setting of the sun was glorious; the valleys being black, whilst the snowy peaks of the Andes yet retained a ruby tint. When it was dark, we made a fire beneath a little arbour of bamboos, fried our charqui (or dried strips of beef), took our maté, and were quite comfortable. There is an inexpressible charm in thus living in the open air. The evening was calm and still;—the shrill noise of the mountain bizcacha, and the faint cry of the goatsucker, were only occasionally to be heard. Besides these, few birds, or even insects, frequent these dry, parched mountains.

AUGUST 17TH.—In the morning we climbed up the rough mass of greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as frequently happens, was much shattered and broken into huge angular fragments. I observed, however, one remarkable circumstance, namely, that many of the surfaces presented every degree of freshness—some appearing as if broken the day before, whilst on others lichens had either just become, or had long grown, attached. I so fully believed that this was owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt inclined to hurry from beneath every pile of the loose

[page] 314 CHILE. Aug. 1834.

masses. As this is an observation in which one would be very apt to be deceived, I doubted its accuracy, until ascending Mount Wellington, near Hobart Town. The summit of that mountain is similarly composed, and similarly shattered; but all the blocks appeared as if they had been hurled into their present position thousands of years ago.

We spent the day on the summit, and I never enjoyed one more thoroughly. Chile, bounded by the Andes and the Pacific, was seen as in a map. The pleasure from the scenery, in itself beautiful, was heightened by the many reflections which arose from the mere view of the grand range, with its lesser parallel ones, and of the broad valley of Quillota directly intersecting the latter. Who can avoid admiring the wonderful force which has upheaved these mountains, and even more so the countless ages which it must have required, to have broken through, removed, and levelled whole masses of them? It is well in this case to call to mind the vast shingle and sedimentary beds of Patagonia, which, if heaped on the Cordillera, would increase by so many thousand feet its height. When in that country, I wondered how any mountain-chain could have supplied such masses, and not have been utterly obliterated. We must not now reverse the wonder, and doubt whether all-powerful time can grind down mountains—even the gigantic Cordillera—into gravel and mud.

The appearance of the Andes was different from that which I had expected. The lower line of the snow was of course horizontal, and to this line the even summits of the range seemed quite parallel. Only at long intervals a mass of points, or a single cone, showed where a volcano had existed, or does now exist. Hence the range resembled a great solid wall, surmounted here and there by a tower, and thus made a most complete barrier to the country.

Almost every part of the hill has been drilled by attempts to open gold-mines. I was surprised to see, on the actual summit, which could only be reached by climbing, a small pit, where some yellowish crystals of hypersthene had

[page] 315 Aug. 1834. GUASOS AND GAUCHOS.

induced somebody to throw away his labour. The rage for mining has left scarcely a spot in Chile unexamined. I spent the evening as before, talking round the fire with my two companions. The Guasos of Chile, which correspond to the Gauchos of the Pampas, are, however, a very different set of beings. Chile is the more civilized of the two countries, and the inhabitants, in consequence, have lost much individual character. Gradations in rank are much more strongly marked : the Guaso does not by any means consider every man his equal; and I was quite surprised to find that my companions did not like to eat at the same time with myself. This feeling of inequality is a necessary consequence of the existence of an aristocracy of wealth. It is said that some few of the greater landowners possess from five to ten thousand pounds sterling per annum: an inequality of riches which I believe is not met with in any of the cattle-breeding countries to the eastward of the Andes. A traveller does not here meet that unbounded hospitality which refuses all payment, but yet is so kindly offered that no scruples can be raised in accepting it. Almost every house in Chile will receive you for the night, but a trifle is expected to be given in the morning; even a rich man will accept two or three shillings. The Gaucho, although he may be a cut-throat, is a gentleman ; the Guaso is in few respects better, but at the same time a vulgar, ordinary fellow. The two men, although employed much in the same manner, are different in their habits and attire; and the peculiarities of each are universal in their respective countries. The Gaucho seems part of his horse, and scorns to exert himself excepting when on its back; the Guaso may be hired to work as a labourer in the fields. The former lives entirely on animal food; the latter almost wholly on vegetable. We do not here see the white boots, the broad drawers, and scarlet chilipa; the picturesque costume of the Pampas. Here, common trousers are protected by black and green worsted leggings. The poncho, however, is common to both. The chief pride in the Guaso lies in his spurs;

[page] 316 CHILE. Aug. 1834.

which are absurdly large. I measured one which was six inches in the diameter of the rowel, and the rowel itself contained upwards of thirty points. The stirrups are on the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved block of wood, hollowed out, yet weighing three or four pounds. The Guaso is perhaps more expert with the lazo than the Gaucho; but, from the nature of the country, he does not know the use of the bolas.

AUGUST 18TH.—We descended the mountain, and passed some beautiful little spots, with rivulets and fine trees. Having slept at the same hacienda as before, we rode during the two succeeding days up the valley, and passed through Quillota, which is more like a collection of nursery-gardens than a town. The orchards were beautiful, presenting one mass of peach-blossoms. I saw also in one or two places the date-palm. It is a most stately tree; and I should think a group of them in their native Asiatic and African deserts must be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe, a pretty straggling town like Quillota. The valley in this part expands into one of those great bays or plains, reaching to the foot of the Cordillera, which have been mentioned as forming so curious a part of the scenery of Chile.

In the evening we reached the mines of Jajuel, situated in a ravine at the flank of the great chain. I staid here five days. My host, the superintendent of the mine, was a shrewd but rather ignorant Cornish miner. He had married a Spanish woman, and did not mean to return home ; but his admiration for the mines of Cornwall remained unbounded. Amongst many other questions, he asked me, "Now that George Rex is dead, how many more of the family of Rexes are yet alive?" This Rex certainly must be a relation of the great author Finis, who wrote all books !

These mines are of copper, and the ore is all shipped to Swansea, to be smelted. Hence the mines have an aspect singularly quiet, as compared to those in England: here no smoke, furnaces, or great steam-engines, disturb the solitude of the surrounding mountains.

[page] 317 Aug. 1834. CHILIAN MINES.

The Chilian government, or rather the old Spanish law, encourages by every method the searching for mines. The discoverer may work a mine on any ground, by paying five shillings; and before paying this he may try, even in the garden of another man, for twenty days.

It is now well known that the Chilian method of mining is the cheapest. My host says the two principal improvements introduced by foreigners have been, first, reducing by previous roasting the copper pyrites—which, being the common ore in Cornwall, the English miners were astounded on their arrival to find thrown away as useless : secondly, stamping and washing the scoriæ from the furnaces—by which process particles of metal are recovered in abundance. I have actually seen mules carrying to the coast, for transportation to England, a cargo of such cinders. But the first case is much the most curious. The Chilian miners were so convinced that copper pyrites contained not a particle of copper, that they laughed at the Englishmen for their ignorance, who laughed in turn, and bought their richest veins for a few dollars. It is very odd that, in a country where mining had been extensively carried on for many years, so simple a process as gently roasting the ore, to expel the sulphur previous to smelting it, had never been discovered. A few improvements have likewise been introduced in some of the simple machinery; but even to the present day, water is removed from some mines by men carrying it up the shaft in leathern bags !

The labouring men work very hard. They have little time allowed for their meals, and during summer and winter they begin when it is light, and leave off at dark. They are paid one pound sterling a month, and their food is given them: this for breakfast consists of sixteen figs and two small loaves of bread; for dinner boiled beans; for supper broken roasted wheat grain. They scarcely ever taste meat; as, with the twelve pounds per annum, they have to clothe themselves, and support their families. The miners who work in the mine itself, have twenty-five shillings per month, and are allowed a little

[page] 318 CHILE. Aug. 1834.

charqui. But these men come down from their bleak habitations only once in every fortnight or three weeks.

During my stay here I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling about these huge mountains. The geology, as might have been expected, was very interesting. The shattered and baked rocks, traversed by innumerable dykes of greenstone, showed what commotions had formerly taken place there. The scenery was much the same as that near the Bell of Quillota,—dry barren mountains, dotted at intervals by bushes with a scanty foliage. The cactuses, or rather opuntias, were here very numerous. I measured one of as pherical figure, which, including the spines, was six feet and four inches in circumference. The height of the common cylindrical, branching kind is from twelve to fifteen feet, and the girth (with spines) of the branches between three and four.

A heavy fall of snow on the mountains prevented me, during the last two days, from making some interesting excursions. I attempted to reach a lake, which the inhabitants, from some unaccountable reason, believe to be an arm of the sea. During a very dry season, it was proposed to attempt cutting a channel from it, for the sake of the water; but the padre, after a consultation, declared it was too dangerous, as all Chile would be inundated, if, as generally supposed, the lake was connected with the Pacific. We ascended to a great height, but becoming involved in the snow-drifts, failed in reaching this wonderful lake, and had some difficulty in returning. I thought we should have lost our horses; for there was no means of guessing how deep the drifts were, and the animals, when led, could only move by jumping. The black sky showed that a fresh snow-storm was gathering, and we therefore were not a little glad when we escaped. By the time we reached the base, the storm commenced, and it was lucky for us that this did not happen three hours earlier in the day.

AUGUST 26TH.—We left Jajuel and again crossed the basin of S. Felipe. The day was truly Chilian: glaringly bright, and the atmosphere quite clear. The thick and uni-

[page] 319 Aug. 1834. SANTIAGO.

form covering of newly-fallen snow rendered the view of the volcano of Aconcagua and the main chain quite glorious. We were now on the road to Santiago, the capital of Chile. We crossed the Cerro del Talguen, and slept at a little rancho. The host, talking about the state of Chile as compared to other countries, was very humble: "Some see with two eyes, and some with one, but for my part I do not think that Chile sees with any."

AUGUST 27TH.—After crossing many low hills, we descended into the small land-locked plain of Guitron. In the basins, such as this one, which are elevated from 1000 to 2000 feet above the sea, two species of acacia, which are stunted in their forms, and stand wide apart from each other, grow in large numbers. These trees are never found near the sea-coast; and this gives another characteristic feature to the scenery of these basins.

We crossed a low ridge which separates Guitron from the great plain on which Santiago stands. The view was here pre-eminently striking : the dead level surface, covered in parts by woods of acacia, and with the city in the distance, abutting horizontally against the base of the Andes, whose snowy peaks were bright with the evening sun. At the first glance of this view it was quite evident that the plain represented the extent of a former inland sea. As soon as we gained the level road we pushed our horses into a gallop, and reached the city before it was dark.

I staid a week in Santiago, and enjoyed myself very much. In the morning I rode to various places on the plain, and in the evening dined with several of the English merchants, whose hospitality at this place is well known. A never-failing source of pleasure, was to ascend the little pap of rock (fort St. Lucia) which projects in the middle of the city. The scenery certainly is most striking, and as I have said, very peculiar. I am informed that this same character is common to the cities on the great Mexican platform. Of the town I have nothing to say in detail: it is not so fine or so large as Buenos Ayres, but is built after the same

[page] 320 CHILE. Aug. 1834.

model. I arrived here by a circuit to the north; so I resolved to return to Valparaiso, by a rather longer excursion, to the southward of the direct road.

SEPTEMBER 5TH.—By the middle of the day we arrived at one of the suspension bridges, made of hide, which crosses the Maypo, a large turbulent river, a few leagues south of Santiago. These bridges are very poor affairs. The road, following the curvature of the suspending ropes, is made of bundles of sticks placed close together. It was full of holes, and oscillated rather fearfully, even from the weight of a man leading his horse. In the evening we reached a comfortable farm-house, where there were several very pretty signoritas. They were much horrified at my having entered one of their churches out of mere curiosity. They asked me, "Why do you not become a Christian—for our religion is certain?" I assured them I was a sort of Christian; but they would not hear of it—appealing to my own words, "Do not your padres, your very bishops, marry?" The absurdity of a bishop having a wife, particularly struck them: they scarcely knew whether to be most amused or horror-struck at such an enormity.

6TH.—We proceeded due south, and slept at Rancagua. The road passed over the level but narrow plain, bounded on one side by lofty hills, and on the other by the Cordillera. The next day we turned up the valley of the Rio Cachapual, in which the hot-baths of Cauquenes, long celebrated for their medicinal properties, are situated. The suspension bridges, in the less frequented parts, are generally taken down during the winter, when the rivers are low. Such was the case in this valley, and we were therefore obliged to cross the stream on horseback. This is rather disagreeable, for the foaming water, though not deep, rushes so quickly over the bed of large rounded stones, that one's head becomes quite confused, and it is difficult even to perceive whether the horse is moving onward, or standing still. In summer, when the snow melts, the torrents are quite impassable: their strength and fury is then extremely great;

[page] 321 Sept. 1834. HOT SPRINGS OF CAUQUENES.

as might be plainly seen, by the marks which they had left. We reached the baths in the evening, and staid there five days, being confined the two last by heavy rain. The buildings consist of a square of miserable little hovels, each with a single table and bench. They are situated in a narrow deep valley, just without the central Cordillera. It is a quiet, solitary spot, with a good deal of wild beauty.

The mineral springs of Cauquenes burst forth on a line of dislocation, crossing a mass of stratified rock, the whole of which betrays the action of heat. A considerable quantity of gas is continually escaping from the same orifices with the water. Though the springs are only a few yards apart, they have very different temperatures; and this appears to be the result of an unequal mixture of cold water: for those with the lowest temperature have scarcely any mineral taste. After the great earthquake of 1822, the springs ceased, and the water did not return for nearly a year. It is said that they have not since regained their former volume or temperature.* These springs were also much affected by the earthquake of 1835; the temperature being suddenly changed from 118° to 92°.† It seems probable that mineral waters rising deep from the bowels of the earth, would always be more deranged by subterranean disturbances, than those nearer the surface. The man who had charge of the baths assured me, that in summer the water is hotter and more plentiful than in winter. The former circumstance I should have expected, from the less mixture, during the dry season, of cold water; but the latter statement appears very strange and contradictory. The periodical increase during the summer when

* When I doubted the change of temperature, in this case as well as in the one mentioned a few lines lower down, the inhabitants maintained that they knew it well. Their thermometer, however, was an odd one: it is the common custom in this country to scald a fowl before plucking it, in the same manner as we treat a pig, and then the feathers come off very easily: they judged from the comparative facility with which this operation could be performed during the two periods.

† Caldcleugh's Philosoph. Transact. for 1836.


[page] 322 CHILE. Sept. 1834.

rain never falls, can, I think, only be accounted for by the melting of the snow: yet the mountains which are covered by snow during that season are three or four leagues distant from the springs. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of my informer, who having lived on the spot for several years, ought to be well acquainted with the circumstance,—which, if true, certainly is very curious: for, we must suppose that the water, being conducted through porous strata to the regions of heat, is again thrown up to the surface by the line of dislocated and injected rock at Cauquenes; and the regularity of the phenomenon would seem to indicate that in this district heated rock occurred at a depth not excessively great.

One day I rode up the valley to the furthest inhabited spot. Shortly above that point, the Cachapual divides into two deep tremendous ravines, which penetrate directly into the great range. I scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably more than six thousand feet high. Here, as indeed every where else, scenes of the highest interest presented themselves. It was by one of these ravines that Pincheira entered Chile, and ravaged the neighbouring country. This is the same man whose attack on an estancia at the Rio Negro I have described. He was a renegade half-cast Spaniard, who collected a great body of Indians together, and established himself by a stream in the Pampas, which place none of the forces sent after him could ever discover. From this point he used to sally forth, and crossing the Cordillera by passes hitherto unattempted, he ravaged the farm-houses, and drove the cattle to his secret rendezvous. Pincheira was a capital horseman, and he made all around him equally good, for he invariably shot any one who hesitated to follow him. It was against this man, and other wandering Indian tribes, that Rosas waged the war of extermination.

SEPTEMBER 13TH.—We left the baths of Cauquenes, and rejoining the main road, slept at the Rio Claro. From this place we rode to the town of S. Fernando. Before arriving there, the last basin had expanded into a great plain, which

[page] 323 Sept. 1834. FLOATING ISLANDS.

extended so far to the south, that the snowy summits of the more distant Andes were seen, as if above the horizon of the sea. S.Fernando is forty leagues from Santiago; and it was my furthest point southward ; for we here turned at right angles towards the coast. We slept at the gold-mines of Yaquil, which are worked by Mr. Nixon, an American gentleman, to whose kindness I was much indebted during the four days I staid at his house.

SEPTEMBER 14TH.—This morning we rode to the mines, which are situated at the distance of some leagues, near the summit of a lofty hill. On the way we had a glimpse of the lake Tagua-tagua, celebrated for its floating islands, which have been described by M. Gay.* They are composed of the stalks of various dead plants intertwined together, and on the surface of which other living ones take root. Their form is generally circular, and their thickness from four to six feet, of which the greater part is immersed in the water. As the wind blows they pass from one side of the lake to the other, and often carry cattle and horses as passengers.

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by the pale appearance of many of the men, and inquired from Mr. Nixon respecting their condition. The mine is 450 feet deep, and each man brings up about 200 pounds† weight of stone. With this load they have to climb up the alternate notches cut in the trunks of trees, placed in a zigzag line up the shaft. Even beardless young men, eighteen and twenty years old, with little muscular development of their bodies (they are quite naked excepting drawers) ascend with this great load from nearly the same depth. A strong man, who is not accustomed to this labour, perspires most profusely, with merely carrying up his own body. With this very severe labour, they live entirely on boiled beans and bread. They

* Annales des Sciences Naturelles, March, 1833. M. Gay, a zealous and able naturalist, is now occupied in studying every branch of natural history throughout the kingdom of Chile.

† In another mine, as will hereafter be mentioned, I picked out a load by hazard, and weighed it: it was 197 pounds.

Y 2

[page] 324 CHILE. Sept. 1834.

would prefer having the latter alone; but their masters, finding they cannot work so hard upon this, treat them like horses, and make them eat the beans. Their pay is here rather more than at the mines of Jajuel, being from 24 to 28 shillings per month. They leave the mine only once in three weeks; when they stay with their families for two days.* One of the rules in this mine sounds very harsh, but answers pretty well for the master. The only method of stealing gold, is to secrete pieces of the ore, and take them out as occasion may offer. Whenever the major-domo finds a lump thus hidden, its full value is stopped out of the wages of all the men; who thus, without they all combine, are obliged to keep watch over each other.

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground into an impalpable powder; the process of washing removes all the lighter particles, and amalgamation finally secures the gold dust The washing, when described, sounds a very simple process; but it is beautiful to see how the exact adaption of the current of water to the specific gravity of the gold, so easily separates the powdered matrix from the metal. The mud which passes from the mills is collected into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is cleared out, and thrown into a common heap. A great deal of chemical action then commences, salts of various kinds effloresce on the surface, and the mass becomes hard. In the heap which I examined, an angulo-concretionary structure was also superinduced, and what was very remarkable, these pseudo-frag-

* Bad as all the above treatment appears, it is gladly accepted of by the miners; for the condition of the labouring agriculturists is much worse. The wages of the latter are lower, and they live almost exclusively on beans. This poverty must be chiefly owing to the feudal-like system on which the land is tilled. The landowner gives a small plot of ground to the labourer, for building and cultivating, and in return has his services (or that of a proxy) for every day of his life, without any wages. Until a father has a grown up son who can by his labour pay the rent, there is no one, except on chance days, to take care of the patch of ground. Hence extreme poverty is very common among the labouring classes in this country.

[page] 325 Sept. 1834. INDIAN RUINS.

ments possessed an even and well-defined slaty structure; but the laminæ were not inclined at any uniform angle. The mud, after having been left for a year or two, and then rewashed, yields gold; and this process may be repeated even six or seven times; but the gold each time becomes less in quantity, and the intervals required (as the inhabitants say to generate the metal) are longer. There can be no doubt that the chemical action, already mentioned, each time liberates fresh gold from some combination. The discovery of a method to effect this before the first grinding, would without doubt raise the value of gold ores many fold.

It is curious to find how the minute particles of gold, after being scattered about, and from not corroding, at last accumulate in some quantity. A short time since a few miners, being out of work, obtained permission to scrape the ground round the house and mill: they washed the earth thus got together, and so procured thirty dollars' worth of gold. This is an exact counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer degradation and wear away, and with them the metallic veins which they contain. The hardest rock is worn into impalpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed; but gold, platina, and a few others, are nearly indestructible, and from their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After whole mountains have passed through this grinding mill, and have been washed by the hand of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, and man finds it worth his while to complete the task of separation.

There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, and I was shown one of the perforated stones which Molina* mentions, as being found in many places in considerable numbers. They are of a circular flattened form, from five to six inches in diameter, and with a hole passing quite through the centre. It has generally been supposed, that

* Molina, Compendio de la Historia, &c. del Reyno de Chile, vol. i., p. 81.

[page] 326 CHILE. Sept. 1834.

they were used as heads to clubs, although their form does not appear at all well adapted for that purpose. Burchell* states that some of the tribes in Southern Africa dig up roots, by the aid of a pointed stick, the force and weight of which is increased by a round stone with a hole, into which the stick is firmly wedged. It appears probable that the Indians of Chile formerly used some such rude agricultural instrument.

One day, a German collector in natural history, of the name of Renous, called, and nearly at the same time an old Spanish lawyer. I was amused by afterwards hearing the conversation which took place between them. Renous speaks Spanish so well, that the old lawyer mistook him for a fellow-countryman. Renous, alluding to myself, asked him what he thought of the King of England sending out a collector to their country, to pick up lizards and beetles, and to break stones? The old gentleman thought seriously for some time, and then said, "It is not well,—hay un gato encerrado aqui (there is a cat shut up here). No man is so rich as to send out people to pick up such rubbish. I do not like it: if one of us were to go and do such things in England, do not you think the King of England would very soon send us out of his country?" And this old gentleman, from his profession, belongs to the better informed and more intelligent classes! Renous himself, two or three years before, left in a house at S. Fernando some caterpillars, under charge of a girl to feed, that they might turn into butterflies. This was rumoured through the town, and at last the Padres and Governor consulted together, and agreed it must be some heresy. Accordingly, when Renous returned, he was arrested.

SEPTEMBER 19TH.—We left Yaquil, and followed the flat valley, formed like that of Quillota, in which the Rio Tinderidica flows. Even at these few miles south of Santiago the climate is much damper; in consequence there were fine tracks of pasturage, which were not irrigated. (20th.) We fol-

* Burchell's Travels, vol. ii., p. 45.

[page] 327 Sept. 1834. THE PUMA.

lowed this valley till it expanded into a great plain, which reaches from the sea to the mountains west of Rancagua. We shortly lost all trees and even bushes; so that the inhabitants are nearly as badly off for firewood as those in the Pampas. Never having heard of these plains, I was much surprised at meeting with such scenery in Chile. The plains belong to more than one series of different elevations, and they are traversed by broad flat-bottomed valleys; both of which circumstances, as in Patagonia, bespeak the gentle retreat of the ocean. In the steep cliffs bordering these valleys, there are some large caves, which no doubt were formed by the waters of the ancient bays and channels. One of these which I visited is celebrated under the name of Cueva del Obispo; having formerly been consecrated. During the day I felt very unwell, and from that time till the end of October did not recover.

SEPTEMBER 22D.—We continued to pass over green plains without a tree. The next day we arrived at a house near Navedad, on the sea-coast, where a rich Haciendero gave us lodgings. I stayed here the two ensuing days, and although very unwell, managed to collect from the tertiary formation some marine shells, many of which turn out to be quite new forms. 24th. Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, which with great difficulty I reached on the 27th, and was there confined to my bed till the end of October. During this time I was an inmate in Mr. Corfield's house, whose kindness to me I do not know how to express.

I will here add a few observations on some of the animals and birds of Chile. The Puma, or South American Lion, is not uncommon. This animal has a wide geographical range; being found from the equatorial forests, throughout the deserts of Patagonia, as far south as the damp and cold latitudes (53° to 54°) of Tierra del Fuego. I have also seen its footsteps in the Cordillera of central Chile, at an elevation of at least 10,000 feet. In La Plata the puma chiefly preys on deer, ostriches, bizcacha, and other small quadrupeds; it

[page] 328 CHILE. Sept. 1834.

there seldom attacks cattle or horses, and except in most rare cases, as a female having young, is never dangerous to man. In Chile, however, it destroys many young horses and cattle, owing probably to the scarcity of other quadrupeds: I heard, likewise, of two men and a woman who had been killed by them. It is asserted that the puma always kills its prey by springing on the shoulders, and then drawing back the head with one of its paws, until the vertebræ break: I have seen in Patagonia, the skeletons of guanacoes, with their necks thus dislocated.

The puma, after eating its fill, covers the carcass with many large bushes, and lies down to watch it. This habit is often the cause of its being discovered; for the condors wheeling in the air, every now and then descend to partake of the feast, and being angrily driven away, rise all together on the wing. The Chileno Guaso then knows there is a lion watching his prey—the word is given—and men and dogs hurry to the chase. Sir F. Head says that a Gaucho in the Pampas, upon merely seeing some condors wheeling in the air, cried "A lion !" I could never myself meet with any one who pretended to such powers of discrimination. It is asserted, that if a puma has once been betrayed by thus watching the carcass, and has then been hunted, it never resumes this habit; but that having gorged itself, it wanders far away.

The puma is easily killed. In an open country, it is first entangled with the bolas, then lazoed, and dragged along the ground till rendered insensible. At Tandeel (south of the Plata), I was told, that within three months one hundred were destroyed. In Chile they are generally driven up bushes or trees, and are then either shot, or baited to death by dogs. The dogs employed in this chase belong to a particular breed, called Leoneros. They are weak, slight animals, like long-legged terriers, but are born with a particular instinct for this sport. The puma is described as being very crafty: when pursued it often returns on its former track, and then suddenly making a spring on one side, waits there till the

[page] 329 Sept. 1834. ORNITHOLOGY.

dogs have passed by. It is a very silent animal, uttering no cry even when wounded, and only rarely during the breeding season.

