Skip to main content

Full text of "Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N"

See other formats


V > 

j' > 


fflHRirniOReSS OF 






Cammanlr 0f Capt. dfitj aaog, 1^3- 












E HAVE stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, 
and in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it \vas in 
consequence of a wish expressed by Captain Fitz Roy, of having 
some scientific person on board, accompanied by an offer from 
him of giving up part of his own accommodations, that I volun- 
teered 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 en- 
joyed of studying the Natural History of the different countries 
we visited, have been wholly due to Captain Fitz Roy, I hope I 
may here be permitted to repeat my expression of 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 Fitz Roy and to all the Officers of 
the Beagle * I shall ever feel most thankful for the undeviating 
kindness with which I was treated during our long voyage. 

This volume contains, in the form of a Journal, a history of 
our voyage, and a sketch of those observations in Natural 
History and Geology, which I think will possess some interest 
for the general reader. I have in this edition largely condensed 
and corrected some parts, and have added a little to others, in 
order to render the volume more fitted for popular reading ; but 
I trust that naturalists will remember, that they must refer for 
details to the larger publications, which comprise the scientific 
results of the Expedition. The Zoology of the Voj-age of 
the Beagle includes an account of the Fossil Mammalia, by 
Professor Owen ; of the Living Mammalia, by Mr. Water- 
house ; of the Birds, by Mr. Gould ; of the Fish, by the 
Rev. L. Jenyns ; and of the Reptiles, by Mr. Bell. I have 
appended to the descriptions of each species an account of its 
habits and range. These works, which I owe to the high 

* I must 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. 


talents and disinterested zeal of tlie above distinguished authors, 
could not have been undertaken, had it not been for the libe- 
rality of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, 
who, throuj^li the representation of the Right Honourable the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, iiave been pleased to grant a sum 
of one thousand pounds towards defraying part of the expenses 
of publication. 

I liave myself published separate volumes on the ' Structure 
and Distribution of Coral Reefs ;' on the ' Volcanic Islands 
visited during the Voyage of the Beagle ;' and on the ' Geology 
of South America.' The sixth volume of the ' Geological Trans- 
actions ' contains two papers of mine on the Erratic Boulders 
and Volcanic Phenomena of South America. Messrs. Water- 
house, Walker, Newman, and White, have published several 
able papers on the Insects which were collected, and I trust that 
many others will hereafter follow. The plants from the southern 
parts of America will be given by Dr. J. Hooker, in his great 
work on the Botany of the Southern Hemisphere. The Flora of 
the Galapagos Archipelago is the subject of a separate memoir 
by him, in the ' Linnean Transactions.' I'he Reverend Professor 
Henslow has published a list of the plants collected by me at 
the Keeling Islands ; and the Reverend J. M. Berkeley has de- 
scribed my cryptogamic plants. 

I shall have the pleasure of acknowledging the great assist- 
ance which I have received from several other naturalists, in the 
course of this and my other works ; but I must be herw 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 
liome, and by his correspondence directed my endeavours, — and 
who, since my return, has constantly rendered me every assist- 
ance which the kindest friend could offer. 

Down, Bromley, Kent. 
June, 1845. 



I TAKE the opportunity of a new edition of my Journal to 
correet a few errors. At page 83 I have stated that the 
majority of the shells which were embedded with tlie extinct 
mamraak at Punta Alta, in Bahia Blanca, were still living 
species. Tliese shells have since been examined (see ' Geological 
Observations in South America,' p. 83) by M. Alcide d'Orbigny, 
and he pronounces them all to be recent. M. Aug. Jiravard has 
lately described, in a Spanish work (' Observaciones Geologicas,' 
1857), this district, and he believes that the bones of the extinct 
mammals were washed out of the underlying Pampean deposit, 
and subsequently became embedded with the still existing shells ; 
but I am not convinced by his remarks. M. Bravard believes 
that the whole enormous Pampean deposit is a sub-aerial forma- 
tion, like sand-dunes : this seems to me to be an untenable 

At page 378 I give a list of the oirds inhabiting the Galapagos 
Archipelago. The progress of research has shown that some of 
these birds, which were then thought to be confined to the islands, 
occur on the American continent. Tiie eminent ornitholosrist. 
Mr. Sclater, informs me that this is the case with the Strix puncta- 
tissima and Pyrocephalus nanus ; and probably with the Otus 
galapagoensis and Zenaida galapagoensis : so that the number of 
endemic birds is reduced to twenty-three, or probably to twenty- 
one. Mr. Sclater thinks that one or two of these endemic forms 
should be ranked rather as varieties than species, which always 
seemed to me probable. 

The snake mentioned at page 381, as being, on the authority 
of M. Bibron, the same with a Chilian species, is stated by Dr. 
Gunter (Z(»olog. Soc, Jan. 24th, 1859) to be a peculiar species, 
not known to inhabit any other country. 

Feb. Is?, ISGO. 



Porto Praya — Kibeiva Grande — Atmospheric Dust with Infusoria 
— Habits of a Sea-slug and Outtle-lish — St. Paul's Rocks, non- 
volcanic — Singular Incrustations — Insects the first Colonists 
of Islands — Fernando Noronha — Bahia — Burnished Rocks — 
Habits of a Diodon — Pelagic Conferva? and Infusoria — Causes 
of discoloured Sea Page 1 


Rio de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great Evaporation 

— Slavery — Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial Planariaj — Clouds on 
the Corcovado — Heavy Rain — Musical Frogs — Phosphorescent 
Insects — Elater, springing powers of — Blue Haze — Noise made 
by a Butterfly — Entomology — Ants — Wasp killing a Spider 

— Parasitical Spider — Artifices of an Epeira — Gregarious 
Spider — Spider with an unsymmetrical Web 19 


Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and 
Bolas — Partridges — Absence of Trees — Deer — Capybara, or 
River Hog — Tucutuco — Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits — 
Tyrant Flycatcher — Mocking-bird — Carrion Hawks — Tubes 

formed by Lightning — House struck 39 




Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by the Indians — Salt Lakes — 
Flamingoes — R. Negro to R. Colorado — Sacred Tree — Pata- 
gonian Hare — Indian Families — General Rosas — Proceed to 
Baliia Blanca — Sand Dunes — Negro Lieutenant — Bahia 
Blanca — Saline Incrustations — Punta Alta — Zorillo . . Page 63 


Baliia Blanca — Geology — Numerous gigantic extinct Quadrupeds 
— Recent Extinction — Longevity of Species — Large Animals 
do not require a luxuriant Vegetation — Southern Africa — 
Siberian Fossils — Two species of Ostrich — Habits of Oven- 
bird — Armadilloes — Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard — Hyber- 
nation of Animals — Habits of Sea-Pen — Indian Wars and 
Massacres — Arrow-head — Antiquarian Relic 81 


Set out for Buenos Ay res — Rio Sauce — Sierra Ventana — Third 
Posta — Driving Horses — Bolas — Partridges and Foxes — 
Features of the Country — Long-legged Plover — Teru-tero — 
Hailstorm — Natural Enclosures in the Sierra Tapalguen — 
Flesh of Puma — Meat Diet — Guardia del Monte — Effects of 
Cattle on the Vegetation — Cardoon — Buenos Ayres — Corral 
where Cattle are slaughtered 106 


Excursion to St. Fe — Thistle-Beds — Plabits of the Bizcacha — 
Little Owl — Saline Streams — Level Plains — Mastodon — 
St. Fe — Change in Landscape — Geology — Tooth of extinct 
Horse — Relation of the Fossil and Recent Quadrupeds of North 
and South America — Effects of a great Drought — Parana — 
Habits of the Jaguar — Scissor-beak — King-fisher, PaiTot, and 
Scissor-tail — Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State of Govern- 
ment 123 



Excursion to Colouia del Sacramicnto — Value of an Estancia — 
Cattle, how counted — Singular Breed of Oxen — Perforated 
Pebbles — Shepherd Dogs — Horses broken in, Gauchos Riding 
— Character of Inhabitants — Rio Plata — Flocks of Butter- 
flies — Aeronaut Si)idcrs — Phosphorescence of the Sea — Port 
Desire — Guanaco — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia — 
Fossil gigantic Animal — Types of Organization constant — 
Change in the Zoology of America — Causes of Extinction. 

Page 142 


Santa Cruz — Expedition up the River — Indians — Immense 
Streams of Basaltic Lava — Fragments not transported by the 
River — Excavation of the Valley — Condor, habits of — Cordil- 
lera — Erratic Boulders of great size — Indian Relics — Return 
to the Ship — Falkland Islands — Wild Horses, Cattle, Rabbits 
— Wolf-like Fox — Fire made of Bones — Manner of hunting 
Wild Cattle — Geology — Streams of Stones — Scenes of Vio- 
lence — Penguin — Geese — Eggs of Doris — Compound Ani- 
mals 177 


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival — Good Success Bay — An Account 
of the Fuegians on board — Interview with the Savages — 
Scenery of the Forests — Cape Horn — Wig\vam Cove — Miser- 
able Condition of the Savages — Famines — Cannibals — Matri- 
cide — Religious Feelings — Great Gale — Beagle Channel — 
Ponsonby Sound — Build Wigwams and settle the Fuegians — 
Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel — Glaciers — Return to the 
Ship — Second Visit in the Ship to the Settlement — Equality 

of Condition amongst the Natives 204 

b 2 



Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Ascent of Mount Tarn — 
Forests — Edible Functus — Zoology — Great Sea-weed — Leave 
Tierra del Fuego — Climate — Fruit-Trees and Productions of 
the Southern Coasts — Height of Snow-line on the Cordillera — 
Descent of Glaciers to the Sea — Icebergs formed — Transportal 
of Boidders — Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands 
— Preservation of Frozen Carcases — Recapitulation . . Page 231 


Valparaiso — Excursion to the Foot of the Andes — Structure of 
the Land — Ascend the 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 the Puma — El Turco 
and Tapacolo — Humming-birds 252 


Chiloe — General Aspect — Boat Excursion — Native Indians — 
Castro — Tame Fox — Ascend San Pedro — Chonos Archi- 
pelago — Peninsula of Tres Montes — Granitic Range — Boat- 
wrecked Sailors — Low's Harbour — ^^Wild Potato — Formation 
of Peat — Myojiotamus, Otter and Mice — Cheucau and Barking- 
bird — Opetiorhynchus — Singular Character of Ornithology — 
Petrels 273 


San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruiition, contemporaneously with 
Aconcagua and Coscguina — Ride to Cucao — Impenetrable 
Foi'ests — Valdivia — Indians — Earthquake — Concepcion — 
Great Earthqunke — Rocks fissured — Appearance of the former 
Towns — The Sea black and boiling — Direction of the Vibra- 
tions—Stones twisted round — Great Wave — Permanent Ele- 
vation of the Land — Area of Volcanic Phenomena — The con- 
nexion between the Elcvatory and Eruptive Forces — Cause of 
Earthquakes — Slow Elevation of Mnnntain-cliains .. .. 201 



Valparaiso — Povtillo Pass — Saoiacity of Mules — Mountain-Tor- 
rents — Mines, how discoTOrerl — Proofs of tlic jrradnal Elevation 
of the Cordillera — Effect of Snow on Pocks — Gcolop:ical Ptrnc- 
tnre of the two main Pano;cs — Their distinct Ori2;in and T^p- 
heaval — Great Snhsidence — Ped Snow — AVinds — Pinnacles 
of Snow — Dry and clear Atmosphere — Electricity — Pampas 

— Zooloa:y of the opposite sides of the Andes — Locusts — Great 
Pnsrs — Mendoza — TJspallata Pass — Silicificd Trees bTiried as 
they £rrew — Tncas Pridse — Badness of the Passes exafrperated — 
Cnpihre — Casnchas — A^alparaiso Pape 31o 


Coast-road to Coqnimlio — Great Loads carried hy the Miners — 

— Coqnimho — Earthquake — Step-formed Terraces — Absence 
of recent Deposits — Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary Forma- 
tions — Excursion up the Vallev — Poad to Guasco — Deserts — 
Vallev of Copiapo — Pain and Earthquakes — Hydrophohia — 
The Despohlado — Indian Puins — Prohahle change of Climate 

— Piver-Tied arched hy an — Cold Gales of "Wind — 
Noises from a Hill — Tquique — Salt Alluvium — Nitrate of 
Soda — Lima — Unhealthy Country — Puins of Callao, over- 
thrown hy an Earthquake — Pecent Subsidence — Elevated 
Shells on Snn T^orenzo, their decomposition — Plain with em- 
bedded Shells and fraorments of Pottery — Antiquity of the Indian 
Pace ' ' .. .. 337 


Galapasros Archipelago- — The whole p;roup volcanic — Number of 
Craters — Leafless Pushes — Colony at Charles Island — .lames 
Island — Salt-lake in Crater — Natural History of the Group — 
Ornithology, curious Finches — Peptiles — Great Tortoises, 
habits of — Marine Lizard, feeds on Sea-weed — Terrestrial 
Lizard, burrowine; habits, herbivorous — Importance of Peptiles 
in the Archipelapo — Fish, Shells, Insects — Potany — American 
Type of OrEcanisation — Differences in the S]iecies or Pares on 
different Islands^ Tameness of the Birds — Fear of Man, an 
acquired Instinct 372 



Pass through the Low Archipelago — Tahiti — Aspect — Vegeta- 
tion on the Mountains — View of Eimeo — Excursion into the 
Interior — Profound Eavines — Succession of Water-falls — 
Number of wild useful Plants — Temperance of the Inha- 
bitants — Their Moral State — Parliament convened — New 
Zealand — Bay of Islands — Hippahs — Excursion toWaimate 

— Missionary Establishment — English Weeds now run wild 

— Waiomio — Funeral of a New Zealand Woman — Sail for 
Australia Pa"-e 402 


Sydney — Excursion to Bathurst — Aspect of the Woods — Party 
of Natives — Gradual Extinction of the Aborigines — Infection 
generated by associated men in health — Blue Mountains — 
View of the grand gulf-like Valleys — Their Origin and Formation 
— Bathurst, general civility of the lower orders — State of 
Society — Van Diemen's Land — Hobart Town — Aborigines all 
banished — Mount AVellington — King George's Sound — Cheer- 
less aspect of the Country — Bald-head, calcareous casts of 
Branches of Trees — Party of Natives — Leave Australia 431 


Keeling Island — Singular appearance — Scanty Flora — Transport 
of Seeds — Birds and Insects — Ebbing and flowing Wells — 
Fields of dead Coral — Stones transported in the roots of trees 

— Great Crab — Stinging Corals — Coral-eating Fish — Coral 
Formations — Lagoon Islands, or Atolls — Depth at which reef- 
building Corals can live — Vast Areas interspersed with low 
Coral Islands — Subsidence of their Foundations — Barrier Reefs 

— Fringing Reefs — Conversion of Fringing Reefs into Barrier 
Reefs, and into Atolls — Evidence of Changes in Level — 
Breaches in Barrier Reefs — Maldiva Atolls ; their peculiar 
Structure — Dead and submerged Reefs — Areas of Subsidence 
and Elevation — Distribution of Volcanos — Subsidence slow, 
and vast in amount 452 



Mauritius, beautiful apiwarance of — Great crateriform Ring of 
Mountains — Hindoos — St. Helena — History of the Changeli in 
the Vegetation — Cause of the Extinction of Land Shells — 
Ascension — Variation in the imported Rats — Volcanic Bombs 
— Beds of Infusoria — Bahia — Brazil — Splendour of Tropical 
Scenery — Pernambuco — Singular Reef— Slavery — Return 
to England — Retrosix;ct on our Voyage Page 483 

T^i^'^^ 507 



Porto Praja — "Rlbeira Grande — Atmospheric Dust -with Infusoria— Habits 
of a Sea-slug and Cuttle-fish — St. Paul's Rocks, non-volcanic — Singular 
Incrustations— Insects the first Colonists of Islands — Fernando Noronha 
— Bahia — Burnished Kocks — Habits of a Diodon — Pelagic Confervse and 
Infusoria — Causes of discoloured Sea, 


After having been twice driven back by heavy south-western 
gales, Her Majesty's ship Beagle, a ten-gun brig, under the com- 
mand of Captain Fitz Roy, R.N., sailed from Devonport on the 
27th of December, 1831. The object of the expedition was to 
complete the survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, com- 
menced under Captain King in 1826 to 1830 — to survey the 
shores of Chile, Peru, and of some islands in the Pacific — and 
to carry a chain of chronometrical measurements round the 
World. On the 6th of January we reached TenerifFe, but were 
prevented landing, by fears of our bringing the cholera : the 
next morning w^e saw the sun rise behind the rugged outline ol 
the Grand Canary island, and suddenly illumine the Peak of 
Tenerifle, whilst the lower parts were veiled in fleecy clouds. 
^ This was the first of many delightful days never to be forgotten. 
On the 16th of January, 1832, we anchored at Porto Praya, in 
St. Jago, the chief island of the Cape de Verd archipelago. 

The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed from the sea, 
wears a desolate aspect. The volcanic fires of a past age, and 
the scorching heat of a tropical sun, have in most places rendered 
the soil 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 sea, and who has just walked, lor the first time, in a 
grove of cocoa-nut trees, can be a judge of anything 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 aspect 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 vegeta- 
tion springs out of every crevice. This soon withers ; and upon 
such naturally formed hay the animals live. It had not now 
rained for an entire year. "When the island was discovered, the 
immediate neighbourhood of Porto Praya was clothed with trees,* 
the reckless destruction of which has caused here, as at St. Helena, 
and at some of the Canary islands, almost entire sterility. The 
broad, flat-bottomed valleys, many of which serve during a few 
(lays only in the season as watercourses, are clothed with 
thickets of leafless bushes. Few living creatures inhabit these 
valleys. The commonest bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo lagoensis), 
which tamely sits on the branches of the castor-oil plant, and 
thence darts on grasshoppers and lizards. It is brightly coloui-ed, 
but not so beautiful as the European species : in its flight, man- 
ners, and place of habitation, which is generally in the driest 
valley, there is also a wide difterence. 

One day, two of the oflicers and myself rode to Ribeira Grande, 
a village a few miles eastward of Porto Praya. Until we 
reached the valley of St. Martin, the country presented its usual 
tlull brown appearance ; but here, a veiy small rill of water pro- 
duces a most refreshing margin of luxuriant vegetation. In the 
course of an hour we arrived at Ribeira Grande, and were sur- 
prised at the sight of a large ruined fort and cathedral. This 
little town, before its harbour was filled up, was the principal 

* I state this on the authority of Dr. E. Div'ffenbach, in his German 
translation of tiie first edition of this Journal. 


place in the island : it now presents a melancholy, but very pic- 
turesque appearance. Having; procured a black Padre for a 
guide, and a Spaniard who had served in the Peninsular war as 
an iiiterprtter, ^e visited a collection of buildings, of which an 
ancient clnircli formed the principal part. It is liere the gover- 
nors and captain-generals of the islands have been buried. Some 
of the tombstones recorded dates of the sixteentli centuiy.* 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 Venda to eat our dinners. A considerable 
number of men, women, and children, all as black as jet, col- 
lected to watch us. Our companioi«s were extremely merry ; 
and everything we said or did Mas 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 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 wliich we crossed, 
a few stunted acacias were growing; their tops had been bent 
by the steady trade-wind, in a singular manner — some of them 
even at right angles to their trunks. The direction of the 
branches was exactly N.E. by N., and S.W. by S., and 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 glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a pretty 
village, with a small stream ; and everything appeared to prosper 
well, excepting, indeed, that which ought to do so most— iis 

* The Cape de Verd Islands were discovered in 1449. There was a 
tombstone of a bishop with the date of 1571 ; and a crest of a hand and 
dagger, dated 1497. 

B 2 


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, 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 unex- 
pected, from the prevalent gloomy character of the rest of the 
island. The village is situated at tlie bottom of a valley, bounded 
by lofty and jagged walls of stratified lava. Tiie 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 excellent taste ; their black skins 
and snow-white linen being set off by 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 vintems, which were received 
with screams of laughter, and we left them redoubling the noise 
of their song. 

One morning the view was singularly clear ; the distant moun- 
tains 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 saturate(' 
with moisture. The fact, however, turned out quite the con- 
trary. 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. This unusual degree 
of atmosplieric dryness was accompanied by contiimal flashes of 
lightning. Is it not an uncommon case, thus to find a re- 
markable degree of aerial transparency with such a state of 
weather ? 

Generally the atmosphere is hazy ; and this is caused by the 
falling of impalpably fine dust, which was found to have slightly 


injured the astronomical instruments. The morning before we 
anchored at Porto Praya, I collected a little packet of this 
brown-coloured fine dust, which appeared to have been filtered 
from the wind by the gauze of the vane at the mast-head. Mr. 
Lyell has also given me four packets of dust which fell on a 
vessel a few hundred miles nortliward of these islands. Professor 
Ehrenberg* finds that this dust consists in great part of infusoria 
with siliceous shields, and of the siliceous tissue of plants. In 
five little packets which I sent him, he has ascertained no less 
than sixty-seven different organic forms ! The infusoria, with 
the exception of two marine species, are all inhabitants of fresh- 
water. I have found no less than fifteen difl^erent accounts of 
dust having fiillen on vessels when far out in the Atlantic. From 
the direction of the wind whenever it has fallen, and from its 
having always fallen during those months when the harmattan 
is known to raise clouds of dust high into the atmosphere, we 
may feel sure that it all comes from Africa. It is, however, a 
very singular flict, that, although Professor Ehrenberg knows 
many species of infusoria peculiar to Africa, he finds none of 
these in tlie dust which I sent him : on the other hand, he finds 
in it two species which hitherto he knows as living only in South 
America. The dust falls in such quantities as to dirty every- 
thing on board, and to hurt people's eyes; vessels even have run 
on shore owing to the obscurity of tlie atmosphere. It has often 
fallen on ships when several hundred, and even more than a 
thousand miles from the coast of Africa, and at points sixteen 
hundred miles distant in a north and south direction. In some 
dust which was collected on a vessel three hundred miles from 
the land, I Avas much surprised to find particles of stone above 
the thousandth of an inch square, mixed with finer matter. After 
this fact one need not be surprised at the diffusion of the far 
lighter and smaller sporules of cryptogamic plants. 

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 

* I must take this opportunity of acknowledging the great kindness with 
which this illustrious naturalist has examined many of my specimens. I 
liave sent (June, 1845) a full account of the falling of this dust to the Geolo- 
gical Society. 


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 em- 
bedded, most or all of which 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, which in parts has been converted into a crj's- 
talline limestone, and in other parts into a compact spotted stone. 
AVhere the lime has been caught up by the scoriaceous fragments 
of the lower surface of the stream, it is 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 have originally proceeded. 
Within historical times, no signs of volcanic activity have, I be- 
lieve, been manifested in any part of St. Jago. Even the form 
of a crater can but rarely be discovered on the summits of the 
many red cindery hills ; yet the more recent streams can be dis- 
tinguished on the coast, forming lines of clifi's of less height, but 
stretching out in advance of those belonging to an older series : 
the height of the cliffs thus affording a rude measure of the age 
of the streams. 

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. 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 branchiae or 
lungs. It feeds on the delicate sea-weeds which grow among 
the stones in muddy and shallow water ; and I found in its sto- 
mach several small pebbles, as in the gizzard of a bird. 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 tlie 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, charaeleon-like power 
of changing their colour. They appear to vary their tints accord- 
ing 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 care- 
fully, was a French grey, with numerous minute spots of bright 
j'ellow: the former of these varied in intensity ; the latter 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, are said to be produced 
by the alternate expansion and contraction of minute vesicles 
containing variously coloured fluids.^ 

Tliis cuttle-fish displayed its chameleon-like power both during 
the act of swimming and whilst remaining stationary at the bot- 
tom. 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 ; some- 
times 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 
could not think what it was, but afterwards I found out that it was 

* So named according to .Patrick Symes's nomenclature. 
•j- See Encyclop. of Auat. and Physiol., article Cephalopoda. 

ST. PAULS ROCKS. [chap. i. 

this 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 tliat it could cer* 
tainly 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 sliglitly phosphorescent in the dark. 

St. Paul's Rocks. — In crossing the Atlantic we hove-to, 
during the morning of February 16th, close to the island of St. 
Paul's. 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 
rnineralogical constitution is not simple ; in some parts the rock 
is of a cherty, in others of a felspathic nature, including thin 
veins of serpentine. It is a remarkable fact, that all the many 
small islands, lying far from any continent, in the Pacific, Indian, 
and Atlantic Oceans, with the exception of the Seychelles and 
this little point of rock, are, I believe, composed either of coral 
or of erupted matter. The volcanic nature of these oceanic 
islands is evidently an extension of that law, and the effect of 
those same causes, whether chemical or mechanical, from whicli 
it results that a vast majority of the volcanoes now in action 
stand either near sea-coasts or as islands in the midst of the sea. 

The rocks of St. Paul appear from a distance of a brilliantly 
white colour. This is partly owing to the dung of a vast multi- 
tude of seafowl, and partly to a coating of a hard glossy sub- 
stance with a pearly lustre, which is intimately united to the sur- 
face 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. It contains much animal 
matter, and its origin, no doubt, is due to the action of tlie rain 
or spray on the birds' dung. Below some small masses of guano 
at Ascension, and on the Abrolhos Islets, I found certain stalac- 
titic branching bodies, formed apparently in the same manner as 


the thin white coating on these rocks. The branching bodies po 
closely resembled in general appearance certain nulliporae (a 
iamilj' of hard calcareous sea-plants), that in lately looking hastily 
over my collection I did not perceive the difference. The glo- 
bular extremities of the branches are of a pearly texture, like the 
enamel of teeth, but so hard as just to scratch plate -glass. I 
may here mention, that on a part of the coast of Ascension, 
where there is a vast accumulation of shelly sand, an incrustation 
is deposited on the tidal rocks, by the water of the sea, resembling, 
as represented in the woodcut, certain cryptogamic plants (Mar- 
chantiae) often seen on damp walls. The surface of the fronds is 

beautifully glossy ; and those parts formed where fully exposed 
to the light, are of a jet black colour, but those shaded under 
ledges are only grey. I have shown specimens of this incrusta- 
tion to several geologists, and they all thought that they were of 
volcanic or igneous origin ! In its hardness and translvicency — 
in its polish, equal to that of the finest oliva-shell — in the bad 
smell given out, and loss of colour under the blowpipe — it shows 
a close similarity with living sea-shells. Moreover in sea-shells, 
it is known that the parts habitually covered and shaded by the 
mantle of the animal, are of a paler colour than those fully ex- 
posed to the light, just as is the case with this incrustation. 
When we remember that lime, either as a phosphate or carbonate, 
enters into the composition of the hard parts, such as bones and 

10 ST. PAUL'S ROCKS. [chap. i. 

shells, of all living animals, it is an interesting physiological 
fact * to find substances harder than the enamel of teeth, and 
coloured surfaces as well polished as those of a fresh shell, re- 
formed through inorganic means from dead organic matter — 
mocking, also, in shape some of the lower vegetable productions. 
We found on St. Paul's only two kinds of birds — tiie 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 visitors, 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 with seaweed. 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 parent birds. Sir "W". Symonds, 
one of the few persons who have landed here, informs me that 
he saw the crabs dragging even the young birds out of their 
nests, and devouring them. Not a single plant, not even a 
lichen, grows on this islet ; yet it is inhabited by several insects 
and spiders. The following list completes, I believe, the ter- 
restrial fauna : a fly (Oliersia) living on the booby, and a tick 
which must have come here as a parasite on the birds ; a small 
brown moth, belonging to a genus that feeds on feathers ; a 
beetle (Quedius) and a woodlouse from beneath the dung ; and 
lastly, numerous spiders, which I suppose prey on these small 
attendants and scavengers of the waterfowl. The often repeated 
description of the stately palm and other noble tropical plants, 
then birds, and lastly man, taking possession of the coral islets 
as soon as formed, in the Pacific, is probably not quite correct ; 
I fear it destroys the poetry of this story, that feather and dirt- 

* Mr. Horner and Sir David Brewster have described (Philosophical 
Transactions, 1836, p. 6.5) a singular " artificial substance resembling shell." 
It is deposited in fine, transparent, highly polished, brown-coloured laminae, 
possessing peculiar optical properties, on the inside of a vessel, in which 
cloth, first prepared with glue and then with lime, is made to revolve rapidlj- 
in water. It is much softer, more transparent, and contains more animal 
matter, than the natural incrustation at Ascension ; but we here again see 
the strong tendency which carbonate of lime and animal matter evince to 
form a solid substance allied to shell. 


feedins^ and parasitic insects and spiders should be tlie first in- 
habitants of newly formed oceanic land. 

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

Fernando Noroniia, Feb. 20fh. — As far as I was enabled 
to observe, during the few hours we stayed at this place, the con- 
stitution of tlie 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 columns. On viewing one of these iso- 
lated masses, at first one is inclined to believe that it has been 
suddenly pushed up in a semi-fluid state. At St. Helena, how- 
ever, I ascertained that some pinnacles, of a nearly similar 
figure and constitution, had been formed by the injection of 
melted rock into yielding strata, which thus had formed the 
moulds for gigantic obelisks. The whole island is co- 
vered with wood ; but from the dryness of the climate there 
is no appearance of luxuriance. Half-way up the mountain, 
some great masses of the columnar rock, shaded by laurel-like 
trees, and ornamented by others covered with fine pink flowers 
but without a single leaf, gave a pleasing effect to the nearer 
parts of the sceneiy. 

Bahia, or San Salvador. Brazil, JFeb. 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 
wandered by himself in a Brazilian forest. The elegance of the 
grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, the beauty of the 
flowers, the glossy green of the foliage, but above all the ge- 
noral luxuriance of the vegetation, filled me with admiration. 
A most paradoxical mixture of sound and silence perA'ades the 

12 BAHI A— BRAZIL. [chap. i. 

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 can ever hope to experience again. 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 peneti'ated 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 that 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 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. 

Along the whole coast of Brazil, for a length of at least 2000 
miles, and certainly for a considerable space inland, wherever 
solid rock occurs, it belongs to a granitic formation. The cir- 
cumstance of this enormous area being constituted of materials 
which most geologists believe to have been crystallized when 
heated 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 waslied by the floods, 
and in those parts alone where the stream is rapid ; or, as the 
* Pers. Narr., vol. v. pt. i. p. 18. 

1832.1 HABITS OF A DIODON. 13 

Indians say, " the rocks are black wliere tlie waters are m liite." 
Here tlie coating is of a rich brown instead of a black colour, 
and seems to be composed of ferruginous matter alone. Hand 
sjjecimens fail to give a just idea of these brown burnished 
stones Avhicii glitter in the sun's rays. They occur only within 
the limits of the tidal waves ; and as the rivulet slowly trickles 
down, the surf must supply the polishing power of the cataracts 
in tlie great rivers. In like manner, the rise and fall of the tide 
probably answer to the periodical inundations ; and thus the 
same eti'ects are produced under apparently difierent but really 
similar circumstances. The 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 the same. 

One day I was amused by watching tlie habits of the Diodon 
antennatus, which was caught swimming near the shore. This 
fish, with its flabby skin, 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 
is absorbed by the mouth, and perhaps likewise by the branchial 
orifices. 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 exter- 
nally visible : but the water enters in a gentle stream through 
the mouth, which is kept wide open and motionless ; tliis latter 
action must, therefore, depend on suction. The skin about the 
abdomen is much looser than that on 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 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 are out of water, 
but a stream drawn in by the mouth constantly flows through 

The fish, having remained in this distended state for a short 

1-1 BAHI A— BRAZIL. [chai>. t. 

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, tlierefore, 
probable that this fluid is taken in partly for the sake of regu- 
lating its specific gravity. This Diodon possessed several means 
of defence. It could give a severe bite, and covild eject water 
from its mouth to some distance, at the same time making a curious 
noise by the movement of its jaws. By the inflation of its body, 
the papillae, with which the skin is covered, become erect and 
pointed. But the most curious circumstance is, that it secretes 
from the skin of its belly, when handled, a most beautiful car- 
mine-red fibrous matter, which stains ivory and paper in so 
permanent a manner, that the tint is retained with all its bright- 
ness to the present day : I am quite ignorant of the nature and 
use of this secretion. I have heard from Dr. Allan of Forres, 
that he has frequently found a Diodon, floating alive and dis- 
tended, in the stomach of the shark ; and that on several occa- 
sions he has known it eat its way, not only through the coats of 
the stomach, but through the sides of the monster, which has thus 
been killed. Who would ever have imagined that a little soft 
fish could have destroyed the great and savage shark ? 

March \^th. — We sailed from Bahia. A few days afterwards, 
when not far distant from the Abrolhos Islets, my attention was 
called to a reddish-brown 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. These 
are miiuite cylindrical confervge, in bundles or rafts of from 
twenty to sixty in each. Mr. Berkeley informs me that they are 
the same species (Trichodesmium erythrseum) with that found over 
large spaces in the Red Sea, and whence its name of Red Sea is de- 
rived.* Their numbers must be infinite : 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 water, at least two 
and a half miles long. In almost every long voyage some 
account is given of these confervse. They appear especially com- 
mon in the sea near Australia ; and off Cape Leeuwin I found an 

* M, Montagne, in Comptes Eendus, &c., Juillet, 1844; and Annal. dcs 
Scienc. Nat., Dec. 1844. 


allied, but smaller and apparently different species. Captain 
Cook, in his third voyage, remarks, that the sailors gave to this 
appearance the name of sea-sawdust. 

Near Keeling Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I observed many 
little masses of confervas a few inches square, consisting of long 
cylindrical threads of excessive thiimess, so as to be barely visible 
to the naked eye, mingled with other rather larger bodies, finely 
conical at both ends. Two of these 

are shown in the woodcut united ^^^^.^r^. ''f ^^^,.^,. „„^„ - . 
together. They vary in length from ^^''^- ^^M m'mm n r' ij ^ 

•04 to "06, and even to -OS of an 

inch in length ; and in diameter from -006 to -008 of a inch. 
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 deli- 
cate, colourless sac, composed of a pulpy substance, which lines 
the exterior case, but does not extend within the extreme conical 
points. In some specimens, small but perfect spheres of brownisii 
granular matter supplied the places 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 for- 
mation 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 above, cone beside cone, at 
that end where the septum occurs. 

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, exactly like that of 
a swollen river ; and again, a degree south of Valparaiso, when 
fifty miles from the land, the same appearance was still more 
extensive. Some of the water placed in a glass was of a pale 
reddish tint ; and, examined under a microscope, was seen lo 
swarm with minute animalcula darting about, and often explod- 

16 DISCOLOURED SEA. [chap. i. 

ing. Their shape is oval, and contracted in the middle by a 
ring of vibrating curved ciliae. 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. Some- 
times both ends burst at once, sometimes only one, and a quan- 
tity of coarse, brownish, granular matter was ejected. 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 cilias, 
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 drop of water which I could re- 
move 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 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, cormo- 

* ]\I. Lesson (Voyage de la Coquille, torn, 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 di.scoloured waters of the sea 
(vol. ii. p. 239). To the references given by Peron may be added, Hum- 
boldt's Pers. Narr., vol. vi. p. 804 ; Flinders' Voyage, vol. i. p. 92 ; Labil- 
lardiere, vol. i. p. 287; Ulloa's Voyage; Voyage of the Astrolabe and of 
the Coquille ; Captain King's Survey of Australia, &c. 


rants, and immense herds of great unwieldy seals derive, on some 
parts of the coast, their chief sustenance from these swinnning- 
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 Archipe- 
lago of the Galapagos, the ship sailed through three strips of 
a dark yellowish, or mud-like water ; these strips were some 
miles long, but only a few yards wide, and they were separated 
from the surrounding water by a sinuous yet distinct margin. 
The colour wiis 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 direc- 
tion 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 
water which displays iridescent colours I saw a considerable 
tract of the ocean thus covered ou the coast of Brazil ; the sea- 
men attributed it to the putrefyina: carcjiss of some whale, which 
probably was floating ai no great distance. I do not here men- 
tion the minute gelatinous particles, hereafter to be referred to, 
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 remarkable : first, how do the various bodies which fonn 
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 confervee, nor is it 
probable among the infusoria. Secondly, what causes the length 
and narrowness of the bands ? The appearance so much re- 
sembles 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 cur- 
rents of the air or sea. Under this supposition we must believe 
that the various organized bodies are produced in certain favour- 


18 DISCOLOURED SEA. [chap. i. 

able places, and are thence removed by the set of either wind or 
water. I confess, however, there is a very great difficulty in 
imagining any one spot to be the birthplace of the millions of 
millions of animalcula and confervse : for whence come the 
germs at such points? — the parent bodies having been distri- 
buted 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 Arc- 
tic Sea. 

1832.] EIO DE JANEIRO. 10 


Kio (le Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great Evaporation — Slavery 
— Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial Planarirc — Clouds on the Corcovado — Heavy 
IJain — IVIusical Frogs — Phosphorescent Insects — Elater, springhig powers 
of — Blue Haze — Noise made by a Butterfly — Entomology — Ants — Wasp 
killing a Spider — Parasitical Spider — Artifices of an Epeira — Gregarious 
Spider — Spider -with an unsymmetrical Web. 


April 4th to Juhj 6th, 1832. — A few days after our arrival I 
became acquainted Avith 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. I gladly accepted his 
kind offer of allowing me to accompany him. 

April Sth. — Our party amounted to seven. The first stage 
was verj^ Interesting. The day was powerfully hot, and as we 
passed througli 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 Itha- 
caia ; this ?mall 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 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, con- 


20 RIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

trived 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 moun- 
tain. 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. Tlie 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 

April 9th. — We left our miserable sleeping-place before sun- 
rise. 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 succu- 
lent 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 orchideae 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 venda* here was a very good one, and 
I have the pleasant, but rare remembrance, of an excellent din- 
ner, I will be grateful and presently describe 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 venda stands in a courtyard, 
where the horses are fed. On first arriving, it was our custoni 
* Venda, the Portuguese name for an inu. 

1832.] LIVING AT A VENDA. 21 

to uiitiaiklle tlic horses and give tliem their Indian corn ; then, 
Avith a low bow, to ask tiie senh6r 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 tlianked providence 
for having guided us to so good a man. The conversation pro- 
ceeding, 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 hajjpened, that we were obliged to kill, witli 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 unsatis- 
factory 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 ; tlie 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 eveiy comfort. At Campos Novos, 
however, we fared sumptuously ; having rice and fowls, biscuit, 
wine, and spirits, for dinner ; coffee in the evenings and fish with 
coffee for breakfast. All this, with good food for the horseSj 
only cost 2s. 6d. per head. Yet the iiost of this venda, 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 eaten it " 

Leaving Mandetiba, we continued to pass through an intricate 
wilderness of lakes ; in some of which were fresh, in otliers salt 
water shells. Of the former kind, I found a Limnosa in great 
numbers in a lake, into which, the inhabitants assured me that 
the sea enters once a year, and sometimes oftener, and makes 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 tliat he found in the neighbourhood of Rio^ 
* Aniiales des Sciences Naturelles for 1833. 

22 RIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

shells of the marine genera solen and mytilus, and fresh water 
ampullarise, 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 hydro- 
philus, very similar to a water-beetle 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 with 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. Travel- 
ling onwards we passed through tracts of pasturage, much in- 
jured by the enormous conical ants' nests, which were nearly 
twelve feet high. They gave to the plain exactly the appear- 
ance of the mud volcanos 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 ; they appeared also to recover from any 
injury much sooner than those of our English breed. The Vam- 
pire bat is often the cause of much trouble, by biting the horses 
on their withers. The injur}^ 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 (Desmodus d'orbignyi, Wat.) was actually 
caught on a horse's back. We were bivouacking late one even- 
ing 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 

April 1 Zth. — After three days' travelling we arrived at Socego, 
the estate of Senhur 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 tlie sitting-room gilded chairs 
and sofas were oddly contrasted with the whitewashed vails, 
thatched roof, and windows without glass. The house, togetlier 
with tlie granaries, the stables, and workshops for the blacks, 
who had been taught various trades, formed a rude kind of quad- 
rangle ; in the centre of which a large pile of coftee 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 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 
juice of this most nutritious plant is highly poisonous. A few 
years ago a cow died at this Fazenda, in consequence of having 
drunk some of it. Senhor Figuireda told me that he had planted, 
the year before, one bag of feijao or beans, and three of rice ; 
the former of which produced eighty, and the latter three hun- 
dred 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. Dur- 
ing 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 banishedj there was something exceed- 
ingly fascinating in this simple and patriarchal style of living : 
it was such a perfect retirement and independence from 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 tlie rocks and woods, but to 
nothing else. One morning I walked out an hour before day- 

24 RIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

light to admire tlie 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. 

April Wth. — Leaving Socego, we rode to another estate on 
the Rio Macae, 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 eveiy acre was capable of 
yielding all the various rich productions of a tropical land. 
Considering the enormous area of Brazil, the proportion of cul- 
tivated 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 extraordi- 
nary 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. 

AYhile staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an eye- 
witness to one of those atrocious acts which can only take place 
m a slave country. Owing to a quarrel and a law-suit, the 
owner was on the point of taking all the women and children 
from the male slaves, and selling them separately at the public 
auction at Rio. Interest, and not any feeling of compassion, 


prevented tliis act. Indeed, I do not believe tlie inliunianily of 
separating thirty families, wlio had lived together for many years, 
even occurred to tlie owner. Yet I will pledge myself, tliat in 
himianity and good feeling he was superior to the conniion 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 anec- 
dote, which at the time struck me more forcibly than any story 
of cruelty. I was crossing a ferry with a negro, who was un- 
commonly 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 degrada- 
tion lower than the slavery of the most helpless animal. 

April 18</<. — In returning we spent two days at Socego, 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 
70 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 
w'ere ornamented by the Cabbage Palm — one of the most beau- 
tiful 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 hanging 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 tlie ferns and mimosee. The latter, in 
some parts, covered the surface with a brushwood only a few inches 
high. In walking across these thick beds of mimoses, a broad track 

26 RIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

was marked by the change of shade, produced by the drooping of 
their sensitive petioles. It is easj^ 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 \9th. — Leaving Socego, 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 
23rd we arrived at Rio, having finished our pleasant little ex- 

During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in a cottage 
at Botofogo Bay. It was impossible to wish for anything 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 
existence of a division of the genus Planaria, whicli 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, even in the di'ier parts of the forest, 

1832. J PLANARIiE. 27 

beneath logs of rotten wood, on wliich I believe they feed. In 
general form they resemble little slugs, but are very much nar- 
rower in proportion, and several of tlie species are beautifully 
coloured with longitudinal stripes. Their structure is very 
simple : near the middle of the under or crawling surface there 
are two small transverse slits, from the anterior one of which a 
Amnel-shaped and highly irritable mouth can be protruded. For 
some time after the rest of tlie animal was completely dead from 
the effects of salt water or any other cause, this oi'gan still re- 
tained its vitality. 

I found no less than twelve different species of terrestrial Pla- 
narice in different parts of the southern hemisphere.* Some 
specimens which I obtained at Van Diemen's Land, I kept alive 
for nearly two months, feeding them on rotten wood. 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 con- 
tained 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 to- 
wards its posterior end, a clear space was formed in the pa- 
renchymatous mass, in which a rudimentary cup-shaped mouth 
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 ex- 
periment, 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 Planariae ; as 
soon as 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. 

I first visited the forest in which these Planarise were found, 
in company with an old Portuguese priest who took me out to 
hunt with him. The sport consisted in turning into the cover 

* I have described and named these species in the ' Annals of Nat. Hist.,' 
vol. xiv. p. 241. 

28 RIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

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 dex- 
terous 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 ani- 
mals 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 necessaiy 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 Yagouaroundi cat. 

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Boto- 
fogo. The house in which I lived was seated close beneatli the 
well-known mountain of the Corcovado. It has been remarked, 
Avith 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 

I was often interested by watching the clouds, which, rolling 
in from seaward, formed a bank just beneath tlie highest point 
of the Corcovado. This mountain, like most others, when thus 
partly veiled, appeared to rise to a far prouder elevation tlian its 
real height of 2300 feet. Mr. Daniell has observed, in his me- 
teorological essays, that a cloud sometimes appears fixed on a 
mountain summit, while the wind continues to blow over it. 


Tlie same phenomenon here presented a slightly different appear- 
ance. In ihis case the cloud was clearly seen to curl over, and 
rapidly pass by the summit, and yet was neither diminished nor 
incretised 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, ami came within the influence of the warmer atmosphere 
of the northern sloping bank, they were immediately redis- 

The climate, during the months of May and June, or the be- 
ginning 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 mul- 
titude 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 grass about an inch above the surface of tlie 
water, and sends forth a pleasing chirp : when several are to- 
gether they sing in harmony on different notes. 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 vip a pane of glass, when placed absolutely perpen- 
dicular. Various cicadas and crickets, at the same time, keep 
up a ceaseless shrill cry, but which, softened by the distance, is 
not unpleasant. Every evening after dark this great concert 
commenced ; and often have I sat listening to it, until my atten- 
tion has been drawn away by some curious passing insect. 

At these times the fireflies are seen flitting about from hedge 
to hedge. On a dark night the light can be seen at about two 
hundred paces distant. It is remarkable that in all the different 
kinds of glowworms, shining elaters, and various marine animal? 

30 RIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

(such as the Crustacea, medusa3, nereidse, a coralline of the genus 
Clytia, and Pyrosoma), which I have observed, the light has 
been of a well-marked green colour. All the fireflies, which I 
caught here, belonged to the Lampyridse (in which family the 
English glowworm is included), and the greater number of spe- 
cimens were of Lampyris occidentalis.* I found tliat this insect 
emitted the most brilliant flashes when irritated : in the intervals, 
the abdominal rings were obscured. The flash Avas almost co- 
instantaneous in the two rings, but it was just perceptible first 
in the anterior one. The shining matter was fluid and very ad- 
hesive : 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 irri- 
tation 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 inter- 
vals, and that at other times the display is involuntary. On the 
muddy and wet gravel-walks I found the larvae of this lampyris 
in great numbers : they resembled in general form the female of 
the English glowworm. These larvae 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 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 re- 
peatedly 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 appa- 
rently as a guide. 

* I am greatly indebted to Mr. Waterhouse for his kindness in naming 
for me this and many other insects, and in giving me much valuable assist- 

1832.] BOTANIC GARDEN. 31 

"When we were at Bahia, an elater or beetle (Pyroplioius lu- 
minosus, 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 i)roperly 
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 wing-cases. The effort being suddenly relaxed, the head 
and thorax flew up, and in consequence, the base of the wing- 
cases struck the supporting surface Avith 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, suflicient 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 tlie neighbouring country. One day I went to 
the Botanic Garden, where many plants, well known for their 
great utility, might be seen growing. The leaves of the cam- 
phor, pepper, cinnamon, and clove trees were deliglitfully aro- 
matic ; and the bread-fruit, the jaca, and the mango, vied with 
each other in the magnificence of their foliage. The landscape 
in the neighbourhood of Bahia almost takes its character fi-om 
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 evergreen 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 beau- 
tiful forms of vegetation, because many of them are at the same 

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

32 RIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

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, with- 
out clianging the transparency of the air, renders its tints more 
harmonious, and softens its effects." This is an appearance 
which I have never observed in the temperate zones. The at- 
mosphere, 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 
grey, mingled with a little blue. The condition of the atmos- 
phere 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 liad increased from 7°.5 to 17°. 

On anotlier occasion I started early and walked to the Gavia, 
or topsail mountain. The air was delightfully cool and fra- 
grant ; and the drops of dew still glittered on the leaves of the 
large liliaceous plants, which shaded the streamlets of clear 
water. Sitting viown on a block of granite, it was delightful to 
v/atch the various insects and birds as they flew past. Tlie 
humming-bird seems particularly fond of such sliady 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 attains 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 excur- 
sions 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 : 

1832, 1 BUTTERFLIES. 33 

this, however, as the entomologist is aware, is to some of our 
beetles a clelighlful fragrance. So was it here ; for a Strongj'lus, 
attracted by the odour, alighted on the fungus as I carried it in 
my hand. We here see in two distant countries a similar rela- 
tion between plants and insects of the same families, though tiie 
species of both are different. When man is the agent in intro- 
ducing into a country a new species, this relation is often 
broken : as one instance of this I may mention, that tlie leaves 
of the cabbages and lettuces, which in England afibrd food to 
such a multitude of slugs and caterpillars, in the gardens near 
Rio are untouched. 

During our stay at 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 entomolo- 
gist. 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, con- 
trary to what might have been expected from the rankness of the 
vegetation, certainly appeared in much fewer numbers than in 
our own temperate regions. I was much surprised at the 
habits of Papilio feronia. This butterfl}^ 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 verti- 
cally, 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 in- 
strument 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 

* Mr. Doubleday has lately described (before the Entomological Society, 
March 3rd, 1845) a peculiar structure in the -wings of this butterfly, which 
<;ems to be the means of its making its noise. He says, " It is remarkable 
for having a sort of drum at the base of the fore wings, between the costal 
uervure and the subcostal. These two nervures, moreover, have a peculiar 
screw-like diaphragm or vessel in the interior." I find in Langsdorff's 
travels (in the years 1803-7, p. 74) it is said, that in the island of St. Cathe- 
rine's on the coast of Brazil, a butterfly called Februa Hoffmanseggi, makes 
a noise, when flying away, like a rattle. 

34 RIO DE JANEIRO [cflvp. ii. 

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 conti- 
nued at short intervals, and could be distinguished at about 
twenty yards' distance : I am certain there is no error in the 

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleoptera. 
The number of minute and obscurely-coloured beetles is exceed- 
ingly great.* The cabinets of Europe can, as jet, boast 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 carnivorous 
beetles, or Carabidae, appear in extremely few numbers within the 
tropics : this is the more remarkable when compared to the case 
of the carnivorous quadrupeds, whicli are so abundant in hot 
countries. I was struck with this observation both on entering 
Brazil, and when I saw the many elegant and active forms of 
the Ilarpalidae re-appearing on the temperate plains of La Plata. 
Do the very numerous spiders and rajiacious Hymenoptera sup- 
ply the place of the carnivorous beetles ? The carrion-feeders 
and Brachelytera are very uncommon ; on the other hand, the 
Rhyncophora and Chrysomelidse, all of which depend on the 
vegetable world for subsistence, are present in astonishing num- 
bers. I do not here refer to the number of different species, but 
to that of the individual insects ; for on this it is that tlie most 
striking character in the entomology of different countries de- 
pends. The orders Orthoptera and Ilemiptera are particularly 
numerous ; as likewise is the stinging division of the Hymeno- 
ptera ; 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, 

* I rnay mention, as a common instance of one day's (June 23rd) collect- 
ing, 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 
Carabidae, four Brachelytra, fifteen Rhyncophora, and fourteen of the Chry- 
somelida>. Thirty-seven species of Arachnids, which I brought home, will 
be sufficient to prove that I was not paying overmuch attention to the gene- 
rally favoured order of Coleoptera. 


and others retuiiiing, burdened with pieces of green leaf, often 
larger than their own bodies. 

A small dark-coloured ant sometimes migrates in countless 
mnnbers. One day, at Baliia, my attention was drawn by ob- 
serving many spiders, cockroaches, and other insects, and some 
lizards, rnsiiing 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 descendeil 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. 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 bo(iy 
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 Avarriurs 
scorned the idea of yielding. 

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of tlie 
verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numerous in the 
neighbourhood of Kio. These cells they stuff full of half-dead 
spiders and caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know 
how to sting to that degree as to leave them paralysed but alive, 
until their eggs are hatched ; and the larvte feed on the horrid 
mass of powerless, half-killed victims — a sight which has been 
described by an enthusiastic naturalist * as curious and pleasing ! 
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 rolletl down 
a little slope, but had still strength sufficient to crawl into a 
thick tuft of grass. The wasp soon returned, and seemed sur- 

* In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his observ- 
ations in Georgia; see Mr. A. White's paper in the ' Annals of Nat. Hist.,' 
vol. vii. p. 472. Lieut. Hutton has described a sphex with similar habits in 
India, in the ' Journal of the Asiatic Society," toI. i., p. 55.5. 

D 2 

36 EIO UE JANEIRO. [chap. ii. 

prised at not immediately finding- its victim. It tlien commenced 
as regular a hunt as ever hound did after fox ; making short 
semicircular casts, and all the time rapidly vibrating its wings 
and antennae. The spider, though well concealed, was soon dis- 
covered ; and the wasp, evidently still afraid of its adversary's 
jaws, after much manoeuvring, inflicted two stings on tJie under 
side of its thorax. At last, carefully examining with its antennae 
the now motionless spider, it proceeded to drag away tlie body. 
But I stopped both tyrant and prey.* 

The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, is here 
compared with England very much larger ; perliaps more so 
tlian with any other division of the articulate animals. The 
variety of species among tlie jumping spiders appears almost 
infinite. The genus, or rather family of Epeira, is here charac- 
terized by many singular forms ; some species have pointed coria- 
ceous shells, others enlarged and spiny tibiae. 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 Fa- 
bricius, 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 fore-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 tnbercu- 
lata and conica is extremely common, especially in dry situations. 
Its web, which is generally placed among tlie 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 a dexterous movement, makes it revolve 
very rapidly, and at the same time emitting a band of threads 

* 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." 

18.32.1 SPIDERS. 37 

from its spinners, soon envelops its prey in a case like the cocoon 
of a silkworm. The spitler now examines the powerless victim, 
and gives the fatal bite on the hinder part of its thorax ; tiien 
retreating, patiently waits till the i)oison has taken effect. The 
virnlence of this poison may be judged of from the fact that in 
half a minute I opened the mesh, and foTind a large wasp quite 
lifeless. This Epeira always stands with its head downwards 
near the centre of the web. When disturbed, it acts diflerently 
according to circumstances : if there is a thicket below, it 
suddenly falls down ; and I have distinctly seen the thread from 
the spinners lengthened by 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 tiie other side. When still further disturbed, it practises 
a most curious manoeuvre : 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. 

It is well known that most of the British spiders, when a large 
insect is caught in their webs, endeavour to cut the lines and 
liberate their prey, to save their nets from being entirely spoiled. 
I once, however, saw in a hot-house in Shropshire a large female 
wasp caught in the irregular web of a quite small spider ; and 
this spider, instead of cutting the web, most perseveriiigly con- 
tinued to entangle the body, and especially the wings, of its 
prey. The wasp at first aimed in vain repeated thrusts witli 
its sting at its little antagonist. Pitying the wasp, after allow- 
ing it to struggle for more than an hour, I killed it and put 
it back into the web. The spider soon returned ; and an 
hour afterwards I was much surprised to find it with its jans 
buried in the orifice, through which the sting is protruded by 
the living wasp. I drove the spider away two or three times, 
but for the next twenty-four Iiours I always found it again 
sucking at the same place. The spider became much distended 
by the juices of its prey, which was many times larger than 

I may here just mention, that I found, near St. Fe Bajada, 
many large black spiders, with ruby- coloured marks on their 
backs, having gregarious habits. The webs were placed verti- 

38 KIO DE JANEIRO. [chap. n. 

cally, 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 with mine. 1 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. As all the spiders which I saw were of the same 
size, they must have been nearly of the same age. This gre- 
garious habit, in so typical a genus as Epeira, among insects, 
which are so bloodthirsty and solitary that even the two sexes at- 
tack each other, is a very singular fact. 

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 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 seg- 
ment. All the webs were similarly constructed. 

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



Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and Bolas — 
Partridges — Absence of Trees — Deer — Capyhara, or Eiver Hog — Tucu- 
tuco — Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits — Tyraut-flycatclier — 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 Eio de Janeiro. In our 
passage to the Plata, we saw nothing particular, excepting on 
one cTay a great shoal of poi-poises, 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 an 
hour, 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 sliore. 
On a second night we witnessed a splendid scene of natural fire- 
works ; 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 lumi- 
nous, that the tracks of the penguins were marked by a fiery 
Make, and the darkness of the sky was momentarily illuminated 
by the most vivid lightning. 

When within the mouth of the river, I wo.s interested by ob- 
serving 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 curiously 
exhibited in the wake of the vessel, where a line of blue water 
was seen mingling in little eddies, with the adjoining fluid. 

40 MALDONADO. [chap ni. 

July 2&h. — "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 attend- 
ins: 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 evi- 
dent. It possesses scarcely any trade ; the exports being con- 
fined to a few hides and living cattle. The inhabitants are chiefly 
landowners, together with a few shopkeepers and the neces- 
sary 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 wliich 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. 
Tlie only difference is, that here the granitic hills are a little 
bolder. 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 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 tliem, 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 everything 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 tra- 
veller 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 astonish- 
ment. In every house I was asked to show the compass, and by 
its aid, together with a map, to point out the dii*ection of various 
places. It excited the liveliest admiration that I, a perfect 
stranger, should know the road (for direction and road are syno- 
nymous 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 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 

42 MALDONADO. [chap, hi, 

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 tlie 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 astonish- 
ment at the compass, and my other feais in jugglery, was to a 
certain degree advantageous, as with that, and the long stories 
my guides told of my breaking stones, knowing venomous from 
harmless snakes, collecting insects, &c., I repaid them for their 
hospitality. I am writing as if I had been among the inhabit- 
ants 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 mountains. It is of the 
usual symmetrical form ; and with its whitewashed churcii 
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 tlie houses have, in 
consequence, an uncomfortable aspect. At night we stopped at 
a pulperia, or drinking-shop. During the evening a great num- 
ber of Gauchos came in to drink spirits and smoke cigars : their 
appearance is very striking ; they are generally tall and hand- 
some, 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 gar- 
ments, great spurs clanking about their heels, and knives stuck 
as daggers (and often so used) at tlieir waists, they look a very 
different race of men from what miglit 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 tlieir exceedingly graceful bow, 
they seem quite as ready, if occasion offered, to cut your throat. 

On the third day we pursued rather an irregular course, as I 
was employed in examining some beds of marble. On the fine 
plairis 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 Mas easy to gallop 
up within a short distance of them ; but then, expanding their 
M'ings, 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 points of etiquette : riding 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 : tlie formal answer of the owner is, 
" sin pecado concebida " — that is, conceived without sin. 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 
witli the horsecloths belonging to his recado (or saddle of the 
Pampas) he makes his bed. It is curious how similar circum- 
stances 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 

MALDONADO. • [chap. hi. 

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 sitting-room boasted only of a few 'of 
the roughest cliairs 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 vege- 
table, and not even a morsel of bread. For drinking, 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 sig- 
noritas 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 lazo 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 move- 
ment 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, tlian, winding round it, they 
cross each other, and become firmly liitclied. U'lie size and 
•weight of the balls varies, according to the purpose for which 
they are made : when of stone, although not larger than an 
apple, they are sent with such force as sometimes to break the 
leg even of a horse. I have seen the balls made of wood, and as 
large as a turnip, for the sake of catching these animals witiiout 
injuring tliem. The balls are sometimes made of iron, and these 
can be hurled to the greatest distance. The main ditliculty 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 myselt 
by galloping and whirling the balls round my head, by accident 
the free one struck a busli ; 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 m as 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 out that they 
had seen everj'^ 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 everywhere saw great numbers 
of partridges (Nothura major). 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 fre- 
quently thus catch thirty or forty in a day. In Arctic North 
America* the Indians catch the Varying Hare by walking spirally 

* Hearne's Journey, p. 383, 

46 MALDONADO. [chap. hi. 

round and round it, when on its form : the middle of the day 
is reckoned the best time, when the sun is high, and the shadow 
of the hunter not very long. 

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 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 mammillaled 
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 tlie 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 pas- 
sion 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 general, and almost entire absence of trees in Banda 
Oriental is remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are partly co- 
vered by thickets, and on the banks of the larger streams, espe- 
cially to the north of 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 attri- 
buted either to the force of the winds, or the kind of drainage. 
In the nature of the land, however, around Maldonado, no such 


rea.'jon is apparent ; the rocty mountains afford protected situa- 
tions, 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 wood- 
land is generally 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.f AVe see nearly tlie whole of Australia covered by 
lofty trees, yet that country possesses a far more arid climate. 
Hence we must look to some other and unknown cause. 

Confining our view to South America, we should certainly be 
tempted to believe that trees flourished only under a very humid 
climate ; for the limit of the forest-land follows, in a most re- 
markable 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 unpenetrable forests. 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 
deprived of its moisture by passing over the mountains, the arid 
plains of Patagonia support a most scanty vegetation. In the 
more northern parts of the continent, within the limits of the 
constant south-eastern trade wind, the eastern side is ornamented 
by magnificent forests ; whilst the western coast, from lat. 4° S. 
to lat. 32° S., may be described as a desert : on this western 
coast, northward of lat. 4° S., where the trade-wind loses its 
regularity, and heavy torrents of rain fall periodically, the shores 
of the Pacific, so utterly desert in Peru, assume near Cape Blanco 
the character of luxuriance so celebrated at Guyaquil and Pa- 
nama. Hence in the southern and northern parts of the con- 
tinent, the forest and desert lands occupy reversed positions with 
respect to the Cordillera, and these positions are apparently de- 
termined by the direction of the prevalent winds. In the middle 
of the continent there is a broad intermediate band, including 

* Maclaren, art. ' America,' Encyclop. Britann. 

t Azara says, " Je crois que la quantite annuelle des pluies est, dans toutes 
(ics contrtes, plus considerable qu'en Espagne.' — Vol. i. p. 36. 

48 MALDONADO, [chap, hi, 

central Chile and the provinces of La Plata, where the rain- 
bringing winds iiave not to pass over lofty mountains, and where 
the land is neither a desert nor covered by forests. But even 
tlie rule, if confined to South America, of trees flourishing only 
in a climate rendered humid by rain-bearing winds, has a 
strongly marked exception in the case of the Falkland Islands. 
Tliese islands, situated in the same latitude with Tierra del 
Fuego and only between two and three hundred miles distant 
from it, having a nearly similar climate, with a geological 
formation almost identical, with favourable situations and the 
same kind of peaty soil, yet can boast of few plants deserving 
even the title of bushes ; whilst in Tierra del Fuego it is impos- 
sible to find an acre of land not covered by the densest forest. 
In this case, both the direction of tlie heavy gales of wind and 
of the currents of the sea are favourable to the transport of 
seeds from Tierra del Fuego, as is shown by the canoes and 
trunks of trees drifted from that country, and frequently thrown 
on the shores of the Western Falkland. Hence perhaps it is, 
that there are many plants in common to the two countries : but 
with respect to the trees of Tierra del Fuego, even attemj^ts made 
to Lraanplant them have failed. 

During our stay at Maldonado I collected several quadru- 
peds, eighty kinds of birds, and many reptiles, including nine 
species of snakes. Of the indigenous mammalia, the only one 
now left of any size, which is common, is the Cervus campestris. 
This deer is exceedingly abundant, often in small herds, through- 
out the countries bordering the Plata and in Northern Pata- 
gonia. 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 the same herd. Although so tame and 
inquisitive, yet when approached on horseback, they are exceed- 
ingly 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 get up 
(to my shame as a sportsman be it spoken, tiiotigh well able to 
kill birds on the wing) and halloo till the deer ran away. 

The most curious fact with respect to this animal, is the over- 
poweringly 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 astonisliing instance of the perma- 
nence of some matter, which nevertheless in its nature must be 
most subtile and volatile. Frequently, when passing at the 
distance of half a mile to leeward of a herd, I have perceived 
tlie Avhole 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 tliis 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 

The order Eodentia is here veiy numerous in species : of 
mice alone I obtained no less than eight kinds.* The largest 
gnawing animal in the world, the Hydrochaerus capybara (the 
water-hog), is here also common. One which I shot at Monte 
Video weighed ninety-eight pounds : its length, from tlie end of 
the snout to the stump-Ilke tail, was tnree feet two inches ; and 
its girth tliree feet eight. These great Rodents occasionally 
frequent the islands in the mouth of the Plata, where the 
water is quite salt, but are far more abundant on the borders 

* In South America I collected altogether twenty-seven species of mice , 
and thirteen more are known from the works of Azara and other authors. 
I'hose collected by myself have been named and described by Mr. Water- 
house at the meetings of the Zoological Society. I must be allowed to take 
this opportunity of returning my cordial thanks to Mr. Watcihouse, and to 
the other gentlemen attached to that Society, for their kind and most liberal 
assistance on all occasions. 

50 MALDONADO. [chap. hi. 

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, cavies and 
rabbits. 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 walk- 
ing, 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, but ratlier 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. On the islands in the Rio Parana they are 
exceedingly abundant, and afford the ordinary prey to the 

The Tucutuco (Ctenomys Brasiliensis) is a curious small 
animal, which may be briefly described as a Gnawer, with the 
habits of a mole. It is extremely numerous in some parts of the 
country, but is difficult to be procured, and never, I believe, 
comes out of the ground. It throws up at the mouth of its 

* In the stomach and duodenum of a capybara ■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 oesojihagus 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. 

183-2-3.] THE TUCUTUCO. 51 

burrows hillocks of earth like those of the mole, but smaller. 
Considerable tracts of country are so completely undermined by 
these animals, that horses in passing over, sink above their fet- 
locks. The tucutucos appear, to a certain degree, to be grega- 
rious : the man who procured the specimens for me had caught 
six together, and he said this was a common occurrence. They 
are nocturnal in their habits ; and tlieir principal food is the 
roots of plants, which are the object of their extensive and 
superficial 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 monotonously repeated about four 
times in quick succession : * the name Tucutuco is given in imi- 
tation of the sound. Where this animal is abundant, it may be 
heard at all times of the day, and sometimes directly beneath 
one's feet. When kept in a room, the tucutucos move both 
Blowly and clumsily, which appears owing to the outward action 
of their hind legs ; and they are quite incapable, from the socket 
of the thigh-bone not having a certain ligament, of jumping even 
the smallest vertical height. They are very stupid in making 
any attempt to escape ; when angry or 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 ; othei's 
were a little wilder. 

The man who caught them asserted that very many are inva- 
riably found blind. A specimen which I preserved in spirits was 
in this state ; Mr. Reid considers it to be the effect of inflam- 
mation 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 strictly 
subterranean habits of the tucutuco, the blindness, though so 

* 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 that of 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. 

