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THIS work was described, on its first appearance, by a writer 
in the Quarterly Review as " One of the most interesting 
narratives of voyaging that it has fallen to our lot to take up, 
and one which must always occupy a distinguished place in 
the history of scientific navigation." 

This prophecy has been amply verified by experience ; the 
extraordinary minuteness and accuracy of Mr. Darwin's obser- 
vations, combined with the charm and simplicity of his 
descriptions, have ensured the popularity of this book with all 
classes of readers — and that popularity has even increased in 
recent years. No attempt, however, has hitherto been made 
to produce an illustrated edition of this valuable work^ 
numberless places and objects are mentioned and described, 
but the difficulty of obtaining authentic and original representa- 
tions of them drawn for the purpose has never been overcome 
until now. 

Most of the views given in this work are from sketches 
made on the spot by Mr. Pritchett, with Mr. Darwin's book by 
his side. Some few of the others are taken from engravings 
which Mr. Darwin had himself selected for their interest as 
illustrating his voyage, and which have been kindly lent by 
his son. 

Mr. Pritchett's name is well known in connection with the 
voyages of the Sunbeam and Wanderer, and it is believed that 
the illustrations, which have been chosen and verified with the 
utmost care and pains, will greatly add to the value and 
interest of the " VOYAGE OF A NATURALIST." 


Dec. 1889. 


I HAVE stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, 
and in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it was 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 volunteered my services, which received, through the 
kindness of the hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of 
the Lords of the Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities 
which I enjoyed of studying the Natural History of the different 
countries we visited have been wholly due to Captain 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 1 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 Voyage of the 
Beagle includes an account of the Fossil Mammalia, by 
Professor Owen ; of the Living Mammalia, by Mr. Waterhouse ; 
of the Birds, by Mr. Gould ; of the Fish, by the Rev. L. 

1 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. 


Jenyns ; and of the Reptiles, by Mr. Bell. I have appended 
to the descriptions ot each species an account of its habits and 
range. These works, which I owe to the high talents and 
disinterested zeal of the above distinguished authors, could not 
have been undertaken had it not been for the liberality of the 
Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, who, through 
the representation of the Right Honourable the Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, have been pleased to grant a sum of one 
thousand pounds towards defraying part of the expenses of 

I have 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. The 
Reverend Professor Henslow has published a list of the plants 
collected by me at the Keeling Islands ; and the Reverend J. 
M. Berkeley has described my cryptogamic plants. 

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

Down, Bromley, Kent, 
June 1845. 



Porto Pray a — Ribeira 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 
Rocks — Habits of a Diodon — Pelagic Confervse and Infusoria — Causes of dis- 
coloured Sea ....... Pages 1-18 


Rio de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great Evaporation — Slavery — 
Botofogo Bay— Terrestrial Planariae — 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 ...... 19-39 


Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazoand 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 . . . 40-64 


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 Lieutenant — 
Bahia Blanca — Saline incrustations — Punta Alta — Zorillo . 65-84 



Bahia 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 — Hybernation of Animals — 
Habits of Sea -Pen — Indian Wars and Massacres — Arrowhead — Antiquarian 
Relic ....... Pages 85-110 


Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sierra 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 ........ 111-128 


Excursion to St. Fe — Thistle Beds — Habits 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 — Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor- tail — Revolutilm^Buenos 
Ayres — State of Government ..... 129-150 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — 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 
Butterflies — Aeronaut Spiders — Phosphorescence of the Sea — Port Desire — 
Guanaco — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia — Fossil gigantic Animal — 
Types of Organisation constant — Change in the Zoology of America — Causes of 
extinction . . . . . . . 1 51-186 


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 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 violence— Penguin — Geese — Eggs of Doris — Compound animals 




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- 
wam Cove — Miserable condition of the savages — Famines — Cannibals — 
Matricide — 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 . . . Pages 215-243 


Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Ascent of Mount Tarn — Forests — Edible fungus 
— Zoology — Great Seaweed — Leave Tierra del Fuego — Climate — Fruit-trees 
and productions of the southern coasts — Pleight 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 car- 
casses — Recapitulation ...... 244-267 


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 — Grind- 
ing-mills — Perforated stones — Habits of the Puma — El Turco and Tapacolo — 
Humming-birds ....... 268-290 


Chiloe — General aspect — Boat excursion — Native Indians — Castro — Tame fox — 
Ascend San Pedro — Chonos Archipelago — Peninsula of Tres Montes — Granitic 
range — Boat -wrecked sailors — Low's Harbour — Wild potato — Formation of 
peat — Myopotamus, otter and mice — Cheucau and Barking -bird — Opetio- 
rhynchus — Singular character of ornithology — Petrels . . 291-310 


San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with Aconcagua and 
Coseguina — Ride to Cucao — Impenetrable forests — Valdivia — Indians — Earth- 
quake — Concepcion — Great earthquake — Rocks fissured — Appearance of the 
former towns — The sea black and boiling — Direction of the vibrations — Stones 
twisted round — Great Wave — Permanent elevation of the land — Area of volcanic 
phenomena — The connection between the elevatory and eruptive forces — Cause 
of earthquakes — Slow elevation of mountain-chains . . 311-333 



Valparaiso — Portillo Pass — Sagacity of mules — Mountain -torrents — Mines, how 
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 — Valparaiso .... Pages 334-359 


Coast-road to Coquimbo — Great loads carried by the miners — Coquimbo — Earthquake 
— Step-formed terraces — Absence of recent deposits — Contemporaneousness 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 country — Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an 
earthquake — Recent subsidence — Elevated shells on San Lorenzo, their decom- 
position — Plain with embedded shells and fragments of pottery — Antiquity of 
the Indian Race .... . 360-396 


Galapagos Archipelago — The whole group volcanic — Number of craters — Leafless 
bushes — Colony at Charles Island — James Island — Salt-lake in crater — Natural 
histoiy of the group — Ornithology, curious finches — Reptiles — Great tortoises, 
habits of — Marine lizard, feeds on seaweed — Terrestrial lizard, burrowing habits, 
herbivorous — Importance of reptiles in the Archipelago — Fish, shells, insects — 
Botany — American type of organisation — Differences in the species or races on 
different islands — Tameness of the birds — Fear of man an acquired instinct 



Pass through the Low Archipelago — Tahiti — Aspect — Vegetation on the mountains 
— View of Eimeo — 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 ....... 428-458 



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 forma- 
tion — Bathurst, general civility of the lower orders — State of Society — Van 
Diemen's Land — Hobart Town — Aborigines all banished — Mount Wellington 
— King George's Sound — Cheerless aspect of the country — Bald Head, 
calcareous casts of branches of trees — Party of natives — Leave Australia 

Pages 459-480 


Keeling Island — Singular appearance— Scanty Flora — Transport of seeds — Birds and 
insects — Ebbing and flowing springs — 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 founda- 
tions — 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 volcanoes — Subsidence slow and 
vast in amount . . . . . . .481-512 


Mauritius, beautiful appearance of — Great crateriform ring of mountains — Hindoos — 
St. Helena — History of the changes in the vegetation — Cause of the extinction of 
land-shells — Ascension — Variation in the imported rats — Volcanic bombs — Beds 
o( infusoria — Bahia, Brazil — Splendour of tropical scenery — Pernambuco — 
Singular reefs — Slavery — Return to England — Retrospect on our voyage 


INDEX 539-551 


H.M.S. Beagle in Straits of Magellan. Mt. Sarmiento 

in THE distance .... Frontispiece- 

Fernando Noronha ...... i 

Incrustation of Shelly Sand .... 9 

Diodon maculatus (Distended and Contracted) . . .13 

Pelagic Conferva . . . . . .15 

Catamaran (Bahia) . . . . . .18 

Botofogo Bay, Rio Janeiro . . . . .19 

Vampire Bat (Desmodus D'Orbignyi) . _ , . 23 

Virgin Forest . . . > To face 25 

Cabbage Palm .... ... 26 

Mandioca or Cassaya . . . . . .27 

Rio Janeiro ...... To face 32 

Darwin's Papilio feronia, 1833, now called Ageronia 

FERONIA, 1889 . . . . . .39 

Hydroch.lrus capybara or Water-Hog . . .40 

Recado or Surcingle of Gaucho . . . .46 

Halt at a Pulperia on the Pampas . . . .64 

El Carmen, or Patagonls, Rio Negro . . .65 

Brazilian Whips, Hobbles, ^np Spurs . . .75 

Bringing in a Prisoner . . . . .84 

Irregular Troops . . . . . .85 

Skinning Uji or Water Serpents . . . .103 


Rhea Darwinii (Avestruz Petise) 

Landing at Buenos Ayres 

Mate Pots and Bambillio 

Giant Thistle of Pampas \ 

Cynara cardunculus or Cardoon / 

Evening Camp, Buenos Ayres . 