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos (megapodius and albicollis of Kittlitz) are perhaps the most conspicuous. The former, called by the Chilenos "el Turco," is as large as a fieldfare, to which bird it has some alliance; but its legs are much longer, tail shorter, and beak stronger: its colour is a reddish brown. The turco is not uncommon. It lives on the ground, sheltered among the thickets which are scattered over the dry and sterile hills. With its tail erect, and stilt-like legs, it may be seen every now and then, popping from one bush to another, with uncommon celerity. It really requires little imagination to believe the bird is ashamed of itself, and is aware of its most ridiculous figure. On first seeing it, one is tempted to exclaim, "A vilely stuffed specimen has escaped from some museum, and has come to life again !" It cannot be made to take flight without the greatest trouble, nor does it run, but only hops. The various loud cries which it utters when concealed amongst the bushes, are as strange as its whole appearance. It is said to build its nest in a deep hole beneath the ground. I dissected several specimens: the gizzard, which was very muscular, contained beetles, vegetable fibres, and pebbles. From this character, from the length of legs, scratching feet, membranous covering to the nostrils, short and arched wings, this bird seems to a certain degree to connect the thrushes with the gallinaceous order.

The second species (or Pt. albicollis) is allied to the first in its general form. It is called Tapacolo, or "cover your posterior ;" and well does the shameless little bird deserve its name; for it carries its tail more than erect, that is, inclined backwards towards its head. It is very common, and frequents the bottoms of hedge-rows, and the bushes scattered over the barren hills, where scarcely another bird can exist. Hence the tapacolo is conspicuous in the ornithology of Chile. In its general manner of feeding, of quickly hopping

[page] 330 CHILE. Sept. 1834.

out of the thickets and back again, in its desire of concealment, unwillingness to take flight, and nidification, it bears a close resemblance to the turco; but its appearance is not quite so ridiculous. The tapacolo is very crafty: when frightened by any person, it will remain motionless at the bottom of a bush, and will then, after a little while, try with much address to crawl away on the opposite side. It is also an active bird, and continually making a noise: these noises are various and strangely odd; some are like the cooing of doves, others like the bubbling of water, and many defy all similes. The country people say it changes its cry five times in the year—according to some change of season I suppose. I believe these two species of Pteroptochos are only found in central Chile. To the southward, within the damp forest region, two other species supply the place of these lovers of a more sterile land; and a fifth species is common to both districts. On the Patagonian coast a bird allied to them, both in structure and habits, represents this Chilian genus.*

Two species of humming-birds are common, and I have seen a third kind within the Cordillera, at an elevation of about 10,000 feet. Mellisuga Kingii is found over a space of 2500 miles on the west coast, from the hot dry country of Lima, to the forests of Tierra del Fuego—where it has been described as flitting about in a snow-storm. In the wooded island of Chiloe, which has an extremely humid climate, this little bird, skipping from side to side amidst the dripping foliage, is perhaps more abundant than almost any other kind. It there very commonly frequents open marshy ground, where a kind of bromelia grows : hovering near the edge of the thick beds, it every now and then dashed in close to the

* It is a remarkable fact, that Molina, though describing in detail all the birds and animals of Chile, never once mentions this genus, the species of which are so common, and so remarkable in their habits. Was he at a loss how to classify them, and did he consequently think that silence was the more prudent course? It is one more instance of the frequency of omission by authors, on those very subjects where it would be least expected.

[page] 331 Sept. 1834. HUMMING-BIRDS.

ground; but I could not see whether it ever actually alighted. At the time of year I refer to, there were very few flowers, and none whatever near the beds of bromelia. Hence I was quite sure they did not live on honey; and on opening the stomach and upper intestine, by the aid of a lens I could plainly distinguish, in a yellow fluid, morsels of the wings of diptera—probably tipulidæ. It is evident that these birds search for minute insects in their winter-quarters under the thick foliage. I opened the stomachs of several specimens, which were shot in different parts of the continent; and in all, remains of insects were so numerous, as often to present a black comminuted mass, as in the stomach of a creeper. In central Chile these birds are migratory: they make their appearance there in autumn, and in the latter end of the month corresponding to our October, they were very common. In the spring they began to disappear, and on the 12th of what would correspond to our March, in the course of a long walk, I saw only one individual. As this species migrates to the southward, it is replaced by the arrival of a larger kind, which will be presently described. I do not believe the small kind breeds in Chile; for, during the summer, their nests were common to the south of that country. The migration of the humming-birds on both the east* and west coast of North America exactly corresponds to what takes place in this southern continent. In both cases they move towards the tropic during the colder parts of the year, and retreat northward before the returning heat. Some, however, remain during the whole year in Tierra del Fuego; and in Northern California,—which in the northern hemisphere has the same relative position which Tierra del Fuego has in the southern,—some, according to Beechey, likewise remain.

The second species (Trochilus gigas) is a very large bird, for the delicate family to which it belongs. In the neighbourhood of Valparaiso, during this year, it had arrived in

* Humboldt's Pers. Narr., vol. v., part i., p. 352; Cook's Third Voyage, vol. ii.; and Beechey's Voyage.

[page] 332 CHILE. Sept. 1834.

numbers, a little before the vernal equinox. It comes from the parched deserts of the north, probably for the purpose of breeding in Chile. When on the wing, the appearance of this bird is singular. Like others of the genus, it moves from place to place with a rapidity which may be compared to that of Syrphus amongst diptera, and Sphinx among moths; but whilst hovering over a flower, it flaps its wings with a very slow and powerful movement, totally different from that vibratory one common to most of the species, which produces the humming noise. I never saw any other bird, where the force of its wings appeared (as in a butterfly) so powerful in proportion to the weight of its body. When hovering by a flower, its tail is constantly expanded and shut like a fan, the body being kept in a nearly vertical position. This action appears to steady and support the bird, between the slow movements of its wings. Although flying from flower to flower in search of food, its stomach generally contained abundant remains of insects, which I suspect are much more the object of its search than honey is. The note of this species, like that of nearly the whole family, is extremely shrill.

[page] 333


Chiloe — General aspect — Boat excursion — Native Indians — Castro — Large leaves of Gunnera scabra — Tame fox — Ascend San Pedro — Chonos Archipelago — Peninsula of Tres Montes — Granitic range — Lowe's Harbour — Wild potato — Forest — Formation of peat — Myopotamus, otter and mice — Cheucau and barking-bird — Furnarius — Singular character of ornithology — Petrels.


NOVEMBER 10TH.—The Beagle sailed from Valparaiso to the southward, for the purpose of surveying the southern part of Chile, the island of Chiloe, and the broken land called the Chonos Archipelago, as far south as the Peninsula of Tres Montes. On the 21st we anchored in the bay of S. Carlos, the capital of Chiloe.

This island is about ninety miles long, with a breadth of rather less than thirty. The land is hilly, but not mountainous, and is every where covered by one great forest, excepting a few scattered green patches, which have been cleared round the thatched cottages. From a distance the view somewhat resembles Tierra del Fuego; but the woods, when seen nearer, are incomparably more beautiful. Many kinds of fine evergreen trees, and plants with a tropical character, here take the place of the gloomy beech of the southern shores. In winter the climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I should think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are very boisterous, and the sky almost always clouded: to have a week of fine weather is something wonderful. It is even difficult to get a single glimpse of the Cordillera: during our first visit only one opportunity occurred, and that was before sunrise, when the Volcano of Osorno stood out in bold relief; and it was curious

[page] 334 CHILOE. Nov. 1834.

to watch, as the sun rose, the outline gradually fading away in the glare of the eastern sky.

The inhabitants, from their complexion and low stature, appear to have three-fourths of Indian blood in their veins. They are an humble, quiet, industrious set of men. Although the fertile soil, resulting from the decomposition of volcanic rocks, supports a rank vegetation, yet the climate is not favourable to any production which requires much sunshine to ripen it. There is very little pasture for the larger quadrupeds; and in consequence, the staple articles of food are pigs, potatoes, and fish. The people all dress in strong woollen garments, which each family makes for itself, and dyes with indigo of a dark blue colour. The arts, however, are in the rudest state;—as may be seen in their strange fashion of ploughing, their method of spinning, grinding corn, and in the construction of their boats.

The forests are so impenetrable, that the land is nowhere cultivated except near the coast, and on the adjoining islets. Even where roads exist, they are scarcely passable from the soft and swampy state of the soil. The inhabitants, like those of Tierra del Fuego, chiefly move about on the beach, or in boats: in some cases the latter afford the only means of getting from one house to another. Although with plenty to eat, the people are very poor: there is no demand for labour, and consequently the lower orders cannot scrape together money sufficient to purchase even the smallest luxuries. There is also a great deficiency of a circulating medium. I have seen a man bringing on his back a bag of charcoal, with which to buy some trifle, and another a plank to exchange for a bottle of wine. Hence every tradesman must also be a merchant, and again sell the goods which he takes in exchange.

NOVEMBER 24TH.—The yawl and whale-boat were sent under the command of Mr. Sulivan, to survey the eastern or inland coast of Chiloe; and with orders to meet the Beagle at the southern extremity of the island ; to which point she would proceed by the outside, so as thus to circumnavi-

[page] 335 Nov. 1834. CHILOE.

gate the island. I accompanied this expedition, but instead of going in the boats the first day, I hired horses to take me to Chacao, at the northern extremity of the island. The road followed the coast; every now and then crossing promontories covered by fine forests. In these shaded paths it is absolutely necessary that the whole road should be made of logs of wood, which are squared and placed by the side of each other. From the rays of the sun never penetrating the evergreen foliage, the ground is so damp and soft, that except by such means, neither man nor horse would be able to pass along. I arrived at the village of Chacao, shortly after the tents belonging to the boats had been pitched for the night.

The land in this neighbourhood had been extensively cleared, and there were many quiet and most picturesque nooks in the forest. Chacao was formerly the principal port; but many vessels having been lost, owing to the dangerous currents and rocks in the straits, the Spanish government burnt the church, and thus arbitrarily compelled the greater number of inhabitants to migrate to S. Carlos. In a short time the barefooted son of the governor came down to reconnoitre us. Seeing the English flag hoisted at the yawl's mast-head, he asked, with the utmost indifference, whether it was always to fly at Chacao. In several places, the inhabitants were much astonished at the appearance of men-of-war's boats, and hoped and believed it was the forerunner of a Spanish fleet, coming to recover the island from the patriot government of Chile. All the men in power had, however, been informed of our intended visit, and were exceedingly civil. While we were eating our supper, the governor paid us a visit. He had been a lieutenant-colonel in the Spanish service, but now was miserably poor. He gave us two sheep, and accepted in return two cotton handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets, and a little tobacco.

25TH.—Torrents of rain: we managed, however, to run down the coast as far as Huapi-lenou. The whole of this eastern side of Chiloe has one aspect: it is a plain, broken by valleys, and divided into little islands, and the whole

[page] 336 CHILOE. Nov. 1834.

thickly covered with one impervious blackish-green forest. On the margins there are some cleared spaces, surrounding the high-roofed cottages.

26TH.—The day rose splendidly clear. The volcano of Osorno was spouting out volumes of smoke. This most beautiful mountain, formed like a perfect cone, and white with snow, stands out in front of the Cordillera. Another great volcano, with a saddle-shaped summit, also emitted from its immense crater little jets of steam. Subsequently we saw the lofty-peaked Corcovado—well deserving the name of "el famoso Corcovado." Thus we beheld, from one point of view, three great active volcanoes, each of which had an elevation of about seven thousand feet. In addition to this, far to the south, there were other very lofty cones covered with snow, which although not known to be active, must have been in their origin volcanic. The line of the Andes is not, in this neighbourhood, nearly so elevated as in Chile; neither does it appear to form so perfect a barrier between the regions of the earth. This great range, although running in a direct north and south line, owing to an optical deception, always appeared more or less semicircular; for the extreme peaks being seen standing above the same horizon together with the nearer ones, their much greater distance was not so easily recognised.

When landing on a point to take observations, we saw a family of pure Indian extraction. The father was singularly like York Minster; and some of the younger boys, with their ruddy complexions, might have been mistaken for Pampas Indians. Every thing I have seen convinces me of the close connexion of the different tribes, who nevertheless speak quite distinct languages. This party could muster but little Spanish, and talked to each other in their own tongue. It is a pleasant thing to see the aborigines advanced to the same degree of civilization, however low that may be, which their white conquerors have attained. More to the south we saw many pure Indians: indeed, some of the islands, such as Chauques, &c., have no other inhabitants than such as retain

[page] 337 Nov. 1834. INDIAN INHABITANTS.

the Indian surname. In the census of 1832, there were in Chiloe and its dependencies, forty-two thousand souls. The greater number of these appear to be little copper-coloured men, of mixed blood. Eleven thousand actually retain their Indian surname; but it is probable that not nearly all of them are of pure blood. Their manner of life is the same with that of the other poor inhabitants, and they are all Christians: but it is said that they yet retain some strange superstitious ceremonies, and that they pretend to hold communication with the devil in certain caves. Formerly, every one convicted of this offence was sent to the Inquisition at Lima. Many of those people who are not included in the eleven thousand, cannot be distinguished by their appearance from Indians. Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is descended from noblemen of Spain on both sides, but by constant intermarriages with natives, the present man is an Indian. On the other hand, the governor of Quinchao boasts much of his pure Spanish blood.

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the island of Caucahue. The people here complained of want of land. This is partly owing to their own negligence in not clearing the woods, and partly to restrictions of the government, which makes it necessary before buying ever so small a piece, to pay two shillings to the surveyor, for measuring each quadra (150 yards square), together with whatever price he fixes for the value of the land. After his valuation, the land must be put up three times to auction, and if no one bids more, the purchaser can have it at that rate. All these exactions must be a serious check to clearing the ground, where the inhabitants are so extremely poor. In most countries, forests are removed without much difficulty, by the aid of fire; but in Chiloe, from the damp nature of the climate, and the sort of trees, it is necessary first to cut them down. This is a heavy drawback to the prosperity of Chiloe. In the time of the Spaniards the Indians could not hold land; and a family, after having cleared a piece of ground, might be driven away, and the property seized by


[page] 338 CHILOE. Nov. 1834.

the government. The Chilian authorities are now performing an act of justice, by making retribution to these poor Indians; giving to each man, according to his grade of life, a certain portion of land. The value of uncleared ground is very little. The government gave Mr. Douglas (the present surveyor, who informed me of these circumstances) eight and a half square miles of forest near S. Carlos, in lieu of a debt; and this he sold for 350 dollars, or about seventy pounds sterling.

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached the island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most cultivated part of the Archipelago; for a broad strip of land on the coast of the main island, as well as on many of the smaller adjoining ones, is almost completely cleared. Some of the farm-houses seemed very comfortable. I was curious to ascertain how rich any of these people might be, but Mr. Douglas says that no one can be considered as possessing a regular income. One of the richest landowners might possibly accumulate, in a long industrious life, as much as a thousand pounds sterling; but should this happen, it would all be stowed away in some secret corner; for it is the custom of almost every family to have a jar or treasure-chest buried in the ground.

NOVEMBER 30TH.—Early on Sunday morning we reached Castro,—the ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn and deserted place. The usual quadrangular arrangement of Spanish towns could be traced, but the streets and plaza were coated with fine green turf, on which sheep were browsing. The church, which stands in the middle, is entirely built of plank, and has a picturesque and venerable appearance. The poverty of the place may be conceived from the fact, that although containing some hundreds of inhabitants, one of our party was unable any where to purchase either a pound of sugar, or an ordinary knife. No individual possessed either a watch or a clock; and an old man, who was supposed to have a good idea of time, was employed to strike the church bell by guess.

[page] 339 Dec. 1834. CASTRO.

The arrival of our boats was a rare event in this quiet, retired corner of the world; and nearly all the inhabitants came down to the beach to see us pitch our tents. They were very civil, and offered us a house; and one man even sent us a cask of cider as a present. In the afternoon we paid our respects to the governor;—a quiet old man, who, in his appearance and manner of life, was scarcely superior to an English cottager. At night heavy rain set in, which was hardly sufficient to drive away from the tents the large circle of lookers on. An Indian family, who had come to trade in a canoe from Caylen, bivouacked near us. They had no shelter during the rain. In the morning, I asked a young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how he had passed the night. He seemed perfectly content, and answered, "Muy bien, senor."

DECEMBER 1ST.—We steered for the island of Lemuy. I was anxious to examine a reported coal-mine, which turned out to be lignite of little value, in the sandstone (probably of an ancient tertiary epoch) of which these islands are composed. When we reached Lemuy we had much difficulty in finding any place to pitch our tents, for it was spring tide, and the land was wooded down to the water's edge. In a short time we were surrounded by a large group of the nearly pure Indian inhabitants. They were much surprised at our arrival, and said one to the other, "This is the reason we have seen so many parrots lately; the cheucau (an odd red-breasted little bird, which inhabits the thick forest, and utters very peculiar noises) has not cried ‘ beware' for nothing." They were soon anxious for barter. Money was scarcely worth any thing, but their eagerness for tobacco was something quite extraordinary. After tobacco indigo came next in value; then capsicum, old clothes, and gunpowder. The latter article was required for a very innocent purpose: each parish has a public musket, and the gunpowder was wanted for making a noise on their saint or feast days.

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. At certain seasons they catch also, in "corrales" or hedges

Z 2

[page] 340 CHILOE. Dec. 1834.

under water, many fish which are left on the mud-banks as the tide falls. They occasionally possess fowls, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and cattle; the order in which they are here mentioned expressing their respective frequency. I never saw any thing more obliging and humble than the manners of these people. They generally began with stating, that they were poor natives of the place, and not Spaniards, and that they were in sad want of tobacco and other comforts. At Caylen, the most southern island, we bought with a stick of tobacco of the value of three-halfpence, two fowls—one of which, the Indian stated, had skin between its toes, and turned out to be a fine duck; and with some cotton handkerchiefs, worth three shillings, we procured three sheep, and a large bunch of onions. The yawl at this place was anchored some way from the shore, and we had fears for her safety during the night. Our pilot, Mr. Douglas, accordingly told the constable of the district, that we always placed sentinels with loaded arms, and not understanding Spanish, if we saw any person in the dark, we should assuredly shoot him. The constable, with much humility, agreed to the perfect propriety of this arrangement, and promised us that no one should stir out of his house during that night.

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing southward. The general features of the country remained the same, but it was much less thickly inhabited. On the large island of Tanqui there was scarcely one cleared spot; the trees on every side extending their branches over the sea-beach. I one day noticed some very fine plants of the panke (Gunnera scabra), which somewhat resembles the rhubarb on a gigantic scale, growing on the sandstone cliffs. The inhabitants eat the stalks, which are subacid, and tan leather with the roots, and prepare a black die from them. The leaf is nearly circular, but deeply indented on its margin: I measured one which had a diameter of nearly eight feet, and therefore a circumference of no less than twenty-four! The stalk is rather more than a yard high, and each plant

[page] 341 Dec. 1834. SAN PEDRO.

sends out four or five of these enormous leaves—presenting together a very noble appearance.

DECEMBER 6TH.—We reached Caylen, called "el fin del Cristiandad." In the morning we stopped for a few minutes at a house on the northern end of Laylec, which was the extreme point of South American Christendom, and a miserable hovel it was. The latitude is 43° 10', which is two degrees further south than the Rio Negro on the Atlantic coast. These extreme Christians were very poor, and, under the plea of their situation, begged some tobacco. As a proof of the poverty of these Indians, I may mention that, shortly before this, we had met a man who had travelled three days and a half on foot, and had as many to return, for the sake of recovering the value of a small axe, and a few fish. How very difficult it must be to buy the smallest article, when such trouble is taken to recover so small a debt !

In the evening we reached the island of S. Pedro, where we found the Beagle at anchor. In doubling the point, two of the officers landed to take a round of angles with the theodolite. A fox, of a kind said to be peculiar to the island, and very rare in it, and which is an undescribed species, was sitting on the rocks. He was so intently absorbed in watching their manœuvres, that I was able, by quietly walking up behind, to knock him on the head with my geological hammer. This fox, more curious or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his brethren, is now mounted in the museum of the Zoological Society.

We staid three days in this harbour; on one of which Captain FitzRoy, with a party, attempted to ascend to the summit of San Pedro. The woods here had rather a different aspect from those on the northern parts of the island. The rock also being micaceous slate, there was no beach, but the steep sides dipped directly beneath the water. The general aspect in consequence was more like that of Tierra del Fuego than of Chiloe. In vain we tried to gain the summit: he forest was so impenetrable that no one, who has not beheld it, can imagine so entangled a mass of dying and dead

[page] 342 CHILOE. Dec. 1834.

trunks. I am sure that often, for more than ten minutes together, our feet never touched the ground, and we were frequently ten or fifteen feet above; it so that the seamen as a joke called out the soundings. At other times we crept one after another on our hands and knees, under the rotten trunks. In the lower part of the mountain, noble trees of the winter's bark, and a laurel like the sassafras with fragrant leaves, and others, the names of which I do not know, were matted together by a trailing bamboo or cane. Here we were more like fishes struggling in a net than any other animal. On the higher parts, brushwood takes the place of larger trees, with here and there a red cedar or an alerce pine. I was also pleased to see, at an elevation of a little less than 1000 feet, our old friend the southern beech. They were, however, poor stunted trees; and I should think this must be nearly their northern limit. We ultimately gave up the attempt in despair.

DECEMBER 10TH.—The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr. Sulivan, proceeded on their survey, but I remained on board the Beagle, which the next day left S. Pedro for the southward. On the 13th we ran into an opening in the southern part of Guayatecas, or the Chonos Archipelago; and it was fortunate we did so, for on the following day a storm, worthy of Tierra del Fuego, raged with its wonted fury. White massive clouds were piled up against a dark blue sky, and across them black ragged sheets of vapour were rapidly driven. The successive mountain-ranges appeared like dim shadows; and the setting sun cast on the woodland a yellow gleam, much like that produced by the flame of spirits of wine on a man's countenance. The water was white with the flying spray; and the wind lulled and roared again through the rigging. It was a most ominous, sublime scene. During a few minutes there was a bright rainbow, and it was curious to observe the effect of the spray, which, being carried along the surface of the water, changed the ordinary semicircle into a ring. A band of prismatic colours was continued from both feet of the common arch, across the bay, close to the vessel's side; thus forming a distorted, but very nearly entire circle.

[page] 343 Dec. 1834. TRES MONTES.

We staid here three days. The weather continued bad; but this did not much signify, for the surface of the land in all these islands is all but impassable. The coast is so very rugged, that to attempt to walk in that direction requires continued scrambling up and down, over the sharp rocks of mica slate; and as for the woods—our faces, hands, and shin-bones all bore witness to the maltreatment we received in merely attempting to penetrate their forbidden recesses.

DECEMBER 18TH.—We stood out to sea. On the 20th we bade farewell to the south, and with a fair wind turned the ship's head northward. From Cape Tres Montes we sailed pleasantly along the lofty weather-beaten coast; which is remarkable for the bold outline of its hills, and the thick covering of forest—even on the almost precipitous flanks. The next day a harbour was discovered, which on this dangerous coast might be of great utility to a distressed vessel. It can easily be recognised by a hill 1600 feet high, which is even more perfectly conical than the famous sugar-loaf at Rio de Janeiro. The next day, after anchoring, I succeeded in reaching the summit of this hill. It was a laborious undertaking, for the sides were so steep, that in some parts it was necessary to use the trees as ladders: there were also several extensive brakes of the Fuchsia covered with its beautiful drooping flowers, but very difficult to crawl through. In these wild countries it gives much delight, to gain the summit of any mountain. There is an indefinite expectation of meeting something very strange, which, however often it may be balked, never failed with me to recur on each successive attempt. Every one must know the feeling of triumph and pride which a grand view from a height communicates to the mind. In these little frequented countries there is also joined to it some vanity, that you perhaps are the first man who ever stood on this pinnacle or admired this view.

A strong desire is always felt to ascertain, whether any body has previously visited the place. A bit of wood with a nail in it is picked up and studied, as if it were covered with hieroglyphics. Possessed with this feeling, I was much in-

[page] 344 TRES MONTES. Dec. 1834.

terested by finding, on a wild part of the coast, a bed made of grass beneath a ledge of rock. Close by it there had been a fire, and the man had used an axe. The fire, bed, and situation, showed the dexterity of an Indian; but he could scarcely have been an Indian; for the race is in this part extinct, owing to the Catholic desire of making at one blow Christians and Slaves. I had at the time some misgivings (though they afterwards were proved to have been groundless) that the solitary man, who had made his bed on this wild spot, must have been some poor shipwrecked sailor, who, in trying to travel up the coast, had here lain himself down for his dreary night.

DECEMBER 28TH.—The weather continued very bad, but it at last permitted us to proceed with the survey. The time hung heavy on our hands, as it always did when we were delayed from day to day by successive gales of wind. In the evening another harbour was discovered, where we anchored. Directly afterwards a man was seen waving his shirt; and a boat was sent which brought back two seamen. A party of six had run away from an American whaling vessel, and had landed a little to the southward in a boat, which was shortly afterwards knocked to pieces by the surf. They had now been wandering up and down the coast for fifteen months, without knowing which way to go, or where they were. What a singular piece of good fortune it was that this harbour was now discovered! Had it not been for this one chance, they might have wandered till they had grown old men, and at last have perished on this wild coast. Their sufferings had been very great, and one of their party had lost his life, by falling from the cliffs. They were sometimes obliged to separate in search of food, and this explained the bed of the solitary man. Considering what they had undergone, I think they had kept a very good reckoning of time; though they had lost four days, by making this the 24th instead of the 28th.

DECEMBER 30TH.—We anchored in a snug little cove at the foot of some high hills, near the northern extremity of

[page] 345 Jan. 1835. TRES MONTES.