E 2 

52 MALDONADO. [chap. hi. 

common, cannot be a very serious evil ; yet it appears strange 
that any animal should possess an organ frequently subject to be 
injured. Lamarck would have been delighted with this fact, had 
he known it, when speculating* (probably with more truth than 
usual with him) on the graduaWy -acquired blindness of the 
Aspalax, a Gnawer living under ground, and of the Proteus, a 
reptile living in dark caverns filled with water ; in both of which 
animals the eye is in an almost rudimentary state, and is covered 
by a tendinous membrane and skin. In the common mole the 
eye is extraordinarily small but perfect, though many anatomists 
doubt whether it is connected with the true optic nerve ; its 
vision must certainly be imperfect, though probably useful to the 
animal when it leaves its burrow. In the tucutuco, which I 
believe never comes to tlie surface of the ground, the eye is 
rather larger, but often rendered blind and useless, though Mith- 
out apparently causing any inconvenience to the animal : no 
doubt Lamarck would have said that the tucutuco is now passing 
into the state of the Aspalax and Proteus. 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the undulat- 
ing grassy plains around Maldonado. Tliere are several species 
of a family allied in structure and manners to our Starling : one 
of these (Molothrus niger) is remarkable from its habits. Seve- 
red may often be seen standing together on the back of a cow or 
horse ; and while perched on a hedge, pluming themselves in the 
*;un, they sometimes attempt to sing, or rather to hiss ; the noise 
being very peculiar, resembling that of bubbles of air jjassing 
rapidly from a small orifice under water, so as to produce an 
acute sound. According to Azara, this bird, like the cuckoo, 
deposits its eggs in otiier birds' nests. I was several times told 
by the country people, tliat there certainly is some bird having 
this habit ; and my assistant in collecting, who is a veiy accurate 
person, found a nest of the sparrow of this country (Zonotrichia 
matutina), with one egg in it larger than the others, and of a 
different colour and shape. In North America there is another 
species of Molothrus (M. pecoris), which has a similar cuckoo- 
like habit, and which is most closely allied in every respect to 
the species from tlie Plata, even in such trifling peculiariiius as 

* Philosoph. Zoolog., torn. i. p. 242 

1832-3.] HABITS OF THE CUCKOO. 53 

standing on the backs of cattle ; it difters only in being a little 
smaller, and in its plumage and eggs being of a slightly different 
shade of colour. This close agreement in structure and habits, 
in representative species coming from opposite quarters of a great 
continent, always strikes one as interesting, though of common 

Mr. Swainson has well remarked,* that with the exception of 
the IMolothrus pecoris, to which must be added the M. niger, 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, wdiose 
food they live upon, and whose death would cause theirs 
during the period of inflincy." It is remarkable that some of 
the species, but not all, both of tlie Cuckoo and Molothrus, 
should agree in this one strange habit of their parasitical propa- 
gation, whilst opposed to each other in almost every other habit : 
the molothrus, like our starling, is 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 also 
tiiese two genera are widely removed from each other. Many 
theories, even phrenological theories, have been advanced to ex- 
plain the origin of the cuckoo laying its eggs in other birds' 
nests. M. Prevost alone, I think, has thrown light by his obser- 
vations f on this puzzle: he finds that the female cuckoo, which, 
according to most observers, lays at least from four to six eggs, 
mast pair with the male each time after laying only one or two 
Ggg- Now, if the cuckoo was obliged to sit on her own eggs, 
she would either have to cit on all together, and therefore leave 
those first laid so long, that they probably would become addled ; 
or she would have to hatch separately each egg or two eggs, as 
soon as laid : but as the cuckoo stays a shorter time in this 
country than any other migratory bird, she certainly would not 
have time enough for the successive hatchings. Hence we can 
perceive in the fact of the cuckoo pairing several times, and 
laying her eggs at intervals, the cause of her depositing her 
eggs in other birds' nests, and leaving them to the care of foster- 

* Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i. p. 217. 
f Kead before the Academy of Sciences in Paris. L'liistitut, 1834, p. 418. 

64 MALDONADO. [chap. hi. 

parents. I am strongly inclined to believe that this view is cor- 
rect, from having been independently led (as we shall hereafter 
see) to an analogous conclusion with regard to the South 
American ostrich, the females of which are parasitical, if I may 
so express it, on each other ; each female laying several eggs in 
the nests of several other females, and the male ostrich under- 
taking all the cares of incubation, like the strange foster-parents 
with the cuckoo. 

I will mention only two other birds, which are very common, 
and render themselves prominent from their habits. The Sauro- 
phagus sulphuratus 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 
seen thus 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 to that of a hawk. 
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 (Mimus orpheus), 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 song may be compared 
to that of the Sedge warbler, but is more powerful ; some harsli 
notes and some very high ones, being mingled with a pleasant 

1832-3.] CARRION HAWKS. 55 

warbling. It is heard only during tlie spring. At other times 
its cry is harsh and far from hanrionious. Near Maldonado 
these birds were tame and bold ; they constantly attended the 
country houses in numbers, to pick the meat which was hung 
up on the posts or walls: if any other small bird joined the 
feast, the Calandria soon chased it away. On the wide un- 
inhabited 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 
l)artieular care, they appeared so very similar, tiiat I changed my 
opinion ; but now Mr. Gould says that they are certainly dis- 
tinct ; a conclusion in conformity with the trifling difference of 
habit, of which, however, he was not aware. 

The number, tameness, and disgusting habits of the carrion- 
feeding hawks of South America make them pre-eminently strik- 
ing to any one accustomed only to the birds of Northern Europe. 
In this list may be included four species of the Caracara or Poly- 
borus, 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 widely distributed over the rest of 
the world, but entirely absent in South America. To begin with 
the Polyborus Brasiliensis : 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 Pata- 
gonia. In the desert between the rivers Negro and Colorado, 
numbers constantly attend the line of road to devour the car- 
casses of the exhausted animals which chance 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, 

66 MALDONADO. [chap. in. 

together with the Chiraango, constantly attend in numbers the 
estancias and slauglitering-houses. If an animal dies on theplaiu 
the Gallinazo commences the feast, and then the two species oi 
Polyborus 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. 

The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal great 
numbers of eggs. They attempt, also, together with the Chi- 
mango, to pick off the scabs from the sore backs of 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 Captain Head with his own 
peculiar spirit and accuracy. These false eagles most rarely 
kill any living bird or jinimal ; and their vulture-like, necropha- 
gous habits are very evident to any one, who has fallen asleep on 
the desolate plains of Patagonia, for w^hen he wakes, he will see, 
on each surrounding hillock, one of these birds patiently watch- 
ing 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 of men go out hunting with 
dogs and horses, they 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 tlirough the air with 
much ease. It runs (in contradistinction to hopping), but not 
quite so quickly as some of its congeners. At times the Carran- 
cha 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 ; when utter- 

18.32-3.] CAREION HAWKS. 67 

ing this cry it elevates its head higher and higher, till at last, 
with its beak wide open, tlie crown almost touclies 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. To these observations I may add, 
on the high authority of Azara, that the Carrancha feeds on 
M'ornis, shells, slugs, grasshoppers, and frogs ; that it destroys 
young lambs by tearing the umbilical cord ; and that it pursues 
the Gallinazo, 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 chace 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 tlie 
last species. It is truly omnivorous, and will eat even bread ; 
and I was assured that it materially injures the potato-crops in 
Chiloe, by stocking up the roots when first planted. Of all 
the carrion-feeders it is generally the last which leaves the 
skeleton of a dead animal ; and may often be seen within the 
ribs of a cow or horse, like a bird in a cage. Another species 
is the Polyborus Novee Zelandiae, which is exceedingly common 
in the Falkland Islands. These birds in many respects 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 svistenance nuist depend on the sea. They are extra- 
ordinarily 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 pro- 
truded, 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 

58 MALDONADO. f chap. hi. 

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 miscliievous 
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 ; they do not 
soar, and their flight is heavy and clumsy ; on the ground they 
run extremely fast, very much like pheasants. They are noisy, 
uttering several harsh cries ; one of which is like that of the 
English rook ; hence the sealers always call them, rooks. 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 in the rocky cliffs of the sea-coast, but 
only on the small adjoining islets, and not on 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 ; but bold must the man be 
who attempts such a meal. 

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 Brasiliensis 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 southward of lat. 41°. Azara 
states that there exists a tradition that these birds, at the time of 
the conquest, were not found near Monte Video, but that they 
subsequently followed the inhabitants from more northern dis- 
tricts. At the present day they are numerous in the valley of 
the Colorado, which is three hundred miles due south of Monte 
^'ideo. 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 
tlie whole Pampas to the foot of the Cordillera, but I never saw 
or heard of one in Chile : in Peru they are preserved as scaven- 
gers. 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 wdieel- 
ing round and round without closing its wings, in the most 
graceful evolutions. This is clearly performed for the mere 
pleasure of the exercise, or perhaps is connected with their matri- 
monial alliances. 

I have now mentioned all the carrion-feeders, excepting the 
condor, an account of which will be more appropriately intro- 
duced 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, silice- 
ous tubes, which are formed by lightning entering 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 

* Geolog. Transact., vol. ii. p. 528. In the Philosoph. Transact. (1790, 
p. 294) Dr. Priestley has described some imperfect siliceous tubes and a melted 
pebble of quartz, found in digging into the ground, under a tree, where a 
man had been killed by lightning. 

60 MALDONADO. [chap. hi. 

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 tube 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 microscope 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 sliglitly glazed appearance : I could not distinguish any 
signs of crystallization. In a similar manner to that described 
in the Geological Transactions, the tubes are generally com- 
pressed, 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 as much as four inches. The compression from the surround- 
ing 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 mea- 
sure 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 . Beudant* 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 eveiy 

* Annales de Chimie et ac Physique, torn, xxxvii., p. 319. 


dimension. They failed both with powdered felspar and quartz. 
One tube, formed with pmmded glass, was very nearly an inch 
long, namely, -982, and had an internal diameter of -019 
of an inch, AVhen we hear that the strongest battery in Paris 
was used, and that its power on a substance of such easy fusi- 
bility as glass was to form tubes so diminutive, we must feel 
greatly astonished at the force of a shock of lightning, which, 
striking the sand in several places, has formed cylinders, in one 
instance of at least thirty feet long, and 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 others, deviated from a right line, at the most con- 
siderable bend, to the amount of tiiirty-three degrees. From 
this same tube, two small branches, about a foot apart, were 
sent oft"; 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 Avhich I found vertical, and traced be- 
neath tlie surface, there were several other groups of frag- 
ments, the original sites of which without doubt were near. 
All occurred in a level area of shifting sand, sixty yards by 
twenty, situated among some high sand-hillocks, and at the dis- 
tance 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. Eibbentrop 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 tlie space of the sixty by 
twenty yards. As it does not appear probable that the tubes are 
produced by successive distinct shocks, we must believe that the 
lightning, shortly before entering the ground, divides itself into 
separate branches. 

The neighbourhood of the Eio Plata seems peculiarly subject 
to electric phenomena. In the year 1793,* one of the most 
* Azara's Voyage, vol. i. p. 36. 

62 MALDONADO. [chap. hi. 

destructive thunderstorms perhaps on record happened at Buenos 
Ayres : thirty-seven places within the city were struck by light- 
ning, and nineteen people killed. From facts stated in several 
books of travels, I am inclined to suspect that thunderstorms are 
very common near the mouths of great rivers. Is it not pos- 
sible that the mixture of large bodies of fresh and salt water 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 altliough the room Avas about 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 witli force suflficient to dent the wall 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 
Jiad been enamelled. 



Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by the Indians — Salt Lakes — Flamingoes— 
R.Negro to R. Colorado — Sacred Tree — Patagonian Hare — Indian Families 
— General Rosas — Proceed to Bahia Blanca — Sand Dunes— Negro Lieu- 
tenant — Babia Blanca — Saline Incrustations — Puuta Alta — Zorilio. 


July 24th, 1833. — The Beagle sailed from Maldonado, and on 
August the 3rd she arrived off the mouth of the Rio Negro. 
This is the principal river on the whole line of coast between 
the Strait of Magellan and the Plata. It enters the sea about 
three hundred miles south of the estuary of the Plata. About 
fifty years ago, 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, inhabited by civilized 

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 re- 
markable from being composed of a firmly-cemented conglome- 
rate 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 the north- 
ern 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 had been destroyed by the Indians. They with- 

64 EIO NEGRO. [chap. iv. 

stood several attacks. A man present at one gave me a very- 
lively description of what took place. The inhabitants had suffi- 
cient 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 higlily disciplined. They first 
appeared in two bodies on a neighbouring hill ; having there dis- 
mounted, and taken off their fur mantles, they advanced naked to 
the charge. The only weapon of an Indian is a very long bam- 
boo 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 toge- 
iher by iron nails instead of leather thongs, and, of course, in 
vain attempted to cut them witli their knives. This saved the 
lives of the Christians : many of the wounded Indians were car- 
ried away by their companions ; and at last one of the under 
caciques being wounded, the bugle sounded a retreat. They re- 
tired to their horses, and seemed to hold a council of war. This 
was an awful pause for the Spaniards, as all their ammunition, 
M'ith the exception of a few cartridges, was expended. In an 
instant the Indians mounted their horses, and galloped out of 
siglit. Another attack was still more quickly repulsed. A cool 
Frenchman managed the gun ; he stopped till the Indians ap- 
proached close, and then raked their line with grape-shot : he 
thus laid thirty-nine of them on tlie ground ; and, of course, such 
a blow immediately routed the whole party. 

Tlie 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, 

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


seen one beliind the otlier on the nortliern boundary of the broad 
green valley, forms, by the aid of a bright sun, a view almost 
picturesque. Tlie 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 con- 
stantly 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 liorses, 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 counter- 
balanced 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 tliese 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 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 Avith a floor 
of salt, two and three feet in thickness, even when under water 
during the winter. One of these brilliantly-white and level ex- 
panses, 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. The season for work- 
ing the Salinas forms the harvest of Patagones ; for on it, the 
prosperity of the place depends. Nearly the whole population 
encamps on the bank of the river, and the people are employed 
ill drawing out the salt in bullock-waggons. This salt is crystal- 

* The liovt'ls of the ludians are thus called. 

f.6 EIO NEGRO. [chap, iv 

lized in great cubes, and is remarkably pure : Mr. Trenham Reeks 
has kindly analyzed some for me, and he finds in it only 0*26 of 
gypsum and 0*22 of earthy matter. It is a singular fact, that it 
does not serve so well for preserving meat as sea-salt from tlie 
Cape de Verd islands ; and a merchant at Buenos Ayres told me 
tliat he considered it as fifty per cent, less valuable. Hence the 
Cape de Verd salt is constantly imported, and is mixed with that 
from these salinas. The purity of the Patagonian salt, or absence 
from it of those other saline bodies found in all sea-water, is the 
only assignable cause for this inferiority : a conclusion which no 
one, I think, would have suspected, but which is supported by 
the fact lately ascertained,* that those salts answer best for pre- 
serving cheese which contain most of the deliquescent chlorides. 
The border of the lake is formed of mud : and in this nume- 
rous large crystals of gy^psum, some of which are three inches 
long, lie embedded ; whilst on the surface others of sulphate of 
soda lie scattered about. The Gauchos call the former the 
" Padre del sal," and the latter tlie " 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 confervse : I attempted to carry 
liome 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 some kind 
of worm, or annelidous animal. How surprising it is that any 
creatures should be able to exist in brine, and that they should 
be crawling among crystals of sulphate of soda and lime ! And 
what becomes of these worms when, during the long summer, the 
surface is hardened into a solid layer of salt ? Flamingoes in 
considerable numbers inhabit this lake, and breed here ; through- 
out Patagonia, in Northern Chile, and at the Galapagos Islands, 
I met with these birds wherever there were lakes of brine. I 
saw them here wading about in search of food — probably for the 
worms which burrow in the mud ; and these latter probably feed 

* Report of the AgricuU Chem. Assoc, in the Agrijult. Gazette, 18 i5, 

i . 93. 

1833] R. NEGRO TO R. COLORADO. 67 

oi) infusoria or couiervaj. Thus we have a little living world 
within itself, adapted to these inland lakes of brine. A minute 
cruslaceous animal (Cancer salinus) is said * to live in countless 
numbers in the brine-pans at Lyniington ; but only in those in 
which the fluid has attained, from evaporation, considerable 
strenuth — namely, about a quarter of a pound of salt to a pint of 
water. "Well maj^ 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. 

To the northward of the Rio Negro, between it and the inha- 
bited country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have only one 
small settlement, recentlj^ established at Bahia Blanca. The dis- 
tance in a straight line to Buenos Ayres is verj^ nearly five hun- 
dred 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 govern- 
ment at Buenos Ayres equipped some time since an army under 
the command of General Eosas for the purpose of exterminating 
them. The troops were now encamped on the banks of the Co- 
lorado ; a river lyinff about eighty miles 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 
intervals, a small party of soldiers with a troop of horses 
{a posta), so as to be enabled to keep up a communication with 

* Linnsean Trans., vol. xi. p. 205. It is remarkable how all the circum- 
stances connected with the salt-lakes in Siberia and Patagonia are similar. 
Siberia, like Patagonia, appears to have been recently elevated above the 
■waters of the sea. In both countries the salt-lakes occupy shallow depres- 
sions in the plains ; in both the mud on the borders is black and fetid ; be- 
neath the crust of common salt, sulphate of soda or of magnesia occurs, im- 
perfectly crystallized ; and in both, the muddy sand is mixed with lentils of 
gypsum. The Siberian salt-lakes are inhabited by small crustaceous ani- 
mals ; 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 that tliey are the necessary results of common 
causes. — See Fallas's Travds, 1793 to 1794, pp. 129-13-1. 


6S n. NEGRO TO E. COLORADO. [chap, ir 

the capital. As the Beagle intended to call at Bahia Blanca, 
I determined to proceed there by land; and ultimately I ex- 
tended my plan to travel the whole way by the postas to Buenos 

August llth. — Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at Pata- 
gones, 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 t!ie Rio Negro, broad as it is, has merely been ex- 
cavated 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 depres- 
sions. Everywhere the landscape wears the same sterile aspect ; 
a dry gravelly soil supports tufts of brown withered grass, and 
low scattered bushes, arm.ed with thorns. 

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a 
famous tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of AYal- 
leechu. 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. 
had been suspended. Poor Indians, not having anything better, 
only pull a thread out of their ponchos, and fasten it to the 
tree. Richer Indians are accustomed to pour spirits and 
mate 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 

1S33.] SACKED TKEE. 09 

hones of liorses which had been slaughtered as sacrifices. All 
I ndlans of every age and sex make their offerings ; they then 
think, that their horses will not tire, and tliat they themselves 
shall be prosperous. Tlie Gaucho who told me this, said that in 
the time of peace lie had witnessed this scene, and that he and 
others used to wait till the Indians had passed by, for the sake of 
stealing from Walleechu the offerings. 

The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as the 
god itself; but it seems far more probable, that they regard it as 
tlie 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 G audio 
told me that he was once riding with an Indian a few miles to 
the north of the Rio Colorado, when the Indian commenced 
making the same loud noise, whicli is usual at the first siglit of 
the distant tree ; putting his hand to his head, and then pointing 
in the direction of the Sierra. Upon being asked the reason 
of this, the Indian said in broken Spanish, " First see the Sierra." 
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, who set off" in full chace, and in a few minutes 
di-agged her in with their lazos, and slaughtered her. We 
Iiere had the four necessaries of life " en el campo," — pasture 
for the horses, water (only a muddy puddle), meat and fire- 
wood. 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 passed under the open sky, with the 
gear of the recado for my bed. There is high enjoyment 
ill 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 death-like 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 never be forgotten. 

The next day the country continued similar to that above de- 
scribed. It is inhabited by few birds or animals of any kind. 
(Occasionally a deer, or a Guanaco (wild Llama) may be seen ; 
but the Agouti (Cavia Patagonica) is the commonest quadruped. 
This anirjal here represents our hares. It differs, however, from. 

mo COLORADO. [chap, iv. 

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 
of the desert ; it is a common feature in the landscape to see two 
or three hopping quickly one after the o4;her in a straight line 
across these wild plains. They are found as far north as the 
Sierra Tapalguen (lat. 37' 30'), where the plain rather suddenly 
becomes greener and more humid ; and their southern limit is 
between Port Desire and St. Julian, where there is no change in 
the nature of the country. It is a singular fact, that although 
the Agouti is not now found as 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 by Captain 
Wood in one day at Port Desire, that they must have been 
considerably more abundant there formerly than at present. 
Where the Bizcacha lives and makes its burrows, the Agouti 
uses them; but where, as at Bahia Blanca, the Bizcacha is 
not found, the Agouti burrows for itself. The same thing 
occurs with the little owl of the Pampas (Athene cunicularia), 
v/hich has so often been described as standing like a sentinel 
at the mouth of the burrows ; for in Banda Oriental, owing to 
the absence of the Bizcacha, it is obliged to hollow out its own 

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. AVe passed also a muddy swamp 
of considerable extent, which in summer dries, and becomes in- 
crusted 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 sixty yards wide ; generally it must be 
nearly double that width. Its course is very tortuous, being 
marked by w illow-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 twe/ity-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 
and hundreds of heads, all directed one way, with pointed ears 
and distended snorting nostrils, appearing just above tlie water 
like a great shoal of some amphibious animal. Mare's flesh is 
the only food which the soldiers have wlien on an expedition. 
This gives them a great facility of movement ; for the distance 
to which horses can be driven over these plains is quite sur- 
prising : 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, 
<Scc. 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, 1 know not the reason, 
but men of such origin seldom have a good expression of coun- 
tenance. 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 Pata- 
gones. This was taken to General Rosas, who sent me a very 
obliging message ; and the Secretary returned all smiles and gra- 
ciousness. 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 stayed two days at the Colorado ; I had little to do, for 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 stayed. 
It was supposed that General Rosas had about six lumdred 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 sepa- 

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


rated tliese Indians into two classes ; but this is certainly incor- 
rect. 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 orna- 
mented 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 cliief indoor 
occupations is to knock two stones together till they become 
round, in order to make the bolas. With this important weapon 
the Indian catches his game, and also his horse, which roams free 
over the plain. In fighting, his first attempt is to throw down 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. 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 everything 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 

General Eosas intimated a w ish to see me ; a circumstance 
which I was afterwan's very glad of. He is a man of an extra- 
ordinary 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 liave about three hundred thou- 
sand head of cattle. His estates are admirably managed, and are 
far more productive of corn than those of others. He first gained 
his celebrity by his laws for his own estancias, and by disciplin- 
ing 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 liis knife on a Sunday : this being the principal day for 
gambling and drinking, many quarrels arose, M'hich from the 
general manner of fighting with tiie knife often proved fatal. 
One Sunday the Governor came in great form to pay the estan- 
cia a visit, and General Eosas, 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 jiersuaded 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." 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 accomplishment 
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 

* '1 bis prophecy has turned out entirely and miserabh wrong. 1845 ■ 

74 RIO COLORADO. [chap, iv 

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 doubt- 
less was the act of the general's party, and not of the general 

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 en- 
gaged.' 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 nor sound." The 
poor flighty gentleman looked quite dolorous, at the very recol- 
lection of the staking. This 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 tlie growth of corn. Turning northward from the 

I833.J SAND-DUNES. 75 

river, we soon entered on a country, differing from the plains 
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 dis- 
appeared, and the plains were left without a tliicket to cover 
their nakedness. This change in the vegetation marks the com- 
mencement of the grand calcareo argillaceous deposit, which 
forms the wide extent of the Pampas, and covers the granitic 
rocks of Bajida Oriental. From the Strait of Magellan to the 
Colorado, a distance of about eight hundred miles, the face of 
the country is everywhere composed of shingle : the pebbles are 
chiefly of porphyry, and probably owe tlieir origin to the rocks 
of the Cordillera. North of the Colorado this bed thins out, and 
the pebbles become exceedingly small, and here the charac- 
teristic vegetation of Patagonia ceases. 

Having ridden about twenty-five miles, we came to a broad 
belt of sand-dunes, which stretches, 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 advan- 
tage 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 Eio 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 

7G BAHIA BLANCA. [chap, iv 

between the Colorado and Buenos Ayros 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 ditcli 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 jiast 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 tlian this negro ; it was therefore 
the more painful to see that he would not sit down and eat 
ri'ith us. 
In the morning we sent for the horses very early, and started 
*for another exhilarating gallop. We passed the Cabeza del 
IJuey, an old name given to the head of a large marsh, which 
extends from Bahia Blanca. Kere we changed horses, and 
passed through some leagues of swamps and saline 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 tlie 
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 

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 stand- 
ing (since 1828) ; and its growth has been one of trouble. The 
government of Buenos Ayres unjustly occupied it by force, in- 
stead of following the wise example of the Spanish Viceroys, 
\vho purchased the land near the older settlement of the Rio 
Negro, from the Indians. Hence the need of tlie 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 wliich the 
fortress stands. 

The part of the harbour where the Beagle intended to anchor 
being distant twenty-five miles, I obtained from the Comman- 
dant a guide and horses, to take me to see whether she iiad 
arrived. Leaving the plain of green turf, wliich extended along 
the course of a 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 succu- 
lent plants, which luxuriate only where salt abounds. Bad as 
tlie country was, ostriches, deers, agoutis, and armadilloes, were 
abundant. My guide told me, that two months befor'> lie had a 
most narrow escape of liis life : he was out hunting with two other 
men, at no great distance from this part of the country, when 
they were suddenly met by a party of Indians, who giving chace, 
soon overtook and killed his two friends. His own horse's legs 
were also caught by the bolas ; but he jumped off, aid with his 
knife cut them free : while doing tliis 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 won- 
derful exertion, just to keep ahead of the "ong spear's of his pur- 
suers, wiio followed him to within sight of the fori. 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 obligee' 
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 sulphate of soda, 
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 tlie morning 
they were soon exhausted from not having had any thing to 
drink, so that we were obliged to walk. About noon the dogs 

78 BAHIA BLANCA, [chap. iv. 

killed a kid, which we roasted. I ate 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 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 trou- 
blesome 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 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, and in other 
parts of Patagonia, consists chiefly of sulphate of soda with some 
common salt. 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 compo^d of a black, muddy soil, supporting scattered 
tufts of succulent plants. On returning through one of these 
tracts, after a week's hot weather, one is surprised to see square 
miles of the plain white, as if from a slight fall of snow, here 
and there heaped up by the wind into little drifts. Tliis latter 
appearance is chiefly caused by the salts being drawn up, during 
the slow evaporation of the moisture, round blades of dead grass, 
stumps of wood, and pieces of broken earth, instead of being 
crystallized at the bottoms of the puddles of water. The salitrales 
occur either on level tracts elevated only a few feet above the 
level of the sea, or on alluvial land bordering rivers. M. Par- 
chappe* found that the saline incrustation on the plain, at the 
distance of some miles from the sea, consisted chiefly of sulphate 
of soda, with only seven per cent, of common salt ; whilst nearer 
10 the coast, the common salt increased to 37 parts in a hundred. 
This circumstance would tempt one to believe that the sulphate 
of soda is generated in the soil, from the muriate, left on the 

* Voyage dans rAmerique Merid. par M. A. d'Orbigny. Part. Hist, 
torn. i. p. 6G4. 


siirflice during the slow and recent elevation of this dry couiury. 
The whole phenomenon is well worthy the attention of natural- 
ists. Have the succulent, salt-loving' plants, which are well 
known to contain much soda, the power of decomposing the 
muriate? Does the black fetid mud, abounding with organic 
matter, yield tlie sulphur and ultimately the sulphuric acid? 

Two days afterwards I again rode to the harbour : when not 
far from our destination, my companion, the same man as before^ 
spied three people hunting on horseback. He immediately dis- 
mounted, 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 
tliere 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 "li^tant horizon. I thought his un- 
common 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, 
'• Xo, not until they do." AYhen 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 remained in this position for some time, and at last, bursting 
out in laughter, exclaimed, " Mugeres !" (women !) Pie 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 
poon, however, as the absurd mistake was found out, he gave me 

80 BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. iv. 

a hunilred 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, 
-he tops of which alone are visible at high water. On one oc- 
casion, 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 
it. 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 ratlier larger, and much 
thicker in proportion. Conscious of its power, it roams by day 
about 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 run- 
ning at the nose. Whatever is once polluted by it, is for ever 
useless. Azara says the smell can be perceived at a league dis- 
tant ; 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 will- 
ingly makes room for the Zorillo. 

1833. J BAHIA BLANC A. 81 


Rahia Rlanca — Geologj' — Numerous gigantic extinct Quadrupeds — Recent 
Extinction — Longevity of Species — Large Animals do not require a luxu- 
riant vegetation — Southern Africa — Siberian Fossils — Two Species of 
Ostrich — Habits of Oven-bird — Armadilloes — Venomous Snake, Toad, 
Lizard — Hybernation of Animals — Habits of Sea-Pen — Indians Wars and 
Massacres — Arrow-head, antiquarian Relic, 


The Beagle arrived here on the 24th of August, and a week after- 
wards sailed for the Plata. With Captain Fitz Eoy'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 
en a previous occasion, when the Beagle was employed in sur- 
veying the harbour. 

The plain, at the distance of a few miles from the coast, 
belongs to the great Panipean formation, which consists in part 
of a reddish clay, and in part of a highly calcareous marly rock. 
Nearer the coast there are some plains formed from the wreck 
of tiie upper plain, and from mud, gravel, and sand thrown up 
by the sea during the slow elevation of the land, of which eleva- 
tion we have evidence in upraised beds of recent shells, and in 
rounded pebbles of pumice scattered over the country. At 
Punta Aha we have a section of one of these later-formed little 
plains, which is highly interesting from the number and extra- 
ordinary character of the remains of gigantic land-animals em- 
bedded in it. These have been fully described by Professor 
Owen, in the Zoology of the voyage of the Beagle, and are depo- 
sited in the College of Surgeons. I will here give only a brief 
outline of their nature. 

First, parts of three heads and other bones of the Megathe- 
rium, the huge dimensions of which are expressed by its name. 
Secondly, the Megalonyx, a great allied animal. Thirdly, the 
Scfciidotherium, also an aliied animal, of which I obtained a 


82 BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. v. 

nearly perfect skeleton. It must have been as large as a rhino- 
ceros : in the structure of its head it comes, according to Mr. 
Owen, nearest to the Cape Ant-eater, but in some other respects it 
approaches to the armadilloes. Fourthly, the Mylodon Darwinii, 
a closely related genus of little inferior size. Fifthly, another gi- 
gantic edental quadruped. Sixthly, a large animal, with an osseous 
coat in compartments, very like that of an armadillo. Seventhly, 
an extinct kind of horse, to which I shall have again to refer. 
Eighthly, a tooth of a Pachydermatous animal, probably the same 
with the Macrauchenia, a huge beast with a long neck like a camel, 
which I shall also refer to again. Lastly, the Toxodon, perhaps 
one of the strangest animals ever discovered : in size it equalled an 
elephant or megatherium, but the structure of its teeth, as Mr. 
Owen states, proves indisputably that it was intimately related to 
the Gnawers, the order which, at the present day, includes most 
of the smallest quadrupeds : in many details it is allied to the 
Pachydermata : judging from the position of its eyes, ears, and 
nostrils, it was probably aquatic, like the Dugong and Manatee, 
to which it is also allied. How wonderfully are the different 
Orders, at the present time so well separated, blended together in 
different points of the structure of the Toxodon ! 

The remains of these nine great quadrupeds, and many de- 
tached bones were found embedded on the beach, within the 
space of about 200 yards square. It is a remarkable circum- 
stance 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 from P. Alta, in a cliff of red earth, I found several frag- 
ments of bones, some of large size. Among them were the teeth 
of a gnawer, equalling in size and closely resembling those of 
the Capybara, whose habits have been described ; and therefore, 
probably, an aquatic animal. There was also part of the head of 
a Ctenomys ; the species being different from the Tucutuco, but 
with a close general resemblance. The red earth, like that of 
the Pampas, in which these remains were embedded, contains, ac- 
cording to Pi'ofessor Ehrenberg, eight fresh-water and one salt- 
water infusorial animalcule ; therefore, probably, it was an 
estuary deposit. 

The remains at Punta Alta were embedded in stratified gravel 


ami reddish nuid, just such as tlie sea might now wasli up on a 
shallow bank. They were associated with twenty-three species 
of shells, of which thirteen are recent and four others very 
closely related to recent forms ; whether the remaining' ones are 
extinct or simply unknown, must be doubtful, as few collections 
of shells have been made on this coast. As, however, the recent 
species were embedded in nearly the same proportional numbers 
with those now living in the bay, I think there can be little 
doubt, that this accumulation belongs to a very late tertiary 
period. From the bones of the Scelidotherium, including even 
the knee-cap, being intombed in their proper relative positions, 
and from the osseous armour of the great armadillo-like animal 
being so well preserved, together with the bones of one of 
its legs, we may feel assured that these remains were fresh 
and united by their ligaments, when deposited in the gravel 
together with the shells. Hence we have good evidence that 
the above enumerated gigantic quadrupeds, more different from 
those of the present day than the oldest of the tertiary quadru- 
peds of Europe, lived whilst the sea was peopled with most of its 
present inhabitants ; and we have confirmed that 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 testa cea."* 

The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals, includ- 
ing the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and Mylodon, 
is truly wonderful. The habits of life of these animals were a 
complete puzzle to naturalists, until Professor Owenf lately 
solved the problem with remarkable ingenuity. The teeth in- 
dicate, by their simple structure, that these Megatheroid animals 
lived on vegetable food, and probably on the leaves and small 
twigs of trees ; their ponderous forms and great strong curved 
claws seem so little adapted for locomotion, that some eminent 
naturalists have actually believed, that, like the sloths, to which 
they are intimately related, they subsisted by climbing back 
downwards on trees, and feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, 

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

+ This theory -was first developed in the Zoology of the Voyage of the 
Beagle, and subsequently in Professor Ovvenis Memoir on MyJodou ro- 


84 BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. v. 

not to say preposterous, idea to conceive even antediluvian trees, 
witli branches strong enough to bear animals as large as ele- 
phants. Professor Owen, with far more probability, believes 
that, instead of climbing on the trees, they pulled the branches 
down to them, and tore up the smaller ones by the roots, and so 
fed on the leaves. The colossal breadth and weight of their 
hinder quarters, which can hardly l)e imagined without having 
been seen, become, on this view, of obvious service, instead of 
being an incumbrance : their apparent clumsiness disappears. 
With their great tails and their huge heels firmly fixed like a 
tripod on the ground, they could freely exert the full force of 
their most powerful arms and great claws. Strongly rooted, 
indeed, must that tree have been, which could have resisted such 
force ! The Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a long 
extensile tongue like that of the girarfe, which, by one of those 
beautiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of its 
long neck its leafy food. I may remark, that in Abyssinia the 
elephant, according to Bruce, when it cannot reach with its 
proboscis the branches, deeply scores with its tusks the trunk of 
the tree, up and down and all round, till it is sufficiently 
weakened to be broken down. 

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only from 
fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high-water ; and hence 
the elevation of the land has been small (without there has 
been an intercalated period of subsidence, of which we have no 
evidence) since the great quadrupeds wandered over the sur- 
rounding plains ; and the external features of the country must 
then have been very nearly the same as now. What, it may natu- 
rally be asked, was the character of the vegetation at that period ; 
was the country as wretchedly sterile as it now is ? As so many 
of the co-embedded sliells are the same with those now living in 
the bay, I was at first inclined to think that the former vegeta- 
tion was probably similar to the existing one; but this would 
have been an erroneous inference, for some of these same shells 
live on the luxuriant coast of Brazil ; and generally, the character 
of the inhabitants of the sea are useless as guides to judge of 
those on the land. Nevertheless, from the following considera- 
tions, I do not believe that the simple fact of many gigantic 
quadrupeds having lived on the plains round Bahia Blanca, is 


any sure guide tliat tliey formerly were clothed witli a luxuriant 
vegetation : I have no doubt that the sterile country a little 
southward, near the Kio Negro, with its scattered thorny trees, 
would support many and large quadrupeds. 

That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has been a 
general assumption which has passed from one work to another ; 
but I do not hesitate 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 
})robably been derived from India, and the Indian islands, where 
troops of elephants, noble forests, and impenetrable jungles, are 
associated together in eveiy one's mind. If, however, 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 cha- 
racter of the country, or to the numbers of large animals inha- 
biting it. The same thing is rendered evident by the many 
engravings which have been published of various parts of the 
interior. When the Beagle was at Cape Town, I made an 
excursion of some days' length into the country, which at least 
was sufficient to render that which I had read more fully intel- 

Dr. Andrew Smith, who, at the head of his adventurous 
party, has 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 a 
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 in cutting down bushes, gives, perhaps, a more definite 

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

8G BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. v. 

notion of the scantiness of the vegetation. 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 
probably, according to Dr. Smith, two others, the hippopotamus, 
the giraffe, the bos cafFer — as large as a full-grown bull, and the 
elan — but little less, two 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 indivi- 
duals of each kind are few. By the kindness of Dr. Smith, I 
am enabled to show that the case is ver)- different. He informs 
me, that in lat. 24°, in one day's march with the bullock-wag- 
gons, 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 : 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 hippopotamuses, and 
saw many more. In this same river there were likewise croco- 
diles. 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 straight 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 with the flocks of 
migratory birds. The numbers indeed of the lion, panther, 
and hyeena, and the multitude of birds of prey, plainly speak of 
the abundance of the smaller quadrupeds : one evening seven 
lions were counted at the same time prowling round Dr. Smith's 
encampment. As this able naturalist 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 qua- 


drupeds no doubt roam over wide tracts in search of it ; and 
their food chietiy consists of underwood, wliich 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 con- 
sumed, than its place is supplied by a fresh stock. There can 
be no doubt, however, that our ideas respecting the apparent 
amount of food necessary for the support of large quadrupeds are 
nuich 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 com- 
jiarison of the respective weights (if there were sufficient data) 
of an equal number of the largest herbivorous quadrupeds of 
each countiy would be extremely curious. If we take on the 
one side, the elephant, t hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan, 
certainly three, and probably five species of rhinoceros ; and on 
the American 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 along- 
side each other, it is not easy to conceive ranks more dispro- 
portionate in size. After the above facts, we are compelled to 

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

t The elephant -n-hich was killed at Exeter Change was estimated (being 
partly weighed) at five tons and a half. The elephant actress, as I was in- 
formed, 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 giralfe, and 
half to the bos caffer as well as to the elan (a large ox weighs from 1 200 to 
1500 pounds). This will give an average (from the above estimates) of 2'7 
of a ton for the ten largest herbivorous animals of Southern Africa. In 
South America, allowing 1200 povmds for the two tapirs together, 5,50 for the 
guanaco and vicuna, 500 for three deer, 300 for the capybara, peccari, and a 
monkey, we shall have an average of 250 pounds, which I believe is over- 
stating the result. The ratio will therefore be as 6048 to 250, or 24 to 1, for 
the ten largest animals from the tNvo continents. 

8S BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. v. 

conclude, against anterior probability,* that among the mam- 
malia there exists no close relation between the bulk of the 
species, and the quantity of the vegetation, in the countries 
which they inhabit. 

With regard to the number of large quadrupeds, there cer- 
tainly 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 epechs, to find a condition of 
things among the mammalia, resembling that now existing at 
the Cape of Good Hope. Those tertiary epochs, which we 
are apt to consider as abounding to an astonishing degree with 
\arge animals, because we find the remains of many ages accu- 
mulated at certain spots, could hardly boast of more large 
quadrupeds than Southern Africa does at present. If we 
speculate on the condition of the vegetation during those epochs, 
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 at the Cape 
of Good Hope. 

We knowf that the extreme regions of North America, 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 latitudeif 
(64°), where the mean temperature of the air falls below the 
freezing point, and where the earth is so completely frozen, that 

* 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 have ventured conjecture on the possibility of a car- 
cass so gigantic being supported on the minute Crustacea and moUusca living 
in the frozen seas of the extreme North ? 

f See Zoological Remarks to Capt. Back's Expedition, by Dr. Richardson. 
lie says, " The subsoil north of latitude 56° is perpetually frozen, tlie 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 

X 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°. 


the carcass of an animal embedded in it is perfectly preserved. 
With these facts we must grant, as far as quantity alone of vege- 
tation is concerned, that the great quadrupeds of the later ter- 
liaiy epochs niiglit, in most parts of Nortliern Europe and Asia, 
have lived on the spots where their remains are now found. I 
do not here speak, of the kitid of vegetation necessary for their 
support ; because, as there is evidence of physical clianges, and 
as the animals have become extinct, so may we suppose that the 
species of plants have likewise been changed. 

These remarks, I may be permitted to add, directly bear on 
the case of the Siberian animals preserved in ice. The firm con- 
viction of the necessity of a vegetation possessing a character of 
tropical luxuriance, to support such large animals, and the im- 
possibility 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 aloiie 
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 rhinoceroses and elephants over the Karros of Southern 

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the more 
interesting birds which are common on tlie w ild plains of North- 
ern Patagonia ; and first for the largest, or South American 
ostrich. The ordinary habits of the ostrich are familiar to every 
one. They live 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 feeding on small fish. 
Although tlie ostrich in its habits is so shy, wary, and solitary, 
and although so fleet in its pace, it is caught without much dif- 
ficulty by 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 

90 BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. v. 

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 gene- 
rally known that ostriches readily take to the water. Mr. King 
informs me that at the Bay of San Bias, 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 two hundred yards. 
When swimming, very little of their bodies appear above water ; 
their necks are extended a little forward, and their progress is 
slow. On two occasions I saw some ostriches swimming across 
the Santa Cruz river, where its course was about four hundred 
yards wide, and the stream rapid. Captain Sturt,* when de- 
scending the Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus in the 
act of swimming. 

The inhabitants of the country readily distinguish, even at a 
distance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger and 
darker-coloured, t 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 lie either scattered and single, in w^hich 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. 

* Sturt's Travels, vol. ii. p. 74. 

t A Gaucho assured me that he had once seen a snow-M'hite or Albino 
variety, and that it was a most beautiful bird. 


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 occa- 
sionally fierce, and even dangerous, and that they have been 
known to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick and leaj) 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 tiie Hotten- 
tots to be a nest bird." I understand that the male emu in the 
Zoological Gardens takes charge of the nest : this habit, there- 
fore, 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 watched 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 or more 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 accord- 
ing to Azara, sometimes to seventy or eighty. Now although 
it is most probable, from the number of eggs found in one dis- 
trict being so extraordinarily great in proportion to 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 inter- 
val of three days one from another. If the hen was 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 diflferent 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 Avhen the 

Burchell's Travels, vol. i. p. 280. 
f Azara, vol. iv. p. 173. 

92 BAH I A BLANCA. [chap. v. 

females probably could not sit, from not having finished laying.* 
1 have before mentioned the great numbers of huachos, or de- 
serted eggs ; so that in one day's hunting twenty 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 to- 
gether, and finding a male ready to undertake the office of incu- 
bation ? 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 
authors 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 often found addled and 
putrid, are generally whole. 

When at the Kio 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 com- 
mon 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 Ehea, but of a slightly 
different form, and with a tinge of pale blue. This species occurs 
most rarely on the plains bordering the Pio Negro ; but about a 
degree and a half further south they are tolerably abundant. 
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 not full-grown bird of the com- 
mon sort. It was cooked and eaten before my memory returned. 

* Lichtenstein, however, asserts (Travels, vol. ii. p. 25) that the hens begin 
sitting when they have laid ten or twelve eggs ; and that they continue 
laying, I presume, in another nest. This appears to me very improbable. 
He asserts that four or five hens associate for incubation with one cock, who 
sits only at night. 


Fortunately the head, neck, legs, wings, many of the larger 
foatiiers, and a large part of the skin, had been preserved; and 
from these a very nearly perfect specimen has been put together, 
and is now exhibited in the museum of the Zoological Society. 
Mr. Gould, in describing this new species, has done me the 
honour of calling it after my name. 

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 lie 
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 in that of 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 too far oiF to be distinguished 
themselves. 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 that this bird did not expand 
its wings, when first starting at full speed, after the manner of 
the nortliern kind. In conclusion I may observe, that the Stru- 
tliio rhea inhabits the country of La Plata as far as a little south 
of the Rio Negro in lat. 41°, and that the Struthio Darwinii 
takes its place in Southern Patagonia ; the part about the Rio 
Negro being neutral territory. M. A. d'Orbigny,* wlien at the 
Rio Negro, made great exertions to procure this bird, but never 
had the good fortune to succeed. DobrizhofFer "j" long ago A^as 
aware of there being two kinds of ostriches; 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 

* When at the Rio Negro, vre heard much of the indefatigable labours of 
this naturalist. M. Alcide d'Orbigny, during the years 1825 to 1833, tra- 
vei>ed several large portions of South America, and has made a collectiou, 
and is now publishing the results on a scale of magnificence, Avhich at once 
places himself in the list of American travellers second only to Humboldt. 

•J Account of the Abipones, a.d. 1749, vol. i. (Euglish translation), p, 31i. 

94 BAHIA BLANC A. [chap. v. 

with black at the extremity, and their black ones in like manner 
terminate in white." 

A very singular little bird, Tinochorus rumicivorus, is here 
common : in its habits and general appearance, it nearly equally 
partakes of the characters, different as they are, of the quail and 
snipe. The Tinochorus is found in the whole of southern South 
America, wherever there are sterile plains, or open dry pasture 
land. It frequents in pairs or small flocks the most desolate 
places, where scarcely another living creature can exist. Upon 
being approached they squat close, and then are very difl^icult to 
be distinguished from the ground. When feeding they walk 
rather slowly, with their legs wide apart. They dust themselves 
in roads and sandy places, and frequent particular spots, where 
they may be found day after day : like partridges, they 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 as soon as the bird is seen flying, its whole appear- 
ance changes ; the long pointed wings, so different from those in 
the gallinaceous order, the irregular manner of flight, and plain- 
tive cry uttered at the moment of psing, recal the idea of a 
snipe. The sportsmen of the Beagle unanimously called it the 
short-billed snipe. To this genus, or rather to the family of the 
Waders, its skeleton shows that it is really related. 

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other South Ame- 
rican birds. Two species of the genus Attagis are in almost 
every respect ptarmigans in their habits ; one lives in Tierra del 
Fuego, above the limits of the forest land ; and the other just 
beneath the snow-line on the Cordillera of Central Chile. A 
bird of another closely allied genus, Chionis alba, is an inha- 
bitant of the antarctic regions ; it feeds on sea-weed and shells 
on the tidal rocks. Although not web-footed, from some unac- 
countable habit, it is frequently met with far out at sea. This 
small family of birds is one of those which, from its varied rela- 
tions to other families, although at present oflTering only difficul- 
ties 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. 

183a.] THE OVEN-BIRD. 95 

The genus Fnrnarius contains several species, all small birds, 
living on tlie groiuul, and inhabiting open dry countries. In 
structure they cannot be compared to any European form. Or- 
nithologists have generally included them among the creepers, 
although opposefl to that family in every habit. The best known 
species is the common oven-bird of La Plata, the Casara or 
housemaker of the Spaniards, 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 (F, cunicularius), 
resembles the oven-bird in the general reddish tint of its plu- 
mage, in a peculiar shrill reiterated cry, and in an odd manner 
of running by starts. 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 of the 
passage. The bird chooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by 
the side of a road or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca) the walls 
round the houses are built of hardehed mud ; and I noticed that 
one, which enclosed a courtyard where I lodged, was bored 
through by round holes in a score of places. On asking the 
owner the cause of this, he bitterly complained of the little 
casarita, several of which I afterwards observed at work. It is 
rather curious to find how incapable these birds must be of ac- 
quiring any notion of thickness, for although they were con- 
stantly flitting over the low wall, they continued vainly to 
bore through it, thinking it an excellent bank for their nests, 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 arraadilloes three species occur, namely, 

9G BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. v. 

the Dasypus minutus or pichy, the D. villosus or peludo, and 
the apar. The first extends fen degrees further south than any 
other kind : a fourth species, the 3Iulita, does not come as far 
sou ill as Baliia Blanca. The four species have nearly similar 
habits ; the peludo, however, is nocturnal, while the others 
M'ander by day over the open plains, feeding on beetles, larvae, 
roots, and even small snakes. The apar, commonly called ma- 
taco, 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 : it often tries to escape 
notice, by squatting close to the ground. 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 in soft soil the 
animal burrowed so quickly, that its hinder quarters would 
almost disappear before one could alight. It seems almost 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 Trigono- 
cephalus, or 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 inter- 
mediate between it and the viper. In confirmation of this opi- 
nion, 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 tlie animal glides along, it constantly vibrates the last inch ; 
and this part striking against the dry grass and brushwood, pro- 
duces a rattling noise, which can be distinctly heard at the dis- 


tarice 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 Trigo- 
nocephalus has, tlierefore, in some respects the structure of a 
viper, with the habits of a rattlesnake : the noise, however, being 
produced by a simpler device. The expression of this snake's 
foce 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, 
some of the vampire bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect ori- 
ginates from the features being placed in positions, with respect 
to eacli other, somewhat proportional to those of the human 
face ; and thus we obtain a scale of hideousness. 

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only one little toad 
(Phryniscus nigricans), w hich was most singular from its colour. 
If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in the blackest ink, 
and then, when dry, allow^ed to crawl over a board, freshly 
painted with the brightest vermilion, so as to colour the soles ot 
its feet and parts of its stomach, a good idea of its appearance 
will be gained. If it had been an unnamed species, surely it 
ought to have been 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 Mal- 
donado, 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 it would soon have been drowned. 

Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one (Proctotretus 
multimaculatus) 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 


98 BAHIA BLANCA. [chap. v. 

surface. When frightened, it attempts to avoid discovery by 
feigning death, with outstretclied legs, depressed body, and 
closed eyes: if further molested, it buries itself with great quick- 
ness in the loose sand. This lizard, from its flattened body and 
short legs, cannot run quickly. 

I M'ill here add a few remarks on the hybernation of animals 
in this part of South America. Wiicn we first arrived at Baliia 
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 tlie commencement of 
spring. The plains were ornamented by tlie flowers of a pink 
wood-sorrel, wild peas, Oenothera?, and geraniums ; and the birds 
began to lay their eggs. Numerous Lamellicorn and Hetero- 
merous insects, the latter remarkable for their deeply sculptured 
bodies, were slowly crawling about ; while the lizard tribe, tlie 
constant inhabitants of a sandy soil, darted about in every direc- 
tion. 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 suffi- 
cient to awake the functions of life. At Monte Video, from 
Avhich 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 ; tlie mean hottest 
day being 65°.5, and the coldest 46°. Tlie 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 high 
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 southward, and therefore with a climate only a 
very little colder, this same temperature with a rather less ex- 

1833.] SEA-PEN. 99 

trt'ine hear, was sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings. 
This shows how nicely the stimulus required to arouse lij^bernat- 
ing animals is governed by the usual climate of the district, and 
not by tlie absolute heat. It is well known that Avithin the 
tropics, tlie liybernation, or more properly aestivation, of animals 
is determined not by the temperature, but by tlie times of 
drought. Near Rio de Janeiro, I was at first surprised to ob- 
serve, that, a few days after some little depressions had been 
filled with water, they were peopled by numerous full-grown 
shells and beetles, which must have been lying dormant. Hum- 
boldt has related the strange accident of a hovel having been 
erected over a spot where a young crocodile lay buried in the 
hardened mud. He adds, " The Indians often find enormous 
boas, which they call Uji, or water serpents, in the same lethar- 
gic state. To reanimate them, they must be irritated or wetted 
with water." 

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I believe 
Virgularia Patagonica) 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, varying in length from 
eight inches to tw^o feet. The stem at one extremity is truncate, 
but at the other is terminated by a vermiform fleshy appendage. 
The stony axis which gives strength to the stem may be traced 
at this extremity into a mere vessel filled with granular matter. 
At low water hundreds of these zoophytes might be seen, pro- 
jecting like stubble, with the truncate end upwards, a few inches 
above the surface of the muddy sand. When touched or pulled 
they suddenly drew themselves in 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 alone that the 
zoophyte is enabled to rise again through the mud. Each poly- 
pus, though closely united to it-s brethren, has a distinct mouth, 
bodj-^, and tentacula. Of these polypi, in a large specimen,' 
there must be many thousands ; yet we see that they act by one 
movement : they have also one central axis connected with a 
system of obscure circulation, and the ova are produced in an 
organ distinct from the separate individuals.* Well may one be 

* The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of the extremit}', 

H 2 

100 BAHIA BLANC A. [chap. r. 

allowed to ask, what is an individual ? It is always interesting to 
discover the foundation of the strange tales of the old voyagers , 
and I have no doubt but that the habits of this Virgularia explain 
one such case. Captain Lancaster, in his voyage* in 1601, nar- 
rates that on the sea-sands of the Island of Sombrero, in the 
East Indies, he " found a small twig growing up like a young 
tree, and on offering to pluck it up it shrinks down to the ground, 
and sinks, unless held very hard. On being plucked up, a great 
worm is found to be its root, and as the tree groweth in great- 
ness, so doth the worm diminish ; and as soon as the worm is 
entirely turned into a tree it rooteth in the earth, and so becomes 
great. This transformation is one of the strangest wonders 
that I saw in all my travels : for if this tree is plucked up, while 
young, and the leaves and bark stripped off, it becomes a hard 
stone when dry, much like white coral : thus is this worm twice 
transformed into different natures. Of these we gathered and 
brought home many." 

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 
tiie 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 

were filled with a yellow pulpy matter, which, examined under a micro- 
scope, presented an extraordinary appearance. The mass consisted of 
rounded, semi-transparent, irregular grains, aggregated together into par- 
ticles 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 even 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 mat- 
ter, some of large size, as soon as they were disengaged, commence revolv- 
ing. 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. 
* Kerr s Collection of Voyages, vol. viii. p. '1.19. 


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 autriim 
Inimensus, saniem eructans, ac frusta crueuta 
Per somnum coraniixta mero. 

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 the number of mounted ones by seeing how 
many have cantered ; 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 end of 
the \\'orld. 

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 mean account of the last engage- 
ment at which he was present. Some Indians, who had been 
taken prisoners, gave information of a tribe living north of the 

102 BAHIA BLANCA. [chap v. 

Colorado. Two hundred soldiers were sent ; and they first dis- 
covered 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 were in sight. The Indians, men, women, and cliildren, 
were about one hundred and ten in number, and they were nearly 
all 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 ; bu^ when over- 
taken, 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 tlie 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 shock- 
ing is the unquestionable fact, that all the women who appear 
above twenty yeai's 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 that such atrocities could be committed in a Christian 
civilized country? 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 make them believe themselves slaves ; but I 
believe in their treatment there is little to complain of. 

In the battle four men ran away togther. They were pursued, 
one was killed, and the otlier 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 tlie Cor- 
dillera. 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 Jiigh, and all under tiiirty years of 
age. Tiie three survivors of course possessed very valuable 
information ; and to extort this they were placed in a line. The 
two first being questioned, answered, " No se " (I do not know), 
and Mere 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 ! 
Tlie conduct of the above-mentioned 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 tlieir numbers would be doubled. Ambassadors were to 
have been sent to the Indians at the small Salinas, near Bahia 
Blanca, whom I have mentioned that this same cacique had 
betrayed. The communication, therefore, between the Indians, 
extends from the Cordillera to the coast of the Atlantic. 

General Rosas's plan is to kill all stragglers, and having 
driven the remainder to a common point, to attack them in a 
body, in the summer, with the assistance of the Chilenos. This 
operation is to be repeated for three successive years. I imagine 
the summer is chosen as the time for tlie main attack, because 
tlie 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. Th( 
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 exter- 
mination completely failed. 

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, there 
were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been carried away 
by the Indians when young, and could now only speak the 
Indian tongue. From their account they must have come from 

104 BAHIA BLANCA. [chap, v 

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 Luxan, Areco, and Arrecife, but 
now they are driven beyond the Salado. Not only have whole 
tribes been 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 chace, 
they now wander about the open plains, without home or fixed 

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 
seen patting the horse's head, and talking to him. The pur- 
suers urged every effort in the chace ; 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 

* Purchas's Collection of Voyages. I believe the date was really 


old man witli 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 
wa.s 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 
lianda Oriental must be excepted ; but they are widely separated 
from the Pampas Indians, and border ciose 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. 

• Aziwz has even doubted whether the Pampas ludians ever used bows. 



Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sieira Ventana — Third Posta — 
Driving Horses — Bolas — Partridges and Foxes — Features of the Country — 
Long-legged Plover — Teru-tero — Hail-storm — Natural Enclosures in the 
Sierra Tapalguen — Flesh of Puma — Meat Diet — Guardia del Monte — 
Effects of Cattle on the Vegetation — Cardoon — Buenos Ayres — Corral 
■where Cattle are slaughtered. 


September 8th. — I hired a Gaucho to accompany me on my 
ride to Buenos Ayres, though with some difficulty, as the father 
of one man was afraid to let him go, and anotlier, who seemed 
willing, was described to me as so fearful, that I was afraid to 
take him, for I was told that even if he saw an ostrich at a dis- 
tance, he would mistake it for an Indian, and would fly like the 
wind away. The distance to Buenos Ayres is about four luui- 
dred miles, and nearly the whole way through an uninhabited 
country. We started early in the morning ; ascending a few 
hundred feet from the basin of green turf on wliich 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 tlie appearance foreboded a gale, but the Gauehos 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, 
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 ford for horses, where the water does not reach to the horses' 
belly ; but from tliat point, in its course to the sea, it is quite 
impassable, and hence makes a most useful barrier against the 

1833.] SIERRA VENTANA. 107 

Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose 
information is generally so very correct, figures it as a consider- 
able river, rising at tiie foot of the Cordillera. With respect 
to its source, I do not doubt that this is the case ; for the Gau- 
chos assured me, that in the middle of the dry sunnner, 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 widtli of the continent ; and 
indeed, if it were the residue of a large river, its waters, as in 
other ascertained cases, would be siiline. 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 scoriae were found by 
the oflficers employed in the survey. 

As it was early in the afternoon when w^e arrived, we took 
fresh horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for the Sierra 
de la Yentana. This mountain is visible from the anchorage 
at Bahia Blanca ; and Capt. Fitz Roy calculates its height to be 
3340 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 anything 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. Wlien 
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, 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 
make a skewer to stretch out our meat over the fire 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 an extreme quietness to the view ; — the wiiit- 
ish grey 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 frag- 
ments. 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 thi? 
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. 
The plain, though appearing horizontal, had insensibly sloped 
up to a height of between 800 and 900 feet above the sea. In 
the morning (9th of 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 tra!is- 
versely in two, and separated me from the four points. This 
valley is very narrow, but flat-bottomed, 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 

* I call these thistle-stalks for the want of a more correct name. I be- 
lieye it .i a species of Eryngium. 

Ks.33.1 SIERKA VENTANA. 109 

second ascent. It was late in the day, and this part of the moun- 
tain, like the other, was steep and rugged. I was on the top of 
tlie second peak by two o'clock, but got there with extreme dif- 
ficulty ; every twenty yards I had the cramp in the upper part 
of botli thighs, so that I was afraid I should not have been able 
to have got down again. It was also necessary to return by 
anotlier road, as it was out of the question to pass over the 
saddle-back. I was therefore obliged to give up tlie two higher 
peaks. Their altitude was but little greater, and every purpose 
of geology liad been answered ; so that the attempt was not 
Avorth tlie 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 
nnich 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 conglo- 
merate adhered in several places to the solid rock. They re- 
sembled in hardness, and in the nature of the cement, the masses 
wliich 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 be- 
neath 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 tlie 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, gave it a relish. 
That the danger was very little was certain, for my two com- 
panions 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 mate, 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 \Oth. — In the morning, having fairly scudded 
before the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at tlie Sauce 
posta. On the road we saw great numbers of deer, and near the 


mountain a guanaco. The plain, which abuts against the Sierra, 
is traversed by some curious gulleys, 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 stayed the night at the posta, the conversation, as was 
generally the case, being about the Indians. The Sierra Ven- 
tana was formerly a great place of resort ; and three or four 
years ago there was much fighting there. My guide had been 
present when many Indians were killed : the women escaped to 
the top of the ridge, and fought most desperately with great 
stones ; many thus saving themselves. 

September Wth. — 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 over- 
stated. 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 continuation 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 purpa, 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 ofl[icer left 
Buenos Ayres with five hundred horses, and when he arrived at 
the army he had under twenty. 

Soon afterwards we perceived by the cloud of dust, that a 
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 uncom- 
mon degree the wildness of their appearance. They turned oni 
to be a party of Bernantio's friendly tribe, going to a salina fru 
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 : 
according *o Mungo Park,* it is people who live on vegetable 

* Travels iu Africa, p. 2.^3. 


food who have an unconquerable desire for salt. The Indians 
gave us good-liumoured nods as they passed at full gallop, driv- 
ing before them a troop of hor.'^es, and followed by a train of 
lanky dogs. 

Septeynher \2th and \2tth. — I staid at this posta two days, 
waiting for a troop of soldiers, which General Kosas had the 
kindness to send to inform me, would shortly travel to Buenos 
Ayres ; and he advised me to take the opportunity of the escort. 
In the morning we rode to some neighbouring hills to view the 
country, and to examine the geolotjy. 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. As a proof of their force, I 
may mention, that at the Falkland Islands, when the Spaniards 
murdered some of their own countrymen and all the Englishmen, 
a young friendly Spaniard was running away, when a great tall 
man, 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, Lu- 
ciano 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 
allowed to escape. He told us that his legs were marked by 
great weals, where the thong had wound round, as if he had been 
Hogged with a whip. In the middle of the day two men arrived, 
who brought a parcel from the next posta to be forwarded to 
the general : so that besides these two, our party consisted this 
evening of my guide and self, 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 an- 
other partly a nudatto ; but two such mongrels, with such de- 
testable 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 tlieir 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 everj' head, for a moment, a little 

What a life of misery these men appear to us to lead ! They 
were at least ten leagues from the Sauce jiosta, 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 
here, however, escaped, together with the troop of horses ; (iach 
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 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 mate. I used to think that the carrion 
vultures, man's constant attendants on these dreary plains, while 
seated on the little neighbouring cliffs, seemed by their very 
patience to say, " Ah ! when the Indians come we shall have a 

In the morning we al sallied forth to hunt, and although we 
had not much success, there were some animated chaces. 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, 

18.33.J HOSPITALITY. 113 

but the men there merely rode in a crescent, each being about a 
quarter of a mile apart from Ihe 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 ol 
tiie 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 tlie 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 weight eleven hens' eggs ; so 
that we obtained from this one nest as much food as 297 hens' 
eggs would have given. 

September \Ath. — 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. 
My host, the lieutenant, pressed me much to stop. As he had 
been very obliging — not only providing me with food, but lend- 
ing me his private horses — I wanted to make him some remu- 
neration. I asked my guide whether I might do so, but he told 
me certainly not ; that the only answer I should receive, pro- 
bably 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 acknow- 
ledge as nearly universal throughout these provinces. After 
galloping some leagues, we came to a low swampy country, w^hich 
extends for nearly eighty miles 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 

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


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 \6th. — 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 stayed there the night. As this point was the most exposed 
on the whole line, twenty-one soldiers were stationed here ; 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 conflagra- 
tions. This is done partly for the sake of puzzling any stray 
Indians, but chiefly for improving the pasture. In grassy plains 
imoccupied by the larger ruminating quadrupeds, it seems neces- 
sary to remove the superfluous v^egetation by fire, so as to render 
the new year's growth serviceable. 

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 as if mounted on stilts, 
(Himantopus nigricollis) is here common in flocks of consi- 
derable size. It has been wrongfully accused of inelegance ; 
when wading about in shallow water, which is its favowrite 
resort, its gait is far from awkward. These birds in a flock 
utter a noise, that singularly resembles the cry of a pack of 
smaH dogs in full chace : waking in the night, I have more than 
once been for a moment startled at the distant sound. The 
teru-tero (Vanellus cay an us) is another bird, which often dis- 
turbs 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 take*, 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 man- 
kind, and I am sure deserve to be hated for tiieir never-ceasing, 
unvaried, harsh screams. To the sportsman they are most an- 
noying, by telling every other bird and animal of his approach : 
to the traveller in the country, they may possibly, as Molina 
saj's, do good, by warning him of the midniglit 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 \6th. — 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 here remarkably neat, the 
posts and rafters being made of about a dozen dry thistle- 
stalks bound together with thongs of hide ; and by the support 
of these Ionic-like columns, the roof and sides were thatched 
with reeds. AVe 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 could 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 Mas nearly broken down, and my in- 
former, putting his head out to see what w as 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, 

I 2 


however, to have its credibility supported by the Jesuit Drobriz- 
hofFer,* who, speaking of a country much to the northward, 
pays, hail fell of an enormous size and killed vast numbers of 
cattle : the Indians hence called tlie place Lalegraicavalca, 
meaning "the little white things." Dr. Malcolrason, also, in- 
forms me that he witnessed in 1831 in India, a hail-storm, which 
killed numbers of large birds and much injured the cattle. 
These hail-stones were flat, and one was ten inches in circum- 
ference, and another weighed two ounces. They ploughed up a 
gravel-walk like musket-balls, and passed through glass-windows, 
making round holes, but not cracking them. 

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. The rock in 
this part is pure quartz ; further eastward I understand it is gra- 
nitic. The hills are of a remarkable form ; they consist of flat 
patches of table-land, surrounded by low 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 dia- 
meter, and encompassed by perpendicular clifis between thirty 
and forty feet high, excepting at one spot, where the entrance 
lies. Falconerf gives a curious account of the Indians driving 
troops of wild horses into it, 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 nor 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 

* History of the Abipones, vol. ii. p. 6, 
f Falconers Patagonia, p. 70. 