ROZARIO ..... 

Parana River .... 

Toxodon Platensis. (Found at Saladillo) 

Fossil Tooth of Horse (from Bahia Blanca) 

Mylodon .... 

Head of Scissor-Beak . 

Rhynchops nigra, or Scissor-Beak 

Buenos Ayres Bullock-Waggons 

fuegians and wlgwams 

Opuntia Darwinii 

Raised Beaches, Patagonia 

Ladies' Combs, Banda Oriental 

Condor (Sarcorhamphus gryphus) 

Basaltic Glen, Santa Cruz 

Berkeley Sound, Falkland Islands 

York Minster (Bearing s. 66° e.) 

Cape Horn . 

Cape Horn (Another View) 

Bad Weather, Magellan Straits 

Fuegian Basket and Bone Weapons 

False Horn, Cape Horn 

Wollaston Island, Tierra del Fuego 

Patagonians from Cape Gregory 

Port Famine, Magellan 



1 1 1 

. 118 

To face 125 

* . 128 

• 133 

• 134 
. 138 

• J 4° 
. 145 

• 145 
. 150 
. 151 

• 175 
To face 182 

. 186 

• 187 
To face 192 

. 214 

• 215 
. 222 




. 243 

. 244 

• 245 


Patagonian Bolas 

Patagonian Spurs and Pipe . 

Cyttaria Darwinii 

Eyre Sound .... 

Glacier in Gulf of Penas 

Flora of Magellan 

Macrocystis pyrifera, or Magellan Kelp 

Trochilus forficatus . 

Hacienda, Condor, Cactus, etc. 

Chilian Miner .... 

Cactus (Cereus Peruviana) 

Cordilleras from Santiago de Chile 

Chilian Spurs, Stirrup, etc. . 

Old Church, Castro, Chiloe . 

Inside Chonos Archipelago 

gunnera scabra, chiloe 

Antuco Volcano, near Talcahuano . 

Panoramic View of Coast, Chiloe 

Inside Island of Chiloe. San Carlos 

Hide Bridge, Santiago de Chile 

Chilenos ..... 

South American Bit 

Bridge of the Incas, Uspallata Pass 

Lima and San Lorenzo 

Coquimbo, Chile 

Huacas, Peruvian Pottery 

Testudo Abingdonii, Galapagos Islands 

Galapagos Archipelago 

Finches from Galapagos Archipelago 

Amelyrhynchus cristatus 


. 248 
. 249 
. 251 

To face 260 

. 265 

. 267 

. 268 

. 271 

. 277 

. 278 

To face 282 


. 291 

. 300 

. 310 

• 3ii 
. 3 12 

• 313 

• 334 

• 337 

• 338 

• 357 
. 360 
. 366 

• 396 

• 397 

• 398 
. 405 
. 411 



Opuntia Galapageia . . . . . -427 

Ava OR Kava (Macropiper methysticum), Tahiti . .428 

Eimko and Barrier-reef .... To face 432 

Fatahua Fall, Tahiti . . . ., „ 436 

Tahitian ........ 438 

Hippah, New Zealand . . . . . -458 

Sydney, 1835 • • • • • • .459 

Hobart Town and Mount Wellington . . -475 

Australian Group of Weapons and Throwing Sticks . 480 
Inside an Atoll, Keeling Island . . . .481 

Whitsunday Island . . . . . -495 

Barrier-Reef, Bolabola . . . . . 498 

Sections of Barrier-Reefs ..... 500 

Section of Coral-Reef . . . . . .502 

Section of Coral-Reef ...... 503 

Bolabola Island ..... To face 504 

Corals . . . . . . . • S°7 

Birgos Latro, Keeling Island . . . . 512 

St. Louis, Mauritius . . . . . 513 

St. Helena . . . . . . 517 

Cellular Formation of Volcanic Bomb . . .524 

Cicada homoptera . . . . . .529 

Homeward Bound . . . . . 531 

Ascension. Terns and Noddies .... 538 

Map of South America 

Map of the World, showing the Track of H.M.S. ]■ 




Porto Praya — Ribeira 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 
Rocks — Habits of a Diodon — Pelagic Confervae and Infusoria — Causes of dis- 
coloured Sea. 


After having been twice driven back by heavy south-western 
gales, Her Majesty's ship Beagle, a ten-gun brig, under the 
command of Captain Fitz Roy, R.N., sailed from Devonport 
on the 27th of December 1831. The object of the expedi- 
tion was to complete the survey of Patagonia and Tierra del 
Fuego, commenced 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 TenerifTe, 
but were prevented landing, by fears of our bringing the cholera: 
the next morning we saw the sun rise behind the rugged outline 
of the Grand Canary Island, and suddenly illumine the Peak of 



Teneriffe, whilst the lower parts were veiled in fleecy clouds. 
This was the first of many delightful days never to be forgotten. 
On the 1 6th 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, for 
the first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut trees, can be a judge of 
anything but his own happiness. The island w T ould 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 ot goats, together 
with a few cows, contrive to exist. It rains very seldom, but 
during a short portion of the year heavy torrents fall, and 
immediately afterwards a light vegetation springs out of every 
crevice. This soon withers ; and upon such naturally formed 
hay the animals live. It had not now rained for an entire 
year. When the island was discovered, the immediate neigh- 
bourhood of Porto Praya was clothed with trees, 1 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 days 
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 Iagoensis), which 
tamely sits on the branches of the castor-oil plant, and thence 
darts on grasshoppers and lizards. It is brightly coloured, but 
not so beautiful as the European species : in its flight, manners, 
and place of habitation, which is generally in the driest valley, 
there is also a wide difference. 

1 I state this on the authority of Dr. E. Dieffenbach, in his German translation 
of the first edition of this Journal. 


One day, two of the officers 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 dull brown appearance ; but here, a very small rill of 
water produces a most refreshing margin of luxuriant vegeta- 
tion. In the course of an hour we arrived at Ribeira Grande, 
and were surprised at the sight of a large ruined fort and 
cathedral. This little town, before its harbour was filled up, 
was the principal place in the island : it now presents a melan- 
choly, but very picturesque appearance. Having procured a 
black Padre for a guide, and a Spaniard who had served in the 
Peninsular war as an interpreter, we visited a collection of 
buildings, of which an ancient church formed the principal part. 
It is here the governors and captain-generals of the islands 
have been buried. Some of the tombstones recorded dates 
of the sixteenth century. 1 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 con- 
siderable number of men, women, and children, all as black as 
jet, collected to watch us. Our companions were extremely 
merry ; and everything we said or did was followed by their 
hearty laughter. Before leaving the town we visited the 
cathedral. It does not appear so rich as the smaller church, 
but boasts of a little organ, which sent forth singularly in- 
harmonious 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 

Another day we rode to the village of St. Domingo, situated 
near the centre of the island. On a small plain which we 
crossed, a few stunted acacias were growing ; their tops had 
been bent by the steady trade-wind, in a singular manner — 
some of them even at right angles to their trunks. The direc- 

1 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. 


tion 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 every- 
thing appeared to prosper well, excepting, indeed, that which 
ought to do so most — its inhabitants. The black children, 
completely naked, and looking very wretched, were carrying 
bundles of firewood half as big as their own bodies. 