Tres Montes. After breakfast the next morning, a party ascended one of these mountains, which had an altitude of 2400 feet. The scenery was remarkable. The chief part of the range was composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of granite, which appeared as if they had been coeval with the beginning of the world. The granite is capped with slaty gneiss, and this in the lapse of ages has been worn into strange finger-shaped points. These two formations, thus differing in their outlines, agree in being almost destitute of vegetation. This barrenness had to our eyes a still stranger appearance, from our having been so long accustomed to the sight of an almost universal forest of dark green trees. I took much delight in examining the structure of these mountains. The complicated and lofty ranges bore a noble aspect of durability,—equally profitless, however, to man and to all other animals. Granite to the geologist is classic ground: from its wide-spread limits, and its beautiful and compact texture, few rocks have been more early recognised. Granite has given rise, perhaps, to more discussion concerning its origin than any other formation. We generally see it constituting the fundamental rock, and, however formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the crust of this globe, to which man has been able to penetrate. The limit of man's knowledge in any subject possesses a high interest, which is perhaps increased by its close neighbourhood to the realms of imagination.

JANUARY 1ST, 1835.—The new year is ushered in, with the ceremonies proper to it in these regions. She lays out no false hopes; a heavy N. W. gale, with steady rain, bespeaks the rising year. Thank God, we are not destined here to see the end of it, but hope then to be in the Pacific, where a blue sky tells one there is a heaven—a something beyond the clouds above our heads.

The N. W. winds prevailing for the next four days, we only managed to cross a great bay, and then anchored in another secure harbour. I accompanied the captain in a boat to the head of a deep creek. On the way the number

[page] 346 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. Jan. 1835.

of seals which we saw was quite astonishing; every bit of flat rock, and parts of the beach, were covered with them. They appeared to be of a loving disposition, and lay huddled together, fast asleep, like so many pigs; but even pigs would be ashamed of their dirt, and of the foul smell which came from them. Each herd was watched by the patient but inauspicious eyes of the turkey-buzzard. This disgusting bird, with its bald scarlet head, formed to wallow in putridity, is very common on the west coast, and their attendance on the seals shows that they are dependant on their mortality. We found the water (probably only that of the surface) nearly fresh; this was caused by the number of torrents, which, in the form of cascades, came tumbling over the bold granite mountains into the sea. The fresh water attracts the fish, and these bring many terns, gulls, and two kinds of cormorant. We saw also a pair of the beautiful black-necked swans, and several small sea-otters, the fur of which is held in such high estimation. In returning we were again amused by the impetuous manner in which the heap of seals, old and young, tumbled into the water as the boat passed. They did not remain long under, but rising, followed us with outstretched necks, expressing great wonder and curiosity.

7TH.—Having run up the coast, we anchored near the northern end of the Chonos Archipelago, in Lowe's Harbour, where we remained a week. The islands were here, as in Chiloe, composed of a stratified littoral deposit of soft sandstone with shingle; and the vegetation in consequence was beautifully luxuriant. The woods came down to the sea-beach, just in the same manner as an evergreen shrubbery over a gravel walk. We also enjoyed from the anchorage a splendid view of four great snowy cones of the Cordillera, beginning with the saddle-topped volcano, next "el famoso Corcovado," and then two others to the southward. The range itself had in this latitude so little elevation, that few parts of it appeared above the line of the neighbouring islets. We found here a party of five men

[page] 347 Jan. 1835. WILD POTATOES.

from Caylen, "el fin del Cristiandad," who had most adventurously crossed the open space of sea which separates Chonos from Chiloe, in their miserable boat-canoe, for the purpose of fishing. These islands will, in all probability, in a short time become peopled, like those adjoining the coast of Chiloe.

Humboldt,* in his Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, has given a most interesting discussion on the history of the common potato. He believes that the plant described by Molina,† under the name of maglia, is the original stock of this useful vegetable, and that it grows in Chile in its native soil. He supposes that thence it was transported by the Indian population to Peru, Quito, New Granada, and the whole Cordillera, from 40° south to 5° north. He observes that it is a remarkable circumstance, and in accordance with all records respecting the course of the stream of American population, that previously to the Spanish conquest, it was unknown in Mexico. Among the Chonos Islands, a wild potato grows in abundance, which in general habit is even more closely similar to the cultivated kind than is the maglia of Molina.

These potatoes grow near the sea-beach, in thick beds, on a sandy, shelly soil, wherever the trees are not too close together. In the middle of January they were in flower, but the tubers were small, and few in number; especially in those plants which grew in the shade, and had the most luxuriant foliage. Nevertheless, I found one which was of an oval form, with one diameter two inches in length. The raw bulbs had precisely the smell of the common potato of England, but when cooked they shrunk, and became watery and insipid. They had not a bitter taste, as, according to Molina, is the case with the Chilian kind; and they could be eaten with safety. Some plants measured

* Humboldt's New Spain, book iv., chap. ix.

† Molina's Chile, Spanish edition, vol. i., p. 136.

[page] 348 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. Jan. 1835.

from the ground to the tip of the upper leaf, not less than four feet.

So very close is the general resemblance with the cultivated species, that it is necessary to show that they have not been imported. The simple fact of their growth on the islands, and even small rocks, throughout the Chonos Archipelago, which has never been inhabited, and very seldom visited, is an argument of some weight. But the circumstance of the wildest Indian tribes being well acquainted with the plant, is stronger. Mr. Lowe, a very intelligent and active sealer, informs me, that on showing some potatoes to the naked savages in the Gulf of Trinidad (lat. 50°), they immediately recognised them, and calling them "Aquina," wanted to take them away. The savages also pointed to a place where they grew; which fact was subsequently verified. The Indians of Chiloe, belonging to another tribe, also give them a name in their own language. The simple fact of their being known and named by distinct races, over a space of four or five hundred miles on a most unfrequented and scarcely known coast, almost proves their native existence. Professor Henslow, who has examined the dried specimens which I brought home, says that they are the same with those described by Mr. Sabine* from Valparaiso, but that they form a variety which by some botanists has been considered as specifically distinct. It is remarkable that the same plant should be found on the sterile mountains of central Chile, where a drop of rain does not fall for more than six months, and within the damp forests of the southern islands. From what we know of the habits of the potato, this latter situation would appear more congenial than the former, as its birthplace.

In the central parts of the Chonos Archipelago, in lat. 45° 30', the forest has assumed very much the same charac-

* Horticultural Transact., vol. v., p. 249. Mr. Caldcleugh sent home two tubers, which being well manured, even the first season produced numerous potatoes and an abundance of leaves.

[page] 349 Jan. 1835. FORMATION OF PEAT.

ter which is found along the whole west coast for 600 miles to Cape Horn. The arborescent grass of Chiloe has here ceased to exist; while the beech of Tierra del Fuego both grows to a good size, and forms a considerable proportion of the wood; not, however, in the same exclusive manner as it does further to the southward. Cryptogamic plants here find a most congenial climate. In the neighbourhood of the Strait of Magellan, I have before remarked that the country appears too cold and wet to allow of their arriving at perfection; but in these islands, within the forest, the number of species, and great abundance of mosses, lichens, and small ferns, is quite extraordinary.* In Tierra del Fuego trees grow only on the hill-sides; every level piece of land being invariably covered by a thick bed of peat; but in Chiloe the same kind of situation supports the most luxuriant forest. Here, within the Chonos Archipelago, the nature of the climate more closely approaches that of the southern, than that of the northern, of these two countries. Nearly every patch of level ground is covered by two species of plants (Astelia pumila of Brown,† and Donatia magellanica), which by their joint decay compose a thick bed of elastic peat.

In Tierra del Fuego, above the region of woodland, the former of these eminently sociable plants is the chief agent in the production of peat. Fresh leaves are always succeeding one to the other, round the central tap root; the lower ones soon decay; and in tracing a root downward in the peat, the leaves (yet holding their position) can be observed passing through every stage of decomposition, till the whole becomes blended in one confused mass. The Astelia is assisted by few other plants; here and there a small creeping one (Myrtus nummularia), with a woody stem like our

* By sweeping with my insect-net, I procured from these situations a considerable number of minute insects of the family of Staphylinidæ, and others allied to Pselaphus, and minute Hymenoptera. But the most characteristic family in number of both individuals and species, throughout the more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos, is that of the Telephoridæ.

Anthericum trifarium of Solander.

[page] 350 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. Jan. 1835.

cranberry, but with a sweet berry; another (Empetrum rubrum) like our heath, and a third (Juncus grandiflorus) a rush; are nearly the only ones that grow on the swampy surface. These plants, though possessing a very close general resemblance to the English kinds, are botanically different. In the more level parts of the country, the surface of the peat is broken up into little pools of water, which stand at different heights, and appear as if artificially excavated. Small streams of water, flowing under ground, complete the disorganization of the vegetable matter, and consolidate the whole.

The climate of the southern part of America appears particularly favourable to the production of peat. In the Falkland Islands, almost every kind of plant, even the coarse grass which covers the whole surface of the island, becomes converted into this substance. I was at first at a loss to imagine how so much peat had been formed; but the conversion of the grass at once explains it. I observed that even some bones of cattle, strewed on the surface, were nearly covered up by the decaying matter at the foot of the blades of withered grass. Scarcely any situation checks its growth; it overhangs the banks of running streams, and encroaches on the piles of loose angular fragments of quartz rock. Some of the beds are of considerable thickness, even as much as twelve feet: the peat in the lower part is earthy, and completely altered, and when dry, becomes so solid that it ignites with difficulty. No doubt, although every plant lends its aid in the process, yet the Astelia is the most efficient. It is rather a singular circumstance, as being so very different from what occurs in Europe, that no kind of moss forms by its decay any portion of the peat in South America.

With respect to the northern limit at which the climate allows of that peculiar kind of slow decomposition which is necessary for the production of peat, I believe that in Chiloe (lat. 41° to 42°), although there is much swampy ground, no well-characterized substance of this nature

[page] 351 Jan. 1835. ZOOLOGY.

occurs. But in the Chonos Islands, three degrees further southward, we have seen that it is abundant. On the eastern coast in La Plata (lat. 35°), I was told by a Spanish resident (who had visited Ireland), that he had often sought for this substance, but had never been able to find any. He showed me, as the nearest approach to it which he had discovered, a black peaty soil, so penetrated with roots as to allow of an extremely slow and imperfect combustion.

The zoology of these broken islets of the Chonos Archipelago, is, as might have been expected, very poor. Of quadrupeds, two aquatic kinds are common. The Myopotamus Coipus (like a beaver, but with a round tail) is well known from its fine fur, which is an object of trade, throughout the tributaries of La Plata. It here, however, exclusively frequents salt water; which same circumstance has been mentioned, as sometimes occurring with the great rodent, the Capybara. A small sea-otter is very numerous. This animal does not feed exclusively on fish, but, like the seals, draws a large supply from a small red crab, which swims in shoals near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe saw one in Tierra del Fuego eating a cuttle-fish; and at Lowe's Harbour another was killed, in the act of carrying to its hole a large volute; and this was the only specimen of that shell which was procured. At one place I caught in a trap a singular little mouse; it appeared common on several of the islets, but the Chilotans at Lowe's Harbour said that it was not found in all. What a succession of chances,* or what changes of level, must have been brought into play, thus to spread these small animals throughout this broken archipelago !

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds occur, which have many points of affinity with the Turco

* Many rapacious animals bring their prey alive to feed their young. Are there any instances on record of such a habit among owls or hawks? If so, in the course of centuries, every now and then, one might escape from the young birds. Some such agency is wanted, to account for the distribution of the smaller gnawing animals on islands near to each other.

[page] 352 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. Jan. 1835.

and Tapacolo. One is called by the inhabitants "Cheucau " (Pteroptochos rubecula). It frequents the most gloomy and retired spots within the damp forests. Sometimes, although its cry may be heard close at hand, let a person watch ever so attentively, he will not see the cheucau; at other times, let him stand motionless, and the red-breasted little bird will approach within a few feet, in the most familiar manner. It then busily hops about the entangled mass of rotting canes and branches, with its little tail cocked upwards. I opened the gizzard of some specimens: it was very muscular, and contained hard seeds, buds of plants, and vegetable fibres, mixed with small stones. The cheucau is held in superstitious fear by the Chilotans, on account of its strange and varied cries. There are three very distinct kinds,—one is called "chiduco" and is an omen of good; another, "huitreu" which is extremely unfavourable; and a third, which I have forgotten. These words are given in imitation of its cries, and the natives are in some things absolutely governed by them. The Chilotans assuredly have chosen a most comical little creature for their prophet.

An allied species, but rather larger, is called by the natives "Guid-guid" (Hylactes Tarnii of King, and Pteroptochos of Kittlitz), and by the English the barking-bird. This latter name is well given; for I defy any one at first to feel certain that a small dog is not yelping somewhere in the forest. Just as with the cheucau, a person will sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain may endeavour, by watching, and with still less chance by beating the bushes, to see its author; yet at other times the guid-guid fearlessly comes near. Its manner of feeding and its general habits are very similar to those of the cheucau. Both species are said to build their nests close to the ground, amongst the rotten branches. The ground being so extremely wet, is a good reason why they do not burrow holes, like the northern species. Besides the cheucau and guid-guid, there is another species, but it is not very common. Moreover, the bird which has been men-

[page] 353 Jan. 1835. ORNITHOLOGY.

tioned in Tierra del Fuego, under the title of a black wren (Scytalopus fuscus of Gould), appears, in its skulking habits, odd cries, and place of resort, and likewise in some points of structure, to be closely related to this singular genus.

On the coast,* a small dusky-coloured bird (a Furnarius allied to fuliginosus) is very common. It is remarkable from its quiet and very tame habits. It lives entirely on the sea-beach, and there (as well as sometimes on the floating kelp), picks up small sea-shells and crabs; thus supplying the place of a sandpiper. Besides these birds, only a few others inhabit this broken land. In my rough notes I describe the strange noises, which although frequently heard within these gloomy forests, yet scarcely disturb the general silence. The yelping of the guid-guid, and the sudden whew-whew of the cheucau, sometimes come from afar, and sometimes from close at hand;—the little wren occasionally adds its cry;—the creeper follows the intruder, screaming and twittering;—the humming-bird may be seen every now and then darting from side to side, and emitting, like an insect, its shrill chirp;—lastly, from the top of some lofty tree, the indistinct but plaintive note of the white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher may be noticed.

From the great preponderance in most countries of certain kinds of birds, such as the finches, one feels at first surprised at meeting with such peculiar forms, above enumerated, as the commonest birds in any district. In central Chile two of them, namely the Synallaxis and Scytalopus, occur, although most rarely. When finding, as in this case, any animal which seems to play so insignificant a part in the great scheme of nature, one is apt to wonder why a distinct species

* I may mention as a proof of how great a difference there is between the seasons of the wooded and the open parts of the coast, that on September 20th, in lat. 34°, these birds had young ones in the nest, while among the Chonos Islands, three months later in the summer, they were only laying; the difference in latitude between these two places being about 700 miles.


[page] 354 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. Jan. 1835.

should have been created. But it should always be recollected, that in some other country perhaps it is an essential member of society, or at some former period may have been so. If America south of 37° should be sunk beneath the waters of the ocean, the Synallaxis and Scytalopus might continue to exist in central Chile for a long period, but it is very improbable that their numbers would increase. We should then see a case, which must inevitably have happened with very many animals.

These southern seas are frequented by several species of Petrels. The largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly, (quebrantahuesos, or break-bones, of the Spaniards) is a common bird, both in the inland channels and on the open sea. In its habits and manner of flight there is a very close resemblance with the albatross, and as with the latter bird, a person may watch it for hours together without seeing on what it feeds, so is it with this petrel. The " break-bones" is, however, a rapacious bird,* for it was observed by some of the officers at Port St. Antonio chasing a diver. The bird tried to escape both by diving and flying, but was continually struck down, and at last killed by a blow on its head. At Port St. Julian, also, these great petrels were seen killing and devouring young gulls.

A second species (Puffinus cinereus†), which is common to Europe, Cape Horn, and the coast of Peru, is of a much smaller size than the gigantea, but, like it, of a dirty black colour. It generally frequents the inland sounds in very large flocks : I do not think I ever saw so many birds of any other sort together, as I once saw of these behind the island of Chiloe. Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular line, for several hours in one direction. When part of the flock settled on the water, the surface was blackened, and a noise proceeded from them, as of human beings talking in the dis-

* The Spaniards who named it were probably aware of this, for " quebrantahuesos" means properly an osprey.

† I am indebted to Mr. Gould for naming these birds, and for kindly furnishing me with much information respecting them.

[page] 355 Jan. 1835. ORNITHOLOGY.

tance. At this time the water was in parts coloured by clouds of small crustacea. At Port Famine, every morning and evening, a long band of these birds continued to fly, with extreme rapidity, up and down the central parts of the channel. I opened the stomach of one (which I shot with some difficulty, for they were rather wary), and it contained a small fish, and seven good-sized, prawn-like crabs.

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only mention one other kind, the Puffinuria Berardii, which offers one more example of those extraordinary cases, of a bird evidently belonging to one well-marked family, yet both in its habits and structure allied to a very distinct tribe. This bird never leaves the quiet inland sounds. When disturbed it dives to a distance, and on coming to the surface, with the same movement takes wing. After flying for a space in a direct course, by the rapid movement of its short wings, it drops, as if struck dead, and dives again. The form of the beak and nostrils, length of foot, and even colouring of the plumage, show that this bird is a petrel: at the same time, its short wings and consequent little power of flight, its form of body and shape of tail, its habits of diving, and the absence of a hind toe to its foot, and its choice of situation, make it doubtful whether its relationship is not equally close with the auks as with the petrels. It would undoubtedly be mistaken for one of the former, when seen either on the wing, or when diving and quietly swimming about the retired channels of Tierra del Fuego.

2 A 2

[page] 356


San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruption — Ride to Castro and Cucao — Impenetrable forests — Valdivia — Apple-trees — Ride to Llanos — Indians — Earthquake — Concepcion — Great earthquake — Effects of wave — Rocks fissured — Appearance of the former towns — Water in the bay black and boiling — Direction of vibration — Stones displaced — Cause of great waves — Permanent elevation of land — Great lake of fluid rock beneath crust of the globe — Connexion of volcanic phenomena — Slow elevation of mountain chain, cause of earthquakes.


ON JANUARY THE 15TH we sailed from Lowe's Harbour, and three days afterwards anchored a second time in the bay of S. Carlos in Chiloe. On the night of the 19th the volcano of Osorno was in activity. At midnight the sentry observed something like a large star; from which state the bright spot gradually increased in size till about three o'clock, when a very magnificent spectacle was presented. By the aid of a glass, dark objects, in constant succession, were seen, in the midst of a great red glare of light, to be thrown upwards and to fall down again. The light was sufficient to cast on the water a long bright reflection. By the morning the volcano* had resumed its tranquillity.

Large masses of molten matter seem very commonly to be cast out of the igneous vents, in this part of the Cordillera. I was assured, that when the Corcovado is in eruption, great masses projected upwards are seen to burst in the air, and to assume fantastical forms, such as trees and other bodies. One may form an idea of the immense size of these bodies, when it is stated that they have been seen from the high land

* In another work I shall have occasion to refer to this eruption, which is connected with one of the grandest series of volcanic phenomena on record.

[page] 357 Jan. 1835. CHILOE.

behind S. Carlos, which is distant no less than ninety-three miles from the Corcovado.

Captain FitzRoy being anxious that some bearings should be taken on the outer coast of Chiloe, it was planned that Mr. King and myself should ride to Castro, and thence across the island to the Capella de Cucao, situated on the west coast. Having hired horses and a guide, we set out on the morning of the 22d. We had not proceeded far, before we were joined by a woman and two boys, who were bent on the same journey. Every one on this road acts on a "hail fellow well met," fashion; and one may here enjoy the privilege, so rare in South America, of travelling without fire-arms.

At first, the country consists of a succession of hills and valleys. Nearer to Castro it becomes very level, but is still some height above the sea. The road itself is a curious affair: it consists in its whole length, with the exception of very few parts, of great logs of wood, which are either broad and placed longitudinally, or narrow and transversely. In summer the road is not very bad: but in winter, when the wood is rendered slippery from rain, travelling is exceedingly difficult. At that time of the year, the ground on each side becomes a morass, and is often overflowed: hence it is necessary that the longitudinal logs should be fastened down by transverse poles, which are pegged on each side into the earth. These pegs render a fall from a horse dangerous; as the chance of alighting on one of them is not small. It is remarkable, however, how active custom has made the Chilotan horses. In crossing bad parts, where the logs have been displaced, they skipped from one to the other, almost with the quickness and certainty of a dog. On either hand the road is bordered by the lofty forest-trees, with their bases matted together by the canes. When occasionally a long reach of this avenue could be observed, it presented a curious scene of uniformity: the white line of logs, narrowing in perspective, became hidden by the gloomy forest, or it terminated in a zigzag which ascended some steep hill.

[page] 358 CHILOE. Jan. 1835.

Although the distance from S. Carlos to Castro is only twelve leagues in a straight line, the formation of the road must have been a great labour. I was told that several people had formerly lost their lives in attempting to cross the forest. The first who succeeded was an Indian, who cut his way through the canes in eight days, and reached S. Carlos. He was rewarded by the Spanish government with a grant of land. During the summer, many of the Indians wander about the forests (but chiefly in the higher parts, where the woods are not quite so thick) in search of the half wild cattle which live on the leaves of the cane, and certain trees. It was one of these huntsmen who by chance discovered, a few years since, an English vessel, which had been wrecked on the outer coast. The crew were beginning to fail in provisions, and it is not probable that, without the aid of this man, they would have been able to have extricated themselves from these scarcely penetrable woods. As it was, one seaman died on the march, from fatigue. The Indians in these excursions steer by the sun; so that if there is a continuance of cloudy weather, they cannot travel.

The day was beautiful, and the number of trees which were in full flower perfumed the air; yet even this could scarcely dissipate the effect arising from the gloomy dampness of the forest. Moreover, the many dead trunks that stand like skeletons, never fail to give to these primeval woods a character of solemnity which is wanting in those of countries long civilized. Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for the night. Our female companion, who was rather good-looking, belonged to one of the most respectable families in Castro: she rode, however, astride, and without shoes or stockings. I was surprised at the total want of pride shown by her and her brother. They brought food with them, but at all our meals sat watching Mr. King and myself whilst eating, till we were fairly shamed into feeding the whole party. The night was cloudless; and while lying in our beds, we enjoyed the sight (and it is a high enjoyment) of the multitude of stars which illumined the darkness of the forest.

[page] 359 Jan. 1835. CHILOE.

JANUARY 23D. — We rose early in the morning, and reached the pretty quiet town of Castro by two o'clock. The old governor had died since our last visit, and in his place a Chileno was acting. We had a letter of introduction to Don Pedro. We found him exceedingly hospitable and kind, and with a degree of disinterestedness which is more common in La Plata than on this side of the continent. The next day Don Pedro procured us fresh horses, and offered to accompany us himself. We proceeded to the south; generally following the coast, and passing through several hamlets, each with its large barn-like chapel, built of wood. Near Castro we saw a remarkably pretty waterfall: it was very small, but the water fell in a single sheet into a large circular basin, around which stately trees, from 100 to 120 feet high, cast a dark shade. At Vilipilli, Don Pedro asked the commandant to give us a guide to Cucao. The old gentleman offered to come himself; but for a long time he would not believe that any thing could induce two Englishmen to go to such an out of the way place as Cucao. We thus were accompanied by the two greatest aristocrats in the country; as was plainly to be seen in the manner of all the poorer Indians towards them.

At Chonchi, we struck off across the island, and followed intricate winding paths, sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and then opening into pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn and potato crops. In this undulating woody country, partially cultivated, there was something which reminded me of the wilder parts of England, and therefore had to my eye a most fascinating aspect. At Vilinco, which is situated on the borders of the lake of Cucao, only a few fields are cleared; and all the inhabitants appear to be Indians. This lake is twelve miles long, and runs in an east and west direction. From local circumstances, the sea-breeze blows very regularly during the day, and during the night it falls calm. This has given rise to strange exaggerations: for the phenomenon, as described to us at S. Carlos, was quite a prodigy.

[page] 360 CHILOE. Jan. 1835.

The road to Cucao was so very bad, that we determined to embark in a periagua. The commandant, in the most authoritative manner, ordered six Indians to get ready to pull us over, without deigning to tell them whether they would be paid. The periagua is a strange rough boat, but the crew were still stranger; I doubt if six uglier little men ever got into a boat together. They pulled, however, very well and cheerfully: the stroke-oar gabbled Indian, and uttered strange cries, much after the fashion of a pig-driver when driving his pigs. We started with a light breeze against us, but yet reached, before late at night, the Capella de Cucao. The country on each side of the lake was one unbroken forest.

In the same periagua with us, a cow was embarked. To get so large an animal into a small boat appears at first a difficulty; but the Indians managed it in a minute. They brought the cow alongside the boat, which was heeled towards her; then placing two oars under her belly, with their ends resting on the gunwale, by the aid of these levers they fairly tumbled the poor beast, heels over head, into the bottom of the boat, and then lashed her down with ropes. At Cucao, we found an uninhabited hovel (which is the residence of the padre when he pays this Capella a visit), where, lighting a fire, we cooked our supper, and were very comfortable.