1833.] MEAT DIET. 117 

colour, taste, and flavour." Such certainly is the case with the 
Puma. The Gauchos differ in their opinion, whether the Ja- 
guar is good eating, but are unanimous in saying that cat is ex- 

September \1th. — We followed the course of the Rio Tapal- 
guen, through a very fertile country, to the ninth posta. Tapal- 
guen 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-shaped huts of the Indians. 
The families of the friendly Indians, who were fighting on the 
Bide of Rosas, resided here. We met and passed many young 
Indian women, riding by two or three together on tlie 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 in- 
habited 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 me with hard exercise. I have heard that 
patients in England, when desired to confine themselves exclu- 
sively 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. Dr. Richardson,* also, has 
remarked, " that when people have fed for a long time solely 
upon lean animal food, the desire for fat becomes so insatiable. 
That they can consume a large quantity of unmixed and even oily 
fat without nausea :" this appears to me a curious physiological 
fact. It is, perhaps, from their meat 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, 

* Fauna Boreali-Americana, vol. i. p. 35. 


and garters, woven by the Indian women. The patterns were 
very pretty, and the colours brilliant ; the workmansliip of the 
garters was so good that an English merchant at Buenos Ayres 
maintained they must have been manufactured in England, till 
he found tiie 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 the 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 con- 
trived 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, 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 here, as well as in Banda Oriental, where there 
is as great a difference between the country around Monte Video 
and the thinly-inhabited savannahs of Colonia, the whole was 
to be attributed to the manuring and grazing of the cattle. 
Exactly the same fact has been observed in the prairies* of North 
America, where coarse grass, between five and six feet high, 

* See Mr. Atwater's account of the Prairies, in Silliman's N. A. Journal, 
vol. i. p. 117. 

1833.] THE CARDOON. 119 

when grazed by cattle, changes inlo common pasture land. I 
am not botanist enough to say whether the change here 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 oc- 
curring in the neighbourhood, on the borders of any track that 
leads to a newly-constructed hovel. In another part he says,* 
'' ces chevaux (sauvages) out la manie de preferer les chemins, 
et le bord des routes pour depose" leurs excremens, dont on trouve 
des monceaux dans ces endroits." Does this not 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 extraordinarily 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)f 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 now live. Before their introduction, however, the surface 
must have 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 

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

f M. A. d'Orbigny (vol. i. p. 474) says that the cardoon and artichoke are 
both found wild. Dr. Hooker (Botanical Magazine, vol. Iv. p. 2S62), has 
described a variety of the Cynara from this part of South America under 
the name of inerryiis. 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 that he had observed in a deserted garden 
some artichokes changing into the conmion cardoon. Dr. Hooker believes 
that Head's vivid description of the thistle of the Pampas applies to the car- 
doon ; 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. 


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, 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, in- 
habits rocky hills. As M. d'Orbigny has remarked, the increase 
in numbers of the carrion-vulture, since the introduction of the 
domestic animals, must have been infinitely great ; and we have 
given reasons for believing that they have extended their southern 
range. No doubt many plants, besides the cardoon and fennel, 
are naturalized ; thus the islands near the mouth of the Parana, 
are thickly clothed with peach and orange trees, springing from 
seeds carried there by the waters of the river. 

While changing horses at the Guardia several people ques- 
tioned 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 saTe from the attacks of the Indians. We had a 
long day's ride over the same rich green plain, abounding M'ith 
various flocks, and with here and there a solitary estancia, and 
its one omhu tree. In the evening it rained heavily : on arriv- 
ing 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," his 
respect and civility were as unbounded as his suspicions had been 
before. What a naturalist might be, neither he nor his country- 
men, I suspect, had any idea ; but probably my title lost nothing 
of its value from that cause. 

1833.1 THE GREAT CORRAL. 121 

September 20th. — We arrived by the middle of the day at 
Buenos Ayres. The outskirts of the city looked quite pretty, 
Avith 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 whose kind- 
ness and hospitality, during my stay in the country, I was greatly 

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 mucli 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 consider- 
able 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 ploughing 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 turn- 
ing to receive the shock, stands so firmly that the bullock is 
almost thrown down, and it is surprising that their necks are not 
broken. The struggle is not, however, one of fair sti-ength ; 
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 (he hamstrings. Then is given 

* It is said to contain r,0,nOO inhabitants. Monte Video, the second town 
of importance on the banks of the Plata, has 15,(JO0. 

122 BUENOS AYRES. [chap. vi. 

the death bellow ; a noise more 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 dreiiciied 
•with gore. 

1833.] EXCURSION TO ST. FE'. ir.i 


Excursion to St. Fe— Thistle Beds— Habits of the Bizcacha — Little Owl — 
Saline Streams — Level Plains — Mastodon— St. Fc' — Change in Landscape 
— Geology — Tooth of extinct Horse— Relation of the Fossil and recent 
Quadrupeds of North and South America — Effects of a great Drought — 
Parana — Habits of the 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 tliree 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, tliey 
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 rate 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 wag- 
gons are very long, narrow, and thatched with reeds ; they have 
only two wheels, the diameter of which in some cases is as much 
as 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. 

Septe7nber 28th. — We passed the small town of Luxan, where 
there is a wooden bridge over the river — a most unusual conve- 
nience in this country. We passed also Areco. The plains 

124 PAMPAS. [chap. VII. 

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 full grown, the great beds 
are impenetrable, except by a fisw tracks, as intricate as those in 
a labyrinth. These are only known to the robbers, who at this 
season inhabit tliem, and sally forth at night to rob and cut 
throats with impunity. Upon asking at a house whether rob- 
bers 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 bizcaclia and 
its friend the little owl. 

The bizcaclia* 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 pre- 
fers a clayey or sandy soil, which produces a different and more 
abundant vegetation. Near Mendoza, at the foot of the Cordil- 
lera, it occurs in close neighbourhood with the allied alpine spe- 
cies. It is a very curious circumstance in its geographical dis- 
tribution, that it has never been seen, fortunately for the inha- 
bitants of Banda Oriental, to the eastward of the river Uru- 
guay : yet in this province there are plains which appear admira- 
bly adapted to its habits. The Uruguay has formed an insuper- 
able 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 these two great rivers. Near 
Buenos Ayres these animals are exceedingly conmion. Their 

* The bizcacha (Lagostomus trichodactylus) 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. 

1833.] THE BIZCACHA. 125 

most favourite resort appears to be those parts of the plain which 
during one half of 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 places frequented by it, seems probable. In the 
evening the bizcachas come out in numbers, and quietly sit at 
the mouths of their burrows on their haunches. At such times 
they are verj' tame, and a man on horseback passing by seems 
only to present an object for their grave contemplation. They 
run very awkwardly, and when running 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 an irregular 
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, he 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 re- 
mote 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 reason ; but the inhabitants of the country are 
quite ignorant of it. The only fact which I know analogous to 
it, is the habit of that extraordinary Australian bird, the Calo- 
dera maculata, which makes an elegant vaulted passage of twigs 
for playing in, and which collects near the spot, land and sea- 
shells, bones, and the feathers of birds, especially brightly co- 
loured ones. Mr. Gould, who has described these facts, in- 
forms me, that the natives, when they lose any hard object, 
search the playing passages, and he has known a tobacco-pipe 
thus recovered. 

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has been so often 

126 PAMPAS. [chap. VII. 

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 fre- 
quently 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 sto- 
machs of two which I opened the remains of mice, and I one 
day saw a small snake killed and carried away. It is said that 
snakes are their common prey during the daytime. I may here 
mention, as showing on what various kinds of food owls subsist, 
that a species killed among the islets of the Chonos Archipelago, 
had its stomach full of good-sized crabs. In India* there is a 
fishing genus of owls, which likewise catches 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. 1 this day paid horse-hire for thirty-one leagues ; 
and although the sun was glaring hot I was but 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. 

29^/i and SOth. — We continued to ride over plains of the 
same character. At San Nicolas 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 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 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 abso- 
lutely perpendicular, and of a red colour ; at other times in large 
* Journal of Asiatic Soc, vol. v. p. 363. 

1833.J KIO TERCERO. 127 

broken masses, covered with cacti and mimosa-trees. The real 
grandeur, however, of an immense river like this, is derived 
from retlectiiig how important a means of communication and 
conmierce 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 pa^t your feet. 

For many leagues north and south of San Nicolas and Roza- 
rio, the country is really level. Scarcely anything which travel- 
lers 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 dis- 
tant. 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 \st. — "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 stayed 
liere the greater part of the day, searching for fossil bones. 
Besides a perfect tooth of the Toxodon, and many scattered 
bones, I found two immense skeletons near each other, projecting 
in bold relief from the perpendicular clift' of the Parana. They 
were, however, so completely decayed, that I could only bring 
away small fragments of one of the great molar teeth ; but these 
are sufficient to show that the remains belonged to a Mastodon, 
probably to the same species with that, which formerly must have 
inhabited the Cordillera in Upper Peru in such great numbers. 
The men who took me in the canoe, said they had long known 
of these skeletons, and had often wondered how they had got 
there : the necessity of a theory being felt, they came to the 
conclusion that, like the bizcaciia, the mastodon was formerly 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 l7id. — We passed through Corunda, which, from the 
luxuriance of its gardens, was one of the prettiest villages I saw. 

12S SI'. FE'. [chap. VII. 

From this point to St. Fe the road is not very safe. The western 
side of the Parana northward, ceases to be inhabited ; and hence 
the Indians sometimes comedown thus far, 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. AYe passed some houses that had been ransacked and 
since deserted ; we saw also a spectacle, which my guides viewed 
M-ith high satisfaction ; it was the skeleton of an Indian with the 
dried skin hanging on the bones, suspended to the branch of a 

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 half-a-dozen birds, 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 3rd and 4th. — I was confined for these two days to 
my bed by a headach. A good-natured 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 headach the day before yesterday." Many 
of the remedies used by the people of the country are ludicrously 
strange, but too disgusting to be mentioned. One of the least 
nasty is to kill and cut open two puppies and bind them on each 
side of a broken limb. Little hairless dogs are in great request 
to sleep at the feet of invalids. 

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. P'e 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 the inhabitants are, no province has suffered more from 
bloody and desperate revolutions. They boast here of repre- 
sentatives, ministers, a standing army, and governors : so it is no 
wonder that they have 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 

I was delayed here five days, and employed myself in ex- 
amining the geology of the surrounding country, which was very 
interesting. We here see at the bottom of the cliffs, beds contain- 
ing sharks' teeth and sea-shells of extinct species, 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 quadrupeds. This vertical section clearly tells us of a 
large bay of pure salt-water, gradually encroached on, and at last 
converted into the bed of a muddy estuary, into which floating 
carcasses were swept. At Punta Gorda, in Banda Oriental, I 
found an alternation of the Pampsean estuary deposit, with a 
limestone containing some of the same extinct sea-shells ; and 
this shows either a change in the former currents, or more pro- 
bably an oscillation of level in the bottom of the ancient estuary. 
Until lately, my reasons for considering the Pampeean formation 
to be an estuary deposit were, its general appearance, its position at 
the mouth of the existing great river the Plata, and the presence 
of so many bones of terrestrial quadrupeds : but now Professor 

130 ST. FE. [chap. vii. 

Ehrenberg has had the kindness to examine for me a little of the 
red earth, taken from low down in the deposit, close to the 
skeletons of the mastodon, and he finds in it many infusoria, 
partly salt-water and partly fresh-water forms, with the latter 
rather preponderating ; and therefore, as he remarks, the water 
must have been brackish. M. A. d'Orbigny found on the banks 
of the Parana, at the height of a hundred feet, great beds of an 
estuary shell, now living a hundred miles lower down nearer the 
sea ; and I found similar shells at a less height on the banks of 
the Uruguay : this sliows that just before the Pampas was slowly 
elevated into dry land, the water covering it was brackish. 
Below Buenos Ayres there are upraised beds of sea-shells of 
existing species, which also proves that the period of elevation 
of the Pampas was within the recent period. 

In the Pampaean deposit at the Bajada I found the osseous armour 
of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, the inside of which, when the 
earth was removed, was like a great cauldron ; I found also teeth of 
the Toxodon and Mastodon, and one tooth of a Horse, in the same 
stained and decayed state. This latter tooth greatly interested 
me,* and I took scrupulous care in ascertaining that it had been 
embedded contemporaneously with the other remains ; for I was 
not then aware that amongst the fossils from Bahia Blanca there 
was a horse's tooth hidden in the matrix : nor was it then known 
■with certainty tliat the remains of horses are common in North 
America. Mr. Lyell has lately brought from the United States 
a tooth of a horse ; and it is an interesting fact, that Professor 
Owen could find in no species, either fossil or recent, a slight 
but peculiar curvature characterizing it, until he thought of com- 
paring it with my specimen found here : he has named this 
American horse Equus curvidens. Certainly it is a marvellous 
fact in the history of the Mammalia, that in South America a 
native horse should have lived and disappeared, to be succeeded 
in after ages by the countless herds descended from the few 
introduced with the Spanish colonists ! 

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the 
mastodon, possibly of an elephant,| and of a hollow-horned 

* I need hardly state here that there is good evidence against any horse 
living in America at the time of Columbus. 
f Cuvier, Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 158. 


ruminant, discovered by MM. Lund and Clausen in the caves of 
Brazil, are highly interesting facts with respect to the geo- 
graphical distribution of animals. At the present time, if we 
divide America, not by the Isthmus of Panama, but by the 
soutliern 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 the two zoological provinces of North and South 
America strongly contrasted with each other. Some few species 
alone have passed the barrier, and may be considered as wander- 
ers from the south, such as the puma, opossum, kinkajou, and pec- 
cari. South America is characterized by possessing many peculiar 
gnawers, a family of monkeys, the llama, peccari, tapir, opossums, 
and, especially, several genera of Edentata, the order winch in- 
cludes the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos. North America, 
on the other hand, is characterized (putting on one side a few 
wandering species) by numerous peculiar gnawers, and by four 
genera (the ox, sheep, goat, and antelope) of hollow-horned 
ruminants, of which great division South America is not known 
to possess a single species. Formerly, but within the period 
when most of the now existing shells were living, North 
America possessed, besides hollow-horned ruminants, the ele- 
phant, mastodon, horse, and three genera of Edentata, namely, 
the Megatherium, Megalonyx, and Mylodon. "Within nearly this 
same periods (as proved by the shells at Bahia Blanca) South 
America possessed, as we have just seen, a mastodon, horse, 
hollow-horned ruminant, and the same three genera (as well as 
several others) of the Edentata. Hence it is evident that North 
and South America, in having within a late geological period 
these several genera in common, were much more closely related 
in the character of their terrestrial inhabitants than they now are. 

* This is the geographical division followed by Lichtenstein, Swaiuson, 
Eriehson, and Richardson. The section from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, given 
by Humboldt in the Polit. Essay on Kingdom of N. Spain, will show how 
immense a barrier the Mexican table-land forms. Dr. Richardson, in his 
admirable Report on the Zoology of N. America read before the Brit. Assoc. 
1836 (p. 157), talking of the identification of a Mexican animal with the 
St/neiheres preftensilis, 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,' 

132 ST. FE. [chap. yii. 

The more I reflect on this case, the more interesting it appears : 
I know of no other instance where we can almost mark the 
period and manner of the splitting up of one great region into 
two well-characterized zoological provinces. The geologist, who 
is fully impressed with the vast oscillations of level which have 
affected the earth's crust within late periods, will not fear to 
speculate on the recent elevation of the Mexican platform, or, 
more probably, on the recent submergence of land in the West 
Indian Archipelago, as the cause of the present zoological sepa- 
ration of North and South America. The South American 
character of the West Indian mammals * seems to indicate that 
this archipelago was formerly united to the southern continent, 
and that it has subsequently been an area of subsidence. 

When America, and especially North America, possessed its 
elephants, mastodons, horse, and hollow-horned ruminants, it was 
much more closely related in its zoological characters to the 
temperate parts of Europe and Asia than it now is. As the 
remains of these genera are found on both sides of Behring's 
Straitsf and on the plains of Siberia, we are led to look to the 
north-western side of North America as the former point of 
communication between the Old and so-called New World. And 
as so many species, both living and extinct, of these same genera 
inhabit and have inhabited the Old World, it seems most probable 
that the North American elephants, mastodons, horse, and hollow - 
horned ruminants migrated, on land since submerged near Beh- 
ring's Straits, from Siberia into North America, and thence, on 
land since submerged in the West Indies, into South America, 
where for a time they mingled with the forms characteristic of 
that southern continent, and have since become extinct. 

While travelling through the country, I received several vivid 
descriptions of the effects of a late great drought ; and the 
account of this may throw some light on the cases where vast 

* See Dr. Richardson's Report, p. 157; also L'Institut, 1837, p. 253. 
Cuvier says the kinkajou is found in the larger Antilles, but this is doubtful. 
M. Gervais states that the Didelphis crancrivora is found there. It is certain 
that the West Indies possess some mammifers peculiar to themselves. A tooth 
of a mastodon has been brought from Bahama : Ediu. New Phil. Journ. 
1826, p. 395. 

f See the admirable Appendix by Dr. Buckland to Beechey's Voyage , 
also the writings of Chamisso iu Kotzebue's Voyage. 

1833.] THE GREAT DROUGHT. 133 

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 wliole 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, which he had been obliged to dig to supply 
his own family with w'ater ; 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 pre- 
viously to these years 20,000 cattle ; at the end not one re- 
mained. San Pedro is situated in the middle of the finest 
country ; and even now abounds again 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 southward, were 
mingled together in such multitudes, that a government com- 
mission 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 

* 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 some time since entered the 
town, in a body, to possess themselves of the wells, not being able to procure 
any water in the country. The inhabitants mustered, Avhen a desperate 
conflict ensued, which terminated in the ultimate discomfiture of the in- 
vaders, but not until they had killed one man, and wounded several others." 
The town is said to have a population of nearly three thousand ! Dr. Mal- 
colmson informs me, that during a great drought in India the wild animals 
entered the tents of some troops at Ellore, and that a hare drank out of a 
vessel held by the adjutant of the regiment. 

134 ST. FE^ [chap. vit. 

drowned. The arm of the river 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 impassable. Without doubt 
several hundred thousand animals thus perished in the river: 
their bodies when putrid were seen floating down the stream ; 
and many in all probability were deposited 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. Azara describes* the 
fury of the wild horses on a similar occasion, rushing into the 
marshes, those which arrived first being overwhelmed and 
crushed by those which followed. He adds that more than once 
he has seen the carcasses of upwards of a thousand wild horses 
thus destroyed, I noticed that the smaller streams in the Pampas 
were paved with a breccia of bones, but this probably is the 
effect of a gradual increase, rather than of the destruction at 
any one period. Subsequently to the drought of 1827 to '32, 
a very rainy season followed, which caused great floods. Hence 
it is almost certain that some thousands of the 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?! 

October \2th. — I had intended to push 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 con- 
stant 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 

* Travels, vol. i. p. 374. 

t These droughts to a certain degree seem to be almost periodical ; I 
was told the dates of several others, and the intervals were about fifteen 


about four feet above the level of the river ; but during tlie 
periodical floods they are inundated. They all present one cha- 
racter ; numerous willows and a few other trees are bound to- 
gether by a great variety of creeping plants, thus forming a thick 
jungle. Tliese thickets afford a retreat for capybaras and 
jaguars. The fear of the latter animal quite destroyed all plea- 
sure 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 were 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 
haunts of the jaguar ; but south of the Plata, I was told that they 
frequented the reeds bordering lakes : wherever they are, they seem 
to require water. Their common prey is the capybara, so that 
it is generally said, where capybaras are numerous there is little 
danger from the jaguar. Falconer states that near the southern 
side of the mouth of the Plata there are many jaguars, 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/rom 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 cattle and horses. It is said that they kill their prey by 
breaking their necks. If driven from the carcass, they seldom 
return to it. The Gauchos say that the jaguar, when 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. 

136 RIO PARANA. [chap. vii. 

One day, when hunting on the banks of the Uruguay, I was 
shown certain trees, to which these animals constantly recur for 
the purpose, as it is said, of sharpening their claws. I saw three 
well-known trees ; in front, the bark was worn smooth, as if by 
the breast of the animal, 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; and I have heard of young fruit-trees in an 
orchard in England having been thus much injured. Some such 
habit must also be 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 
believe, to tear off the ragged points of their claws, and not, as 
the Gauchos think, to sharpen them. 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 
which 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, 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 1 5th. — 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 nar- 
row arm of the river. I took the boat and rowed some distance 

1833.] THE SCISSOR-BEAK. 187 

up this creek. It was very narrow, winding, and deep ; on each 
side a wall thirty or forty feet hig-li, 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 
(Rhynchops nigra). It has sliort 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. In a lake near 
Maldonado, from which the water had been nearly drained, and 
which, in consequence, swarmed with small fry, I saw several of 
these birds, generally in small flocks, flying rapidly backwards 
and forwards close to the surface of the lake. They kept their 
bills wide open, and 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 quickness, and dexterously manage with their 
projecting lower mandible to plough up small fish, which are 
secured by the upper and shorter half of their scissor-like bills. 
This fact I repeatedly saw, as, 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 uttered loud harsh cries. When these 
birds are fishing, the advantage of the long primary feathers of 
their wings, in keeping them dry, is very evident. When thus 
employed, their forms resemble the symbol by which many artists 
represent marine birds. Their tails are much used in steering 
their irregular course. 

138 EIO PARANA. [chap. vir. 

These birds are common far inland along the course of the 
Rio Parana ; it is said that they remain here 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 be- 
tween 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 irre- 
gular 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 seaward. From these facts I suspect 
that the Rhynchops 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 mactrse buried in the sand-banks on the coast of Chile : 
from their weak bills, with the lower mandible so much project- 
ing, their short legs and long wings, it is very improbable that 
this can be a general habit. 

In our course down the Parana, I observed only three other 
birds, whose habits are worth mentioning. One is a small king- 
fisher (Ceryle 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 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 (Conurus murinus), with a 
grey 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 corn-fields. I was told that near Colonia 2500 were killed 
in the course of one year. A bird with a forked tail, terminated 
by two long feathers (Tyrannus savana), and named by the 
Spaniards scissor-tail, is very common near Buenos Ayres: it 
commonly sits on a branch of the ombu tree, near a house, and 

1833.] RIO PARANA. 139 

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 com- 
mon swallow. It has the power of turning very shortly in the 
air, 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. 

October \Qth. — Some leagues below Rozario, the western 
shore of the Parana is bounded by perpendicular cliffs, which 
extend in a long line to below San Nicolas ; hence it more 
resembles a sea-coast 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 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 being not quite fair, as usual 
we immediately moored, and the next day, as it blew rather 
freshly, though 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. 

l^th and \9th. — We continued slowly to sail down the noble 
stream : the current helped us but little. We met, during our 
descent, very few vessels. One of the best gifts of nature, in so 
grand a channel of communication, seems here wilfully thrown 
away — a river in which ships might navigate from a temperate 
country, as surprisingly abundant in certain productions as desti- 
tute 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 un- 
natural calm. That country will have to learn, like every other 
South American state, that a republic cannot succeed till it con- 
tains 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 per- 
mission to go the next day to General Rolor, who commanded a 
division of the rebels on this side 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 at least would remain faithful to the last. The 
genera] 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 sen- 


tinels. I was too glad to accept of this, and an officer was sent 
with nie to give directions tliat I should not be sto])ped at the 
bridge. The road for the space of a league was quite deserted. 
I met one party of soldiers, who were satisfied by gravely look- 
ing at an old passport : and at length I was not a little pleased to 
find myself within the city. 

Tliis 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 very unreasonable to 
ask for pretexts. In this case, a party of men — who, being at- 
tached 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 be quite consonant with 
the plans of his party. A year ago he was elected governor, but 
he refused it, unless the Sala would also confer on him extra- 
ordinary powers. This was refused, and since then his party 
have siiown 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. 

i42 BANDA ORIENTAL. [chap. viii. 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — Value of an Estancia — Cattle, 
how counted — Singular Breed of Oxen — Perforated Pebbles — Shep- 
herd Dogs — Horses Broken-in, Gauchos Riding — Character of In- 
habitants — Rio Plata — Flocks of Butterflies — Aeronaut Spiders — Phospho- 
rescence of the Sea — Port Desire — Guanaco — Port St. Julian — Geologj'' 
of Patagonia— Fossil gigantic Animal — Types of Organization constant 
— Change in the Zoology of America — Causes of Extinction. 


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 appre- 
hensions 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 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 that the Beagle would not sail 
for some time, so I prepared for a short excursion in this part of 
Banda Oriental. Everything which I have said about the country 
near Maldonado is applicable to M. Video ; but the land, 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 \Ath. — 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 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 Jose, 
and thus lost mucli time. On a former excursion I crossed the 
Lucia near its mouth, and I was surprised to observe how easily 
our hordes, 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 dex- 
terity 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, whicli 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 pommel or mane, and help himself 
with the other arm. 

We slept and stayed 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 towns in Banda 
Oriental, his luggage consisted of two letters ! The view from 
the house was pleasing ; an undulating green surface, with dis- 
tant glimpses of the Plata. I find that 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 gal- 
loping over the Pampas, my only surprise is, what could have 

144 BANDA ORIENTAL. [chap, viii. 

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 \1th. — We crossed the Kozario, 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 estan- 
cia, 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 in the Brazilian war. It is very an- 
cient ; and tlie irregularity of the streets, and the surrounding 
groves of old orange and peach trees, gave it a pretty appear- 
ance. The church is a curious ruin ; it was used as a powder- 
magazine, and was struck by lightning in one of the ten thousand 
thunder-storms 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 light- 
ning 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 multi- 
tude 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 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, how- 
ever, 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 they seemed to think every 
reasonable man ought to be satisfied. 

ISth. — Rode with my host to his estaneia, 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 estaneia. Of 
cattle there were 3000, and it would well support thr^*^ or four 
times that number; of mares 800, together with 150 broken-in 
horses, and GOO sheep. There was plenty of water and lime- 
stone, a rough house, excellent corrals, and a peach orchard. 
For all this he had been offered 2000/., and he only wanted 500/. 
additional, and probably would sell it for less. The chief 
trouble with an estaneia 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. During a stormy night the 
cattle all mingle together ; but the next morning the tropillas 
separate as before ; so that each animal must know its fellow 
out of ten thousand others. 

On two occasions I met with in this province some oxen of a 
very curious breed, called nata or niata. They appear exter- 
nally to hold nearly the same relation to other cattle, which bull 
or pug dogs do to other dogs. Their forehead is very short and 
broad, with the nasal end turned up, and the upper lip much 
drawn back ; their lower jaws project beyond the upper, and 
have a corresponding upward curve ; hence their teeth are always 
exposed. Their nostrils are seated high up and are very open ; 
their eyes project outwards. When walking they carry their 
heads low, on a short neck ; and their hinder legs are rather 
longer compared with the front legs than is usual. Their bare 


146 BANDA ORIENTAL. [ckap. mix. 

teeth, their short heads, and upturned nostrils give them the 
most ludicrous self-confident air of defiance imaginable. 

Since my return, I have procured a skeleton head, through 
the kindness of my friend Captain Sulivan, R,N., which is now 
deposited in the College of Surgeons.* Don F. Muniz, of 
Luxan, has kindly collected for me all the information which he 
could respecting this breed. From his account it seems that 
about eighty or ninety years ago, they were rare and kept as 
curiosities at Buenos Ayres. The breed is universally believed 
to have originated amongst the Indians southward of the Plata ; 
and that it was with them the commonest kind. Even to this 
day, those reared in the provinces near the Plata show their less 
civilized origin, in being fiercer than common cattle, and in the 
cow easily deserting her first calf, if visited too often or molested. 
It is a singular fact that an almost similar structure to the ab- 
normal f one of the niata breed, characterizes, as I am informed 
by Dr. Falconer, that great extinct ruminant of India, the Siva- 
therium. The breed is yery tme ; and a niata bull and cow 
invariably produce niata calves. A niata bull with a common 
cow, or the reverse cross, produces offspring having an interme- 
diate character, but with the niata characters strongly displayed : 
according to Senor Muniz, there is the clearest evidence, con- 
trary to the common belief of agriculturists in analogous cases, 
that the niata cow when crossed with a common bull transmits 
her peculiarities more strongly than the niata bull when crossed 
with a common cow. When the pasture is tolerably long, the 
niata cattle feed with the tongue and palate as well as common 
cattle ; but during the great droughts, when so many animals 
perish, the niata breed is under a great disadvantage, and would 
be exterminated if not attended to ; for the common cattle, like 
horses, are able just to keep alive, by browsing with their lips on 
twigs of trees and reeds ; this the niatas cannot so well do, as 
their lips do not join, and hence they are found to perish before 
the common cattle. This strikes me as a good illustration of 
how little we are able to judge from the ordinary habits of life, 

* Mr. Waterhouse has drawn up a detailed description of this head, 
whicn I hope he will publish in some Journal. 

f A nearly similar abnormal, but I do not know whether hereditary, struc- 
ture has been observed in the carp, and likewise in the crocodile of the 
Ganges : Histoire des Auomaliys, par M. Isid. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, torn. i. 
p. 244. 


on what circumstances, occurring only at long intervals, the 
rarity or extinction of a species may be determined. 

Nocember \9th. — Passing the valley of Las Vacas, we slept 
at a house of a North American, who worked a lime-kiln on 
the Arroyo de las Yivoras. In the morning we rode to a pro- 
jecting headland on the banks of the river, called Punta Gorda. 
On tlie way we tried to find a jaguar. There were plenty of 
fresli 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 tlie stream, 
its appearance was far superior to that of its neighbour the Pa- 
rana. 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. 

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 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 new to them. The cap- 
tain 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 trem- 
bled to think how deeply scientific it would be : it was, " AVhe- 
ther the ladies of Buenos Ayres were not the handsomest in the 
world." I replied, like a renegade, " Charmingly so." He 
added, " I have one other question : Do ladies in any other 
part of the world wear such large combs?" I solenndy assured 


148 BAND A ORIENTAL. [cuap. viii. 

him that 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 combs and beauty pro- 
cured me a most hospitable reception ; the captain forced me to 
take his bed, and he would sleep on his recado. 

2Ui!. — Started at sunrise, and rode slowly during the whole 
day. The geological nature of this part of the province wa.s 
different from the rest, and closely resembled that of the Pam- 
pas. 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 of these plants. The two sorts grow sepa- 
rate, 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 i? none ; 
if cattle or horses once enter the bed, they are for the time com- 
pletely 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 neighbourhood of damp valleys, where fortu- 
nately 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 ex- 
treme though rather formal courtesy of our host and hostess, 
considering their grade of life, was quite delightful. 

November 22nd. — Arrived at an estancia on the Berquelo be- 
longing to a very hospitable Englishman, to whom I had a letter 
of introduction from my friend Mr. Lumb. I stayed 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 

1S33.] HILL OF BEADS. I49 

ivaste, is very considerable. An estanciero told me that he often 
had to send large herds of cattle a long journey to a salting esta- 
blishment, and that the tired beasts were frequently obliged to be 
killed and skinned ; but that he covdd never persuade the Gauchos 
to eat of them, and every evening a fresh beast was slauglitered for 
their suppers ! The view of the Rio Negro from the Sierra was 
more picturesque than any other which I saw in this province. 
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 terminated in the distant undulations of the 

AVhen in this neighbourhood, I several times heard of the 
Sierra de las Cuentas : a hill distant many miles to the north- 
ward. 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 tliem, for the purpose of making neck- 
laces and bracelets — a taste, 1 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 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 ofa 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 circum- 
stances because, although no crystallized body is at present 
known to assume this form, it may lead some future traveller to 
investigate tlie 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, 

* M. A. (i'Orbigny has given nearly a similar account of these dogs, 
torn. i. p. 1 75. 

150 BANDA ORIENTAL. [chap, viii, 

it is a common thing to meet a large flock of siieep guarded bj' 
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 accustom- 
ing 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 in their sport they 
sometimes gallop their poor subjects most unmercifully. 

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some 
meat, and as soon as 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 by 
even one of these faithful shepherds. The whole account ap- 
pears to me a curious instance of the pliability of the affections 
in the dog ; and yet, Aviiether wild or however educated, he has a 
feeling of respect or fear for those that are fulfilling their in- 
stinct 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 


owu society, and thus fulfil their instinct of association. In the 
above case the shepherd-dog' ranks the sheep as its fellow- 
brethren, and thus gains confidence ; 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 tliem in a flock 
with a shepherd-dog at their head. 

One evening a " doniidor" (a subduer of horses) came for the 
purpose of brea-king-iu some colts. I will describe the prepara- 
tory 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 G audio, such a feat would 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 tlie front 
legs. Instantly the horse rolls over with a heavy shock, and 
whilst struggling on the ground, the Gaucho, holding tiie 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 legs : 
he then hitches the lazo, so that the three are bound together. 
Then sitting on the horse's neck, he fixes a strong bridle, with- 
out 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 
lied closely together Mith 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 to- 
getlier. During this operation, the horse, from dread and asto- 
nishment 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, tlie 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 

1.-2 BANDA ORIENTAL. [chap. viii. 

moment that he throws his leg over the animal's back, he pulls 
the slip-knot binding the front legs, and the beast is free. Some 
" domidors" pull the knot while the animal is lying on the 
ground, and, standing over the saddle, allow him 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, wiiere, 
reeking hot and scarcely alive, the poor beast is let free. Those 
animals which will not gallop away, but obstinately throw them- 
selves 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. 

Animals are so abundant in these countries, that humanity and 
self-interest are not closely united ; therefore I fear it is that the 
former is here 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 ac- 
count, 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. 

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 lieard of a man 
betting that he would throw his horse down twenty times, and 
that nineteen times he would not fall himself. I recollect seeing 
a Gaucho riding a very stubborn horse, which three times suc- 
cessively 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 ; 
and as soon as the horse got up, 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 my- 
self, " 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 
could be said was, that he started and took fright with his 

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 stand- 
ing, in the midst of his full speed, on any particular spot, — for 
instance, on a cloak thrown on the ground : or, again, he 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 court- 
yard, and then made to wheel round the post of a veranda with 
great speed, but at so equal a distance, that the rider, with out- 
stretched arm, all tlie while kept one finger rubbing the post. 
Then making a demi-volte in the air, with the other arm out- 
stretched 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 in- 
stantly, 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 wish 
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 

154 BAND A ORIENTAL. [chap. viii. 

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 re- 
spectable man riding one day met two others, one of 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 chace. 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 pur- 
suers were obliged to shoot on one side and ahead. Then in- 
stantly 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 horseman-hip 
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 Ame- 
rican fasliion. 

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 
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 cir- 
cular enclosure, where the wheat-sheaves were strewed. The 
man employed for slaughtering the mares happened to bo cele- 
brated for his dexterity with the lazo. Standing at the distance of 
twelve yards from the mouth of the corral, lie 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 
liide for drying (which latter is a tedious job) ; and he engaged 
that he would perform this whole operation on twenty-two ani- 
mals in one day. Or he would 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 neigh- 
bouring farm-house on tlie Sarandis, a small stream entering the 
llio Negro, I rode there accompanied by my host, and purciiased 
for the value of eighteen pence the head of the Toxodon.* When 
found it was quite perfect ; but the l.oys knocked out some of the 
teeth with stones, and then set up tl e head as a mark to throw at. 
By a most fortunate chance I found a perfect tooth, which exactly 
fitted one of the sockets in this skull, embedded by itself on the 
banks of tiie Rio Tercero, at the distance of about 180 miles 
from this place. I found remains of this extraordinary animal 
at two other places, so that it must formerly have been common. 
I found here, also, some large portions of the armour of a gigantic 
;;rmadillo-like animal, and part of the great head of a Mylodon. 
The bones of this head are so fresh, that they contain, accord- 
ing to the analysis by Mr. T. Reeks, seven per cent, of animal 
matter ; and when placed in a spirit-lamp, they burn with a small 
Hame. The number of the remains embedded in the grand 
estuary deposit which forms the Pampas and covers the granitic 
rocks of Banda Oriental, must be extraordinarily great. I believe 
a straight line drawn in any direction through the Pampas would 
cut through some skeleton or bones. Besides those which I 
found during my short excursions, I heard of many others, and 
the origin of such names as " the stream of the animal," " the 
hill of the giant," is obvious. At other times I heard of the 
marvellous property of certain rivers, which had the power of 
changing small bones into large j or, as some maintained, the 
bones themselves grew. As far as I am aware, not one of these 
animals perished, as was formerly supposed, in the marshes or 
muddy river-beds of the present land, but their bones have been 
exposed by the streams intersecting the subaqueous deposit in 
which they were originally embedded. We may conclude that 
the whole area of the Pampas is one wide sepulchre of these 
extinct gigantic quadrupeds. 

* 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 Enghmd. 

156 BAND A ORIENTAL. [ckap. vm. 

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 Avay 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 round a group of houses, and a site ele- 
vated 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 with even one instance of 
rudeness or inhospitality. He is modest, both respecting himself 
and country, but at the same time a spirited, bold fellow. On 
the other hand, many robberies are committed, and there is much 
bloodshed : the habit of constantly wearing the knife is the chief 
cause of the latter. 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 
iid not work. One gravely said the days were too long ; the 
other that he was too poor. The number of horses and the pro- 
fusion of food are the destruction of all industry. IMoreover, 
there are so many feast-days ; and again, nothing can succeed 
without it be begun when the moon is on the increase ; so that 
half the month is lost from thesie 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 inhabitants of the country invariably iissist a murderer 
to escape : they seem to think that the individual sins against the 
government, and not against the people. A traveller has no pro- 

1833.] STATE OF SOCIETY. 157 

tection besides his fire-arms ; and the constant habit of carrying 
them is the main check to more frequent robberies. 

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 lie 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 English- 
man, who went to the Chief Justice (he told me, that not then 
understanding the ways of the place, he trembjed as he entered 
the room), and said, " Sir, I have come to offer you two hundred 
(paper) 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 de- 
mocratic 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 rank of life, the excellent 
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 

When speaking of these countries, the manner in which they 

158 EIO PLATA. [chap. viii. 

have been brought up by their unnatural parent, Spain, should 
always be borne in mind. On the wliole, 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. 

December Qth. — The Beagle sailed from the Eio 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 

Several times when the ship has been some miles off the mouth 
of the Plata, and at other times when off the shores of Northeui 
Patagonia, we have been surrounded by insects. One evening, 
when we were about ten miles from the Bay of San Bias, 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 
telescope 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 connnon English Colias edusa. Some moths 
and hymenoptera accompanied the butterflies ; and a fine beetle 
(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 Carabidae seldom or 
never take wing. The day had been 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 tlie migrations of another butterfly, Vanessa carlui ;* 

* Lyell's Principles of Geology, vol. iii. p. G3. 


but the presence of other insects makes the case distinct, and even 
less intelligible. Before sunset a strong breeze sprung up from 
the north, and this must have caused tens of thousands of the 
butterflies and other insects to have perished. 

On another occasion, when seventeen niiles off Cape Corrientes, 
I liad 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 in- 
jured by the salt water. I lost some of the specimens, but those 
which I preserved belonged to the genera Colymbetes, Hydropo- 
rus, Hydrobius (two species), Notaphus, Cynucus, Adimonia, and 
•Scarabaeus. 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 ap- 
peared to me most probable that they were floated into tiie sea 
by a small stream which drains a lake near Cape Corrientes. On 
any supposition it is an interesting circumstance to find live insects 
swimming in the open ocean seventeen miles from the nearest 
point of land. There are several accounts of insects having been 
blown oft" 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 have known of an insect being caught far from the land, was 
that of a large grasshopper (Acrydium), which flew on board, 
when the 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 

On several occasions, when the Beagle 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 this subject. 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 

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

160 RIO PLATA [chap. viii. 

was sixty miles distant from the land, in tlie 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 attacheil 
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 maxillae drank eagerly of drops of water; this same 
circumstance has been observed by Strack : may it not be in con- 
sequence of the little insect having passed through a dry and rare- 
fied 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 horizontally, but with a rapidity which was quite un- 
accountable. I thought I could perceive that the spider, before 
performing the above preparatory steps, connected its legs toge- 
ther with the most delicate threads, but I am not sure whether 
this observation was 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 
(.'onipared to diverging rays of ligiit ; they were not, however, 
straight, but in undulations like films of silk blown by the wind. 
They were more than a yard in length, and diverged in an ascend- 
ing direction from the orifices. The spider then suddenly let go 
its hold of the post, and was quickly borne out of sight. The 
day was hot and apparently quite calm ; yet under such circum- 
stances, tiie 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 is almost always evident : such 
upward currents, it has been remarked, are also shown by the 
ascent of soap-bubbles, which will not rise in an in-doors room, 
llence I think there is ncf much difficulty in understanding the 
ascent of the fine lines projected from a spider's spinners, and 
afterwards of the spider itself; the divergence of the lines has 
been attempted to be explained, I believe by Mr. Murray, by 
their similar electrical condition. The circumstance of spiders 
of the same species, but of difl'erent sexes and ages, being found 
on several occasions at the distance of many leagues from the 
land, attached in vast numbers to the lines, renders it probable 
that the habit of sailing: through the air is as characteristic of 
this tribe, as that of diving is of the Argyroneta. We may then 
reject Latreille's supposition, that the gossamer owes its origin 
indiflferently to the young of several genera of spiders : although, 
as we have seen, 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 ani- 
mals. Of Crustacea there were manv strange and undescribeJ 
genera. One, which in some respects is allied to the iS'otopodi 
(or those crabs which have their posterior legs placed almost on 
their backs, for the purpose of adhering to the under side of 
rocks), is very remarkable from the structure of its hind pair of 
legs. The penultimate joint, instead of terminating in a simple 
claw, ends in three bristle-like appendages of dissimilar lengths — 

* Mr. Blackwall, in his Researches in Zoology, l;a.s many e.\celleut ob- 
servations on the habits of spiders. 

162 ATLANTIC OCEAN. [chap. vni. 

the longest equalling that of the entire leg. These claws are 
very thin, and are serrated with the finest teeth, directed back- 
wards : their curved extremities are flattened, and 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 and most anomalous structure is adapted 
to take hold of floating marine animals. 

In deep water, far from the land, the number of living crea- 
tures is extremely small : south of the latitude 35°, I never suc- 
ceeded in catching anything besides some beroe, and a few species 
of minute entomostracous Crustacea. In shoaler water, at the 
distance of a few miles from the coast, very many kinds of Crus- 
tacea and some other animals are 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 
anything besides a few of two extremely minute species of Ento- 
mostraca. Yet whales and seals, petrels and albatross, are ex- 
ceedingly abundant throughout this part of the ocean. It has 
always been a mystery to me on what the albatross, which lives 
far from tlie shore, can subsist ; I presume that, like the condor, 
it is able to fast long ; and that one good feast on the carcass 
of a putrid whale lasts for a long time. The central and inter- 
tropical parts of the Atlantic swarm with Pteropoda, Crustacea, 
and Radiata, and with their devourers the flying-fish, and again 
with their devourers the bonitos and albicores ; I presume that 
the numerous lower pelagic animals feed on the Infusoria, which 
are now known, from the researches of Ehrenberg, to abound in 
the open ocean : but on what, in the clear blue water, do these 
Infusoria subsist ? 

While sailing a little south of the Plata on one very dark 
night, the sea presented a wonderful and most beautiful spec- 
tacle. There was a fresh breeze, and every part of the sur- 
face, 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 re- 
flected glare of these livid flames, was not so utterly obscure 
as over the vault of the heavens. 


As we proceed further southward the sea is seldom phospho- 
rescent ; and off Cape Horn I do not recollect more than onc« 
having seen it so, and then it was far from being brilliant. This 
circumstance probably has a close connexion with the scarcitj'^ 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 tlie 
common cause of this phenomenon. The particles were so 
minute as easily to pass through fine gauze ; yet many Mere dis- 
tinctly 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, gave a diiferent 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 pro- 
bable in this case, that the particles could have remained so long 
alive. On one occasion having kept a jelly-fish of the genus 
Dianaea till it was dead, the water in wliich 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 con- 
siderable depths beneath the surface. Near the mouth of the 
Plata some circular and oval patches, from two to four yards irj 
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 undulations 
of the surface. The ship, wliich drew thirteen feet water, passed 

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

M 2 

1 r.4 FORT DESIRE. [chai'. viii. 

over, without disturbing these patches. Tlierefore we must sup- 
))ose tliat some animals were congregated together at a greater 
depth tlian 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 rapid- 
ity of the flashes. I have already remarked that the phenome- 
non is very much more common in Avarm than in cold countries ; 
and I have sometimes imagined that a disturbed electrical con- 
dition 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 am in- 
clined to consider that the phosphorescence is the result of the 
decomposition of the organic particles, by which process (one is 
tempted almost to call it a kind of respiration) the ocean becomes 

December 23rc?. — "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, and the fine blue sky is but seldom 
obscured. "When standing in the middle of one of these desert 


plains and looking towards the interior, the view is generally 
bounded by the escarpment of another plain, rather higher, but 
equally level and desolate ; and in every other direction the hori- 
zon is indistinct from the trembling mirage which seems to rise 
from the heated surface. 

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 
shows the strong and liberal hand of Spain in the old time. 
The result of all the attempts to colonize this side of America 
south of 41°, have been miserable. Port Famine expresses by its 
name the lingering and extreme sufferings of several hundred 
wretched people, of whom one alone survived to relate their mis- 
fortunes. 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 remained captives during many years. 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 darted from side 
to side. Of birds we have three carrion hawks, and in the val- 
leys a few finches and insect-feeders. An ibis (Theristicus me- 
lanops — a species said to be found in central Africa) is not 
uncommon on the most desert parts : in their stomachs I found 
grasshoppers, cicadse, small lizards, and even scorpions ^ At 
one time of the year these birds go in flocks, at another ii pairs ; 
their cry is very loud and singular, like the neighing of the 

* I found here a species of cactus, described by Professor Henslow, under 
the name of Gpiintia Darwinii (Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i. 
p. 466), which was remarkable by the irritability of the stamens, when I 
inserted either a piece of stick or the end of my finger in the flower. The 
segments of the perianth also closed on the pistil, but more slowly than the 
stamens. Plants of this family, generally considered as tropical, occur in North 
America (Lewis and Clarke's Travels, p. 221), in the same high latitude 
as here, namely, in both cases, in 47°. 

+ These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one eanuibul 
scorpion quietly devouring another. 

166 PORT DESIEE. [chap. vin. 

The guanaco, or wild llama, is the characteristic quadruped 
of the plains of Patagonia ; it is the South American represent- 
ative of the camel of the Eas It is an elegant animal in a 
state of nature, with a long slender neck and fine legs. It is 
very common over the whole of the temperate parts of the con- 
tinent, as far south as the islands near Cape Horn. It generally 
lives in small herds of from half a dozen to thirty in each ; but 
on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw one herd which must have 
contained at least five hundred. 

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes 
told me, that he one day saw through a glass a herd of these 
animals which evidently had been frightened, and were running 
away at full speed, although tlieir distance was so great that he 
could not distinguish them with his naked eye. The sportsman 
frequently receives the first notice of their presence, by hearing 
from a longdistance their peculiar shrill neighing note of alarm. 
If he then looks attentively, he will probably see the herd stand- 
ing in a line on the side of some distant hill. On approaching 
nearer, a few more squeals are given, and off they set at an ap- 
parently slow, but really quick canter, along some narrow beaten 
track to a neighbouring hill. If, however, by chance he abruptly 
meets 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 diflference in their shyness ? 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 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 moun- 
tains of Tierra del Fuego, 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 in northern Patagonia near a house, 
though not under any restraint. 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 guanacos, how- 
ever, have no idea of defence ; even a single dog will secure one 
of these large animals, tiU the huntsman can come up. In many 
of their habits they are like sheep in a tlock. Thus when tliey 
see men approaching in several directions on horseback, they 
soon become bewildered, and know not wiiicli way to run. Tins 
greatly facilitates the Indian metliod of hunting, for they are 
tlius easily driven to a central point, and are encompassed. 

The guanacos readily take to the water : several times at 
Port Yaldes 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 iinfrequent, I one day saw the tracks of 
thirtj^ or forty, which had come in a direct line 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 guanacos 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 was composed of a 
large quantity. This habit, according to M. A. d'Orbigny, is 
common to all the species of the genus ; it is very useful to the 
Peruvian Indians, who use the dung for fuel, and are thus saved 
the trouble of collecting it. 

The guanacos appear to have favourite spots for lying down 
to die. On the banks of the St. Cruz, in certain circumscribed 
spaces, which were generally bushy and all near the river, the 
ground was actually white with bones. On one such spot I 

168 PATAGONIA. [chap. viu. 

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 a former 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 guana- 
cos at the St. Cruz invariably walked towards the river. At 
St. Jago in the Cape de Verd islands, I remember having seen 
in a ravine a retired corner covered with bones of the goat ; we 
at the time exclaimed that it was the burial-ground of all tlie 
goats in the island. I mention these trifling circumstances, be- 
cause 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 animals are 
more commonly embedded than others in sedimentary deposits. 

One day the yawl was sent under the command of Mr. Chaffers 
with three days' provisions to survey the upper part of the har- 
bour. In the morning we searched for some watering-plact-s 
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 resem- 
bling chalk in appearance, but very different from it in nature. 
From the softness of these materials it was worn into many 
gulleys. 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. Yet in 
passing over these scenes, without one bright object near, an ill- 
defined but strong sense of pleasure is vividly excited. One 
asked how many ages the plain had thus lasted, and how many 
more it was doomed thus to continue. 

None can reply — all seems eternal now. 
The ■wilderness has a mysterious tongue, 
Which teaches awful doubt.* 

* Shelley, Lines on M. Elanc. 


Tn 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 couhl 
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 insigni 
ficant in size, it would be difficult to account for its origin, 
except from the melting snow on 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 
whicli appeared more 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 
oeen 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 tlie lei\ge and the two great blocks. To complete the 
grave, the Indians had contrived to detach from the 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 decaj'ed 
long since (in which case the grave must have been of extreme 
antiquity), for I found in another place some smaller heaps, 
beneatli 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 in- 
troduction of horses, these Indians must have led nearly the 
same life as the Fuegians now do, and therefore generally have 
resided in the neighbourhood of the sea. The common prejudice 
of lying where one's ancestors have lain, would make the now 

170 PORT ST. JULIAN. [chap. viii. 

ri)aming Indians bring the less perishable part of their dead to 
tlieir ancient burial-ground on the coast. 

January 9th, 1834. — Before it was dark the Beagle anchored 
in the fine spacious harbour of Port St. Julian, situated about 
one hundred aiKl 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 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 sal't, crystallized in great cubes ! 
We attributed our extreme thirst to the dryness of the atmos- 
phere ; 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 Co- 
lymbetes not quite dead, which must have lived in some not far 
distant pool. Three other insects (a Cincindela, like hyhrida, 
a Cymindis, and a Harpalus, which all live on muddy flats occa- 
sionally overflowed by the sea), and one other found dead on the 
plain, complete the list of the beetles. A good-sized fly (Ta- 
banus) 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 same genus. We here 
have the puzzle that so frequently occurs in the case of mus- 
quitoes — on the blood of what animals do these insects commonly 
feed ? The guanaco is nearly the only warm-bloodod quadruped, 
and it is found in quite inconsiderable numbers compared with 
the multitude of flies. 

The geology of Patagonia is interesting. Differently from 
Europe, where the tertiary formations appear to have accu- 
nmlated in bays, here along hundreds of miles of coast we have 
one great deposit, including many tertiarj^ shells, all apparently 
extinct The most common shell is a massive gigantic oyster, 


sometimes even a foot in diameter. These beds are covered by 
others of a peculiar soft white stone, including much gypsum, 
and resembling chalk, but really of a pumiceous nature. It is 
highly remarkable, from being composed, to at least one- 
tenth part of its bulk, of Infusoria : Professor Ehrenberg has 
already ascertained in it thirty oceanic forms. This bed extends 
for 500 miles along the coast, and probably for a considerably 
greater distance. At Port St. Julian its thickness is more than 
800 feet ! These white beds are everywhere capped by a mass 
of gravel, forming probably one of the largest beds of shingle in 
tlie world : it certainly extends from near the Eio Colorado to be- 
tween 600 and 700 nautical miles southward ; at Santa Cruz (a 
river a little south of St. Julian), it reaches to the foot of the 
Cordillera ; half \vay up the river, its thickness is more than 200 
feet ; it probably everywhere extends to this great chain, whence 
the well-rounded pebbles of porphyry have been derived : we 
may consider its average breadth as 200 miles, and its average 
thickness as about 50 feet. If this great bed of pebbles, with- 
out including the mud necessarily derived from their attrition, 
was piled into a mound, it would form a great mountain chain ! 
AVhen we consider that all these pebbles, countless as the grains 
of sand in the desert, have been derived from the slow falling of 
masses of rock on the old coast-lines and banks of rivers ; and 
that these fragments have been dashed into smaller pieces, and 
that each of them has since been slowly rolled, rounded, and 
far transported, the mind is stupified in thinking over the long, 
absolutely necessary, lapse of years. Yet all this gravel has 
been transported, and probably rounded, subsequently to the 
deposition of the white beds, and long subsequently to the under- 
lying beds with the tertiary shells. 

Everything in this southern continent has been effected on a 
grand scale : the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del Fuego, 
a distance of 1200 miles, has been raised in mass (and in Pata- 
gonia to a height of between 300 and 400 feet), within the period 
of the now existing sea-shells. The old and weathered shells 
left on the surface of the upraised plain still partially retain 
their colours. The uprising movement has been interrupted by 
at least eight long periods of rest, during which the sea ate deeply 
back into the land, forinino- at successive levels the long lines of 

172 GEOLOGY OF PATAGONIA. [chap. viii. 

clifts or escarpments, which separate the different plains as they 
rise like steps one behind the other. The elevatory movement, 
and the eating-back power of the sea during the periods of rest, 
have been equable over long lines of coast ; for I vk'as astonished 
to find that the step-like plains stand at nearly corresponding 
heights at far distant points. The lowest plain is 90 feet high ; 
and the highest, which I ascended near the coast, is 950 feet ; 
and of tliis, only relics are left in the form of flat gravel- 
capped hills. The upper plain of S. Cruz slopes up to a height 
of 3000 feet at the foot of the Cordillera. I have said that 
within the period of existing sea-shells Patagonia has been up- 
raised 300 to 400 feet: I may add, that within the period 
when icebergs transported boulders over the upper plain of 
Santa Cruz, the elevation has been at least 1500 feet. Nor 
has Patagonia been affected only by upward movements : the 
extinct tertiary shells from Port St. Julian and Santa Cruz cannot 
have lived, according to Professor E. Forbes, in a greater depth 
of water than from 40 to 250 feet ; but they are now covered 
with sea-deposited strata from 800 to 1000 feet in thickness : 
hence the bed of the sea, on which these shells once lived, must 
have sunk downwards several hundred feet, to allow of the accu- 
mulation of the superincumbent strata. What a history of geo- 
logical changes does the simply-constructed coast of Patagonia 
reveal ! 

At Port St. Julian *, in some red mud capping the gravel 
on the 90-feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macrau- 
chenia Patachonica, a remarkable quadruped, full as large as a 
camel. It belongs to the same division of the Pachydermata with 
the rhinoceros, tapir, and palaeotherium; but in the structure of the 
bones of its long neck it shows a clear relation to the camel, or 
rather to the guanaco and llama. From recent sea-shells being 
found on two of the higher step-formed plains, which must have 
been modelled and upraised before the mud was deposited in 
which the Macrauchenia was intombed, it is certain that this 
curious quadruped lived long after the sea was inhabited by its 

* I have lately heard that Capt. Sulivan, R.N., has found numerous fossil 
bones, embedded in regular strata, on the banks of the R. Giillegos, in lat. 
51° 4'. Some of the bones are large ; others are small, aiid appear to have 
belonged to an ai'madillo. This is a most interesting and in3portant dis- 


present shells. I was at first much surprised how a large quad- 
ruped could so lately have subsisted, in lat. 49° 15', on these 
wretclied gravel plains with their stunted vegetation ; but tlie 
relationship of the Macrauchenia to the guanaco, now an inha- 
bitant of the most sterile parts, partly explains this difficulty. 

The relationship, though distant, between the Macrauciienia 
and the Guanaco, between the Toxodon and the Capybara, — 
the closer relationship between the many extinct Edentata and 
the living sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos, now so eminently 
characteristic of South American zoology, — and the still closer 
relationship between the fossil and living species of Ctenomys and 
Ilydrochasrus, are most interesting facts. This relationship is 
shown wonderfully — as wonderfully as between the fossil and 
extinct Marsupial animals of Australia — by the great collection 
lately brouglit to Europe from the caves of Brazil by MM. Lund 
and Clausen. In this collection there are extinct species of all 
the thirty-two genera, excepting four, of the terrestrial quadru- 
peds now inhabiting the provinces in which the caves occur ; 
and the extinct species are much more numerous than those now 
living : there are fossil ant-eaters, armadillos, tapirs, peccaries, 
guanacos, opossums, and numerous South American gnawers and 
monkeys, and other animals. This wonderful relationship in the 
same continent between the dead and the living, will, I do not 
doubt, hereafter throw more light on the appearance of organie 
beings on our earth, and their disappearance from it, than any 
other class of facts. 

It is impossible to reflect on the changed state of the American 
continent without the deepest astonislnnent. Formerly it must 
have swarmed with great monsters : now we find mere pigmies, 
compared M'ith the antecedent, allied races. If Buffon had known 
of the gigantic sloth and armadillo-like animals, and of the lost 
Pachydermata, he might have said with a greater semblance of 
truth that the creative force in America had lost its power, 
rather than that it had never possessed great vigour. The 
gi-eater number, if not all, of these extinct quadrupeds lived at 
a late period, and were tlie contemporaries of most of the exist- 
ing sea-shells. Since they lived, no -very great change in the form 
of the land can have taken place. What, then, has exterminated 
so many species and whole genera ? The mind at first is irre- 

174 CAUSES OF EXTINCTION. [chap. vm. 

sistibly hurried into the belief of some great catastrophe ; but 
thus to destroy animals, both large and small, in Southern Pata- 
gonia, in Brazil, on the Cordillera of Peru, in North America 
up to Behring's Straits, we must shake the entire framework of 
the globe. An examination, moreover, of the geology of La 
Plata and Patagonia, leads to the belief that all the features of 
the land result from slow and gradual changes. It appears from 
the character of the fossils in Europe, Asia, Australia, and in 
North and South America, that those conditions which favour 
the life of the larger quadrupeds were lately co-extensive with 
the world : what those conditions were, no one has yet even 
conjectured. It could hardly have been a change of tempera- 
ture, which at about the same time destroyed the inhabitants of 
tropical, temperate, and arctic latitudes on both sides of the 
globe. In North America we positively know from Mr. Lyell, 
that the large quadrupeds lived subsequently to that period, when 
boulders were brought into latitudes at which icebergs now never 
arrive : from conclusive but indirect reasons we may feel sure, 
that in the southern hemisphere the Macrauchenia, also, lived 
long subsequently to the ice-transporting boulder-period. Did 
man, after his first inroad into South America, destroy, as has 
been suggested, the unwieldy Megatherium and the other Eden- 
tata ? We must at least look to some other cause for the destinic- 
tion of the little tucutuco at Bahia Blanca, and of the many 
fossil mice and other small quadrupeds in Brazil. No one 
will imagine that a drought, even far severer than those which 
cause such losses in the provinces of La Plata, could destroy 
every individual of every species from Southern Patagonia to 
Behring's Straits. What shall we say of the extinction of the 
horse? Did those plains fail of pasture, which have since been 
overrun by thousands and hundreds of thousands of the descend- 
ants of the stock introduced by the Spaniards ? Have the subse- 
quently introduced species consumed the food of the great ante- 
cedent races ? Can we believe that the Capybara has taken the 
food of the Toxodon, the Guanaco of the Macrauchenia, the ex- 
isting small Edentata of their numerous gigantic prototypes? 
Certainly, no fact in the long history of the world is so startling 
as the wide and repeated exterminations of its inhabitants. 

Nevertheless, if we consider the subject under another point of 


view, it will appear less perplexing-. We do not steadily bear in 
mind, how profoundly ignorant we are of the conditions of exist- 
ence of every animal ; nor do we always remember, that some 
check is constantly preventing the too rapid increase of every 
organized being left in a state of nature. The supply of food on 
an average, remains constant ; yet the tendency in every animal to 
increase by propagation is geometrical ; and its surprisino- effects 
have nowhere been more astonishingly shown, than in the case 
of the European animals run wild during the last few centuries 
in America. Every animal in a state of nature regularly breeds ; 
yet in a species long established, any great increase in numbers is 
obviously impossible, and must be checked by some means. We 
are, nevertheless, seldom able with certainty to tell in any oiven 
species, at what period of life, or at what period of the year, or 
whether only at long intervals, the check falls ; or, again, what 
is the precise nature of the check. Hence probably it is, that 
we feel so little surprise at one, of two species closely allied in 
habits, being rare tind the other abundant in the same district ; 
or, again, that one should be abundant in one district, and 
another, filling the same place in the economy of nature, should 
be abundant in a neighbouring district, diflfering very little in its 
conditions. If asked how this is, one immediately replies that 
it is determined by some slight difference in climate, food, or the 
number of enemies : yet how rarely, if ever, we can point out 
the precise cause and manner of action of the check ! AVe are, 
therefore, driven to the conclusion, that causes generally quite 
inappreciable by us, determine whether a given species shall be 
abundant or scanty in numbers. 

In the cases where we can trace the extinction of a species 
through man, either wholly or in one limited district, we know 
that it becomes rarer and rarer, and is then lost : it would be 
difficult to point out any just distinction * between a species 
destroyed by man or by the increase of its natural enemies. The 
evidence of rarity preceding extinction, is more striking in the 
successive tertiary strata, as remarked by several able observeis; 
it has often been found that a shell very common in a tertiary 
stratum is now most rare, and has even long been thought to be 

* See the excellent remarks on this subject by Mr. I-jell, in his Prin- 
ciples of Geology. 

]7G CAUSES OF EXTINCTION. [chap. viii. 

Hxtirict. If then, as appears probable, species first become rare 
and then extinct — if the too rapid increase of every species, even 
the most flivoured, is steadily checked, as we must admit, thougli 
how and when it is hard to say — and if we see, without the smallest 
surprise, though unable to assign the precise reason, one species 
abundant and another closely-allied species rare in the same dis- 
trict — why should we feel such great astonishment at the rarity 
being carried a step further to extinction ? An action going on, 
on every side of us, and yet barely appreciable, might surely be 
carried a little further, without exciting our observation. Who 
v.'ould feel any great surprise at hearing that the Megalonyx was 
formerly rare compared with the Megatherium, or that one of 
the fossil monkeys was few in number compared with one of the 
now living monkeys? and j'et in this comparative rarity, we 
should have the plainest evidence of less favourable conditions 
for their existence. To admit that species generally become 
rare before they become extinct — to feel no surprise at the com- 
parative rarity of one species with another, and yet to call in 
some extraordinary agent and to marvel greatly when a species 
ceases to exist, appears to me much the same as to admit that 
sickness in the individual is the prelude to death — to feel no sur- 
prise at sickness — but when the sick man dies to wonder, and 
to believe that he died through violence. 



Santa Cruz — Expedition up the River — Indians — Immense streams of 
basaltic lava — Fragments not transported by the River — Excavation of 
the valley — Condor, habits of — Cordillera — Erratic boulders of great size 
^Indian relics — Return t<> the ship^Falkland Islands — Wild horses, 
cattle, rabbits — Wolf-like fox — Fire made of bones — Manner of hunting 
wild cattle — Geology — Streams of stones — Scenes of violence — Penguin — 
Geese — Eggs of Doris — Compound animals. 


April 13th, 1834. — 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 pro- 
ceeded thirty miles up it, but then, from the want of provisions, 
was obliged to. return. Excepting Avhat was discovered at that 
time, scarcely anything was known about this large river. Cap- 
tain Fitz Roy 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. Witli 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 
ihe middle about seventeen feet deep. The rapidity of the cur- 
rent, 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 the surrounding plains. It runs in a winding course 
through a valley, which extends in a direct line westward. This 


178 S. CRUZ. PATAGONIA. ichap, ix. 

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 oppo- 
site sides a remarkable correspondence. 

April \Qth. — 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 arrange- 
ments made by Captain Fitz Roy were very good for facilitating 
the work of all, and as all had a share in 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 everything 
was ready for the night. A watch of two men and an oflScer 
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 neighbourhood. On the next morning (21st) 
tracks of a party of horse, and marks left by the trailing of the 
chuzos, or long spears, were observed on the ground. It was 
generally thought that the Indians had reconnoitred us during 

1834.] . ZOOLOGY. • 179 

the niglit. Shortly afterwards we came to a spot where, from 
the fresh footsteps of men, children, and horses, it was evident 
that the party had crossed the river. 

April 22c?. — The country remained the same, and was ex- 
tremely uninteresting. The complete similarity of the produc- 
tions 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, Everywliere 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 cui-se. Hence the number 
of waterfowl is very scanty ; for there is nothing 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 excepting 
the dew. They all seem to be cannibals ; for no sooner Avas a 
mouse caught in one of my traps than it was devoured by others. 
A small and delicately-shaped fox, which is likewise very abun- 
dant, 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 stated, we saw one which 
must have contained at least five hundred. The puma, with the 
condor and other carrion-hawks in its train, follows and preys 
upon these animals. The footsteps of the puma were to be seen 
almost everj'where on the banks of the river ; and the remains 
of several guanacos, with their necks dislocated and bones broken, 
showed how they had met their death. 

April 24ith. — Like the navigators of old when approaching an 
unknown land, we examined and watched for the most trivial 

• The deserts of Syria are characterized, according to Volney (torn, i., 
p. 351), by woody bushes, numerous rats, gazelles, and hares. In the land- 
scape of Patagonia, the guanaco replaces the gazelle, and the agouti the 

K 2 

180 • S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [chap. ix. 

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 
a true harbinger. At first the clouds were mistaken for the moun- 
tains themselves, instead of the masses of vapour condensed by 
their icy summits. 