Near Fuentes we saw a large flock of guinea-fowl — prob- 
ably 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 
unexpected, from the prevalent gloomy character of the rest of 
the island. The village is situated at the bottom of a valley, 
bounded by lofty and jagged walls of stratified lava. The 
black rocks afford a most striking contrast with the bright 
green vegetation, which follows the banks of a little stream of 
clear water. It happened to be a grand feast-day, and the 
village was full of people. On our return we overtook a party 
of about twenty young black girls, dressed in 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 vin- 
tems, 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 
mountains being projected with the sharpest outline, on a 
heavy bank of dark blue clouds. Judging from the appearance, 
and from similar cases in England, I supposed that the air was 
saturated with moisture. The fact, however, turned out quite 
the contrary. The hygrometer gave a difference of 29.6 de- 
grees, 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 atmospheric dryness was accompanied by 
continual flashes of lightning. Is it not an uncommon case, thus 
to find a remarkable degree of aerial transparency with such a 
state of weather ? 

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 northward of these islands. 
Professor Ehrenberg 1 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 ascer- 
tained 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 
different accounts of dust having fallen 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 fact, that, although 
Professor Ehrenberg knows many species of infusoria peculiar 
to Africa, he finds none of these in the 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 everything on board, and to hurt people's 
eyes ; vessels even have run on shore owing to the obscurity of 
the 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 was much surprised 
to find particles of stone above the thousandth of an inch square, 

1 I must take this opportunity of acknowledging the great kindness with which 
this illustrious naturalist has examined many of my specimens. I have sent (June 
1845) a full account of the falling of this dust to the Geological Society. 


mixed with finer matter. After this fact one need not be sur- 
prised 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 
some miles along the coast, and at the height of about forty- 
five feet above the water. Upon examination, this white 
stratum is found to consist of calcareous matter, with numerous 
shells embedded, most or all of which now exist on the neigh- 
bouring 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 crystalline limestone, and in other parts into a 
compact spotted stone. Where 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 resem- 
bling 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 believe, been mani- 
fested 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 distinguished on the 
coast, forming lines of cliffs 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 

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 seaweeds which 
grow among the stones in muddy and shallow water ; and I 
found in its stomach 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 the rapidity of an arrow, 
from one side of the pool to the other, at the same instant dis- 
colouring the water with a dark chestnut-brown ink. These 
animals also escape detection by a very extraordinary, chameleon- 
like power of changing their colour. They appear to vary their 
tints according to the nature of the ground over which they 
pass : when in deep water, their general shade was brownish- 
purple, but when placed on the land, or in shallow water, this 
dark tint changed into one of a yellowish-green. The colour, 
examined more carefully, was a French gray, with numerous 
minute spots of bright yellow : the former of these varied in 
intensity ; the latter entirely disappearecKand 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, 1 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. 2 

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

1 So named according to Patrick Symes's nomenclature. 
2 See Encyclop. of Anat. and Physiol, article "Cephalopoda." 

8 ST. PAUL'S ROCKS chap. 

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 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 that it 
could certainly take good aim by directing the tube or siphon 
on the under side of its body. From the difficulty which these 
animals have in carrying their heads, they cannot crawl with 
ease when placed on the ground. I observed that one which I 
kept in the cabin was slightly phosphorescent in the dark. 

St. Paul's Rocks. — In crossing the Atlantic we hove- to, 
during the morning of February 16th, close to the island of St. 
Paul's. This cluster of rocks is situated in o° 5 8' north latitude, 
and 29 15' west longitude. It is 540 miles distant from the 
coast of America, and 350 from the island of Fernando 
Noronha. The highest point is only fifty feet above the level 
of the sea, and the entire circumference is under three-quarters 
of a mile. This small point rises abruptly out of the depths of 
the ocean. Its mineralogical constitution is not simple ; in 
some parts the rock is of a cherty, in others of a felspathic 
nature, including thin veins of serpentine. It is a remarkable 
fact that all the many small islands, lying far from any con- 
tinent, 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 which 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 
multitude of seafowl, and partly to a coating of a hard glossy 
substance with a pearly lustre, which is intimately united to the 
surface of the rocks. This, when examined with a lens, is 


found to consist of numerous exceedingly thin layers, its total 
thickness being about the tenth of an inch. It contains much 
animal matter, and its origin, no doubt, is due to the action of 
the rain or spray on the birds' dung. Below some small 
masses of guano at Ascension, and on the Abrolhos Islets, I 
found certain stalactitic branching bodies, formed apparently in 
the same manner as the thin white coating on these rocks. 
The branching bodies so closely resembled in general appearance 
certain nulliporae (a family of hard calcareous sea-plants), that in 
lately looking hastily over my collection I did not perceive the 
difference. The 
globular extremities 

of the branches arc F J^*^^5(^S^^^^S^#^ 

of a pearly texture, 
like the enamel of 
teeth, but so hard as 
just to gcratch plate- 
glass. I may here 
mention, that on a 
part of the coast of 
Ascension, where 
there is a vast accu- 
mulation 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 (Marchantiae) 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 gray. 
I have shown specimens of this incrustation to several geologists, 
and they all thought that they were of volcanic or igneous origin ! 
In its hardness and translucency — 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 exposed 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 
.shells, of all living animals, it is an interesting physiological 

io ST. PAUL'S ROCKS chap.' 

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 — the booby 
and the noddy. The former is a species of gannet, and the 
latter a tern. Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, and 
are so unaccustomed to 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 (Olfersia) 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- 
feeding and parasitic insects and spiders should be the first 
inhabitants of newly-formed oceanic land. 

The smallest rock in the tropical seas, by giving a founda- 

1 Mr. Horner and Sir David Brewster have described [Philosophical Transactions, 
1836, p. 65) 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 rapidly 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. 


tion for the growth of innumerable kinds of seaweed and com- 
pound animals, supports likewise a large number of fish. The 
sharks and the seamen in the 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 first discovered by the circumstance of fish having 
been observed in the neighbourhood. 

Fernando Noronha, Feb. 20th.— As far as I was enabled 
to observe, during the few hours we stayed at this place, the 
constitution of the island is volcanic, but probably not of a recent 
date. The most remarkable feature is a conical hill, about one 
thousand feet high, the upper part of which is exceedingly 
steep, and on one side overhangs its base. The rock is 
phonolite, and is divided into irregular columns. On viewing 
one of these isolated masses, at first one is inclined to believe 
that it has been suddenly pushed up in a semi-fluid state. At St. 
Helena, however, I ascertained that some pinnacles, of a nearly 
similar figure and constitution, had been formed by the injection 
of melted rock into yielding strata, which thus had formed the 
moulds for these gigantic obelisks. The^vrTole island is covered 
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 scenery. 

Bahia, or San Salvador. Brazil, Feb. 29th. — The day 
has past delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak term 
to express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has 
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 
general luxuriance of the vegetation, filled me with admiration. 
A most paradoxical mixture of sound and silence pervades the 
shady parts of the wood. The noise from the insects is so loud, 
that it may be heard even in a vessel anchored several hundred 
yards from the shore ; yet within the recesses of the forest a 
universal silence appears to reign. To a person fond of natural 

12 BAHIA— BRAZIL chap. 

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 penetrated by common English rain ; but here, in a 
couple of minutes, a little torrent flowed down the trunk. It is 
to this violence of the rain 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 crystallised 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. l At the cataracts of the great rivers Orinoco, Nile, 
and Congo, the syenitic rocks are coated by a black substance, 
appearing as if they had been polished with plumbago. The 
layer is of extreme thinness ; and on analysis by Berzelius it 
was found to consist of the oxides of manganese and iron. In 
the Orinoco it occurs on the rocks periodically washed by the 
floods, and in those parts alone where the stream is rapid ; or, 
as the Indians say, " the rocks are black where the waters are 
white." Here the coating is of a rich brown instead of a black 
colour, and seems to be composed of ferruginous matter alone. 
Hand specimens fail to give a just idea of these brown burnished 
stones which glitter in the sun's rays. They occur only within 

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



the limits of the tidal waves ; and as the rivulet slowly trickles 
down, the surf must supply the polishing power of the cataracts 
in the great rivers. In like manner, the rise and fall of the tide 
probably answer to the periodical inundations ; and thus the 
same effects are produced under apparently different 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. 

* '•W^S**' 


One day I was amused by watching the 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 

14 BAHIA— BRAZIL chap. 

return being prevented by a muscular contraction which is 
externally visible : but the water enters in a gentle stream 
through the mouth, which is kept wide open and motionless ; this 
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 them. 