The district of Cucao is the only inhabited part on the whole west coast of Chiloe. It contains about thirty or forty Indian families, who are scattered along four or five miles of the shore. They are very much secluded from the rest of Chiloe, and have scarcely any sort of commerce, except sometimes in a little oil, which they get from seal-blubber. They are pretty well dressed, in clothes of their own manufacture, and they have plenty to eat. They seemed, however, discontented, yet humble to a degree which it was quite painful to witness. The former feeling is, I think, chiefly to be attributed to the harsh and authoritative manner in which they are treated by their rulers. Our companions, although so very civil to us,

[page] 361 Jan. 1835. CHILOE.

behaved to the poor Indians as if they had been slaves, rather than free men. They ordered provisions and the use of their horses, without ever condescending to say how much, or indeed whether the owners should be paid at all. In the morning, being left alone with these poor people, we soon ingratiated ourselves by presents of cigars and maté. A lump of white sugar was divided between all present, and tasted with the greatest curiosity. The Indians ended all their complaints by saying, "and it is only because we are poor Indians, and know nothing ; but it was not so when we had a king."

The next day, after breakfast, we road to Punta Huantamó, a few miles to the northward. The road lay along a very broad beach, on which, even after so many fine days, a terrible surf was breaking. I was assured that after a heavy gale, the roar can be heard at night even at Castro, a distance of no less than twenty-one sea miles, across a hilly and wooded country. We had some difficulty in reaching the point, owing to the intolerably bad paths; for every where in the shade the ground soon becomes a perfect quagmire. The point itself is a bold rocky hill. It is covered by a plant allied, I believe, to Bromelia, and called by the inhabitants Chepones. In scrambling through the beds, our hands were very much scratched. I was amused by observing the precaution our Indian guide took, in turning up his trousers, thinking that they were more delicate than his own hard skin. This plant bears a fruit, in shape like an artichoke, in which a number of seed-vessels are packed; these contain a pleasant sweet pulp, here much esteemed. I saw at Lowe's Harbour, the Chilotans making chichi, or cider, with this fruit: so true is it, as Humboldt remarks, that almost every where man finds means of preparing some kind of beverage from the vegetable kingdom. The savages, however, of Tierra del Fuego, and I believe of Australia, have not advanced thus far in the arts.

The coast to the northward of Punta Huantamó is exceedingly rugged and broken, and is fronted by many breakers,

[page] 362 CHILOE. Feb. 1835.

on which the sea is eternally roaring. Mr. King and myself were anxious to return, if it had been possible, on foot along this coast; but even the Indians said it is quite impracticable. We were told that men have crossed by striking directly through the woods from Cucao to S. Carlos, but never by the coast. On these expeditions, the Indians carry with them only toasted corn, and of this they eat sparingly twice a day.

26TH.—Re-embarking in the periagua, we returned across the lake, and then mounted our horses. The whole of Chiloe took advantage of this week of unusually fine weather, to clear the ground by burning. In every direction volumes of smoke were curling upwards. Although the inhabitants were so assiduous in setting fire to every part of the wood, yet I did not see a single fire which they had succeeded in making extensive. We dined with our friend the commandant, and did not reach Castro till after dark.

The next morning we started very early. After having ridden for some time, we obtained from the brow of a steep hill an extensive view (and it is a rare thing on this road) of the great forest. Over the horizon of trees, the volcano of Corcovado, and the great flat-topped one to the northward, stood out in proud pre-eminence; scarcely another peak in the long range showed its snowy top. I hope it will be long before I forget this farewell view of the magnificent Cordillera of Chiloe. At night we bivouacked under a cloudless sky, and the next morning reached S. Carlos. We arrived on the right day, for before evening heavy rain commenced.

FEBRUARY 4TH.—Sailed from Chiloe. During the last week I made several short excursions. One was to examine a great bed of oyster and Venus shells, of the same kind now living in the neighbouring bay, but elevated 350 feet (measured by the barometer) above the level of the sea. From among these shells large forest-trees were growing. Another ride was to P. Huechucucuy. I had with me a guide who knew the country far too well; for he would

[page] 363 Feb. 1835. VALDIVIA.

pertinaciously tell me the Indian name for every little point, rivulet, and creek. In the same manner as in Tierra del Fuego, the Indian language appears singularly well adapted for attaching names to the most trivial divisions of the land. I believe every one was glad to say farewell to Chiloe. Yet if we could forget the gloom and ceaseless rain of winter, Chiloe might pass for a charming island. There is, also, something very attractive in the simplicity and humble politeness of all the poor inhabitants.

We steered along shore to the northward, but owing to thick weather, did not reach Valdivia till the night of the eighth. The external features of the whole line of country were the same with the central parts of Chiloe. The forest was nowhere cleared away. On the sea-coast bold rocky points projected, but further inland the older formations were covered up by plains, belonging to geological periods of no great antiquity. The next morning, after anchoring in the fine harbour of Valdivia, the boat proceeded to the town, which is distant about ten miles. We followed the course of the river, occasionally passing a few hovels, and patches of ground cleared out of the otherwise unbroken forest; and sometimes meeting a canoe with an Indian family. The town is situated on the low banks of the stream, and is so completely buried in a wood of apple-trees, that the streets are merely paths in an orchard.

I have never seen any country where apple-trees appeared to thrive so well as in this damp part of South America. On the borders of the roads there were many young trees which had evidently planted themselves. In Chiloe, the inhabitants possess a marvellously short method of making an orchard. At the lower part of almost every branch, small, conical, brown, wrinkled points project: these are always ready to change into roots, as may sometimes be seen, where any mud has been accidentally splashed against the tree. A branch as thick as a man's thigh is chosen, and is cut off just beneath a group of these points; all the smaller branches are lopped off, and it is then placed about two feet

[page] 364 VALDIVIA. Feb. 1835.

deep in the ground: the operation is performed in the earliest part of the spring. During the succeeding summer, the stump throws out very long shoots, and sometimes even bears fruit. I was shown one which had produced as many as twenty-three apples, but this was thought very unusual. The ensuing summer, the first year shoots throw out others, and by the third season the stump is changed (as I have myself seen) into a well-wooded tree, loaded with an abundance of fruit. I understand there is one kind of apple-tree in England, which can be treated in a similar manner; but I believe the rapidity of growth, and at the same time production of fruit, is very inferior to that of the trees in Chiloe. An old man near Valdivia illustrated his motto, " Necessidad es la madre del invencion," by giving an account of the several useful things he manufactured from his apples. After making cider, he extracted from the refuse a white and very finely-flavoured spirit: by another process he procured a sweet treacle, or, as he called it, honey. He likewise showed us wine derived from the same fruit. The children and pigs seemed almost to live, during this season of the year, in the orchards.

FEBRUARY 11TH.—I set out with a guide on a short ride, in which, however, I managed to see singularly little, either of the geology of the country, or of its inhabitants. There is not much cleared land near Valdivia: after crossing a river at the distance of a few miles, we entered the forest, and then passed only one miserable hovel, before reaching our sleeping-place for the night. The short difference in latitude, of 150 miles, has given another aspect to the forest, compared to that of Chiloe. This is owing to a slightly different proportion in the kinds of trees. The evergreens do not appear to be quite so numerous; and the forest in consequence is coloured by a brighter and more lively green. In the same manner as in Chiloe, the lower parts are matted together by canes. Here also another kind of the same family (resembling the bamboo of Brazil, and about twenty feet in height), grows in clusters, and ornaments the banks of some of the streams

[page] 365 Feb. 1835. VALDIVIA.

in a very pretty manner. It is with this plant that the Indians make their chuzos, or long tapering spears. Our resting-house was so dirty that I preferred sleeping outside. The first night on these journeys is generally an uncomfortable one, because one's body is not accustomed to the tickling and biting of the fleas. I am sure, in the morning, there was not a space on my legs of the size of a shilling, which had not its little red mark, where the flea had feasted.

12TH.—We continued to ride through the uncleared forest; only occasionally meeting an Indian on horseback, or a troop of fine mules bringing alerce planks and corn from the southern plains. In the afternoon one of the horses knocked up: we were then on the brow of a hill, which commanded a fine view of the Llanos. The view of these open plains was very refreshing, after being hemmed in and buried amongst a wilderness of trees. The uniformity of a forest soon becomes very wearisome. This west coast makes me remember with pleasure the free, unbounded plains of Patagonia; yet with the true spirit of contradiction, I cannot forget how sublime is the silence of the forest. The Llanos are the most fertile and thickly-peopled parts of the country; as they possess the immense advantage of being nearly free from trees. Before leaving the forest we crossed some flat little lawns, around which single trees encroached, in the same manner as in an English park. It is curious how frequently a plain seems hostile to the growth of trees. Humboldt found much difficulty in endeavouring to account for their presence in certain parts of South America, and their absence in other parts. It appears to me, that the level state of the surface very frequently determines this point; but the cause of its doing so I do not know. In the case of Tierra del Fuego, the deficiency of trees on level ground is probably owing to the accumulation of too much moisture in such situations. But to the northward of Maldonado, in Banda Oriental, where we have a fine undulating country, with streams of water (which are themselves fringed with

[page] 366 VALDIVIA. Feb. 1835.

woods), the circumstance appears to me, as I have before stated, of very difficult explanation.

On account of the tired horse, I determined to stop close by, at the Mission of Cudico; to the friar of which I had a letter of introduction. Cudico is an intermediate district between the forest and the Llanos. There are a good many cottages, with patches of corn and potatoes, nearly all belonging to Indians. The tribes dependant on Valdivia are "reducidos y cristianos." The Indians further northward, about Arauco and Imperial, are still very wild and not converted; but they all have much intercourse with the Spaniards. The padre said that the Christian Indians did not much like coming to mass, but that otherwise they show respect for religion. The greatest difficulty is in making them observe the ceremonies of marriage. The wild Indians take as many wives as they can support; and a cacique will sometimes have more than ten. On entering his house, the number may be told by that of the separate fires. This plan must be a good one to prevent quarrelling. Each wife lives a week in turn with the cacique; but all are employed in weaving ponchos, &c., for his advantage. To be the wife of a cacique is an honour much sought after by the Indian women.

The men of all the tribes wear a coarse woollen poncho; but those south of Valdivia wear short trousers, and those northward a petticoat, like the chilipa of the Gauchos. All have their long hair bound by a scarlet fillet round their heads; but otherwise they are uncovered. These Indians are good-sized men; their cheek-bones are very prominent, and in general appearance they resemble the great American family to which they belong; but their physiognomy seemed to me to be slightly different from that of any other tribe which I had before seen. Their expression is generally grave and even austere, and possesses much character: this may pass either for honest bluntness, or fierce determination. The long black hair, the grave and much-lined features, and the dark complexion, called to my mind old

[page] 367 Feb. 1835. INDIANS.

portraits of James the First; but very likely the resemblance may be imaginary. On the road we met with none of that humble politeness so universal in Chiloe. Some gave their "mari mari" (good morning) with promptness, but the greater number did not seem inclined to offer any salute. This independence of manners is probably a consequence of their long wars, and the repeated victories which they alone of all the tribes in America have gained over the Spaniards.

I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the padre. He was exceedingly kind and hospitable; and coming from Santiago, had contrived to surround himself with some few comforts. Being a man of some little education, he bitterly complained of the total want of society. With no particular zeal for religion, no business or pursuit, how completely must this man's life be wasted! Finding nothing which tempted me either to stay or to proceed, the next day we set out on our return through the forest. We met on the road seven very wild Indians. Amongst them were some caciques, who had been receiving a yearly stipend, which is paid to some who have long remained faithful. They were fine-looking men, and they rode one after the other, with most gloomy faces. An old cacique, who headed them, had been, I suppose, more excessively drunk than the rest, for he seemed both extremely grave and very crabbed. Shortly before this, two Indians joined us, who were travelling from a distant mission to Valdivia, concerning some lawsuit. One was a good-humoured old man, but from his wrinkled beardless face looked more like an old woman than a man. I frequently presented both of them with cigars; and though ready to receive them, and I dare say grateful, they would hardly condescend to thank me. A Chilotan Indian would have taken off his hat and given his "Dios le page !" (May God repay you !) — The travelling was very tedious, both from the badness of the roads, and from the number of great fallen trees, which it was necessary either to leap over, or to avoid by making long circuits. We slept

[page] 368 VALDIVIA. Feb. 1835.

on the road, and next morning reached Valdivia, whence I proceeded on board.

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of officers, and landed near the fort called Niebla. The buildings were in a most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages quite rotten. Mr. Wickham remarked to the commanding officer, that with one discharge they would certainly all fall to pieces. The poor man, trying to put a good face upon it, gravely replied, "No, I am sure, sir, they would stand two! "The Spaniards must have intended to have made this place impregnable. There is now lying in the middle of the courtyard a little mountain of mortar, which rivals in hardness the rock on which it is placed. It was brought from Chile, and cost seven thousand dollars. The revolution having broken out, prevented its being applied to any purpose, and now it remains a monument of the fallen greatness of Spain.

I wanted to go to a house about a mile and a half distant ; but my guide said it was quite impossible to penetrate the wood in a straight line. He offered, however, to lead me, by following obscure cattle-tracks, the shortest way; the walk, nevertheless, took no less than three hours! This man is employed in hunting strayed cattle; yet, well as he must know the woods, he was not long since lost for two whole days, and had nothing to eat. These facts convey a good idea of the impracticability of the forests of these countries. A question often occurred to me—How long does any vestige of a fallen tree remain ? This man showed me one which a party of fugitive royalists had cut down fourteen years ago; and taking this as a criterion, I should think a bole a foot and a half in diameter would in thirty years present a mere ridge of mould.

FEBRUARY 20TH.—The day has been memorable in the annals of Valdivia, for the most severe earthquake experienced by the oldest inhabitant. I happened to be on shore, and was lying down in the wood to rest myself. It came on suddenly, and lasted two minutes; but the time appeared

[page] 369 Feb. 1835. GREAT EARTHQUAKE.

much longer. The rocking of the ground was most sensible. The undulations appeared to my companion and myself to come from due east; whilst others thought they proceeded from south-west; which shows how difficult it is in all cases to perceive the direction of these vibrations. There was no difficulty in standing upright, but the motion made me almost giddy. It was something like the movement of a vessel in a little cross ripple, or still more like that felt by a person skating over thin ice, which bends under the weight of his body.

A bad earthquake at once destroys the oldest associations: the world, the very emblem of all that is solid, has moved beneath our feet like a crust over a fluid;—one second of time has conveyed to the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would never have created. In the forest, as a breeze moved the trees, I only felt the earth tremble, but saw no consequences from it. Captain FitzRoy and the officers were at the town during the shock, and there the scene was more awful; for although the houses, from being built of wood, did not fall, yet they were so violently shaken that the boards creaked and rattled. The people rushed out of doors in the greatest alarm. I feel little doubt that it is these accompaniments which cause that horror of earthquakes, experienced by all those who have thus seen as well as felt their effects. Within the forest it was a deeply interesting, but by no means an awe-exciting phenomenon. The tides were very curiously affected. The great shock took place at the time of low water; and an old woman who was on the beach told me, that the water flowed very quickly, but not in big waves, to high-water mark, and then as quickly returned to its proper level; this was also evident by the line of wet sand. This same kind of quick but quiet movement in the tide happened a few years since at Chiloe, during a slight earthquake, and created much causeless alarm. In the course of the evening there were other weaker shocks, all of which seemed to produce in the harbour the most complicated currents, and some of great strength.


[page] 370 CONCEPCION. March, 1835.

22D.—We sailed from Valdivia, and on the 4th of March, entered the harbour of Concepcion. While the ship was beating up to the anchorage, which is distant several miles, I was landed on the island of Quiriquina. The mayor-domo of the estate quickly rode down to tell us the terrible news of the great earthquake of the 20th;—"that not a house in Concepcion, or Talcuhano, (the port) was standing; that seventy villages were destroyed; and that a great wave had almost washed away the ruins of Talcuhano." Of this latter fact I soon saw abundant proof: the whole coast being strewed over with timber and furniture, as if a thousand great ships had been wrecked. Besides chairs, tables, bookshelves, &c., in great numbers, there were several roofs of cottages, which had been drifted in an almost entire state. The storehouses at Talcuhano had burst open, and great bags of cotton, yerba, and other valuable merchandise, were scattered about on the shore. During my walk round the island, I observed that numerous fragments of rock, which, from the marine productions adhering to them, must recently have been lying in deep water, had been cast up high on the beach. One of these was a slab six feet by three, and about two feet thick.

The island itself as plainly showed the overwhelming power of the earthquake, as the beach did that of the consequent great wave. The ground was fissured in many parts, in north and south lines; which direction perhaps was caused by the yielding of the parallel and steep sides of the narrow island. Some of the fissures near the cliffs were a yard wide: many enormous masses had already fallen on the beach; and the inhabitants thought, that when the rains commenced, even much greater slips would happen. The effect of the vibration on the hard primary slate, which composes the foundation of the island, was still more curious: the superficial parts of some narrow ridges were as completely shivered, as if they had been blasted by gunpowder. This effect, which was rendered very evident by the fresh fractures and displaced soil, must, during earthquakes, be confined to near the sur-

[page] 371 March, 1835. EFFECTS OF EARTHQUAKE.

face, for otherwise there would not exist a block of solid rock throughout Chile. This limited action is not improbable, as it is certain, that the surface of any body, when vibrating, is in a different condition from the central parts. It is, perhaps, owing to this same reason, that earthquakes do not cause quite such terrific havoc within deep mines, as would at first have been expected. I believe this convulsion has been more effectual in lessening the size of the island of Quiriquina, than the ordinary wear and tear of the weather and the sea during the course of an entire century.

The next day I landed at Talcuhano, and afterwards rode to Concepcion. Captain FitzRoy has given so detailed and accurate an account of the earthquake, that it is almost useless for me to say any thing on the subject; but I will extract a few passages from my journal. Both towns presented the most awful yet interesting spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who had formerly known the places, it possibly might have been still more impressive; for the ruins were so mingled together, and the whole scene possessed so little the air of a habitable place, that it was scarcely possible to imagine its former appearance or condition. The earthquake commenced at half-past eleven in the forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of the night the greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one province amount to many thousands),* instead of less than a hundred, must have perished. In Concepcion, each house, or row of houses, stood by itself, a heap or line of ruins; but in Talcuhano, owing to the great wave, little more than one layer of bricks, tiles, and timber, with here and there part of a wall left standing, could be distinguished. From this circumstance, Concepcion, although not so completely desolated, was a more terrible, and if I may so call it, picturesque sight. The first shock was very sudden. The invariable practice among the residents in

* Miers estimates them at 40,000; but the towns in some of the other provinces were likewise overthrown.

2 B 2

[page] 372 CONCEPCION. March, 1835.

these provinces, of running out of doors at the first trembling of the ground, alone saved them. The mayor-domo at Quiriquina told me, that the first notice he received of the earthquake, was finding both the horse he rode, and himself, rolling together on the ground. Rising up, he was again thrown down. He also told me that some cows, which were standing on the steep sides of the island, were rolled into the sea. The great wave, however, was far more destructive in this respect : on one low island near the head of the bay, seventy animals were washed off and drowned. It is generally thought that this has been the worst earthquake ever recorded in Chile; but as the very bad ones occur only after long intervals, this cannot easily be known; nor indeed would a much more severe shock have made any great difference, for the ruin is now complete.

After viewing Concepcion, I cannot understand how the greater number of inhabitants escaped unhurt. The houses in many parts fell outwards; thus forming in the middle of the streets little hillocks of brickwork and rubbish. Mr. Rous, the English consul, told us that he was at breakfast when the first movement warned him to run out. He had scarcely reached the middle of the courtyard, when one side of his house came thundering down. He retained presence of mind to remember, that if he once got on the top of that part which had already fallen, he should be safe. Not being able, from the motion of the ground, to stand, he crawled up on his hands and knees; and no sooner had he ascended this little eminence, than the other side of the house fell in, the great beams sweeping close in front of his head. With his eyes blinded, and his mouth choked with the cloud of dust which darkened the sky, at last he gained the street. As shock succeeded shock, at the interval of a few minutes, no one dared approach the shattered ruins; and no one knew whether his dearest friends and relations might not be perishing from the want of help. The thatched roofs fell over the fires, and flames burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew

[page] 373 March, 1835. EFFECTS OF EARTHQUAKE.

themselves to be ruined, and few had the means of providing food for the day. Can a more miserable and fearful scene be imagined?

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity of any country. If, for instance, beneath England, the now inert subterranean forces should exert those powers which most assuredly in former geological ages they have exerted, how completely would the entire condition of the country be changed! What would become of the lofty houses, thickly-packed cities, great manufacturies, the beautiful public and private edifices? If the new period of disturbance were first to commence by some great earthquake in the dead of the night, how terrific would be the carnage! England would at once be bankrupt; all papers, records, and accounts would from that moment be lost. Government being unable to collect the taxes, and failing to maintain its authority, the hand of violence and rapine would go uncontrolled In every large town famine would be proclaimed, pestilence and death following in its train.

Captain FitzRoy has given an account of the great wave, which, travelling from seaward, burst over Talcuhano. In the middle of the bay it was seen as one unbroken swell of the water; but on each side, meeting with resistance, it curled over, and tore up cottages and trees as it swept onwards with overwhelming force. At the head of the bay it is easy to imagine the fearful line of white breakers which three times rushed over, and almost obliterated, the ruins of the former town. Pools of salt water yet remained in the streets; and children, making boats with old tables and chairs, appeared as happy as their parents were miserable. It was, however, exceedingly interesting to observe how active and cheerful all appeared, after their heavy misfortune. It was remarked with much truth, that from the destruction being universal, no one individual was humbled more than another, or could suspect his friends of coldness; and this latter effect is perhaps the most grievous one of the loss of wealth. Mr. Rous, and a large party whom he kindly took

[page] 374 CONCEPCION. March, 1835.

under his protection, lived for the first week in a garden beneath some apple-trees. At first they were as merry as if it had been a picnic; but soon afterwards heavy rain caused much discomfort, for they were absolutely without shelter.

In Captain FitzRoy's paper it is said that two explosions, one like a column of smoke, and another like the blowing of a great whale, were seen in the bay of Concepcion. The water also appeared every where to be boiling; and it "became black, and exhaled a most disagreeable sulphureous smell." I am informed by Mr. Alison, that during the earthquake of 1822 these last-mentioned circumstances occurred in the bay of Valparaiso. The two great explosions in the first case must no doubt be connected with deep-seated changes; but the bubbling water, its black colour and fetid smell, the usual concomitants of a severe earthquake, may, I think, be attributed to the disturbance of mud containing organic matter in decay. In the bay of Callao, during a calm day, I noticed, that as the ship dragged her cable over the bottom, its course was marked by a line of bubbles.

The lower orders in Talcuhano thought that the earthquake was caused by some old Indian women, who two years ago having been offended, stopped the volcano of Antuco. This silly belief is curious, because it shows that experience has taught them to observe the constant relation between the suppressed activity of volcanoes, and the trembling of the ground. It was necessary to apply the witchcraft to the point where their knowledge stopped; and this was the closing of the volcanic vent. This saying is the more odd in this particular instance, because the result of Captain FitzRoy's investigation was to discountenance the belief that Antuco (whatever might have been the case with the volcanoes further northward) was any way affected.

The town of Concepcion was built in the usual Spanish fashion, with all the streets running at right angles to each other. One set ranged S.W. by W. and N.E. by E., and the other N.W. by N. and S.E. by S. The walls in the former direction certainly stood better than those in the

[page] 375 March, 1835. DIRECTION OF VIBRATION.

other. Captain FitzRoy* has likewise remarked, that the greater number of the masses of brickwork were thrown down towards the N.E. Both these circumstances perfectly agree with the general idea of the undulation having come from the S.W.; in which quarter subterranean noises were also sometimes heard. It is evident on this supposition, that the N.W. and S. E. walls, being nearly coincident with the line of undulation (or with the crests of the successive waves), would be much more likely to fall than those which had their extremities presented towards the point whence the vibration proceeded; for, in the first case, the whole wall would be thrown at the same moment out of its perpendicular. This may be illustrated by placing books edgewise on a carpet, and then, after the manner suggested by Michell, imitating the undulations of an earthquake: it will be found, that they fall with more or less readiness, according to their direction. The fissures in the ground, though not uniform, generally had a S.E. and N.W. direction;† and therefore they corresponded to the lines of principal flexure. Bearing in mind all these circumstances, which so clearly point to the S.W. as the chief focus of disturbance, it is a very interesting fact that the island of S. Maria,† situated in that quarter, was during the general uplifting of the land (to which I shall presently refer) raised to nearly three times the altitude of any other part of the coast.

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to their direction, was well exemplified in the case of the cathedral. The side which fronted the N.E. presented a grand pile of ruins, in the midst of which door-cases and masses of timber stood up, as if floating in a stream. Some of the angular blocks of brickwork were of great dimensions; and they had been rolled to a distance on the level plaza, like fragments of rock round the base of some high moun-

* Sketch of Surveying Voyages of Adventure and Beagle by Captain FitzRoy, Royal Geograph. Journal, vol. vi., p. 320.

† Ditto, p. 327, et passim.

[page] 376 CONCEPCION. March, 1835.

tain. The side walls, though exceedingly fractured, yet remained standing; but the vast buttresses (at right angles to them, and therefore parallel to the walls that fell) were in many cases cut clean off, as if by a chisel, and hurled to the ground.

Some square ornaments on the coping of these same walls were moved by the earthquake into a diagonal position. The buttresses of the church of La Merced, at Valparaiso, and some heavy pieces of furniture in the rooms, were similarly affected by the shock of 1822.* Mr. Lyell† has also given a drawing of an obelisk in Calabria, of which the separate stones were partially turned round. In these instances, the displacement at first appears to be owing to a vorticose movement beneath each point thus affected; but such can hardly be the case. May it not be caused by a tendency in each stone to arrange itself in some particular position, with respect to the lines of vibration, — in a manner somewhat similar to pins on a sheet of paper, or on a board, when it is shaken? Generally speaking, arched doorways or windows stood much better than any other kind of building. Nevertheless, a poor lame old man, who had been in the habit, during trifling shocks, of crawling to a certain doorway, was this time crushed to pieces.