April 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 were as large as 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 dis- 
tance 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 of primitive rocks, derived 
from the surrounding boulder-formation, were equally numerous. 
None of the fragments of any considerable size had been washed 
more than three or four miles down the river below their parent- 
source : considering the singular rapidity of the great body of 
water in the Santa Cruz, and that no still reaches occur in any 
part, this example is a most striking one, of the inefficiency of 
rivers in transporting even moderately-sized fragments. 

The basalt is only 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 it was 120 feet in thick- 
ness ; following up the river course, the surface imperceptibly 
rose and the mass became thicker, so that at forty miles above 
the first station it was 320 feet thick. What the thickness may 
be close to the Cordillera, I have no means of knowing, but the 
platform there attains a height of about three thousand feet 
above the level of the sea : we must therefore look to the moun- 
tains of that great chain for its source ; and worthy of such a source 
are streams, that have flowed over the gently inclined bed of the 


sea to a distance of one lumdred miles. At the first glance of 
the basaltic cliffs on the opposite sides of the valley, it Mas evi- 
dent that the strata once were united. What power, then, has 
removed along a whole line of countrj', a solid mass of very 
hard rock, which had an average tiiickness of nearly tliree hun- 
dred feet, and a breadth varying from rather less than two miles 
to four miles ? The river, though it has so little power in trans- 
porting even inconsiderable fragments, yet in the lapse of ages 
might produce by its gradual erosion an effect, of which it is 
difficult to judge the amount. But in this case, independently 
of the insignificance of such an 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 tlie argu- 
ments leading to this conclusion, derived from the form and the 
nature of the step-formed terraces on both sides of the valley, 
from the manner in which the bottom of the valley near the 
Andes expands into a great estuary-like plain with sand-hillocks 
on it, and from the occurrence of a few sea-shells lying in the 
bed of the river. If I had space I could prove that South Ame- 
rica 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 
plains with existing sea-shells lying on their surface, which front 
the long line of the Patagonian coast, sweep up on each side of 
the valley of Santa Cruz. No possible action of any flood 
could thus have modelled the land, either within the valley 
or along the open coast ; and by the formation of such step- 
like plains or terraces the valley itself has been hollowed out. 
Although we know that there are tides, which run within the 
Narrow s of the Strait of Magellan at the rate of eight knots an 
hour, yet we must confess that 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 cor- 
roded so vast an area and thickness of solid basaltic lava. Ne- 
vertheless, we must believe that the strata undermined by the 
waters of this ancient strait, were broken up into huge frag- 

182 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [chap. ix. 

tnents, and these lying scattered on the beach, were reduced first 
to smaller blocks, then to pebbles, and lastly to the most impal- 
pable mud, which the tides drifted far into 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 
the island of St. Jago. Among the basaltic clitis, 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 tlie scanty rain-water ; and consequently 
on the line where the igneous and sedimentary formations unite, 
some small springs (most rare occurrences in Patagonia) burst 
forth ; and they could be distinguished at a distance by the cir- 
cumscribed patches of bright green herbage. 

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. 
This bird is known to have a wide geographical range, being 
found on tlie west coast of South America, from the Strait of 
Magellan along the Cordillera as far as eight degrees N. of the 
equator. The steep cliff near the mouth of the Rio Negro is its 
northern limit on the Patagonian coast ; and 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 at the head of Port Desire, the condor is not 
uncommon ; yet only a few stragglers occasionally visit the sea- 
coast. A line of cliff near the mouth of the Santa Cruz is fre- 
quented by these birds, and about eighty miles up the river, 
where the sides of the valley are formed by steep basaltic pre- 
cipices, the condor reappears. From these facts, it seems that 
the condoi's require perpendicular clifls. In Cliile, they haunt, 
during the greater part of the year, the lower country near the 

1834.J THE CONDOR. 133 

shores of the Pacific, and at nigiit several roost togetiier in one 
tree ; but in the early part of summer, they retire to the most in- 
accessible parts of the inner Cordillera, tiiere 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 nest, but in 
tiie months of November and December lays two large white 
eggs on a slielf of bare rock. It is said that the young condors 
cannot ily for an entire year ; and long after they are able, they 
continue to roost by nigiit, and hunt by day with their parents. 
The old birds generally live in pairs ; but among the inland ba- 
saltic cliffs of the Santa Cruz, I found a spot, where scores must 
usually haunt. On coming suddenly to the brow of tiie preci- 
pice, it was a grand spectacle 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 for roosting 
and breeding. Having- gorged themselves with carrion on the 
plains below, they retire to these favourite ledges to digest their 
food. From these facts, the condor, like the gallinazo, must to 
a certain degree be considered as a gregarious bird. In this 
part of the country they live altogether on the guanacos which 
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 excur- 
sions 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 circles. On some occa- 
sions I am sure that they do this only for pleasure, but on others, 
the Chileno countryman tells 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 con- 
dors frequently attack young goats and lambs ; and the shep- 
herd dogs are trained, whenever they pass over, to rini out, and 
looking upwards to bark violently. The Chilenos destroy and 
catch numbers. Two methods are used ; one is to place a car- 
cass on a level piece of ground within an enclosure of sticks with 
an opening, and when the condors are gorged, to gallop up on 

18d S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [chap. ix. 

horseback to the entrance, and thus enclose them : for when this 
bird has not space to run, it cannot give its body sufficient mo- 
mentum to rise from tlie ground. The second method is to mark 
the trees in which, frequently to the number of five or six toge- 
ther, they roost, 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 1 saw brought in, had been tied 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 azid thirty were kept alive. They 
were fed only once a week, but they appeared in pretty good 
health.* The Chileno countrymen assert that the condor will 
live, and retain its vigour, between five and six weeks without 
eating : I cannot answer for the truth of this, but it is a cruel ex- 
periment, 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 degree tainted. Remembering the experiments of M. 
Audubon, on the little smelling powers of carrion-hawks, I tried 
in tlie above-mentioned garden the following experiment : the 
condors were tied, each by a rope, in a long row at the bottom 
of a wall ; and 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 from them, but no notice whatever 
was taken. I then threw it on the ground, within one yard of 
an old male 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 struggling and flapping its 

* I noticed that several hours before any one of the condors died, all the 
lice, with -which it was infested, crawled to the outside feathers. I was 
assured that this always happened. 


\vings. Under the same circumstances, it would have been quite 
impossible to have deceived a dog. The evidence in favour of and 
against the acute smelling powers of carrion- vultures is singu- 
larly balanced. Professor Owen has demonstrated that the olfac- 
tory nerves of the turkey-buzzard (Cathartes aura) are highly 
developed ; and on the evening when Mr. Owen!s paper was read 
at the Zoological Society, it was mentioned by a gentleman that 
he had seen the carrion-hawks in the West Indies on two occa- 
sions collect on the roof of a house, when a corpse had become 
offensive from not having been buried : in this case, the intelli- 
gence could hardly have been acquired by sight. On the other 
hand, besides the experiments of Auchibon and that one by my- 
self, Mr. Bachman has tried in the United States many varied 
plans, showing that neither the turkey-buzzard (the species dis- 
sected by Professor Owen) nor the gallinazo find their food by 
smell. He covered portions of highly offensive offal with a thin 
canvass cloth, and strewed pieces of meat on it ; these the carrion- 
vultures ate up, and then remained quietly standing, with their 
beaks m ithin the eighth of an inch of the putrid mass, without dis- 
covering it. A small rent was made in the canvass, and the offal 
was immediately discovered ; the canvass was replaced by a fresh 
piece, and meat again put on it, and was again devoured by the 
\ultures without their discovering the hidden mass on wliich they 
were trampling. These facts are attested by the signatures of 
six gentlemen, besides that of Mr. Bachman.* 

Often when lying down to rest on the open plains, 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 fifteen degrees above the ho- 
rizon, is commonly viewed with any attention by a person either 
walking or on horseback. If such be the case, and the vulture 
is on the wins: at a heig^ht of between three and four thousand 
feet, before it could come within the 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 over- 
looked ? 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 des^cent 
* Loudon's Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. vii. 

186 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [chap. ix. 

proclaim througliout the district to the whole family of carrion- 
feeders, that their prey is at hand ? 

When the condors are wheeling in a flock 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 
giving a single flap. As they glided close over my head, I in- 
tently watched from an oblique position, the outlines of the sepa- 
rate and great terminal feathers of each wing ; and these separate 
feathers, if there had been the least vibratory movement, would 
haA'e appeared as if blended together ; but they were seen dis- 
tinct against the blue sky. The head and neck were moved fre- 
quently, and apparently with force ; and the extended wings 
seemed to form 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 when again exjaanded 
with an altered inclination, 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 soar- 
ing, its motion must be sufficiently rapid, so that tlie action of 
the inclined surface of its body on the atmosphere may counter- 
balance its gravity. Th(^ force to keep up the momentum of a 
body moving in a horizontal plane in the air (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, witliout 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 frag- 
ments of various ancient slaty rocks, and of granite. The plain 
bordering the valley had here attained an elevation of about 

185 t.l TRACES OF INDIANS. 161 

1100 feet above the river, and its character was much altered. 
Tiie well-rounded pebbles of porphyry were mingled with many 
immense angular fragments of basalt and of primary rocks. Tiie 
first of these erratic boulders which I noticed, was sixty-seven miles 
distant from the nearest mountain ; another which I measured 
was 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 iusiiu, and took out my compass to observe 
the direction of its cleavage. The plain here was not quite so 
level as that nearer the coast, but yet it betrayed no signs of 
any great violence. Under these circumstances it is, I believe, 
qiute impossible to explain the transportal of these gigantic 
masses of rock so many miles from their parent-source, on any 
tlioory except by tliat of floating icebergs. 

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 ap- 
peared to have been lying long on the ground. Between the place 
where the Indians had so lately crossed the river and this neigh- 
bourhood, tliough so many miles apart, the country appears to be 
quite unfrequented. At first, considering the abundance of the 
guanacos, I was surprised at this ; but it is explained by the 
stony nature of the plains, which would soon disable an unshoe/ 
horse from taking part in the chace. JSTevertheless, in two places 
in tliis 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. 

Mai/ AtJi. — Captain Fitz Roy 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 pro- 
ceed any further. Everywhere we met with the same produc- 
tions, and the same dreary landscape. We were now one hun- 
dred 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 g-rand mountains 

188 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

with regret, for we were obliged to imagine their nature and pro- 
ductions, instead of standing, as we had hoped, on their summits. 
Besides tlie useless loss of time which an attempt to ascend the 
river any higher would have cost us, we had already been for 
some days on half allowance of bread. This, altliough reallv 
enough for reasonable men, was, after a hard day's march, rather 
scanty food : a light stomach and an easy digestion are good 
things to talk about, but very unpleasant in practice. 

5th. — Before sunrise we commenced our descent. We 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 daj^s' 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 Patag'onia. 

On March \st, 1833, and again on March 16th, 1834, the Beagle 
anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island. This archi- 
pelago is situated in nearly the same latitude with the mouth of 
the Strait of Magellan ; it covers a space of one hundred and 
twenty by sixty 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 uninliabited. Tlie 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 ar- 
rived, 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 undulat- 
ing land, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere 
covered by a peaty soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous brown 
colour. Here and there a peak or ridge of grey 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 Wales; having however less sunshine 
and less frost, but more wind and rain.* 

I6th. — 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 hail-storms. 
"We got on, however, pretty well, but, except the geology, nothing 
could be less interesting than our day's ride. The country is 
uniformly the same undulating moorland ; the surface being co- 
vered by liglit 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 were able to feed. 
Besides these two birds there were few others. There is one 
main range of hills, nearly two thousand feet in height, and com- 
posed 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 been lately much harassed. 

In the evening we came across a small herd. One of my com- 
panions, St. Jago by name, soon separated a fat cow ; he threw 
the bolas, and it struck her legs, but failed in becoming entan- 
gled. 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 chace, again came up to the cow, and caught her 
round the horns. The other Gauclio had gone on ahead with the 
spare 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 

* From accounts published since our voyage, and more especially from 
several interesting letters from Capt. Sulivan, R.N., employed on- the survey, 
it appears that we took an exaggerated view of the badness of the climate 
of these islands. But when I reflect on the almost universal covering of 
peat, and on the fact of wheat seldom ripening here, I can hardly believe 
that the climate in summer is so fine and dry as it has lately been repre- 

190 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

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 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 cow or ox 
moves forward, the horse moves just as quickly forward ; other- 
wise, it stands motionless leaning on one side. This horse, how- 
ever, 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 con- 
trived to give the fatal touch to the main tendon of the hind leg ; 
after which, without much difficulty, he drove his knife into the 
head of the spinal marrow, and the cow dropped as if struck by 
lightning. He cut off pieces of flesh with the skin to it, but 
without any bones, suflJicient for our expedition. We then rode 
on to our sleeping-place, and had for supper ' came con cuero,' 
or meat roasted with the skin on it. This is as superior to com- 
mon beef as venison is to mutton. A large circular piece taken 
from the back is roasted on the embers w-ith the liide 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 great number of cows which have been killed, there is a 
large proportion of bulls. These wancjer about single, or two 
and three together, and are very savage. I never saw such mag- 
nificent beasts ; they equalled in the size of their huge lieads and 
necks the Grecian marble sculptures. Capt. Sulivan informs 
me that the hide of an average-sized bull weighs forty-seven 
pounds, whereas a hide of this weight, less thoroughly dried, is 
considered as a very Iieavy one at Monte Video. The young 
bulls generally run away for a short distance ; but the old ones 
do not stir a step, except to rush at man and horse ; and many 
horses have been thus killed. An old bull crossed a boggy 
stream, and took his stand on the opposite side to us ; we in vain 
tried to drive him away, and failing, were obliged to make a 
largre circuit. The Gauchos in revensre determined to emasculate 


him and render him for the future harmless. It was very inter- 
esting 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 
powerless on tlie ground. After the lazo has once been drawn 
tightly round the horns of a furious animal, it does not at first 
appear an easy thing to disengage it again without killing the 
beast ; nor, I apprehend, would it be so if the man was by him- 
self. 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 Iiind legs are kept outstretclied, is quite 
helpless, and the first man can with his hands loosen his lazo from 
the horns, and then quietly mount his horse ; but the moment 
the second man, by backing ever so little, relaxes the strain, the 
lazo slips off tlie legs of the struggling beast, which tlien rises 
free, shakes himself, and vainly rushes at his antagonist. 

During our whole ride we saw only one troop of wild horses. 
These animals, as well as the cattle, were introduced by the 
French in 1764, since which time both 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 pre- 
vent them from roaming, and that part of the island is not more 
tempting than the rest. The Gauchos whom I asked, though 
asserting this to be the case, were unable to account for it, ex- 
cept from the strong attachment which horses have to any loca- 
lity to which they are accustomed. Considering that the island 
does not appear fully stocked, and that there are no beasts of 
prey, I was particularly curious to know what has checked their 
originally rapid increase. That in a limited island some check 
would sooner or later supervene, is inevitable ; but why has 
the increase of the horse been checked sooner than that of the 
cattle? Capt. Sulivan has taken much pains for me in this 
inquiry. The Gauchos employed here attribute it chiefly to 
the stallions constantly roaming from place to place, and com- 
pelling the mares to accompany them, whether or not the young 
foals are able to follow. One Gaucho told Capt. Sulivan that 
he had watched a stallion for a whole hour, violently kicking 
and biting a mare till he forced her to leave her foal to its late. 
Capt. Sulivan can so far corroborate this curious account, that 

132 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

he has several times found young foals dead, whereas he has 
never found a dead calf. Moreover, the dead bodies of full- 
grown horses are more frequently found, as if more subject to 
disease or accidents, than those of the cattle. From the softness of 
the ground their hoofs often grow irregularly to a great length, 
and this causes lameness. The predominant colours are roan and 
iron-o^rey. All the horses bred here, both tame and wild, are 
rather small-sized, though generally in good condition ; and they 
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 its Shetland breed. 
Tlie cattle, instead of having degenerated like the horses, 
seem, as before remarked, to have increased in size ; and they 
are much more numerous than the horses. Capt. Sulivan in- 
forms me that they vary much less in the general form of their 
bodies and in the shape of their horns than English cattle. In 
colour they differ much ; and it is a remarkable circumstance, 
that in difterent parts of this one small island, different colours 
predominate. Round Mount Usborne, at a height of from 1000 
to 1 500 feet above the sea, about half of some of the herds are 
mouse or lead-coloured, a tint which is not common in other 
parts of the island. Near Port Pleasant dark brown prevails, 
whereas south of Choiseul Sound (which almost divides the island 
into two parts), white beasts with black heads and feet are the 
most common : in all parts black, and some spotted animals may 
be observed. Capt. Sulivan remarks, that the difference in the 
prevailing colours was so obvious, that in looking for the herds 
near Port Pleasant, they appeared from a long distance like black 
spots, wliilst south of Choiseul Sound they appeared like white 
spots on the hill-sides. Capt. Sulivan thinks that the herds do 
not mingle ; and it is a singular fact, that the mouse-coloured 
cattle, though living on the high land, calve about a month 
earlier in the season than the other coloured beasts on the lower 
land. It is interesting thus to find the once domesticated cattle 
breaking into three colours, of which some one colour would in 
all probability ultimately prevail over the others, if the herds 
were left undisturbed for the next several centuries. 


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 within 
certain limits ; for ibey have not crossed the central chain of 
hills, nor would they have extended even so far as its base, if, as 
the Gauchos informed me, small colonies had not been carried 
there. 1 should not have supposed tliat these animals, natives of 
northern Africa, could have existed in a climate so 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 cannoJ 
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 va- 
riety a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellauicus.* 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 by the Spaniards, The Gauchos laughed at the 
idea of the black kind being different from the grey, and they 
said that at all events it had not extended its range any further 
than the grey kind ; that the two were never found separate ; 
and that they readily bred together, and produced piebald off- 
spring. 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, tho'.rght it was probably distinct ! 

The only quadruped native to the island "j" is a large wolf-like 
fox (Canis antarcticus), whicii is common to both East and 

* Lesson's Zoology of the Voyage of the Coquille, torn. i. p. 1G8. Ail 
the early voyagers, and especially Bougainville, distinctly state that the 
wolf-like fox was the only native animal on the island. The distinction of 
the 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 EUj^lish hare rests upon nearly similar 
characters, only more strongly marked. 

t I have reason, however, to suspect that there is a field-mouse. The 
common European rat and mouse have roamed far from the habitations of 
the settlers. The common hog has also run wild on one islet : all are of a 
black colour : the boars are very fierce, and have great tusks. 


194 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

West Falkland. I liave 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 that this was the same with 
his " culpeu ;" * but I have seen both, and they are quite distinct. 
These wolves are well known, from Byron's account of their 
lameness and curiositj', which tlie 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 in the 
evening killed them, 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 an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to itself. Their num- 
bers 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. 

At night (I7th) we slept on the neck of land at the head of 
Choiseul Sound, 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 
tlie flesh had been picked by the carrion-hawks. They told me 
that in winter they often killed a beast, cleaned tlie 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 

* The "culpeu" is the Canis Magellanicus brought home by Captain 
King from the Strait of Magellan. It is common in Chile. 


not a dry spot to sit down on after our day's ride. I liave in 
another part stated how sing-ular it is that there should be abso- 
lutely no trees on these islands, altliough Tierra del Fuego is 
covered by one large forest. The largest bush in the island 
(belonging to the fliniily of Conipositae) is scarcely so tall as our 
gorse. 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 everything soaking wet, 
with nothing more than a tinder-box and piece of rag, inmiedi- 
ately 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. 

19^A. — Each morning, from not having ridden for some time 
previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to hear 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 over 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 

o 2 

196 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

treatment, being too much terrified to leave tlie herd, they are 
easily driven, if their strength last 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, tlie surface of the whole 
country was swampy. I suppose my horse fell at least a dozen 
times, and sometimes the whole six horses 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 of the sea, in which the water was as high 
as our horses' backs ; 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. 

The geological structure of tliese islands is in most respects 
simple. The lower country consists of clay-slate and sandstone, 
containing fossils, very closely related to, but not identical with, 
those found in the Silurian formations of Europe ; the hills are 
formed of white granular quartz rock. The strata of the latter 
are frequently arched with perfect symmetiy, and the appearance 
of some of the masses is in consequence most singular. Pernety* 
has devoted several pages to tlie 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 flexures without being 
shattered into fragments. As the quartz insensibly passes into 
the sandstone, it seems probable that the former owes its origin 
to the sandstone havinar been heated to such a degrree that it 
became viscid, and upon cooling crystallized. While in the soft 
state it must have been pushed up through the overlying 

In many parts of the island the bottoms of the valleys are 
covered in an extraordinary manner by myriads of great loose an- 
gular fragments of the quartz rock, forming " streams of stones." 
These have been mentioned with surprise by every voyager since 
the time of Pernety. The blocks are not waterworn, their 

* Peruety, Voyage aux Isles Malouiues, p. 52G. 


ano-les being only a little blunted ; they vary in size from one or 
two feet in diameter to ten, or even more than twenty times as 
mucli. Tiiey are not thrown together into irregular piles, but 
are spread out into level sheets or great streams. It is not pos- 
sible to ascertain their thickness, but the water of small stream- 
lets can be lieanl trickling tlirough the stones many feet below 
the surface. The actual depth is probably great, because the 
crevices between the lower fragments must long ago have been 
filled up with sand. The width of these sheets of stones varies 
from a few hundred feet to a mile ; but the peaty soil daily en- 
croaclies on the borders, and even forms islets wlierever a few 
fragments happen to lie close together. In a vallej' 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 shelter beneath one of 

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 would not have checked 
the speed of an English mail-coach. In some places, a con- 
tinuous stream of these fragments followed up the course of a 
valley, and even extended lo the very crest of the hill. On these 
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 on 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 hail flowed from many parts of the mountains into the lower 
country, and that v,hen solidified they had been rent by some 
enormous convulsion into myriads of fragments. The expression 
" streams of stones," which immediately occurred to every one, 
conveys the same idea. These scenes are on the spot rendered 

198 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

more striking by the contrast of the low, rounded forms of the 
neighbouring hills. 

I was interested by finding on the highest peak of one range 
Cdbout 700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment, lying 
oo its convex side, or back downwards. IMust 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 trans- 
verse 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 more probable that they have been hurled down 
from the nearest slopes ; and that since, by a vibratory move- 
ment of overwhelming force,* the 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 
rhe ground, what must we say to a movement which has caused 
fragments many tons in weight, to move onwards like so much 
sand on a vibrating board, and find their level ? I have seen, in 
the Cordillera of the Andes, the evident marks where stupen- 
dous 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 these " 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 : yet the 
progress of knowledge will probably some day give a simple 
explanation of this phenomenon, as it already has of the so long- 

* " Nous n'avons pas 6te moins saisis d'etonnement a la vue de I'innom- 
brable quantite de pierres de toutes grandeurs, bouleversees les unes sur les 
autres, et cependant range'es, comme si elles avoient ete amoncele'es negli- 
gemment pour remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les eft'ets 
prodigieux de la nature." — Perneti/, p. 526. 

f 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 


thought inexplicable tran.sportal of the erratic boulders, wliich 
are strewed over the plains of Europe. 

I liave little to remark on tlie zoologj' of these islands. I have 
l)efore described tlie carrion-vulture or Polyborus. There are 
some other hawks, owls, and a few small land-birds. The water- 
fowl are particularly numerous, and they must formerly, from 
the accounts of the old navigators, have been much more so. 
One day I observed a cormorant playing with a fish whicli it had 
caught. Eight times successively the bird let its prey go, then 
dived after it, and although in deep water, brought it eacli 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. Another 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 he 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 lay only in the anterior and 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 an ass ; 
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 wings are used as fins; but on the land, as front legs. 
AVhen crawling, it may be said on four legs, through the tus- 
sucks or on the side of a grassy cliff", it moves so very quickly 
that it might easily be 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 was not a fish leaping 
for sport. 

Two kinds of geese frequent the Falklands. The upland 
.■species (Anas Magellanica) is common, in pairs and in small 
tlocks, throughout the island. They do not migrate, but build 

200 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

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 accom- 
panied 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 appro- 
priately, 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-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 bin's 
These clumsy, loggerheaded ducks make such a noise anc) 
splashing, that the eftect 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 : and the Apteryx of 
New Zealand, as well as its gigantic extinct prototype the 
Deinornis, possess only rudimentary representatives of wings. 
The steamer is able to dive only to 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 sur- 
prisingly heavy and strong : the head is so strong that I have 
scarcely been able to fracture it with my geological hammer -. 
and all our sportsmen soon discovered how tenacious these birdi- 
were of life. When in the evening pluming themselves in a 
flock, they make the same odd mixture of sounds which bull- 
frogs do within the tropics. 

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as at the Falkland Islands, I mad«^ 

ciiAP. IX.] ZOOPHYTES. 2.11 

many observations on the lower marine animals,* but tliev are 
of little general interest. I will mention only one class of tacts, 
relating *to certain zoopliytes in the more higlily organized divi- 
sion of that class. Several genera (Hustra, Eschara, Cellaria, 
Crisia, and otiiers) agree in having singular moveable organs* 
(like those of Flustra avicularia, found in tlie 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 tlian in a real bird's 
beak. The head itself possesses considerable powers of move- 
ment, by means of a short neck. In one zoophyte tiie 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 evi- 
dently answered to the lower mandible. In the greater number 
of species, each cell was provided with one head, but in others 
each cell had two. 

Tlie young cells at the end of tlie branches of tliese corallines 
contain quite immature polypi, yet the vulture-heads attaciied to 
them, though small, are 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 
vulture-like heads 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 
than two rows of cells on a branch, the central cells were fur- 
nished with these appendages, of only one-fourth the size of the 
outside ones. Their movements varied according to the species ; 
but in some I never saw the least motion ; while others, with the 
lower mandible generally wide open, oscillated backwards and 

* I -was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large white Doris 
(this sea shig 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 ad- 
hered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I found, mea 
sured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By counting h^>^• 
many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the row, and how man) 
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. No fallacy is more covunon with naturalists, than that tlie 
numbers of an individual species depend on its powers of propayaticn. 

202 FALKLAND ISLANDS. [chap. ix. 

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 whote branch 
might be shaken. 

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production of 
the eggs or gemmules, as they are formed before the young polypi 
appear in the cells at the end of the growing branches ; as they 
move independently of the polypi, and do not appear to be in any 
■way connected with them ; and as they differ in size on the outer 
and inner rows of cells, I have little doubt, that in their functions, 
they are related rather to the horny axis of the branches than to the 
polypi in the cells. The fleshy appendage at the lower extremity 
of the sea-pen (described at Bahia Blanca) also forms part of the 
zoophyte, as a whole, in the same manner as the roots of a tree 
form part of the whole tree, and not of the individual leaf or 

In another elegant little coralline (Crisia?), each cell was fur- 
nished with a long-toothed bristle, which had the power of moving 
quickly. Each of these bristles and each of the vulture-like 
heads generally moved quite independently of the others, but 
sometimes all on both sides of a branch, sometimes only those on 
one side, moved together coinstantaneously ; sometimes each 
moved in regular order one after another. In these actions Ave 
apparently behold as perfect a transmission of will in the zoo- 
phyte, though composed of thousands of distinct polypi, as in 
any single animal. The case, indeed, is not difierent from that 
of the sea-pens, which, when touched, drew themselves into the 
sand on the coast of Bahia Blanca. I will state one other in- 
stance of uniform action, though of a very different nature, in a 
zoophyte closely allied to Clytia, and therefore very simply or- 
ganized. 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 

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, capable of swimming about 
and of choosing a proper place to adhere to, which tlien sprouts 
into branches, each crowded with innumerable distinct animals, 
often of complicated organizations? The branches, moreover, 
as we have just seen, sometimes possess organs capable of move- 
ment and independent of the polypi. Surprising as this union 
of separate individuals in a common stock must always appear, 
every tree displays the same fact, for buds must be considered 
as individual ])lants. It is, however, natural to consider a 
polypus, furnished with a mouth, intestines, and other organs, 
as a distinct individual, whereas the individuality of a leaf-bud is 
not easily realised ; so that the union of separate individuals in 
a common body is more striking in a coralline than in a tree. 
Our conception of a compound animal, where in some respects 
the individuality of each is not completed, may be aided, by re- 
flecting on the production of two distinct creatures by bisecting 
a single one with a knife, or where Nature herself performs the 
task of bisection. 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. Certainly in the case of trees, and 
judging from analogy in that of corallines, the individuals pro- 
pagated by buds seem more intimately related to each other, than 
eggs or seeds are to their parents. It seems now pretty well esta- 
blished that plants propagated by buds all partake of a common 
duration of life ; and it is familiar to every one, what singular 
and numerous peculiarities are transmitted with certainty, by 
buds, layers, and grafts, which by seminal propagation never or 
only casually reappear. 

204 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival— Good Success Bay — An account of the 
Fuegians ou board — Interview -with the savages— Scenery of the forests — 
Cape Horn— Wigwam Cove — Miserable condition of the savages — Famines 
— Cannibals — Matricide— Religious feelings— Great gale— Beagle Channel 
— Pousonby Sound — Build wigwams and settle the Fuegians — Bifurcation 
of the Beagle Channel — Glaciers — Return to the ship— Second visit iu 
the Ship to the Settlement — Equality of condition amongst the natives. 


December \1th, 1832. — Having now finished with Patagonia 
and the Falkland Islands, 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, inhos- 
pitable Staten-land was visible amidst the clouds. In the after- 
noon we anchored in the Baj^ 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 en- 
tangled 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 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 witliout exception the most curious and interesting spectacle 
I ever beheld : I could not have believed how wide was the dif- 
ference between savage and civilized man: it is greater than 
between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch 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 meu, about six feet high. The 
women and children had been sent away. These Fuegians are a 
very diiferent race from the stunted, miserable wretches farther 
westward ; and they seem closely allied to the famous Patago- 
nians 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, leaving their persons as 
often exposed as covered. Their skin is of a dirty coppery red 

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 ; 
tiie other, white like chalk, extended above and parallel to the 
first, so that even his eyelids were thus coloured. The other 
two men were ornamented by streaks of black powder, made of 
charcoal. The party altogether closely resembled the devils 
which come on the stage in plays like 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 chuck- 
ling kind of noise, as people do when feeding chickens. I 
walked with the old man, and this demonstration of friendship 
w as 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 

206 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

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 remem- 
bered 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 ot 
mimicry. I was told, almost in the same words, of the same 
-ludicrous habit among the CaiFres : the Australians, likewise, 
aave 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 prac- 
tised habits of perception and keener senses, common to all men 
in a savage state, as compared with 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 tlie young 
men, wlien 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 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. 

I have not as yet noticed the Fuegians whom we had on 
board. During the former voyage of the Adventure and Beagle 
in 1826 to 1830, Captain Fitz Roy seized on a party of natives, 
as hostages for the loss of a boat, which had been stolen, to the 
great jeopardy of a party employed on the survey ; and some of 
these natives, as well as a child whom he bought for a pearl-button, 
he took with him to England, determining to educate them and 


instruct them in religion at his own expense. To settle these 
natives in their own country, was one chief inducement to Cap- 
tain Fitz Roy to undertake our present voyage ; and before thp 
Admiralty had resolved to send out this expedition, Captain 
Fitz Koy had generously chartered a vessel, and would himself 
have taken them back. The natives were accompanied by a mis- 
sionary, R. Matthews ; of whom and of the natives, Captain Fitz 
Roy has published a full and excellent account. Two men, one 
of whom died in England of the small-pox, a boy and a little 
girl, were originally taken; and we had now on board, York 
Minster, Jemmy Button (whose name expresses his purchase- 
money), and Fuegia Basket. York Minster was a full-grown, 
short, thick, powerful man : his disposition was reserved, taci- 
turn, morose, and when excited violently passionate ; his affec- 
tions were very strong towards a few friends on board ; his intel- 
lect good. Jemmy Button was a universal favourite, but likewise 
passionate ; the expression of his face at once showed his nice 
disposition. He was merry and often laughed, and was remark- 
ably sympathetic with any one in pain : when the water was 
rough, 1 w^as often a little sea-sick, and he used to come to me 
and say in a plaintive voice, " Poor, poor fellow !" but the notion, 
after his aquatic life, of a man being sea-sick, was too ludicrous, 
and he was generally obliged to turn on one side to hide a smile 
or laugh, and then he would repeat his " Poor, poor fellow !" He 
was of a patriotic disposition ; and he liked to praise his own tribe 
and country, in which he truly said there were " plenty of trees," 
and he abused all the other tribes : he stoutly declared that there 
was no Devil in his land. Jemmy was short, thick, and fat, but 
vain of his personal appearance ; he used always to wear gloves, 
his hair was neatly cut, and he was distressed if his well-polished 
shoes were dirtied. He was fond of admiring himself in a look- 
ing-glass; and a merry-faced little Indian boy from the Rio Negro, 
whom we had for some months on board, soon perceived this, and 
used to mock him : Jemmy, who was always rather jealous of 
the attention paid to this little boy, did not at all like this, and 
used to say, with rather a contemptuous twist of his head, " Too 
much skylark." It seems yet wonderful to me, when I think over 
all his manv good qualities, that he should have been of the same 
race, and doubtless partaken of the same character, with the mi- 

208 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

serable, degraded savages whom we first met here. Lastly , Fuegia 
Basket was a nice, modest, reserved young girl, with a rather 
pleasing but sometimes sullen expression, and very quick in 
learning anything, especially languages. This she showed in 
picking up some Portuguese and Spanish, when left on shore for 
only a short time at Rio de Janeiro and Monte Video, and in 
her knowledge of English. York. Minster was very jealous of 
any attention paid to her ; for it was clear he determined to 
marry her as soon as they were settled on shore. 

Although all three could both speak and understand a good 
deal of English, it was singularly difficult to obtain much in- 
formation from them, concerning the habits of their countrymen : 
this was partly owing to their apparent difficulty in understand- 
ing the simplest alternative. Every one accustomed to very 
young children, knows how seldom one can get an answer even 
to so simple a question as whether a thing is black or white ; the 
idea of black or white seems alternately to fill their minds. So 
it was with these Fuegians, and hence it was generally impossible 
to find out, by cross-questioning, whether one had rightly under- 
stood anything which they had asserted. Their sigiit was re- 
markably acute : it is well known that sailors, from long prac- 
tice, can make out a distant object much better than a landsman ; 
but both York and Jemmy were much superior to any sailor on 
board : several times they have declared what some distant ob- 
ject has been, and though doubted by every one, they have proved 
right, when it has been examined through a telescope. They 
were quite conscious of this power ; and Jemmy, when he had 
any little quarrel with the officer on watch, would say, " Me see 
ship, me no tell." 

It was interesting to watch the conduct of the savages, when 
we landed, towards Jemmy Button : they immediately perceived 
the difference between him and ourselves, and held much con- 
versation one with another on the subject. The old man ad- 
dressed 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 afterwards came on shore, 
they noticed him in the same vvay, 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 vitli ours. One of our arms being 
bared, they expressed the liveliest surprise and admiration at its 
whiteness, just in the same way in which I have seen the ourang- 
outang- do at the Zoological Gardens. 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 mucli 
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 our first feel- 
ing of grave astonishment was over, nothing could be more 
ludicrous than the odd mixture of surprise and imitation which 
these savages every moment exhibited. 

The next day I attempted to penetrate some way into the 
country. Tierra del Fuego may be described as a mountainous 
land, partly submerged in the sea, so that deep inlets and 
bays occupy the place where valleys should exist. The moun- 
tain sides, except on the exposed western coast, are covered from 
tiie water's edge upwards by one great forest. The trees reach 
to an elevation of between 1000 and 1500 feet, and are suc- 
ceeded by a band of peat, with minute alpine plants ; and this 
again is succeeded by the line of perpetual snow, which, accord- 
ing to Captain King, in the Strait of Magellan descends to be- 
tween 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 
piece near Port Famine, and another of rather larger extent near 
Goeree Road. In both places, and everywhere else, the surface 
is 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 liardly crawl along ; 


210 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

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 iigns of violence. On 
every side were lying irregular masses of rock and torn-up 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 tlie 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 consider- 
able elevation, and obtained a good view of the surrounding 
woods. The trees all belong to one kind, the Fagus betuloides; 
for the number of the other species of Fagus and of the Win- 
ter's Bark, is quite inconsiderable. This beech 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 Fitz Roy has called after 
Sir J. Banks, in commemoration of his disastrous excursion, 
which proved fatal to two men of his party, and nearly so to 
Dr. Solander. The snow-storm, 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 parts are few in number. We 
followed the same watercourse as on the previous day, till it dwin- 
dled away, and we were then 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 com- 
pact mass of little beech-trees about four or five feet high. They 
were as tliick together as box in the border of a garden, and we 
were obliged to struggle over the flat but treacherous surface. 

CHAi>. X.] CAPE HOnX. oil 

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 jjatches of snow were lying on it. As 
the day was not fixr advanced, I determined to walk there and 
collect plants along the road. It would have been very hard 
work, had it not been for a wdl-beaten and straight path made 
by the guanacos ; for these animals, like sheep, always follow 
tiie same line. AVhen we reached the hill we found it the high- 
est in the immediate neighbourhood, and the waters flowed to 
tlie sea in opposite directions. We obtained a wide view over 
tlie surrounding country : to the north a swampy moorland ex- 
tended, but to the south we had a scene of savage magnificence, 
M ell becoming Tierra del Fuego. There was a degree of myste- 
lious grandeur in mountain behind mountain, with the deep in- 
tervening valleys, all covered by one thick, dusky mass of forest. 
The atmosphere, likewise, in this climate, Avhere gale succeeds 
gale, with rain, hail, and sleet, seems blacker than anywhere 
else. In the Strait of Magellan, looking due southward from 
I'ort Famine, the distant channels between the mountains ap- 
peared from their gloominess to lead beyond the confines of this 

December 2\st. — 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 weather-beaten 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 tliis 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 such 
extreme violence, that the Captain determined to run into Wig- 
wam 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 

p 2 


now and then a pufF from the niountaiiis, which made the shij) 
surge at her anchors. 

December 25th. — Close by the cove, a pointed hill, called 
Kater's Peak, rises to the height of 1700 feet. The surround- 
ing islands all consist of conical masses of greenstone, associated 
sometimes with less regular hills of baked and altered clay -slate. 
This part of Tierra del Fuego may be considered as the extremity 
of the s\ibmerged chain of mountains already alluded to. The 
cove takes its name of " Wigwam" from some of the Fuegian 
habitations ; but every bay in tlie neighbourhood might be so 
called with equal propriety. The inhabitants, living chiefly upon 
shell -fish, are obliged constantly to change their place of resi- 
dence ; but they return at intervals to the same spots, as is evi- 
dent from the piles of old shells, which must often amount to 
many tons in weight. These heaps can be distinguished at a 
long distance by the bright green colour of certain plants, Avhicli 
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 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. 

While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, we 
pulled alongside a canoe with six Fuegians. These were the 


most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld. On 
the east coast the natives, as we have seen, have guanaco cloaks, 
;uid on the west, tliey possess seal-skins. Amongst these central 
tribes the men generally have an otter-skin, or some small i^crap 
about as large as a pocket-handkerchief, which is barely sutti- 
cient 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 witli the spray, trickled down her body. In another 
harbour not far distant, a Avoman, who was suckling a recently- 
born child, came one day alongside the vessel, and remained 
tliere out of mere curiosity, whilst the sleet fell and thawed on 
her naked bosom, and on the skin of her naked baby ! These 
poor wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces 
betlaubed with white paint, their skins filtiiy and greasy, their 
hair entangled, their voices discordant, and their gestures vio- 
lent. Viewing such men, one can hardly make oneself believe 
that they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants of the same world. 
It is a common subject of conjecture wliat pleasure in life some 
of the lower animals can enjoy : how much more reasonably the 
.vame 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 
winter or summer, night or day, they must rise to pick shell- 
fish from the rocks; and the women either dive to collect sea- 
eggs, or sit patiently in their canoes, and with a baited hair-line 
without any hook, jerk out little fish. If a seal is killed, or the 
floating carcass of a putrid whale discovered, it is a feast ; and 
such miserable fyod is assisted by a few tasteless berries and 

They often suffer from famine : I heard Mr. Low, a sealing- 
master intimately acquainted with the natives of this country, 
give a curious account of the state of a party of one hundred 
and fifty natives on the west coast, who were very thin and in 
great distress. A succession of gales prevented the women from 
getting shell-fish on the rocks, and tiiey could not go out in 

214 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

their canoes to catcli seal. A small party of these men one 
morning set out, and the other Indians explained to him, that 
they were going a four days' journey for food : on their return, 
Low went to meet them, and he found them excessively tired, 
each man carrying a great square piece of putrid whales-blubber 
with a hole in the middle, through which they put their heads, 
like the Gauchos do through their ponchos or cloaks. As soon 
as the blubber was brought into a wigwam, an old man cut oiF 
thin slices, and muttering over them, broiled them for a minute, 
and distributed them to the famished party, who during this 
time preserved a profound silence. Mr. Low believes that 
whenever a whale is cast on shore, the natives bu-ry large pieces 
of it in the sand, as a resource in time of famine ; and a native 
bov, whom he had on board, once found a stock thus buried. 
The different tribes when at war are cannibals. From the con- 
current, but quite independent evidence of the boy taken by 
Mr. Low, and of Jemmy Button, it is certainly true, that when 
pressed in winter by hunger, they kill and devour their old 
women before they kill their dogs : the boy, being asked by Mr. 
Low why they did this, answered, " Doggies catch otters, old 
women no." This boy described the manner in which they are 
killed by being held over smoke and thus choked ; he imitated 
their screams as a joke, and described the parts of their bodies 
which are considered best to eat. Horrid as such a death by the 
hands of their friends and relatives must be, the fears of the old 
women, when hunger begins to press, are more painful to think 
of; we were told that they then often run away into the moun- 
tains, but that they are pursued by the men and brought back 
to the slaughter-house at their own fire-sides ! 

Captain Fitz Roy could never ascertain that the Fuegians have 
any distinct belief in a future life. They sometimes bury their 
dead in caves, and sometimes in the mountain forests ; we do not 
know what ceremonies they perform. Jemmy Button would not 
eat land-birds, because " eat dead men :" they are unwilling even 
to mention their dead friends. We have no reason to belie\e 
that they perform any sort of religious worship ; though perhaps 
tlie muttering of the old man before he distributed the putrid 
blubber to his famished party, may be of this nature. Each 
family or tribe has a wizard or conjuring doctor, whose oifice 


Me could never clearly ascertain. Jemmy believed in dreams, 
though not, as I have said, in the devil : I do not think that 
our Fuegians were much more superstitious than some of the 
sailors ; for an old quarter-master firmly believed that the suc- 
cessive heavy gales, which we encountered off Cape Horn, were 
caused by our having the Fuegians on board. The nearest ap- 
proach to a religious feeling which I heard of, was shown by 
York Minster, who, when Mr. Bynoe shot some very young 
ducklings as specimens, declared in the most solemn manner, 
" Oh Mr. Bynoe, much rain, snow, blow much." This was 
evidently a retributive punishment for wasting human food. In 
a wild and excited manner he also related, that his brother, one 
day whilst returning to pick up some dead birds which he had 
left on the coast, observed some feathers blown by the wind. 
His brother said (York imitating his manner), " What that ?" 
and crawling onwards, he peeped over the cliff, and saw " wild 
man" picking his birds ; he crawled a little nearer, and thou 
hurled down a great stone and killed him. York declared for a 
long time afterwards storms raged, and much rain and snow fell. 
As far as we could make out, he seemed to consider the elements 
themselves as the avenging agents : it is evident in this case, how 
naturally, in a race a little more advanced in culture, the ele- 
ments would become personified. What the " bad wild men" 
were, has always appeared to me most mysterious : from what 
York said, when we found the place like the form of a hare, 
wdiere a single man had slept the night before, I should have 
thought that they were thieves who had been driven from their 
tribes ; but other obscure speeches made me doubt this ; I have 
sometimes imagined that the most probable explanation was 
that they were insane. 

The different tribes have no government or chief; yet each 
is surrounded by other hostile tribes, speaking different dialects, 
and separated from each other only by a deserted border or 
neutral territory : the cause of their warfare appears to be the 
means of subsistence. Their country is a broken mass of wild 
rocks, lofty hills, and useless forests : and these are viewed 
through mists and endless storms. The habitable land is re- 
duced to the stones on the beach ; in search of food they are 
compel. ed unceasingly to wander from spot to spot, and so steep 

215 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

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 ; for the husband is to the 
M ife a brutal master to a laborious slave. Was a more horrid 
deed ever perpetrated, than that witnessed on the wen-t coast by 
Byron, who saw a wretched mother pick up her bleeding dying 
infant-boy, whom her husband had mercilessly dashed on the 
stones for dropping a basket of sea-eggs ! 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 require 
even 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 inge- 
nious work, poor as it is, has remained the same, as we know 
from Drake, for tlie last two hundred and fifty years. 

Wliilst 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 the north, to travel 
down the Cordillera or backbone of America, to invent and 
build canoes, which are not used by the tribes of Chile, Peru, 
and Brazil, and then to enter on one of the most inhospitable 
countries within the limits of the globe ? Although such re- 
flections must at first seize on the mind, yet we may feel sure 
that they are partly erroneous. There is no reason to believe 
that the Fuegians decrease in number ; therefore we must sup- 
pose 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 hereditarj^, has fitted the Fue- 
gian to the climate and the productions of his miserable country. 

After having been detained six days in Wigwam Cove by very 
bad weather, we put to sea on the 30th of December. Captain 
Fitz Roy wished to get westward to land York and Fuegia in 
their own country. When at sea we had a constant succession 
of gales, and the current was against us : we drifted to 57° 23' 
south. On the 11th of January, 1833, by carrying a press of 
sail, we fetched within a few miles of the great rugged mountain 
of York Minster (so called by Captain Cook, and the origin of 


the name of the elder Fuegiaii), vvlien a violent squall coiiipelled 
us to shorten sail and stand out to sea. The surf was breaking- 
fearfully on the coast, and the spray \\as carried over a clitf 
estimated at 200 feet in height. On the 12tli the gale was very 
heavy, and we did not know exactly where we were : it was a 
most unpleasant sound to hear constantly repeated, " keep a good 
look-out to leeward." On the loth the storm raged vvith its full 
fury : our horizon was narrowly limited by the sheets of spray 
borne by tlie wind. The sea looked ominous, like a dreary 
waving plain with patches of drifted snow : whilst the shi}) 
laboured heavily, the albatross glided with its expanded wings 
right up the wind. At noon a great sea broke over us, and 
tilled one of the whale-boats, which Mas obliged to be instantly 
cut away. The poor Beagle trembled at the shock, and for a 
few miimtes would not obey her helm ; but soon, like a good 
ship that she was, she righted and came up to the wind again. 
Had another sea followed the first, our fate would have been 
decided soon, and for ever. We had now been twenty-four days 
trying in vain to get westward ; the men were worn out with 
fatigue, and they had not had for many nights or days a dry thing 
io put on. Captain Fitz Roy gave up the attempt to get west- 
ward by the outside coast. In the evening we ran in behind 
False Cape Horn, and dropped our anchor in forty-seven 
fathoms, fire flashing from the windlass as the chain rushed 
round it. How delightful was that still night, after having been 
so long involved in the din of the warring elements ! 

January loth, 1833. — The Beagle anchored in Goeree Roads. 
Captain Fitz Roy having resolved to settle the Fuegians, accord- 
ing 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 Fitz Roy during the last voyage, 
is a most remarkable feature in the geography of this, or indeed 
of any other country : it may be compared to the valley of Loch • 
ness in Scotland, with its chain of lakes and friths. It is about 
one hundred and twenty miles long, with an average breadth, not 
subject to any very great variation, of about two miles ; and is 
throughout the greater part so perfectly straight, that the view, 
bounded on each side by a line of mountains, gradually becomes 
indistinct in the long distance. It crosses the southern part of 

218 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

Tierra del Fuegc iu an east and west line, and in the middle i>s 
joined at right angles on the soutli side by an irregular channel, 
which has been called Ponsonby Sound. This is the i-esidence 
of Jemmy Button's tribe and family. 

19th. — Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a party of 
twenty-eight, started under tlie command of Captain Fitz Roy. 
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. Kothing could look more comfortable than tliis scene. 
The glassy water of the little hai'bour, with the branches of the 
trees hanging over the rocky beach, the boats at anchor, the 
tents supported by tlie 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 
Tierra del Fuego, or the land of fire), both to attract our atten- 
tion and to spread far and wide the news. Some of the men ran 
for miles along the shore. I shall never forget how wild and 
savage one group appeared : suddenly four or five men came to 
the edge of an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely naked, 
and their long hair streamed about their faces ; they held rugged 
staffs in their hands, and, springing from the ground, they waved 
their arms round their heads, and sent forth the most hideous 

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. A t 
first they were not inclined to be friendly ; for until the Captain 
pulled in a-head 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. Tliey liked our bis- 
cuit : but one of the savages touched with his finger some of the 
meat preserved in tin cases which I was eating, and feeling it soft 
and cold, showed as much disgust at it, as I should have done 
at putrid blubber. Jemmy was thoroughly ashamed of his 
countrymen, and declared his own tribe were quite different, in 
which he was wofully mistaken. 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 " yam- 
merschooner." After yammerschoonering for any article very 
eagerly, they would by a simple artifice point to their young 
women or little ciiildren, as mucii as to say, " If you will not 
give it me, surely you \\ ill 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, and we thought that we should 
have come to a skirmish. An Eluropean 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. 
Kor is it easy to teach them our superiority except by striking a 
fatal blow. Like wild beasts, they do not appear 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 
Fitz Eoy on one occasion being very anxious, from good reasons, 
to frighten away a small party, first flourished a cutlass near 
them, at which they only laughed ; he then twice fired his pistol 
close to 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, and understand their actions. In the case of this 
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 ; 

220 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

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 with- 
out tearing it, may convince the savage that it has no force at 
all. Certainly I believe that many savages of the lowest grade, 
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 is. 

22d. — After having passed an unmolested night, in what 
would appear to be neutral territory between Jemmy's tribe and 
the people whom we saw yesterday, we sailed pleasantly along. 
I do not know anything which shows more clearly the hostile 
state of the different tribes, than these wide border or neutral 
tracts. Although Jemmy Button well knew the force of our 
party, he was, at first, unwilling to land amidst the hostile tribe 
nearest to his ov/n. He often told us how the savage Oens men 
" when the leaf red," crossed the mountains from the eastern 
coast of Tierra del Fuego, and made inroads on the natives of 
tliis part of the country. It was most curious to watch him 
when thus talking, and see his eyes gleaming and his whole face 
assume a new and wild expression. As we proceeded along the 
Beagle Channel, the scenery assumed a peculiar and very mag- 
nificent character ; but the effect was much lessened from the 
lowness of the point of view in a boat, and from looking along 
the valley, and thus losing all the beauty of a succession of ridges. 
The mountains were here about three thousand feet high, and 
terminated in sharp and jagged points. They rose in one un- 
broken 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, as far as the eye could 
range, how level and truly horizontal the line on the mountain 
side was, 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 quiet and inoffensive, and soon 
joined our party round a blazing fire. AVe 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, liowever, very well pleased, and 
all joined in the chorus of the seamen's songs : but the manner 
in which they w'ere invariably a little behindhand was quite 

During tlie night the news had spread, and early in the morn- 
ing (23(1) a fresh party arrived, belonging to the Tekenika, or 
Jemmy's tribe. Several of them had run so fast that their noses 
vrere bleeding, and their mouths frothed from the rapidity with 
whicli they talked ; and with their naked bodies all bedaubed with 
black, wliite,* and red, they looked like so many demoniacs who been fighting. "We then proceeded (accompanied by twelve 
canoes, each holding four or five people) down Ponsonby Sound 
to the spot where poor Jemmy expected to find his mother and 
relatives. He had already heard that his father was dead ; but 
as he had had a " dream in his head " to that effect, he did not 
seem to care much about it, and repeatedly comforted himself 
Avitli tlie very natural reflection — " Me no help it." He was not 
able to learn any particulars regarding his father's death, as his 
relations would not speak about it- 
Jemmy was now in a district well known to him, and guided 
the boats to a quiet pretty cove named Woollya, surrounded by 
islets, every one of which and every point had its proper nati\e 
name. We found here a family of Jemmy's tribe, but not his 
relations : we made friends with them ; and in the evening they 
sent a canoe to inform Jemmy's mother and brothers. The cove 
was bordered by some acres of good sloping land, not covered 
(as elsewhere) either by peat or by forest-trees. Captain Fitz 
Eoy originally intended, as before stated, to have taken York 
Minster and Fuegia to their own tribe on the west coast ; but as 

* This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little specific 
gravity : Professor Ehrenberg has examined it : he states (Kouig Akad. der 
Wissen: Berlin, Feb. 1S45) that it is composed of infusoria, including four- 
teen polvgastrica, and four phytolitharia. He says that they are all inha- 
bitants of fresh-water ; this is a beautiful example of the results obtainable 
through Professor Ehrenberg's microscopic researches; for Jemmy Button 
told me that it is always collected at the bottoms of mountain-brooks. It is, 
moreover, a striking fact in the geographical distribution of the infusoria, 
which are well known to have very wide ranges, that all the species in this 
substance, although brought from the extreme southern point of Tierra dol 
Fuego, are old, known forms. 

222 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

they expressed a wish to remain liere, and as the spot was singu- 
larly favourable, Captain Fitz Roy determined to settle here the 
whole party, including Matthews, the missionary. Five days 
were spent in building for them three large wigwams, in landing 
their goods, in digging two gardens, and sowing seeds. 

The next morning after our arrival (the 24th) the Fuegians 
began to pour in, and Jemmy's mother and brothers arrived. 
Jemmy recognised the stentorian voice of one of his brothers at a 
prodigious distance. The meeting was less interesting than that 
between a horse, turned out into a field, when he joins an old com- 
panion. There was no demonstration of affection ; they simply 
stared for a short time at each other ; and the mother imme- 
diately went to look after her canoe. We heard, however, 
tlu'ough York that the mother had been inconsolable for the loss 
of Jemmy, and had searched everywhere for liim, thinking that 
he might have been left after having been taken in tlie boat. 
The women took much notice of and were very kind to Fuegia. 
We had already perceived that Jemmy had almost forgotten his 
own language. I should think tliere was scarcely another human 
being with so small a stock of language, for his English was 
\ery imperfect. It was laughable, but almost pitiable, to hear 
him speak to his wild brother in English, and then ask him in 
Spanish (" no sabe?") whether he did not understand him. 

Everything went on peaceably during the three next days, 
whilst tlie gardens were digging and wigwams building. We 
estimated thenumber of natives at about one hundred and twenty. 
The women worked hard, whilst the men lounged about all day 
long, watching us. They asked for everything they saw, and 
stole what they could. They were delighted at our dancing and 
singing, and were particularly interested at seeing us wash in a 
neighbouring brook ; they did not pay much attention to any- 
thing else, not even to our boats. Of all the things which York 
saw, during his absence from his country, nothing seems more 
to have astonished him than an ostrich, near Maldonado : breath- 
less with astonishment he came running to Mr. Bynoe, with 
whom he was out walking — " Oh, Mr. Bynoe, oh, bird all same 
IxTse !" Much as our white skins surprised the natives, by Mr. 
Low's account a negro-cook to a sealing vessel, did so more 
effectually ; and the poor fellow was so mobbed and shouted at 


that lie would never go on shore again. Everything went on so 
quietly, that some of the officers and myself took long walks in 
the surrounding hills and woods. Suddenly, however, on the 
27th, every woman and child disappeared. We were all uneasy 
at this, as neither York nor Jemmy could make out the cause. 
It was tiiought by some that they had been frightened by our 
cleaning and firing off our muskets on the previous evening : by 
others, that it was owing to oft'ence taken by an old savage, who, 
when told to keep further off, had coolly spit in the sentry's face, 
and had then, by gestures acted over a sleeping Fuegian, plainly 
showed, as it was said, that he should like to cut up and eat our 
man. Captain Fitz Roy, to avoid the chance of an encounter, 
which would have been fatal to so many of the Fuegians, thought 
it advisable for us to sleep at a cove a few miles distant. Mat- 
tliews, with his usual quiet fortitude (remarkable in a man appa- 
rently possessing little energy of character), determined to stay 
with the Fuegians, who evinced no alarm for themselves ; and so 
we left them to pass their first awful night. 

On our return in the morning (28tii) we were delighted to find 
all quiet, and the men employed in their canoes spearing fish. 
Captain Fitz Roy determined to send the yawl and one whale- 
boat back to the ship ; and to proceed with the two other boats, 
one under his own command (in which he most kindly allowed 
me to accompany him), and one under Mr. Hammond, to survey 
the western parts of the Beagle Channel, and afterwards to return 
and visit the settlement. The day to our astonishment was over- 
poweringly hot, so that our skins Avere scorched : wifh this beau- 
tiful weather, the view in the middle of the Beagle Channel was 
very remarkable. Looking towards either hand, no object inter- 
cepted the vanishing points of this long canal between the moun- 
tains. The circumstance of its being an arm of the sea was 
rendered very evident by several huge whales* spouting in dif- 
ferent 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-tree extended its branches. 

* One day, off the East coast of Tierra del Fuego, we saw a grand sight 
in several spermaceti whales jumping upright quite out of the water, with 
the exception of their tail-fins. As they fell down sideways, they splashed 
the water high up, and the sound reverberated like a distant broadside. 

2li4 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

We sailed on till it was dark, and then pitched our tents in a 
quiet creek. The greatest luxury was to find for our beds a 
beach of pebbles, for they were dry and yielded to the body. 
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 sometliing very 
solemn in these scenes. At no time does the consciousness in 
what a remote corner of the world you are then standing, come 
so strongly before the mind. Everything tends to this effect ; 
the stillness of the night is interrupted only by the heavy breath- 
ing of the seamen beneath the tents, and sometimes by the cry of 
a night-bird. The occasional barking of a dog, heard in the dis- 
tance, reminds one that it is tlie land of the savage. 

Jamtan/ 29th. — Early in tlie morning we arrived at the point 
where the Beagle Channel divides into two arms ; and we en- 
tered 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 tlie country, and boldly rise to a 
height of between three and four thousand feet, with one peak 
above six tliousand feet. They are covered by a wide mantle 
of perpetual snow, and numerous cascades pour their waters, 
through the woods, into the narrow channel below. In many 
parts, magnificent glaciers extend 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 these glaciers, and 
especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse 
of snow. The fragments which had fallen from the glacier into 
the water, were floating away, and the channel with its icebergs 
presented, for the space of a mile, a miniature likeness of the Polar 
Sea. The boats being hauled on shore at our dinner-hour, we 
were admiring from the distance of half a mile a perpendicular 
cliff of ice, and were wishing tliat some more fragments would fall. 
At last, down came a mass with a roaring noise, and immediately 
we saw the smooth outline of a wave travelling towards us. Tlie 
men ran down as quickly as thej' could to the boats ; for the chance- 
of their being dashed to pieces was evident. One of tiie 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 liigh and let fall again, received no dam- 
age. 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 tliat some 
large fragments of rock on the beach had been lately displaced ; 
but until seeing this wave, I did not understand the cause. One 
side of the creek^was formed by a spur of mica-slate ; the head 
by a cliff of ice about forty feet high ; and the other side by a 
promontory fifty feet high, built up of huge rounded fragments of 
granite and mica-slate, out of which old trees were growing. 
This promontory was evidently a moraine, heaped up at a period 
when the glacier had greater dimensions. 

Wlien we reached the western mouth of this northern branch 
of the Beagle Channel, we sailed amongst many unknown deso- 
late islands, and the weather was wretchedly bad. We met with 
no natives. The coast was almost everywhere so steep, that we 
had several times to pull many miles before we could find space 
enough to pitch our two tents : one night we slept on large round 
boulders, with putrefying sea-weed between them ; and when the 
tide rose, we had to get up and move our blanket-bags. The far- 
thest point westward which we reached was Stewart Island, a 
distance of about one hundred and fifty miles from our ship. We 
returned into the Beagle Channel by the southern arm, and 
thence proceeded, with no adventure, back to Ponsonby Sound. 

February 6th. — We arrived at Woollya. Matthews gave so 
bad an account of the conduct of the Fuegians, that Captain 
Fitz Roy determined to take him back to the Beagle ; and ulti- 
mately he was left at New Zealand, where his brother was a mis- 
sionary. From the time of our leaving, a regular system of 
plunder commenced ; fresh parties of the natives kept arriving : 
York and Jemmy lost many things, and Matthews almost every 
thing which had not been concealed underground. Every article 
oeemed to have been torn up and divided by the natives. Mat- 
thews described the watch he was obliged always to keep as most 
harassing ; night and day he was surrounded by the natives, who 
tried to tire him out by making an incessant noise close to his 
head. One day an old man, whom Matthews asked to leave his 
\N igwam, immediately returned vvith a large stone in his hand : 


225 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

another day a whole party came armed with stones and stakes, 
and some of the younger men and Jemmy's brother were crying: 
Matthews met tliem with presents. Another party showed by 
signs that they wished to strip him naked and pluck all the hairs 
out of his face and body. I think we arrived just in time to save 
his life. Jemmy's relatives had been so vain and foolish, that 
they had showed to strangers their plunder, and their manner of 
obtaining it. It was quite melancholy leaving the three Fue- 
gians with their savage countrymen ; but it was a great comfort 
that they had no personal fears. York, being a powerful resolute 
man, was pretty sure to get on well, together with his wife Fue- 
gia. Poor Jemmy looked rather disconsolate, and would then. 
I have little doubt, have been glad to have returned with us. 
His own brother had stolen many things from him ; and as he 
remarked, ' what fashion call that :' he abused his countrj'men, 
' all bad men, no sabe (know) nothing,' and, though I never 
heard him swear before, ' damned fools.* Our three Fuegians, 
though they had been only three years with civilized men, would, 
I am sure, have been glad to have retained their new habits ; but 
this was obviously impossible. I fear it is more than doubtful, 
whether their visit will have been of any use to them. 

In the evening, with Matthews on board, we made sail back to 
the ship, not by the Beagle Channel, but by the southern coast. 
The boats were heavily laden and the sea rough, and we had a 
dangerous passage. By the evening of the 7th we were on board 
the Beagle after an absence of twenty days, during which time 
we had gone three hundred miles in the open boats. On the 11th, 
Captain Fitz Roy paid a visit by himself to the Fuegians and 
found them going on well ; and that they had lost very few more 

On the last day of February in the succeeding year (1834), 
the Beagle anchored in a beautiful little cove at the eastern en- 
trance of the Beagle Channel. Captain Fitz Roy determined on 
the bold, and as it proved successful, attempt to beat against the 
westerly Minds by the same route, which we had followed in the 
boats to the settlement at Woollya. We did not see many 
natives until we were near Ponsonby Sound, where we were fol- 
lowed by ten or twelve canoes. The natives did not at all un- 


derstand the reason of our tacking, and, instead of meeting us at 
each tack, vainly strove to follow us in our zig-zag course. I 
was amused at finding what a diiference the circumstance of 
being quite superior in force made, in the interest of beholding 
these savages. While in tlie 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 up to spread the news far and wide. On leaving some 
place Ave have said to each other, ' Thank Heaven, we have at 
last fairly left these wretches !' Vyhen one more faint halloo from 
an all-powerful voice, heard at a prodigious distance, would 
reach our ears, and clearly could we distinguish — " yammer- 
schooner." But now, 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 tlie 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 several bits of scarlet cloth round her head 
with rushes. Her husband, who enjoyed the very iiniversal pri- 
vilege 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 

Some of the Fuegians plainly showed that they had a fair 
notion of barter. I gave one man a large nail (a most valuable 
present) without making any signs for a return ; but he imme- 
diately picked out two fish, and handed them up on the 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. 
The Fuegian boy, whom INIr. Low had on board, showed, by 
going into the most violent passion, that he quite understood 
the reproach of being called a liar, which in truth he was. We 
were this time, as on all former occasions, much surprised at the 
little notice, or rather none whatever, which was taken of many 


228 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap, x, 

things, the use of which must have been evident to the natives. 
Simple circumstances — such as the beauty of scarlet cloth or 
blue beads, the absence of women, our care in washing our- 
selves, — excited their admiration far more than any grand or 
complicated object, such as our ship. Bougainville has well 
remarked concerning these people, that they treat the " chef- 
d'oeuvres de I'industrie humaine, comme ils traitent les loix de 
la nature et ses phenomenes." 

On the 5th of March, we anchored in the cove at Woollya, 
out we saw not a soul there. We were alarmed at this, for the 
natives in Ponsonby Sound showed by gestures, that there had 
been fighting ; and we afterwards heard that the dreaded Oens 
men had made a descent. Soon a canoe, with a little flag flying, 
was seen approaching, with one of the men in it washing the 
paint off his face. This man was poor Jemmy, — now a thin 
haggard savage, with long disordered hair, and naked, except a 
bit of a blanket round his waist. We did not recognise him till 
lie was close to us ; for he was ashamed of himself, and turned 
his back to the ship. We had left him plump, fat, clean, and 
well dressed ; — I never saw so complete and grievous a change. 
As soon however as he was clothed, and the first flurry was 
over, things wore a good appearance. He dined with Captain 
Fitz Roy, and ate his dinner as tidily as formerly. He told us he 
had ' too much' (meaning enough) to eat, that he was not cold, 
that his relations were very good people, and that he did not 
wish to go back to England : in the evening we found out the 
cause of this great change in Jemmy's feelings, in the arrival of 
his young and nice-looking wife. With his usual good feeling, 
he brought two beautiful otter-skins for two of his best friends, 
and some spear-heads and arrows made with his own hands for 
the Captain. He said he had built a canoe for himself, and he 
boasted that he could talk a little of his own language ! But it 
is a most singular fact, that he appears to have taught all his 
tribe some English : an old man spontaneously announced 
' Jemmy Button's wife.' Jemmy had lost all his property. 
He told us that York Minster had built a large canoe, and with 
his wife Fuegia,* had several months since gone to his own 

* Captain Sulivan, who, since his voyage in the Beagle, has been em- 
ployed on the survey of the Falkland Islands, heard from a sealer in (1842 ?), 


country, and had taken flirewell by an act of consummate vil- 
lainy ; he persuaded Jemmy and his mother to come with him, 
and then on the way deserted them by night, stealing every 
article of their property. 