The fish, having remained in this distended state for a short 
time, generally expelled the air and water with considerable 
force from the branchial apertures and mouth. It could emit, 
at will, a certain portion of the water ; and it appears, therefore 
probable that this fluid is taken in partly for the sake of regu- 
lating its specific gravity. This Diodon possessed several 
means of defence. It could give a severe bite, and could eject 
water from its mouth to some distance, at the same time 
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 carmine -red fibrous matter, which stains ivory 
and paper in so permanent a manner, that the tint is retained 
with all its brightness to the present day : I am quite ignorant 
of the nature and use of this secretion. I have heard from Dr. 
Allan of Forres, that he has frequently found a Diodon, floating 
alive and distended, in the stomach of the shark ; and that on 
several occasions 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 iSt/i. — We sailed from Bahia. A few days after- 
wards, when not far distant from the Abrolhos Islets, my atten- 


tion 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 minute cylindrical confervas, in bundles or 
rafts of from twenty to sixty in each. Mr. Berkeley informs me 
that they are the same species (Trichodesmium erythraium) with 
that found over large spaces in the Red Sea, and whence its 
name of Red Sea is derived. 1 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 conferva?. 
They appear especially common in the sea near Australia ; 
and off Cape Leeuwin I found an 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 confervse a few inches 

square, consisting of long cylindrical "- ^^^■J^ r-""""'"^'ng^ > 
threads of excessive thinness, so as to be 

barely visible to the naked eye, mingled wimxther rather larger 
bodies, finely conical at both ends. Two of these are shown 
in the woodcut united together. They vary in length from 
.04 to .06, and even to .08 of an inch in length ; and in 
diameter from .006 to .008 of an 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 delicate, 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 brownish 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 

1 M. Monla^ne, in Comptes Rcndus, etc., Juillet 1844; and Annal. dcs Scicnc. 
Xal. December 1844. 


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 formation of the granular sphere was hastened by 
any accidental injury. I may add, that frequently a pair of 
these bodies were attached to each other, as represented 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 to 
swarm with minute animalcula darting about, and often explod- 
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 vibra- 
tory ciliae, and geneially by rapid starts. They are exceed- 
ingly 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 remove contained very many. In one day we 
passed through two spaces of water thus stained, one of which 
alone must have extended over several square miles. What 
incalculable numbers of these microscopical animals ! The 
colour of the water, as seen at some distance, was like that of 
a river which has flowed through a red clay district ; but under 
the shade of the vessel's side it was quite as dark as chocolate. 
The line where the red and blue water joined was distinctly de- 


fined. The weather for some days previously had been calm, and 
the ocean abounded, to an unusual degree, with living creatures. 1 
In the sea around Tierra del Fuego, and at no great distance 
from the land, I have seen narrow lines of water of a bright red 
colour, from the number of Crustacea, which somewhat resemble 
in form large prawns. The sealers call them whale -food. 
Whether whales feed on them I do not know ; but terns, 
cormorants, and immense herds of great unwieldy seals derive, 
on some parts of the coast, their chief sustenance from these 
swimming crabs. Seamen invariably attribute the discolor- 
ation of the water to spawn ; but I found this to be the case 
only on one occasion. At the distance of several leagues from 
the Archipelago of the Galapagos, the ship sailed through three 
strips of a dark 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 was caused by little gelatinous balls, 
about the fifth of an inch in diameter, in which numerous minute 
spherical ovules were embedded : they were of two distinct 
kinds, one being of a reddish colour and of a different shape 
from the other. I cannot form a conjecture-asto what two kinds 
of animals these belonged. Captain Colnett remarks that this 
appearance is very common among the Galapagos Islands, 
and that the direction of the bands indicates that of the 
currents ; in the described case, however, the line was caused 
by the wind. The only other appearance which I have to 
notice, is a thin oily coat on the water which displays iridescent 
colours. I saw a considerable tract of the ocean thus covered 
on the coast of Brazil ; the seamen attributed it to the putrefy- 
ing carcass of some whale, which probably was floating at no 
great distance. I do not here mention the minute gelatinous 
particles, hereafter to be referred to, which are frequently dis- 
persed throughout the water, for they are not sufficiently 
abundant to create any change of colour. 

1 M. Lesson {Voyage de la Coquille, torn. i. p. 255) mentions red water oft 
Lima, apparently produced by the same cause. Peron, the distinguished naturalist, 
in the Voyage atix Terres Australes, gives no less than twelve references to voyagers 
who have alluded to the discoloured waters of the sea (vol. ii. p. 239). To the 
references given by Peron may be added, Humboldt's Pers. Narr. vol. vi. p. 804 ; 
Flinders's Voyage, vol. i. p. 92; Labillardiere, vol. i. p. 287; Ulloa's Voyage; 
Voyage oj the Astrolabe and of the Coquille ; Captain King's Survey of Australia, 



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



de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great 

Evaporation — Slavery — Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial 

Planarise — Clouds on the Corcovado — Heavy Rain — 

Musical Frogs — Phosphorescent Insects — Elater, 

springing powers of — Blue Haze — Noise made BylNEtatterfly — Entomology 

Ants — Wasp killing a Spider — Parasitical Spider — Artifices of an Epeira- 

Gregarious Spider — Spider with an unsymmetrical Web. 


April 4t/i to July 5///, 1832. — A few days after our arrival 
I became acquainted with an Englishman who was going to 
visit his estate, situated, rather more than a hundred miles 
from the capital, to the northward of Cape Frio. I gladly 
accepted his kind offer of allowing me to accompany him. 

April St/i. — Our party amounted to seven. The first stage 
was very interesting. The day was powerfully hot, and as we 
passed through the woods, everything 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 cul- 
tivated country, we entered a forest which in the grandeur of 
all its parts could not be exceeded. We arrived by midday at 


Ithacaia ; this small village is situated on a plain, and round 
the central house are the huts of the negroes. These, from 
their regular form and position, reminded me of the drawings 
of the Hottentot habitations in Southern Africa. As the moon 
rose early, we determined to start the same evening for our 
sleeping-place at the Lagoa Marica. As it was growing dark 
we passed under one of the massive, bare, and steep hills of 
granite which are so common in this country. This spot is 
notorious from having been, for a long time, the residence of some 
runaway slaves, who, by cultivating a little ground near the top, 
contrived to eke out a subsistence. At length they were dis- 
covered, and a party of soldiers being sent, the whole were 
seized with the exception of one old woman, who, sooner than 
again be led into slavery, dashed herself to pieces from the 
summit of the mountain. In a Roman matron this would have 
been called the noble love of freedom : in a poor negress it is 
mere brutal obstinacy. We continued riding for some hours. 
For the few last miles the road was intricate, and it passed 
through a desert waste of marshes and lagoons. The scene by 
the dimmed light of the moon was most desolate. A few fireflies 
flitted by us.; and the solitary snipe, as it rose, uttered its 
plaintive cry. The distant and sullen roar of the sea scarcely 
broke the stillness of the night. 