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of the appearance of Concepcion, for I feel it is quite impossible to convey the mingled feelings with which one beholds such a spectacle. Several of the officers visited it before me, but their strongest language failed to communicate a just idea of the desolation. It is a bitter and humiliating thing to see works, which have cost men so much time and labour, overthrown in one minute; yet compassion for the inhabitants is almost instantly forgotten, from the interest excited in finding that state of things produced in a moment of time, which one is accustomed to attribute to a succession of ages. In my

* Miers's Chile, vol. i., p. 392.

† Lyell's Principles of Geology, chap, xv., book ii.

[page] 377 March, 1835. EARTHQUAKE WAVES.

opinion, we have scarcely beheld since leaving England, any other sight so deeply interesting.

In almost every severe earthquake which has been described, the neighbouring waters of the sea are said to have been greatly agitated. The disturbance seems generally, as in the case of Concepcion, to have been of two kinds: first, at the instant of the shock, the water swells high up on the beach, with a gentle motion, and then as quietly retreats; secondly, some little time afterwards, the whole body of the sea retires from the coast, and then returns in great waves of overwhelming force. The first and less regular movement seems to be an immediate consequence of the earthquake differently affecting a fluid and a solid, so that their respective levels are slightly deranged. But the second case is a far more important phenomenon, and at first appears of less easy explanation. In reading accounts of earthquakes, and especially of those on the west coast of America, as collated from various authors by Sir W. Parish,* it is certain that the first great movement of the waters has been that of retiring. Several hypotheses† have been invented to explain this fact. Some have supposed it owing to a vertical oscillation in the land, the water retaining its level: but this can hardly happen, even on a moderately shoal coast; for the water near the land must partake of the motion of the bottom. Moreover, as Mr. Lyell has urged, a change of level in the land will not account for movements in the sea, of a similar nature, affecting islands distant from the line of uplifted coast. This occurred at Madeira during the famous Lisbon earthquake. Juan Fernandez also offers a parallel instance; for the sea was disturbed there much in the same manner as on the coast of Chile.

The whole phenomenon, it appears to me, is due to a common undulation in the water, proceeding from a line or point of

* Sir W. Parish had the kindness to lend me the original manuscript, which was read before the Geological Society, March 5th, 1835.

† Lyell's Geology, book ii., ch. xvi.

[page] 378 CONCEPCION. March, 1835.

disturbance, some little way distant. If the waves sent off from the paddles of a steam-vessel be watched breaking on the sloping shore of a still river, the water will be seen first to retire two or three feet, and then to return in little breakers, precisely analogous to those consequent on an earthquake. From the oblique direction in which the waves are sent off from the paddles, the vessel has proceeded a long way ahead, before the undulation reaches the shore; and hence it is at once manifest, that this movement bears no relation to the actual displacement of the fluid from the bulk of the vessel. Indeed, it seems a general circumstance, that in all cases where the equilibrium of an undulation is thus destroyed, the water is drawn from the resisting surface to form the advancing breaker.* Considering then a wave produced by an earthquake as an ordinary undulation proceeding from some point or line in the offing, we can see the cause, first of its occurrence some time after the shock; secondly, of its affecting the shores of the mainland and of outlying islets in a uniform manner—namely, the water retiring first, and then returning in a mountainous breaker; and lastly, of its size being modified (as appears to be the case) by the form of the neighbouring coast. For instance Talcuhano and Callao are situated at the head of great shoaling bays, and they have always suffered from this phenomenon; whereas, the town of Valparaiso, which is seated close on the border of a profound ocean, though shaken by the severest earthquakes, has never been overwhelmed by one of these terrific deluges. On this view, we have only to imagine, in the case of Concepcion, a point of disturbance in the bottom of the sea in a south-west direction, whence the wave was seen to travel, and where the land was elevated to a greater height than any other part,—and the whole phenomenon will be explained.

It is probable that near every coast, the chief line of dis-

* I am indebted to Mr. Whewell for explaining to me the probable movements on the shore, of an undulation of which the equilibrium has been destroyed.

[page] 379 March 1835. VOLCANIC PHENOMENA.

turbance would be situated at that distance in the offing, where the fluid which was most agitated, from overlying the shallow bottom near the land, joined on to that part which covered the depths (but slightly moved) of the ocean. In all distant parts of the coast the small oscillations of the sea, both at the moment of the great shock, and during the lesser following ones, would be confounded with the undulation propagated from the focus of disturbance, and hence the series of movements would be undistinguishable.

The most remarkable effect (or perhaps speaking more correctly, cause) of this earthquake was the permanent elevation of the land. Captain FitzRoy having twice visited the island of Santa Maria, for the purpose of examining every circumstance with extreme accuracy, has brought a mass of evidence in proof of such elevation, far more conclusive than that on which geologists on most other occasions place implicit faith. The phenomenon possesses an uncommon degree of interest, from this particular part of the coast of Chile having previously been the theatre of several earthquakes of the worst class. It is almost certain, from the altered soundings, together with the circumstance of the bottom of the bay near Penco, consisting of hard stone, that there has been an uplifting to the amount of four fathoms, since the famous convulsion of 1751. With this additional instance fresh before us, we may assume as probable, according to the principles laid down by Mr. Lyell,* other small successive elevations, and may fearlessly maintain that the problem of the raised shells,† recorded by Ulloa, is explained.

Some of the consequences which may be deduced from the phenomena connected with this earthquake are most important in a geological point of view; but in the present work I cannot do more than simply allude to the results. Although it is known that earthquakes have been felt over enormous

* Lyell's Geology, book ii., chap. xvi.

† I saw these shells in very great quantities on the flanks of the island of Quiriquina.

[page] 380 CONCEPCION. March, 1835.

spaces, and strange subterranean noises likewise heard over nearly equal areas, yet few cases are on record of volcanoes, very far distant from each other, bursting out at the same moment of time. In this instance, however, at the same hour when the whole country around Concepcion was permanently elevated, a train of volcanoes situated in the Andes, in front of Chiloe, instantaneously spouted out a dark column of smoke, and during the subsequent year continued in uncommon activity. It is, moreover, a very interesting circumstance, that, in the immediate neighbourhood, these eruptions entirely relieved the trembling ground, although at a little distance, and in sight of the volcanoes, the island of Chiloe was strongly affected. To the northward, a volcano burst out at the bottom of the sea adjoining the island of Juan Fernandez, and several of the great chimneys in the Cordillera of central Chile commenced a fresh period of activity. We thus see a permanent elevation of the land, renewed activity through habitual vents, and a submarine outburst, forming parts of one great phenomenon. The extent of country throughout which the subterranean forces were thus unequivocally displayed, measures 700 by 400 geographical miles. From several considerations, which I have not space here to enter on, and especially from the number of intermediate points whence liquefied matter was ejected, we can scarcely avoid the conclusion, however fearful it may be, that a vast lake of melted matter, of an area nearly doubling in extent that of the Black Sea, is spread out beneath a mere crust of solid land.

The elevation of the land to the amount of some feet during these earthquakes, appears to be a paroxysmal movement, in a series of lesser and even insensible steps, by which the whole west coast of South America has been raised above the level of the sea. In the same manner, the most violent explosion from any volcano is merely one in a series of lesser eruptions: and we have seen that both these phonomena, which are in so many ways related, are parts of one common action, only modified by local circum-

[page] 381 March, 1835. VOLCANIC PHENOMENA.

stances. With respect to the cause of the paroxysmal convulsion in particular portions of the great area which is simultaneously affected, it can be shown to be extremely probable, that it is owing to the giving way of the superincumbent strata, (and this giving way probably is a consequence of the tension from the general elevation) and their interjection by fluid rock—one step in the formation of a mountain chain. On this view we are led to conclude, that the unstratified mass forming the axis of any mountain, has been pumped in when in a fluid state, by as many separate strokes as there were earthquakes. For instance, in the case of Concepcion, during the few months subsequent to the great shock, upwards of three hundred tremours of the ground were felt, each of which indicated a fresh fracture, and injection of the fluid stone. It is a case precisely analogous to what happens in all bad eruptions, which are invariably followed by a succession of smaller ones: the difference is, that in the volcano the lava is ejected, while in the formation of a mountain chain it is injected. This view of the extremely gradual elevation of a line of mountains, will alone explain the difficulty (which, as far as I am aware, has never been attempted to be solved) of the axis consisting of rock which has become solid under the pressure of the superincumbent strata, while yet these same strata, in their present inclined and vertical positions, cannot possibly cover more than a small portion of that axis.

[page] 382


Valparaiso — Passage of Andes by Portillo pass — Sagacity of mules — Mountain torrents — Mines, how discovered — Marine alluvium in valleys — Effect of snow on surface — Geology, fossil shells, double range, two periods of elevation — Red snow — Winds on the crest — Snow thawing in pinnacles — Dry and clear atmosphere — Electricity — Pampas — Zoology of opposite sides of Andes — Uniformity of Patagonia — Locusts — Great bugs — Mendoza — Uspallata — Silicified trees in vertical position — Indian ruins — Change of climate — Earthquake arching bed of river — Cumbre — Valparaiso.


MARCH 7TH, 1835.—We staid only three days at Concepcion, and then sailed for Valparaiso. The wind being northerly, we only reached the mouth of the harbour of Concepcion before it was dark. Being very near the land, and a fog coming on, the anchor was dropped. Presently a large American whaler appeared close alongside of us; and we heard the Yankee swearing at his men, to make them keep quiet, whilst he listened where the breakers were. Captain FitzRoy hailed him in a loud clear voice, to anchor where he then was. The poor man must have thought the voice came from the shore: such a Babel of cries issued at once from the ship — every one hallooing out, "Let go the anchor! veer cable ! shorten sail !" It was the most laughable thing I ever heard. If the ship's crew had been all captains, and no men, there could not have been a greater uproar of orders. We afterwards found that the mate stuttered. I suppose all hands were assisting him in giving his orders.

On the 11th we anchored at Valparaiso; and two days afterwards I set out on an excursion to cross the Cordillera. I proceeded to Santiago, where Mr. Caldcleugh most kindly

[page] 383 March, 1835. PORTILLO PASS.

assisted me in every possible way, in making the little preparations which were necessary. In this immediate part of Chile there are two passes across the Andes to Mendoza, and the plains on the opposite side. The one most commonly used, namely, that of Aconcagua, or Uspallata, is situated some way to the northward of the capital: the other, called the Portillo, is to the southward, and less distant. The latter is, however, rather more lofty, and from the double chain, more dangerous during a snow-storm. For these reasons it is but little used, especially late in the season.

MARCH 18TH.—We set out for the Portillo pass. Leaving Santiago we crossed the wide burnt-up plain on which that city stands, and in the afternoon arrived at the Maypo, one of the principal rivers in Chile. The valley, at the point where it enters the first Cordillera, is bounded on each side by lofty barren mountains; and although not broad, it is very fertile. Numerous cottages were surrounded by vines, and by orchards of apple, nectarine, and peach trees; the boughs of the latter breaking with the weight of the beautiful ripe fruit.

In the evening we passed the custom-house, where our luggage was examined. The frontier of Chile is better guarded by the Cordillera, than by the waters of the sea. There are very few valleys which lead to the central ranges, and, except by these, the mountains are far too steep and lofty for any beast of burden to pass over them. The custom-house officers were very civil; which was perhaps partly owing to the passport which the President of the republic had given me; but I must also express my admiration at the natural politeness of almost every Chileno. In this instance the contrast with the same class of men in most other countries was strongly marked. I may mention an anecdote with which I was much pleased at the time. We met near Mendoza a little and very fat negress, riding astride on a mule. She had a goître so enormous, that it was scarcely possible to avoid gazing at her for a moment; but my two companions almost instantly, by way of apology,

[page] 384 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

made the common salute of the country, by taking off their hats. Where would one of the lower classes in Europe have shown such feeling politeness to a poor and miserable object of a degraded race?

At night we slept at a cottage. Our manner of travelling was delightfully independent. In the inhabited parts we bought a little firewood, hired pasture for the animals, and bivouacked in the corner of the same field with them. Carrying an iron pot, we cooked and ate our supper under the cloudless sky, and knew no trouble. My companions were Mariano Gonzales, who had formerly accompanied me, and an " arriero," with his ten mules and a "madrina."

The madrina (or godmother) is a most important personage. She is an old steady mare, with a little bell round her neck; and wheresoever she goes, the mules, like good children, follow her. If several large troops are turned into one field to graze, in the morning the muleteer has only to lead the madrinas a little apart, and tinkle their bells; and, although there may be two or three hundred mules together, each immediately knows its own bell, and separates itself from the rest. The affection of these animals for their madrinas saves infinite trouble. It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule; for if detained for several hours by force, she will, by the power of smell, like a dog, track out her companions, or rather the madrina; for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief object of affection. The feeling, however, is not of an individual nature; for I believe I am right in saying, that any animal with a bell will serve as madrina. In a troop each animal carries, on a level road, a cargo weighing 416 pounds (more than twenty-nine stone); but in a mountainous country a hundred pounds less.* Yet with what delicate slim limbs, without any proportional bulk of muscle, these animals support so great a burden! The

* Throughout Chile, except between Santiago and Valparaiso, every thing is conveyed on mules. This is an expensive method of transport, but unavoidable without good roads and improved waggons. In a troop of mules, there is generally a muleteer to each six animals.

[page] 385 March, 1835. MOUNTAIN TORRENTS.

mule always appears to me a most surprising animal. That a hybrid should possess more reason, memory, obstinacy, social affection, and powers of muscular endurance, than either of its parents, seems to indicate that art has here out-mastered nature. Of our ten animals, six were intended for riding and four for carrying cargoes, each taking turn about. We carried a good deal of food, in case we should be snowed up, as the season was rather late for passing the Portillo.

MARCH 19TH.—We rode during this day to the last, and therefore most elevated house in the valley. The number of inhabitants became scanty; but wherever water could be brought on the land, it was very fertile. All the valleys in the Cordillera agree in the same kind of structure. An irregularly-stratified mass of well-rounded shingle, together with a little mud and sand, fills up the bottom to the depth of some hundred feet. This deposit follows the course of the valley, sloping upwards with a most gradual and gentle inclination. The rivers have removed a large part in the centre; thus leaving a terrace of equal height, but varying width, on each side. This narrow space between the cliffs bordering the bed of the river, and the foot of the mountains, is the only part fit for cultivation, and on it likewise the road is carried.

The rivers, such as the Maypo, which flow in these valleys, should rather be called mountain torrents. Their inclination is very great, and their water the colour of mud. The roar which the Maypo made, as it rushed over the great rounded fragments, was like that of the sea. Amidst the din of rushing waters, the noise from the stones, as they rattled one over another, was most distinctly audible even at a distance. This rattling noise, night and day, may be heard along the whole course of the torrent. The sound spoke eloquently to the geologist: the thousands and thousands of stones, which, striking against each other, make the one dull uniform sound, are all hurrying in one direction. It is like thinking of time, where the minute that


[page] 386 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

now glides past is irrecoverable. So is it with these stones; the ocean is their eternity, and each note of that wild music tells of one other step towards their destiny.

It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by a slow process, any effect which is produced by a cause repeated so often, that the multiplier itself ceases to convey any more definite idea, than the savage receives when he points to the hairs of his head. As often as I have seen beds of mud, sand, and shingle, accumulated to the thickness of many thousand feet, I have felt inclined to exclaim that causes, such as the present rivers and the present beaches, could never have ground down such masses. But, on the other hand, when listening to the rattling noise of these torrents, and calling to mind that whole races of animals have passed away from the surface of the globe, during the period throughout which, night and day, these stones have gone rattling onwards in their course, I have thought to myself, can any mountains, any continent, withstand such waste?

In this part of the valley, the mountains on each side are from about three to six or eight thousand feet high: their outline is rounded, but with steep and bare flanks. The general colour of the rock is a dullish purple, and the stratification very distinct. If the scenery is not beautiful, it is remarkable and grand. We met during the day several herds of cattle, which men were driving down from the higher valleys in the Cordillera. This sign of the approaching winter hurried our steps, more than was convenient for geological purposes. The house where we slept was situated at the foot of a mountain, on the summit of which are the mines of S. Pedro de Nolasko.

Sir F. Head wonders how mines have been discovered in situations so extraordinary, as the bleak summit of the mountain of S. Pedro de Nolasko. In the first place, metallic veins in this country are generally harder than the surrounding strata: hence, during the gradual degradation of the hills, they project above the

[page] 387 March, 1835. DISCOVERY OF MINES.

surface of the ground. Secondly, almost every labourer, especially in the northern parts of Chile, understands something about the appearance of ores. In the great mining provinces of Coquimbo and Copiapó, firewood is very scarce, and men are employed in searching for it over every hill and dale; and by this means nearly all the richest mines have there been discovered. Chanuncillo, from which silver, to the value of many hundred thousand pounds has been raised in the course of a few years, was thus discovered: a man having thrown a stone at his loaded donkey, afterwards thought that it was very heavy, and picking it up again, he found it was full of pure silver. The vein occurred at no great distance, standing up like a wedge of silver. The miners also, on Sundays, taking a crowbar with them, often set out on such discoveries. In the south part of Chile, the men who drive cattle into the Cordillera, and who frequent every ravine where there is a little pasture, are the usual agents.

MARCH 20TH.—As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, with the exception of a few pretty alpine flowers, became exceedingly scanty; and of birds, animals, or insects, scarcely one could be seen. The lofty mountains, their summits marked with a few patches of snow, stood well separated from each other; the valleys being filled up with an immense thickness of stratified alluvium. I may here briefly remark, without detailing the reasons on which the opinion is grounded, that in all probability this matter was accumulated at the bottoms of deep arms of the sea, which running from the inland basins, penetrated to the axis of the Cordillera,—in a similar manner to what now happens in the southern part of this same great range. This fact, in itself most curious, as preserving a record of a very ancient state of things, possesses a high theoretical interest, when considered in relation to the kind of elevation by which the present great altitude of these mountains has been attained.

2 C 2

[page] 388 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

The features in the scenery of the Andes which struck me most, as contrasted with the few other mountain chains with which I am acquainted, were,—the flat fringes sometimes expanding into narrow plains on each side the valleys,— the bright colours, chiefly red and purple, of the utterly bare and precipitous hills,—the grand and continuous wall-like dikes,—the strongly-marked strata which, when nearly vertical, form the most picturesque and wild pinnacles, but where less inclined, great massive mountains; the latter occupying the outskirts of the range, and the former the more lofty and central parts,—lastly, the smooth conical piles of fine and brightly-coloured detritus, which slope at a high angle from the flanks of the mountains to their bases, some of the piles having a height of more than two thousand feet.

I frequently observed both in Tierra del Fuego, and within the Andes, that where the rock was covered during the greater part of the year with snow, it was shivered in a very extraordinary manner into small angular fragments. Scoresby* has observed the same fact in Spitzbergen: he says, "The invariably broken state of the rocks appeared to have been the effect of frost. On calcareous rocks, some of which are not impervious to moisture, the effect is such as might have been expected; but how frost can operate in this way on quartz is not so easily understood." The whole phenomenon appears to me rather obscure: for that part of the mountain which is covered during many months by a mantle of snow, must be less subject to repeated and great changes of temperature than any other, yet it is the most affected. I have sometimes thought, that the earth and fragments of stone lying on the surface, were perhaps less effectually removed by means of slowly percolating snow-water† than by the agency of rain, and therefore that the

* Scoresby's Arctic Regions, vol. i., p. 122.

† I have heard it remarked in Shropshire, that the water, when the Severn is flooded from long-continued rain, is much more turbid, than when it proceeds from the snow melting on the Welsh mountains. The

[page] 389 March, 1835. PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA.

appearance of a quicker decay of the solid rock may be deceptive. Whatever the cause may be, the quantity of crumbling stone on the Cordillera is very great. Occasionally in the spring, masses of such matter slide down the mountains, and cover the snow-drifts in the valleys; thus forming natural ice-houses. We rode over one, the elevation of which was far below the limit of perpetual congelation.

As the evening drew to a close, we reached the Valle del Yeso. This is a very singular basin, which must have once been a very deep and large lake: the barrier is formed by a huge mountain of alluvium, on one side of which the river has cut a gorge. The plain is covered by a little dry pasture, and amidst the surrounding rocky deserts we had the pleasant sight of a herd of cattle. The valley takes its name of Yeso from a great bed, I should think at least two thousand feet thick, of white, and in some parts quite pure, gypsum. We slept with a party of men, who were employed in loading mules with this substance, which is used in the manufacture of wine.

MARCH 21ST.—We set out early in the morning, and continued to follow the course of the river, which by this time had become small, till we arrived at the foot of the ridge that separates the waters flowing into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The road, which as yet had been good, with a steady but very gradual ascent, now changed into a steep zigzag track. The Cordillera in this part consists of two principal ranges; the passes across which attain respectively an elevation of 13,210 and 14,365 feet.* The first great line (consisting of course of many subordinate ones) is called Peuquenes. It divides the waters, and there-

floods also, in the former case, are said to be more destructive to the land. D'Orbigny (vol. i., p. 184), in explaining the cause of the various colours of the rivers in South America, remarks that those with blue or clear water, have their source in the Cordillera, where the snow melts.

* Measurements made by Dr. Gillies; Edinburgh Journal of Nat. and Geograph. Science, August, 1830.

[page] 390 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

fore likewise the republics of Chile and Mendoza. To the eastward, a mountainous and elevated region separates it from the second range (called the Portillo) overlooking the Pampas. The streams from the intermediate tract find a passage a little way to the southward through this second line.

I will here give a very brief sketch of the geological structure of these mountains: first, of the Peuquenes, or western line; for the constitution of the two ranges is totally different. The lowest stratified rock is a dull red or purple claystone porphyry, of many varieties, alternating with conglomerates, and breccia composed of a similar substance: this formation attains a thickness of more than a mile. Above it there is a grand mass of gypsum, which alternates, passes into, and is replaced by, red sandstone, conglomerates, and black calcareous clay-slate. I hardly dare venture to guess the thickness of this second division; but I have already said some of the beds of gypsum alone attain a thickness of at least two thousand feet. Even at the very crest of the Peuquenes, at the height of 13,210 feet, and above it, the black clay-slate contained numerous marine remains, amongst which a gryphæa is the most abundant, likewise shells, resembling turritellæ, terebratulæ, and an ammonite. It is an old story, but not the less wonderful, to hear of shells, which formerly were crawling about at the bottom of the sea, being now elevated nearly fourteen thousand feet above its level. The formation probably is of the age of the central parts of the secondary series of Europe.

These great piles of strata have been penetrated, upheaved, and overturned, in the most extraordinary manner, by masses of injected rock, equalling mountains in size. On the bare sides of the hills, complicated dikes, and wedges of variously-coloured porphyries and other stones, are seen traversing the strata in every possible form and direction; proving also by their intersections, successive periods of violence. The rock which composes the axis of these great

[page] 391 March, 1835. GEOLOGY.

lines of dislocation, at a distance very closely resembles granite, but on examination, it is found rarely to contain any quartz; and instead of ordinary felspar, albite.

The metamorphic action has been very great, as might have been expected from the close proximity of such grand masses of rock, which were injected when in a liquefied state from heat. When it is known, first, that the stratified porphyries have flowed as streams of submarine lava under an enormous pressure, and that the mechanical beds separating them owe their origin to explosions from the same submarine craters; secondly, that the whole mass in the lower part has generally been so completely fused into one solid rock by metamorphic action, that the lines of division can only be traced with much difficulty; and thirdly, that masses of porphyry, undistinguishable by their mineralogical characters from the two first kinds, have been subsequently injected;—the extreme complication of the whole will readily be believed.

We now come to the second range, which is of even greater altitude than the first. Its nucleus in the section seen in crossing the Portillo pass, consists of magnificent pinnacles of coarsely-crystallized red granite. On the eastern flank, a few patches of mica slate still adhere to the unstratified mass; and at the foot a stream of basaltic lava has burst forth at some remote period,—perhaps when the sea covered the wide surface of the Pampas. On the western side of the axis, between the two ranges, laminated fine sandstone has been penetrated by immense granitic dikes proceeding from the central mass, and has thus been converted into granular quartz rock. The sandstone is covered by other sedimentary deposits, and these again by a coarse conglomerate, the vast thickness of which I will not attempt even to estimate. All these coarse mechanical beds dip from the red granite directly towards the Peuquenes range, as if they passed beneath it; though such is not the case. On examining the pebbles composing this conglomerate (which, to my surprise, betrayed no signs of metamorphic

[page] 392 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

action), I was astonished to find perfectly rounded masses of the black calcareous clay-slate with organic remains,—the same rock which I had just crossed in situ on the Peuquenes. These phenomena compel us to arrive at the following conclusion :—that the Peuquenes existed as dry land for a long period anterior to the formation of the second range, and that, during this period, immense quantities of shingle were accumulated at its submarine flank. The action of a disturbing force then commenced: these more modern deposits were injected by dikes, altered by heat, and tilted towards the line whence, in the form of sediment and pebbles, they had originally proceeded,—thus making the offspring at first appear older than its parent. This second, grand, and subsequent line of elevation is parallel to the first and more ancient one.

I will only make one other geological observation: the Portillo chain in the neighbourhood of the pass is rather more elevated than the Peuquenes, yet the waters of the intermediate district have burst a passage through it. On the supposition of a subsequent and gradual elevation of the second line, this can be understood; for a chain of islets would at first appear, and as these were lifted up, the tides would always be working out deeper and broader channels between them. At the present day, even in the most retired sounds on the southern coast, the currents in the transverse breaks which connect the longitudinal channels, is so strong, that I have heard of one instance where a small vessel under sail was whirled round and round.

Mr. Pentland,* when describing an hydrographical phenomenon of a nearly similar kind, but on an infinitely grander scale, which occurs in Bolivia, says, "This very curious fact, of rivers escaping through such an immense mountain-mass as the Bolivian Cordillera, is perhaps one of the most important points connected with the physical geography of this portion of the Andes, and deserves to be

* Journal of the Royal Geograph. Society for 1835.