Jemmy went to sleep on shore, and in the morning returned, 
and remained on board till the ship got \inder weigh, whicli 
frightened his wife, who continued crying violently till he got 
into his canoe. He returned loaded with valuable property. 
Every soul on board was heartily sorry to shake hands with him 
for the last time. I do not now doubt that he will be as happy 
as, perhaps happier than, if he had never left his own country. 
Every one must sincerely hope that Captain Fitz Roy's noble 
hope may be fulfilled, of being rewarded for the many generous 
sacrifices which he made for these Fuegians, by some ship- 
wrecked sailor being protected by the descendants of Jemmy 
Button and his tribe ! When Jemmy reached the shore, he 
lighted a signal fire, and the smoke curled up, bidding us a last 
and long farewell, as the ship stood on her course into the open 

The perfect equality among the individuals composing the 
Fuegian 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 arti- 
ficial governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, 
who, when first discovered, m ere governed by hereditary kings, 
had arrived at a far higher grade than another branch of tht; 
same people, the New Zealanders, — who, although benefited by 
being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were re- 
publicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, 
until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any 
acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems 
scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be 

that -nh n in the western part of the Straii v^f ISIagellan, he was astonished by 
a native woman coming on board, who could talk some English. Without 
d)ubt this was Fuegia Basket. She lived (I fear the term probably bears a 
d luble interpretation) some days on board. 

230 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is 
torn into shreds and distributed ; and no one individual becomes 
richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to under- 
stand how a chief can arise till there is property of some sort by 
which he might manifest his superiority and increase his power. 
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 Islanders of the two races inhabiting 
the Pacific, are 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. The Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, 
comes nearest the Fuegian : he can, however, boast of his boo- 
merang, his spear and throwing-stick, his method of climbing 
trees, of tracking animals, and of hunting. Although the Aus- 
tralian may be superior in acquirements, it by no means follows 
that he is likewise superior in mental capacity : indeed, from 
what I saw of the Fuegians when on board, and from what I 
liave read of the Australians, I should think the case was exactly 
the reverse. 

ir;u.i strait of Magellan. 231 

chaptp:r XI. 

Strait of Magellan — Port Famine— Ascent of Mount Tarn — Forests — Edible 
Fungus — Zoology — Great Sea-weed — Leave Tierra del Fuego — Climate — • 
Fruit-trees and productions of the southern coasts — Height of snow-line 
on the Cordillera — Descent of glaciers to the sea — Icebergs formed — 
Transportal of Boulders — Climate and productions of the Antarctic 
Islands — Preservation of frozen carcasses — Recapitulation. 


Iiv the end of May, 1834, we entered for tlie second time the 
eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan. The country on both 
sides of this part of the Strait consists of nearly level plains, lilce 
those of Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little within tiie second 
Narrows, 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 feature. It is truly surprising to find in a 
space of twenty miles such a change in the landscape. If we 
take a rather greater distance, as between Port Famine and Gre- 
gory Bay, that is about sixty miles, the diiference 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 
iiterile plains. The atmospheric currents *, although rapid, 
turbulent, and unconfined by any apparent limits, yet seem to 
follow, like a river in its bed, a regularly determined course. 
During our previous visit (in January), we had an interview 

* 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 cumuli; temperature 57°, dew-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 cumuli, — cleared up, blowing very strong from S.S.W. Tempera- 
ture 6u^, dew-point 42^, — diflerence 18°. 

232 TTERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. xi. 

at Cape Gregory with the fanlous so-called gigantic Patagonians, 
who gave us a cordial reception. Their height appears greater 
than it really is, from their large guanaco mantles, their long 
flowing hair, and general figure : on an average their height is 
about six feet, with some men taller and only a few shorter ; 
and the women are also tall ; altogether they are certainly the 
tallest race which we anywhere saw. In features they strikingly 
resemble the more northern Indians whom I saw with Rosas, 
but they have a wilder and more formidable appearance : their 
faces were much painted with red and black, and one man was 
ringed and dotted with white like a Fuegian. Capt. Fitz Roy 
offered to take any three of them on board, and all seemed de- 
termined to be of the three. It was long before we could clear 
the boat ; at last we got on board with our three giants, who 
dined with the Captain, and behaved quite like gentlemen, help- 
ing themselves with knives, forks, and spoons : nothing was so 
much relished as sugar. This tribe has had so much commu- 
nication with sealers and whalers, that most of the men can speak 
a little English and Spanish ; and they are half civilised, and 
proportionally demoralised. 

The next morning a large party went on shore, to barter for 
skins and ostrich-feathers ; fire-arms being refused, tobacco was 
in greatest request, far more so than axes or tools. The whole 
population of thetoldos, men, women, and children, were arranged 
on a bank. It was an amusing scene, and it was impossible not to 
like the so-called giants, they were so thoroughly good-humoured 
and unsuspecting : they asked us to come again. They seem to 
like to have Europeans to live with them ; and old Maria, an im- 
portant woman in the tribe, once begged Mr. Low to leave any one 
of his sailors with them. They spend the greater part of the year 
here ; but in summer they hunt along the foot of the Cordillera : 
sometimes they travel as far as the Rio Negro, 750 miles to the 
north. They are well stocked with horses, each man having, ac- 
cording to Mr. Low, six or seven, and all the women, and even 
children, their one own horse. In the time of Sarmiento (1580), 
these Indians had bows and arrows, now long since disused ; they 
then also possessed some horses. This is a very curious fact, show- 
ing the extraordinarily rapid multiplication of horses in South 
America. The horse was first landed at Buenos Ayres in 1537, 

1834.] PORT FAMINE. 233 

and the colony being then for a time deserted, the horse ran wild ; * 
in 1580, only forty-three years afterwards, we hear of them at the 
Strait of Magellan ! Mr, Low informs me, that a neighbouring 
tribe of foot-Indians is now changing into horse-Indians : the tribe 
at Gregory Bay giving them their worn-out horses, and sending 
in M'inter a few of their best skilled men to hunt for them. 

June \st. — We anchored in the fine bay of Port Famine. It 
was now the beginning of winter, and I never saw a more cheer- 
less prospect ; the dusky woods, piebald m ith snow, could be only 
seen indistinctly 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 ridge aflbrded fresh means of judging of the 
distance, how the mountain rose in height. 

Before reaching Port Famine, two men were seen running 
along the shore and hailing the ship. A boat was sent for them. 
They turned out to be two sailors who liad run away from a 
sealing-vessel, and had joined the Patagonians. These Indians had 
treated them with their usual disinterested hospitality. They 
had parted company through accident, and were then proceeding 
to Port Famine in hopes of finding some ship. I dare say they 
were worthless vagabonds, but I never saw more miserable look- 
ing ones. They had been living for some days on mussel-shells 
and berries, and their tattered clothes had been burnt by sleep- 
ing so near their fires. They had been exposed night and day, 
without any shelter, to the late incessant gales, with rain, sleet, 
and snow, and yet they were in good health. 

During our stay at Port Famine, the Fuegians twice came and 
plagued us. As there were many instruments, clothes, and men 
* Kengger, Natur. der Saeugethiere von Paraguay. S. 334, 

234 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. xi. 

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-shots wide of them. The Fuegians hid themselves be- 
hind the trees, and for every discharge of the muskets 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. During the former 
voyage the Fuegians were here very troublesome, and to frighten 
them a rocket was fired at night over their wigwams : it answered 
effectually, and one of the officers told me that the clamour first 
raised, and the barking of the dogs, was quite ludicrous in con- 
trast with the profound silence which in a minute or two after- 
wards prevailed. The next morning not a single Fuegian was 
in the neighbourhood. 

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 district. We went in a boat to the foot of the moun- 
tain (but unluckily not to the best part), and then began our 
ascent. The forest commences at the line of high-water mark, 
and during the first two 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 barri- 
caded by 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 

1834.] FORESTS. 23- 

wood ; at other times, when attempting to lean against a firm 
tree, one was startled by finding a mass of decayed matter ready 
to fill! at the slightest touch. We at last found ourselves among 
the stunted trees, and tlien 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 inter- 
secting the * land in many directions. The strong wind was 
piercino-ly cold, and the atmospliere rather hazy, so tliat we did 
not stay 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 

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of the 
evergreen 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 : these plants are very remarkable 
from their close alliance with the species growing on the moun- 
tains of Europe, though so many thousand miles distant. The 
central part of Tierra del Fuego, where the clay -slate formation 
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 anywhere 
else : I measured a Winter's Bark which was four feet six inches 
in girth, and several of the beech were as much as thirteen feet. 
Captain King also mentions a beech which was seven feet in 
diameter seventeen feet above the roots. 

There is one vegetable production deserving notice from its 
importance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It is a globu- 

* Captain Fitz Roy 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 on the more elevated parts. I remember having read some obser- 
vations, showing that in England the leaves fall earlier in a warm and fine 
autumn, than in a late and cold one. The change in the colour being here 
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. 

236 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap, xi, 

lar, bright-yellow fungus, which grows in vast numbers on the 
beech-trees. When young it is elastic and turgid, with a smooth 
surface ; but when mature, it shrinks, becomes tougher, and has its 
entire surface deeply pitted or honey- 
combed, as represented in the accom- 
panying wood-cut. This fungus be- 
longs to a new and curious genus ;* I 
found a second species on another spe- 
cies of beech in Chile ; and Dr. Hooker 
informs me, that just lately a third 
species has been discovered on a third 
species of beech in Van Diemen's 
Land. How singular is this relation- 
ship between parasitical fungi and the trees on which they grow, 
in distant parts of the world ! In Tierra del Fuego the fungus 
in its tough and mature state is collected in large quantities by 
the women and children, and is eaten uncooked. It has a muci- 
laginous, slightly sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of a 
mushroom. With the exception of a few berries, chiefly of a 
dwarf arbutus, the natives eat no vegetable food besides this fun- 
gus. In New Zealand, before the introduction of the potato, 
the roots of the fern were largely consumed ; at the present time, 
I believe, Tierra del Fuego is the only country in the world 
■where a cryptogamic plant affords a staple article of food. 

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 whales and seals, there is one bat, a kind of 
mouse (Reithrodon chinchilloides), two true mice, a ctenomys 
allied to or identical with the tucutuco, two foxes (Canis Magel- 
lanicus and C. Azarae), a sea-otter, the guanaco, and a deer. 
Most of these animals inhabit only the drier eastern parts of the 
country ; and the deer has never been seen south of the Strait of 
Magellan. Observing the general correspondence of the cliffs 
of soft sandstone, mud, and shingle, on the opposite sides of the 
Strait, and on some intervening islands, one is strongly tempted 

* Described from my specimens, and notes by the Rev. J. M. Berkeley, in 
the Linnean Transactions (vol. xix. p. .37), under the name of Cyttaria 
Darwinii : the Chilian species is the C. Berteroii. This genus is allied to 

1834.] ZOOLOGY. 237 

to believe that the hvud was once joined, and thus allowed ani- 
mals so delicate and helpless as the tucutuco and Reitlirodon to 
pass over. The correspondence of the cliffs is far from proving 
any junction ; because such cliffs generally are formed by the in- 
tersection of sloping deposits, which, before the elevation of tlie 
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 old crj'stal- 
line rocks: in the former, called Navarin Island, both foxes and 
guanacos occur ; but in the latter, Hoste Island, although simi- 
lar in every respect, and only separated by a channel a little more 
than half a mile wide, I have the word of Jemmy Button for 
saying, that neither of these animals are found. 

Tiie gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds : occasionally 
the plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius 
albiceps) 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 Magellanicus) hops in a skulking 
manner among the entangled mass of the fallen and decaying 
trunks. But the creeper (Oxyurus 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 nu- 
merous 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 the trunks of trees, but industri- 
ously, 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 Opetiorhynchi, and several hawks and owls occur. 

The absence of any species whatever in the whole class of 
Iveptiles, is a marked feature in the zoology of this country, as 

238 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. xi. 

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 
Santa 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 soutli 
as the Strait of Magellan, where the country retains the charac- 
ter of Patagonia ; but within the damp and cold limit of Tierra 
del Fuego not one occurs. That the climate would not have 
suited some of the orders, such as lizards, might have been fore- 
seen ; but with respect to frogs, this was not so obvious. 

Beetles occur in very small numbers : it was long before 
I could believe that a country as large as Scotland, covered with 
vegetable productions and with a variety of stations, could be so 
unproductive. The few which I found were alpine species (Ilar- 
palidae and Heteromidae) living under stones. The vegetable- 
feeding Chrysomelidae, so eminently characteristic of the Tropics, 
are here almost entirely absent ;* I saw very few flies, butterflies, 
or bees, and no crickets or Orthoptera. 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 shell, for it lives on the damp herbage far from 
water. Land-shells could be procured only in the same alpine 
situations with the 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 do not believe they have one 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 

* I believe I must except one alpine Haiti ca, and a single specimen of a 
Melasoma. Mr. Waterhouse informs me, that of the Harpalidae 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 : Staphylinidae, Elateridse, 
Cebrionidse, Melolonthidse. The species in the other orders are even fewer. 
In all the orders, the scarcity of the individuals is even more remarkable 
than that of the species. Most of the Coleoptera have been carefully de- 
fioribed by Mr. Waterhouse in the Annals of Nat. Hist. 

1834.] GREAT SEA-WEED. 239 

individual animals than any other station. There is one marine 
production, which from its importance is worthy of a particular 
history. It is the kelp, or Macrocystis pyrifera. 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 Mas discovered which was not buoyed by this 
floating weed. The good service it thus affords to vessels navi- 
gating 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 i'ew taken together are sufficiently strong to support 
the weight of the large loose stones, to Avhich in the inland chan- 
nels they grow attached ; and yet some of these stones were so 
heavy that when drawn to the surface, they could scarcely be 
lifted into a boat by one person. Captain Cook, in his second 
voyage, says, that this plant at Kerguelen Land rises from a 
greater depth than twenty-four fathoms ; " and as it 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." I do 
not suppose the stem of any other plant attains so great a length 
as three hundred and sixty feet, as stated by Captain Cook. 
Captain Fitz Roy, moreover, found it growing f up from the 

* Its geographical range is remarkably ■wide ; 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°, — but 
on the western coast, as Dr. Hooker tells me. it extends to the R. San 
Francisco in California, and perhaps even to Kamtschatka. We thus have 
an immense range 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. 

t Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, vol. i. p. 363. — It appears that sea- 
weed grows extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson found (Wilson's Voyage 
round Scotland, vol. ii. p. 228) that a rock uncovered only at spring-tides, 
which had been chiselled smooth in November, on the following May, that 
is within six months afterwards, was thickly covered with Fucus digitatus 
two feet, and F. esculeutus six feet, in length. 

240 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. xi. 

greater depth of forty-tive fathoms. The beds of tliis sea-weed, 
even when of not great breadth, make excellent natural floating 
breakwaters. It is quite curious to see, in an exposed harbour, 
how soon tlie waves from the open sea, as they travel tlirough 
the straggling stems, sink in height, and pass into smooth 

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 all the leaves, excepting those that float on 
the surface, are so thickly incrusted with corallines as to be of a 
white colour. We find exquisitely delicate structures, some in- 
habited by simple hydra-like polypi, others by more organized 
kinds, and beautiful compound Ascidiae. On the leaves, also, 
various patelliform shells, Trochi, uncovered molluscs, and some 
bivalves are attached. Innumerable Crustacea frequent every 
part of tlie plant. On shaking the great entangled roots, a pile 
of small fish, shells, cuttle-fish, crabs of all orders, sea-eggs, star- 
fish, beautiful Holuthuriae, Planariae, 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 the 
kelp does nr^ thrive very well, the numerous shells, corallines, 
and Crustacea are absent ; but there yet remain a few of the 
Flustraceae, and some compound Ascidise ; the latter, however, 
are of different species from tliose 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 in any country a forest 
was destroyed, I do not believe nearly so many species of animals 
would perish as would here, from the destruction of the kelp. 
Amidst the leaves of this plant numerous species of fish live, 
which nowhere else could find food or shelter ; with their destruc- 
tion the many cormorants 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. 

1584.] MOUNT S^VRMIENTO. 241 

June 8t/i. — "We weighed anchor early in tlie niorning and lel't 
Port Famine. Captain Fitz Roy 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 pas- 
sage which I have before alluded to, as appearing to lead to 
another and worse world. The wind was fair, but the atmos- 
phere was very thick ; so that we missed much curious scenery. 
The dark ragged clouds were rapidly driven over the mountains, 
from their summits nearly down to their bases. The glimpses 
which we caught through the dusky mass, were highly interest- 
ing; 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 ns 
that man sometimes wandered into these desolate regions. But 
it would be difficult to imagine a scene where he seemed to have 
fewer 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. 

J/me 9t/i. — 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 altitude 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 \vhite and glittering surface, no shadows were cast on 
any part ; and those lines which intersected the sky could alone 
be distinguished : hence the mass stood out in the boldest relief. 
Several glaciers descended in a winding course from the upper 
great expanse of snow to the sea-coast : they may be likened to 
great frozen ]S^iagaras ; and perhaps these cataracts of blue ice 
are 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 tliis narrow arm of the sea, during 
a pitch-dark night of fourteen hours long. 

June lOth. — In the morning we cnade the best of our way 
into the open Pacific. The Western coast generally consists of 
low, rounded, quite barren hills of granite and greenstone. Sir 
J. 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 far- 
ther northward there are so many breakers that the sea is called 
the Milky Way. One siglit of such a coast is enough to make a 
landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril, and death ; and 
with this sight we bade farewell for ever to Tierra del Fuego. 

The following discussion on the climate of the southern parts 
of the continent with relation to its productions, on the snow- 
line, on the extraordinarily low descent of the glaciers, and 
on the zone of perpetual congelation in the antarctic islands, may 
be passed over by any one not interested in these curious sub- 
jects, or the final recapitulation alone may be read. I shall, 
however, here give only an abstract, and must refer for details 
to the Thirteenth Chapter and the Appendix of the former 
edition of this work. 

Oil the Climate and Productions of Tierra del Fuego and 
of the South-west Coast. — The following table gives the mean 
temperature of Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and, for 
comparison, that of Dublin : — 




Mean of Summer 



and Winter. 

Tierra del Fuego . 

. 53° 38' S. 


33° -08 


Falkland Islands . 

. 51 30 S. 




Dubliu . . . 

. 53 21 N. 

59 -54 

39 -2 

49 -37 

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is 
colder in winter, and no less than 9.^" less hot in summer, than 
Dublin. According to Von Buch the mean temperature of 
July (not the hottest month in the year) at Saltenfiord in Nor- 
way, is as high as 51". 8, and this place is actually 13° nearer 


tlie pole than Port Famine !* Inhospitable as this climate 
appears to our feelings, evergreen trees flourisli luxuriantly under 
it. Humming-birds may be seen sucking the Howers, and parrots 
feeding on the seeds of tiie Winter's Bark, in lat. 55° S. I have 
already remarked to what a degree the sea swarms with living 
creatures ; and the shells (such as the Patellae, Fissurellse, Chitons, 
and Barnacles), according to Mr. G. B. Sowerby, are of a much 
larger size, and of a more vigorous growth, than the analogous 
species in the northern hemisphere. A large Voluta is abundant 
in southern Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. At 
Bahia Blanca, in lat 39° S., the most abundant shells were three 
species of Oliva (one of large size), one or two Volutas, and a 
Terebra. Now these are amongst the best characterised tropical 
forms. It is doubtful whether even one small species of Oliva 
exists on the southern shores of Europe, and there are no species of 
the two other genera. If a geologist were to find in lat. 39° on 
the coast of Portugal, a bed containing numerous shells belonging 
to three species of Oliva, to a Voluta and Terebra, he would 
probably assert that the climate at the period of their existence 
nmst have been tropical ; but judging from South America, such 
an inference might be erroneous. 

The equable, humid, and windy climate of Tierra del Fuego 
extends, with only a small increase of heat, for many degrees 
along the west coast of the continent. The forests, for 600 
miles northward of Cape Horn, have a very similar aspect. As 
a proof of the equable climate, even for 300 or 400 miles still 
farther northward, I may mention that in Chiloe (corresponding 
in latitude with the northern parts of Spain) the peach seldom 
produces fruit, whilst strawberries and apples thrive to perfec- 
tion. Even the crops of barley and wheat f are often brought 
into the houses to be dried and ripened. At Valdivia (in the 
same latitude of 40°, with Madrid) grapes and figs ripen, but are 
not common ; olives seldom ripen even partially, and oranges 

* With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the results are deduced from the 
observations by Capt. King (Geographical Journal, 1830), and those taken 
on board the 13eagle. For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Capt. 
Sulivan for the mean of the mean temperature (reduced from careful ob- 
servation at midnight, 8 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m.) of the three hottest mouths, 
viz. December, January, and February. 1'he temperature of Dublin is 
taken from Barton. 

t Agiieros, Descrip. Hist, de la Prov. de Chiloe, 1791, p 94. 

K 2 

244 HEIGHT OF SNOW-LINE. [chap. xi. 

not at all. These fruits, in corresponding latitudes in Europe, 
are well known to succeed to perfection ; and even in this con- 
tinent, at the Rio Negro, under nearly the same parallel with 
Valdivia, sweet potatoes (convolvulus) are cultivated ; and 
grapes, figs, olives, oranges, water and musk melons, produce 
abundant fruit. Although the humid and equable climate of 
Chiloe, and of the coast northward and southward of it, is so un- 
favourable to our fruits, yet the native forests, from lat. 45° to 
38°, almost rival in luxuriance those of the glowing intertropical 
regions. Stately trees of many kinds, with smootli and highly 
coloured barks, are loaded by parasitical monocotyledonous 
plants ; large and elegant ferns are numerous, and arborescent 
grasses entwine the trees into one entangled mass to the heiglit 
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, flou- 
rishes even as far south as 45° S. 

An equable climate, evidently due to the large area of sta 
compared with the land, seems to extend over the greater part of 
the southern hemisphere ; and as a consequence, the vegetation 
partakes of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns thrive luxuri- 
antly in Van Diemen's Land (lat. 45°), and I measured one 
trunk no less than six feet in circumference. An arborescent 
fern was found by Forster in New Zealand in 46°, where orchi- 
deous plants are parasitical on the trees. In the Auckland 
Islands, ferns, according to Dr. Dieffenbach,* have trunks so 
thick and high that they may be almost called tree-ferns ; and 
in these islands, and even as far south as lat. 55° in the Mac- 
quarrie Islands, parrots abound. 

Oil the Height of the Snoiv-line, and on the Descent of the 
Glaciers, in South America. — For the detailed authorities for 
the following table, I must refer to the former edition : — 

T 1-. J Height in feet ^,, 

Latitude. .. tT i- Observer, 

^.i^.t^^.-, ^j Snow-line. 

Equatorial region ; mean result l.'),748 Humboldt. 

Bolivia, lat. 16° to 18" S. . . 17,001) Pemland. 

Central Cliile, lat. 33^ .<. . . 14,500 to 15,000 Gillies, and the Author. 

Chilie, lat. 41° to 43'^S. . , 6,000 Officers of the Beagle, and the Autlior. 

Tierra del Fuego, 54° S. . . 3,500 to 4,000 King. 

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems chiefly to 

* See the German Translation of this Journal : and for the other facts 
Mr. Brown's Appendix to Fliuders's Vojage. 


be determined by tlie extreme heat of the summer, rather than 
by the mean temperature of the year, we ought not to be sur- 
prised at its descent in tlie Strait of Magellan, whei'e the sum- 
mer is so cool, to only 3500 or 4000 feet above the level of the 
sea ; althougli in Norway, we must travel to between lat. 67° 
and 70° N., that is, about 14^ nearer the pole, to meet with 
perpetual snow at this low level. The difference in height, 
namely, about 9000 feet, between the snow-line on the Cordil- 
lera behind Chiloe (with its highest points ranging from only 
5600 to 7500 feet) and in central Chile* (a distance of only 9" 
of latitude), is truly wonderful. The land from the southward 
of Chiloe to near Concepcion (lat. 37°), is hidden by one dense 
forest dripping with moisture. The sky is cloudy, and we have 
seen how badly the fruits of southern Europe succeed. In 
central Chile, on the o-ther hand, a little northward of Con- 
cepcion, the sky is generally clear, rain does not fall for the 
seven summer months, and southern European fruits succeed 
admirably ; and even the sugar-cane has been cultivated. f No 
doubt the plane of perpetual snow undergoes the above remark- 
able flexure of 9000 feet, unparalleled in other parts of the 
'.vorld, not far from the latitude of Concepcion, where the land 
ceases to be covered with forest-trees ; for trees in South America 
indicate a rainy climate, and rain a clouded sky and little heat 
in summer. 

The descent of glaciers to the sea must, I conceive, mainly 
depend (subject, of course, to a proper supply of snow in the 
upper region) on the lowness of the line of perpetual snow on 
steep mountains near the coast. As the snow-line is so low in 
Tierra del Fuego, we might have expected that many of the 
glaciers would have reached the sea. Nevertheless I was asto- 
nished M'hen I first saw a range, only from 3000 to 4000 feet in 
height, in the latitude of Cumberland, with every valley filled 

* On the Cordillera of central Chile, I believe the snow-line varies ex- 
ceedingly in height in different summers. I was assured that during one 
Tery dry and long summer, all tlie snow disappeared from Aconcagua, 
although it attains the prodigious height of 2.3,000 feet. It is probable that 
much of the snow at these great heights is evaporated, rather than tliawed. 

t Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 415. It is said that the sugar-cane grew at 
Ingenio, lat. 32^ to 33^, but not in sufficient quantity to make the manufacture 
profitable. In the valley of Quillota, south of lugeuio, I saw some large 
date palm-trees. 



[chap. xr. 

with streams of ice descending to the sea-coast. Almost every 
arm of the sea, which penetrates to the interior higher chain, 
not only in Tierra del Fuego, but on the coast for 650 miles 
northwards, is terminated by " tremendous and astonishing gla- 
ciers," as described by one of the officers on the survey. Great 
masses of ice frequently fall from these icy cliffs, and the crash 
reverberates like the broadside of a man-of-war, through the 
lonely channels. These falls, as noticed in the last chapter, pro- 
duce great waves which break on the adjoining coasts. It is 
known that earthquakes fi'equently cause masses of earth to fall 
from sea-cliffs : how terrific, then, would be the eflPect of a severe 
shock (and such occur here*) on a body like a glacier, already 
in motion, and traversed by fissures ! I can readily believe that 
the water would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest channel, 
and then returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl 
about huge masses of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre's Sound, 
in the latitude of Paris, there are immense glaciers, and yet the 
loftiest neighbouring mountain is only 6200 feet high. In this 
Sound, about fifty icebergs were seen at one time floating out- 
wards, and one of them must have been at least 168 feet in total 

46° 40'. 

_ —50' 


Bulkeley's and Cummins Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wager 
eaithquaUe happened August 2.5, 1741. 


ht'iglit. Some of the iceberg-s were loaded with blocks of no 
inconsiderable size, of granite and otiier rocks, different from the 
clay-slate of the surrounding mountains. The glacier furthest 
from the Pole, surveyed during the voyages of the Adventure 
and Beagle, is in lat. 46° 50',' in the Gulf of Penas. It is 15 
miles long, and in one part 7 broad, and descends to tiie sea- 
coast. But even a few miles northward of tiiis glacier, in the 
Laguna de San Rafael, some Spanish missionaries* encountered 
" many icebergs, some great, some small, and others middle- 
sized," in a narrow arm of the sea, on the 22nd of the month 
corresponding with our June, and in a latitude corresponding 
with that of the Lake of Geneva ! 

In Europe, the most southern glacier which comes down to the 
sea is met with, according to Von Buch, on the coast of Norway, 
in lat. 67°. Now this is more than 20° of latitude, or 1230 
miles, nearer the pole than the Laguna de San Kafael. The 
position of the glaciers at this place and in the Gulf of Penas, 
may be put even in a more striking point of view, for they de- 
scend to the sea-coast, within 7^° of latitude, or 450 miles, of a 
harbour, where three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a Terebra, 
are tlie conunonest shells, within less than 9° from where palms 
grow, within 4^^ of a region where the jaguar and puma range 
over the plains, less than 2-^-® from arborescent grasses, and 
(looking to the westward in the same hemisphere) less than 2" 
from orchideous parasites, and within a single degree of tree- 
ferns ! 

These facts are of high geological interest with respect to the 
climate of the northern hemisphere, at the period when boulders 
were transported. I will not here detail how simply the theory of 
icebergs being charged with fragments of rock, explains tlie origin 
and position of the gigantic boulders of eastern Tierra del Fuego, 
on the high plain of Santa Cruz, and on the island of Chiloe. 
In Tierra del Fuego, the greater number of boulders lie on the 
lines of old sea-channels, now converted into dry valleys by the 
elevation of the land. They are associated with a great unstrati- 
fied formation of mud and sand, containing rounded and angular 
fragments of all sizes, which has originated f in the repeated 

* Agiieros, Desc. Hist, de Chiloe, p. 227. 
t Geological Transactions, vol. vi. p, 415. 


ploughing up of the sea-bottom by the stranding of icebergs, and 
by the matter transported on them. Few geologists now doubt 
that those erratic boulders whicli lie near lofty mountains, have 
been pushed forward by the glaciers themselves, and tliat those 
distant from mountains, and embedded in subaqueous deposits, 
have been conveyed thither either on icebergs, or frozen in coast- 
ice. The connection between the transportal of boulders and the 
presence of ice in some form, is strikingly shown by tlieir geo- 
graphical distribution over tlie earth. In South America they 
are not found further than 48' of latitude, measured from the 
southern pule ; in North America it appears that the limit of 
tlieir transportal extends to 53^° from the northern pole; but in 
Europe to not more than 40^ of latitude, measured from the 
same point. On the other, hand, in the intertropical parts of 
America, Asia, and Africa, tliey have never been observed ; nor 
at the Cape of Good Hope, nor in Australia.* 

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands. 

Considering the rankness of the vegetation in Tierra del Fuego, 
and on the coast northward of it, the condition of the islands south 
and south-west of America is truly surprising. Sandwich Land, 
in the latitude of the north part of Scotland, was found by Cook,' 
during the hottest month of the year, " covered many fathoms 
thick with everlasting snow ;" and there seems to be scarcely any 
vegetation. Georgia, an island 96 miles long and 10 broad, in 
the latitude of Yorkshire, " in the very height of summer, is ia 
a manner wholly covered with frozen snow." It can boast only 
of moss, some tufts of grass, and wild burnet : it has only one 
land-bird (Anthus correndera), yet Iceland, which is 10° nearer 
the pole, has, according to Mackenzie, fifteen land-birds. The 
South Shetland Islands, in the same latitude as the southern half 
of Norway, possess only some lichens, moss, and a little grass ; 
and Lieut. Kendall •(• found the bay, in which he was at anchor^ 
beginning to freeze at a period corresponding with our 8tli of 
September. The soil here consists of ice and volcanic ashes 

* I have given details fthe first, I believe, published) on this subject in the 
hrst edition, and in the Appendix to it. I have there shown that the appa- 
rent exceptions to the absence of erratic bouklers in certain hot countries 
are due to erroneous observations : several statements there given, I have 
iiuce found confirmed by various authors. 

t Geographical Journal, 1830, pp. C^, GG. 


interstratified ; and at a little depth beneath the surface it must 
remain perpetually congealed, for Lieut. Kendall found the body 
of a foreign sailor whicli had long been buried, witli tlie flesh 
and all the features perfectly preserved. It is a singular fiict, 
that on the two great continents in the northern hemisphere, 
(but not in the broken land of Europe between them), we have the 
zone of perpetually frozen under-soil in a low latitude — namely, 
in 56^ in North America at the depth of three feet.* and in 
62° in Siberia at the depth of twelve to fifteen feet— as the result 
of a directly opposite condition of things, to those of the southern 
hemispiiere. On the northern continents, the winter is rendered 
excessively cold by the radiation from a large area of land into 
a clear sky, nor is it moderated by the warmth-bringing currents 
of the sea ; the short summer, on the* other hand, is liot. In the 
Soutliern Ocean the winter is not so excessively cold, but the 
summer is far less hot, for the clouded sky seldom allows the sun 
to warm the ocean, itself a bad absorbent of heat ; and hence the 
mean temperature of the year, whicli regulates the zone of per- 
petually congealed under-soil, is low. It is evident that a rank 
vegetation, wliich does not so much require heat as it does pro- 
tection from intense cold, would approach much nearer to this 
zone of perpetual congelation under the equable climate of the 
southern hemisphere, than under the extreme climate of the 
northern continents. 

The case of the sailor's body perfectly preserved in the icy soil 
of the South Shetland Islands (lat. 62° to 63° S.), in a rather lower 
latitude than that (lat. 64° N.) under which Pallas found the 
frozen rhinoceros in Siberia, is very interesting. Although it is 
a fallacy, as I have endeavoured to show in a former chapter, to 
suppose that the larger quadrupeds require a luxuriant vege- 
tation for their support, nevertheless it is important to find in 
the South Shetland Islands, a frozen under-soil within 3G0 miles 
of the forest-clad islands near Cape Horn, where, as far as the 
bulk of vegetation is concerned, any number of great quadrupeds 
might be supported. The perfect preservation of the carcasses 
of the Siberian elephants and rhinoceroses is certainly one of the 
most wonderful facts in geology ; but independently of the 

• l\ichardsons Append, to Back's Exped , and Humboldt's Fragm. Asiat., 
torn. ii. p. 3;i6. 

250 RECAPITULATION. [chap. xi. 

imagined difficulty of supplying them with food from the adjoin- 
ing countries, the whole case is not, I think, so perplexing as it 
has generally been considered. The plains of Siberia, like those 
of the Pampas, appear to have been formed under the sea, into 
which rivers brought down the bodies of many animals ; of the 
greater number of these, only the skeletons have been preserved, 
but of others the perfect carcass. Now it is known, tliat in the 
shallow sea on the arctic coast of America the bottom freezes,* 
and does not thaw in spring so soon as the surface of the land ; 
moreover at greater depths, where the bottom of the sea does not 
freeze, the mud a few feet beneath the top layer might remain even 
in summer below 32°, as is the case on the land with the soil at 
the depth of a few feet. At still greater depths, the temperature of 
the mud and water would probably not be low enough to pre- 
serve the flesh ; and hence, carcasses drifted beyond the shallow 
parts near an arctic coast, would have only their skeletons pre- 
served : now in the extreme northern joarts of Siberia bones are 
infinitely numerous, so that even islets are said to be almost 
composed of them ;t and those islets lie no less than ten degrees 
of latitude north of the place where Pallas found the frozen 
rhinoceros. On the other hand, a carcass washed by a flood into 
a shallow part of the Arctic Sea, would be preserved for an inde- 
finite period, if it were soon afterwards covered with mud, suflR- 
ciently thick to prevent the heat of the summer-water penetrat- 
ing to it ; and if, when the sea-bottom was upraised into land, 
tlie covering was suflficiently thick to prevent the heat of the 
summer air and sun thawing and corrupting it. 

Recapitulation. — I will recapitulate the principal facts with 
regard to the climate, ice-action, and organic productions of the 
southern hemisphere, transposing the places in imagination to 
Europe, with which we are so much better acquainted. Then, 
near Lisbon, the commonest sea-shells, namely, three species of 
Oliva, a Voluta and Terebra, would have a tropical character. In 
the southern provinces of France, magnificent forests, intwined 
by arborescent grasses and with the trees loaded with parasitical 
plants, would hide the face of the land. The puma and the 

* Messrs. Dease and Simpson, in Geograph. Journ., vol. viii. pp. 218 
and 220. 

f Cuvier (Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 151), from Billing's Voyage. 

18.34.] RECAPITULATION. 251 

jaguar would haunt the Pyrenees. In the latitude of Mont 
Blanc, but on an island as far westward as central North America, 
tree-ferns and parasitical Orchideaa would thrive amidst the thick 
woods. Even as far north as central Demnark, humming-birds 
would be seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and parrots feed- 
ing amidst the evergreen woods ; and in the sea there, we should 
ha\e a Voluta, and all the shells of large size and vigorous 
growth. Nevertlieless, on some islands only 360 miles northward 
of our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a carcass buried in the 
soil (or if washed into a shallow sea, and covered up with 
mud) would be preserved perpetually frozen. If some bold 
navigator attempted to penetrate northward of these islands, he 
would run a thousand dangers amidst gigantic icebergs, on some 
of MJiich he would see great blocks of rock borne far away 
from their original site. Another island of large size in the 
latitude of southern Scotland, but twice as far to the west, would 
be " almost wholly covered with everlasting snow," and would 
have each bay terminated by ice-cliffs, whence great masses 
would be yearly detached : this island would boast only of a 
little moss, grass, and burnet, and a titlark would be its only 
land inhabitant. From our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a chain 
of mountains, scarcely half the height of the Alps, would run in 
a straight line due southward ; and on its western flank every 
deep creek of the sea, or fiord, would end in " bold and astonish- 
ing glaciers." These lonely channels would frequently rever- 
berate with the falls of ice, and so often would great waves rush 
along their coasts ; numerous icebergs, some as tall as cathedrals, 
and occasionally loaded with " no inconsiderable blocks of rock," 
would be stranded on the outlying islets ; at intervals violent 
earthquakes would shoot prodigious masses of ice into the waters 
below. Lastly, some Missionaries attempting to penetrate a long 
arm of the sea, would behold the not lofty surrounding moun- 
tains, sending down their many grand icy streams to tlie sea- 
coast, and their progress in the boats would be checked by tlie 
innumerable floating icebergs, some small and some great ; and 
this would have occurred on our twenty-second of June, and 
where the Lake of Geneva is now spread out !* 

* In the former edition and Appendix, I have given some facts on the 
transportal of erratic boulders and icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean. This 

252 CENTRAL CHILE. [cHAl^ xii. 


Valparaiso — ^Excursion to the foot of the Andes— Structure of the land — 

, Ascend the Bell of Quillota — Shattered masses of greenstone— Immense 

valleys — Mines— State of miners — Santiago — Hot-baths of Cauquenes — 

Gold-mines — Griuding-mills — Perfoi"ated stones — Habits of the Puma — 

El Turco and Tapacolo — Hiunming-birds. 


July 23rd. — The Beagle anchored late at night in the bay of 
Valparaiso, the chief seaport of Chile. When morning came, 
everything 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 anchor- 
age is very pretty. The town is built at the very foot of a range 
i)f hills, about 1600 feet high, and rather steep. From its posi- 
tion, it consists of one long, straggling street, wliich 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 par- 
tially protected by a very scanty vegetation, are worn into num- 
berless little gullies, which expose a singularly briglit red soil. 
From this cause, and from the low whitewashed houses with tile 

subject has lately been treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the Boston 
Journal (vol. iv. p. 42G). The author does not appear aware of a case pub- 
lished by me (Geographical Journal, vol. ix. p. 528), of a gigantic boulder 
embedded in an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean, almost certainly one hundred 
miles distant from any laud, and perhaps much more distant. In the Ap- 
pendix I have discussed at length, the probability (at that time hardly 
thought of) of icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing rocks, like 
glaciers. This is now a very commonly received opinion ; and I cannot 
still avoid the suspicion that it is applicable even to such cases as that of the 
Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me, that the icebergs off North America 
push before them pebbles and sand, and leave the submarine rocky t^ats 
(juite bare : it is hardly possible to doubt that such ledges must be polished 
and scored in the direction of the set of the prevailing currents. Since 
v/riting that Appendix, I have seen in North Wales (London Phil. Mag., 
vol. xxi. p. ISiJj the adjoining action of glaciers and of iloating icebergs. 

1834.] BAY OF VALPARAISO, 25.3 

roofs, the view reminded me of St. Cruz in Teneriffe. In a 
north-easterly direction tliere 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 irre- 
gularly conical mass has an elevation greater than that of Chim- 
borazo ; for, from measurements made by the officers in tlie 
Beagle, its height is no less than 23,000 feet. The Cordillera, 
however, viewed from 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 watcli 
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 Cor- 
field, an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality and 
kindness I was greatly indebted, in having afibrded me a most 
pleasant residence during the Beagle's stay in Chile. The im- 
mediate neighbourhood of Valparaiso is not very productive to 
the naturalist. During the long summer the wind blows steadily 
from the southward, and a little oflT shore, so that rain nevei 
falls ; during the tliree winter months, however, it is suffici- 
ently abundant. The vegetation in consequence is very scanty r 
except in some deep valleys, there are no trees, and only a 
little grass and a few low bushes are scattered over the les.'* 
steep parts of the hills. When we reflect, that at the distance of, 
350 miles to the south, this side of the Andes is completely 
hidden by one impenetrable forest, the contrast is very remark- 
able. I took several long walks while collecting objects of na- 
tural history. The country is pleasant for exercise. There are 
many very beautiful flowers ; and, as in most other dry climates, 
tlie plants and shrubs possess strong and peculiar odours — even 
one's clothes by brushing through them became scented. I diet 
not cease from wonder at finding each succeeding day as fine aa- 
the foregoing. What a diflierence does climate make in the en- 
joyment of life ! How opposite are the sensations when viewing 
black mountains half-enveloped in clouds, and seeing another 
range through the light blue haze of a fine day ! The one for a 
time may be very sublime ; the other is all gaiety and happy life. 

254 CENTRAL CHILE. [crap. xii. 

August lAth. — I set out on a riding excursion, for the pur- 
pose of geologising the basal parts of the Ancles, which alone at 
this time of the year are not shut up by the winter snow. Our 
first day's ride was northward along the sea-coast. After dark 
we reached tlie Hacienda of Quintero, the estate which formerly 
belonged to Lord Cochrane. My object in coming here was to 
see the great beds of shells, whicli stand some yards above the 
level of the sea, and are burnt for lime. The proofs of the ele- 
vation of tliis whole line of coast are unequivocal : at the height 
of a few hundred feet old-looking shells are numerous, and I found 
some at 1300 feet. These shells either lie loose on the surface, 
or are embedded in a reddish-black vegetable mould. I was 
much surprised to find luider the microscope that this vegetable 
mould is really marine mud, full of minute particles of organic 

\5th. — 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 may suppose of the shepherds, scat- 
tered on the hill-sides. We were obliged to cross tlie ridge of 
the Chilicauquen. At its base there were many fine evergreen 
forest-trees, but these flourished only 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 con- 
trast renders the patchwork valley the more pleasing. Wlio- 
ever called " Valparaiso " the " Valley of Paradise," must have 
been thinking of Quillota. AVe crossed over to the Hacienda de 
San Isidro, 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 paral- 
lel to the arreat ransje. J^etween 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, tiie principal towns are situated, as San P>li))e, Santiago, 
San Fernando. These basins or plains, together with the trans- 
verse flat valleys (like that ofQuillota) which connect them with 
the coast, I have no 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 western coast. Chile must formerly 
have resembled the latter country in the configuration of its land 
and water. The resemblance was occasionally shown strikingly 
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 new 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 anything, 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 suflficient pasture. 
Once every year there is a grand " rodeo," when all the cattle 
are driven down, counted, and marked, and a certain number 
separated to be fattened in the irrigated fields. Wheat is exten- 
sively culti^ted, and a good deal of Indian corn : a kind of bean 
is, howevei*, the staple article of food for the common labourers. 
The orcliards 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. 

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 tiie 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. 

256 CENTRAL CHILE. [chap, xii 

This must be an old name, for it is very many years since a gua- 
naco drank its waters. Daring the ascent I noticed that nothing 
but buslies grew on the northern slope, whilst on the southern 
slope there was a 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 tlian at the base or top. They are 
excessively numerous in some parts of Chile, and valuable on ac- 
count of a sort of treacle made from the sap. On one estate near 
Petorca they tried to count them, but failed, after having num- 
bered several hundred thousand. Every year in the early spring, 
in August, 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 ex- 
pose a fresli 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 da,ys when the sun is powerful ; and likewise, that it is ab- 
solutely 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 Val- 
paraiso, although no less tlian twenty-six geographical miles 
distant, could be distinguished clearly as little black streaks. A 
ship doubling the point under sail, appeared as a bright v/hite 
speck. Anson expresses much surprise, in his voyage, at the 
distance at wliich 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 slips of beet), took our 
mate, and were quite comfortable. There is an inexpressible 
charm in thus living in the open air. The evening was calm 
and still; — tlie shrill noise of the mountain bizcaclia, and the 
faint cry of a goatsucker, were occasionally to be heard. Besiiles 
these, few birds, or even insects, frequent these dry, parched 

Angmt I7th. — In the morning we climbed up the rough mass 
of greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as fre- 
quently happens, was much shattered and broken into huge 
angular fragments. I observed, however, one remarkable cir- 
cumstance, namely, that many of the surfaces presented every 
degree of freuhness — 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 below 
each loose pile. As one might very easily be deceived in a 
fact of this kind, I doubted its accuracy, until ascending Mount 
Wellington, in Van Diemen's Land, where earthquakes do not 
occur ; and there I saw the summit of the mountain 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 Pa- 
cific, was seen as in a map. The pleasure from ihe scenery, in 
itself beautiful, was heightened by the many reflections which 
arose from the mere view of the Campana range with its lesser 
parallel ones, and of the broad valley of Quillota directly inter- 
secting them. Who can avoid wondering at the force which has 
upheaved these mountains, and even more so at the countless 
ages which it must have required, to have broken through, re- 
moved, 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 
its height by so many thousand feet. When in that country, T 
wondered how any mountain-chain could have supplied such 

SJ58 CENTRAL CHILE. [chap. xii. 

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 1 
had expected. The lower line of the snow was of course hori- 
zontal, and to this line the even summits of the range seemed 
quite parallel. Only at long intervals, a group of points or a 
single cone, showed where a volcano had existed, or does novf 
exist. Hence the range resembled a great solid wall, surmounted 
here and there by a tower, and making a most perfect barrier to 
the country. 

Almost every part of the hill had been drilled by attempts to 
open goldmines : 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, who 
correspond to the Gauchos of the Pampas, are, however, a very 
different set of beings. Cliile 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 ex- 
istence 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 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 e.x- 
pected to be given in the morning ; even a rich man will accept 
two or three shillings. The Gaucho, although he may be a 
cixt-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 

1834.1 QUTLI>OTA— SAN FELIPE. 259 

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. AVe do not here see the white boots, the broad 
drawers, and scarlet cliilii)a ; thLj 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 of the Guaso lies in his spurs ; which 
are absurdly large. I measured one wliich 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 consist- 
ing of a square, carved block of wood, hollowed out, yet weigh- 
ing 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 \Sth. — 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 succeed- 
ing 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 or African deserts must be superb. We passed likewise 
San Felipe, a pretty straggling town like Quillota. The valley 
in tliis part expands into one of those great bays or plains, reach- 
ing to the foot of the Cordillera, whicli haAC 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 stayed 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 an; of copper, and the ore is all shipped to 

9 2 

260 CENTUAL CHILE [chap, xii, 

Swansea, to be smelted. Hence the mines have an aspect singu- 
larly qniet, as compared to those in England : here no smoke, 
furnaces, or great steam-engines, disturb the solitude of the sur- 
rounding mountains. 

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 minins: is 
the cheapest. My host says that 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 
scoriae from the old 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 sul- 
phur 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 shil- 
lings per month, and are allowed a little 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 niiglit have been ex- 
pected, was very interesting. The shattered and baked rocks, 
traversed by innumerable dykes of greenstone, showed wliat com- 
motions had formerly taken place. The scenery was nnich 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 ver)-^ numerous. I measured one 
of a spherical 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 feet. 

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 un- 
accountable 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 consulta- 
tion, declared it was too dangerous, as all Chile would be 
inundated, if, as generallj^ 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 jump- 
ing. The black sky showed that a fresh snow-storm was gather- 
ing, 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 uniform 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 

262 CENTRAL CHILE. [cdap. xii. 

hurable : " Some see with two eyes and some with one, but for 
my part I do not think that Chile sees with any." 

August 21th. — 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 one thousand to two thou- 
sand 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 snov,y 
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 stayed 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 hos- 
pitality at tliis place is well known. A never-failing source of 
pleasure was to ascend the little hillock of rock (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 in- 
formed 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 model. I arrived here bj^ a circuit to the north ; 
so I resolved to return to Valparaiso by a rather longer excur- 
sion to the south of the direct road. 

September 6th. — By the middle of the day we arrived at one 
of the suspension bridges made of hide, which crosses the Maypu, 
a large turbulent river a few leagues southward 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 with the weight of a man leading his horse. In 


the evening we reached a comfortable farm-house, where there 
were several veiy pretty sefioritas. 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 ?" Tlie absur- 
dity of a bisliop 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 pro- 
perties, are situated. The suspension bridges, in the less fre- 
quented 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 
nither 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 sum- 
mer, when the snow melts, the torrents are quite impassable ; 
their strength and fury is then extremely great, as might be 
plainly seen by the marks which they had left. We reached the 
baths in the evening, and stayed 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 mas$ 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 au 
unequal mixture of cold water : for those with the lowest tem- 

264 CENTRAL CHILE. jchap. xii. 

perature have scarcely any mineral taste. After the great earth- 
quake of 1822 the springs ceased, and the water did not return 
for nearly a year. They were also much affected by the earth- 
quake "jf 1835; the temperature being suddenly changed from 
118'' to 92°.* It seems probable that mineral waters rising deep 
from the boAvels 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 mors plentiful than in winter. Tiie 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 rain never falls, can, I think, only be 
accounted for by the melting of the snow : yet the mountains 
(A^iiich 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 snow-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 rocks at Cauquenes ; and the regularity 
of the phenomenon would seem to indicate, that in this district 
heated rock occurred at a depth not very great. 

One day I rode up the valley to the farthest 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 thou- 
sand feet high. Here, as indeed everywhere else, scenes of the 
higliest interest presented themselves. It was by one of these 
ravines, that Pincheira entered Chile and ravaged the neighbour- 
ing 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 
* Caldcleugh, in Philosoph. Transact, for 1836. 


cattle to his secret rendezvous. Piticheira was a capital liorse- 
inan, 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 Maged the 
war of extermination. 

September \'ith. — We left the baths of Cauquenes, and rejoin- 
ing the main road slept at the Rio Claro. From this place we 
rode to the town of S, Fernando. Before arriving there, the last 
land-locked basin had expanded into a great plain, which ex- 
tended 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 farthest 
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 stayed at his house. The 
next 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 inter- 
twined 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 ap- 
pearance 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 beard- 
less young men, eighteen and twenty years old, with little mus- 
cular 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 

* Annales des Sciences Naturelles, March, 1833. M. Gay, a zealous and 
able naturalist, was tlien occupied in studying every branch of natural history 
throughout the kingdom of Chile. 

CENTRAL CHILE. [chap. xii. 

most profusely, with merely carrying up his own body. With 
this very severe labour, they live entirely on boiled beans and 
bread. They would prefer having bread alone ; but their 
masters, finding that 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 harsli, 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 

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground into an im- 
palpable 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 adaptation of the current of water 
to the specific gravity of the gold, so easily separates the pow- 
dered 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. After 
having been left for a year or two, and then rewashed, it yields 
gold ; and this process may be repeated even six or seven times ; 
but the gold each time becomes less in quantity, and the inter- 
vals 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 eflTect 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, being scat- 
tered about and not corroding, at last accumulate in some quan- 
tity. A short time since a few miners, being out of work, ob- 
tained permission to scrape the ground round the house and mill : 
they washed the earth thus got together, and so procured thirty 

1834.] INDIAN RELIC. «67 

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 wliich 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. 

Bad as the above treatment of the miners appears, it is gladly 
accepted of by them ; for the condition of the labouring agri- 
culturists is much worse. Their wages 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 on and cultivating, and in return has his services (or 
those 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 occasional days, to take care 
of his own patch of ground. Hence extreme poverty is very 
common among the labouring classes in this country. 

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 dia- 
meter, with a hole passing quite through the centre. It has 
generally been supposed that 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 stick pointed at one end, the 
force and weight of which is increased by a round stone with a 
hole in it, into which the other end 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 Eenous, called, and nearly at the same time an old Sj)anish 
lawyer. I was amused at being told the conversation which took 
* Burchell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 45. 

268 CENTRAL CHILE. [chap. xii. 

place between them. Renous speaks Spanish so well, that the 
old lawyer mistook him for a Chilian. Renous, alluding to me, 
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 coun- 
try ?" And this old gentleman, from his profession, belongs to 
the better informed and more intelligent classes ! Renous him- 
self, 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 \9th. — "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 cli iiate is much 
damper ; in consequence there were fine tracts of pasturage, 
which were not irrigated. (20th.) We followed 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 oft' 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 action of the sea on 
gently rising land. In the steep cliffs bordering these valleys, 
there are some large caves, which no doubt were originally 
formed by the waves : one of these is celebrated under the name 
of Cneva del Obispo ; having formerly been consecrated. Dur- 
ing the day I felt very unwell, and from that time till the end of 
October did not recover. 

September 22nd. — We continued to pass over green plains 
without a tree. The next day we arrived at a house near Nave- 

1834.J THE PUMA. 2(19 

(lad, on tlie sea-coast, where a rich Haciendero gave us lodi^ings. 
I stayed here tlie two ensuing days, and although very unwell, 
managed to collect from the tertiary formation some marine 

24(h. — Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, 
whicii 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. Cortield's house, whose kindness to me I do 
not know how to express. 

I will liere 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 Pata- 
gonia, as far south as the damp and cold latitudes (53° to 54'^) 
of Tierra del Fuego. I have seen its footsteps in the Cordil- 
lera of central Chile, at an elevation of at least 10,000 feet. 
In La Plata the puma preys chiefly on deer, ostriches, bizcacha, 
and other small quadrupeds; it there seldom attacks cattle or 
horses, and most rarely 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 thus killed. 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 vertebrae break : 
I have seen in Patagonia, the skeletons of guanacos, 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 M'atching 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 prwers 
of discrimination. It is asserted, that if a puma has once been 
betrayed by thus watching the carcass, and has then been hunted, 

270 CENTRAL CHILE. [chap. xii. 

it never resumes this habit ; but that having gorged itself, it wan- 
ders 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 thus 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 tiiis 
sport. The puma is described as being very crafty : when pur- 
sued, it often returns on its former track, and then suddenly 
making a spring on one side, waits there till the 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 quickness. It really requires little ima- 
gination to believe that 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 stuflfed specimen has escaped from souie 
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 
amongjt the bushes, are as strange as its appearance. It is said 
to build its nest in a deep hole beneath the ground. I dis- 
sected several specimens : the gizzard, which was very muscu- 
lar, contained beetles, vegetable fibres, and pebbles. From this 
character, from the length of its legs, scratching feet, membran- 
ous covering to the nostrils, short and arched wings, this bird 
seems in a certain degree to connect the thrushes with the galli- 
naceous order. 

1334.] HUMMING-BIRDS, 271 

The second species (or P. albicoUis) is allied to the first in its 
general form. It is called Tapacolo, or " cover your poste- 
rior ;" 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. In its general manner of 
feeding, of quickly hopping out of the thickets and back again, 
in its desire of concealment, unwillingness to take fliglit, and ni- 
dification, it bears a close resemblance to the Turco ; but its ap- 
pearance 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.* 

Two species of humming-birds are common ; Trochilus forfi- 
catus 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 may be seen flitting about in snow-storms. 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. I 
opened the stomachs of several specimens, sliot in diiierent parts 
of the continent, and in all, remains of insects were as numerous 
as in the stomach of a creeper. When this species migrates in 
the summer southward, it is replaced by the arrival of another 
species coming from the north. This second kind (Trochilus 
gigas) is a very large bird for the delicate family to which it be- 
longs : when on the wing its appearance is singular. Like others 
of the genus, it moves from place to place with a rapidity which 

* 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 omissions 
hj authors, ou those very subjects where it might have been least expected. 

272 CENTRAL CHILE. [chap, xit 

may be compared to that of Syrphus amongst flies, and Sphinx 
among moths ; but whilst hovering over a flower, it fl.aps its 
wings with a very slow and powerful movement, totally diflerent 
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 re- 
mains of insects, which I suspect are much more the object of its 
search than honey. The note of this species, like that of nearly 
the whole family, is extremely shrill. 



Chiloe — General aspect — Boat excursion — Native Indians — Castro — Tame 
fox — Ascend San Pedro — Chonos Archipelago — Peninsula of Tres Monies 
— Granitic range — Boat-wrecked sailors — Low's Harbour — Wild potato — 
Formation of peat — Myopotamus, otter and mice — Cheucau and Barking- 
bird — Opetiorhynchus — Singular character of Ornithology — Petrels. 


November 10th. — The Beagle sailed from Valparaiso to the 
south, for the purpose of surveying the southern part of Chile, 
the island of Chiloe, and the broken land called the Chonos Ar- 
chipelago, 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 
covered by one great forest, except where a few green patches have 
been cleared round the thatched cottages. From a distance the 
view somewhat resembles that of 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, 
once only the volcano of Osorno stood out in bold relief, and 
that was before sunrise ; it was curious 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, ap- 
pear to have three-fourths of Indian blood in their veins. They 
are an humble, quiet, industrious set of men. Although the fer- 


2H CHILOE. [chap. xiii. 

tile soil, resulting from the decomposition of the 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 conse- 
quence, 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 co- 
lour. The arts, however, are in the rudest state ; — as may be 
seen in their strange fashion of ploughing, their method of spin- 
ning, 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 
paths exist, they are scarcely passable from the soft and swampy 
state of the soil. The inhabitants, like those of Tierra del Fue- 
go, move about chiefly on the beach or in boats. Although 
with plenty to eat, the people are very poor : there is no demand 
for labour, and consequently tlie lower orders cannot scrape to- 
gether 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 carrying 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 ex- 

November 24th. — The yawl and whale-boat were sent under 
the command of Mr. (now Captain) Sulivan, to survey the east- 
ern 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 bj'^ the outside, so as thus to circumnavigate 
the whole. I accompanied this expedition, but instead of going 
in the boats the first day, I hired horses to take me to Chacao, 
at the nortliern extremity of the island. The road followed the 
coast ; everj" now and thf*n 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 this means neither man noi horse would 
be able to pass along. I arrived at the village of Chacao, 

1834.] BOAT EXCURSION. 27& 

shortly after the tents belonging to the boats were pitched for 
the night. 

The land in this neighbourhood has been extensively cleared, 
and there were many quiet and most picturesque nooks in the 
forest. Chacao was formerly the principal port in the island ; 
but many vessels having been lost, owing to the dangerous cur- 
rents 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. We had not long bivou- 
acked, before the barefooted son of the governor came down to 
reconnoitre us. Seeing the English flag hoisted at the yawl's 
nuist-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 tiie forerunner of a Spanish fleet, 
coming to recover the island from the patriot government of 
Chile. All the men in power, however, had 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 Spanisii service, but now was miserably 
poor. He gave lis two sheep, and accepted in return two cotton 
handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets, and a little tobacco. 

26th. — Torrents of rain : we managed, however, to run down 
the coast as iar 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 thickly covered with 
one impervious blackish-green forest. On the margins there 
are some cleared spaces, surrounding the high-roofed cottages. 

2Gth. — The day rose splendidly clear. The volcano of Osorno 
was spouting out volumes of smoke. This most beautiful moun- 
tain, 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 Corco- 
vado — well deserving the name of " el famoso Corcovado." Tlius 
we beheld, from one point of view, three great active volcanos, 
each about seven thousand feet high. In addition to this, far to 
the south, there were other lofty cones co\ ered with snow, which, 
although not known to be active, must be in their origin vol- 

T 2 

27ff CHILOE. [chap. xni. 

canic. 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 straight north and south line, 
owing to an optical deception, always appeared more or less 
curved ; for the lines drawn from each peak to the beholder's 
eye, necessarily converged like the radii of a semicircle, and as 
it was not possible (owing to the clearness of the atmosphere and 
the absence of all intermediate objects) to judge how far distant 
the farthest peaks were off, they appeared to stand in a flattish 

Landing at midday, 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. Everything I have seen, con- 
vinces me of the close connexion of the different American tribes, 
who nevertheless speak 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, all the inhabitants of some of the 
islets retain their Indian surnames. In the census of 1832, there 
ivere in Chiloe and its dependencies forty -two thousand souls : 
the greater number of t|iese appear to be of mixed blood. Eleven 
thousand retain their Indian surnames, but it is probable that 
not nearly all of these are of a pure breed. 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 commu- 
nication with the devil in certain caves. Formerly, every one 
convicted of this offence was sent to the Inquisition at Lima. 
Many of the inhabitants who are not included in the eleven 
thousand with Indian surnames, cannot be distinguished by their 
appearance from Indians. Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is 
descended from noblemen of Spain on both sides ; but by con- 
stant intermarriages with the natives the present man is an 
Indian. On the other hand, the governor of Quinchao boasts 
much of his purely kept Spanish blood. 

1834.J TENURE OF LAND. 27? 

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the 
island of Caucaluie. The people here coni]ilained of want of 
land. This is partly owing to their own negligence in not clear- 
ing the woods, and partly to restrictions by 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 ex- 
tremely 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 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 San 
Carlos, in lieu of a debt ; and this he sold for 350 dollars, or 
about 70Z. sterling. 

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached 
the island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most culti- 
vated 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 ad- 
joining ones, is almost completely cleared. Some of the fann- 
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 1000/. 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. 

278 CHILOE. [chap. xiil. 

November SOth. — Early on Sunday morning- we reached Castro, 
the ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn and de- 
serted 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 tlie 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 ordinarj^ knife. 
No individual possessed either a watch or a clock ; and an old 
mail, who was supposed to have a good idea of time, was em- 
ployed to strike the church bell by guess. 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 our 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, sefior." 

December Ist. — We steered for the island of Lemuy. I was 
anxious to examine a reported coal-mino, 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 anytliiiig, 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 nmsket, and the gunpowder was wanted for making a 
ncise 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 under 
water, many fish whicli are left on the mud-banks as the tide 
falls. Tliey occasionally possess fowls, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, 
and cattle ; the order in which they are here mentioned, ex- 
pressing their respective numbers, I never saw any tiling more 
obliging and humble than the manners of tliese 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, the sailors 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, three sheep 
and a large bunch of onions were procured. The yawl at this 
place ^vas anchored some m ay from the shore, and we had fears 
for her safety from robbers during the night. Our pilot, Mr. 
Douglas, accordingly told the constable of the district that Me 
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 south- 
ward. 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, growing on the sandstone cliffs, some very fine plants of 
the panke (Gunnera scabra), which somewhat resembles the 
rhubarb on a gigantic scale. The inhabitants eat the stalks, 
which are subacid, and tan leather with the roots, and prepare a 
black dye from them. The leaf is nearly circular, but deeply 

280 CHILOE. [cHAi xiiT. 

indented on its margin. I measured one which was nearly eight 
feet in diameter, and therefore no less than twenty-four in cir- 
cumference ! The stalk is rather more than a yard high, and 
each plant sends out four or five of these enormous leaves, pre- 
senting together a very noble appearance. 

December 6th. — We reached Caylen, called " el fin del Cristi- 
andad." 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 farther south 
than the Rio Negro on the Atlantic coast. These extreme Chris- 
tians were very poor, and, under the plea of their situation, begged 
for 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 ti-avelled 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 San 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 (Canis fulvipes), of a kind said to be peculiar to the island, 
and very rare in it, and which is a new species, was sitting on 
the rocks. He was so intently absorbed in watching the work of 
the officers, that I was able, by quietly walking up behind, tq 
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 

We stayed three days in this harbour, on one of which Captain 
Fitz Roy, with a party, attempted to ascend to the summit of 
San Pedro. The woods here had rather a different appearance 
from those on the northern part 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 con- 
sequence was more like that of Tierra del Fuego than of Cliiloe. 
In vain we tried to gain the summit : the forest was so impene- 
trable, that no one who has not beheld it, can imagine so en- 
tangled a mass of dying and dead trunks. I am sure that often, 

IS34.J SAN PEDRO. 281 

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 AVinter's Bark, and a laurel like the sassafras m ith 
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 stinited 
trees ; and I should think that this must be nearly their northern 
limit. We ultimately gave up the attempt in despair. 

December lOth. — The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr. Sulivan, 
proceeded on their survey, but I remained on board the Beagle, 
which the next day left San 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 great 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. The water was white with the flying spray, and the wind 
lulled and roared again through the rigging : it was an ominous, 
sublime scene. During a few minutes there was a bright rain- 
bow, and it was curious to observe the effect of the spray, which, 
being carried along the surface of the water, changed the ordi- 
nary semicircle into a circle — a band of prismatic colours being 
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 ring. 

We stayed 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 

232 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xiii. 

up and down over the sharp rocks of mica-slate ; and as for tlie 
woods, our faces, hands, and shin-bones all bore witness to the 
maltreatment we received, in merely attempting to penetrate their 
forbidden recesses. 

December \Hth. — "VYe stood out to sea. On the 20th we bade 
farewell to tlie 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 
service 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 
beautifid 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 seeing 
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 triumpli and pride wliich 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 human 
being has previously visited an unfrequented spot. 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 interested 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 liad used an axe. The fire, bed, and 
situation showed the dexterity of an Indian ; but he could scarcelj" 
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 that the solitarj' man 


ulio 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 laid 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 m ere delayed from 
(lay to day by successive gales of wind. In the evening another 
harbour was discovered, where we anchored. Directly after- 
wards 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 
w as that this harbour was now discovered I 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 suf- 
ferings 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 soli- 
tary man. Considering what they had imdergone, I think they 
had kept a very good reckoning of time, for they had lost only 
four days. 