April gth. — 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 succulent plants 
assuming most fantastical forms, gave to the scene an interest 
which it would not otherwise have possessed. The few stunted 
trees were loaded with parasitical plants, among which the 
beauty and delicious fragrance of some of the orchideae were 
most to be admired. As the sun rose, the day became ex- 
tremely 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 1 here 
was a very good one, and I have the pleasant, but rare re- 
membrance of an excellent dinner, I will be grateful and 

1 Venda, the Portuguese name for an inn. 


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 bedrooms 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 custom to unsaddle the horses and 
give them their Indian corn ; then, with a low bow, to ask the 
senhor to do us the favour to give us something to eat. " Any- 
thing you choose, sir," was his usual answer. For the few first 
times, vainly I thanked Providence for having guided us to so 
good a man. The conversation proceeding, the case universally 
became deplorable. "Any fish can you do us the favour of 
giving?" — "Oh no, sir." — "Any soup?" — "No, sir." — "Any 
bread ? "— " Oh no, sir."—" Any dried meat ? " — " Oh no, sir." 
If we were lucky, by waiting a couple of hours, we obtained 
fowls, rice, and farinha. It not unfrequently happened that we 
were obliged to kill, with stones, the poultry^r our own supper. 
When, thoroughly exhausted by fatigue and hunger, we timorously 
hinted that we should be glad of our meal, the pompous, and 
(though true) most unsatisfactory answer was, " It will be ready 
when it is ready." If we had dared to remonstrate any further, 
we should have been told to proceed on our journey, as being 
too impertinent. The hosts are most ungracious and disagree- 
able in their manners ; their houses and their persons are often 
filthily dirty ; the want of the accommodation of forks, knives, 
and spoons is common ; and I am sure no cottage or hovel in 
England could be found in a state so utterly destitute of every 
comfort. At Campos Novos, however, we fared sumptuously ; 
having rice and fowls, biscuit, wine, and spirits, for dinner ; 
coffee in the evening, and fish with coffee for breakfast. All 
this, with good food for the horses, only cost 2s. 6d. per head. 
Yet the host of this venda, being asked if he knew anything 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 in- 

22 RIO DE JANEIRO chap. 

tricate wilderness of lakes ; in some of which were fresh, in 
others salt water shells. Of the former kind, I found a Limnaea 
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 1 has stated that he found in the neighbourhood of Rio 
shells of the marine genera solen and mytilus, and fresh-water 
ampullariae, living together in brackish water. I also fre- 
quently observed in the lagoon near the Botanic Garden, where 
the water is only a little less salt than in the sea, a species 
of hydrophilus, very similar to a 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 
notebook, "wonderful and beautiful flowering parasites," invari- 
ably struck me as the most novel object in these grand scenes. 
Travelling onwards we passed through tracts of pasturage, much 
injured by the enormous conical ants' nests, which were nearly 
twelve feet high. They gave to the plain exactly the appear- 
ance of the mud volcanoes at Jorullo, as figured by Humboldt. 
We arrived at Engenhodo after it was dark, having been ten 
hours on horseback. I never ceased, during the whole journey, 
to be surprised at the amount of labour which the horses were 
capable of enduring ; they appeared also to recover from any in- 
jury 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 injury is generally not so much owing to 
the loss of blood, as to the inflammation which the pressure of the 
saddle afterwards produces. The whole circumstance has lately 
been doubted in England ; I was therefore fortunate in being 
present when one (Desmodus d'orbignyi, Wat.) was actually 
caught on a horse's back. We were bivouacking late one 
evening near Coquimbo, in Chile, when my servant, noticing 
that one of the horses was very restive, went to see what was 
the matter, and fancying he could distinguish something 

1 Annates des Sciences Naturelles for 1833. 




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, with- 
out any ill effects. 

April 13th. — After three days' travelling we arrived at 
Socego, the estate of Senhor Manuel Figuireda, a relation of 
one of our party. The house was simple, and, though like a 
barn in form, was well suited to the climate. In the sitting- 
room gilded chairs and sofas were oddly contrasted with the 


whitewashed walls, thatched roof, and windows without glass. 
The house, together with the granaries, the stables, and work- 
shops for the blacks, who had been taught various trades, formed 
a rude kind of quadrangle ; in the centre of which a large pile 
of coffee was drying. These buildings stand on a little hill, 
overlooking the cultivated ground, and surrounded on every 
side by a wall of dark green luxuriant forest. The chief produce 
of this part of the country is coffee. Each tree is supposed to 
yield annually, on an average, two pounds ; but some give as 
much as eight. Mandioca or cassava 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 
Faz6nda, 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 pro- 
duced eighty, and the latter three hundred and twenty fold. 
The pasturage supports a fine stock of cattle, and the woods are 
so full of game that a deer had been killed on each of the three 
previous days. This profusion of food showed itself at dinner, 
where, if the tables did not groan, the guests surely did : for 
each person is expected to eat of every dish. One day, having, 
as I thought, nicely calculated so that nothing should go away 
untasted, to my utter dismay a roast turkey and a pig appeared 
in all their substantial reality. During the meals, it was the 
employment of a man to drive out of the room sundry old 
hounds, and dozens of little black children, which crawled in 
together, at every opportunity. As long as the idea of slavery 
could be banished, there was something exceedingly fascinating 
in this simple and patriarchal style of living : it was such a 
perfect retirement and independence 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 the rocks and woods, but to nothing else. 
One morning I walked out an hour before daylight to admire 
the solemn stillness of the scene ; at last, the silence was broken 
by the morning hymn, raised on high by the whole body of the 
blacks ; and in this manner their daily work is generally begun. 
On such fazendas as these, I have no doubt the slaves pass 
happy and contented lives. On Saturday and Sunday they 
work for themselves, and in this fertile climate the labour of 
two days is sufficient to support a man and his family for the 
whole week. 

April i^th. — 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 


to face p. 25. 


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

While staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an eye- 
witness to one of those atrocious acts which can only take place 
in a slave country. Owing to a quarrel and a lawsuit, the 
owner was on the point of taking all the women and children 
from the male slaves, and selling them separately at the public 
auction at Rio. Interest, and not any feeling of compassion, 
prevented this act. Indeed, I do not believe the inhumanity of 
separating thirty families, who had lived together for many years, 
even occurred to the owner. Yet I will pledge myself, that in 
humanity and good feeling he was superior to the common run 
of men. It may be said there exists no limit to the blindness of 
interest and selfish habit. I may mention one very trifling 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 
degradation lower than the slavery of the 
most helpless animal. 

April I ZtJi. — 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 circum- 
ference. 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 1 1 o feet long, and of great thickness. 
The contrast of palm trees, growing amidst 
the common branching kinds, never fails 
to give the scene an intertropical character. 
Here the woods were ornamented by the 
Cabbage Palm — one of the most beautiful 
of its family. With a stem so narrow 
that it might be clasped with the two 
hands, it waves its elegant head at the 
height of forty or fifty feet above the 
ground. The woody creepers, themselves 
covered by other creepers, were of great 
thickness : some which I measured were 
two feet in circumference. Many of the 
older trees presented a very curious 
appearance from the tresses of a liana 
hanging from their boughs, and resembling 
bundles of hay. If the eye was turned 
m v from the world of foliage above, to the 

J^IM ^ n ground beneath, it was attracted by the 
extreme elegance of the leaves of the ferns 
and mimosae. The latter, in some parts, 

covered the surface with a brushwood only a few inches high. 

In walking across these thick beds of mimosae, a broad track 

was marked by the change of shade, produced by the drooping 





of their sensitive petioles. It is easy to specify the individual 
objects of admiration in these grand scenes ; but 
it is not possible to give an adequate idea of 
the higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and 
devotion, which fill and elevate the mind. 

April 1 gt/i. — 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. 

1 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 dis- 
tances 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 

2 3 rd we arrived 
at Rio, having 
finished our 
pleasant little 

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 


28 RIO DE JANEIRO chap. 

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, which inhabits the 
dry land, interested me much. These animals are of so simple 
a structure, that Cuvier has arranged them with the intestinal 
worms, though never found within the bodies of other animals. 
Numerous species inhabit both salt and fresh water ; but those 
to which I allude were found, even in the drier parts of the forest, 
beneath logs of rotten wood, on which I believe they feed. In 
general form they resemble little slugs, but are very much nar- 
rower in proportion, and several of the 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 
funnel-shaped and highly irritable mouth can be protruded. 
For some time after the rest of the animal was completely dead 
from the effects of salt water or any other cause, this organ still 
retained its vitality. 