[page] 393 March, 1835. PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA.

noticed at greater length." It would be extremely rash to affirm that the eastern chain in Bolivia, like that of central Chile, must be of subsequent origin to the western one, or that nearer to the Pacific : but excepting through the explanation above offered, the circumstance that rivers flowing from a less elevated chain, should penetrate one far more lofty, appears to me quite inexplicable.

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes, and then for the first time experienced some little difficulty in our respiration. The mules would halt every fifty yards, and then the poor willing animals after a few seconds started of their own accord again. The short breathing from the rarefied atmosphere is called by the Chilenos "puna;" and they have most ridiculous notions concerning its origin. Some say, "all the waters here have puna;" others that "where there is snow there is puna;"—and this no doubt is true. It is considered a kind of disease, and I was shown the crosses over the graves of some who had died "punado." Excepting perhaps in the case of a person suffering from some organic disease of the heart or chest, I should think this must be an erroneous conclusion. A person near death, would probably at this elevation experience a more unusual difficulty in breathing than others; and hence the effect might be assumed as the cause. The only sensation I felt was a slight tightness over the head and chest; a feeling which may be experienced by leaving a warm room and running violently on a frosty day. There was much fancy even in this; for upon finding fossil shells on the highest ridge, I entirely forgot the puna in my delight. Certainly the exertion of walking was extreme, and the respiration became deep and laborious. It is incomprehensible to me, how Humboldt and others were able to ascend to the elevation of 19,000 feet. No doubt a residence of some months in the lofty region of Quito would prepare the constitution for such an exertion; yet I am told that in Potosi (about 13,000 feet), strangers do not become quite accustomed to the atmosphere for an entire year. The inhabitants all recommend onions

[page] 394 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

for the puna; as this vegetable has sometimes been given in Europe for pectoral complaints, it may possibly be of real service :—for my part, I found nothing so good as the fossil shells !

When about halfway up we met a large party with seventy loaded mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the muleteers, and to watch the long string descending; they appeared so diminutive, there being nothing but the bleak mountains with which they could be compared. When near the summit, the wind, as generally happens there, was impetuous and extremely cold. On each side of the ridge we had to pass over broad bands of snow, which perpetually lie there, and were now soon to be covered by a fresh layer. When we reached the crest and looked backwards, a glorious view was presented. The atmosphere resplendently clear; the sky an intense blue; the profound valleys; the wild broken forms; the heaps of ruins, piled up during the lapse of ages; the bright-coloured rocks, contrasted with the quiet mountains of snow; all these together produced a scene I never could have figured to my imagination. Neither plant nor bird, excepting a few condors wheeling around the higher pinnacles, distracted the attention from the inanimate mass. I felt glad I was alone: it was like watching a thunderstorm, or hearing a chorus of the Messiah in full orchestra.

On several of the patches of perpetual snow, I found the Protococcus nivalis, or red snow, so well known from the accounts of Arctic navigators. My attention was called to the circumstance by observing the footseps of the mules stained a pale red, as if their hoofs had been slightly bloody. I at first thought it was owing to dust blown from the surrounding mountains of red porphyry; for from the magnifying power of the crystals of snow, the groups of these atom-like plants appeared like coarse particles. The snow was coloured only where it had thawed very rapidly, or had been accidentally crushed. A small portion of it rubbed on paper communicated a faint rose tinge, mingled with a little brick red. I placed some of the snow between the leaves of

[page] 395 March, 1835. RED SNOW.

my pocket-book, and a month afterwards examined with care the pale discoloured patches on the paper. The specimens, when scraped off, were of a spherical form, with a diameter of the thousandth of an inch. The central part consists of a blood-red substance, surrounded by a colourless bark. When living on the snow they are collected in groups, many lying close together; I overlooked, however, the thin couch of gelatinous matter on which they are said to rest.* The dried specimens placed in any fluid, as water, spirits of wine, or dilated sulphuric acid, were acted on in two different ways: sometimes an expansion was caused, at others a contraction. The central part after immersion invariably appeared as a drop of red oily fluid, containing a few most minute granules; and these probably are the germs of new individuals.

As I before remarked, the wind on the crest of the Peuquenes is generally impetuous and very cold. It is said to blow steadily from the westward or Pacific side: a circumstance which is likewise mentioned by Dr. Gillies.† As these observations apply chiefly to the summer season (when the passes are frequented), we must consider this wind, as an upper and return current. The Peak of Teneriffe, with a less elevation, and situated in lat. 28°, in like manner falls within the return stream. At first it appears rather surprising, that the trade-wind along the northern parts of Chile, and on the coast of Peru, should blow in so very southerly a direction as it does; but when we reflect, that the Cordillera, running in a north and south line, intercepts, like a great wall, the entire depth of the lower atmospheric current, we can easily see, that the trade-wind must be drawn northward, following the line of mountains, towards the equatorial regions, and thus lose part of that easterly movement which it otherwise would have gained from the rotation of the world. At Mendoza, on the eastern foot of the Andes, the climate is said to be subject to long calms, and to frequent

* Greville's Scottish Cryptogam. Flora, vol. iv., p. 231.

† Journal of Natural and Geographical Science, August, 1830.

[page] 396 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

though false appearances of gathering rain-storms: we may imagine that the wind, which coming from the eastward is thus banked up by the line of mountains, would become stagnant and irregular in its movements.

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into the mountainous country, intermediate between the two ranges, and then took up our quarters for the night. The elevation was probably not much under 11,000 feet, and the vegetation in consequence exceedingly scanty. The root of a small scrubby plant served as fuel, but it made a miserable fire, and the wind was piercingly cold. Being quite tired with my day's work, I made up my bed as quickly as I could, and went to sleep. About midnight I observed the sky became suddenly clouded: I awakened the arriero to know if there was any danger of bad weather; but he said that without thunder and lightning there was no risk of a heavy snowstorm. The peril is imminent, and the difficulty of subsequent escape great, to any one overtaken by bad weather between the two Cordillera. A certain cave offers the only place of refuge: Mr. Caldcleugh, who crossed on this same day of the month, was detained there for some time by a heavy fall of snow, as is related in his travels. Casuchas, or houses of refuge, have not been built in this pass as in that of Uspallata, and therefore, during the autumn, the Portillo is little frequented. I may here remark, that within the main Cordillera rain never falls, for during the summer, the sky is cloudless, and in winter snow-storms alone occur.

At the place where we slept, water necessarily boiled, from the diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a much lower temperature than it does in a less elevated country; the case being the converse of that of a Papin's digester. In consequence of this, the potatoes, after remaining for some hours in the boiling water, were nearly as hard as ever. The pot was left on the fire all night, and next morning it was boiled again, but yet the potatoes were not cooked. I found out this, by overhearing my two companions discussing the cause; they had come to the simple conclusion, "that the

[page] 397 March, 1835. PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA.

cursed pot (which was a new one) did not choose to boil potatoes."

MARCH 22D.—After eating our potato-less breakfast, we travelled across the intermediate tract, to the foot of the Portillo range. In the middle of summer cattle are brought up here to graze; but they had now all been removed; even the greater number of the guanacoes had decamped, knowing well, that, if overtaken by a snow-storm, they would be caught in a trap. We had a fine view of a mass of mountains called Tupungato, the whole clothed with unbroken snow. From one peak my arriero said he had once seen smoke proceeding; and I thought I could distinguish the form of a large crater. In the maps Tupungato figures as a single mountain; this Chileno method of giving one name to a tract of mountains is a fruitful source of error. In the region of snow there was a blue patch, which no doubt was a glacier;—a phenomenon that has been said not to occur in these mountains.

Now commenced a heavy and long climb, similar to that up the Peuquenes. Bold conical hills of red granite rose on each hand; and in the valley there were several broad fields of perpetual snow. These frozen masses, during the process of thawing, had in some parts assumed the form of pinnacles or columns, which, as they were high and close together, caused some difficulty on account of the cargo mules. This structure in frozen snow was long since observed by Scoresby in the icebergs near Spitzbergen, and lately, with more care, by Colonel Jackson* on the Neva. On one of these columns of ice a frozen horse was exposed, sticking as on a pedestal, but with its hind legs straight up in the air. To account for its strange position, we must

* Journal of Geograph. Soc., vol. v., p. 12. Mr. Lyell (vol. iv., p. 360) has compared the fissures, by which the columnar structure seems to be determined, to the joints that traverse nearly all rocks, but which are best seen in the non-stratified masses. I may observe, in the case of the frozen snow, the columnar structure must be owing to a " metamorphic" action and not to a process during deposition.

[page] 398 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

suppose that the animal fell with its head downward into a hole, when the stratum was continuous, and that afterwards the surrounding parts were removed by the thaw.

When nearly on the crest of the Portillo, we were enveloped in a cloud which was falling, under the form of minute frozen spicula. This was very unfortunate, as it continued the whole day, and quite intercepted our view. The pass takes its name of Portillo from a narrow cleft or doorway on the highest ridge, through which the road passes. From this point, on a clear day, those vast plains which extend from the base of the mountains towards the Atlantic can be seen. We descended to the upper limit of vegetation, and found good quarters for the night under the shelter of some large fragments of rock. We here met some passengers, who made anxious inquiries about the state of the road. Shortly after it was dark, the clouds suddenly cleared away; and the effect was quite magical. The great mountains, bright with the full moon, seemed impending over us on all sides, as if we had been buried at the bottom of some deep crevice. One morning also, very early, I witnessed the same striking effect. As soon as the clouds were dispersed, it froze severely; but as there was no wind, we slept very comfortably.

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this elevation, owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was very remarkable. Travellers having observed the difficulty of judging heights and distances amidst lofty mountains, have generally attributed it to the absence of objects of comparison. It appears to me that it is fully as much owing to this transparency, confounding different distances, and partly, likewise, to the novelty of an unusual degree of fatigue arising from a little exertion,—habit being thus opposed to the evidence of the senses. I am sure that this extreme clearness of the air gives a peculiar character to the landscape; all objects appearing to be brought nearly into one plane, as in a drawing or panorama. The transparency is, I presume, owing to the equable and nearly perfect

[page] 399 March, 1835. PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA.

state of atmospheric dryness. The latter quality was shown by the manner in which woodwork shrunk (as I soon found by the trouble my geological hammer gave me); by articles of food, such as bread and sugar, becoming extremely hard; and by the preservation of the skin and parts of the flesh of the beasts, which perish on the road. To the same cause we must attribute the singular facility with which electricity is excited. My flannel-waistcoat, when rubbed in the dark, appeared as if it had been washed with phosphorus;—every hair on a dog's back crackled;—even the linen sheets, and leathern straps of the saddle, when handled, emitted sparks.

MARCH 23D.—The descent on the eastern side of the Cordillera is much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side; in other words, the mountains rise more abruptly from the plains, than from the alpine country of Chile. A level and brilliantly white sea of clouds was extended beneath our feet, and thus shut out the view of the equally level Pampas. We soon entered the band of clouds, and did not again emerge from it that day. About noon, finding pasture for the animals and bushes for firewood, in a part of the valley called Los Arenales, we stopped for the night. This was near the uppermost limit of bushes, and the elevation, I suppose, was between seven and eight thousand feet.

I was very much struck with the marked difference between the vegetation of these eastern valleys and that of the opposite side: yet the climate, as well as the kind of soil, is nearly identical, and the difference of longitude very trifling. The same remark holds good with the quadrupeds, and in a lesser degree with the birds and insects. We must except certain species which habitually or occasionally frequent elevated mountains; and in the case of the birds, certain kinds, which have a range as far south as the Strait of Magellan. This fact is in perfect accordance with the geological history of the Andes; for these mountains have existed as a great barrier, since a period so remote that whole races of animals must subsequently have perished from the face of the earth. Therefore, unless we suppose the same species to have been

[page] 400 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

created in two different countries, we ought not to expect any closer similarity between the organic beings on opposite sides of the Andes, than on shores separated by a broad strait of the sea. In both cases we must leave out of the question those kinds which have been able to cross the barrier, whether of salt water or solid rock.*

A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely the same, or most closely allied with those of Patagonia. We here have the agouti, bizcacha, three species of armadillo, the ostrich, certain kinds of partridges, and other birds, none of which are ever seen in Chile, but are the characteristic animals of the desert plains of Patagonia. We have likewise many of the same (to the eyes of a person who is not a botanist) thorny stunted bushes, withered grass, and dwarf plants. Even the black slowly-crawling beetles are closely similar, and some, I believe, on rigorous examination, absolutely identical. It had always been a subject of regret to me, that we were unavoidably compelled to give up the ascent of the St. Cruz river before reaching the mountains. I always had a latent hope of meeting with some great change in the features of the country; but I now feel sure, that it would only have been following the plains of Patagonia up an ascent.

MARCH 24TH.—Early in the morning I climbed up a mountain on one side of the valley, and enjoyed a far-extended view over the Pampas. This was a spectacle to which I had always looked forward with interest, but I was disappointed. At the first glance there was a strong resemblance to a distant view of the ocean, but in the northern parts many irregularities in the surface were soon distinguishable. The most striking feature in the scene consisted of the rivers,

* This is merely an illustration of the admirable laws first laid down by Mr. Lyell of the geographical distribution of animals as influenced by geological changes. The whole reasoning, of course, is founded on the assumption of the immutability of species. Otherwise the changes might be considered as superinduced by different circumstances in the two regions during a length of time.

[page] 401 March, 1835. PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA.

which, facing the rising sun, glittered like silver threads, till lost in the immensity of the distance.

In the middle of the day, we descended the valley, and reached a hovel, where an officer and three soldiers were posted to examine passports. One of these men was a thorough-bred Pampas Indian. He was kept much for the same purpose as a bloodhound, to track out any person who might pass by secretly, either on foot or horseback. Some years ago, a passenger had endeavoured to escape detection, by making a long circuit over a neighbouring mountain; but this Indian, having by chance crossed his track, followed it for the whole day, over dry and very stony parts, till at last he came on his prey hidden in a gully. We here heard that the silvery clouds, which we had admired from the bright region above, had poured down torrents of rain. The valley from this point gradually opened, and the hills became mere water-worn hillocks compared to the giants behind. It then expanded into a gently-sloping plain of shingle, covered with low trees and bushes. This talus, although it looked of little breadth, must be nearly ten miles wide, before it blends into the apparently dead level Pampas. We had already passed the only house in this neigbourhood, the Estancia of Chaquaio; and at sunset we pulled up in the first snug corner, and there bivouacked.

MARCH 25TH.—I was reminded of the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, by seeing the disk of the rising sun, intersected by an horizon, level as that of the ocean. During the night a heavy dew had fallen, a fact we did not experience within the Cordillera. The road proceeded for some distance due east across a low swamp; then meeting the dry plain, it turned to the north towards Mendoza. The distance is two very long days' journey. Our first day's journey was called fourteen leagues to Estacado, and the second seventeen to Luxan, near Mendoza. The whole distance is over a level desert plain, with not more than two or three houses. The sun was exceedingly powerful, and the ride devoid of all interest. There is very little water in this "traversia," and in our


[page] 402 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

second day's journey, we found only one little pool. The water flowing from the mountains is small in quantity and soon becomes absorbed by the dry and porous soil; so that, although we travelled at the distance of only ten or fifteen miles from the outer range, we did not cross a single stream. In many parts the ground was incrusted with a saline efflorescence; hence we had the same salt-loving plants, common near Bahia Blanca. The landscape has one character from the Strait of Magellan along the whole eastern coast of Patagonia to the Rio Colorado; and it appears that the same kind of country extends northerly in a sweeping line as far as San Luis, and perhaps even further. To the eastward of this line, lies the basin of the comparatively damp and green plains of Buenos Ayres. The former country, including the sterile traversia of Mendoza and Patagonia, consists of a bed of shingle, worn smooth, and accumulated by the waves of a former sea; while the formation of the Pampas (plains covered by thistles, clover, and grass) is due to the estuary mud of the Plata, deposited under a different condition of circumstances.

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to see in the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing around the village and river of Luxan. Shortly before we arrived at this place, we observed to the southward a ragged cloud of a dark reddish-brown colour. For some time, we had no doubt but that it was thick smoke proceeding from some great fire on the plains. Soon afterwards we found it was a pest of locusts.* The insects overtook us, as they were travelling northward, by the aid of a light breeze, at the rate, I should suppose, of ten or fifteen miles an hour. The main body filled the air from a height of twenty feet, to that, as it appeared, of two or three thousand above the ground. The noise of their approach was that of a strong breeze† pass-

* The species is identical with, or resembles most closely, the famous Gryllus migratorius of eastern countries.

† "And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle."—Revelat. ix. 9.

[page] 403 March, 1835. SWARM OF LOCUSTS.

ing through the rigging of a ship. The sky seen through the advanced guard appeared like a mezzotinto engraving, but the main body was impervious to sight; they were not, however, so thick, but that they could escape from a stick moved backward and forward. When they alighted they were more numerous than the leaves in a field, and changed the green into a reddish colour: the swarm having once alighted, the individuals flew from side to side in any direction. The locusts are not an uncommon pest in this country: already during the season, several smaller swarms had come up from the sterile plains* of the south; and many trees had been entirely stripped of their leaves. Of course this swarm cannot even be compared to those of the eastern world, yet it was sufficient to make the well-known descriptions of their ravages more intelligible. I have omitted, perhaps, the most striking part of the scene,—the vain attempts of the poor cottagers to turn the stream aside. Many lighted fires and with the smoke, with shouts and waving of branches, they endeavoured to avert the attack.

We crossed the Luxan, which is a river of considerable size, though its course towards the sea-coast is very imperfectly known. It is even doubtful whether, in passing over the plains, it is evaporated, or whether it forms a tributary of the Sauce or Colorado. We slept in the village, which is a small place surrounded by gardens, and forms the most southern part, that is cultivated, of the province of Mendoza; it is five leagues south of the capital. At night I experienced an attack (for it deserves no less a name) of the Benchuca (a species of Reduvius) the great black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one's body. Before sucking they are quite thin, but afterwards become round and bloated with blood, and in this state they are easily crushed.

* Swarms of locusts sometimes overrun the more central plains of this continent. In these cases, and likewise as it appears in all parts of the world, the locusts are bred in desert plains, and thence migrate towards a more fertile country.

2 D 2

[page] 404 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

They are also found in the northern parts of Chile and in Peru. One which I caught at Iquique was very empty. When placed on the table, and though surrounded by people, if a finger was presented, the bold insect would immediately draw its sucker, make a charge, and if allowed, draw blood. No pain was caused by the wound. It was curious to watch its body during the act of sucking, as it changed in less than ten minutes, from being as flat as a wafer to a globular form. This one feast, for which the benchuca was indebted to one of the officers, kept it fat during four whole months; but, after the first fortnight, the insect was quite ready to have another suck.

MARCH 27TH.—We rode on to Mendoza. The country was beautifully cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbourhood is celebrated for its fruit; and certainly nothing could appear more flourishing than the vineyards and the orchards of figs, peaches, and olives. We bought watermelons nearly twice as large as a man's head, most deliciously cool and well-flavoured, for a halfpenny apiece; and for the value of threepence, half a wheelbarrowful of peaches. The cultivated and enclosed part of this province is very small; there is little more than that which we passed through between Luxan and the capital. The land, as in Chile, entirely owes its fertility to artificial irrigation; and it is really wonderful to observe how abundantly productive a barren traversia is rendered by this simple process.

We staid the ensuing day in Mendoza. The prosperity of the place has much declined of late years. The inhabitants say "it is good to live in, but very bad to grow rich in." The lower orders have the lounging, reckless manners of the Gauchos of the Pampas; and their dress, riding-gear, and habits of life, are nearly the same. To my mind the town had a stupid forlorn aspect. Neither the boasted alameda, nor the scenery, is at all comparable to that of Santiago; but to those who have just crossed the unvaried savannahs of grass, on their road from Buenos Ayres, the gardens and orchards must appear delightful. Captain Head, speaking of

[page] 405 March, 1835. MENDOZA.

the inhabitants, says, "They eat their dinners, and it is so very hot, they go to sleep—and could they do better?" I quite agree with Captain Head: the happy doom of the Mendozinos is to eat, sleep, and be idle.

MARCH 29TH.—We set out on our return to Chile by the Uspallata pass to the northward of Mendoza. We had to cross a long and most sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. The soil in parts was absolutely bare, in others covered by numberless dwarf cacti, armed with formidable spines, and called by the inhabitants "little lions." There were also a few low bushes. Although the plain is elevated about three thousand feet above the sea, the sun was very powerful; this, and the clouds of impalpable dust, rendered the travelling extremely irksome. Our course during the day lay nearly parallel to the mountains, but gradually approaching them. Before sunset we entered one of the wide valleys, or rather bays, which open on the plain: this soon narrowed into a ravine, and a little higher up the house of the Villa Vicencio was situated. As we had ridden all day without a drop of water, both ourselves and our animals were very thirsty, and we looked out anxiously for the stream which flows down this valley. It was curious to observe how gradually the water made its appearance: on the plain the course was quite dry; by degrees it became a little damper; then puddles of water were formed; these soon became connected, and at Villa Vicencio there was a nice little rivulet.

30TH.—The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name of Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who has crossed the Andes. I staid here, and at some neighbouring mines, during the two succeeding days. The geology of the surrounding country is very curious. The Uspallata range is separated from the true Cordillera by a long narrow plain or basin, like those so often mentioned in Chile, but with an altitude of about six thousand feet. The range consists of various kinds of submarine lava, alternating with volcanic sandstones and other remarkable sedimentary deposits; the whole having a very close resemblance to some of

[page] 406 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. March, 1835.

the newer horizontal beds on the shores of the Pacific. From this resemblance I expected to find silicified wood, which is generally characteristic of those formations. I was gratified in a very extraordinary manner. In the central part of the range, at an elevation probably of seven thousand feet, on a bare slope, I observed some snow-white projecting columns. These were petrified trees, eleven being silicified, and from thirty to forty converted into coarsely-crystallized white calcareous spar. They were abruptly broken off; the upright stumps projecting a few feet above the ground. The trunks measured from three to five feet each in circumference. They stood a little way apart from each other, but the whole formed one distinct group. Mr. Robert Brown has been kind enough to examine the wood: he says it is coniferous, and that it partakes of the character of the Araucarian tribe (to which the common South Chilian pine belongs), but with some curious points of affinity with the yew. The volcanic sandstone in which they were embedded, and from the lower part of which they must have sprung, had accumulated in successive thin layers around their trunks; and the stone yet retained the impression of the bark.

It required little geological practice to interpret the marvellous story, which this scene at once unfolded; though I confess I was at first so much astonished that I could scarcely believe the plainest evidence of it. I saw the spot where a cluster of fine trees had once waved their branches on the shores of the Atlantic, when that ocean (now driven back 700 miles) approached the base of the Andes. I saw that they had sprung from a volcanic soil which had been raised above the level of the sea, and that this dry land, with its upright trees, had subsequently been let down to the depths of the ocean. There it was covered by sedimentary matter, and this again by enormous streams of submarine lava—one such mass alone attaining the thickness of a thousand feet; and these deluges of melted stone and aqueous deposits had been five times spread out alternately. The ocean which received such masses must have been deep; but again the subterra-

[page] 407 April, 1835. SILICIFIED TREES.

nean forces exerted their power, and I now beheld the bed of that sea forming a chain of mountains more than seven thousand feet in altitude. Nor had those antagonist forces been dormant, which are always at work to wear down the surface of the land to one level: the great piles of strata had been intersected by many wide valleys; and the trees now changed into silex were exposed projecting from the volcanic soil now changed into rock, whence formerly in a green and budding state they had raised their lofty heads. Now, all is utterly irreclaimable and desert; even the lichen cannot adhere to the stony casts of former trees. Vast, and scarcely comprehensible as such changes must ever appear, yet they have all occurred within a period recent when compared with the history of the Cordillera; and that Cordillera itself is modern as compared with some other of the fossiliferous strata of South America.

APRIL 1ST.—We crossed the Uspallata range; and at night slept at the custom-house—the only inhabited spot on the plain. Shortly before leaving the mountains, there was a very extraordinary view: red, purple, green, and quite white sedimentary rocks, alternating with black lavas, were broken up and thrown into all kinds of disorder, by masses of porphyry, of every shade, from dark brown to the brightest lilac. It was the first view I ever saw, which really resembled those pretty sections which geologists make of the inside of the earth.

The next day we crossed the plain, and followed the course of the same great mountain-stream which flows by Luxan. Here it was a furious torrent, quite impassable, and appearing larger than in the low country; as was the case with the rivulet of Villa Vincencio. On the evening of the succeeding day we reached the Rio de las Vacas, which is considered the worst stream in the Cordillera to cross. As all these rivers have a rapid and short course, and are due to the snow melted by the sun's heat, the hour of the day makes a considerable difference in their volume. In the evening the stream is muddy and full, but about daybreak it becomes both clearer and much less impetuous.

[page] 408 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. April, 1835.

This we found to be the case with the Rio Vacas, and in the morning we crossed it with little difficulty.