December dOfh. — "We anchored in a snug little cove at the 
foot of some high hills, near the northern extremity of Tres 
Montes. After breakfast the next morning, a party ascende I 
one of these mountains, which was 2400 feet high. The scenery 
was remarkable. The chief part of the range was composed oi 
grand, solid, abrupt masses of granite, which appeared as if they 
had been coeval with the beginning of the world. The granite 
was capped with mica-slate, and this in the lapse of ages had been 
w orn into strange finger-shaped points. These two formations, 
thus differing in their outlines, agree in being almost destitute oi 
vegetation. This barrenness had to our eyes a strange appear- 
ance, from having been so long accustomed to the sight of an 
almost universal forest of dark-jjreen trees. I took much delight 
in examining the structure of these mountains. The compli- 
catet! and lofty ranges bore a noble aspect of durability — equally 

284 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xin. 

profitless, however, to man and to all other animals. Granite to 
tlie geologist is classic ground : from its wide-spread limits, and 
its beautiful and compact texture, few rocics have been more 
anciently 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 penetrated. 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 \st^ 1835. — The new year is ushered in with the 
ceremonies proper to it in these regions. She lays out no false 
hopes : a heavy north-western gale, with steady rain, bespeaks 
the rising year. Thank God, we are not destined here to see the 
errd of it, but hope then to be in the Pacific Ocean, where a blue 
sky tells one there is a heaven, — a something beyond the clouds 
above our heads. 

The north-west 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 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 have been 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 on what they rely for their 
food. 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 

1835.1 WILD POTATO. 285 

as the boat passed. They did not remain long under water, but 
rising, followed us with outstretched necks, expressing great 
wonder and curiosity. 

Itli. — Having run up the coast, we anchored near the northern 
end of the Chonos Archipelago, in Low's Harbour, where we 
remained a week. The islands were here, as in Chiloe, composed 
of a stratified, soft, littoral deposit ; and the vegetation in conse- 
quence was beautifully luxuriant. The woods came down to 
the sea-beach, just in the manner of an evergreen shrubbery 
over a gravel walk. We also enjoyed from the anchorage a 
splendid view of four great snowy cones of the Cordillera, in- 
cluding " el famoso Corcovado :" the range itself had in this 
latitude so little height, that few parts of it appeared above 
the tops of the neighbouring islets. We found here a party 
of five men from Caylen, " el fin del Cristiandad," who had 
most adventurously crossed in their miserable boat-canoe, for 
the purpose of fishing, the open space of sea which separates 
Chonos from Chiloe. These islands will, in all probability, in 
a short time become peopled like those adjoining the coast of 

The wild potato grows on these islands in great abundance, 
on the sandy, shelly soil near the sea -beach. The tallest plant 
was four feet in height. The tubers were generally small, but I 
found one, of an oval shape, two inches in diameter : they re- 
sembled in every respect, and had the same smell as English 
potatoes ; but when boiled tliey shrunk much, and were ^^atery 
and insipid, without any bitter taste. They are undoubtedly 
here indigenous : they grow as far south, according to Mr. Low, 
as lat. 50°, and are called Aquinas by the wild Indians of that part : 
the Chilotan Indians have a diflferent name for them. Professor 
Henslow, who has examined the dried specimens which I brought 
home, says that they are the same with those described by ]\ir. 
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 

* Horticultural Transact., vol. v. p. 249. Mr. Caldclengh sent home two 
tubers, which, being well manured, even the first season produced numerous 
potatoes and an abundance of leaves. See Humboldt's interesting discussion 
on this plant, which it appears was unknown in Mexico, — in Polit. Essay ou 
ISew Spain, book iv. chap. tx. 

286 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xiir. 

mountains of central Chile, wliere a drop of rain does not fall fur 
more than six months, and within the damp forests of these 
southern islands. 

In the central parts of the Chonos Archipelago (lat. 45°), the 
forest has very much the same character with that along the 
whole west coast, for 600 miles southward to Cape Horn. The 
arborescent grass of Chiloe is not found here ; while the beech of 
Tierra del Fuego grows to a good size, and forms a considerable 
propoi-tion of the wood ; not, however, in the same exclusive 
manner as it does farther southward. Cryptogamic plants here 
find a most congenial climate. In the Strait of Magellan, as 
I have before remarked, 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 flat land supports the most luxuriant forests. Here, 
within the Chonos Archipelago, the nature of the climate more 
closely approaches that of Tierra del Fuego than that of north- 
ern Chiloe ; for every patch of level ground is covered by two 
species of plants (Astelia pumila and Donatia magellanica), 
which by their joint decay compose a thick bed of elastic peat. 

In Tierra de! Fuego, above the region of woodland, the for- 
mer 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 downwards in the peat, the leaves, yet hold- 
ing their place, can be observed passing through every stage of 
decomposition, till the whole becomes blended in one confused 
mass. The Astelia is assisted by a few other plants, — liere and 
there a small creeping Myrtus (M. nummularia), with a woody 
stem like our cranberry and with a sweet berry, — an Empetrum 
(E. rubrum), like our heath, — a rush (Juncus grandiflorus), are 
nearly the only ones that grow on the swampy surface. These 
plants, though possessing a very close general resemblance to 

* By sweeping with my insect-net, I procured from these situations a 
considerable number of minute insects, of the family of Staphylinidse, and 
others allied to Pselaphus, and minutv Hymenoptera. But the most cha- 
racteristic family in number, both of ii dividuals and specie-s, throughout the 
more open parts of Chiioe and Chonos is that of the Telephoridse. 


tlie English species of the same genera, are different. In the 
more level parts of the country, the surface of the peat is 
broken up into little pools of Mater, wliich stand at difierent 
heights, and appear as if artificially excavated. Small streams 
of water, Howing nndergi'ound, complete the disorganization of 
the vegetable matter, and consolidate the whole 

The climate of the southern part of America appears particu- 
larly 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 land, becomes converted into this 
substance : scarcely any situation checks its growth ; some of the 
beds areas much as twelve feet thick, and the lower part becomes 
so solid when dry, that it will hardly burn. Although every plant 
lends its aid, yet in most parts the Astelia is the most efHcient. 
It is rather a singular circumstance, as being so very different from 
what occurs in Europe, that I nowhere saw moss forming 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 its production, 
I believe tliat in Chiloe (lat. 41° to 42°), although there is much 
swampy ground, no well characterized peat occurs : but in the 
Chonos Islands, three degrees farther 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 tliis substance, but had never been able to 
find any. lie showed me, as the nearest approach to it w hich 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 liave been expected, very poor. Of quadru[)eds two 
aquatic kinds are common. The Myopotamus Coypus (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 nu- 
merous ; this animal does not feed exclusively on fish, but, like 
the sealsj draws a large supply from a small red crab, which 

288 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xirr. 

swims in shoals near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe saw 
one in Tierra del Fuego eating a cuttle-fish ; and at Low's 
Harbour, another was killed in the act of carrying to its hole a 
large volute shell. At one place I caught in a trap a singular 
little mouse (M. brachiotis) ; it appeared common on several of 
the islets, but the Chilotans at Low'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 are allied to, and replace, the Turco and 
Tapacolo of central Chile. One is called by the inhabi- 
tants " Cheucau " (Pteroptochos rubecula) : it frequents the 
most gloomy and retired spots within the damp forests. Some- 
times, 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. The cheucau is 
held in superstitious fear by the Chilotans, on account of its 
strange and varied cries. Tiiere are three very distinct cries : 
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 the 
noises ; 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 " (Pteroptochos 
Tarnii), 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 
tlie 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 the bird ; yet at other times the guid- 

* It is said that some rapacious birds bring their prey alive to their nests. 
If so, ill the course of centuries, every now and then, one might escape from 
the young birds. Some such agency is necessary, to account for the distri- 
bution of the smaller gnawing animals on islands not very near each other. 

1835.1 ORNITHOLOGY. 289 

guid fearlessly conies near. Its manner of feeding and its general 
habits are very similar to those of the cheucau. 

On the coast,* a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus 
Patagonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from its (juiet 
habits ; it lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a sandpiper. 
Besides these birds only 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 clieucau, sometimes come from afar off, and 
sometimes from close at hand ; the little black wren of Tierra 
del Fuego occasionally adds its cry ; the creeper (Oxyurus) fol- 
lows the intruder screaming and twittering ; the hunnming-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 (Myiobius) may be noticed. From the 
great preponderance in most countries of certain common genera 
of birds, such as the finches, one feels at first surprised at meet- 
ing with the peculiar forms above enumerated, as the commonest 
birds in any district. In central Chile two of them, namely, the 
Oxyurus and Scytalopus, occur, although most rarely. When 
finding, as in this case, animals which seem to play so insig- 
nificant a part in the great scheme of nature, one is apt to wonder 
why they were created. But it should always be recollected, that 
in some other country perhaps they are essential members of 
society, or at some former period may have been so. If America 
south of 37° were sunk beneath the waters of the ocean, these 
two birds 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 (que- 
brantahuesos, or break -bones, of the Spaniards), is a common 

* I may mention, as a proof of how great a difference there is between 
the seasons of the wooded and the open parts of this coast, that on September 
20th. in lat. 3-i'^, these birds had young ones in the nest, while among the 
Chonos Islands, three months later in the summer, they were only layinf{ ; 
the difference in latitude between these two places being about 700 miles. 


290 CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xiii. 

bird, both in the inland channels and on the open sea. In its 
habits and manner of flight, there is a verj"^ close resemblance 
with the albatross ; and as with the albatross, a person may 
watch it for hours together without seeing on what it feeds. 
The " break-bones " is, however, a rapacious bird, for it was 
observed by some of the officers at Port St. Antonio chasing a 
diver, which tried to escape by diving and flying, but was con- 
tinually struck down, and at last killed by a blow on its head. 
At Port St. Julian these great petrels were seen killing and 
devouring young gulls. A second species (Puffinus cinereus), 
which is common to Europe, Gape Horn, and the coast of Peru, 
is of a much smaller size than the P. 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 distance. 

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only 
mention one other kind, the Pelacanoides Berardi, which offers 
an example of those extraordinary cases, of a bird evidently be- 
longing 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 
flight. After flying by the rapid movement of its short wings 
for a space in a straight line, it drops, as if struck dead, and 
dives again. The form of its beak and nostrils, length of foot, 
and even the colouring of its plumage, show that this bird is a 
petrel: on the other hand, its short wings and consequent little 
power of flight, its form of body and shape of tail, the absence of 
a hind toe to its foot, its habit of diving, and its choice of situa- 
tion, make it at first doubtful whether its relationship is not 
equally close with the auks. It would undoubtedly be mistaken 
for an auk, when seen from a distance, either on the wing, or 
when diving and quietly swimming about the retired channels of 
Tierra del Fueg:©. 

J 835.] CHILOE 291 


San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with Aconcagua 
and Cosegiiina — Hide to Cucao— Impenetrable forests — Valdivia — Indians 
— Earthquake — Concepcion — Great earthquake — Rocks fissured — Appear- 
ance of the former towns — The sea black and boiling — Direction of the 
vibrations — Stones twisted round — Great Wave — Permanent elevation of 
llie laud — Area of volcanic phenomena — The connexion between the 
elevatory and eruptive forces — Cause of earthquakes — Slow elevation of 


On January the 15th we sailed from Low's Harbour, and three 
days afterwards anchored a second time in the bay of S. Carlos 
in Cliiloe. On the night of the 19th the volcano of Osorno Mas 
in action. At midnight the sentry observed something- like a 
large star, which gradually increased in size till about three 
o'clock, when it presented a very magnificent spectacle. By the 
aid of a glass, dark objects, in constant succession, were seen, in 
the midst of a great glare of red light, to be thrown up and to 
fall down. The light was sufficient to cast on the water a long- 
bright reflection. Large masses of molten matter seem very 
commonly to be cast out of the craters in this part of the Cor- 
dillera. I was assured that when the Corcovado is in eruption, 
great masses are projected upwards and are seen to burst in the 
air, assuming many fantastical forms, such as trees : their size 
must be immense, for they can be distinguished from the high 
land behind S. Carlos, which is no less than ninety-three miles 
from the Corcovado. In the morning the volcano became tran- 

I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in Chile, 
480 miles northwards, was in action on tliis same niglit ; and 
still more surprised to hear, that the great eruption of Co- 
scguina (2700 miles north of Aconcagua), accompanied by an 
earthquake felt over a 1000 miles, also occurred within six hours 
of this same time. This coincidence is the more remark- 
able, as Coseguina had been dormant for twenty-six years : 


and Aconcagua most rarely shows any signs of action. It 
is difficult even to conjecture, wliether this coincidence was 
accidental, or shows some subterranean connection. If Vesuvius, 
Etna, and Hecla in Iceland (all three relatively nearer each 
other, than the corresponding points in South America) suddenly 
burst forth in eruption on the same night, the coincidence would 
be thought remarkable ; but it is far more remarl^able in this 
case, where the three vents fall on tlie same great mountain- 
chain, and where the vast plains along the entire eastern coast, 
and the upraised recent shells along more than 2000 miles 
on the western coast, show in how equable and connected a 
manner the elevatory forces have acted. 

Captain Fitz Roy 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 22nd. 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 tra- 
velling without fire-arms. At first, the country consisted of a 
succession of hills and valleys : nearer to Castro it became very 
level. 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 laid longitudinally, or narrow 
and placed 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 remark- 
able, however, how active custom has made the Chilotan horses. 
In crossing bad parts, where the logs had been displaced, they 
skipped from one to the other, almost with the quickness and 
certainty of a dog. On both hands the road is bordered by the 
lofty forest-trees, with their bases matted together by canes. 

1835.] CHILOE. 293 

When occasionally a long reach of this avenue could be beheld, 
it presented a curious scene of uniformity : the white line of 
logs, narrowing in perspective, became hidden by the gloomy 
forest, or terminated in a zigzag which ascended some steep hill. 

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 dis- 
covered, 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 ever 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, thev 
cannot travel. 

The day was beautiful, and the number of trees which were in 
full flower perfumed the air ; yet even this could hardly dis- 
sipate the effect of the gloomy dampness of the forest. More- 
over, the many dead trunks that stand like skeletons, never fail 
to give to these primeval woods a character of solemnity, absent 
in those of countries long civilized. Shortly after sunset we bi 
vouacked 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. 
T 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. 

294 CHILOE. [chap. xiv. 

January 23rd. — 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 a Chileno was acting in his 
place. We had a letter of introduction to Don Pedro, whom we 
found exceedingly hospitable and kind, and more disinterested 
than is usual 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. At Vilipilli, Don Pedro asked 
the commandant to give us a guide to Cucao. The old gentle- 
man offered to come himself; but for a long time nothing would 
persuade him, that two Englishmen really wished to go to such 
an out of the way place as Cucao. We were thus 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 across the island, following intricate 
winding paths, sometimes passing through magnificent forests, 
and sometimes through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn 
and potato crops. This undulating woody country, partially cul- 
tivated, reminded me of the wilder parts of England, and there- 
fore 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 
were cleared ; and all the inhabitants appeared 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 San Carlos, was quite a prodigy. 

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to em- 
bark 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-oarsman 
gabbled Indian, and uttered strange cries, much after the fashion 
of a pig-driver driving his pigs. We started with a light breeze 
against us, but yet reached the Capella de Cucao before it was 

1835.] RIDE TO CUCAO. 'j»b 

late. 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 diffi- 
culty, but the Indians managed it in a minute. They brouglit 
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 tliese levers tliey 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 tolerably 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. These feelings are, I 
think, chiefly to be attributed to the harsh and authoritative 
manner in which they are treated by their rulers. Our com- 
panions, although so very civil to us, behaved to the poor Indians 
as if they had been slaves, rather tlian 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 mate. A 
lump of white sugar was divided between all present, and tasted 
with the greatest curiosity. The Indians ended all their com- 
plaints 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 rode a few miles northward 
to Punta Huantamo. 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 

296 CniLOE. [chap. xiv. 

had some difficulty in reaching the point, owing to the intolerably 
bad paths ; for everywhere 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 mucli scratched. I was amused by observing 
the precaution our Indian guide took, in turning up his trowsers, 
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 Low's Harbour the Chilo- 
tans making chichi, or cider, with this fruit : so true is it, as 
Humboldt remarks, that almost everywhere 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 north of Punta Huantamo is exceedingly 
rugged and broken, and is fronted by many breakers, on which 
the sea is eternally roaring. Mr. King and m^-self were anxious 
to return, if it had been possible, on foot along this coast ; but 
even the Indians said it was 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 roasted 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 or 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 vt'hich 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 north, stood out 
in proud pre-eminence : scarcely another peak in the long range 

1835.J VALDIVIA. 297 

showed its snowj^ summit. I hope it will be long before I forge*, 
this farewell view of tiie magnificent Cordillera fronting 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 1 
made several short excursions. One was to examine a great bed 
of now-existing shells, elevated 350 feet 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 pertinaciously 
tell me endless Indian names 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 features 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 the poor inhabitants. 

We steered northward along shore, but owing to thick weather 
did not reach Valdivia till the night of the 8th. The next 
morning 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 evidently self-sown. In Chiloe 
the inhabitants possess a marvellously short method of making 
an orchard. At the lower part of almost every branch, small, 
conical, brow^n, 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 in the early spring, 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 deep in the 

29S VALDIVIA. [chap. xiv. 

ground. During the ensuing summer the stump throws out 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. In the third season the stump is changed 
(as 1 have myself seen) into a well-wooded tree, loaded with 
fruit. An old man near Valdivia illustrated his motto, " Ne- 
cesidad es la madre del invencion," by giving an account of the 
several useful things he manufactured from his apples. After 
making cider, and likewise wine, he extracted from the refuse a 
white and finely flavoured spirit ; by another process he procured 
a sweet treacle, or, as he called it, honey. His children and 
pigs seemed almost to live, during this season of the year, in his 

February Wth. — I set out with a guide on a short ride, in 
which, however, I managed to see singularly little, eitlier 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 
a new aspect to the forest, compared with 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 has a brighter lint. As in Chiloe, the lower 
parts are matted together by canes : here also another kind (re- 
sembling the bamboo of Brazil and about twenty feet in height) 
grows in clusters, and ornaments the banks of some of the 
streams in a very pretty manner. It is witli this plant that the 
Indians make tiieir chuzos, or long tapering spears. Our resting- 
house was so dirty that I preferred sleeping outside : on these 
journeys the first night is generally very uncomfortable, because 
one 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. 

\2th. — 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 a brow of a hill, which commanded a fine view of 
the l.lanos. The view of these open plains was very refresiiing, 
after beinjr hemmed in and buried in the 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 foiest we crossed some flat 
little lawns, around which single trees stood, as in an English 
park : I have often noticed with surprise, in wooded undulatory 
districts, that the quite level parts have been destitute of trees. 
On account of the tired horse, I determined to stop 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 de- 
pendent on Valdivia are " reducidos y cristianos." The Indians 
farther northward, about Arauco and Imperial, are still very 
wild, and not converted ; but they have all much intercourse 
with the Spaniards. The padre said that the Christian Indians 
did not much like coming to mass, but that otherwise they showed 
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. Each w ife lives a week in turn 
with the cacique ; but all are employed in weaving ponchos, &c. 
for his profit. To be the wife of a cacique, is an honour much 
sought after by the Indian women. 

The men of all these tribes wear a coarse woollen poncho : 
those south of Valdivia wear short trowsers, and those north of 
it a petticoat, like the chilipa of the Gauchos. All have their 
long hair bound by a scarlet fillet, but with no other covering on 
their heads. These Indians are good-sized men ; their cheek- 
bones are prominent, and in general appearance they resemble 
the great American family to which they belong ; but their 
physiognomy seemed to me to be slightly diffiereut from that of 

300 VALDIVIA. [chap, xiv 

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 portraits of James I. 
On the road Me met with none of that humble politeness so uni- 
versal 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 

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 com- 
forts. Being a man of some little education, he bitterly com- 
plained 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 ! The next day, on our return, we met 
seven very wild-looking Indians, of whom some were caciques 
that had just received from the Chilian government, their yearly 
small stipend for having 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 ! " The travelling was very tedious, both from the bad- 
ness 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 on the road, and next morning reached 
Valdivia, whence I proceeded on board. 

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party ol 


officers, and landed near the fort called Niebla. The buildings 
were in a most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages quite rotten. 
Mr. Wickhani reniarlved 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 replieil, " Ko, I 
aiii 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 7000 dollars. The revolution 
having broken out, prevented its being applied to any purpose, 
and now it remains a monument of the fallen greatness of 

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 be 
changed into a heap of mould. 

February 20th. — This 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 much longer. The 
rocking of the ground was very sensible. The undulations ap- 
peared to my companion and myself to come from due east, 
whilst others thought they proceeded from south-west : this shows 
how difficult it sometimes is to perceive the direction of the 
vibrations. There was no difficulty in standing upright, but the 
motion made me almost giddy : it was something like tlie move- 
ment of a vessel in a little cross-ripple, or still more like that felt 

S02 CONCEPCION. [chap. xir. 

by a person skating over tliin ice, which bends under the weight 
of his body. 

A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations : 
the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our 
feet like a thin crust over a fluid ;— one second of time has created 
in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflec- 
tion would not have produced. In the forest, as a breeze 
moved the trees, I felt only the earth tremble, but saw no other 
effect. Captain Fitz Roy and some officers were at the town 
during the shock, and there the scene was more striking ; for 
although the houses, from being built of wood, did not fall, they 
wei'e violently shaken, and the boards creaked and rattled toge- 
ther. The people rushed out of doors in the greatest alarm. It 
is these accompaniments that create that perfect horror of earth- 
quakes, experienced by all 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 lime of 
low water ; and an old woman who was on the beach told me, 
that the water flowed very quickly, but not in great waves, to 
high-water mark, and then as quickly returned to its proper 
xcvel ; 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 
many weaker shocks, which seemed to produce in the harbour 
the most complicated currents, and some of great strength. 

March — We entered the harbour of Concepcion. While 
the ship was beating up to the anchorage, I landed on the island 
of Quiriquina. The mayor-domo of the estate quickly rode 
down to tell me the terrible news of the great earthquake of the 
20th : — " That not a house in Concepcion or Talcahuano (the 
port) was standing ; that seventy villages were destroyed ; and 
that a great wave had almost washed away the ruins of Talca- 
huano." Of this latter statement I soon saw abundant proofs — 
the whole coast being strewed over with timber and furniture as 
if a thousand ships had been wrecked. Besides chairs, tables, 
book-shelves, &c., in great numbers, there were several roofs of 


cottages, which had been transported almost whole. The store- 
houses at Talcahuano had been burst open, and great bags of 
cotton, yerba, and other valuable merchandise were scattered on 
the shore. During my walk round the island, I observed thai 
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 six feet 
long, three broad, and two thick. 

The island itself as plainly sliowed the overwhelming power of 
the earthquake, as the beach did that of the consequent great 
wave. The ground in many parts was fissured in north and 
south lines, perhaps caused by the yielding of the parallel and 
steep sides of this narrow island. Some of the fissures near the 
clifl[s were a yard wide. Many enormous masses had already 
fallen on the beach ; and the inhabitants thought that when the 
rains commenced far greater slips would happen. The efi^ect 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 eflfect, which was 
rendered conspicuous by the fresh fractures and displaced soil, 
must be confined to near the surface, for otherwise there would 
not exist a block of solid rock throughout Chile ; nor is this im- 
probable, as it is known that the surface of a vibrating body is 
affected differently from the central part. It is, perhaps, owing 
to this same reason, that earthquakes do not cause quite such 
terrific havoc within deep mines as would be 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 sea 
and weather during the course of a whole century. 

The next day I landed at Talcahuano, and afterwards rode to 
Concepcion. Both towns presented the most awful yet interest- 
ing spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who had formerly 
known them, it possibly might have been still more impressive ; 
for the ruins were so mingled together, and the whole scene pos- 
sessed 60 little the air of a habitable place, that it was scarcely 
possible to imagine its former condition. The earthquake com- 
menced at half-past eleven o'clock in the forenoon. If it had 
happened in the middle of the night, the greater number of the 

304 CONCEPCION. [chap. xiv. 

inhabitants (which in this one province amount to many thou- 
sands) must have perished, instead of less than a hundred: as it 
was, the invariable practice of running out of doors at the first 
trembling of the ground, alone saved them. In Concepcion 
each house, or row of houses, stood by itself, a heap or line of 
ruins ; but in Talcahuano, 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 mayor-domo at Quiri- 
quina told me, that the first notice he received of it, 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 side of the island 
were rolled into the sea. The great wave caused the destruc- 
tion of many cattle; on one low island, near the head of the 
bay, seventy animals were washed off and drowned. It is gene- 
rally thought that this has been the worst earthquake ever re- 
corded in Chile ; but as the very severe ones occur only after long 
intervals, this cannot easily be known ; nor indeed would a much 
worse shock have made any great difference, for tlie ruin was 
now complete. Innumerable small tremblings followed the great 
earthquake, and within the first twelve days no less than three 
hundred were counted. 

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. Rouse, 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 court-yard, 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 would 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 

1835.J GREAT WAVR .105 

(lust which darkened the sky, at last he gained the street. As 
shock succeeded sliock, at the interval of a few minutes, no one 
dared approach the shattered ruins ; and no one knew whether 
his dearest friends and relations were not perishing from the want 
of help. Those who had saved any property were obliged to keep 
a constant watch, for thieves prowled about, and at each little 
trembling of the ground, with one hand they beat their breasts 
and cried " misericordia !" and then witli tlie other filched what 
t'.iey could from the ruins. The thatched roofs fell over the fires, 
and flames burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew themselves 
ruined, and few had the means of providing food for the day. 

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity of 
any country. If 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 be- 
come of the lofty houses, thickly packed cities, great manufac- 
tories, 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 
remain uncontrolled. In every large town famine would go 
forth, pestilence and death following in its train. 

Shortly after the shock, a great wave was seen from the dis- 
tance of three or four miles, approaching in the middle of the bay 
with a smooth outline ; but along the shore it tore up cottages 
and trees, as it swept onwards with irresistible force. At the 
head of the bay it broke in a fearful line of white breakers, which 
rushed up to a height of 23 vertical feet above the highest spring- 
tides. Their force must have been prodigious ; for at the Fort a 
cannon with its carriage, estimated at four tons in weight, was 
moved 15 feet inwards. A schooner was left in the midst of the 
ruins, 200 yards from the beach. The first wave was followed 
by two others, which in their retreat carried away a vast wreck 
of floating objects. In one part of the bay, a ship was pitched 
Iiigh and dry on shore, was carried off", again driven on snore, 


and again carried off. In another part, two large vessels 
anchored near together were whirled about, and their cables 
were thrice wound round each other : though anchored at a depth 
of 36 feet, they were for some minutes aground. The great wave 
luust have travelled slowly, for the inhabitants of Talcahuano 
had time to run up the hills behind the town ; and some sailors 
pulled out seaward, trusting successfully to their boat riding 
securely over the swell, if they could reach it before it broke. 
One old woman with a little boy, four or five years old, ran into 
a boat, but there was nobody to row it out : the boat was con- 
sequently dashed against an anchor and cut in twain ; the old 
woman was drowned, but the child was picked up some hours 
afterwards clinffins: to the wreck. Pools of salt-water were still 
standing amidst the ruins of the houses, and children, making 
boats with old tables and chairs, appeared as happy as their 
parents were miserable. It was, however, exceedingly interest- 
ing to observe, how much more active and cheerful all appeared 
than could have been expected. It was remarked with much 
truth, that from the destruction being universal, no one indi- 
\idual was humbled more than another, or could suspect his 
friends of coldness — that most grievous result of the loss of 
wealth. Mr. Rouse, and a large party whom he kindly took 
under his protection, lived for the first week in a garden beneath 
some apple-trees. At first they were as merry as if it liad been 
a picnic ; but soon afterwards heavy rain caused much discom- 
fort, for they were absolutely without shelter. 

In Captain Fitz Roy's excellent account of the earthquake, it 
is said that two explosions, one like a column of smoke and 
another like tlie blowing of a great whale, were seen in the bay. 
Tlie water also appeared every where to be boiling ; and it " be- 
came black, and exhaled a most disagreeable sulphureous smell." 
These latter circumstances were observed in the Bay of Val- 
j)araiso during the earthquake of 1822 ; they may, I think, be 
accounted for, by the disturbance of the mud at the bottom of the 
sea 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 Talcahuano thought that the earthquake was 
caused by some old Indian women, who two years ago being 


offended stopped the volcano of Autuco. This silly belief is 
curious, because it shows that experience has taught them to 
observe, that there exists a relation between the suppressed action 
of the volcanos, and the trembling of the ground. It was neces- 
sary to apply the witchcraft to the point where their perception 
of cause and effect fliilai ; and this was the closing of the volcanic 
vent. This belief is the more singular in this particular instance, 
because, according to Captain Fitz Roy, there is reason to believe 
that Antuco was nowaj's 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 ranging S.W. by W., and the other set N.AY. by N. 
The Malls in the former direction certainly stood better than 
those in the latter : the greater number of the masses of brick- 
work were thrown down towards the N.E. Both these cir- 
cumstances perfectly agree with the general idea, of the undula- 
tions having come from the S.W. ; in M'hich quarter subterranean 
noises were also heard : for it is evident that the walls ruiuiing 
S.W. and N.E. which presented their ends to the point whence 
the undulations came, would be much less likely to foil than 
tliose walls which, running N.W. and S.E., must in their whole 
lengths have been at the same instant thrown out of the per- 
])endicular; for the undulations, coming from the S.AV., must 
have extended in N.W. and S.E. waves, as they passed under the 
ibuudations. This may be illustrated by placing books edgeways 
on a carpet, and then, after the manner suggested by Michell, 
imitating the undulations of an earthquake : it will be found that 
ihey fall with more or less readiness, according as their direction 
more or less nearly coincides with the line of the M'aves. The 
fissures in the ground generally, though not uniformly, extended 
in a S.E. and N.W. direction ; and therefore corresponded to the 
lines of undulation or of principal flexure. Bearing in mind all 
tliese 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, raised to nearly three times the 
height 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. 

X 2 

308 CONCEPCION. [chap. xiv. 

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 brick- 
work were of great dimensions ; and they were rolled to a distance 
on the level plaza, like fragments of rock at the base of some 
high mountain. The side M'alls (running S.W. and N.E.), 
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. A similar circumstance was observed after 
an earthquake at Valparaiso, Calabria, and other places, includ- 
ing some of the ancient Greek temples.* This twisting dis- 
2:)lacement, at first appears to indicate a vorticose movement 
beneath each point thus affected ; but this is highly improbable. 
May it not be caused by a tendency in each stone to arrange 
itself in some particular position, with respect to the limjs of 
vibration, — in a manner somewhat similar to pins on a sheet of 
2)aper when shaken? Generally speaking, arched doorways or 
windows stood much better than any other part of the buildings. 
Nevertheless, a poor lame old man, who had been in the habit, 
during trifling shocks, of ciawling to a certain doorway, was 
this time crushed to pieces. 

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of the 
appearance of Concepcion, fur I feel that it is quite impossible 
to convey the mingled feelings which I experienced. Several of 
the officers visited it before me, but their strongest language 
failed to give a just idea of the scene of desolation. It is a 
bitter and humiliating thing to see works, which have cost man 
so much time and labour, overthrown in one minute ; yet com- 
passion for the inhabitajits was almost instantly banished, by the 
surprise in seeing a state of things produced in a moment of 
time, which one was accustomed to attribute to a succession of 
ages. In my opinion, we have scarcely beheld, since leaving 
England, any sight so deeply interesting. 

In almost every severe earthquake, the neighbouring waters 

* M. Arago in L'Institut. 1839, p. 337. See also Miers's Chile, vol. i. 
p. 392 ; also Lyell's Principles of Geology, chap, xv., book ii. 


of the sea are said to have been greatly agitated. The disturb- 
ance 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 time afterwards, the whole body of the 
sea retires from the coast, and tlien returns in waves of over- 
whelming force. The first movement seems to be an imme- 
diate consequence of the earthquake affecting differently a fluid 
and a solid, so that their respective levels are slightly de- 
ranged : but the second case is a far more important phenome- 
non. During most earthquakes, and especially during those on 
the west coast of America, it is certain that the first great move- 
ment of the waters has been a retirement. Some authors have 
attempted to explain this, by supposing that the water retains its 
level, whikt the land oscillates upwards ; but surely the water 
close to the land, even on a rather steep coast, would partake of 
the motion of the bottom : moreover, as urged by Mr. Lyell, 
similar movements of the sea have occurred at islands far distant 
from the chief line of disturbance, as was the case with Juan 
P'ernandez during this earthquake, and with Madeira during the 
famous Lisbon shock. I suspect (but the subject is a very ob- 
scure one) that a M^ave, however produced, first draws the water 
from the shore, on which it is advancing to break : I have ob- 
served that this happens with the little waves from the paddles 
of a steam-boat. It is remarkable that Avhilst Talcahuano and 
Callao (near Lima), both situated at the head of large shallow 
bays, have suffered during every severe earthquake from great 
waves, Valparaiso, seated close to the edge of profoundly deep 
water, has never been overwhelmed, though so often shaken by 
the severest shocks. From the great wave not immediately fol- 
lowing the earthquake, but sometimes after the interval of even 
half an hour, and from distant islands being affected similarly 
with the coasts near the focus of the disturbance, it appears that 
the wave first rises in the offing; and as this is of general occur- 
rence, the cause must be general : I suspect we must look to the 
line, where the less disturbed waters of the deep ocean join the 
water nearer the coast, which has partaken of the movements of 
the land, as the place where the great wave is hrst generated ; it 
would also appear that the wave is larger or smaller, according 


^o the extent of shoal water wliich lias been agitated too^ether 
with the bottom on which it rested. 

The most remarkable effect of this earthquake was the perma- 
nent elevation of the land ; it would probably be far more cor- 
rect to speak of it as the cause. There can be no doubt that the 
land round the Bay of Concepcion was upraised two or three feet ; 
but it deserves notice, that owing to the wave having oblite- 
rated the old lines of tidal action on the sloping sandy shores, I 
could discover no evidence of this fact, except in the united tes- 
timony of the inhabitants, that one little rocky shoal, now ex- 
posed, was formerly covered with water. At the island of S. 
Maria (about thirty miles distant) the elevation was greater ; on 
one part. Captain Fitz Roy found beds of putrid mussel-shells 
still adhering to the rocks, ten feet above high-water mark : the 
inhabitants had formerly dived at low-water spring-tides for these 
shells. The elevation of this province is particularly interesting, 
from its having been the theatre of several other violent earth- 
quakes, and from the vast numbers of sea-shells scattered over 
the land, up to a height of certainly 600, and I believe, of 1000 
feet. At Valparaiso, as I have remarked, similar shells are 
found at the height of 1300 feet: it is hardly possible to doubt 
that this great elevation has been effected by successive small 
uprisings, such as that which accompanied or caused the earth- 
quake of this year, and likewise by an insensibly slow rise, which 
is certainly in progress on some parts of this coast. 

The island of Juan Fernandez, 360 miles to the N.E., was, at 
the time of the great shock of the 20th, violently shaken, so that 
the trees beat against each other, and a volcano burst forth under 
water close to the sliore : these facts are remarkable because this 
island, during the earthquake of 1751, was then also affected more 
violently than other places at an equal distance from Concepcion, 
and this seems to show some subterranean connection between 
these two points. Chiloe, about 340 miles southward of Con- 
cepcion, appears to have been shaken more strongly than the inter- 
mediate district of Valdivia, where the volcano of Villarica was 
noways affected, whilst in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe, two 
of tha volcanos burst forth at the same instant in violent action. 
These two volcanos, and some neighbouring ones, continued for 

1835.] AND ERUPTIVE FORCES. .31 1 

a long time in eruption, and ten months afterwards were again 
influenced by an earthquake at Concepcion. Some men, cutting 
wood near the base of one of these volcanos, did not perceive the 
sliock of the 20th, althougii the whole surrounding rrovince was 
then trembling ; liere we have an eruption relieving and taking 
the place of an earthquake, as woukl have happened at Con- 
cepcion, according to the belief of the lower orders, if the 
volcano of Antuco had not been closed by witchcraft. Two 
years anil three quarters afterwards, Valdivia and Chiloe were 
again shaken, more violently than on the 20th, and an island in 
the Chonos Archipelago was permanently elevated more than 
eight feet. It will give a better idea of the scale of these phe- 
nomena, if (as in the case of the glaciers) we suppose them to 
have taken place at corresponding distances in Europe: — then 
Avould the land from the North Sea to the Mediterranean have 
been violently shaken, and at the same instant of time a large 
tract of the eastern coast of England would have been perma- 
nently elevated, together with some outlying islands, — a train of 
volcanos on the coast of Holland would have burst forth in 
action, and an eruption taken place at the bottom of the sea, near 
the nortJiern extremity of Ireland — and lastly, the ancient vents 
of Auvergne, Cantal, and JMont d'Or would each have sent up 
to the sky a dark column of smoke, and have long remained in 
fierce action. Two years and three quarters afterwards, France, 
from its centre to the English Channel, would have been again, 
desolated by an earthquake, and an island permanently upraised 
in the Mediterranean. 

The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 20th was 
actually erupted, is^O miles in one line, and 400 miles in another 
line at right angles to the first : hence, in all probability, a sub- 
terranean lake of lava is here stretched out, of nearly double the 
area of the Black Sea. From the intimate and complicated man- 
ner in which the elevatory and eruptive forces were shown to be 
connected during this train of phenomena, we may confidently 
come to the conclusion, that the forces which slowly and by little 
starts uplift continents, and those which at successive periods 
pour forth volcanic matter from open orifices, are identical. 
From many reasons, I believe that the frequent quakings of the 
earth on this line of coast are caused by the rending of the strata, 

.112 €ONCEPCION. [chap. xiv. 

jiecessarily consequent on the tension of the land when upraised, 
and their injection by fluidified rock. This rending and injec- 
tion would, if repeated often enough (and we know that earth- 
quakes repeatedly affect the same areas in the same manner), form 
a chain of hills ; — and the linear island of St. Mary, which was 
upraised thrice the height of the neighbouring country, seems to 
be undergoing this process. I believe that the solid axis of a 
mountain, differs in its manner of formation from a volcanic hill, 
only in the molten stone having been repeatedly injected, instead 
of having been repeatedly ejected. Moreover, 1 believe that it 
is impossible to explain the structure of great mountain-chains, 
such as that of the Cordillera, where the strata, capping the in- 
jected axis of plutonic rock, have been thrown on their edges 
along several parallel and neighbouring lines of elevation, except 
on this view of the rock of the axis having been repeatedly in- 
jected, after intervals sufficiently long to allow the upper parts 
or wedges to cool and become solid ; — for if the strata had been 
thrown into their present highly-inclined, vertical, and even in- 
verted positions, by a single blow, the very bowels of the earth 
Mould have gushed out ; and instead of beholding abrupt 
mountain-axes of rock solidified under great pressure, deluges of 
lava would have flowed out at innumerable points on every line 
of elevation.* 

* For a full account of the volcanic phenomena which accompanied the 
earthquake of the 20th, and for the conclusions deducible from them, I must 
ref >r to Volume V. of the Geological Transactions. 



Valparaiso — Portillo pass — Sagacity of mules — Mountain-torrents — Mines, 
liow discovered — Proofs of the gradual elevation of the Cordillera — Effect 
of snow on rocks — Geological structure of the two main ranges, their 
distinct origin and upheaval — Great subsidence — Red snow — Winds — 
Pinnacles of snow — Dry and clear atmosphere — Electricity — Pampas — 
Zoology of the opposite sides of the Andes — Locusts— Great Bugs — 
Mendoza — Uspallata Pass — Silicified trees buried as they grew — Incas 
Bridge — Badness of the passes exaggerated — Cumbre— Casuchas — Val- 


March 1th, 1835. — We stayed three days at Concepcion, and 
then sailed for Valparaiso. Tlie wind being northerly, we only 
reached the mouth of the liarlSour of Concepcion before it was 
dark. Being very near the land, and a fog coming on, the 
anclior was dropped. Presently a large American whaler ap- 
peared close alongside of us ; and we heard the Yankee swearing 
at his men to keep quiet, whilst he listened for the breakers. 
Captain Fitz Roy 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 tiling 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. AVe after- 
wards 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 after- 
wards I set out to cross the Cordillera. I proceeded to Santiago, 
where Mr. Caldcleugh most kindly assisted me in every possible 
way in making the little preparations which were necessary. In 
this part of Chile there are two passes across the Andes to Men- 
doza : the one most commonly used — namely, that of Aconcagua 
or Uspallata — is situated some way to the north ; the otiier, called 

314 PORTILLO PASS. [chap. xv. 

the Portillo, is to tlie south, and nearer, but more lofty and 

March 18^A. — 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 Maypu, 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 — their boughs 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, tlian by the waters 
of the sea. There are very few valleys which lead to the central 
ranges, and the mountains are quite impassable in other parts by 
beasts of burden. The custom-house officers were very civil, 
which was perhaps partly owing to the passport which the Pre- 
sident of the Republic had given me ; but I must 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 anec- 
dote with which I was at the time much pleased : we met near 
Mendoza a little and very fat negress, riding astride on a mule. 
She had a goitre 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, made the common salute of the 
country by taking off their hats. Where would one of the lower 
or higher 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 cooketl and ate our supper under a cloudless sky, and knew 
no trouble. My comjianions were Mariano Gonzales, who had 
formerly accompanied me in Chile, 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 wherever she goes, the mules, 


like good children, follow Iior. The affection of these animals 
for their niadrinas saves infinite trouble. If several large, troops 
are turned into one field to graze, in the morning the muleteers 
have only to lead the niadrinas a little apart, and tinkle their 
bells ; and although there may be two or three hundred together. 
each mule imniCHliately knows the bell of its own madrina, and 
comes to her. It is nearly impossible to lose an old nuile ; 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 a madrina. In a troop each animal carries 
on a level road, a cargo weighing 416 pounds (more than 29 
stone), but in a mountainous country 100 pounds less ; yet with 
what delicate slim limbs, without any proportional bulk of muscle, 
these animals support so great a burden ! The mule always 
appears to me a most surprising animal. That a hybrid should 
possess more reason, memory, obstinacy, social affection, powers 
of muscular endurance, and length of life, than either of its 
parents, seems to indicate that art has here outdone nature. Of 
our ten animals, six were intended for riding, and four for carry- 
ing 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 \9th. — We rode during this day to the last, and there- 
fore most elevated house in the valley. The number of inha- 
bitants became scanty ; but wherever water could be brought 
on tlie land, it was very fertile. All the main valleys in the 
Cordillera are characterised by having, on both sides, a fringe or 
terrace of shingle and sand, rudely stratified, and generally of 
considerable thickness. These fringes evidently once extended 
across the valleys, and were united ; and the bottoms of the 
valleys in northern Chile, where there are no streams, are thus 
smoothly filled up. On these fringes the roads are generally 
carried, for their surfaces are even, and they rise with a very gentle 
slope up the valleys : hence, also, they are easily cultivated by 
irrigation. They may be traced up to a height of between 
7000 and 9000 feet, where they become hidden by the irregular 

?<16 PORTILLO PASS. [chap. xv. 

piles of debris. At the lower end or mouths of the valleys, 
they are continuously united to those land-locked plains (also 
formed of shingle) at the foot of the main Cordillera, which 
I have described in a former chapter as characteristic of the 
scenery of Chile, and which were undoubtedly deposited when 
the sea penetrated Chile, as it now does the more southern 
coasts. No one fact in the geology of South America, interested 
me more than these terraces of rudely-stratified shingle. They 
precisely resemble in composition, the matter which the torrents in 
each valley would deposit, if they were checked in their course 
by any cause, such as entering a lake or arm of the sea ; but the 
torrents, instead of depositing matter, are now steadily at work 
wearing away both the solid rock and these alluvial deposits, 
along the whole line of every main valley and side valley. It is 
impossible here to give the reasons, but I am convinced that the 
shingle terraces were accumulated, during the gradual elevation 
of the Cordillera, by the torrents delivering, at successive levels, 
their detritus on the beach-heads of long narrow arms of the 
sea, first high up the valleys, then lower and lower down as the 
land slowly rose. If this be so, and I cannot doubt it, the grand 
and broken chain of the Cordillera, instead of having been sud- 
denly thrown up, as was till lately the universal, and still is the 
common opinion of geologists, has been slowly upheaved in 
mass, in the same gradual manner as the coasts of the Atlantic 
and Pacific have risen within the recent period. A multitude of 
facts in the structure of the Cordillera, on this view receive a 
simple explanation. 

The rivers which flow in these valleys ought rather to be called 
mountain-torrents. Their inclination is very great, and their 
water the colour of mud. The roar which the Maypu 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 
from 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, made the one dull 
uniform sound, were all hurrying in one direction. It was like 
thinking on time, where the minute that now glides past is irre- 


coverable. So was it with these stones ; the ocean is tlieir eter- 
nity, and each note of that wild music told of one more step to- 
wards tlieir 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 conveys an idea, not more definite than 
the savage implies when he points to tlie 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 and produced 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 face of the earth, and that 
(hiring this whole period, 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 were from 
3000 to 6G00 or 8000 feet high, with rounded outlines and steep 
Ijare flanks. The general colour of the rock was dullish purple, 
and the stratification very distinct. If the scenery was not beautiful^ 
it was remarkable and grand. "We met during the day several 
lierds 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 geologising. 
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 marvels how mines have been discovered in such 
extraordinaiy situations, 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 wear of the hills, they project above the surface 
of the ground. Secondly, almost every labourer, especially in the 
northern parts of Chile, understands something about the appear- 
ance of ores. In the great mining provinces of Coquimbo and 
Copiapo, firewood is very scarce, and men search for it over every 
liill and dale ; and by this means nearly all the richest mines 
liave there been discovered. Chanuncillo, from which silver to 
tlie value of many hundred thousand pounds has been raised in 

318 PORTILLO PASS. [chap. xv. 

the course of a few years, was discovered by a man who threw a 
stone at his loaded donkey, and thinking that it was very heavv, 
he picked it up, and found it full of pure silver : the vein occurred 
at no great distance, standing up like a wedge of metal. The 
miners, also, taking a crowbar with them, often wander on Sun- 
days over the mountains. In this 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 disco- 

20th. — As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, Avith the 
exception of a few pretty alpine flowers, became exceedingly 
scanty ; and of quadrupeds, birds, 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 val- 
leys being filled up with an immense thickness of stratified allu- 
\ ium. The features in the scenery of the Andes which struck 
me most, as contrasted with the other mountain chains with which 
I am acquainted, were, — the flat fringes sometimes expanding 
into narrow plains on each side of the valleys, — the bright co- 
lours, chiefly red and purple, of the utterly bare and precipitous 
liills of porphyry, — the grand and continuous wall-like dikes, — 
tlie plainly-divided strata which, where nearly vertical, formed 
the picturesque and wild central pinnacles, but where less in- 
clined, composed the great massive mountains on the outskirts 
of the range, — and lastly, the smooth conical piles of fine and 
brightly-coloured detritus, which sloped up at a high angle from 
the base of the mountains, sometimes to a heiglit of more than 
2000 feet. 

I frequently observed, both in Tierra del P'uego 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 extraordi- 
nary manner into small angular fragments. Scoresby* has ob- 
served the same fact in Spitzbergen. The case appears to me 
rather obscure : for that part of the mountain which is protected 
by a mantle of snow, must be less subject to repeated and great 
changes o' temperature than any other part. I have sometimes 
thought, that the earth and fragments of stone on the surface, 
were perhaps less effectually removed by slowly percolating snow- 
* Scoresby's Arctic Regions, vol. i. p. 122. 


water* than by rain, and tlierefore that the appearance of a 
quicker disintegration of the solid rock under the snow, was decep- 
tive. Whatever the cause may be, the quantity of crumbling 
stone on the Cordillera is very great. Occasionally in the spring, 
great masses of this detritus slide down the mountains, and cover 
tlie snow-drifts in the valleys, thus forming natural ice-houses. 
We rode over one, the height of which was far below the limit 
of perpetual snow. 

As the evening drew to a close, we reached a singular basin- 
like plain, called the Valle del Yeso. It was covered by a little 
dry pasture, and we had the pleasant sight of a herd of cattle 
amidst the surrounding rocky deserts. The valley takes its name 
of Yeso from a great bed, I should think at least 2000 feet thick, 
of white, and in some parts quite pure, gypsum. We slept w ith 
a party of men, who were employed in loading mules v ith this 
substance, which is used in the manufacture of wine. We set 
out early in the morning (21st), and continued to follow the course 
of the river, which hud become very 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 
witli a steady but very gradual ascent, now changed into a steep 
zigzag track up the great range, dividing the republics of Chile 
and Mendoza. 

I will here give a very brief sketch of the geology of the 
several parallel lines forming the Cordillera. Of these lines, 
there are two considerably higher than the others ; namely, 
on the Chilian side, the Peuquenes ridge, w^hich, where the road 
crosses it, is 13,210 feet above the sea; and the Portillo ridge, 
on the Mendoza side, which is 14,305 feet. The lower beds of 
the Peuquenes ridge, and of the several great lines to the west- 
ward of it, are composed of a vast pile, many tliousand feet in 
thickness, of porphyries which have flowed as submarine lavas, 
alternating with angular and rounded fragments of the same 
rocks, thrown out of the submarine craters. These alternating 

* I have heard it remarked in Shropshire, that the water, -when the 
Severn is flooded from long-coutinued rain, is much more turbid than when 
it proceeds from the snow melting on the Welsh mountains. D'Orbigny 
(tom. i. p. 184), in explaining the cause of the various colours of the rivers 
in South America, remarks that those with blue or clear wat*?r have their 
buurce in the Cordillera, where the snow melts. 


nnsses are covered in the central parts, by a great thickna-^ 
of red sandstone, conglomerate, and calcareous clay-slate, asse- 
ciated with, and passing into, prodigious beds of gypsum. In 
tliese upper beds shells are tolerably frequent ; and they belong 
to about the period of the lower chalk of Europe. It is an 
old story, but not the less wonderful, to hear of shells which 
were once crawling on the bottom of the sea, now standing 
nearly 14,000 feet above its level. The lower beds in this 
great pile of strata, have been dislocated, baked, crystallized and 
almost blended together, through the agency of mountain masses 
of a peculiar white soda-granitic rock 

The other main line, namely, that of the Portillo, is of a totally 
different formation : it consists chiefly of grand bare pinnacles of 
a red potash-granite, which low down on the western flank are 
covered by a sandstone, converted by the former heat into a 
quartz-rock. On the quartz, there rest beds of a conglomerate 
several thousand feet in thickness, which have been upheaved by 
the red granite, and dip at an angle of 45° towards the Peu- 
quenes line. I was astonished to find that this conglomerate was 
partly composed of pebbles, derived from the rocks, with their 
fossil shells, of the Peuquenes range ; and partly of red potash- 
granite, like that of the Portillo. Hence we must conclude, that 
both the Peuquenes and Portillo ranges were partially upheaved 
and exposed to wear and tear, when the conglomerate was form- 
ing ; but as the beds of the conglomerate have been thrown ofl 
at an angle of 45° by the red Portillo granite (with the under- 
Ij'ing sandstone baked by it), we may feel sure, that the greater 
part of the injection and upheaval of the already partially 
formed Portillo line, took place after the accumulation of the 
conglomerate, and long after tlie elevation of the Peuquenes 
ridge. So that the Portillo, the loftiest line in this part of the 
Cordillera, is not so old as the less lofty line of the Peuquenes. 
Evidence derived from an inclined stream of lava at the eastern 
base of the Portillo, might be adduced to show, that it owes part 
of its great height to elevations of a still later date. Looking 
to its earliest origin, the red granite seems to have been injected 
on an ancient pre-existing line of white granite and mica-slate. 
In most parts, perhaps in all parts, of the Cordillera, it may be 
concluded that each line has been formed by repeated upheavals 


and injections ; and that tlie several parallel lines are of different 
ages. Only thus can we gain time, at all sufiicient to explain 
the truly astonishing amount of denudation, which these great, 
though comparatively with most other ranges recent, mountains 
have suffered. 

Finally, the shells in the Peuquenes or oldest ridge, prove, as 
before remarked, that it has been upraised 14,000 feet since a 
Secondary period, which in Europe we are accustomed to con- 
sider as far from ancient; but since these -shells lived in a 
moderately deep sea, it can be shown that the area now occupied 
by the Cordillera, must have subsided several thousand feet — in 
northern Chile as much as 6000 feet — so as to have allowed that 
amount of submarine strata to have been heaped on the bed on 
which the sliells lived. The proof is the same with that by 
which it was shown, that at a much later period since the tertiary 
shells of Patagonian lived, there must have been there a subsi- 
dence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing elevation. 
Daily it is forced home on the mind of the geologist, that no- 
thing, not even the wind that blows, is so unstable as the level of 
the crust of this earth. 

I will make only one other geological remark : although the 
Portillo chain is here higher than the Peuquenes, the waters, 
draining the intermediate valleys, have burst through it. The 
same fact, on a grander scale, has been remarked in the eastern 
and loftiest line of the Bolivian Cordillera, through which 
the rivers pass : analogous facts have also been observed in 
other quarters of the world. On the supposition of the sub- 
sequent and gradual elevation of the Portillo line, this can be 
understood ; for a chain of islets would at first appear, and, as 
these were lifted up, the tides would be always wearing deeper 
and broader channels between them. At the present day, even 
in the most retired Sounds on the coast of Tierra del Fuego, the 
currents in the transverse breaks which connect the longitudinal 
channels, are very strong, so that in one transverse channel even 
a small vessel under sail was whirled round and round. 

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes 
ridge, and then for the first time experienced some little difficulty 
in our respiration. The mules would halt every fifty yards, and 

322 PORTILLO PASS. [chap. xv. 

after resting for a few seconds the poor willing animals started of 
their own accord again. The short breathing from the rarefied 
atmosphere is called by the Cliilenos "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. The only sensation 
I experienced was a slight tightness across the head and chest, 
like that felt on leaving a warm room and running quickly in 
frosty weather. There was some imagination 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 
extremely great, and the respiration became deep and laborious : 
I am told that in Potosi (about 13,000 feet above the sea) 
strangers do not become thoroughly accustomed to the atmo- 
sphere for an entire year. The inhabitants all recommend onions 
for the puna ; as this vegetable has sometimes been given in Eu- 
rope 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 vith seventy 
loaded mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the 
muleteers, and to watch the long descending string of the 
animals ; 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, was impetuous 
and extremely cold. On each side of the ridge we had to pass 
over broad bands of perpetual snow, which were now soon to 
be covered by a fresh layer. When we reached the crest and 
looked backwards, a glorious view was presented. The atmo- 
sphere 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 no one could have imagined. Neither plant nor bird, 
excepting a few condors wheeling around the higher pinnacles, 
distracted my attention from the inanimate mass. I felt glad 
that I was alone : it was like watching a thunderstomi, or hear- 
insT in full orchestra a chorus of the Messiah. 

On several patches of the snow I found the Protococcus nivalis, 
or red snow, so well known from the accounts of Arctic navi- 

lS35.i RED SNOW. 323 

gators. My attention was called to it, by observing the footsteps 
of the mules stained a pale red, as if their hoofs had been slightly 
bloody. I at first thought that it was owing to dust blown from the 
surrounding mountains of reil porphyry ; for from the magnifying 
power of the crystals of snow, the groups of these microscopical 
plants appeared like coarse particles. The snow was coloured 
only where it had thawed very rapidly, or had been accidentally 
crushed. A little rubbed on paper gave it a ftiint rose tinge 
mingled with a little brick-red. I afterwards scraped some off the 
paper, and found that it consisted of groups of little spheres in 
colourless cases, each the thousandth part of an inch in diameter. 

The wind on the crest of the Peuquenes, as just remarked, is 
generally impetuous and very cold : it is said* to blow steadily 
from the westward or Pacific side. As the observations have 
been chiefly made in summer, this wind must be an upper and 
return current. The Peak of Teneriffe, with a less elevation, 
and situated in lat. 28°, in like manner foils within an upper 
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 earth's 
rotation. At Mendoza, on the eastern foot of the Andes, the 
climate is said to be subject to long calms, and to frequent 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 irregu- 
lar in its movements. 

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into a mountain- 
ous countr)', intermediate between the two main ranges, and then 
took up our quarters for the night. We were now in the re- 
public of Mendoza. The elevation was probably not under 
1 1 ,000 feet, and the vegetation in consequence exceedingly 

* Dr. Gillies in Joum. of Nat. and Geograph. Science, Aug. 1 830. This 
autlujr gives the heights of the Passes. 

y 2 


scanty. The root of a small scrubby plant served as fuel, but it 
made a miserable tire, and the wind was piercingly cold. Beine 
quite tirevi 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 cloudeii : 1 awakened the arriervi to know if 
there Nvas anv dansrer of bad weather ; but he said that without 
thunder and lightning there was no risk of a heavy snow-storm. 
The peril is imminent, and the ditiiculty of subsequent escape 
trreat, to any one overtaken by bad weather between the two 
ranges. A certain cave otiers the only place of refuge : 2d.T. 
Caldcleugh. who crossed on this same day of the month, was de- 
tained there for some time by a heavy fall of snow. 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 Conlillera 
rain never falls, for during the summer the sky is cloudless, ar<l 
in >vinter snow-storms alone occur. 

At the place where we slept water necessarily boiled, from tlie 
diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a lower temperature 
than it does in a less lofty country ; the case being the converse 
of that of a Papin's digester. Hence the potatoes, after remain- 
ing 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 boileil 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 curseil 
pot (^which was a new one) did not choose to boil potatoes." 

March '22nd. — 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 
immber of the guanacos had decamped, knowing well that if 
overtaken here 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, in the midst of which 
there was a blue patch, no doubt a glacier ; — a circumstance of 
rare occurrence in these mountains. !Xow commenced a heavy 
and long climb, similar to that up the Peuquenes. Bold conical 
hills of red granite rose on each hand ; in the valleys there were 


several broad fields of perpetual snow. These frozen masses, 
•luring the proee^ of thawing, had in s<^>me parts been converte«i 
into pinnacles or columns.* which, as they were high and close 
together, made it difficult for the cargo mules to pas. On 
one of these columns of ice, a frozen horse was sticking as on 
a pedestal, but with its hind legs straight op in the air. The 
animal, I suppose, must have fallen with its head downward 
into a hole, when the snow was continuous, and afterwards the 
surroundine parts must have been removed bjr the thaw. 

When nearly on the crest of the Portillo, we were enveloped 
in a falling cloud of minute frozen spicula. This was very un- 
fortunate, as it continued the whole day. and quite intercepted 
our view. The pass take 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 
xminterruptedly extend to the Atlantic Ocean, can be seen. "We 
descended to the upper limit of vegetation, and found good 
quarters for the night under the shelter of some large fiagment? 
of rock. "We met here some passengers, who made anxiou:> in- 
quiries about the state of the road. Shortly after it was dark 
the clouds suddenly cleared away, and the effect was quite ma- 
gical. The great mountains, bright with the full moon, seemed 
impending over us on all sides, as over a deep crevice: one 
morning, verj- 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 eleva- 
tion, owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was 
very remarkable. Travellers having observed the difficulty oi 
judging heights and di>tenc€s amidst lofty mountains, have gene- 
rally attributed it to the absence of objects of comparison. It 
appears to me, that it is fully as much owing to the transparency 
of the air confounding objects at different distances, and likewise 

* This stractnre in frozen snow "was long since olisenred bv Seoresby in 
the icebergs near Spitzbergen, and lately, with more care, by Colonel 
Jackson Jonm. of Geograph. Soc_ vol. v.' p. 12 j on the Neva. Mr. Lyell 
('Principles, roL iv. p. 3fli.>, has compared the fissures, by which the co- 
lumnar structure seems to be determined, to the joists that traverse nearly 
all rocks, but which are best seen in the noD-sirati£td masses, I may 
observe, that In the case of *he frozen snow, the columnar smicture most be 
owing lo a " metamorphic " actioo, and not to a process daring depositiam. 

32f, PORTILLO PASS. [chap, xv 

partly 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 high 
state of atmospheric dryness. This drj'ness was shown by the 
manner in which woodwork shrank (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 
had perished on the road. To the same cause we must attribute 
the singular facility with which electricity is excited. My flan- 
nel-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 23rd. — The descent on the eastern side of the Cordil- 
lera, is much shorter or steeper than on tlie 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 stretched out beneath our feet, shutting 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 at 
Los Arenales, we stopped for the night. This was near the up- 
permost limit of bushes, and the elevation, I suppose, was between 
seven and eight thousand feet. 

I was much struck with the marked difference between the 
ves-etation of these eastern valleys and those on the Chilian side: 
yet the climate, as well as the kind of soil, is nearly the same, 
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. I may instance the mice, of which I obtained 
thirteen species on the shores of the Atlantic, and five on the 
Pacific, and not one of them is identical. We must except all 
those species, which habitually or occasionally frequent elevated 
mountains ; and certain birds, which 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 ex- 
isted as a great barrier, since the present races of animals have 
appeared ; anil tiierefore, unless Ave suppose the same species to 
have been created in two ditterent places, we ought not to expect 
any closer similarity between the organic beings on the opposite 
sides of the Andes, than on the opposite shores of the ocean. In 
both cases, we must leave out of the question those kinds which 
have been able to cross the barrier, whether of solid rock or salt- 

A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely tlie 
same as, or most closely allied to 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 to me a subject of regret, that w^e were unavoidably 
compelled to give up the ascent of the S. 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, tliat it would only have been following the plains 
of Patagonia up a mountainous ascent. 

Marcli 2-ith. — Early in the morning I climbed up a moun- 
tain 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 it much resembled a distant view of the ocean, but 
in the northern parts many irregularities were soon distinguish- 
able. The most striking feature consisted in the rivers, which, 
facing the rising sun, glittered like silver threads, till lost in the 
immensity of the distance. At midday we descended the valley, 

* This is merely an illustration of the admirable laws, first laid down by 
Mr. Lyell, on the geographical distribution of animals, as influenced by geo- 
logical changes. The whole reasoning, of course, is founded on the assump- 
tion of the immutability of species ; otherwise the ditference in the species 
in the two regions, might be considered as superinduced during a length of 

32S POilTILLO PASS. [chap. xv. 

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 pas- 
senger 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 hills, 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 
appearing narrow, must be nearly ten miles wide before it blends 
into the apparently dead level Pampas. We passed the only house 
in this neighbourhood, 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 tliat of the ocean. During the night a lieavy dew fell, 
a circumstance which we did not experience within the Cordil- 
lera. 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 " tra- 
versia," and in our second day's journey we found only one 
little pool. Little water flows from tlie mountains, and it 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 of the Cordillera, Me did not cross a single stream. 
In many parts the ground Avas incrusted with a saline efflor- 
escence ; hence we had the same salt-loving plants, which are 
common near Bahia Blanca. The landscape has a unifoiui 

.835.] SWAKM OF LOCUSTS. 329 

character from the Strait of JMagellan, along the whole eastern 
coast of Patagonia, to the Rio Colorado ; and it appears that the 
same kind of country extends inland from this river, in a sweep- 
ing line as flir as San Luis, and perhaps even further north. To 
tlie eastward of tliis curved line, lies tlie basin of the compara- 
tively damp and green plains of Buenos Ayres. Tlie sterile 
plains of Mendoza and Patagonia consist of a bed of shingle, 
worn smooth and accumulated by the waves of the sea ; while 
the Pampas, covered by tliistles, clover, and grass, have been 
formed by the ancient estuary mud of the Plata. 

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to see 
in the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing round 
tlie village and river of Luxan. Shortly before we arrived at 
this place, we observed to the south a ragged cloud of a dark 
reddish-brown colour. At first we thought that it was smoke 
from some great fire on the plains ; but we soon found that it 
was a swarm of locusts. They were flying northward ; and witli 
the aid of a light breeze, they overtook us at a rate of ten or 
fifteen miles an hour. Tlie main body filled the air from a 
height of twenty feet, to that, as it appeared, of two or three 
thousand above the ground ; " and the sound of their wings was 
as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle :" or 
rather, I should say, like a strong breeze passing througli 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 togethei', 
but that they could escape a stick waved backwards and for- 
wards. When they alighted, they were more numerous than the 
leaves in the field, and the surface became reddish instead of 
l)eing green : the swarm having once alighted, the individuals 
t!ew from side to side in all directions. Locusts are not an un- 
common pest in this country : already during this season, several 
smaller swarms had come up from the south, where, as apparently 
in all other parts of the world, they are bred in the deserts. 
The poor cottagers in vain attempted bj- lighting fires, by shouts, 
and by waving branches to avert the attack. This species 
of locust closely resembles, and perhaps is identical with the 
famous Gryllus migratorius of the East. 

"VVe crossed the Luxan, which is a river of considerable size, 

330 .MEXDOZA. [chap, xv, 

though its course towards the sea-coast is very imperfectly 
known : it is even doubtful whether, in passing over the plains, 
it is not evaporated and lost. We slept in the village of Lusan, 
which is a small place surrounded by gardens, and forms the 
most southern cultivated district in 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 they become round and bloated with blood, and 
in this state are easily crushed. One which I caught at Iquique, 
(for they are found in Chile and Peru.) was very empty. When 
placed on a table, and though surrounded by people, if a finger 
was presented, the bold insect would immediately protrude 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 in less than ten minutes it changed 
from being as flat as a wafer to a globular form. This one feast, 
for wliich the benchuca was indebted to one of the officers, kept 
it fat during four whole months ; but, after the first fortnight, it 
was quite ready to have another suck. 

March '2~th. — We rode on to Mendoza. The country was 
beautifully cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbour- 
hood 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 water-melons nearly twice 
as large as a man's head, most deliciously cool and well-flavoured, 
for a halfjjenny apiece; and for the value of threepence, half a 
wheelbarrowful of peaches. The cultivated and enclosed jiart 
of this province is verj' small ; there is little more than that 
which we passed through between Luxan and the Capital. The 
land, as in Chile, owes its fertility entirely to artificial irriga- 
tion ; and it is really wonderful to observe how extraordinarily 
productive a barren traversia is thus rendered. 