I found no less than twelve different species of terrestrial 
Planariae in different parts of the southern hemisphere. 1 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 
towards its posterior end, a clear space was formed in the par- 
enchymatous 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 

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


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 Planariae 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 
a few dogs, and then patiently waiting to fire at any animal 
which might appear. We were accompanied by the son of a 
neighbouring farmer — a good specimen of a wild Brazilian youth. 
He was dressed in a tattered old shirt and trousers, and had his 
head uncovered : he carried an old-fashioned gun and a large 
knife. The habit of carrying the knife is universal ; and in 
traversing a thick wood it is almost necessary, on account of 
the creeping plants. The frequent occurrence of murder may be 
partly attributed to this habit. The Brazilians are so dexterous 
with the knife that they can throw it to somexdistance with pre- 
cision, 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 pro- 
mised well for more earnest attempts. My companion, the day 
before, had shot two large bearded monkeys. These animals 
have prehensile tails, the extremity of which, even after death, 
can support the whole weight of the body. One of them thus 
remained fast to a branch, and it was necessary to cut down a 
large tree to procure it. This was soon effected, and down 
came tree and monkey with an awful crash. Our day's sport, 
besides the monkey, was confined to sundry small green parrots 
and a few toucans. I profited, however, by my acquaintance 
with the Portuguese padre, for on another occasion he gave me 
a fine specimen of the Yagouaroundi cat. 

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Boto- 
fogo. The house in which I lived was seated close beneath the 
well-known mountain of the Corcovado. It has been remarked, 
with much truth, that abruptly conical hills are characteristic of 


the formation which Humboldt designates as gneiss -granite. 
Nothing can be more striking than the effect of these huge 
rounded masses of naked rock rising out of the most luxuriant 

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

The climate, during the months of May and June, or the 
beginning of winter, was delightful. The mean temperature, 
from observations taken at nine o'clock, both morning and 
evening, was only 7 2°. 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 Corco- 
vado, the sound produced by the drops pattering on the countless 
multitude of leaves was very remarkable ; it could be heard at 
the distance of a quarter of a mile, and was like the rushing of 
a great body of water. After the hotter days, it was delicious 
to sit quietly in the garden and watch the evening pass into 
night Nature, in these climes, chooses her vocalists from more 
humble performers than in Europe. A small frog, of the genus 
Hyla, sits on a blade of grass about an inch above the surface 
of the water, and sends forth a pleasing chirp : when several 
are together 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 up a pane of glass, when placed abso- 


lutely perpendicular. Various cicadae 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 attention 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 
animals (such as the Crustacea, medusae, nereidae, 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 Lampyridae (in which 
family the English glowworm is included), and the greater num- 
ber of specimens were of Lampyris occidentalis. 1 I found that 
this insect emitted the most brilliant flashes when irritated : 
in the intervals, the abdominal rings were obscured. The 
flash was almost coinstantaneous in the two rings, but it 
was just perceptible first in the anterior one. The shining 
matter was fluid and very adhesive : little spots, where the skin 
had been torn, continued bright with a slight scintillation, whilst 
the uninjured parts were obscured. Whe^n the insect was 
decapitated the rings remained uninterruptedly bright, but not 
so brilliant as before : local irritation with a needle always 
increased the vividness of the light. The rings in one instance 
retained their luminous property nearly twenty-four hours after 
the death of the insect. From these facts it would appear prob- 
able, that the animal has only the power of concealing or 
extinguishing the light for short intervals, and that at other 
times the display is involuntary. On the muddy and wet 
gravel - walks I found the 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 irrita- 
tion 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, 

1 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 assistance. 

32 RIO DE JANEIRO chap. 

and likewise as reservoirs for saliva, or some such fluid. I 
repeatedly fed them on raw meat ; and I invariably observed, 
that every now and then the extremity of the tail was applied 
to the mouth, and a drop of fluid exuded on the meat, which 
was then in the act of being consumed. The tail, notwith- 
standing so much practice, does not seem to be able to find its 
way to the mouth ; at least the neck was always touched first, 
and apparently as a guide. 

When we were at Bahia, an elater or beetle (Pyrophorus 
luminosus, Illig.) seemed the most common luminous insect. 
The light in this case was also rendered more brilliant by 
irritation. I amused myself one day by observing the spring- 
ing powers of this insect, which have not, as it appears to me, 
been properly described. 1 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 con- 
tinued, 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 with such force, that the insect by the reaction was 
jerked upwards to the height of one or two inches. The pro- 
jecting points of the thorax, and the sheath of the spine, served 
to steady the whole body during the spring. In the descriptions 
which I have read, sufficient stress does not appear to have been 
laid on the elasticity of the spine : so sudden a spring could not 
be the result of simple muscular contraction, without the aid of 
some mechanical contrivance. 

On several occasions I enjoyed some short but most plea- 
sant excursions in the 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 
camphor, pepper, cinnamon, and clove trees were delightfully 
aromatic ; and the bread-fruit, the jaca, and the mango, vied 
with each other in the magnificence of their foliage. The land- 
scape in the neighbourhood of Bahia almost takes its character 

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


from the two latter trees. Before seeing them, I had no idea 
that any trees could cast so black a shade on the ground. 
Both of them bear to the 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 beautiful forms of vegetation, because many of them 
are at the same time most useful to man. Who can doubt 
that these qualities are united in the banana, the cocoa-nut, the 
many kinds of palm, the orange, and the bread-fruit tree ? 

During this day I was particularly struck with a remark of 
Humboldt's, who often alludes to " the thin vapour which, with- 
out changing 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 
atmosphere, seen through a short space of half or three-quarters 
of a mile, was perfectly lucid, but at a greater distance all 
colours were blended into a most beautiful haze, of a pale 
French gray, mingled with a little blue. The condition of the 
atmosphere between the morning and about noon, when the 
effect was most evident, had undergone ltttlechange, excepting 
in its dryness. In the interval, the difference between the dew 
point and temperature had increased from 7°.5 to iy°. 

On another occasion I started early and walked to the 
Gavia, or topsail mountain. The air was delightfully cool and 
fragrant ; and the drops of dew still glittered on the leaves of 
the large liliaceous plants, which shaded the streamlets of clear 
water. Sitting down on a block of granite, it was delightful to 
watch the various insects and birds as they flew past. The 
humming-bird seems particularly fond of such shady retired 
spots. Whenever I saw these little creatures buzzing round a 
flower, with their wings vibrating so rapidly as to be scarcely 
visible, I was reminded of the sphinx moths : their movements 
and habits are indeed in many respects very similar. 

Following a pathway I entered a noble forest, and from a 
height of five or six hundred feet, one of those splendid views 
was presented, which are so common on every side of Rio. At 
this elevation the landscape 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 


34 Rio dje Janeiro chap. 

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 
PhalluSj which in autumn taints the air with its odious smell : 
this, however, as the entomologist is aware, is to some of our 
beetles a delightful fragrance. So was it here ; for a Strongylus,. 
attracted by the odour, alighted on the fungus as I carried it in 
my hand. We here see in two distant countries a similar relation 
between plants and insects of the same families, though the species 
of both are different. When man is the agent in introducing 
into a country a new species this relation is often broken: as one 
instance of this I may mention that the leaves of the cabbages 
and lettuces, which in England afford food to such a multitude 
of slugs and caterpillars, in the gardens near Rio are untouched. 
During our stay at Brazil I made a large collection of in- 
sects. A few general observations on the comparative import- 
ance of the different orders may be interesting to the English 
entomologist. The large and brilliantly-coloured Lepidoptera 
bespeak the zone they inhabit, far more plainly than any other 
race of animals. I allude only to the butterflies ; for the moths, 
contrary to what might have been expected from the rankness 
of the vegetation, certainly appeared in much fewer numbers 
than in our own temperate regions. I was much surprised at 
the habits of Papilio feronia. 1 This butterfly is not uncommon, 
and generally frequents the orange-groves. Although a high 
flier, yet it very frequently alights on the trunks of trees. On 
these occasions its head is invariably placed downwards ; and 
its wings are expanded in a horizontal plane, instead of being, 
folded vertically, as is commonly the case. This is the only 
butterfly which I have ever seen that uses its legs for running.. 
Not being aware of this fact, the insect, more than once, as I 
cautiously approached with my forceps, shuffled on one side 
just as the instrument was on the point of closing, and thus- 
escaped. But a far more singular fact is the power which this 
species possesses of making a noise. 2 Several times when a pair, 