The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared with that of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond the bare walls of the one grand, flat-bottomed valley, which the road follows up to the highest crest. The valley and the huge rocky mountains were extremely barren : during the two previous nights the poor mules had absolutely nothing to eat; for excepting a few low resinous bushes, scarcely a plant could be seen. We went over in the course of this day some of the worst passes in the Cordillera. The degree of exaggeration concerning their danger and difficulty is very great. In Chile I was even told, that if I attempted to pass on foot my head would turn giddy, that there was no room to dismount, &c., but I did not see a place where any one might not have walked over backwards, or got off his mule on either side. One of the bad passes called las Animas (the Souls), I had crossed, and did not find out till a day afterwards that it was one of the awful dangers. No doubt there are many parts in which, if the mule should stumble, the rider would be hurled down a great precipice; but of such a catastrophe there is much less chance than with a man on foot. I dare say, in the spring, the "laderas," or roads, which each year are formed anew across the piles of fallen detritus, are very bad ; but from what I have seen, I suspect the real danger is nothing, and the apparent very little. With cargo mules the case is rather different; for the loads project so far, that the animals occasionally running against each other, or against a point of rock, lose their balance and are thrown down the precipice. With regard to crossing the rivers, I can well believe that the difficulty amounts to every degree, till they are impracticable. At this season there was little trouble, but in the summer they must be very bad. I can quite imagine, as Captain Head describes, the different expressions of those who have passed the gulf, and those who are passing. I never heard of any man being drowned, but with loaded mules this is of frequent

[page] 409 April, 1835. INDIAN RUINS.

occurrence. The arriero tells you to show your mule the best line, and then allow her to cross as she chooses; the cargo mule takes a bad line, and is often lost.

APRIL 4TH.—From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente del Inca, half a day's journey. As there was pasture for the mules, and geology for me, we bivouacked for the night. When one hears of a natural bridge, one pictures to oneself some deep and narrow ravine, across which a bold mass of rock has fallen; or a great arch hollowed out like the vault of a cavern. Instead of this, the Inca's bridge consists of a crust of stratified shingle, cemented together by the deposits of the neighbouring hot springs. It appears as if the stream had scooped out a channel on one side, leaving an overhanging ledge, which was at last met by the earth and stones falling down from the opposite cliff. Certainly an oblique junction, as would happen in such case, was very distinct on one side. The bridge of the Incas is by no means worthy of the great monarchs whose name it bears.

Close by, there were some ruins of Indian buildings. These occur in several other places; the most perfect, which I saw, being the Ruinas de Tambillos. Small square rooms were there huddled together, but placed in distinct groups. Some of the doorways were yet standing : they were formed by a cross slab of stone, but only raised about three feet high. Ulloa, in his "Noticias Americanas," remarks on the lowness of the doors in the ancient Peruvian dwellings. These houses, when perfect, must have been capable of containing a considerable number of persons. Tradition says, they were used as halting-places for the Incas, when they crossed these mountains. Traces of Indian habitations have been discovered in many parts of the Cordillera, where it does not appear probable, that they were constructed as mere resting-places; but yet where the land is as utterly unfit for any kind of cultivation as it is near the Tambillos or Puente del Inca. In the Portillo pass I saw one group of such ruins. In the ravine of Jajuel, near Aconcagua, where there is no pass, I heard of numerous remains situated

[page] 410 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. April, 1835.

at a great elevation, where it is both cold and extremely sterile. At first I imagined, that these houses were places of refuge built by the Indians on the first arrival of the Spaniards; but subsequently I have been almost inclined to speculate on the possibility of a small change of climate.

In the northern parts of Chile, within the Cordillera of Copiapó, old Indian houses are found in very many parts: by digging amongst the ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of precious metals, and heads of Indian corn, are not unfrequently discovered. I had likewise in my possession the head of an arrow, made of agate, of precisely the same figure as those now used in Tierra del Fuego. I am aware that the Peruvian Indians* frequently inhabit most lofty and bleak situations; but in these cases, I was assured by men, who had spent their lives in travelling the Andes, that very many (muchisimas) houses were found at elevations so great as almost to border on the perpetual snow, and in parts where there exist no passes, and where the land produces absolutely nothing, and what is still more extraordinary, where there is no water. Nevertheless it is the opinion of the people of the country (although they are much puzzled by the circumstance), that, from the appearance of the houses, the Indians must have used them as places of residence. In the Despoblado (uninhabited valley), near Copiapó, at a spot called Punta Gorda, I saw the remains of seven or eight square little rooms, which were of a similar form with those at the Tambillos, but built chiefly of mud (which the present inhabitants cannot by any means imitate in durability†) instead of with stone. They were situated in the most conspicuous and defenceless position,

* Mr. Pentland even considers, that the love of an elevated situation is characteristic of the constitution of this race.—Geograph. Journ.

† Ulloa (Noticias Americanas, p. 302) remarks on the same circumstance in Peru. He adds, when speaking of the mud bricks, "which gives room to think that they had some particular method of working them, that they should become hard, without cracking, the secret of which the present inhabitants are ignorant of."

[page] 411 April, 1835. INDIAN RUINS.

at the bottom of a flat broad valley. There was no water nearer than three or four leagues, and that only in very small quantity, and bad : the soil was absolutely sterile;— I looked in vain even for a lichen adhering to the rocks. At the present day, with the advantage of beasts of burden, a mine, unless it were very rich, could scarcely be worked there with profit. Yet the Indians formerly chose it as a place of residence! If at the present time two or three showers of rain were to fall annually, instead of one during as many years, as now is the case, a small rill of water would in all probability be formed in this great valley, draining a mountainous country; and then, by irrigation (the method of which was formerly so well understood by the Indians), the soil might easily be rendered sufficiently productive to support a few families.

I have certain proofs that this part of the continent of South America has been elevated, near the coast, at least from four to five hundred feet, since the epoch of existing shells; and further inland the rise possibly may have been greater. As the peculiarly arid character of the climate is evidently a consequence of the height of the great range of mountains, we may feel almost sure, that prior to the latter elevations, the atmosphere was not so completely drained of its moisture as at the present day. At a remote geological era, it is probable that the Andes consisted of a chain of islands, which were covered by luxuriant forests; and many of the trees, in a silicified state, may now be seen embedded in the upper conglomerates. Of these I measured one which was cylindrical, with a circumference of fifteen feet. As it is nearly certain that the mountains have risen slowly, so would the climate likewise become deteriorated slowly. We need not feel greatly surprised at walls of stone and hardened mud here lasting for many ages, when we remember how many centuries the Druidical mounds have withstood even the climate of England. The only question is, whether the amount of change, since the introduction of man into South America, has been sufficient to cause a sensible

[page] 412 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. April, 1835.

effect on the atmospheric moisture, and therefore on the fertility of the valleys in the upper Cordillera. From the extreme slowness with which there is reason to believe the continent is rising, the longevity of man as a species, required to allow of sufficient change, is the most valid objection to the above speculations: for on the eastern shores of this continent, we have seen that several animals, belonging to the same class of mammalia with man, have passed away, while the change of level between land and water, in that part at least, has been so small, that it can scarcely have caused any sensible difference in the climate. I may add, however, that at Lima, the elevation, within the human epoch, certainly has amounted to between seventy and eighty feet.

When at Lima, I conversed on this subject* with Mr. Gill, a civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior country. He told me that a conjecture of a change of climate had sometimes crossed his mind; but that he thought that the greater portion of land now incapable of cultivation, but covered with Indian ruins, had been reduced to that condition, by neglect and subterranean movements injuring the water conduits, which the Indians formerly constructed on so wonderful a scale. I may here just mention that these people actually carried tunnels through hills of solid rock, when such were necessary to conduct the irrigating streams. Mr. Gill told me, he had been employed professionally to examine one; he found the passage low, narrow, crooked, and not of uniform breadth, but of very considerable length. Is it not most wonderful that any people should have attempted such operations without the aid of iron or of gunpowder !

* Temple, in his travels through upper Peru or Bolivia, in going from Potosi to Oruro, says, "I saw many Indian villages or dwellings in ruins, up even to the very tops of the mountains, attesting a former population where now all is desolate." He makes similar remarks in another place, but it is not possible to judge, whether this desolation is owing merely to a want of population, or to an altered condition of the land.

[page] 413 April, 1835. OJOS DEL AGUA.

Mr. Gill mentioned to me a most interesting, and as far as I am aware, quite unparalleled case, of the effect of subterranean disturbances in altering the drainage of a country. Travelling from Casma to Huaraz (not very far distant from Lima), he found a plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient cultivation, but now quite barren. Near it was the dry course of a considerable river, whence the water for irrigation had formerly been conducted. There was nothing in the appearance of the watercourse to indicate that the river had not flowed there a few years previously: in some parts beds of sand and gravel were scattered, and in others the solid rock had been worn into a broad channel.* It is self-evident that a person following up the course of a stream, will always ascend at a greater or less inclination. Mr. Gill was therefore very much astonished, when walking up the bed of this ancient river, to find himself suddenly going down hill. He imagined that the slope had a fall of about forty or fifty feet perpendicular. We here have the most unequivocal evidence, that a ridge or line of hills has been uplifted directly across the bed of a stream, which must have been flowing for many centuries. From the moment the river-course was thus arched, the water would necessarily be thrown back; and a new channel would be formed on one side some way above. From that time, also, the neighbouring plain would lose its fertilizing stream, and become converted into the desert which it now remains.

APRIL 5TH.—We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, from the Inca's bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which is situated near the lowest casucha on the western slope. These casuchas are little round towers, with steps outside to reach the floor, which is elevated some feet above the ground on account of the snow-drifts. They are eight in number; and under the Spanish government, were kept

* Mr. Gill said he recollected that one part, which had been cut out of the solid rock, was about forty yards wide and eight feet deep. This is sufficient to give some idea of the size of the former stream.

[page] 414 PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA. April, 1835.

during the winter well stored with food and charcoal, and each courier had a master-key. Now they only answer the purpose of caves, or rather dungeons. Seated on some little eminence, they are not, however, ill suited to the surrounding scene of desolation. The zigzag ascent of the Cumbre, or the partition of the waters, was very steep and tedious. The height, according to Mr. Pentland,* is 12,454 feet. The road did not pass over any perpetual snow, although there were patches on either hand. The wind on the summit was exceedingly cold, but it was impossible not to stop a few minutes to admire, again and again, the colour of the heavens, and the brilliant transparency of the atmosphere. The scenery, moreover, was grand. To the westward there was a fine chaos of mountains, divided by profound ravines. Generally some snow has fallen before this period of the season, and it has even happened that the Cordillera has been finally closed by this time. But we were most fortunate. The sky, by night and by day, was cloudless, excepting perhaps a few round little masses of vapour, that floated over the highest pinnacles. I have often seen these islets in the sky, marking the position of the Cordillera, when the mountains themselves have been hidden beneath the horizon.

APRIL 6TH.—In the morning we found some thief had stolen one of our mules, and the bell of the madrina. We therefore rode only two or three miles down the valley, and staid there the ensuing day in hopes of recovering the mule, which the arriero thought had been hidden in some ravine. The scenery in this part had assumed a Chilian character: the lower parts of the mountains, dotted over with the pale evergreen Quillay tree, and with the great candlestick cactus, certainly are more to be admired than any thing in the bare Eastern valleys; but I cannot quite agree with the admiration expressed by some travellers. The extreme pleasure, I suspect, is chiefly owing to the prospect of a good fire,

* Geographical Journal. Notice on Bolivian Cordillera, March, 1835.

[page] 415 April, 1835. PASSAGE OF CORDILLERA.

after escaping from the cold regions above: and I am sure I most heartily participated in such feelings.

8TH.—We left the valley of the river of Aconcagua, by which we had descended, and reached in the evening a cottage near the Villa de St. Rosa. The fertility of the plain was extremely delightful. The autumn being well advanced, the leaves of many of the fruit-trees were falling; and of the labourers—some were busy in drying figs and peaches on the roofs of their cottages; while others were gathering the grapes from the vineyards. It was a pretty scene; but that pensive stillness was absent, which makes the autumn in England indeed the evening of the year.

On the 10th we reached Santiago, where I experienced a very kind and hospitable reception from Mr. Caldcleugh. My excursion only cost me twenty-four days, and never did I more deeply enjoy an equal space of time. A few days afterwards I returned to Mr. Corfield's house at Valparaiso.

[page] 416


Bell mountain — Miners — Great loads carried by the Apires — Coquimbo — Earthquake — Geology — Terraces — Excursion up valley — Road to Guasco — Desert country — Valley of Copiapó — Rain and earthquakes, meteorolites — Hydrophobia — Copiapó — Excursion to Cordillera — Dry valley — Cold gales of wind — Noises from a hill — Iquique, complete desert — Salt alluvium — Nitrate of soda — Lima — Unhealthy country — Ruins of Callao, overthrown by earthquake — Elevated shells on island of San Lorenzo — Plain with embedded fragments of pottery.


APRIL 27TH.—I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and thence through Guasco to Copiapó, where Captain FitzRoy kindly offered to pick me up in the Beagle. The distance in a straight line along the shore northward is only 420 miles; but my mode of travelling caused me to find it a very long journey. I bought four horses and two mules, the latter carrying the cargo on alternate days. The six animals together only cost the value of twenty-five pounds sterling, and at Copiapó I sold them again for twenty-three. We travelled in the same independent manner as before, cooking our own meals, and sleeping in the open air. As we rode towards the Vino del Mar, I took a farewell view of Valparaiso, and admired its picturesque appearance. For geological purposes I made a detour from the high road to the foot of the Bell mountain. We passed through a highly auriferous district to the neighbourhood of Limache, where we slept. The country is covered with much alluvium, and by the side of each little rivulet it has been washed for gold. This employment supports the inhabitants of numerous scattered hovels; but, like all those who gain by chance, they are unthrifty in their habits.

28TH.—In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the foot of the Bell mountain. The inhabitants were free-

[page] 417 May, 1835. NORTHERN CHILE.

holders, which is not very usual in Chile. They supported themselves on the produce of a garden and a little field, but were very poor. Capital is so deficient in this part, that the people are obliged to sell their green corn while it is standing in the field, in order to buy necessaries for the ensuing year. Wheat in consequence was dearer in the very district of its production, than at Valparaiso, where the contractors live. The next day we joined the main road to Coquimbo. At night there was a very light shower of rain: this was the first drop that had fallen since the heavy rain of September 11th and 12th, which detained me a prisoner at the baths of Cauquenes. The interval was seven and a half months; but the rain this year in Chile was rather later than usual. The Andes were now covered by a thick mass of snow; and they presented, in the distance, a very glorious sight.

MAY 2D.—The road continued to follow the coast, at no great distance from the sea. The few trees and bushes which are common in central Chile, decreased rapidly in numbers, and were replaced by a tall plant, something like a yucca in appearance. The surface of the country, on a small scale, was singularly broken and irregular; abrupt little peaks of rock rising out of small plains or basins. The indented coast, and the bottom of the neighbouring sea, studded with breakers, would if converted into dry land, present similar forms; and such a conversion without doubt has taken place in the part over which we rode.

3D.—Quilimari to Conchalee. The country became more and more barren. In the valleys there was scarcely sufficient water for any irrigation; and the intermediate land was quite bare, not supporting even goats. In the spring, after the winter showers, a thin pasture rapidly springs up, and cattle are then driven down from the Cordillera to graze for a short time. It is curious to observe how the seeds of the grass seem to know, as if by an acquired instinct, what quantity of rain to expect. One shower far northward at Copiapó produces as great an effect on the vegetation, as two at Guasco, and as three or four in this district. At Valparaiso a winter


[page] 418 NORTHERN CHILE. May, 1835.

so dry as to injure most seriously the pasture, would at Guasco produce the most unusual abundance. Travelling northward the quantity of rain does not appear to decrease in strict proportion to the distance. At Conchalee, which is only halfway between Valparaiso and Coquimbo (being 67 miles north of the former) rain is not expected till the end of May; whereas, at Valparaiso some generally falls early in April. The annual quantity is likewise small in proportion to the lateness of the season at which it commences.

MAY 4TH.—Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of every kind, we turned inland towards the mining district of Illapel. The town of that name is very regular and pretty. Its flourishing condition depends on numerous mines, chiefly of copper, which occur in its immediate vicinity. This valley, like every other in Chile, is level, broad, and very fertile: it is bordered on each side, either by cliffs of stratified shingle, or by bare rocky mountains. Above the straight line of the uppermost irrigating ditch, all is brown as on a high road; while all below, is of as bright a green as verdigris, from the beds of alfarfa, a kind of clover.

We proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining district, where the principal hill was drilled with holes, like a great ants' nest. The Chilian miners are in their habits a peculiar race of men. Living for weeks together in the most desolate spots, when they descend to the villages on feast-days, there is no excess or extravagance into which they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum, and then, like sailors with prize-money, they try how soon they can contrive to squander it. They drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days return penniless to their miserable abodes, there to work harder than beasts of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, is evidently the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily food is found them, and they acquire no habitual care as to the means of subsistence: moreover, at the same moment that temptation is offered, the means of enjoying it is placed in their power. On the other hand, in Cornwall, and some other

[page] 419 May, 1835. MINERS.

parts of England, where the system of selling part of the vein is followed, the miners, from being obliged to act for themselves, and to judge with clearness, are a singularly intelligent and well-conducted set of men.

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather picturesque. He wears a very long shirt, of some dark-coloured baize, with a leathern apron; the whole being fastened round his waist by a brightly-coloured sash. His trousers are very broad, and his small cap of scarlet cloth is made to fit the head closely. We met a party of these miners in full costume, carrying the body of one of their companions to be buried. They marched at a very quick trot, four men supporting the corpse. One set having run as hard as they could for about two hundred yards, were relieved by four others, who had previously dashed on ahead on horseback. Thus they proceeded, encouraging each other by wild cries: altogether the scene formed a most strange funeral.

We continued travelling northward, in a zigzag line; sometimes stopping a day to geologise. The country was so thinly inhabited, and the track so obscure, that we often had difficulty in finding our way. On the 12th I stayed at some mines. The ore in this case was not considered particularly good, but from being abundant it was supposed the mine would sell for about thirty or forty thousand dollars (that is 6000 or 8000 pounds sterling); yet it was bought by one of the English Associations for an ounce of gold (3l. 8s.). The ore is yellow pyrites, which as I have already remarked, before the arrival of the English, was not supposed to contain a particle of copper. On a scale of profits, nearly as great as in the above instance, piles of scoriæ abounding with minute globules of metallic copper were purchased; yet with these advantages, the mining associations, as is well known, contrived to lose immense sums of money. The folly of the greater number of commissioners and shareholders, amounted to infatuation :—a thousand pounds per annum given in some cases to entertain the authorities; libraries of well-bound geological books; bringing out miners

2 E 2

[page] 420 NORTHERN CHILE. May, 1835.

for particular metals (as tin) which were soon found not to exist in the country; contracts to supply the miners with milk, in parts where there were no cows; machinery, where such could not possibly be used; and a hundred similar arrangements, bore witness to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to the natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the same capital well employed in these mines would have yielded an immense return: a confidential man of business, a practical miner and assayer, would have been all that was required.

Captain Head has described the wonderful load which the " Apires," truly beasts of burden, carry up from deep mines. I confess I thought the account exaggerated; so that I was glad to take the opportunity of weighing one of the loads, which I picked out by hazard. It required considerable exertion on my part, when standing directly over it, to lift it from the ground. The load was considered under weight when found to be 197 pounds. The apire had carried this up eighty perpendicular yards,—part of the way by a steep passage, but the greater part up notched poles, placed in a zigzag line in the shaft. According to the general regulation, the apire is not allowed to halt for breath, except the mine is six hundred feet deep. The average load is considered as rather more than 200 pounds, and I have been assured that one of 300 pounds (twenty-two stone and a half) by way of a trial has been brought up from the deepest mine! At this time the apires were bringing up the usual load twelve times in the day; that is, 2400 pounds from eighty yards deep; and they were employed in the intervals in breaking and picking ore.

These men, excepting from accidents, are healthy, and appear cheerful. Their bodies are not very muscular. They rarely eat meat once a week, and never oftener, and then only the hard dry charqui. Although with a knowledge that the labour is voluntary, it was nevertheless quite revolting to see the state in which they reached the mouth of the mine; their bodies bent forward, leaning with their arms on the steps, their legs bowed, the muscles quivering, the perspiration

[page] 421 May, 1835. COQUIMBO.

streaming from their faces over their breasts, their nostrils distended, the corners of their mouth forcibly drawn back, and the expulsion of their breath most laborious. Each time, from habit, they utter an articulate cry of "ay-ay," which ends in a sound rising from deep in the chest, but shrill like the note of a fife. After staggering to the pile of ores, they emptied the "carpacho;" in two or three seconds recovering their breath, they wiped the sweat from their brows, and apparently quite fresh descended the mine again at a quick pace. This appears to me a wonderful instance of the amount of labour which habit (for it can be nothing else), will enable a man to endure.

In the evening, talking with the mayor-domo of these mines, about the number of foreigners now scattered over the whole country, he told me that, though quite a young man, he remembers when a boy at school at Coquimbo, a holiday being given, to see the captain of an English ship, who was brought to the city to speak to the governor. He believes that nothing would have induced any boy in the school, himself included, to have gone close to the Englishman; so deeply had they been impressed with an idea of the heresy, contamination, and evil to be derived from contact with such a person. To this day they relate the atrocious actions of the bucaniers; and especially of one man, who took away the figure of the Virgin Mary, and returned the year after for that of St. Joseph, saying it was a pity the lady should not have a husband. I heard also of an old lady who, at a dinner in Coquimbo, remarked how wonderfully strange it was that she should have lived to dine in the same room with an Englishman; for she remembered as a girl, that twice, at the mere cry of "Los Ingleses," every soul, carrying what valuables they could, had taken to the mountains.

MAY 14TH.—We reached Coquimbo, where we staid a few days. The town is remarkable for nothing but its extreme quietness. It is said to contain from 6000 to 8000 inhabitants. On the morning of the 17th it rained lightly

[page] 422 NORTHERN CHILE. May, 1835.

(the first time this year) for about five hours. With this shower, the farmers, who plant corn near the sea-coast where the atmosphere is more humid, would break up the ground; with a second, put the seed in : and if a third should fall, they would reap in the spring a good harvest. It was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling amount of moisture. Twelve hours afterwards the ground appeared as dry as ever; yet after an interval of ten days, all the hills were faintly tinged with green patches; the grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibres a full inch in length. Before this shower every part of the surface was bare as on a high road.

In the evening, Captain FitzRoy and myself were dining with Mr. Edwards, an English resident well known for his hospitality by all who have visited Coquimbo, when a sharp earthquake happened. I heard the forecoming rumble, but from the screams of the ladies, the running of servants, and the rush of several of the gentlemen to the doorway, I could not distinguish the motion. Some of the women afterwards were crying with terror, and one person said he should not be able to sleep all night, or if he did, it would only be to dream of falling houses. The father of this gentleman had lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and he himself only just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso, in 1822. He mentioned a curious coincidence which then happened: he was playing at cards, when a German, one of the party, got up, and said he would never sit in a room in these countries with the door shut, since, owing to his having done so, he had nearly lost his life at Copiapó. Accordingly he opened the door; and no sooner had he done this, than he cried out, "Here it comes again !" and the famous shock commenced. The whole party escaped. The danger in an earthquake is not from the time lost in opening a door, but from the chance of its becoming jammed by the movement of the walls.

It is impossible to be much surprised at the fear which natives and old residents, though some of them known to be men of great command of mind, so generally experience during

[page] 423 May, 1835. PARALLEL TERRACES.

earthquakes. I think, however, this excess of panic may be partly attributed to a want of habit in governing their fears; the usual restraint of shame being here absent. Indeed, the natives do not like to see a person indifferent. I heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in the open air, during a smart shock, knowing there was no danger, did not rise. The natives cried out indignantly, "Look at those heretics, they will not even get out of their beds! "

I spent two or three days in examining the step-formed terraces of shingle first described by Captain Basil Hall, in his work, so full of spirited descriptions, on the west coast of America. Mr. Lyell concluded from the account, that they must have been formed by the sea during the gradual rising of the land. Such is the case: on some of the steps which sweep round from within the valley, so as to front the coast, shells of existing species both lie on the surface, and are embedded in a soft calcareous stone. This bed of the most modern tertiary epoch passes downward into another, containing some living species associated with others now lost. Amongst the latter may be mentioned shells of an enormous perna and an oyster, and the teeth of a gigantic shark, closely allied to, or identical with the Carcharias Megalodon of ancient Europe; the bones of which, or of some cetaceous animal, are also present, in a silicified state, in great numbers. At Guasco, the phenomenon of the parallel terraces is very strikingly seen: no less than seven perfectly level, but unequally broad plains, ascending by steps, occur on one or both sides the valley. So remarkable is the contrast of the successive horizontal lines, corresponding on each side, with the irregular outline of the surrounding mountains, that it attracts the attention of even those who feel no interest regarding the causes, which have modelled the surface of the land. The origin of the terraces of Coquimbo is precisely the same, according to my view, with that of the plains of Patagonia; the only difference is that the plains are rather broader than the terraces, and that they front the Atlantic ocean instead of a valley,—which valley, however, was for-

[page] 424 NORTHERN CHILE. May, 1835.

merly occupied by an arm of the sea, but now by a fresh-water river. In every case it must be remembered, that the successive cliffs do not mark so many distinct elevations, but on the contrary, periods of comparative repose during the gradual and perhaps scarcely sensible rise of the land. In the valley of Guasco we have the record of seven such nights of rest, in the action of the subterranean powers.

MAY 21ST.—I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards to the silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of Elque or Coquimbo. Passing through a mountainous country, we reached by nightfall the mines belonging to Mr. Edwards. I enjoyed my night's rest here from a cause which will not be fully understood in England, namely, the absence of fleas! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them; but they will not live at the elevation of three or four thousand feet, even if brought there, as is constantly occurring at these mines. It can scarcely be the trifling diminution of temperature, but some other cause which is here destructive to these troublesome insects. I spent the greater part of the ensuing day in examining the mines. The veins occur abundantly scattered over several miles of hilly country; yet it is only a few years since that they were discovered by a wood-cutter. The mines are now in a bad state, though they formerly yielded about 2000 pounds in weight of silver a year. It has been said "a person with a copper-mine will gain; with silver he may gain; but with gold he is sure to lose." This is not true: all the large Chilian fortunes have been made by mines of the more precious metals. A short time since an English physician returned to England from Copiapó, taking with him the profits of one share in a silver-mine, which amounted to about 24,000 pounds sterling. No doubt a copper-mine with care is a sure game, whereas the other is gambling, or rather taking a ticket in a lottery.