We stayed 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 

1835.J ISIENDOZA. 331 

of the Pampas; and their dress, riding-gear, and liabits 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 with that of Santiago ; but to those who, coming 
from Buenos Ayres, have just crossed the unvaried Pampas, the 
gardens and orchards must appear delightful. Sir F. Head, 
speaking of 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 Sir F. Head : the happy doom of the Men- 
dozinos is to eat, sleep, and be idle. 

March 29th. — Wo set out on our return to Chile, by the 
Uspallata pass situatetl nortli 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 inhabi- 
tants " little lions." There were, also, a few low bushes. Al- 
though the plain is nearly three thousand feet above tlie sea, the 
sun was very powerful ; and the heat, as well as the clouds of 
impalpable dust, rendered the travelling extremely irksome. 
Our course during the day lay nearly parallel to the Cordillera, 
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, where a little higher up the 
house of Villa Vicencio is situated. As we had ridden all day 
without a drop of water, both our mules and selves 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 \A'as quite 
dry ; by degrees it became a little damper ; then puddles of 
water appeared ; these soon became connected ; and at Villa 
Vicencio there was a nice little rivulet. 

30;^. — The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name of 
Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who has 
crossed the Andes. I stayed 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 main Cordillera by a long narrow plain or 
basin, like those so often mentioned in Chile, but higher, being 

?32 USPALLATA PASS. [chap, xv, 

six thousand feet above the sea. This range has nearly the 
same geographical position with respect to the Cordillera, which 
the gigantic Portillo line has, but it is of a totally different 
origin : it consists of various kinds of submarine lava, alternat- 
ing with volcanic sandstones and other remarkable sedimentary 
deposits; the whole having a very close resemblance to some 
of the tertiary beds on the shores of tlie Pacific. From this 
resemblance I expected to find silicified wood, which is generally 
characteristic of those formations. I was gratified in a very ex- 
traordinary manner. In the central part of the range, at an 
elevation of about seven thousand feet, I observed on a bare slope 
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 group. Mr. Robert Brown has 
been kind enough to examine the wood : he says it belongs to the 
fir tribe, partaking of the character of the Araucarian family, 
but with some curious points of aflftnity with the yew. The 
volcanic sandstone in which the trees 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 marvel- 
lous 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. I saw the spot where a cluster of fine 
trees once waved their branches on the shores of the Atlantic, 
when that ocean (now driven back 700 miles) came to the foot 
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 sub- 
sequently this dry land, with its upright trees, had been let down 
into the depths of the ocean. In these depths, the forraei'ly dry 
land was covered by sedimentary beds, and these again by 
enormous streams of submarine lava — one such mass attaining 
the thickness of a thousand feet ; and these deluges of molten 
stone and aqueous deposits five times alternately had been spread 

1835.1 SILICTFIED TREES. 3.^8 

out. The ocean which received such thick masses, must have 
been profoundly deep ; but again the subterranean forces exerted 
themselves, and I now beheld the bed of that ocean, forming a 
chain of mountains more than seven thousand feet in heiglit. 
Nor had those antagonist forces been dormant, which are always 
at work wearing down the surface of the land : 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 comparetl 
with the history of the Cordillera ; and the Cordillera itself is 
absolutely modern as compared with many of the fossiliferous 
strata of Europe and America. 

April \sf. — 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 extraordi- 
nary 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 
of colour, 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 Lnxan. Here it 
*was a furious torrent, quite impassable, and appeared larger 
than in the low country, as was \he case with the rivulet of Villa 
Vicencio. 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 formed by the melting of the snow, 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 clearer and much less impetuous. This we found to 
be the case with the Rio Vacas, and in the morning we crossed 
it with little difficulty. 

334 USPALLATA PASS. [chap. xv. 

The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared witli 
that of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond the bare 
walls of the one grand, flat-bottomed valley, which the road fol- 
lows up to the highest crest. The valley and the huge rocky 
mountains are 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 can be seen. In the course 
of this day we crossed some of the worst passes in the Cordillera, 
but their danger has been much exaggerated. I was told that if 
I attempted to pass on foot, my head would turn giddy, and that 
there was no room to dismount ; 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 after- 
wards, 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 this there is little 
chance. 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 saw, I suspect the real 
danger is nothing. 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 pi'ecipices. In crossing the rivers I 
can well believe that the difficulty may be very great : at this 
season there was little trouble, but in the summer they must be 
very hazardous. I can quite imagine, as Sir F. Head describes, 
the different expressions of those who have passed the gulf, and 
those who are passing. I never heard of any man being drownedf^ 
but with loaded mules it frequently happens. The arriero tells 
you to show your mule the best line, and then allow her to cross 
as she likes : the cargo-mule takes a bad line, and is often lost. 

April 4th. — From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente del 
Incas, half a day's journey. As there was pasture for the mules, 
and geology for me, we bivouacked here 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 Incas Bridge consists of a crust of stratified shingle. 

1835.] INCAS BRIDGE. 335 

cemented together by the deposits of the neiglibouring hot 
springs. It appears, as if the stream had scooped out a cliannel 
on one side, leaving an overlianging ledge, whicli was met by- 
earth and stones foiling down from the opposite clilf. Certainly 
an oblique junction, as would happen in such a case, was very 
distinct on one side. The IJridge of the Incas is by no means 
wortiiy of the great monarclis whose name it bears. 

5^//. — "We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, from 
the Incas Bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which are situated near 
tlie lowest casnclia on the Chilian side. These casuclias are round 
little towers, m ith steps outside to reach the floo^, which is raised 
some feet above the ground on account of the snow-drifts. They 
are eight in number, and under the Spanish government were 
kept during the winter well stored with food and charcoal, and 
each courier had a master-key. Now they only answer the pur- 
pose of caves, or rather dungeons. Seated on some little emi- 
nence, 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 ; its height, according 
to Mr. Pentland, is 12,454 feet. The road did not pass over any 
perpetual snow, although there were patches of it on both hands. 
The w^ind on the summit was exceedingly cold, but it was impos- 
sible not to stop for a few minutes to admire, again and again, 
the colour of the heavens, and the brilliant transparency of the 
atmosphere. The scenery was grand : to the westward there was 
a fine chaos of mountains, divided by profound ravines. Some 
snow generally falls before tins period of the season, and it has 
even happened that the Cordillera have been finally closed by this 
time. But we were most fortunate. The sky, by night and by 
day, was cloudless, excepting 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 far-distant mountains 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 sides of the 

336 USPALLATA PASS. [chap. xv. 

mountains, dotted over with the pale evergreen Quillay tree, and 
with the great chandelier-like cactus, are certainly more to be 
admired than 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 
and of a good supper, after escaping from the cold regions above : 
and I am sure I most heartily participated in these feelings. 

Sth. — We left the valley of the 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 delightful: the 
autumn being 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 I missed that pensive stillness which makes the autumn in 
England indeed the evening of the year. On the 10th we reached 
Santiago, Avhere I received 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 



Coast-road to Coquimbo — Great loads carried by the miners — Coquimbo — 
Earthquake — Step-formed terraces — Absence of recent deposits — Con- 
temporaneousness of the Tertiary formations — Excursion up the valley — 
Road to Guasco — Deserts — Valley of Copiapo — Rain and earthquakes — 
Hydrophobia — The Despoblado — Indian Ruins — Probable change of 
climate — River-bed arched by an earthquake — Cold gales of wind — Noises 
from a hill — Iquique — Salt alluvium — Nitrate of soda — Lima — Unhealthy 
countiy — Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an earthquake — Recent sub- 
sidence — Elevated shells on San Lorenzo, their decomposition — Plain with 
«mbedded shells and fragments of pottery — Antiquity of the Indian Race. 


April 21th. — I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and thence 
through Guasco to Copiapo, where Captain Fitz Roy 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 made it a very long journey. I bought four 
horses and two mules, the latter carrying the luggage on alter- 
nate days. The six animals together only cost the value of 
twenty-five pounds sterling, and at Copiapo 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 Viiio del Mar, I took a farewell view of 
Valparaiso, and admired its picturesque appearance. For geo- 
logical purposes I made a detour from the high road to the foot 
of the Bell of Quillota. We passed through an alluvial district 
rich in gold, to the neighbourhood of Limache, where we slept. 
Washing for gold supports the inhabitants of numerous hovels, 
scattered along the sides of each little rivulet ; but, like all those 
whose guins are uncertain, they are unthrifty in their habits, and 
consequently poor. 

28^/t. — In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the foot of 
the Bell mountain. Tlie inhabitants were freeholders, M-hich is 
not very usual in Chile. They supported themselves on the pro- 


338 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap. xn. 

duce of a garden and a little field, but were very poor. Capital 
is here so deficient, that the people are obliged to sell their green 
corn while 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 contrac- 
tors 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 distant Andes were 
now covered by a thick mass of snow ; and were a glorious 

May 2nd. — 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 appear- 
ance. The surface of the country, on a small scale, was singu- 
larly 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 con- 
verted into dry land, present similar forms ; and such a con- 
version without doubt has taken place in the part over which we 

Zrd. — 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 and other plants 
seem to accommodate themselves, as if by an acquired habit, to 
the quantity of rain which falls on different parts of this coast. 
One shower far northward at Copiapo produces as great an effect 
on the vegetation, as two at Guasco, and as three or four in this 
district. At Valparaiso a winter so dry as greatly to injure the 
pasture, would at Guasco produce the most unusual abundance. 
Proceeding northward, the quantity of rain does not appear to 
decrease in strict proportion to the latitude. At Conchalee, 

1835.] CHILIAN MINERS. 339 

wliich is only 67 miles north of Valparaiso, rain is not expected 
till the end of May ; whereas, at Valparaiso some generally falls 
early in April : tiie annual quantity is likewise small in pro- 
portion to the lateness of the season at which it commences. 

Ath. — Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any kind, we 
turned inland towards the mining district and valley of Illapel. 
This valley, like every other in Chile, is level, broad, and very fer 
tile : it is bordered on each side, either by clifts 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 ; Avhile 
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 a peculiar race 
of men in their habits. 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 squan- 
der 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 habits of 
carefulness ; moreover, temptation and the means of yielding to it 
are placed in tlieir power at the same time. On the other hand, 
in Cornwall, and some other parts of England, where the system 
of selling part of the vein is followed, the miners, from being 
obliged to act and think for themselves, are a singularly intelli- 
gent and well-conducted set of men. 

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather pic- 
turesque. He wears a very long shirt of some dark-coloured 
baize, with a leathern apron ; the whole being fastened round his 
waist by a bright-coloured sash. His trowsers are ^■ery 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, 

z 2 

340 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap. xvi. 

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 

We continued travelling northward, in a zigzag line ; some- 
limes 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 tlie mine would sell for about 
thirty or forty thousand dollars (that is, 6000 or 8000 pounds 
sterling) ; yet it had been bought by one of the English Associ- 
ations for an ounce of gold (3/. 8*.). 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 cinders, abounding with minute globules of metallic copper, 
were purchased ; yet with these advantages, the mining associ- 
ations, as is well known, contrived to lose immense sums of 
money. The folly of the greater number of the commissioners 
and shareholders amounted to infatuation ; — a thousand pounds 
per annum given in some cases to entertain the Chilian authori- 
ties ; libraries of well-bound geological books : miners brought 
out for particular metals, as tin, which are not found in Chile ; 
contracts to supply the miners with milk, in parts where there 
are no cows ; machinery, where it 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 the deepest 
mines. I confess I thought the account exaggerated ; so that I 
was glad to take an 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 

1835.] CHILIAN MINERS. 341 

be 197 pounds. The apire had carried tliis up eighty perpen- 
dicular yards, — part of the way by a steep passage, but the 
greater part up notched poles, placed in a zigzag line up tiie 
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 brouglit 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 piclcing 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 was 
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, 
their muscles quivering, the perspiration streaming from their 
faces over their breasts, their nostrils distended, the corners of 
their mouth forcibly drawn back, and tlie expulsion of their 
breath most laborious. Each time they draw their breath, 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 ore, 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 remem- 
bers when he was 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 

342 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap. xvi. 

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 re- 
turned 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. 

14i/i. — We reached Coquimbo, where we stayed 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 I7th it rained lightly, the first time this year, for 
about five hours. The farmers, who plant corn near the sea- 
coast where the atmosphere is more humid, taking advantage of 
this shower, would break up the ground ; after a second they 
would put the seed in ; and if a third shower should fall, they 
would reap a good harvest in the spring. 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 Fitz Roy 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 the 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 gentleman 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 person had lately lost all his property at Talca- 
huano, and he himself had 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, as, owing to his having done 
so, he had nearly lost his life at Copiapo. Accordingly he 
opened the door ; and no sooner had he done this, than he cried 
out, " Here it comes again ! " and tlie famous shock commenced. 
The whole party escaped. The danger in an earthquake is not 
from the time lost in opening a door, but from tlie 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 eartliquakes. 
I think, however, this excess of panic may be partly attributed 
to a want of habit in governing their fear, as it is not a feeling 
they are ashamed of. Indeed, the natives do not like to see a 
person indifferent. I heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in 
tlie open air during a smart shock, knowing that 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 some days in examining the step-formed terraces of 
shingle, first noticed by Captain B. Hall, and believed by Mr. 
Lyell to have been formed by the sea, during the gradual rising 
of the land. This certainly is the true explanation, for I found 
numerous shells of existing species on these terraces. Five nar- 
row, gently sloping, fringe-like ten-aces rise one behind the other, 
and where best developed are formed of shingle : they front 
the bay, and sweep up both sides of the valley. At Guasco, 
north of Coquimbo, the phenomenon is displayed on a much 
grander scale, so as to strike with surprise even some of the in- 
habitants. The terraces are there much broader, and may be 
called plains ; in some parts there are six of them, but generally 
only five ; they run up the valley for thirty -seven miles from 
the coast. These step-formed terraces or fringes closely resemble 
those in the valley of S. Cruz, and except in being on a smaller 
scale, those great ones along the whole coast-line of Patagonia. 
They have undoubtedly been formed by the denuding power of 
the sea, during long periods of rest in the gradual elevation of the 

Shells of many existing species not only lie on the surface of 


the terraces at Coquimbo (to a height of 250 feet), but are era- 
bedded in a friable calcareous rock, which in some places is as 
much as between twenty and thirty feet in thickness, but is of 
little extent. These modern beds rest on an ancient tertiary 
formation containing shells, apparently all extinct. Although I 
examined so many hundred miles of coast on the Pacific, as well 
as Atlantic side of the continent, I found no regular strata con- 
taining sea-shells of recent species, excepting at this place, and 
at a few points northward on the road to Guasco. This fact 
appears to me highly remarkable ; for the explanation generally 
given by geologists, of the absence in any district of stratified 
fossiliferous deposits of a given period, namely, that the surface 
then existed as dry land, is not here applicable ; for we know 
from the shells strewed on the surface and embedded in loose 
sand or mould, that the land for thousands of miles along both 
coasts has lately been submerged. The explanation, no doubt, 
must be sought in the fact, that the whole southern part of the 
continent has been for a long time slowly rising ; and therefore 
that all matter deposited along shore in shallow water, must have 
been soon brought up and slowly exposed to the wearing action 
of the sea-beach ; and it is only in comparatively shallow water 
that the greater number of marine organic beings can flourish, 
and in such water it is obviously impossible that strata of any 
great thickness can accumulate. To show the vast power of the 
wearing action of sea-beaches, we need only appeal to the great 
cliffs along the present coast of Patagonia, and to the escarp- 
ments or ancient sea-clifl's at different levels, one above another, 
on that same line of coast. 

The old underlying tertiary formation at Coquimbo, appears 
to be of about the same age with several deposits on the coast of 
Chile (of which that of Navedad is the principal one), and with 
the great formation of Patagonia. Both at Navedad and in Pa- 
tagonia there is evidence, that since the shells (a list of which has 
been seen by Professor E. Forbes) there intombed were living, 
there has been a subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as 
an ensuing elevation. It may naturally be asked, how it comes 
that, although no extensive fossiliferous deposits of the recent 
period, nor of any period mtermediate between it and the ancient 
tertiary epoch, have been preserved on either side of the con- 


tinent, yet that at tliis ancient tertiary epoch, sedimentary matter 
containing fossil remains, should have been deposited and pre- 
served at different points in north and south lines, over a space 
of 1100 miles on the shores of the Pacific, and of at least 1350 
miles on the shores of the Atlantic, and in an east and west line 
of 700 miles across the widest part of the continent ? I believe 
tlie explanation is not difficult, and that it is perhaps applicable 
to nearly analogous facts observed in other quarters of the world. 
Considering the enormous power of denudation which the sea 
possesses, as shown by numberless facts, it is not probable that a 
sedimentary deposit, when being upraised, could pass through the 
ordeal of the beach, so as to be preserved in sufficient masses to 
last to a distant period, without it were originally of wide extent 
and of considerable thickness : now it is impossible on a mode- 
rately shallow bottom, which alone is favourable to most living 
creatures, that a thick and widely extended covering of sediment 
could be spread out, without the bottom sank down to receive 
the successive layers. This seems to have actually taken place 
at about the same period in southern Patagonia and Chile, though 
these places are a thousand miles apart. Hence, if prolonged 
movements of approximately contemporaneous subsidence are 
generally widely extensive, as I am strongly inclined to believe 
from my examination of the Coral Eeefs of the great oceans — or 
if, confining our view to South America, the subsiding move- 
ments have been coextensive with those of elevation, by which, 
within the same period of existing shells, the shores of Peru, 
Chile, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, and La Plata have been 
upraised — then we can see that at the same time, at far distant 
points, circumstances would have been favourable to the formation 
of fossiliferous deposits, of wide extent and of considerable thick- 
ness ; and such deposits, consequently, would have a good chance 
of resisting the wear and tear of successive beach-lines, and of 
lasting to a future epoch. 

3Iay 2\st. — I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards to 
the silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of Co- 
quimbo. Passing through a mountainous country, we reached 
by nightfall the mines belonging to Mr. Edwards. I enjoyed 
my night's rest here from a reason which will not be fully 

346 NORTHEEN CHrLE. [chap. xti. 

appreciated in England, namely, the absence of fleas ! The rooms 
in Coquimbo swarm with them ; but they will not live here at the 
height of only three or four thousand feet : it can scarcely be tlie 
trifling diminution of temperature, but some other cause which 
destroys these troublesome insects at this place. 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 that " a per- 
son 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 Copiapo, taking with him the profits of one share 
in a silver-mine, which amounted to about 24,000 pounds ster- 
ling. 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 robberies. I heard of a gentleman 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, and 
the useless stone thrown on one side. A couple of the miners 
who were thus employed, pitched, as if by accident, two frag- 
ments away at the same moment, and then cried out for a joke, 
•' Let us see which rolls furthest." The owner, who was stand- 
ing 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 

May 23rd. — We descended into the fertile valley of Coquimbo, 
and followed it till we reached an Hacienda belonging to a rela- 
tion of Don Jose, where we stayed the next day. I then rode 
one day's journey further, to see what were declared to be some 
petrified shells and beans, which latter turned out to be small 
quartz pebbles. We passed through several small villages ; and 
the valley was beautifully cultivated, and the whole scenery very 
Sfrand. We were here near the main Cordillera, and the sur- 
rounding hills were lofty. In all parts of northern Chile, fruit- 
trees produce much more abundantly at a considerable height 

1835.] DESERT COUNTRY. 347 

near the Andes than in the lower country. The fig-s and grai)t's 
of this district are famous for their excellence, and are cultivated 
to a great extent. This valley is, perhaps, the most productive 
one north of Quillota: I believe it contains, including Co- 
quimbo, 25,000 inliabitants. The next day I returned to the 
Hacienda, and thence, together with Don Jose, to Coquimbo. 

June 2nd. — "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 Mas 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 quite away. Even 
where brightest, it was scarcely sufficient to remind one of the 
fresh turf and budding flowers of the spring of other countries. 
While travelling through these deserts one feels like a prisoner 
shut up in a gloomy court, who longs to see something green 
and to smell a moist atmosphere. 

Ju7ie '3rd. — Yerba Buena to Carizal. During the first part of 
the day we crossed a mountainous rocky desert, and afterwards 
a long deep sandy plain, strewed with broken sea-shells. There 
was very little water, and that little saline : the whole country, 
from the coast to the Cordillera, is an uninhabited desert. J 
saw traces only of one living' animal in abundance, namely, the 
shells of a Bulimus, M'hich were collected together in extraordi- 
nary numbers on tlie 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 with dew, the Guasos believe that they are bred 
from it. I have observed in other places that extremely dry and 
sterile districts, where the soil is calcareous, are extraordinarily 
favourable to 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 

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 

348 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap. xvi. 

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. 
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 from the Chilian method of reduction being so 
unskilful, to ship the ore for Swansea. 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 
and more scanty ; even the great chandelier-like cactus was here 
replaced by a different and mucli smaller species. During the 
winter months, both in northern Cliile and in Peru, a uniform 
bank of clouds hangs, at no great height, over the Pacific. 
From the mountains we had a very striking view of this white 
and brilliant aerial-field, which sent arms up the valleys, leaving 
islands and promontories in the same manner, as the sea does in 
the Chonos archipelago and in Tierra del Fuego. 

We stayed 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 open- 
ing terminates in the far-distant snowy Cordillera ; on each side 
an infinity of crossing lines are blended together in a beautiful 
haze. The foreground is singular from the number of parallel 
and step-formed terraces ; and the included strip of green valley, 
with its willow-bushes, is contrasted on both hands with the naked 
hills. That the surrounding country was most barren will be 
readily believed, when it is known that a shower of rain had not 
fallen during the last thirteen months. The inhabitants heard 
with the greatest envy of the rain at Coquimbo ; from the ap- 
pearance of the sky they had hopes of equally good fortune, 
which, a fortnight afterwards, were realized. I was at Copiapo 
at the time ; and there the people, with equal envy, talked of 

1835.] VALLEY OP GUASCO. 349 

the abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very dry years, 
perhaps witli not more than one shower during the whole time, 
a rainy year generally follows ; and this does more harm than 
even the drought. The rivers swell, and cover with gravel and 
sand the narrow strips of ground, which alone are fit for culti- 
vation. The floods also injure the irrigating ditches. Great 
devastation had thus been caused three years ago. 

June 8fh. — We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name 
from Ballenagh in Ireland, the birtliplace of the family of 
O'Higgins, who, under the Spanish government, were presidents 
and generals in Chile. As the rocky mountains on each hand 
were concealed by clouds, the terrace-like plains gave to the 
valley an appearance like that of Santa Cruz in Patagonia. After 
spending one day at Ballenar I set out, on the 10th, for the 
upper part of the valley of Copiapo. 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, which can boast of spiny bushes and some tufts of 
grass ; and this is absolute fertility, as compared with northern 
Chile. 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, from not being evaporated and 
absorbed so quickly, 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 to eat. 

Jufie llth. — We rode without stopping for twelve hours, till 
we reached an old smel ting-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 dis- 
tant views interesting from the varied colours of the bare moun- 
tains. It was almost a pity to see the sun shining constantly 
over so useless a country ; such splendid weather ought to 

350 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap. xvi. 

liave brightened fields and pretty gardens. The next day we 
reached the valley of Copiapo. 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 suppers, our 
horses gnawing the posts to which they were tied, and to have no 
means of relieving their hunger. To all appearance, however, 
tlie 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 very narrow, being 
generally only two fields wide, one on each side the river. In 
some parts the estate is of no width, that is to say, the land can- 
not 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 so much depend on inequalities of level, 
and consequent unfitness for irrigation, as on the small supply of 
water. The river this year was remarkably full : here, high up 
the valley, it reached to the horse's belly, and was about fifteen 
yards wide, and rapid ; lower down it becomes smaller and 
smaller, and is generally quite lost, as happened during one 
period of thirty years, so that not a drop entered the sea. The 
inhabitants watch a storm over the Cordillera with great interest ; 
as one good fall of snow provides them with water for the ensu- 
ing year. This is of infinitely more consequence than rain in 
the lower country. Rain, as often as it falls, which is about 
once in every two or three years, is a great advantage, because 
the cattle and mules can for some time afterwards find a little 
pasture on the mountains. But without snow on the Andes, 
desolation extends throughout the valley. It is on record that 
tiiree 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, 


Copiapo was in a rapid state of decay ; but now it is in a very 
thriving condition ; and the town, which was completely over- 
thrown by an earthquake, has been rebuilt. 

The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green in a 
desert, runs in a very southerly direction ; so tiiat it is of consi- 
derable length to its source in the Cordillera. The valleys of Guas- 
00 and Copiapo may both be considered as long narrow islands^ 
separated from the rest of Chile by deserts of rocit instead of by 
salt water. Northward of these, there is one other very miserable 
valley, called Paposo, which contains about two hundred souls ; 
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, with which travellers are re- 
ceived 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 M'hilst lying in our beds we 
felt a trifling shock of an earthquake. 

The connexion betAveen earthquakes and the weather has been 
often disputed : it appears to me to be a point of great interest, 
which is little understood. Humboldt has remarked in one part 
of the Personal Narrative,* that it would be difficult for any 
person who had long resided in New Andalusia, or in Lower 
I'eru, to deny that there exists some connexion between these 
jilienomena : in another part, however, he seems to think the 
connexion fanciful. At Guayaquil, it is said that a heavy shower 
in the dry season is invariably followed by an earthquake. In 
Northern Chile, from the extreme infrequency of rain, or even 
of weather foreboding rain, the probability of accidental coin- 
cidences becomes very small ; yet the inhabitants are here most 
firmly convinced of some connexion between the state of the 

* Vol. iv. p. 11, and vol. ii. p. 217. For the remarks on Guayaquil see 
Sillimau's Journ. vol. xxiv. p. 384. For those on Tacna by Mr. Hamilton, 
see Trans, of British Association, 1840. For those on Coseguina see Mr. 
Caldcleugh in Phil. Trans., 1835. In the former edition, I collected several 
references on the coincidences between sudden falls in the barometer and 
eartliquakes ; and, between earthquakes and meteors. 

352 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap. xn. 

atmosphere and of the trembling of the ground : I was much 
struck by this, when mentioning to some people at Copiapo that 
there had been a sharp shock at Coquimbo : they immediately 
cried out, " 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' time producing a thin 
sprinkling of grass. At other times, rain has followed earth- 
quakes, at a period of the year when it is a far greater prodigy 
than the earthquake itself: this happened after the shock of 
November, 1822, and again in 1829, at Valparaiso; also after 
that of September, 1833, at Tacna. A person must be some- 
what habituated to the climate of these countries, to perceive 
the extreme improbability of rain falling at such seasons, except 
as a consequence of some law quite unconnected with the ordi- 
nary course of the weather. In the cases of great volcanic 
eruptions, as that of Coseguina, where torrents of rain fell at a 
time of the 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. Plumboldt extends this view to the 
case of earthquakes unaccompanied by eruptions ; but I can 
hardly conceive it possible, that the small quantity of aeriform 
fluids which then escape from the fissured ground, can produce 
such remarkable effects. There appears much probability in 
the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that when the baro- 
meter is low, and when rain might naturally be expected to fall, 
the diminished pressure of the atmosphere over a wide extent of 
country, might well determine the precise day on which the 
earth, already stretched to the utmost by the subterranean forces, 
should yield, crack, and consequently tremble. It is, however, 
doubtful how far this idea will explain the circumstance of 
torrents of rain falling in the dry season during several days, 
afttr an earthquake unaccompanied by an eruption ; such cases 
seem to bespeak some more intimate connexion between the 
atmospheric and subterranean regions. 

Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we retraced 
our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed two days 

1835.] HYDROPHOBIA. 353 

collecting fossil shells and M'ood. Great prostrate silicified 
trunks of trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were extraordi- 
narily numerous. I measured one, which was fifteen feet in 
circumference : how surprising it is that every atom of tlie woody 
matter in this great cylinder should have been removed and re- 
placed by silex so perfectly, that each vessel and pore is pre- 
served ! These trees flourished at about the period of our lower 
chalk ; they all belonged to the fir-tribe. It was amusing to 
hear the inhabitants discussing the nature of the fossil shells 
M'hich I collected, almost in the same terms as were used a cen- 
tury ago in Europe, — namely, whether or not they had been thus 
" born by nature." My geological examination of the country 
generally created a good deal of surprise amongst the Cliilenos : 
it was long before they could be convinced that I was not hunt- 
ing for mines. This was sometimes troublesome : I found the 
most ready way of explaining my employment, was to ask tiiem 
how it was that they themselves were not curious concerning 
earthquakes and volcanos? — 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 lying dead on the road. A great 
number had lately gone mad, and several men had been bitten 
and had died in consequence. On several 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 visita- 
tion than others. Dr. Unanue states that hydrophobia was first 
known in South America in 1803: this statement is corro- 
borated by Azara and Ulloa having never heard of it in tljcir 
time. Dr. Unanue says that it broke out in Central America, 
and slowly travelled southward. It readied Arequipa in 1807; 
and it is said that some mtu there, who had not been bitten, were 
affected, as were some negroes, who had eaten a bullock which 

2 a 

354 NORTHERN CHILE. fciiAP. vvi. 

had died of hydrophobia. At lea forty-two people thus mi- 
serably perished. The disease came on between twelve and ninety 
days after the bite; and in those cases where it did come on, 
death ensued invariably within five days. After 1808, a long 
interval ensued without any cases. On inquiry, I did not hear 
of hydrophobia in Van Diemen's Land, or in Australia ; and Bur- 
chell says, that during the five years he was at the Cape of 
Good Hope, he never heard of an instance of it. "Webster 
asserts that at the Azores hydrophobia has never occurred ; and 
the same assertion has been made with respect lo Mauritius and 
St. Helena.* In so strange a disease, some information might 
])ossiblv be gained by considering the circumstances under which 
it originates in distant climates; for it is improbable that a 
(log already bitten, should have been brought to these distant 

At night, a stranger arrived at the house of Don Benito, and 
asked permission to sleep there. He said he had been wander- 
ing about the mountains for seventeen days, having lost his way. 
He started from Guasco, and being accustomed to travelling in 
the Cordillera, did not expect any difficulty in following the 
track to Copiapo ; 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 tliat he was obliged to keep bordering 
the central ranges. 

"VVe returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached the 
town of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad, form- 
ing a fine plain like that of Quillota. The town covers a consi- 
derable space of ground, each house possessing a garden : but it 
is an uncomfortable place, and the dwellings are poorly fur- 
nished. Every one seems bent on the one object of making mo- 
ney, and then migrating as quickly as possible. All the inhabit- 
ants are more or less directly concerned with mines ; and mines 
and ores are the sole subjects of conversation. Kecessaries of 

* Ohserva. sobreel climade Lima, p. 67. — Azara's Travels, vol. i. p. 381 
— Ulloa's Voyage, vol. ii. p. 28. — Burchell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 524. — Web- 
ster's Description of the Azores, p. 124. — Voyage a I'lsle de France par iiu 
Officier du Koi, tome i. p. 248. — Description of St. Helena, p. 123. 

1835.] SEA-WOllN VALLEYS. 3.'-.'. 

all sorts are extremely dear ; as the distance from the town to 
the port is eighteen leagues, and the land carriage very expen- 
sive. A fowl costs five or six shillings ; meat is nearly as dear 
as in England ; firewood, or rather sticks, are brought on don- 
keys from a distance of two and tliree days' journey within the 
Cordillera ; and pasturage for animals is a shilling a day : all 
this for South America is wonderfidly exorbitant. 

June 26//i. — I hired a guide and eight mules to take me into 
the Cordillera by a different line from my last excursion. 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 iininhabited, branches 
off from that one by which we had arrived. Although a valley 
of the grandest dimensions, and leading to a pass across the Cor- 
dillera, yet it is completely dry, excepting perhaps for a few 
days during some very rainy winter. The sides of the crumbling- 
mountains were furrowed by scarcely any ravines ; and the bot- 
tom of the main valley, filled with shingle, was smooth and 
nearly level. No considerable torrent could ever have flowed 
down this bed of shingle ; for if it had, a great cliff"-bounded 
channel, as in all tlie southern valleys, would assuredly have been 
formed. I feel little doubt tliat this valley, as well as those 
mentioned by travellers in Peru, were left in the state we now 
see them by the waves of the sea, as the land slowly rose. I ob- 
served in one place, where the Despoblado was joined by a ravine 
(which in almost any other chain would have been called a grand 
valley), that its bed, 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 ages had passed away, and no such rivulet 
had drained this great tributary. It was curious to behold the 
machinery, if such a term may be used, for the drainage, all, with 
the last trifling exception, perfect, yet without any signs of 
action. Every one must have remarked how mud-banks, left by 
the retiring tide, imitate in miniature a country with hill ana 
dale ; and here we have the original model in rock, formed as the 
continent rose during the secular retirement of the ocean, instead 
of durin": the ebbins: and flowino: of the tides. If a shower of 

356 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap, xvj, 

rain falls on the mud-bank, when left dry, it deepens the already- 
formed shallow lines of excavation ; and so is it 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 mate. I suppose the distance from the river of Copiapo 
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 de- 
serving the name of desert in the strictest sense. Yet about 
halfway we passed some old Indian ruins near Punta Gorda ; I 
noticed also in front of some of the valleys, which branch off 
from the Despoblado, two piles of stones placed a little way 
apart, and directed so as to point up the mouths of these small 
valleys. My companions knew nothing about them, and only 
answered my queries by their imperturbable " quien sabe?" 

I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera : 
the most perfect, which I saw, were the Ruinas de Tambillos, 
in the Uspallata Pass. Small square rooms were there huddled 
together in separate groups : some of the doorways were yet 
standing; they were formed by a cross slab of stone only about 
three feet high. Ulloa has remarked on the lowness of the doors 
in the ancient Peruvian dwellings. These houses, when per- 
fect, must have been capable of containing a considerable num- 
ber of persons. Tradition says, that they were used as halt- 
ing places for the Incas, when they crossed the mountains. 
Traces of Indian habitations have been discovered in many other 
parts, where it does not appear probable that they were used 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 at the Incas 
Bridge, or in the Portillo Pass, at all which places I saw ruins. 
In the ravine of Jajuel, near Aconcagua, where there is no pass, 
I heard of remains of houses situated at a great height, where 
it is extremely cold and sterile. At first I imagined that these 
buildings had been places of refuge, built by the Indians on the 
first arrival of the Spaniards ; but I have since been inclined 
to speculate on the probability of a small change of climate 


In this northern part of Cliile, within the Cordillera, old 
Indian houses are said to be especially numerous : by digging 
amongst the ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of pre- 
cious metals, and heads of Indian corn, are not unfrequently 
discovered : an arrow-head made of agate, and of preci;;e]y the 
same form with those now used in Tierra del Fuego, was given 
me. I am aware that the Peruvian Indians now frequently 
inhabit most lofty and bleak situations ; but at Copiapo I was 
assured by men who had spent their lives in travelling through the 
Andes, that there were very many (muchisimas) buildings at 
iieights so great as almost to border on the perpetual snow, and 
in parts where there exist no passes, and where the land pro- 
duces absolutely nothing, and what is still more extraordinary, 
where there is no water. Nevertheless it is the opinion of the 
23eople of the country (although they are much puzzled by the 
circumstance), that, from the appearance of the houses, the In- 
dians must have used them as places of residence. In this 
valley, at Punta Gorda, the remains consisted of seven or eight 
square little rooms, which were of a similar form with those at 
Tambillos, but built chiefly of mud, which the present inhabit- 
ants cannot, either here or, according to Ulloa, in Peru, imitate 
in durability. They were situated in the most conspicuous and 
defenceless position, at the bottom of tlie 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, 
imless it were very rich, could scarcely be worked here with 
profit. Yet the Indians formerly chose it as a place of resi- 
dence ! If at the present time two or three showers of rain 
were to fall annually, instead of one, as now is the case, during 
as many years, a small rill of water would probably be formed 
in this great valley ; and then, by irrigation (which was formerly 
so well understood by the Indians), the soil would easily be ren- 
dered sufiiciently productive to support a few families. 

I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent of South 
America has been elevated near the coast at least from 400 to 
500, and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, since the epoch 
of existing shells ; and further inland the rise possibly may have 

S58 NOKTHERN CHILE. [chap. xvr. 

been greater. As the peculiarly arid character of the climate is 
evidently a consequence of the height of the Cordillera, we may 
feel almost sure that before the later elevations, the atmosphere 
could not have been so completely drained of its moisture as it 
now is ; and as the rise has been gradual, so would have been 
the change in climate. On this notion of a change of climate 
since the buildings were inhabited, the ruins must be of extreme 
antiquity, but I do not think their preservation under the Chilian 
climate any great difficulty. We nuist also admit on this notion, 
(and this perhaps is a greater difficulty) that man has inhabited 
South America for an immensely long period, inasmuch as any 
change of climate effected by the elevation of the land must 
have been extremely gradual. At Valparaiso, within the last 
220 years, the rise has been somewhat less than 19 feet: at 
Lima a sea-beach hp_s certainly been upheaved from 80 to 90 feet, 
within the Indio-human period : but such small elevations could 
have had little power in deflecting the moisture-bringing atmos- 
pheric currents. Dr. Lund, however, found human skeletons 
in the caves of Brazil, the appearance of which induced him to 
believe that the Indian race has existed during a vast lapse of 
time in South America. 

When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects* with Mr. Gill, 
a civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior country. Ht 
told me that a conjecture of a change of climate had some- 
times 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 this state by the water-con- 
duits, which the Indians formerly constructed on so wonderful 
a scale, having been injured by neglect and by subterranean 
movements. I may here mention, that the Peruvians actually 
carried their irrioating: streams in tunnels throug-h hills of solid 
rock. 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 

* 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 I cannot tell whether this desolation has been caused by a want of popu- 
lation, or by an altered condition of the land. 


not most woiiderlul that men sliould have attempteil such opera- 
tions, without the use of iron or gunpowder? Mr. Gill also 
mentioned to me a most interesting, and, as far as I am aware, 
quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean disturbance having 
changed the drainage of a country. Travelling from Casma to 
Huaraz (not very flir distant from Lima), he found a plain 
covered with ruins and marks of ancient cultivation, but now 
quite barren. Kear it was the ilry course of a considerable 
river, whence the water for irrigation had formerly been con- 
ducted. Tiiere was nothing in the appearance of the water- 
course, to indicate that the river had not flowed there a few 
years previously ; in some parts, beds of sand and gravel were 
spread out ; in others, the solid rock had been worn into a broad 
channel, which in one spot was about 40 yards in breadth and 
8 feet deep. It is self-evident that a person following up the 
course of a stream, will always ascend at a greater or less incli- 
nation : Mr. Gill, therefore, was much astonished, when walk- 
ing up the bed of this ancient river, to find himself suddenly 
going down hill. He imagined that the downward slojie had a 
fall of about 40 or 50 feet perpendicular. We here have un- 
equivocal evidence that a ridge had been uplifted right across 
the old bed of a stream. From the moment the river-course 
was thus arched, the water must necessarily have been thrown 
back, and a new channel formed. From that moment, also, the 
neighbouring plain must have lost its fertilizing stream, and 
become a desert. 

June 21th. — 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 trees, a kind of 
mimosa. From having fire-wood, a smelting- furnace had for- 
merly been built here : we found a solitary man in charge of it, 
whose sole employment was hunting guanacos. At night it froze 
•sharply ; but having plenty of wood for our fire, we kept ourselves 

'ISih. — We continued gradually ascending, and the valley now 
changed into a ravine. During the day we saw several guanacos, 
and the track of the closely-allied species, the Vicuiia : this latter 
animal is pre-eminently alpine in its habits; it seldom descends 

3C0 NORTHERN CHILE. [chap. xvi. 

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 consi- 
derable numbers in very desert places. In Patagonia, even on 
the borders of the salinas, where a drop of fresh water can never 
be found, excepting dew, 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. 

The scene on all sides showed desolation, brightened and made 
palpable by a clear, unclouded sky. For a time such scenery 
is sublime, but this feeling cannot last, and then it becomes un- 
interesting. We bivouacked at the foot of 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 height, 
perhaps, of ten thousand feet. Where we slept, there were some 
considerable patches of snow, but they do not remain throughout 
the year. The winds in tliese lofty regions obey very regular 
laws : every day a fresh breeze blows up the valley, and at night, 
an hour or two after sunset, the air from the cold regions above 
descends as through a funnel. This night it blew a gale of wind, 
and the temperature must have been considerably below the 
freezing-point, for water in a vessel soon became a block of ice. 
No clothes seemed to oppose any obstacle to the air ; I suffered 
very much from the cold, so that I could not sleep, and in the 
morning rose with my body quite dull and benumbed. 

In the Cordillera further southward, people lose their lives 
from snow-storms ; here, it sometimes happens from another 
cause. My guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was passing 
the Cordillera with a party in the month of May ; and while in 
the central parts, a furious gale of wind arose, so that the men 
could hardly cling on their mules, and stones were flying along 
the ground. The day was cloudless, and not a speck of snow fell, 
but the temperature was low. It is probable that the thermo- 
meter would not have stood very many degrees below the freez- 

ir;!'..] I:L BR AMADOR. 3C1 

iiig-point, but tlie effect on their bodies, ill protected by clothing, 
must liave been in proportion to the rapidity of the current of cold 
air. The gale lasted for more tlian a day ; the men began to lose 
their strength, and tlie mules would not move onwards. My 
guide's brother tried to return, but he perished, and his body was 
found two years afterwards, lying by the side of his mule near 
the road, with the bridle still in his hand. Two other men in 
the party lost their fingers and toes ; and out of two hundred 
mules and tiiirty cows, only fourteen mules escaped alive. !Many 
years ago the whole of a large party are supposed to have perished 
from a similar cause, but their bodies to this day have never been 
discovered. The union of a cloudless sky, low temperature, and 
a furious gale of wind, must be, I should think, in all parts of 
the world, an unusual occurrence. 

June 29th. — We gladly travelled down the valley to our for- 
mer night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua aniarga. On 
July 1st we reached the valley of Copiap6. The smell of the 
fresh clover was quite delightful, after the scentless air of the 
(!ry sterile Despoblado. Whilst staying in the town I heard an 
account from several of the inhabitants, of a hill in the neigh- 
bourhood which they called " El Bramador," — the roarer or 
bellower. I did not at the time pay sufficient attention to the 
account ; but, as far as I understood, the hill was covered by 
5.and, and the noise was produced only when people, by ascending 
it, put the sand in motion. The same circumstances are described 
in detail on the authority of Seetzen and Ehrenberg,* as the 
cause of the sounds which have been heard by many travellers on 
jNIount Sinai near the Red Sea. One person with whom I con- 
versed, had himself heard the noise ; he described it as very sur- 
prising; and he distinctly stated that, although he could not 
understand how it was caused, yet it was necessary to set the sand 
rolling down the acclivity. A horse walking over dry and coarse 
sand, causes a peculiar chirping noise from the friction of the 
particles ; a circumstance which I several times noticed on the 
coast of Brazil. 

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at the 

* Edinburgh Phil. Journ., Jan. 1830, p. 74; and April, 1830, p. 258. — 
Also Daubeuy on Volcanoes, p. 438 ; and Bengal Journ., vol. vii. p. 324. 

362 PERU, 


Port, distant eighteen leagxies from the town. There is very 
little land cultivated down the valley ; its wide expanse supports 
a wretched wiry g-rass, which even the donkeys can hardly eat. 
This poorness of the vegetation is owing to tlie quantity of saline 
matter with which tlie soil is impregnated. The Port consists of 
an assemblage of miserable little hovels, situated at the foot of a 
sterile plain. At present, as the river contains water enouirh to 
reach the sea, the inhabitants enjoy the advantage of having fresh 
water within a mile and a half. On the beach there were lar^e 
piles of merchandise, and the little place had an air of activity. 
In the evening I gave my adios, with a hearty good-will, to my 
companion Mariano Gonzales, with whom I had ridden so many 
leagues in Chile. The next morning the Beagle sailed for 

July \2th. — We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat. 
20° 12', on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a thou- 
sand inhabitants, and stands on a little plain of sand at the foot 
of a great wall of rock, 2000 feet in height, here forming the 
coast. The whole is utterly desert. A light shower of rain falls 
only once in very many years ; and the ravines consequently are 
filled with detritus, and the mountain-sides covered by piles of 
fine white sand, even to a height of a thousand feet. During this 
season of the year a heavy bank of clouds, stretched over the 
ocean, seldom rises above the wall of rocks on the coast. The 
aspect of the place was most gloomy ; the little port, with its few 
vessels, and small group of wretched houses, seemed overwhelmed 
and out of all proportion with the rest of the scene. 

The inhabitants live like persons on board a ship : every ne- 
cessary comes from a distance : water is brought in boats from 
Pisagua, about forty miles northward, and is sold at the rate of 
nine reals (4*. 6d.) an eighteen-gallon cask : I bought a wine- 
bottle full for threepence. In like manner firewood, and of course 
every article of food, is imported. Very few animals can be 
maintained in such a place: on the ensuing morning I hired with 
diflficulty, at the price of four pounds sterling, two mules and a 
guide to take me to the nitrate of soda works. These are at 
present the support of Iquique. This salt was first exported in 
1830: in one year an amount in value of one hundred thousand 


pounds sterling, was sent to France and England. It is princi- 
pally used as a manure and in the manufacture of nitric acid : owing 
to its deliquescent projierty it will not serve for gunpowder. For- 
merly there were two exceedingly rich silver-mines in this neigh- 
bourhood, but their produce is now very small. 

Our arrival in the offing caused some little apprehension, Peru 
was in a state of anarchy ; and each party having demanded a 
contribution, the poor town of Iquique was in tribulation, think- 
ing the evil hour was come. The people had also their domestic 
troubles ; a short time before, three French carpenters had broken 
open, during the same night, the two churches, and stolen all the 
plate: one of the robbers, however, subsequently confessed, and 
the plate was recovered. The convicts were sent to Arequipa, 
which, though the capital of this province, is two hundred leagues 
distant ; the government there thought it a pity to punish such 
useful workmen, who could make all sorts of furniture ; and 
accordingly liberated them. Things being in this state, the 
churches were again broken open, but this time the plate was not 
recovered. The inhabitants became dreadfully enraged, and de- 
claring that none but heretics would thus " eat God Almighty," 
proceeded to torture some Englishmen, with the intention of 
afterwards shooting them. At last the authorities interfered, 
and peace was established. 

I3th. — In the morning I started for the saltpetre-works, a dis- 
tance of fourteen leagues. Having ascended the steep coast- 
mountains by a zigzag sandy track, we soon came in view of the 
mines of Guantajaya and St. Rosa. These two small villages are 
placed at the very mouths of the mines ; and being perched up on 
hills, they had a still more unnatural and desolate appearance 
than the town of Iquique. We did not reach the saltpetre-works 
till after sunset, having ridden all day across an undulating coun- 
try, a complete and utter desert. The road was strewed with the 
bones and dried skins of the many beasts of burden which had 
perished on it from fatigue. Excepting the Yultur aura, which 
preys on the carcasses, I saw neither bird, quadruped, reptile, nor 
insect. On the coast-mountains, at the height of about 2000 
feet, where during this season the clouds generally hang, a very 
few cacti were growing in the clefts of rock ; and the loose sand 
was strewed over with* a lichen, v.hich lies on the surface quite 

364 PERU. [chap. XVI. 

unattached. This plant belongs to the genus Cladonia, and some- 
what resembles the reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in suf- 
ficient quantity to tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, of a 
pale yellowish colour. Further inland, during the whole ride of 
fourteen leagues, I saw only one other vegetable production, and 
that was a most minute yellow lichen, growing on the bones of 
the dead mules. This was the first true desert which I had seen : 
the effect on me was not impressive ; but I believe this was owing 
to my having become gradually accustomed to such scenes, as I 
rode northward from Valparaiso, through Coquimbo, to Copiapd. 
The appearance of the country was remarkable, from being co- 
vered by a thick crust of common salt, and of a stratified salife- 
rous alluvium, which seems to have been deposited as the land 
slowly rose above the level of the sea. The salt is white, very 
hard, and compact : it occurs in water-worn nodules projecting 
from the agglutinated sand, and is associated with much gypsum. 
The appearance of this superficial mass very closely resembled 
that of a country after snow, before the last dirty patches are 
thawed. The existence of this crust of a soluble substance over 
the whole face of the country, shows how extraordinarily dry the 
climate must have been for a long period. 

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the salt- 
petre mines. The country is here as unproductive as near the 
coast ; but water, having rather a bitter and brackish taste, can 
be procured by digging wells. The well at this house was tliirty- 
six yards deep : as scarcely any rain falls, it is evident the water 
is not thus derived ; indeed if it were, it could not fail to be as 
salt as brine, for the whole surrounding country is incrusted with 
various saline substances. We must therefore conclude that it 
percolates under ground from the Cordillera, though distant 
many leagues. In that direction there are a few small villages, 
where the inhabitants, having more water, are enabled to irrigate 
a little land, and raise hay, on which the mules and asses, em- 
ployed in carrying the saltpetre, are fed. The nitrate of soda 
was now selling at the ship's side at fourteen shillings per hundred 
pounds : the chief expense is its transport to the sea-coast. The 
mine consists of a hard stratum, between two and three feet thick, 
of the nitrate mingled with a little of the sulphate of soda and a good 
deal of common salt. It lies close beneath the surface, and fo!- 

18.-55.] BAY OF CALLAO. 3G5 

lows for a length of one hundred and fifty miles the margin of a 
grand basin or plain ; this, from its outline, manifestly must once 
have been a lake, or more probably an inland arm of the sea, as 
may be inferred from the presence of iodic salts in the saline stra- 
tum. Tlie surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific. 

I9ih. — AVe anchored in the Bay of Callao, the seaport of 
Lima, the capital of Peru. We stayed here six weeks, but from 
the troubled state of public affairs, I saw very little of the coun- 
try. During our whole visit the climate was far from being so 
deli<;htful, as it is generally represented. A dull heavy bank of 
clouds constantly hung over the land, so that during the first six- 
teen days I had only one view of the Cordillera behind Lima. 
These mountains, seen in stages, one above the other, through 
openings in the clouds, had a very grand appearance. It is almost 
become a proverb, that rain never falls in the lower part of Peru. 
Yet this can hardly be considered correct ; for during almost 
every day of our visit there was a thick drizzling mist, which was 
sufficient to make the streets muddy and one's clothes damp : this 
the people are pleased to call Peruvian dew. That much rain 
does not fall is very certain, for the houses are covered only with 
flat roofs made of hardened mud ; and on the mole ship-loads of 
wheat were piled up, being thus left for weeks together without 
any shelter. 

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru : in summer, 
however, it is said that the climate is much pleasanter. In all 
seasons, both inhabitants and foreigners suffer from severe attacks 
of ague. Tills disease is common on the whole coast of Peru, 
but is unknown in the interior. The attacks of illness which 
arise from miasma never fail to appear most mysterious. So dif- 
ficult is it to judge from the aspect of a country, whether or not 
it is healthy, that if a person had been told to choose within the 
tropics a situation appearing favourable for health, very probably 
he would have named this coast. The plain round the outskirts 
of Callao is sparingly covered with a coarse grass, and in some 
parts there are a few stagnant, though very small, pools of water. 
The miasma, in all probability, arises from these : for the town 
of Arica v as similarly circumstanced, and its healthiness was 
much improved by the drainage of some little pools. Miasma 

366 PERU. [chap, xvi. 

is not always produced by a luxuriant vegetation with an ar- 
dent climate : for many parts of Brazil, even where there are 
marshes and a rank vegetation, are much more healthy than this 
sterile coast of Peru. The densest forests in a temperate cli- 
mate, as in Chiloe, do not seem in the slightest degi-ee to affect 
the healthy condition of the atmosphere. 

The island of St. Jago, at the Cape de Verds, offers another 
strongly-marked instance of a country, which any one would have 
expected to find most healthy, being very much the contrary. 
I have described the bare and open plains as supporting, during a 
few weeks after the rainy season, a thin vegetation, which directly 
withers away and dries up : at this period the air appears to be- 
come quite poisonous ; both natives and foreigners often being 
affected with violent fevers. On the other hand, the Galapagos 
Archipelago, in the Pacific, with a similar soil, and periodically 
subject to the same process of vegetation, is perfectly healthy. 
Humboldt has observed, that, " under the torrid zone, the 
smallest marshes are the most dangerous, being surrounded, as at 
Vera Cruz and Carthagena, with an arid and sandy soil, which 
raises the temperature of the ambient air."* On the coast of 
Peru, however, the temperature is not hot to any excessive de- 
gree ; and perhaps inconsequence, the intermittent fevers are not 
of the most malignant order. In all unhealthy countries the 
greatest risk is run by sleeping on shore. Is tliis owing to the 
state of the body during sleep, or to a greater abundance of 
miasma at such times ? It appeai-s certain that those who stay 
on board a vessel, though anchored at only a short distance from 
the coast, generally suffer less than those actually on shore. On 
the other hand, I have heard of one remarkable case where a 
fever broke out among the crew of a man-of-war some Imndred 
miles off the coast of Africa, and at tlie very same time that one 
of those fearful periods f of death commenced at Sierra Leone. 

No State in South America, since the declaration of indepen- 
dence, has suffered more from anarchy than Peru. At the time 

* Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, vol. iv. p. 199. 

t A similar interesting case is recorded in the Madras Medical Quart. 
Journ., 1839, p. 340. Dr. Ferguson, in his admirable Paper (see 9th vol. of 
Edinburgh Royal Trans.), shows clearly that the poison is generated in the 
drying process ; and hence that dry hot countries are often the most un- 

1S35.] C ALL AO.— LIMA. 

»jf our visit, there were four chietis in arms contending for supre- 
macy in the government : if one succeeded in becoming for a time 
very powerful, the others coalesced against him ; but no sooner 
were they a ictorious, than they were again hostile to each other. 
The otlier day, at the Anniversary of the Independence, high 
mass was performed, the President partaking of the sacrament : 
during the Te Dcian laudamtis, instedd of regiment display- 
ing the Peruvian flag, a black one with death's head was unfurled. 
Imagine a government under which such a scene could be or- 
dered, on such an occasion, to be typical of their determination 
of fighting to death ! This state of affairs happened at a time 
very unfortunately for me, as I was precluded from taking any 
excursions ranch beyond the limits of the town. Tlie barren 
island of S. Lorenzo, which forms the harbour, was nearly the 
only place where one could walk securely. The upper part, 
which is upwards of 1000 feet in height, during this season of 
the year (winter), conies within the lower limit of the clouds ; 
and in consequence, an abundant cryptogamic vegetation, and a 
tew flowers, cover the summit. On the hills near Lima, at a 
lieight but little greater, the ground is carpeted with moss, and 
beds of beautiful yellow lilies, called Amancaes. This indicates 
a very much greater degree of humidity, than at a corresponding- 
height at Iquique. Proceeding northward of Lima, the climate 
becomes damper, till on the banks of the Guyaquil, nearly under 
the equator, we find the most luxuriant forests. The change, 
however, from the sterile coast of Peru to that fertile land is 
described as taking place rather abruptly in the latitude of Cape 
Blanco, two degrees south of Guyaquil. 

Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants, 
both here and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of mix- 
ture, between European, Negro, and Indian blood. They appear 
a depraved, drunken set of people. The atmosphere is loaded 
with foul smells, and tliat peculiar one, which may be perceived 
in almost every town within the tropics, was here very strong. 
The fortress, which withstood Lord Cochrane's long siege, has 
an imposing appearance. But the President, during our stay, 
sold the brass guns, and proceeded to dismantle parts of it. The 
reason assigned was, that he had not an officer to whom he could 
trust so important a charge. He himself had good reasons for 

3f;8 PERU. [chap. XVI. 

tliinking so, as he had obtained the presidentship by rebelling 
while in charge of this same fortress. After we left South 
America, he paid the penalty in the usual manner, by being con- 
quered, taken prisoner, and shot, 

Lima stands on a plain in a valley, formed during the gradual 
retreat of the sea. It is seven miles from Callao, and is elevated 
500 feet above it ; but from the slope being very gradual, the 
road appears absolutely level ; so that when at Lima it is diffi- 
cult to believe one has ascended even one hundred feet : Hum- 
boldt has i-emarked on this singularly deceptive case. Steep, 
barren hills rise like islands from the plain, which is divided, by 
straight mud-walls, into large green fields. In these scarcely a 
tree grows excepting a few willows, and an occasional clump 
of bananas and of oranges. The city of Lima is now in a 
wretched state of decay : the streets are nearly unpaved ; and 
heaps of filth are piled up in all directions, where the black 
gallinazos, tame as poultry, pick up bits of carrion. The houses 
have generally an upper story, built, on account of the earth- 
quakes, of plastered woodwork ; but some of the old ones, which 
are now used by several families, are immensely large, and would 
rival in suites of apartments the most magnificent in any place. 
Lima, the City of the Kings, must formerly have been a splendid 
town. The extraordinary number of churches gives it, even at 
the present day, a peculiar and striking character, especially 
when viewed from a short distance. 

One day I went out with some merchants to hunt in the imme- 
diate vicinity of the city. Our sport was very poor ; but I had 
an opportunity of seeing the ruins of one of the ancient Indian 
villages, with its mound like a natural hill in the centre. The 
remains of houses, enclosures, irrigating streams, and burial 
mounds, scattered over this plain, cannot fail to give one a high 
idea of the condition and number of the ancient population. 
When their earthenware, woollen clothes, utensils of elegant 
forms cut out of the hardest rocks, tools of copper, ornaments of 
precious stones, palaces, and hydraulic works, are considered, it 
is impossible not to respect the considerable advance made by 
them in the arts of civilization. The burial mounds, called 
Huacas, are really stupendous ; although in some places they 
appear to be natural hills incased and modelled. 


There is also another ami very different class of ruins, which 
possesses some interest, namely, those of old Callao, overwhelmed 
by the great earthquake of 1746, and its accompanying wave. 
The destruction must have been more complete even than at 
Talcahuano. Quantities of shingle almost conceal the founda- 
tions of tlie walls, and vast masses of brickwork appear to have 
been whirled about like pebbles by the retiring waves. It has 
been stated that the land subsided during this memorable shock : 
I could not discover any proof of this ; yet it seems far from 
improbable, for the form of the coast must certainly have under- 
gone some change since the foundation of the old town ; as no 
people in their senses would \villingly have chosen for their 
building place, the narrow spit of shingle on which the ruins now 
stand. Since our voyage, M. Tschudi has come to the con- 
clusion, by the comparison of old and modern maps, that the 
coast both north and south of Lima has certainly subsided. 

On the island of San Lorenzo, there are very satisfactory 
proofs of elevation within the recent period ; this of course is 
not opposed to the belief, of a small sinking of the ground 
having subsequently taken place. The side of this island front- 
ing the Bay of Callao, is worn into three obscure terraces, the 
lower one of which is covered by a bed a mile in length, almost 
wholly composed of shells of eighteen species, now living in the 
adjoining sea. The height of this bed is eighty -five feet» Many 
of the shells are deeply corroded, and have a much older and 
more decayed appearance than those at the height of 500 or 600 
feet on the coast of Chile. These shells are associated with 
much common salt, a little sulphate of lime (both probably left 
by the evaporation of the spray, as the land slowly rose), to- 
gether with sulphate of soda and muriate of lime. They rest 
on fragments of the underlying sandstone, and are covered by a 
few inches thick of detritus. The shells, higher up on this ter- 
race, could be traced scaling off in flakes, and falling into an 
impalpable powder ; and on an upper terrace, at the height of 
170 feet, and likewise at some considerably higher points, I 
found a layer of saline powder of exactly similar appearance, 
and lying in the same relative position. I have no doubt that 
this upper iayer originally existed as a bed of shells, like that on 
the eighty-five-feet ledge; but it does not now contain even a 

2 B 

370 PERU. [f-TTAr. vvt. 

trace of organic structure. The powder has been analysed for 
me by Mr. T. Reeks ; it consists of sulphates and muriates both 
of lime and soda, with very little carbonate of lime. It is known 
that common salt and carbonate of lime left in a mass for some 
time together, partly decompose each other ; though this does 
not happen with small quantities in solution. As the half-de- 
composed shells in the lower parts are associated with much 
common salt, together with some of the saline substances com- 
posing the upper saline layer, antl as these shells are corrodetl 
and decajred in a remarkable manner, I strongly suspect that 
this double decomposition has here taken place. The resultant 
salts, however, ought to be carbonate of soda and muriate of 
lime ; the latter is present, but not the carbonate of soda. Hence 
I am led to imagine that by some unexplained mei^ns, the car- 
bonate of soda becomes changed into the sulphate. It is obvious 
that the saline layer could not have been preserved in any 
country in which abundant rain occasionally fell : on the other 
hand, this very circumstance, which at first sight appears so 
liiglily favourable to the long preservation of exposed shells, has 
probably been the indirect means, through the common salt not 
having been washed away, of their dr com position and early deca\. 
I was much interested by finding on the terrace, at the lieight 
of eightj^-five feet, embedded amidst the shells and much sea- 
drifted rubbish, some bits of cotton thread, plaited rush, and the 
head of a stalk of Indian corn : I compared these relics with 
similar ones taken out of the Huacas, or old Peruvian tombs, 
and found them identical in appearance. On the mainland in 
front of San Lorenzo, near Bellavista, there is an extensive and 
level plain about a hundred feet high, of which the lower part is 
formed of alternating layers of sand and impure clay, together 
with some gravel, and the surface, to the deptli of from three to 
six feet, of a reddish loam, containing a few scattered sea-shells 
and nvmaerous small fragments of coarse red earthenware, more 
abundant at certain spots than at others. At first I was inclined 
to believe that this superficial bed, from its wide extent and 
smoothness, must have been deposited beneath the sea ; but I 
afterwards found in one spot, that it lay on an artificial floor of 
round stones. It seems, therefore, most probable that at a pe- 
riod when the land stood at a lower level, there was a plain very 

1835.] FOSrilL HUMAN RELICS. 371 

similar to tliat now surrountling Callao, wliich being- protected 
by a sliingle beach, is raised but very little above the level of the 
sea. On this plain, with its underlying- red-clay beds, I imagine 
that the Indians manufactured their earthen vessels ; and that, 
during some violent earthquake, the sea broke over the beach, 
and converted the plain into a temporary lake, as happened round 
Callao in 1713 and 1746. The water would then have deposited 
mud, containing fragments of pottery from the kilns, more abun- 
dant at some spots than at others, and shells from the sea. This 
bed with fossil earthenware, stands at about the same height with 
the shells on the lower terrace of San Lorenzo, in which the 
cotton-thread and other relics were embedded. Hence we may 
safely conclude, that within tlie Indo-hnman period there has 
been an elevation, as before alluded to, of more than eighty-five 
feet ; for some little elevation must have been lost by the coast 
having subsided since the old maps were engraved. At Val- 
paraiso, although in the 220 years before our visit, the elevation 
cannot have exceeded nineteen feet, yet subsequently to 1817 
there has been a rise, partly insensible and partly by a start 
during the shock of 1822, of ten or eleven feet. The antiquity 
of the Indo-human race here, judging by the eighty-five feet 
rise of the land since the relics were embedded, is the more re- 
markable, as on the coast of Patagonia, when the land stood 
about the same number of feet lower, the Macrauchenia was a 
living beast ; but as the Patagonian coast is some way distant 
from the Cordillera, the rising there may have been slower than 
here. At Bahia Blanca, the elevation has been only a few feet 
since the numerous gigantic quadrupeds were there entombed ; 
and, according to the generally received opinion, when tliese ex- 
tinct animals were living, man did not exist. But the rising of 
that part of the coast of Patagonia, is perhaps noways connected 
with the Cordillera, but rather with a line of old volcanic rocks 
in Banda Oriental, so that it may have been infinitely slower than 
on the shores of Peru. All these speculations, however, must 
be vague ; for who will pretend to say, that there may not have 
been several periods of subsidence, intercalated between the 
movements of elevation ; for we know that along the Avhole coast 
of Patagonia, there have certainly been many and long pauses 
in the upward action of the elevatory forces. 

2 b2 


[chap. XVII. 



The whole group volcanic — Number of craters — Leafless bushes — Colony at 
Charles Island — James Island — Salt-lake in crater — Natural History of 
the group — Ornithology, curious finches — Reptiles — Great tortoises, habits 
of — Marine lizard, feeds on sea-weed — Terrestrial lizard, burrowing habits, 
herbivorous — Importance of reptiles in the Archipelago — Fish, shells, 
insects — Botany — American type of organization — Differences in the 
species or races on different islands — Tameness of the birds — Fear of man, 
an acquired instinct. 

September 15th. — This archipelago consists of ten principal 
islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They are 
situated under the Equator, and between five and six hundred 
miles westward of the coast of America. They are all formetl 

Culjjepper I. 

fVenman I. 

^0 Miles 

% Abingdon I. 

®" U Tower I. 


Charles I. 

Hoods I, 


of volcanic rocks ; a few fragments of granite curiously glazed 
and altered by the heat, can hardly be considered as an excep- 
tion. Some of the craters, surmounting the larger islands, are of 
immense size, and they rise to a heiglit of between three and four 
thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable smaller 
orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm, that there must be in the 
whole archipelago at least two thousand craters. These consist 
either of lava and scoriae, or of finely-stratified, fandsfone-like 
tuff. Most of the latter are beautifully symmetrical ; they owe 
their origin to eruptions of volcanic mud without any lava : 
it is a remarkable circumstance that every one of tlie twenty- 
eight tuff-craters which were examined, had their southern sides 
either much lower than the other sides, or quite broken down 
and removed. As all these craters apparently have been formed 
when standing in the sea, and as the waves from the trade wind 
and the swell from the open Pacific here unite their forces on the 
southern coasts of all the islands, this singular uniformity in 
the broken state of the craters, composed of the soft and yielding 
tuff, is easily explained. 