1 See page 39. 

2 Mr. Doubleday has lately described (before the Entomological Society, March 
3rd, 1845 ) a peculiar structure in the wings of this butterfly, which seems to be the 


probably male and female, were chasing each other in an irregular 
course, they passed within a few yards of me ; and I distinctly 
heard a clicking noise, similar to that produced by a toothed 
wheel passing under a spring catch. The noise was continued 
at short intervals, and could be distinguished at about 
twenty yards' distance : I 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. 1 The cabinets of Europe can, as yet, boast only of 
the larger species from tropical climates. It is sufficient to 
disturb the composure of an entomologist's mind, to look for- 
ward 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, which are 
so abundant in hot countries. I was struck with this observa- 
tion both on entering Brazil, and when I saw the many elegant 
and active forms of the Harpalidae reappearing on the temper- 
ate plains of La Plata. Do the very numerous spiders and 
rapacious Hymenoptera supply the place of the carnivorous 
beetles? The carrion - feeders and Bracherytra are very un- 
common ; on the other hand, the Rhyncophora and Chryso- 
melidae, all of which depend on the vegetable world for sub- 
sistence, are present in astonishing numbers. I do not here 
refer to the number of different species, but to that of the 
individual insects ; for on this it is that the most striking char- 
acter in the entomology of different countries depends. The 
orders Orthoptera and Hemiptera are particularly numerous ; as 
likewise is the stinging division of the Hymenoptera ; the bees, 
perhaps, being excepted. A person, on first entering a tropical 

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 nervure and the subcostal. These 
two nervures, moreover, have a peculiar screw-like diaphragm or vessel in the interior." 
I find in Langsdorffs travels (in the years 1803-7, p. 74) it is said, that in the island 
of St. Catherine's on the coast of Brazil, a butterfly called Februa Hoffmanseggi 
makes a noise, when flying away, like a rattle. 

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

36 RIO DE JANEIRO chap. 

forest, is astonished at the labours of the ants: well -beaten 
paths branch off in every direction, on which an army of never- 
failing foragers may be seen, some going forth, and others 
returning, burdened with pieces of green leaf, often larger than 
their own bodies. 

A small dark-coloured ant sometimes migrates in countless 
numbers. One day, at Bahia, my attention was drawn by ob- 
serving many spiders, cockroaches, and other insects, and some 
lizards, rushing in the greatest agitation across a bare piece of 
ground. A little way behind, every stalk and leaf was black- 
ened by a small ant. The swarm having crossed the bare 
space, divided itself, and descended an old wall. By this means 
many insects were fairly enclosed ; and the efforts which the 
poor little creatures made to extricate themselves from such a 
death were wonderful. When the ants came to the road they 
changed their course, and in narrow files reascended the wall. 
Having placed a small stone so as to intercept one of the lines, 
the whole body attacked it, and then immediately retired. 
Shortly afterwards another body came to the charge, and again 
having failed to make any impression, this line of march was 
entirely given up. By going an inch round, the file might have 
avoided the stone, and this doubtless would have happened, if 
it had been originally there : but having been attacked, the 
lion-hearted little warriors scorned the idea of yielding. 

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of 
the verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numerous in 
the neighbourhood of Rio. 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 larvae feed on 
the horrid mass of powerless, half-killed victims — a sight which 
has been described by an enthusiastic naturalist 1 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 rolled down a little slope, but had still strength 

1 In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his observations 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, vol. i. p. 555. 


sufficient to crawl into a thick tuft of grass. The wasp soon 
returned, and seemed surprised at not immediately finding its 
victim. It then commenced as regular a hunt as ever hound did 
after fox; making short semicircular casts, and all the time rapidly 
vibrating its wings and antennas. The spider, though well con- 
cealed, was soon discovered ; and the wasp, evidently still afraid 
of its adversary's jaws, after much manoeuvring, inflicted two 
stings on the under side of its thorax. At last, carefully ex- 
amining with its antennae the now motionless spider, it proceeded 
to drag away the body. But I stopped both tyrant and prey. 1 
The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, is 
here compared with England very much larger ; perhaps more 
so than with any other division of the articulate animals. 
The variety of species among the jumping spiders appears 
almost infinite. The genus, or rather family of Epeira, is here 
characterised by many singular forms ; some species have 
pointed coriaceous 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 Fabricius, which was formerly said by Sloane 
to make, in the West Indies, webs so strong as to catch birds. 
A small and pretty kind of spider, with vetyiong 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 there- 
fore allowed to prey on the minute insects, which, adhering to 
the lines, would otherwise be wasted. When frightened, this 
little spider either feigns death by extending its front legs, or 
suddenly drops from the web. A large Epeira of the same 
division with Epeira tuberculata and conica is extremely 
common, especially in dry situations. Its web, which is 
generally placed among the great leaves of the common 
agave, is sometimes strengthened near the centre by a 
pair or even four zigzag ribbons, which connect two adjoining 
rays. When any large insect, as a grasshopper or wasp, is 
caught, the spider, by a dexterous movement, makes it revolve 

1 Don Feiix 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." 


very rapidly, and at the same time emitting a band of threads 
from its spinners, soon envelops its prey in a case like the 
cocoon of a silkworm. The spider now examines the power- 
less victim, and gives the fatal bite on the hinder part of its 
thorax ; then retreating, patiently waits till the poison has 
taken effect. The virulence of this poison may be judged of 
from the fact that in half a minute I opened the mesh, and 
found a large wasp quite lifeless. This Epeira always stands 
with its head downwards near the centre of the web. When 
disturbed, it acts differently according to circumstances : if 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 the 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 per- 
severingly continued to entangle the body, and especially the 
wings, of its prey. The wasp at first aimed in vain repeated 
thrusts with its sting at its little antagonist. Pitying the wasp, 
after allowing 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 jaws 
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 hours 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 itself. 

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- 

ii SPIDERS 39 

cally, as is invariably the case with the genus Epeira : the)- 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 1 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. I cannot, however, recollect seeing a central nest as 
large as a hat, in which, during autumn, when the spiders die, 
Azara says the eggs are deposited. As all the spiders which I 
saw were of the same size, they must have been nearly of the 
same age. This gregarious habit, in so typical a genus as 
Epeira, among insects, which are so bloodthirsty and solitary 
that even the two sexes attack 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-w T ork ; so that the net, 
instead of being, as is generally the case, circular, consisted 
of a wedge-shaped segment. All the weia$ were similarly 

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

darwin's pamuo feronia. 1833, NOW called ageroma feronia, 



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. 


July $t/i, 1832. — In the morning we got under way, and 
stood out of the splendid harbour of Rio de Janeiro. In our 
passage to the Plata, we saw nothing particular, excepting on 
one day a great shoal of porpoises, many hundreds in number. 
The whole sea was in places furrowed by them ; and a most 
extraordinary spectacle was presented, as hundreds, proceeding 
together by jumps, in which their whole bodies were exposed, 
thus cut the water. When the ship was running nine knots 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 shore. On a second night we witnessed a splendid 
scene of natural fireworks ; the mast-head and yard-arm 
ends shone with St. Elmo's light ; and the form of the vane 
could almost be traced, as if it had been rubbed with phos- 
phorus. The sea was so highly luminous, that the tracks 
of the penguins were marked by a fiery wake, and the dark- 
ness of the sky was momentarily illuminated by the most vivid 

When within the mouth of the river, I was interested 
by observing how slowly the waters of the sea and river 
mixed. The latter, muddy and discoloured, from its less 
specific gravity, floated on the surface of the salt water. 
This was curiously exhibited in the wake of the vessel, where a 
line of blue water was seen mingling in little eddies with the 
adjoining fluid. 