The owners lose great quantities of rich ores; for no precautions can prevent robbery. I heard of a man laying a bet with another that one of his men should rob him before his face. The ore when brought out of the mine is broken into pieces,

[page] 425 June, 1835. VALLEY OF COQUIMBO.

and the useless stone thrown on one side. A couple of the miners who were thus employed, pitched, as if by accident, two fragments away at the same moment, and then cried out for a joke, "Let us see which rolls furthest." The owner, who was standing by, bet a cigar with his friend on the race. The miner by this means watched the very point amongst the rubbish where the stone lay. In the evening he picked it up and carried it to his master, showing him a rich mass of silver ore, and saying, "This was the stone on which you won a cigar by its rolling so far."

MAY 23D.—We followed up the fertile valley, till we reached an Hacienda, belonging to a relation of Don Jose, where we stayed the ensuing day. I then rode one day's journey further, to see what were declared to be some petrified shells and beans. The former turned out to be so; the latter were small quartz pebbles. We passed through several small villages; and the valley was beautifully cultivated, and the whole scenery very grand. We were here near the main Cordillera; and the surrounding hills were very lofty. In all parts of northern Chile, fruit-trees produce much more abundantly at a considerable elevation near the Andes than in the lower country. The figs and grapes of this part are famous for their superiority, and are cultivated to a great extent. This valley is, perhaps, the most productive one north of Quillota: I believe it contains, including Coquimbo, 25,000 inhabitants. The next day I returned to the Hacienda, and thence, together with Don Jose, to Coquimbo.

JUNE 2D.—We set out for the valley of Guasco, following the coast-road, which was considered rather less desert than the other. Our first day's ride was to a solitary house, called Yerba Buena, where there was pasture for our horses. The shower mentioned as having fallen a fortnight ago, only reached about halfway to Guasco; we had, therefore, in the first part of our journey a most faint tinge of green, which soon faded away. Even where brightest, it was scarcely sufficient to remind one, of the fresh turf and budding flowers during the spring of other countries. While

[page] 426 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

travelling through these deserts one feels like a prisoner shut up in a gloomy courtyard, longing to see something green and to smell a moist atmosphere.

JUNE 3D.—Yerba Buena to Carizal. During the first part of the day we crossed a mountainous rocky desert; and afterwards a long deep sandy plain, scattered over with broken marine shells. There was very little water, and that little saline; hence the few streamlets were bordered on each side by white incrustations, amongst which succulent salt-loving plants grew. The whole country, from the coast to the Cordillera, is desert and uninhabited. I saw traces only of one living animal in abundance: this was a Bulimus, the shells of which were collected together in extraordinary numbers on the driest spots. In the spring, one humble little plant sends out a few leaves, and on these the snails feed. As they are seen only very early in the morning, when the ground is slightly damp from the dew, the Guasos believe they are born from it. I have observed in other places, that extremely dry and sterile districts, where the soil is calcareous, are most favourable to an extraordinary increase of land-shells. At Carizal there were a few cottages, some brackish water, and a trace of cultivation: but it was with difficulty that we purchased a little corn and straw for our horses.

4TH.—Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert plains, tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also the valley of Chaneral; which, although the most fertile one between Guasco and Coquimbo, is very narrow, and produces so little pasture, that we could not purchase any for our horses. At Sauce we found a very civil old gentleman superintending a copper-smelting furnace. As an especial favour, he allowed me to purchase at a high price, an armful of dirty straw, which was all the poor horses had for supper after their long day's journey. Very few smelting furnaces are now at work in any part of Chile; it is found more profitable, on account of the extreme scarcity of firewood, and of the loss from the clumsy Chilian method of reduction, to ship the ore for Swansea.

[page] 427 June, 1835. GUASCO.

The next day, we crossed some mountains to Freyrina in the valley of Guasco. During each day's ride further northward, the vegetation became more scanty; even the great candlestick cactus was here replaced by a different and much smaller species. During the winter months, both in northern Chile and in Peru, a uniform stratum of clouds hangs (at no great height) over the Pacific. From these mountains we had a very striking view of the great white and brilliant field, which sent arms up the valleys; leaving islands and promontories in the same manner, as the sea now intersects the Chonos archipelago, or the west coast of Tierra del Fuego.

We staid two days at Freyrina. In the valley of Guasco there are four small towns. At the mouth, there is the port, a spot entirely desert, and without any water in the immediate neighbourhood. Five leagues higher up stands Freyrina, a long straggling village, with decent whitewashed houses. Again, ten leagues further up, Ballenar is situated, and above this Guasco Alto, a horticultural village, famous for its dried fruit. On a clear day, the view up the valley is very fine; the straight opening is terminated at a great distance by the outline of the snowy Cordillera; on each side an infinity of crossing lines blend together in a beautiful haze. The foreground is singular, from the number of parallel and extensive terraces; and the included strip of green valley, with its willow bushes, is contrasted on both hands by the naked hills. That the surrounding country was most barren, will be readily believed, from the circumstance of a shower of rain not having fallen during the last thirteen months. The inhabitants heard with the greatest envy of the rain in Coquimbo; from the appearance of the atmosphere they had strong expectations of equally good fortune, which, a fortnight afterwards, was realized. I was at Copiapó at the time; and there the people, with equal envy, talked of the abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very dry years, perhaps with not more than one shower during the whole time, a rainy year generally follows; and this does more

[page] 428 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

harm than even the drought. The river swells, and covers with gravel and sand the narrow strip of ground, which alone is fit for cultivation. The flood also injures the irrigating ditches. Great devastation had thus been caused three years ago.

JUNE 8TH.—We rode on to Ballenar. As the rocky mountains on each hand were concealed by clouds, the terrace-like plains gave the valley an appearance similar to that of Santa Cruz, in Patagonia. I staid the following day in the town, which is as large as Coquimbo and well built. It has only lately sprung up, and entirely owes its prosperity to some silver-mines. Ballenar takes its name from Ballenagh, in Ireland, the birthplace of the family of O'Higgins, who, under the Spanish government, were presidents and generals in Chile.

10TH.—Instead of going direct to the town of Copiapó, I determined to fall into the valley higher up and nearer the Cordillera. We rode all day over an uninteresting country; I am tired of repeating the epithets barren and sterile. These words, however, as commonly used, are comparative: I have always applied them to the plains of Patagonia ; yet the vegetation there can boast of spiny bushes and some tufts of grass, which is absolute fertility to any thing that can be seen here. And here again there are not many spaces of two hundred yards square, where some little bush, cactus or lichen, may not be discovered by careful examination; and in the soil seeds lie dormant ready to spring up during the first rainy winter. In Peru real deserts occur, over wide tracts of country. In the evening we arrived at a valley, in which the bed of the streamlet was damp: following it up, we came to tolerably good water. During the night, the stream, before it is evaporated and absorbed, flows a league lower down than during the day. Sticks were plentiful for firewood, so that it was a good place of bivouac for us : but for the poor animals there was not a mouthful for them to eat.

JUNE 11TH.—We rode without stopping for twelve hours,

[page] 429 June, 1835. GUASCO TO COPIAPÓ.

till we reached an old smelting furnace, where there was water and firewood; but our horses again had nothing to eat, being shut up in an old courtyard. The line of road was hilly, and the distant views interesting from the splendid weather, and the varied colours of the bare mountains. It is a pity to see the sun shining constantly over so useless a country; such days should brighten a prospect of fields and gardens. The next day we reached the valley of Copiapó. I was heartily glad of it; for the whole journey was a continued source of anxiety; it was most disagreeable to hear, whilst eating our own supper, our horses gnawing the posts to which they were tied, and to have no means of relieving their hunger. To all appearance, however, the animals were quite fresh; and no one could have told that they had eaten nothing for the last fifty-five hours.

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Bingley, who received me very kindly at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. This estate is between twenty and thirty miles long; but it is very narrow, having generally a width of only two fields, one on each side the river. In some parts, the estate is of no width, that is to say, the land cannot be irrigated, and therefore is valueless, like the surrounding rocky desert. The small quantity of cultivated land in the whole line of valley, does not however so much depend on its inequality, or its unfitness for irrigation, as on the small supply of water. The river this year was remarkably full; in this part it reached as high as the horse's belly, and was about fifteen yards wide, and rapid. It gradually decreases in volume till reaching the sea. This latter circumstance, however, rarely happens; and once for a period of thirty years not a drop entered the Pacific. The inhabitants watch a storm over the Cordillera with great interest; as one good fall of snow provides them with water for the ensuing year. This is of infinitely more consequence than rain in the lower country. The latter, as often as it occurs, which is about once in every two or three years, is a great advantage, because the

[page] 430 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

cattle and mules can for some time afterwards find pasture in the mountains. But without snow in the Andes, desolation extends throughout the valley. It is on record, that three times nearly all the inhabitants have been obliged to emigrate to the south. This year there was plenty of water, and every man irrigated his ground as much as he chose; but it has frequently been necessary to post soldiers at the sluices, to see that each estate took only its proper allowance during so many hours in the week. The valley is said to contain 12,000 souls, but its produce is sufficient only for three months in the year; the rest of the supply being drawn from Valparaiso and the south. Before the discovery of the famous silver-mines of Chanuncillo, Copiapó was in a rapid state of decay; but now it is in a very thriving condition; and the town, which was completely overthrown by an earthquake, has been rebuilt.

The valley of Copiapó, forming a mere ribbon of green in a desert, runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is of considerable length to its origin in the Cordillera. The valleys of Guasco and Copiapó may both be considered as islands to the northward of Chile, separated by deserts instead of salt water. Beyond these, there is one other very miserable valley, called Paposo, which contains about 200 people; and then there extends the real desert of Atacama—a barrier far worse than the most turbulent ocean.

After staying a few days at Potrero Seco, I proceeded up the valley to the house of Don Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter of introduction. I found him most hospitable; indeed it is impossible to bear too strong testimony to the kindness which travellers receive in almost every part of South America. The next day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of Jolquera into the central Cordillera. On the second night the weather seemed to foretel a storm of snow or rain, and whilst lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an earthquake. The connexion between the latter phenomena and the weather has often been a disputed

[page] 431 June, 1835. EARTHQUAKES.

point: it appears to me to be one of very great interest, and not well understood. Humboldt* has remarked, "It would be difficult for a person, who has lived a long time in New Andalusia, or in the low regions of Peru, to deny that the season, the most to be dreaded from the frequency of earthquakes, is that of the beginning of the rains, which is, however, the time of thunder-storms. The atmosphere, and the state of the surface of the globe, seem to have an influence unknown to us, on the changes produced at great depths." In Northern Chile, from the extreme infrequency of rain, or even of weather foreboding rain, the probability of accidental coincidences between the two phenomena necessarily becomes very small; yet the inhabitants in that part are most firmly convinced of some connexion between the state of the atmosphere and the tremblings of the ground. I was much struck by this, when mentioning to some people at Copiapó that there had been a sharp shock at Coquimbo: they immediately cried, "How fortunate! there will be plenty of pasture there this year." To their minds an earthquake foretold rain, as surely, as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it did so happen that on the very day of the earthquake, that shower of rain fell, which I have described as in ten days producing a thin sprinkling of grass.

Mr. Scrope has put forth an ingenious idea, that the period of subterranean disturbance, where the force is just on a balance with the resistance, may be determined by a sudden decrease in atmospheric pressure, which over a wide extent of country might produce a considerable effect. According to this explanation, the earthquake comes on at the given period from that state of the weather, which is generally accompanied by rain. But there is another class of phenomena, where the state of the weather evidently

* Personal Narrative, vol. iv., p. 11. In the fourth chapter of the second volume, p. 217, Humboldt, however, appears to think that such connexion is fanciful.

[page] 432 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

appears a consequence (and not the determining cause) of the earthquake. I allude to those cases, when rain falls at a period of the year, at which it is a greater prodigy than the earthquake itself: I may instance the rain after the shock of November, 1822, at Valparaiso. A person must be somewhat habituated to these climates, to understand the excessive improbability of rain falling at such seasons, except as a consequence of some law quite unconnected with the ordinary course of the weather. In the case of great volcanic eruptions, as that of Coseguina, where torrents of rain fell at a time of year most unusual for it, and "almost unprecedented in Central America,"* it is not difficult to understand that the volumes of vapour and clouds of ashes, might have disturbed the atmospheric equilibrium. Humboldt† extends this view to the case of earthquakes; but for my part, I cannot conceive it possible, that the small quantity of aeriform fluid which at such times escapes from the fissured ground, can produce such remarkable effects.

Humboldt‡ has stated that, "on the days when the earth is shaken by violent shocks, the regularity of the horary variations of the barometer is not disturbed under the tropics. I have verified this observation at Cumana, at Lima, and at Riobamba; and it is so much the more worthy of fixing the attention of natural philosophers, as at St. Domingo, at the town of Cape François, it is asserted, that a water barometer§ was observed to sink two inches and a half immediately

* Caldcleugh. Philosoph. Transact. 1835.

† Personal Narrative, vol. ii., p. 219.

‡ Ibid., p. 217.

§ Courrejolles, in the Journal de Phys., tome liv., p. 106. This depression answers only to two lines of mercury. The barometer remained motionless at Pignerol, in April, 1808. —(Ibid., t. lxvii., p. 292.) [I may add that the earthquake alluded to by Courrejolles at p. 106, was accompanied by a "très-violent coup de vent;" which explains the fall of his water barometer. More lately, Mr. Williams, in his Narrative of Missionary Enterprise (p. 442), has given an account of a hurricane which devastated the Austral islands (S. W. of the Society Archipelago), and which at the Navigator Islands was accompanied by an earthquake.—C. D.]

[page] 433 June, 1835. METEOROLOGICAL PHENOMENA.

before the earthquake of 1770. In the same manner it is related, that, at the destruction of Oran, a druggist fled with his family, because observing accidentally a few minutes before the earthquake, the height of the mercury in his barometer, he perceived that the column sunk in an extraordinary manner. I know not whether we can give credit to this assertion." Mr. Alison, in a letter dated Valparaiso, informs me, that just before the earthquake of November, 1822, the mercury in the tube of the barometer standing in his store, sank beneath the graduated part. The tube was a bent one; nineteen inches being exposed, and the lowest graduated part corresponded to twenty-six English inches. With this third case, and more especially considering the unquestionable fact of rain so frequently following severe earthquakes, even at the most unusual seasons, I cannot conclude otherwise, than that there exists some connexion between the subterranean and atmospheric disturbances, of which we are at present quite ignorant.

Mr. Miers,† in his account of the Valparaiso earthquake, November 19th, 1822, has added one more to the list of coincidences between luminous meteors and earthquakes. He says "one of very considerable size, in apparent dimensions little less than the moon, was observed in the southward, at no very great elevation. It traversed a considerable arch of the heavens, leaving behind it a long train of light; and when it disappeared, it seemed to do so from explosion—as it leaped in the same manner as those which eject meteoric stones; but in this instance no noise was heard to attend its extinction, nor was it known that any stones fell. This occurred about half-past two o'clock in the morning after the earthquake." The earthquake itself happened at half-past ten o'clock. Mr. Miers then adds, that a friend of his "travelling on the night of the 4th of November, about a fortnight preceding the great earthquake, observed at a little past eleven o'clock in the northern sky,

* Miers's Travels, vol. i., p. 395.


[page] 434 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

a large meteor of great splendour." It is remarkable that on this same day, according to the Journal of Science,* Copiapó to the northward was visited by a severe earthquake, which on the fifth was followed by a much more violent shock. Molina† states that the first shock which announced the great earthquake at midnight on the 24th of May, 1751, "was accompanied by a ball of fire, which precipitated itself from the Andes toward the sea." It is said in the Encyclo. Metropol.— (art. Meteorology)—"At Kingston, in Jamaica, in November 1812, a large meteor appeared a few minutes previous to some alarming and tremendous concussions." Aguerros‡ states, on the authority of Ovalle, that in the morning of May 14th, 1633, Carelmapu (north of Chiloe) was overthrown by a bad earthquake, accompanied by a great noise; and that while the people were considering the cause, they saw over a high hill near the village a globe of fire, which appeared to threaten the last day. It rose and quickly proceeded so as to fall in the sea, disturbing the neighbouring waters. This was accompanied by a great tempest, darkness, and a hail-storm, in which pieces of ice fell as large as musket-balls.

I have copied the foregoing notices, because under any point of view, it is remarkable that in one quarter of the globe there should have been so many coincidences between phenomena of not very common occurrence. It must, however, be observed, that the coincidence is not precise; the

* Vol. xvii.

† Molina (Spanish edition), vol. i., p. 33. At six o'clock in the evening of the 26th of May of the same year, that is about thirty-seven hours after the Concepcion earthquake, two meteoric stones fell near Agram in Croatia. They were seen coming from the west, which is in an opposite direction to the course of the Chilian meteor. This near coincidence of time was of course only accidental.

‡ Descripcion Historial de Chiloe, p. 104. " Vieron sobre un monte o cerro alto inmediato al pueblo, un globo de fuego que parecia amenezada la ultima desgracia. Elevó se y fué luego a caer al mar, alterando inmediatamente sus aguas."

[page] 435 June, 1835. METEORS AND EARTHQUAKES.

meteors having been seen in some cases a little before, in others a little after the earthquake. From the account given in Aguerros of the waters of the sea having been disturbed, and from that by Miers of an apparent explosion, it would appear that these meteors must be the same with those that accompany the fall of meteoric stones. This perhaps alone, is an argument that they are accidental accompaniments of earthquakes; for there seems to be no rational method of explaining the origin of meteorolites on any hypothesis directly connected with our world. It is however very singular, that all their constituent parts should be of the same nature as those found on this earth,—that the metals should be chiefly those most subject to magnetic influence,—and that olivine should frequently be present; a mineral* which is exclusively confined to a certain class of volcanic products.

To return to the valley of Copiapó. Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we retraced our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I staid two days collecting fossil shells and silicified wood. The latter was present in the most extraordinary quantity: it was here that I found a cylindrical trunk, fifteen feet in circumference, projecting from the side of a hill. It was amusing to hear discussions concerning the nature of the fossil shells,—whether or not they had been thus "born by nature,"—carried on almost in the same terms as were used a century before in Europe. My geological examination of the country generally created a good deal of surprise amongst the Chilenos : it was long before they would be convinced that I was not hunting for mines. This was sometimes troublesome. I found the most

* Olivine is known to accompany basaltic in opposition to clinkstone rocks. Gmelin says, "Natron and potash characterize clinkstone; iron and magnesia, basalt." "Magnesia and iron show a great tendency to enter into combination with each other." These two latter substances are main constituents of meteoric stones, while the alkalies are generally present in very small quantities. Gmelin on Clinkstone, Edinburgh New Philosoph. Journal, April, 1829.

2 F 2

[page] 436 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

ready way of explaining my employment, was to ask them how it was that they themselves were not curious concerning earthquakes and volcanoes? — why some springs were hot and others cold?—why there were mountains in Chile, and not a hill in La Plata? These bare questions at once satisfied and silenced the greater number; some, however (like a few in England who are a century behindhand), thought that all such inquiries were useless and impious; and that it was quite sufficient that God had thus made the mountains.

An order had recently been issued that all stray dogs should be killed, and we saw many carcasses lying on the high road. A great number had lately been affected with hydrophobia, and several men had been bitten, and had died in consequence. On other occasions hydrophobia has prevailed in this valley. It is remarkable thus to find so strange and dreadful a disease appearing time after time in the same isolated spot. It has been remarked that certain villages in England are in like manner much more subject to this visitation than others. Hydrophobia must be extremely rare on the eastern side of the Andes, for Azara thought it was unknown in America; and Ulloa says the same with respect to Quito. I could not hear of a case having occurred in Van Diemen's Land, or in Australia; and Burchell says, during the five years he was at the Cape of Good Hope, he never heard of an instance of it. Webster again asserts that at the Azores, hydrophobia has never occurred; and the same observation has been made with respect to Mauritius and St. Helena.* In so strange a disease, some information might possibly be gained by considering the circumstances under which it originates in distant climates.

At night, a stranger arrived at the house of Don Benito, and asked permission to sleep there. He said he had been

* Azara's Travels, vol. i., p. 381.—Ulloa's Voyage, vol. ii., p. 28.—Burchell's Travels in Southern Africa, vol. ii., p. 524.—Webster's Description of the Azores, p. 124.—Voyage à l'Isle de France par un Officier du Roi, tome i., p. 248.—Description of St. Helena, p. 123.

[page] 437 June, 1835. COPIAPÓ.

wandering about the mountains for seventeen days, having lost his way. He started from Guasco, and being accustomed to the mountains, did not expect any difficulty in following the track to Copiapó; but he soon became involved in a labyrinth of mountains, whence he could not escape. Some of his mules had fallen over precipices, and he had been in great distress. His chief difficulty arose from not knowing where to find water in the lower country, so that he was obliged to keep bordering the central ranges.

We returned down the valley, and on the 22d reached the town of Copiapó. The lower part of the valley is broad, forming a fine plain like that of Aconcagua or Quillota. The town covers a considerable space of ground, each house possessing a garden: but it is an uncomfortable place, and the dwellings are poorly furnished. Every one seems bent on the one object of making money, and then migrating as quickly as possible. All the inhabitants are more or less directly concerned with mines; and mines and ores are the the sole subjects of conversation. Necessaries of all sorts are very dear; as the distance from the town to the port is eighteen leagues, and the land carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or six shillings; meat is nearly as dear as in England; firewood, or rather sticks, are brought on donkeys from a distance of two and three days' journey within the Cordillera; and pasturage for animals is a shilling a day: all this for South America is wonderfully exorbitant.

JUNE 26TH.—I hired a guide and eight mules to take me into the Cordillera by a different line from my last expedition. As the country was utterly desert, we took a cargo and a half of barley mixed with chopped straw. About two leagues above the town, a broad valley called the "Despoblado," or uninhabited, branches off from the one by which we had descended. Although a valley of the grandest dimensions, and leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is completely dry, excepting perhaps, for a few days during some very rainy winter. The bottom of the main valley was nearly flat, and the sides of the crumbling mountains were

[page] 438 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

but little furrowed by ravines. No considerable river could ever have poured its waters over the bed of shingle, without having excavated a channel similar to those occurring in the southern valleys. I feel little doubt that it was left in the state we now see it, by the gradually retiring sea. The dry valleys mentioned by travellers in Peru, probably owe their origin to a similar agency, and not to the running streams of any former period. I observed in one place, where a ravine (which amongst any other mountains would have been called a grand valley), joined the Despoblado, that the bed of the latter, though composed merely of sand and gravel, was higher than that of its tributary. A mere rivulet of water, in the course of an hour, would have cut a channel for itself; but it was evident that centuries had passed away, and no such rivulet had drained these great valleys. It was curious to behold this machinery (if such a term may be used) for the drainage, all, with the last trifling exception, perfect, yet without any signs of activity. Every one must have remarked how mud-banks, left by the retiring tide, imitate in miniature a country with hill and dale: and here we find a model, only on a grander scale, formed by the waves of a retiring ocean. Let thousands of years replace minutes of the tidal change, and the difference between soft mud and hard rock will barely modify the result. If a shower of rain falls on the mud-bank, when left dry, it deepens the shallow lines of excavation: and so will it be with the rain of successive centuries on the bank of rock and soil, which we call a continent.

We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side ravine, with a small well called " Agua amarga." The water deserved its name, for besides being saline it was most offensively putrid and bitter; so that we could not force ourselves to drink either tea or maté. I suppose the distance from the river of Copiapó to this spot was at least twenty-five or thirty English miles; in the whole space there was not a single drop of water, the country almost deserving the name of desert in the strictest sense. Yet about halfway we passed the old Indian ruins near Punta Gorda, which I

[page] 439 June, 1835. VALLEY OF DESPOBLADO.

have already mentioned. I noticed also in front of some of the valleys, which branch off from the Despoblado, two piles of stones placed a little distance apart, and directed so as to point up the mouth of the small valley. My companions knew nothing about them, and only answered my queries by their imperturbable "quien sabe?"

JUNE 27TH.—We set out early in the morning, and by mid-day reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a tiny rill of water, with a little vegetation, and even a few algarroba (a mimosa) trees. On this latter account a smelting furnace had formerly been built here. We found a solitary man in charge of it, whose sole employment was hunting guanacoes. At night it froze sharply; but having plenty of firewood, we kept ourselves warm.

28TH.—We continued gradually ascending as we followed the valley, which now had assumed the character of a ravine. During the day we saw several guanacoes, and the track of the closely-allied species, called the Vicuna. This latter animal is pre-eminently alpine in its habits; it seldom descends much below the limit of perpetual snow, and therefore haunts even a more lofty and sterile situation than the guanaco. The only other animal which we saw in any number was a small fox. I suppose this animal preys on the mice and other small rodents, which, as long as there is the least vegetation subsist in considerable numbers in very desert places. In Patagonia, even on the borders of the salinas, where a drop of fresh water can never be found, these little animals swarm. Next to lizards, mice appear to be able to support existence on the smallest and driest portions of the earth,—even on islets in the midst of great oceans. I believe it will be found, that several islands, which possess no other warmblooded quadruped, have small rodents peculiar to themselves.

The scenery on all sides showed desolation, brightened, and made palpable, by a clear, unclouded sky. Custom excludes the feeling of sublimity, and when this is wanting, such scenery is rather the reverse of interesting. We

[page] 440 NORTHERN CHILE. June, 1835.

bivouacked at the "primera linea," or the first line of the partition of the waters. The streams, however, on the east side do not flow to the Atlantic, but into an elevated district, in the middle of which there is a large salina, or salt lake;— thus forming a little Caspian sea at the elevation, perhaps