Considering that these islands are placed directly under the 
equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot ; this seems 
chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature of the surround-, 
ing water, brought here by the great southern Polar current. 
Excepting during one short season, very little rain falls, and 
even then it is irregular ; but the clouds generally hang low. 
Hence, whilst the lower parts of the islands are very sterile, the 
upper parts, at a height of a thousand feet and upwards, possess a 
damp climate and a tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is 
especially the case on the windward sides of the islands, which 
first receive and condense the moisture from the atmosphere. 

In the morning (17th) we landed on Chatham Island, which, 
like the others, rises with a tame and rounded outline, broken 
here and there by scattered hillocks, the remains of former 
craters. Kothing could be less inviting than the first appear- 
ance. A broken field of black basaltic lava, thrown into the 
most rugged waves, and crossed by great fissures, is every where 
covered by stunted, sun-burnt brushwood, which shows little signs 
of life. The dry and parched surface, being heated by the noon- 
day sun, gave to the air a close and sultry feeling, like that from 

374 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xtii. 

a stove : we fancied even that the bushes smelt unpleasantly. 
Although I diligently tried to collect as many plants as possible, 
I succeeded in getting very few ; and such wretched-looking little 
weeds would have better become an arctic than an equatorial 
Flora. The brushwood appears, from a short distance, as leaf- 
less as our trees during winter ; and it was some time befoie I 
discovered that not only almost every plant was now in full leaf, 
but that the greater number were in flower. The commonest 
bush is one of the Euphorbiaceae : an acacia and a great odd- 
looking cactus are the only trees which afford any shade. After 
the season of heavy rains, the islands are said to appear for a 
short time partially green. The volcanic island of Fernando 
Noronha, placed in many respects under nearly similar conditions, 
is the only other country where I have seen a vegetation at all 
like this of the Galapagos islands. 

The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored in 
several bays. One night I slept on shore on a part of the 
island, where black truncated cones were extraordinarily nume- 
rous : from one small eminence I counted sixty of them, all sur- 
mounted by craters more or less perfect. The greater number con- 
sisted merely of a ring of red scoriae or sla^s, cemented together : 
and their height above the plain of lava was not more than from 
fifty to a hundred feet : none had been very lately active. The 
entire surface of this part of the island seems to have been per- 
meated, like a sieve, by the subterranean vapours : here and there 
the lava, whilst soft, has been blown into great bubbles ; and in 
other parts, the tops of caverns similarly formed have fallen in, 
leaving circular pits with steep sides. From the regular form 
of the many craters, they gave to the country an artificial appear- 
ance, which vividly reminded me of those parts of Staffordshire, 
where the great iron-foundries are most numerous. The day 
was glowing hot, and the scrambling over the rough surface and 
through the intricate thickets, was very fatiguing; but I was 
well repaid by the strange Cyclopean scene. As I Avas walking 
along I met two large tortoises, each of which must have weighed 
at least two hundred pounds : one was eating a piece of cactus, 
and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly stalked away ; 
the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in its head. These huge 
reptiles, surrounded by the black lava, the leafless shrubs, and 


large cacti, seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian animals. 
The few dull-coloured birds cared no more for nie, than they tlitl 
for the great tortoises. 

2Srd. — Tiie Beagle proceeded to Charles Island. Tiiis archi- 
jielago has long been frequented, first by the liucaniers, and 
latterly by wiialers, but it is only within the last six years, that 
a small colony has been established here. The inhabitants are 
between two and three hundred in number : they are nearly all 
people of colour, who have been banished for political crimes 
from the Republic of the Equator, of which Quito is the capital. 
The settlement is placed about four and a half miles inland, and 
at a heiglit probably of a thousand feet. In the fiist part of the 
road we passed through leafless thickets, as in Chatham Island. 
Higher up, the woods gradually became greener ; and as soon as 
we crossed the ridge of the island, we were cooled by a fine 
southerly breeze, and our sight refreshed by a green and thriving 
vegetation. In this upper region coarse grasses and ferns 
abound ; but there are no tree-ferns : I saw nowhere any member 
of the Palm family, which is the more singular, as 360 miles 
northward, Cocos Island takes its name from the number of 
cocoa-nuts. The houses are irregularly scattered over a flat 
space of ground, which is cultivated with sweet potatoes and 
l)ananas. It will not easily be imagined how pleasant the sight 
of black mud was to us, after having been so long accustomed to 
the parched soil of Peru and northern Chile. The inhabitants, 
although complaining of poverty, obtain, without much trouble, 
the means of subsistence. In the woods there are many wild 
pigs and goats ; but the staple article of animal food is supplied 
by the tortoises. Their numbers have of course been greatly re- 
duced in this island, but the people yet count on two days' hunt- 
ing giving them food for the rest of the week. It is said that 
formerly single vessels have taken away as many as seven hun- 
dred, and that the ship's company of a frigate some years since 
brought down in one day two hundred tortoises to the beach. 

September 29th. — We doubled the south-west extremity of 
Albemarle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed be- 
tween it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with im- 
mense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed either 
<j\er the rims of the great caldrons, like pitch over the rim of a 


pot in which it has been boiled, or have burst forth from smaller 
orifices on the flanks ; in their descent they have spread over 
miles of the sea-coast. On both of these islands, eruptions are 
known to have taken place ; and in Albemarle, we saw a small 
jet of smoke curling from the summit of one of the great craters. 
In the evening we anchored in Bank's Cove, in Albemarle 
Island. The next morning I went out walking. To the south 
of the broken tuff- crater, in which the Beagle was anchored, 
there was another beautifully symmetrical one of an elliptic form ; 
its longer axis was a little less than a mile, and its depth about 
500 feet. At its bottom there was a shallow lake, in the middle 
of which a tiny crater formed an islet. The day was overpower- 
ingly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue : I hurried down 
the cindery slope, and choked with dust eagerly tasted the water 
— but, to my sorrow, I found it salt as brine. 

The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards, be- 
tween three and four feet long ; and on the hills, an ugly 
yellowish-brown species was equally common. We saw many of 
this latter kind, some clumsily running out of our way, and 
others shuffling into their burrows. I shall presently describe in 
more detail the habits of both these reptiles. Tiie wliole of this 
northern part of Albemarle Island is miserably sterile. 

October 8th. — We arrived at James Island: this island, as 
well as Charles Island, were long since thus named after our 
kings of the Stuart line. Mr. Bynoe, myself, and our servants 
were left here for a week, with provisions and a tent, whilst the 
Beagle vrent for water. We found here a party of Spaniards, who 
had been sent from Charles Island to dry fisli, and to salt tortoise- 
meat. About six miles inland, and at the height of nearly 2000 
feet, a hovel had been built in which two men lived, who were 
employed in catching tortoises, whilst the others were fishing 
oil the coast. I paid this party two visits, and slept tliere one 
night. As in the other islands, the lower region was covered by 
nearly leafless bushes, but the trees were here of a larger growth 
than elsewhere, several being two feet and some even two feet 
nine indies in diameter. The upper region being kept damp by 
the clouds, supports a green and flourishing vegetation. So damp 
was the ground, that there were large beds of a coarse cyperus, 
in which great numbers of a very small water-rail lived and bred. 

183.-,.] SALT-LAKE. 3^7 

While staying in tliis upper region, we lived entirely upon tortoise- 
meat : the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos do came con cuero), 
with the flesh on it, is very good ; and the young tortoises make 
excellent soup ; but otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent. 

One day we accompanied a party of the Spaniards in their 
whale-boat to a solina> or lake from which salt is procured. 
After landing, we had a very rough walk over a rugged field of 
recent lava, which has almost surrounded a tuff-crater, at the 
bottom of which the salt-lake lies. The water is onlyfthree or 
four inches deep, and rests on a layer of beautifully crystallized, 
white salt. The lake is quite circular, and is fringed with a border 
of bright green succulent plants ; the almost precipitous walls of 
the crater are clothed with wood, so that the scene was altogether 
both picturesque and curious. A few years .since, the sailors 
belonging to a sealing-vessel murdered their captain in this quiet 
spot ; and we saw his skull lying among the bushes. 

During the greater part of our stay of a week, the sky was 
cloudless, and if the trade-wind failed for an hour, the heat be- 
came very oppressive. On two days, the thermometer within 
the tent stood for some hours at 93° ; but in the open air, in the 
wind and sun, at only 85°. The sand was extremely hot ; the 
thermometer placed in some of a brown colour immediately rose 
to 137°, and how much above that it would have risen, I do not 
know, for it was not graduated any higher. The black sand felt 
much hotter, so that even in thick boots it was quite disagreeable 
to walk over it. 

The natural history of these islands rs eminently curious, and 
well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are 
aboriginal creations, found nowhere else; tiiere is even a difi'er- 
ence between the inhabitants of the different islands ; yet all 
show a marked relationship with those of America, though sepa- 
rated from that continent by an open space of ocean, between 
500 and 600 miles in width. The archipelago is a little world 
within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence 
it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general 
character of its indigenous production.s. Considering the small 
size of these islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of 
their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every 


height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of 
the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a 
period, geologically recent, the unbroken ocean was here spread 
out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought 
somewhat near to that great fact — that mystery of mysteries — 
the first appearance of new beings on this earth. 

Of terrestrial mammals, there is only one which must be con- 
sidered as indigenous, namely, a mouse (Mus Galapagoensis), and 
this is confined, as far as I could ascertain, to Chatham island, the 
most easterly island of the group. It belongs, as I am informed 
by Mr. Waterhouse, to a division of the family of mice charac- 
teristic of America. At James island, there is a rat sufficiently 
distinct from the common kind to have been named and described 
by Mr. Waterhouse ; but as it belongs to the old-world division 
of the family, and as this island has been frequented by ships for 
the last hundred and fifty years, I can hardly doubt that this rat 
is merely a variety, produced by the new and peculiar climate, 
food, and soil, to which it has been subjected. Although no one 
has a right to speculate without distinct facts, yet even with 
respect to the Chatham island mouse, it should be borne in mind, 
that it may possibly be an American species imported here ; for 
I have seen, in a most unfrequented part of the Pampas, a native 
mouse living irr the roof of a newly-built hovel, and therefore its 
transportation in a vessel is not improbable : analogous facts 
liave been observed by Dr. Eichardson in Nortli America. 

Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the 
group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark- 
like finch from North America (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), which 
ranges on that continent as far north as 54°, and generally fre- 
quents marshes. The other twenty-five birds consist, firstly, 
of a hawk, curiously intermediate in structure between a Buzzard 
and the American group of carrion-feeding Polybori ; and with 
these latter birds it agrees most closely in every habit and even 
tone of voice. Secondly, there are two owls, representing the 
short-eared and white barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly, a wren, 
three tyrant fly-catchers (two of them species of Pyrocephalus, 
one or both of which would be ranked by some ornithologists 
as only varieties), and a dove — all analogous to, but distinct 
from, American species. Fourthly, a swallow, which though 




differing from the Progne purpurea of both Americas, only in 
being rather duller coloured, smaller, and slenderer, is consi- 
dered by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, there are 
three species of mockiiig-thrush — a form highly characteristic 
of America. Tiie remaining land-birds form a most singular 
group of finches, related to each other in the structure of their 
beaks, short tails, form of body, and plumage : there are thirteen 
species, which Mr. Gould has divided into four sub-groups. 
All these species are peculiar to this archipelago ; and so is 
the whole group, with the exception of one species of the sub- 
group Cactornis, lately brought from Bow island, in the Low 
Archipelago. Of Cactornis, the two species may be often seen 
climbing about the flowers of the great cactus-trees ; but all 
the other species of this group of finches, mingled together in 
flocks, feed on the dry and sterile ground of the lower districts. 
Tiie males of all, or certainly of the greater number, are jet 
black ; and the females (with perhaps one or two exceptions) are 
brown. The most curious fact is the perfect gradation in the 
size of the beaks in the difi'erent species of Geospiza, from one as 

1. Geospiza magnirostris. 
3. Geuspiza parvula. 

2. Geospiza fortis. 
4. Certhidea oliva;ea. 

large as that of a hawfinch to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr. 
Gould is right in including his sub-group, Certliidea, in the main 


group), even to that of a warbler. The largest beak in the genus 
Geospiza is shown in Fig. 1, and the smallest in Fig. 3; but 
instead of there being only one intermediate species, with a beak, 
of the size shown in Fig. 2, there are no less than six species 
with insensibly graduated beaks. The beak of the sub-group 
Certhidea, is shown in Fig, 4, The beak of Cactornis is some- 
what like that of a starling ; and that of the fourtli sub-group, 
Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot-shaped. Seeing this gradation 
and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group 
of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of 
birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modi- 
fied for different ends. In a like manner it might be fancied that a 
bird originally a buzzard, had been induced here to undertake the 
office of the carrion-feeding Polybori of the American continent. 

Of waders and water-birds I was able to get only eleven kinds, 
and of these only three (including a rail confined to the damp sum- 
mits of the islands) are new species. Considering the wandering 
habits of the gulls, I was surprised to find that the species in- 
habiting these islands is peculiar, but allied to one from the 
southern parts of South America. The far greater peculiarity of 
the land-birds, namely, twenty-five out of twenty-six being new 
species or at least new races, compared with the waders and 
web-footed birds, is in accordance with the greater range which 
these latter orders have in all parts of the world. We shall 
hereafter see this law of aquatic forms, whether marine or 
fresh-water, being less peculiar at any given point of the earth's 
surface than the terrestrial forms of the same classes, strikingly 
illustrated in the shells, and in a lesser degree in the insects of 
this arcliipelago. 

Two of the waders are rather smaller than the same species 
brought from other places : the swallow is also smaller, though 
it is doubtful whether or not it is distinct from its analogue. 
The two owls, the two tyrant fly-catchers (Pyrocephalus) and the 
dove, are also smaller than the analogous but distinct species, to 
which they are most nearly related ; on the other hand, the gull 
is rather larger. The two owls, the swallow, all three species of 
mocking-thrush, the dove in its separate colours though not in its 
whole plumage, the Totanus, and the gull, are likewise duskier co- 
loured than their analogous species ; and in the case of the mock- 

1835.] TvEPTILES. 381 

ing-thrusli and Totaiius, than any other species of tlie two genera. 
With tlie exce])tion of a wren with a fine yellow breast, and of a 
tyrant fly-catcher with a scarlet tuft and breast, none of the birds 
are brilliantly coloured, as might have been expected in an equa- 
torial district. Hence it would appear probable, that the same 
causes which here make the immigrants of some species smaller, 
make most of the peculiar Galapageian species also smaller, as 
well as very generally more dusky coloured. All the plants have a 
wretched, weedy appearance, and I did not see one beautiful flower. 
The insects, again, are small sized and dull coloured, and, as 
Mr. Waterhouse informs me, there is nothing in their general 
appearance which would have led him to imagine that they had 
come from under the equator. The birds, plants, and insects 
have a desert character, and are not more brilliantly coloured 
than those from southern Patagonia ; we may, therefore, con- 
clude that the usual gaudy colotiring of the intertropical pro- 
ductions, is not related either to the heat or liglit of those zones, 
but to some other cause, perhaps to the conditions of exbtence 
being generally favourable to life. 

We will now turn to the order of reptiles, which gives the 
most striking character to the zoology of these islands. The 
species are not numerous, but the numbers of individuals of each 
species are extraordinarily great. There is one small lizard 
belonging to a South American genus, and two species (and 
probably more) of the Amblyrhynchus — a genus confined to 
the Galapagos islands. There is one snake which is numerous ; 
it is identical, as I am informed by M. Bibron, with the Psam- 
mophis Temniinckii from Chile. Of sea-turtle I believe there 
is more than one species ; and of tortoises there are, as we 
shall presently show, two or three species or races. Of toads 
and frogs there are none : I was surprised at this, considering 
how well suited for them the temperate and damp upper woods 
appeared to be. It recalled to my mind the remark made by 
Bory St. Vincent,* namely, that none of this family are found on 

* Voyage aux Quatre lies d'Afrique. With respect to the Sandwich 
Islands, see Tyerman and Bennett's Journal, vol. i., p. 434. For Mauritius, 
see Voyage par un Officier, &c., Part i., p. 1 70. There are no frogs in the 
Canary Islands (Webb et Berthelot, Hist. Nat. des lies Canaries). I saw 
none at St. Jago in the Cape de Verds. There are none at St. Helena. 

382 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xvir. 

any of the volcanic islands in the great oceans. As far as I can as- 
certain from various works, this seems to hold good throughout the 
Pacific, and even in the large islands of the Sandwich archipelago. 
Mauritius offers an apparent exception, where I saw the Raiia 
Mascariensis in abundance : tliis frog is said now to inhabit the 
Seychelles, Madagascar, and Bourbon ; but on the other hand, 
Du Bois, in his voyage in 1669, states that there were no reptiles 
in Bourbon except tortoises ; and the Officier du Eoi asserts that 
before 1768 it had been attempted, without success, to introduce 
frogs into Mauritius — I presume, for the purpose of eating: 
hence it may be well doubted whether this frog is an aboriginal 
of these islands. The absence of the frog family in the oceanic 
islands is the more remarkable, when contrasted with the case of 
lizards, which swarm on most of the smallest islands. May this 
difference not be caused, by tiie greater facility with which the 
eggs of lizards, protected by calcareous shells, might be trans- 
ported through salt-water, than could the slimy spawn of frogs ? 

I will first describe the habits of the tortoise (Testudo nigra, 
formerly called Indica), which has been so frequently alluded 
to. These animals are found, I believe, on all the islands of the 
Archipelago ; certainly on the greater number. They frequent 
in preference the high damp parts, but they likewise live in the 
lower and arid districts. I have already shown, from the num- 
bers which have been caught in a single day, how very numerous 
they must be. Some grow to an immense size : Mr. Lawson, au 
Englishman, and vice-governor of the colony, told us that he 
had seen several so large, that it required six or eight men to lift 
them from the ground ; and that some had afforded as much as 
two hundred pounds of meat. The old males are the largest, 
the females rarely growing to so great a size : the male can 
readily be distinguished from the female by the greater length 
of its tail. The tortoises which live on those islands where 
there is no water, or in the lower and arid parts of the others, 
feed chiefly on the succulent cactus. Those which frequent the 
liifj-her and damp regions, eat the leaves of various trees, a kind 
of berry (called guayavita) which is acid and austere, and like- 
^^ ise a pale green filamentous lichen (Usnera plicata), that hangs 
in tresses from the boughs of the trees. 

The tortoise is very fond of water, drinking large quantities, 

1835.] GREAT TORTOISE. 391^ 

and wallowing in the mvuL Tlie larger islands alone possess 
springs, and these are always situated towards the central parts, 
and at a considerable height. The tortoises, therefore, which 
frequent the lower districts, when thirsty, are obliged to travel 
from a long distance. Hence broad and well-beaten patlis 
branch off in every direction from the wells down to the sea- 
coast ; and the Spaniards by following them up, first discovered 
the watering-places. "When I landed at Chatham Island, I could 
not ima2;ine what animal travelled so methodically along well- 
chosen tracks. Near the springs it was a curious spectacle to 
behold many of these huge creatures, one set eagerly travelling 
onwards with outstretclied necks, and another set returning, after 
having drunk their fill. When the tortoise arrives at the 
spring, quite regardless of any spectator, he buries his head in 
the water above his eyes, and greedily swallows great mouthfulls, 
at the rate of about ten in a minute. The inhabitants say each 
animal stays three or four days in the neighbourhood of the 
water, and then returns to the lower country ; but they differed 
respecting the frequency of these visits. The animal probably 
regulates them according to the nature of the food on which it 
has lived. It is, however, certain, that tortoises can subsist 
even on those islands, where there is no other water than what 
falls during a few rainy days in the year. 

I believe it is well ascertained, that the bladder of the frog 
acts as a reservoir for the moisture necessary to its existence : 
such seems to be the case with the tortoise. For some time 
after a visit to the springs, their urinary bladders are distended 
with fluid, v/^hich is said gradually to decrease in volume, and to 
become less pure. The iiihabitants, when walking in the lower 
district, and overcome with thirst, often take advantage of this 
circumstance, and drink the contents of the bladder if full : in 
one I saw killed, the fluid was quite limpid, and had only a very 
slightly bitter taste. The inhabitants, however, always first 
drink the water in the pericardium, which is described as being 

The tortoises, when purposely moving towards any point, 
travel by night and day, and arrive at their journey's end much 
sooner than would be expected. The inhabitants, from ob- 
svrvii g murked individuals, consider that they travel a dis- 


tance of about eight miles in two or three days. One large 
tortoise, which I watched, walked at the rate of sixty yards in 
ten minutes, that is 360 yards in the hour, or four miles a day, — 
allowing a little time for it to eat on the road. During the 
breeding season, when the male and female are together, the 
male utters a hoarse roar or bellowing, which, it is said, can be 
heard at the distance of more than a hundred yards. The female 
never uses her voice, and the male only at these times ; so that 
when the people hear this noise, they know that the two are 
together. They were at this time (October) laying their eggs. 
The female, where the soil is sandy, deposits them together, and 
covers them up with sand ; but where the ground is rocky she 
drops them indiscriminately in any hole : Mr. Bynoe found seven 
placed in a fissure. The egg is white and spherical ; one which 
I measured was seven inches and three-eighths in circumference, 
and therefore larger than a hen's egg. The young tortoises, as soon 
as they are hatched, fall a prey in great numbers to the carrion- 
feeding buzzard. The old ones seem generally to die from acci- 
dents, as from falling down precipices : at least, several of the 
inhabitants told me, that they had never found one dead without 
some evident cause. 

The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely deaf; 
certainly they do not overhear a person walking close behind 
them. I was always amused when overtaking one of these great 
monsters, as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, 
the instant I passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and 
uttering a deep hiss fall to tlie ground with a heavy sound, as if 
struck dead. I frequently got on their backs, and then giving 
a few raps on the hinder part of their shells, they would rise up 
and walk away ; — but I found it very difficult to keep my ba- 
lance. The flesh of this animal is largely employed, both fresh 
and salted ; and a beautifully clear oil is prepared from the fat. 
When a tortoise is caught, the man makes a slit in the skin near 
its tail, so as to see inside its body, whether the fat under the 
dorsal plate is thick. If it is not, the animal is liberated ; and 
it is said to recover soon from this strange operation. In order 
to secure the tortoises, it is not sufficient to turn them like 
turtle, for they are often able to get on their legs again. 

There can be little doubt that this tortoise is an aboriginal 


inhabitant of the Galapagos; for it is found on all, or nearly- 
all, tlie islands, even on some of the smaller ones where there 
is no water ; had it been an imported species, this would hardly 
have been the case in a group wiiich has been so little fre- 
quented. Moreover, the old Bucaniers found this tortoise in 
greater numbers even than at present : Wood and Rogers also, 
in 1708, say that it is the opinion of the Spaniards, that it is 
found nowhere else in this quarter of the world. It is now 
widely distributed ; but it may be questioned whether it is in 
any other place an aboriginal. The bones of a tortoise at Mau- 
ritius, associated with those of the extinct Dodo, have gene- 
rally been considered as belonging to this tortoise : if this had 
been so, undoubtedly it must have been there indigenous ; but 
M. Bibron informs me that he believes that it was distinct, as 
the species now living there certainly is. 

The Amblyrhynchus, a remarkable genus of lizards, is confined 
to this archipelago : there are two species, resembling each 
other in general form, one being terrestrial and the other aquatic. 
This latter species (A. cristatus) was first characterised by Mr- 
Bell, who well foresaw, from its short, brood head, and strong 
claws of equal length, that its habits of life would turn out very 
peculiar, and different from those of its nearest ally, the Iguana. 
It is extremely common on all the islands throughout the group, 
and lives exclusively on the rocky sea-beaches, being never 
found, at least I never saw one, even ten yards in-shore. It is a 
hideous-looking creature, of a dirty black colour, stupid, and 

Amblyrhynchus cristatus. a, Tooth of natural size, and likewise magnified. 

sluggish in its movements. The usual length of a full-grown 
one is about a yard, but there are some even four feet long ; a 


386 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. .xvii. 

large one weighed twenty pounds : on the island of Albemarle 
they seem to grow to a greater size than elsewhere. Tlieir tails 
are flattened sideways, and all four feet partially webbed. They 
are occasionally seen some hundred yards from the shore, swim- 
ming about ; and Captain Collnett, in his Voyage, says, " They 
go to sea in herds a-fishing, and sun themselves on the rocks ; and 
may be called alligators in miniature." It must not, however, 
be supposed that they live on fish. When in the water this 
lizard swims with perfect ease and quickness, by a serpentine 
movement of its body and flattened tail — the legs being motion- 
less and closely collapsed on its sides. A seaman on board sank 
one, with a heavy weight attached to it, thinking thus to kill it 
directly ; but when, an hour afterwards, he drew up the line, it 
was quite active. Their limbs and strong claws are admirably 
adapted for crawling over the rugged and fissured masses of 
lava, which everywhere form the coast. In such situations, a 
group of six or seven of these hideous reptiles may oftentimes 
be seen on the black rocks, a few feet above the surf, basking 
in the sun with outstretched legs. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them largely dis- 
tended with minced sea-weed (Ulvse), which grows in thin 
foliaceous expansions of a bright green or a dull red colour. I 
do not recollect having observed this sea-weed in any quantity 
on the tidal rocks ; and I have reason to believe it grows at 
the bottom of the sea, at some little distance from the coast. If 
such be the case, the object of these animals occasionally going 
out to sea is explained. The stomach contained nothing but the 
sea-weed. Mr. Bynoe, however, found a piece of a crab in one ; 
but this might have got in accidentally, in the same manner as 
I have seen a caterpillar, in the midst of some lichen, in the 
paunch of a tortoise. The intestines were large, as in other 
herbivorous animals. The nature of this lizard's food, as well 
as the structure of its tail and feet, and the fact of its liaving 
been seen voluntarily swimming out at sea, absolutely prove its 
aquatic habits ; yet there is in this respect one strange anomaly, 
namely, that when frightened it will not enter tlie water. Hence 
it is easy to drive these lizards down to any little point over- 
hanging the sea, where they will sooner allow a person to catch 
hold of tlieir tails than jump into the Mater. They do not seem 


to have any notion of biting^ ; but when much frightened tliey 
squirt a drop of fluid from each nostril. I threw one several 
times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the retiring tide ; 
but it invariably returned in a direct line to the spot where I 
stood. It swam near the bottom, with a very graceful and 
I'apid movement, and occasionally aided itself over the uneven 
ground with its feet. As soon as it arrived near the edge, but 
still being under water, it tried to conceal itself in the tufts 
of sea-weed, or it entered some crevice. As soon as it thought 
the danger was past, it crawled out on the dry rocks, and 
shuffled away as quickly as it could. I several times caught 
this same lizard, by driving it down to a point, and though pos- 
sessed of such perfect powers of diving and swimming, nothing 
would induce it to enter the water ; and as often as I threw it 
in, it returned in the manner above described. Perhaps this 
singular piece of apparent stupidity may be accounted for by 
the circumstance, that this reptile has no enemy whatever on 
shore, whereas at sea it must often fall a prey to the numerous 
sharks. Hence, probably, urged by a fixed and hereditary in- 
stinct that the shore is its place of safety, whatever the emer- 
gency may be, it there takes refuge. 

During our visit (in October), I saw extremely few small 
individuals of this species, and none I should think under a year 
old. From this circumstance it seems probable that the breeding 
season had not then commenced. I asked several of the inha- 
bitants if they knew where it laid its eggs : they said that 
they knew nothing of its propagation, although well acquainted 
with the eggs of the land kind — a fact, considering how very 
conmion this lizard is, not a little extraordinary. 

We will now turn to the terrestrial species (A. Demarlii), 
with a round tail, and toes without webs. This lizard, instead of 
being found like the other on all the islands, is confined to the cen- 
tral part of the archipelago, namely to Albemarle, James, Bar- 
rington, and Indefatigable islands. To the southward, in Charles, 
Hood, and Chatham islands, and to the northward, in Towers, 
Bindloes, and Abingdon, I neither saw nor heard of any. It 
would appear as if it had been created in the centre of the archi- 
pelago, and thence had been dispersed only to a certain distance. 
Some of these lizards inhabit the high and damp parts of the 


388 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xvii. 

islands, but they are much more numerous in the lower and ste- 
rile districts near the coast. I cannot give a more forcible proof 
of their numbers, than by stating that when we were left at James 
Island, we could not for some time find a spot free from their 
burrows on which to pitch our single tent. Like their brothers 
thesea-kind, they are ugly animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, 
and of a brownish red colour above : from their low facial angle 
they have a singularly stupid appearance. They are, perhaps, 
of a rather less size than the marine species ; but several of 
them weighed between ten and fifteen pounds. In their move- 
ments they are lazy and half torpid. When not frightened, they 
slowly crawl along with their tails and bellies dragging on the 
ground. They often stop, and doze for a minute or two, with 
closed eyes and hind legs spread out on the parched soil. 

They inhabit burrows, which they sometimes make between 
fragments of lava, but more generally on level patches of the 
soft sandstone-like tuff. The holes do not appear to be very 
deep, and they enter the ground at a small angle ; so that when 
walking over these lizard-warrens, the soil is constantly giving 
way, much to the annoyance of the tired walker. This animal, 
when making its burrow, works alternately the opposite sides of 
its body. One front leg for a short time scratches up the soil, 
and throws it towards the hind foot, which is well placed so as 
to heave it beyond the mouth of the hole. That side of the' 
body being tired, the other takes up the task, and so on alter- 
nately. I watched one for a long time, till half its body was 
buried ; I then walked up and pulled it by the tail; at this it 
was greatly astonished, and soon shuffled up to see what was the 
matter ; and then stared me in the face, as much as to say, 
" What made you pull my tail ? " 

They feed by day, and do not wander far from tlieir burrow^s ; 
if frightened, they rush to them with a most awkward gait. 
Except when running down hill, they cannot move very fast, 
apparently from the lateral position of their legs. They are not 
at all timorous : when attentively watching any one, they curl 
their tails, and, raising themselves on their front legs, nod their 
heads vertically, with a quick movement, and try to look very 
fierce : but in reality they are not at all so ; if one just stamps 
on the ground, down go their tails, and oft' they shuffle as quickly 


as they can. I have frequently observed small fly-eating lizards, 
when watching anything, nod their heads in precisely the same 
manner ; but I do not at all know for what purpose. If this 
Amblyrhynchus is held and plagued with a stick, it will bite 
it very severely ; but I caught many by the tail, and they 
never tried to bite me. If two are placed on the ground and 
held together, they will fight, and bite each other till blood is 

The individuals, and they are the greater number, which in- 
habit the lower country, can scarcely taste a drop of water 
throughout the year ; but they consume much of the succulent 
cactus, the branches of which are occasionally broken off by the 
wind. I several times threw a piece to two or three of them 
when together ; and it was amusing enough to see them trying to 
seize and carry it away in their mouths, like so many hungry dogs 
with a bone. They eat very deliberately, but do not chew their 
food. The little birds are aware how harmless these creatures 
are : I have seen one of the thick-billed finches picking at one 
end of a piece of cactus (which is much relished by all the ani- 
mals of the lower region), whilst a lizard was eating at the other 
end ; and afterwards the little bird with the utmost indifference 
hopped on the back of the reptile. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them full of ve- 
getable fibres and leaves of diflferent trees, especially of an acacia. 
In the upper region they live chiefly on the acid and astringent 
berries of the guayavila, under which trees I have seen these 
lizards and the huge tortoises feeding together. To obtain the 
acacia-leaves they crawl up the low stunted trees ; and it is not 
uncommon to see a pair quietly browsing, whilst seated on a 
branch several, feet above the ground. These lizards, when 
cooked, yield a white meat, which is liked by those whose sto- 
machs soar above all prejudices. Humboldt has remarked that 
in intertropical South America, all lizards which inhabit dry 
regions are esteemed delicacies for the table. The inhabitants 
state that those which inhabit the upper damp parts drink water, 
but that the others do not, like the tortoises, travel up for it from 
the lower sterile country. At the time of our visit, the females 
had within their bodies numerous, large, elongated eggs, which 
they lay in their burrows : the inhabitants seek them for food. 

390 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xvii. 

These two species of Aniblyrhynchus agree, as I have already 
stated, in their general structure, and in many of their habits. 
Neither have that rapid movement, so characteristic of the genera 
Lacerta and Iguana. They are both herbivorous, although the 
kind of vegetation on which they feed is so very different. Mr. 
Bell has given the name to the genus from the shortness of the 
snout ; indeed, the fonn of the mouth may almost be compared 
to that of the tortoise : one is led to suppose that this is an 
adaptation to their herbivorous appetites. It is very interesting 
thus to find a well-characterized genus, having its marine and 
terrestrial species, belonging to so confined a portion of the 
world. The aquatic species is by far the most remarkable, be- 
cause it is the only existing lizard which lives on marine vege- 
table productions. As I at first observed, these islands are not 
so remarkable for the number of the species of reptiles, as for 
that of the individuals ; when we remember the well-beaten paths 
made by the thousands of huge tortoises — the many turtles — the 
great warrens of the terrestrial Amblyrhynchus — and the groups 
of the marine species basking on the coast-rocks of every island 
— we must admit that there is no other quarter of the a\ orld 
where this Order replaces the herbivorous mammalia in so extra- 
ordinary a manner. The geologist on hearing this will probably 
refer back in his mind to the Secondary epochs, when lizards, some 
herbivorous, some carnivorous, and of dimensions comparable only 
with our existing whales, swarmed on the land and in the sea. It 
is, therefore, worthy of his observation, that this archipelago, in- 
stead of possessing a humid climate and rank vegetation, cannot 
be considered otherwise than extremely arid, and, for an equa- 
torial region, remarkably temperate. 

To finish with the zoology : the fifteen kinds of sea -fish which 
I procured here are all new species ; they belong to twelve ge- 
nera, .all widely distributed, with the exception of Prionotus, of 
which the four previously known species live on the eastern side 
of America. Of land-shells I collected sixteen kinds (and two 
marked varieties), of which, with the exception of one Helix 
found at Tahiti, all are peculiar to this archipelago : a single 
fresli-water shell (Paludina) is common to Tahiti and Van Die- 
men's Land. Mr. Cuming, before our voyage, procured here 
ninety species of sea-sliells, and this does not include several 


species not yet specifically examined, of Trochus, Turbo, Mono- 
(lonta, and IS^assa. He has been kind enough to give me the 
following interesting results : of the ninety shells, no less than 
forty-seven are unknown elsewhere — a wonderful fact, consider- 
ing how widely distributed sea-shells generally are. Of the 
forty-three shells found in other parts of the world, twenty-five 
inhabit the western coast of America, and of these eight are dis- 
tinguishable as varieties ; the remaining eighteen (including one 
variety) were found by Mr. Cuming in the Low archipelago, and 
some of them also at the Philippines. This fact of shells from 
islands in the central parts of the Pacific occurring here, deserves 
notice, for not one single sea-shell is known to be common to 
the islands of that ocean and to the west coast of America. The 
space of open sea running north and south off the west coast, 
separates two quite distinct conchological provinces ; but at the 
Galapagos Archipelago we have a halting-place, where many 
new forms have been created, and whither these two great concho- 
logical provinces have each sent several colonists. The Ame- 
rican province has also sent here representative species ; for 
there is a Galapageian species of Monoceros, a genus only found 
on the west coast of America ; and there are Galapageian species 
of Fissurella and Cancellaria, genera common on the west coast, 
but not found (as I am informed by Mr. Cuming) in the central 
islands of the Pacific. On the other hand, there are Galapa- 
geian species of Oniscia and Stylifer, genera common to the West 
Indies and to the Chinese and Indian seas, but not found either 
on the west coast of America or in the central Pacific. I may 
here add, that after the comparison by Messrs. Cuming and Hinds 
of about 2000 shells from the eastern and western coasts of Ame- 
rica, only one single shell was found in conunon, namely, the 
Purpura patula, which inhabits the West Indies, the coast of 
Panama, and the Galapagos. We have, therefore, in this quarter 
of the world, three great conchological sea-provinces, quife dis- 
tinct, though surprisingly near each other, being separated by 
long north and south spaces either of land or of open sea. 

I took great pains in collecting the insects, but, excepting 
Tierra del Fuego, I never saw in this respect so poor a country. 
Even in the upper and damp region I procured very few, except- 
ing some minute Diptera and Hymenoptera, mostly of common 

392 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xvii. 

mundane forms. As before remarked, the insects, for a tropical 
region, are of very small size and dull colours. Of beetles I col- 
lected twenty-five species (excluding a Dermestes and Corynetes 
imported, wherever a ship touches) ; of these, two belong to the 
Harpalidse, two to the Hydrophilidas, nine to three families of the 
Heteromera, and the remaining twelve to as many different fami- 
lies. This circumstance of insects (and I may add plants), where 
few in number, belonging to many different families, is, I believe, 
very general. Mr, Waterhouse, who has published * an account 
of the insects of this archipelago, and to whom I am indebted 
for the above details, informs me that there are several new 
genera ; and that of the genera not new, one or two are 
American, and the rest of mundane distribution. With the 
exception of a wood-feeding Apate, and of one or probably two 
water-beetles from the American continent, all the species appear 
to be new. 

The botany of this group is fully as interesting as the zoology. 
Dr. J. Hooker will soon publish in the ' Linnean Transactions ' 
a full account of the Flora, and I am much indebted to him for 
the following details. Of flowering plants there are, as far as at 
jiresent is known, 185 species, and 40 cryptogamic species, mak- 
ing together 225 ; of this number I was fortunate enough to bring 
home 193. Of the flowering plants, 100 are new species, and 
are probably confined to this archipelago. Dr. Hooker conceives 
that, of the plants not so confined, at least 10 species found near 
the cultivated ground at Charles Island, have been imported. 
It is, I think, surprising that more American species have 
not been introduced naturally, considering that the distance is 
only between 500 and 600 miles from the continent ; and that 
(according to Collnett, p. 58) drift-wood, bamboos, canes, and the 
nuts of a palm, are often washed on the south-eastern shores. 
The proportion of 100 flowering plants out of 185 (or 175 ex- 
cluding the imported weeds) being new, is sufficient, I conceive, 
to make the Galapagos Archipelago a distinct botanical province ; 
but this Flora is not nearly so peculiar as that of St. Helena, nor, 
as I am informed by Dr. Hooker, of Juan Fernandez. The pe- 
culiarity of the Galapageian Flora is best shown in certain fami- 

* Ann. and Mag. of Nat. Hist., vol. xvi. p. 19. 


lies; — thus there are 21 species of Coinpositae, of which 20 are 
peculiar to this archipelago ; these belong to twelve genera, and 
of these genera no less than ten are confined to the archi- 
pelago ! Dr. Hooker informs me that the Flora has an undoubted 
Western American character ; nor can he detect in it any affinity 
with that of the Pacific. If, therefore, we except the eighteen 
marine, the one fresh-water, and one land-shell, which have 
apparently come here as colonists from the central islands of 
the Pacific, and likewise the one distinct Pacific species of 
the Galapageian group of finches, we see that this archipelago, 
though standing in the Pacific Ocean, is zoologically part of 

If this character were owing merely to immigrants from Ame- 
rica, there would be little remarkable in it ; but we see that a 
vast majority of all the land animals, and that more than half of 
the flowering plants, are aboriginal productions. It was most 
striking to be surrounded by new birds, new reptiles, new shells, 
new insects, new plants, and yet by innumerable trifling details 
of structure, and even by the tones of voice and plumage of the 
birds, to have the temperate plains of Patagonia, or the hot dry 
deserts of IS^orthern Chile, vividly brought before my eyes. 
Why, on these small points of land, which within a late geolo- 
gical period must have been covered by the ocean, which are formed 
of basaltic lava, and therefore differ in geological character 
from the American continent, and which are placed under a pe- 
culiar climate, — why were their aboriginal inhabitants, associated, 
I may add, in different proportions both in kind and number 
from those on the continent, and therefore acting on each other 
in a different manner — why were they created on American 
types of organization ? It is probable that the islands of the 
Cape de Verd group resemble, in all their physical conditions, 
far more closely the Galapagos Islands than these latter^ phy- 
sically resemble the coast of America ; yet the aboriginal inha- 
bitants of the two groups are totally unlike ; those of the Cape de 
Verd Islands bearing the impress of Africa, as the inhabitants of 
the Galapagos Archipelago are stamped with that of America. 

I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature 
in the natural history of this archipelago ; it is, that the different 

394 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [chap. xvir. 

islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set 
of beings. My attention was first called to this fact by the Vice- 
Governor, Mr. Lawson, declaring that the tortoises differed from 
the different islands, and that he could with certainty tell from 
which island any one was brought, I did not for some time 
pay sufficient attention to this statement, and I had already par- 
tially mingled together the collections from two of the islands, 
I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and 
mjst of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same 
rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly 
equal height, would have been differently tenanted ; but we shall 
soon see tliat this is the case. It is the fate of most voyagers, no 
sooner to discover what is most interesting in any locality, than 
they are hurried from it ; but I ought, perhaps, to be thankful 
that I obtained sufficient materials to establish this most remark- 
able fact in the distribution of organic beings. 

The inhabitants, as I have said, state that they can distinguish 
the tortoises from the difterent islands ; and that they diflfer not 
only in size, but in otJier characters. Captain Porter has de- 
scribed * those from Charles and from the nearest island to it, 
namely, Hood Island, as having their shells in front thick and 
turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst the tortoises from James 
Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked. 
M. Bibron, moreover, informs me that he has seen what he con- 
siders two distinct species of tortoise from the Galapagos, but he 
does not know from which islands. The specimens that I brought 
from three islands were young ones ; and probably owing to this 
cause, neither Mr. Gray nor myself could find in them any specific 
differences. I have remarked that the marine Amblyrhynchus 
was larger at Albemarle Island than elsewhere ; and M. Bibron 
informs me that he has seen two distinct aquatic species of this 
genus ; so that the different islands probably have their repre- 
sentative species or races of the Amblyrhynchus, as well as of the 
tortoise. My attention was first thoroughly aroused, by compar- 
ing together the numerous specimens, shot by myself and several 
other parties on board, of the mocking-thrushes, when, to my 
astonishment, I discovered that all those from Charles Island 

* Voyage in the U. S. ship Essex, vol. i. p. 21.5. 


belonged to one species (JMinius trifasciatus) ; all from Albemarle 
Island to INI. parvulus ; and all from James and Chatham Islands 
(between which two other islands are situated, as connecting 
links) belonged to M. melanotis. These two latter species are 
closely allied, and would by some ornithologists be considered as 
only well-marked races or varieties ; but the Mimus trifasciatus 
is very distinct. Unfortunately most of the specimens of the 
finch tribe were mingled together ; but I have strong reasons to 
suspect that some of the species of the sub-group Geospiza are 
confined to separate islands. If the difterent islands have their 
representatives of Geospiza, it may help to explain the singularly 
large number of the species of this sub-group in tliis one smaJI 
archipelago, and as a probable consequence of their immbers, 
the perfectly graduated series in the size of their beaks. Two 
species of the sub-group Cactornis, and two of Camarhynchus, 
were procured in the archipelago ; and of the numerous speci- 
mens of these two sub-groups shot by four collectors at James 
Island, all were found to belong to one species of each ; wliereas 
the numerous specimens shot either on Chatham or Charles 
Island (for the two sets were mingled together) all belonged to 
the two other species : hence we may feel almost sure that these 
islands possess their representative species of these two sub-groups. 
In land-shells this law of distribution does not appear to hold 
good. In my very small collection of insects, Mr. Waterhouse 
remarks, that of those which were ticketed with their locality, 
not one was common to any two of the islands. 

If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal 
plants of the different islands wonderfully different. I give all 
the following results on the high authority of my friend Dr. 
J. Hooker. I may premise that I indiscriminately collected 
everything in flower on the different islands, and fortunately 
kept my collections separate. Too much confidence, however, 
must not be placed in the proportional results, as the small col- 
lections brought home by some other naturalists, though in some 
respects confirming the results, plainly show that much remains 
to be done in the botany of this group : tlie Leguminosse, more- 
over, have as yet been only approximately worked out: — 



[chap. XVII. 



No. of 

No. of 
found in 
other parts 
of the 

No. of 


to the 



to the 



No. of Species 
confined to the 

but found on 
more than the 

one Island. 

James Island 
Albemarle Island 
Chatham Island. 
Charles Island . 




(or 29, if the 
probably im- 
ported plants 
be subtracted) 




Hence we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James Island, 
of the thirty-eight Galapageian plants, or those found in no 
other part of the world, thirty are exclusively confined to this 
one island ; and in Albemarle Island, of the twenty-six abori- 
ginal Galapageian plants, twenty-two are confined to this one 
island, that is, only four are at present known to grow in the 
other islands of the archipelago ; and so on, as shown in the 
above table, with the plants from Chatham and Charles Islands. 
This fact will, perhaps, be rendered even more striking, by 
giving a few illustrations : — thus, Scalesia, a remarkable arbo- 
rescent genus of the Compositae, is confined to the archipe- 
lago : it has six species ; one from Chatham, one from Albe- 
marle, one from Charles Island, two from James Island, and the 
sixth from one of the three latter islands, but it is not known 
from which : not one of these six species grows on any two 
islands. Again, Euphorbia, a mundane or widely distributed 
genus, has here eight species, of which seven are confined to the 
archipelago, and not one found on any two islands : Acalypha 
and Borreria, both mundane genera, have respectively six and 
seven species, none of M-hich have the same species on two islands, 
with the exception of one Borreria, Avhich does occur on two 
islands. The species of the Compositae are particularly local ; 
and Dr. Hooker has furnished me with several other most strik- 
ing illustrations of the difference of the species on the different 


islands. He remarks that tliis law of distribution holds good 
both with those genera confined to the archipelago, and those dis- 
tributed in other quarters of the world : in like manner we have 
seen that the different islands have their proper species of the 
mundane genus of tortoise, and of the widely distributed Ame- 
rican genus of the mocking-thrush, as well as of two of the Ga- 
lapageian sub-groups of finches, and almost certainly of the 
Galapageian genus Amblyrhynchus. 

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would not 
be nearly so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had a mock- 
ing-thrush, and a second island some other quite distinct genus ; 
— if one island had its genus of lizard, and a second island 
another distinct genus, or none whatever ; — or if the different 
islands were inhabited, not by representative species of the same 
genera of plants, but by totally difli'erent genera, as does to a cer- 
tain extent hold good ; for, to give one instance, a large berry- 
bearing tree at James Island has no representative species in 
Charles Island. But it is the cii"cumstance, that several of the 
islands possess their own species of the tortoise, mocking-thrush, 
finches, and numerous plants, these species having the same 
general habits, occupying analogous situations, and obviously 
filling the same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, 
that strikes me with wonder. It may be suspected that some of 
these representative species, at least in the case of the tor- 
toise and of some of the birds, may hereafter prove to be only 
well-marked races ; but this would be of equally great interest 
to the philosophical naturalist. I have said that most of the 
islands are in sight of each other : I may specify that Charles 
Island is fifty miles from the nearest part of Chatham Island, and 
thirty-three miles from the nearest part of Albemarle Island. 
Chatham Island is sixty miles from the nearest part of James 
Island, but there are two intermediate islands between them 
which were not visited by me. James Island is only ten miles 
from the nearest part of Albemarle Island, but the two points 
where the collections were made are thirty-two miles apart. I 
must repeat, that neither the nature of the soil, nor height of the 
land, nor the climate, nor the general character of the associated 
beings, and therefore their action one on another, can differ much 
in the different islands. If there be any sensible difference in 

398 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [cqa?. xvir. 

their climates, it must be between the windward group (namely 
Charles and Chatham Islands), and that to leeward ; but there 
seems to be no corresponding difference in the productions of 
these two halves of the archipelago. 

The only light which I can throw on this remarkable differ- 
ence in the inhabitants of tlie different islands, is, that very strong 
currents of the sea running in a westerly and W.N.W. direction 
must separate, as far as transportal by the sea is concerned, the 
southern islands from the northern ones ; and between these 
northern islands a strong N.W. current was observed, which 
must effectually separate James and Albemarle Islands. As the 
archipelago is free to a most remarkable degree from gales of wind, 
neither the birds, insects, nor lighter seeds, would be blown from 
island to island. And lastly, the profound depth of the ocean 
between the islands, and their apparently recent (in a geological 
sense) volcanic origin, render it highly unlikely that they were 
ever united ; and this, probably, is a far more important consi- 
deration than any other, with respect to the geographical distri- 
bution of their inhabitants. Reviewing the facts here given, one 
is astonished at the amount of creative force, if such an expres- 
sion may be used, displayed on these small, barren, and rocky 
islands ; and still more so, at its diverse yet analogous action on 
points so near each other. I have said that tiie Galapagos Archi- 
pelago might be called a satellite attached to America, but it 
should rather be called a group of satellites, physically similar, 
organically distinct, yet intimately related to each other, and all 
related in a marked, though much lesser degree, to the great 
American continent. 

I will conclude my description of the natural history of these 
islands, by giving an account of the extreme tameness of the 

This disposition is common to all the terrestrial species ; 
namely, to the mocking-thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant-fly- 
catchers, the dove, and carrion-buzzard. All of them often 
approached sufficiently near to be killed with a switch, and 
sometimes, as I myself tried, with a cap or hat. A gun is here 
almost superfluous ; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk off the 
branch of a tree. One day, whilst lying down, a mocking- 


tlirush alighted on the edge of a pitcher, made of the shell of 
a tortoise, which I held in my hand, and began very quietly to 
sip the water ; it allowed me to lift it from the ground whilst 
seated on the vessel : I often tried, and very nearly succeeded, in 
catching these birds by their legs. Formerly the birds appear to 
have been even tamer than at present. Cowley (in the year 1684) 
says that the " Turtle-doves were so tame, that they would often 
alight upon our hats and arms, so as that we could take them 
alive : they not fearing man, until such time as some of our com- 
pany did fire at them, whereby they were rendered more shy." 
Dampier also, in the same year, says that a man in a morning's 
walk, might kill six or seven dozen of these doves. At present, 
although certainly very tame, they do not alight on people's 
arms, nor do they suffer themselves to be killed in such large 
numbers. It is surprising that they have not become wilder ; 
for these islands during the last hundred and fifty years have 
been frequently visited by bucaniers and whalers ; and the sailors, 
wandering through the woods in search of tortoises, always take 
cruel delight in knocking down the little birds. 

These birds, although now still more persecuted, do not readily 
become wild : in Charles Island, which had then been colonized 
about six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well with a switch in his 
hand, with which he killed the doves and finches as they came to 
drink. He had already procured a little heap of them for his 
dinner ; and he said that lie had constantly been in the habit of 
waiting by this well for the same purpose. It would appear that 
the birds of this archipelago, not having as yet learnt that man is 
a more dangerous animal than the tortoise or the Amblyrhynchus, 
disregard him, in the same manner as in England shy birds, such 
as magpies, disregard the cows and horses grazing in our fields. 

The Falkland Islands offer a second instance of birds with a 
similar disposition. The extraordinary tameness of the little 
Opetiorhynchus has been remarked by Pernety, Lesson, and other 
voyagers. It is not, however, peculiar to that bird : the Poly- 
borus, snipe, upland and lowland goose, thrush, bunting, and 
even some true hawks, are all more or less tame. As the birds 
are so tame there, where foxes, hawks, and owls occur, we may 
infer that the absence of all rapacious animals at the Galapagos, 
?s not the cause of their tameness here. The upland geese at 

400 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO. [oiap. xvii. 

the Falklands show, by the precaution they take in building on 
the islets, that they are aware of their danger from the foxes ; 
but they are not by this rendered wild towards man. This tame- 
ness of the birds, especially of the waterfowl, is strongly con- 
trasted with the habits of the same species in Tierra del Fuego, 
where for ages past they have been persecuted by the wild inha- 
bitants. In the Falklands, the sportsman may sometimes kill 
more of the upland geese in one day than he can carry home ; 
whereas in Tierra del Fuego, it is nearly as difficult to kill one, 
as it is in England to shoot the common wild goose. 

In the time of Pernety (1763), all the birds there appear to 
liave been much tamer than at present ; he states that the Ope- 
tiorhynchus would almost perch on his finger ; and that with a 
wand he killed ten in half an hour. At that period the birds 
must have been about as tame, as they now are at the Galapagos. 
Thej^ appear to have learnt caution more slowly at these latter 
islands than at the Falklands, where they have had proportionate 
means of experience ; for besides frequent visits from vessels, 
those islands have been at intervals colonized during the entire 
period. Even formerly, when all the birds were so tame, it was 
impo.ssible by Pernety's account to kill the black-necked swan 
— a bird of passage, which probably brought with it the wisdom 
learnt in foreign countries. 

I may add that, according to Du Bois, all the birds at Bour- 
bon in 1571-72, with the exception of the flamingoes and geese, 
were so extremely tame, that they could be caught by the hand, 
or killed in any number with a stick. Again, at Tristan d'A- 
cunha in the Atlantic, Carmichael* states tliat the only two 
land-birds, a thrush and a bunting, were " so tame as to suffer 
themselves to be caught with a hand-net." From these several 
facts we may, I think, conclude, first, that the wildness of birds 

* Linn. Trans., vol. xii. p. 496. The most anomalous fact on this sub- 
ject -which I have met with, is the wildness of the small birds in the Arctic 
parts of North America (as described by Richardson, Fauna Bor., vol. ii. 
p. 332), where they are said never to be persecuted. This case is the more 
strange, because it is asserted that some of the same species in their winter- 
(}uarters in the United States are tame. There is much, as Dr. Richardson 
well remarlcs, utterly inexplicable connected with the different degrees of 
shyness and care with which birds conceal their nests. How strange it is 
that the English wood-pigeon, generally so wild a bird, should very fre- 
quently rear its young iu shrubberies close to houses ! 


with regard to man, is a particular instinct directed against him^ 
and not dependent on any general degree of caution arising from 
other sources of danger ; secondly, that it is not acquired by in- 
dividual birds in a short time, even when much persecuted ; but 
that in the course of successive generations it becomes hereditary. 
With domesticated animals we are accustomed to see new mental 
habits or instincts acquired and rendered hereditary ; but with 
animals in a state of nature, it must always be most difficult to 
discover instances of acquired hereditary knowledge. In regard 
to the wildness of birds towards man, there is no way of account- 
ing for it, except as an inherited habit : comparatively few young 
birds, in any one year, have been injured by man in England, 
yet almost all, even nestlings, are afraid of him ; many indivi- 
duals, on the other hand, both at the Galapagos and at the Falk- 
lands, have been pursued and injured by man, but yet have not 
learned a salutary dread of him. We may infer from these facts, 
what havoc the introduction of any new beast of prey must cause 
in a country, before the instincts of the indigenous .inhabitants 
liave become adapted to the stranger's ci-aft or power. 

2 D 

402 TAHITI. [chap. xvin. 



Pass through the Low Archipelago — Tahiti — Aspect — Vegetation on the 
Mountains — View of Einieo — Excursion into the Interior — Profound 
Ravines— Succession of Waterfalls — Number of wild useful Plants — ■ 
Temperance of the Inhabitants — Their moral state — Parliament convened 
— New Zealand — Bay of Islands — Hippahs — Excursion to Waimate — 
Missionary Establishment — English Weeds now run wild — Waiomio — 
Funeral of a New Zealand Woman — Sail for Australia. 

October 20th. — The survey of the Galapagos Archipelago being 
concluded, we steered towards Tahiti and commenced our long 
passage of 3200 miles. In the course of a few days we sailed out 
of the gloomy and clouded ocean-district which extends during 
the winter far from tlie coast of South America. We then en- 
joyed bright and clear weather, while running pleasantly along 
at the rate of 150 or 160 miles a day before the steady trade- 
wind. The temperature in this more central part of the Pacific 
is higher than near the American shore. The thermometer in 
the poop cabin, by night and day, ranged between 80° and 83°, 
which feels very pleasant ; but with one degree or two higher, 
the heat becomes oooressive. We na-ssed through the Low or 
Dangerous Archipelago, ana saw several of those most curious 
rings of coral land, just rising above the water's edge, which have 
been called Lagoon Islands. A long and brilliantly-white beach 
is capped by a margin of green vegetation ; and the strip, look- 
ing either way, rapidly narrows away in the distance, and sinks 
beneath the horizon. From the mast-head a wide expanse of 
smooth water can be seen within the ring. These low hollow 
coral islands bear no proportion to the vast ocean out of which 
they abruptly rise ; and it seems wonderful, that such weak in- 
vaders are not overwhelmed, by the all-powerful and never-tiring 
waves of that great sea, miscalled the Pacific. 

November 15th. — At daylight, Tahiti, an island which must 


for ever remain classical to the voyager in the South Sea, was 
in view. At a distance the appearance was not attractive. The 
luxuriant vegetation of the lower part could not yet be seen, and 
as the clouds rolled past, the wildest and most precipitous peaks 
showed themselves towards the centre of the island. As soon as 
we anchored in Matavai Bay, we were surrounded by canoes. 
This was our Sunday, but the Monday of Tahiti : if the case had 
been reversed, we should not have received a single visit ; for 
the injunction not to launch a canoe on the sabbath is rigidly 
obeyed. After dinner we landed to enjoy all the delights pro- 
duced by the first impressions of a new country, and that country 
the charming Tahiti. A crowd of men, women, and children, 
was collected on the memorable Point Venus, ready to receive 
us with laughing, merry faces. They marshalled us towards the 
house of Mr. Wilson, the missionary of the district, who met us 
on the road, and gave us a very friendly reception. After sitting 
a short time in his house, we separated to walk about, but re- 
turned there in the evening. 

The land capable of cultivation, is scarcely in any part more 
than a fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round the base of the 
mountains, and protected from the waves of the sea by a coral reef, 
which encircles the entire line of coast. Within the reef there is an 
expanse of smooth water, like that of a lake, where the canoes of 
the natives can ply with safety and where ships anchor. The low 
land which comes down to the beach of coral-sand, is covered by 
the most beautiful productions of the intertropical regions. In the 
midst of bananas, orange, cocoa-nut, and bread-fruit trees, spots 
are cleared where yams, sweet potatoes, the sugar-cane, and pine- 
apples, are cultivated. Even the brushwood is an imported fruit- 
tree, namely, the guava, which from its abundance has become 
as noxious as a weed. In Brazil I have often admired the varied 
beauty of the bananas, palms, and orange-trees contrasted toge- 
ther; and here we also have the bread-fruit, conspicuous from 
its large, glossy, and deeply digitated leaf. It is admirable to 
behold tjroves of a tree, sendins: forth its branches with the vi<Tour 
of an English oak, loaded with large and most nutritious fruit. 
However seldom the usefulness of an object can account for the 
pleasure of beholding it, in the case of these beautiful woods, the 
knowledge of their high productiveness no doubt enters largely 

2 D 2 

404 TAHITI. [chap. x\ HI. 

into the feeling of admiration. The little -winding paths, cool 
from the surrounding shade, led to the scattered houses; the 
owners of which every where gave us a cheerful and most hos- 
pitable reception. 

I was pleased with nothing so much as with the inhabitants. 
There is a mildness in the expression of their countenances 
which at once banishes the idea of a savage ; and an intelligence 
which shows that they are advancing in civilization. The com- 
mon people, when working, keep the upper part of their bodies 
quite naked ; and it is then tliat the Tahitians are seen to advan- 
tage. They are very tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, and well- 
proportioned. It has been remarked, that it requires little habit 
to make a dark skin more pleasing and natural to the eye of an 
European than his own colour. A white man bathing by the 
side of aTahitian, was like a plant bleached by the gardener's art 
compared with a fine dark green one growing vigorously in the 
open fields. Most of the men are tattooed, and the ornaments 
follow the curvature of the body so gracefully, that they have a 
very elegant effect. One common pattern, varying in its details, 
is somewhat like the crown of a palm-tree. It springs from the 
central line of the back, and gracefully curls round both sides. 
The simile may be a fanciful one, but I thought the body of a 
man thus ornamented was like the trunk of a noble tree embraced 
by a delicate creeper. 

Many of the elder people had their feet covered with small 
figures, so placed as to resemble a sock. This fashion, however, 
is partly gone by, and has been succeeded by others. Here, al- 
though fashion is far from immutable, every one must abide by 
that prevailing in his youth. An old man has thus his age for 
ever stamped on his body, and he cannot assume the airs of a 
young dandy. The women are tattooed in the same manner as 
the men, and very commonly on their fingers. One unbecoming 
fashion is now almost universal : namely, shaving the hair from 
the upper part of the head, in a circular form, so as to leave 
only an outer ring. The missionaries have tried to persuade the 
people to change this habit ; but it is the fashion, and that is a 
sufficient answer at Tahiti, as well as at Paris. I was much dis- 
appointed in the personal appearance of the women : they are far 
inferior in every respect to the men. The custom of wearing a 


white or scarlet flower in the back of the head, or through a 
small liole in each ear, is pretty. A crown of woven cocoa-nut 
leave? is also worn as a shade for the eyes. Tlie women appear 
to be in greater want of some becomino' costume even than the 

Nearly all the natives understand a little English — that is, 
they know the names of common things ; and by the aid of this, 
toyether w ith signs, a lame sort of conversation could be carried 
on. In returning in the evening to tlie boat, we stopped to wit- 
ness a very pretty scene. Numbers of children were playing on 
the beach, and had lighted bonfires which illumined the placid 
sea and surrounding trees ; others, in circles, were singing 
Tahitian verses. We seated ourselves on the sand, and joined 
tlieir party. The songs were impromptu, and I believe related 
fo our arrival : one little girl sang a line, which the rest took up 
in parts, forming a very pretty chorus. The whole scene made 
us unequivocally aware that we were seated on the shores of an 
island in the far-famed South Sea. 

17 tk. — This day is reckoned in the log-book as Tuesday the 
17th, instead of Monday the 16th, owing to our, so far, success- 
ful chase of the sun. Before breakfast the ship was hemmed in 
by a flotilla of canoes ; and when the natives were allowed to 
come on board, I suppose there could not have been less than two 
hundred. It was the opinion of every one that it would have 
been difficult to have picked out an equal number from any other 
nation, who would have given so little trouble. Everybody 
brought something for sale : shells were the main article of 
trade. The Tahitians now fully understand the value of money, 
and prefer it to old clothes or other articles. The various coins, 
however, of English and Spanish denomination puzzle them, and 
they never seemed to think the small silver quite secure until 
changed into dollars. Some of the chiefs have accumulated 
considerable sums of money. One chief, not long since, offered 
800 doUars (about 160/. sterling) for a small vessel ; and fre- 
quently they purchase whale-boats and horses at the rate of from 
50 to 100 dollars. 

After breakfast I went on shore, and ascended the nearest 
slope to a height of between two and three thousand feet. The 
outer mountanis are smooth and conical, but steep ; and the old 

406 TAHITI. [chap. xvni. 

volcanic rocks, of which they are formed, have been cut through 
by many profound ravines, diverging from the central broken 
parts of the island to the coast. Having crossed the narrow low 
girt of inhabited and fertile land, I followed a smooth steep ridge 
between two of the deep ravines. The vegetation was singular, 
consisting almost exclusively of small dwarf ferns, mingled, 
higher up, with coarse grass ; it was not very dissimilar from 
that on some of the Welsh hills, and this so close above the 
orchard of tropical plants on the coast was very surprising. At 
the highest point, which I reached, trees again appeared. Of 
the three zones of comparative luxuriance, tiie lower one owes 
its moisture, and therefore fertility, to its flatness ; for, being 
scarcely raised above the level of the sea, the water from the 
higher land drains away slowly. The intermediate zone does 
not, like the upper one, reach into a damp and cloudy atmos- 
phere, and therefore remains sterile. The woods in the upper 
zone are very pretty, tree-ferns replacing the cocoa-nuts on the 
coast. It must not, however, be supposed that these woods at 
all equal in splendour the forests of Brazil. The vast number of 
productions, which characterize a continent, cannot be expected 
to occur in an island. 

From the highest point which I attained, there was a good 
view of the distant island of Eimeo, dependent on the same sove- 
reign with Tahiti. On the lofty and broken pinnacles, white 
massive clouds were piled up, which formed an island in the 
blue sky, as Eimeo itself did in the blue ocean. The island, 
with the exception of one small gateway, is completely encircled 
by a reef. At this distance, a narrow but well-defined brilliantly 
white line was alone visible, where the waves first encountered 
the wall of coral. The mountains rose abruptly out of the glassy 
expanse of the lagoon, included within this narrow white line, 
outside which the heaving waters of the ocean were dark- 
coloured. The view was striking : it may aptly be compared to 
a framed engraving, where the frame represents the breakers, 
the marginal paper the smooth lagoon, and the drawing the 
island itself. When in the evening I descended from the moun- 
tain, a man, whom I had pleased with a trifling gift, met me, 
bringing with him hot roasted bananas, a pine-apple, and cocoa- 
nuts. After walking under a burning sun, I do not know any- 


thing more delicious than the milk of a young cocoa-nut. Pine- 
apples are here so abundant that the people eat them in the same 
wasteful manner as we might turnips. They are of an excellent 
flavour — perhaps even better than those cultivated in England ; 
and this I believe is the highest compliment which can be paid 
to any fruit. Before going on board, Mr. Wilson interpreted 
for me to the Tahitian who had paid me so adroit an attention, 
that I wanted him and another man to accompany me on a short 
excursion into the mountains. 

18th. — In the morning I came on shore early, bringing with 
me some provisions in a bag, and two blankets for myself and 
servant. These were lashed to each end of a long pole, which 
was alternately carried by my Tahitian companions on their 
shoulders. These men are accustomed thus to carry, for a whole 
day, as much as fifty pounds at each end of their poles. I told 
my guides to provide themselves with food and clothing ; but 
they said that there was plenty of food in the mountains, 
and for clothing, that their skins were sufficient. Our lijie 
of march was the valley of Tia-auru, down which a river flows 
into the sea by Point Venus. This is one of the principal 
streams in the island, and its source lies at the base of the loftiest 
central pinnacles, which rise to a height of about 7000 feet. The 
whole island is so mountainous that the only way to penetrate 
into the interior is to follow up the valleys. Our road, at first, 
lay through woods