July 26th. — We anchored at Monte Video. The Beagle 
was employed in surveying the extremeT^outhern and eastern 
coasts of America, south of the Plata, during the two suc- 
ceeding years. To prevent useless repetitions, I will extract 
those parts of my journal which refer to the same districts, 
without always attending to the order in which w r e visited 

MALDONADO is situated on the northern bank of the Plata, 
and not very far from the mouth of the estuary. It is a most 
quiet, forlorn, little town ; built, as is universally the case in 
these countries, with the streets running at right angles to each 
other, and having in the middle a large plaza or square, which, 
from its size, renders the scantiness of the population more 
evident. It possesses scarcely any trade ; the exports being 
confined to a few hides and living cattle. The inhabitants are 
chiefly landowners, together with a few shopkeepers and the 
necessary tradesmen, such as blacksmiths and carpenters, who 
do nearly all the business for a circuit of fifty miles round. 
The town is separated from the river by a band of sand-hillocks, 
about a mile broad : it is surrounded on all other sides by an 

42 MALDONADO chap. 

open slightly-undulating country, covered by one uniform layer 
of fine green turf, on which countless herds of cattle, sheep, and 
horses graze. There is very little land cultivated even close to 
the town. A few hedges made of cacti and agave mark out 
where some wheat or Indian corn has been planted. The 
features of the country are very similar along the whole 
northern bank of the Plata. The only difference is, that here 
the granitic hills are 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 stayed ten weeks at Maldonado, in which time a nearly 
perfect collection of the animals, birds, and reptiles, was pro- 
cured. Before making any observations respecting them, I will 
give an account of a little excursion I made as far as the river 
Polanco, which is about seventy miles distant, in a northerly 
direction. I may mention, as a proof how cheap 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 traveller from Monte Video 
had been found dead on the road, with his throat cut. 
This happened close to a cross, the record of a former 

On the first night we slept at a retired little country-house ; 
and there I soon found out that I possessed two or three 
articles, especially a pocket compass, which created unbounded 
astonishment. In every house I was asked to show the compass, 
and by its aid, together with a map, to point out the direction 


of various places. It excited the liveliest admiration that I, a 
perfect stranger, should know the road (for direction and road 
are synonymous in this open country) to places where I had 
never been. At one house a young woman who was ill in bed, 
sent to entreat me to come and show her the compass. If their 
surprise was great, mine was greater, to find such ignorance 
among people who possessed their thousands of cattle, and 
" estancias " of great extent. It can only be accounted for by 
the circumstance that this retired part of the country is seldom 
visited by 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 viHage of Las Minas ; 
a superior tradesman closely cross -questioned me about so 
singular a practice ; and likewise why on board we wore our 
beards ; for he had heard from my guide that we did so. He 
eyed me with much suspicion ; perhaps he had heard of 
ablutions in the Mahomedan religion, and knowing me to be a 
heretic, probably he came to the conclusion that all heretics 
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 feats 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, etc., I repaid them for 
their hospitality. I am writing as if I had been among the 
inhabitants of Central Africa ; Banda Oriental would not 
be flattered by the comparison ; but such were my feelings at 
the time. 

The next day we rode to the village of Las Minas. The 
country was rather more hilly, but otherwise continued the 

44 MALDONADO chap. 

same ; an inhabitant of the Pampas no doubt would have con- 
sidered 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 
church standing in the centre, had rather a pretty appearance. 
The outskirting houses rose out of the plain like isolated beings, 
without the accompaniment of gardens or courtyards. This is 
generally the case in the country, and all the houses have, in 
consequence, an uncomfortable aspect. At night we stopped at 
a pulperia, or drinking -shop. During the evening a great 
number of Gauchos came in to drink spirits and smoke cigars : 
their appearance is very striking ; they are generally tall and 
handsome, but with a proud and dissolute expression of 
countenance. They frequently wear their moustaches, and long 
black hair curling down their backs. With their brightly- 
coloured garments, great spurs clanking about their heels, and 
knives stuck as daggers (and often so used) at their waists, they 
look a very different race of men from what might be expected 
from their name of Gauchos, or simple countrymen. Their 
politeness is excessive ; they never drink their spirits without 
expecting you to taste it ; but whilst making their exceedingly 
graceful bow, they seem quite as ready, if occasion offered, to 
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 plains of turf we saw many ostriches (Struthio rhea). 
Some of the flocks contained as many as twenty or thirty birds. 
These, when standing on any little eminence, and seen against 
the clear sky, presented a very noble appearance. I never met 
with such tame ostriches in any other part of the country : it 
was easy to gallop up within a short distance of them ; but 
then, expanding their wings, they made all sail right before the 
wind, and soon left the horse astern. 

At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a rich 
landed proprietor, but not personally known to either of my 
companions. On approaching the house of a stranger, it is 
usual to follow several little 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 : the 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 with the horsecloths belonging to his recado 
(or saddle of the Pampas) he makes his bed. It is curious how 
similar circumstances produce such similar results in manners. 
At the Cape of Good Hope the same hospitality, and very 
nearly the same points of etiquette, are universally observed. 
The difference, however, between the character of the Spaniard 
and that of the Dutch boor is shown, by the former never ask- 
ing his guest a single question beyond the strictest rule of 
politeness, whilst the honest Dutchman demands where he 
has been, where he is going, what is his business, and even 
how many brothers, sisters, or children he may happen to have. 

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

So many works have been written about these countries, 




that it is almost superfluous to describe either the lazo or the 
bolas. The 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 movement of his wrist keeps the noose 
open ; then, throwing it, he causes it to fall on any particular 
spot he chooses. The lazo, when not used, is tied up in a 
small coil to the after part of the recado. The bolas, or balls, 


are of two kinds : the simplest, which is chiefly used for catch- 
ing ostriches, consists of two round stones, covered with leather, 
and united by a thin plaited thong, about eight feet long. 1 The 
other kind differs only in having three balls united by the 
thongs to a common centre. The Gaucho holds the smallest 
of the three in his hand, and whirls the other two round and 
round his head ; then, taking aim, sends them like chain shot 
revolving through the air. The balls no sooner strike any 
object, than, winding round it, they cross each other, and become 
firmly hitched. The size and weight of the balls varies, 
according to the purpose for which they are made : when of 
stone, although not 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 without injuring them. The 
balls are sometimes made of iron, and these can be hurled to 

1 See page 248. 


the greatest distance. The main difficulty in using either lazo 
or bolas is to ride so well as to be able at full speed, and while 
suddenly turning about, to whirl them so steadily round the 
head, as to take aim : on foot any person would soon learn the 
art. One day, as I was amusing myself by galloping and 
whirling the balls round my head, by accident the free one 
struck a bush ; and its revolving motion being thus destroyed, 
it immediately fell to the ground, and like magic caught one 
hind leg of my horse ; the other ball was then jerked out of 
my hand, and the horse fairly secured. Luckily he was an old 
practised animal, and knew what it meant ; otherwise he would 
probably have kicked till he had thrown himself down. The 
Gauchos roared with laughter ; they cried out that they had 
seen every sort of animal caught, but had never before seen a 
man caught by himself. 

During the two succeeding days, I reached the farthest 
point which I was anxious to examine. The country wore the 
same aspect, till at last the fine green turf became more weari- 
some 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. Alrian on horseback by 
riding round and round in a circle, or rather in a spire, so as to 
approach closer each time, may knock on the head as many 
as he pleases. The more common method is to catch them 
with a running noose, or little lazo, made of the stem of an 
ostrich's feather, fastened to the end of a long stick. A boy 
on a quiet old horse will frequently thus catch thirty or forty 
in a day. In Arctic North America 1 the Indians catch the 
Varying Hare by walking spirally 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 

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 west- 

1 Hearne's Journey , p. 383. 

48 MALDONADO chap. 

ward the view extended over an immense level plain as far as 
the Mount, at Monte Video, and to the eastward, over the 
mammillated country of Maldonado. On the summit of the 
mountain there were several small heaps of stones, which 
evidently had lain there for many years. My companion 
assured me that they were the work of the Indians in the old 
time. The heaps were similar, but on a much smaller scale, to 
those so commonly found on the mountains of Wales. The 
desire to signalise any event, on the highest point of the 
neighbouring land, seems a universal passion with mankind. 
At the present day, not a single Indian, either civilised 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 
covered by thickets, and on the banks of the larger streams, 
especially to the north of Las Minas, willow-trees are not un- 
common. Near the Arroyo Tapes I heard of a wood of palms ; 
and one of these trees, of considerable size, I saw near the Pan 
de Azucar, in lat. 35 . These, and the trees planted by the 
Spaniards, offer the only exceptions to the general scarcity of 
wood. Among the introduced kinds may be enumerated 
poplars, olives, peach, and other fruit trees : the peaches succeed 
so well, that they afford the main supply of firewood to the city 
of Buenos Ayres. Extremely level countries, such as the 
Pampas, seldom appear favourable to the growth of trees. This 
may possibly be attributed either to the force of the winds, or 
the kind of drainage. In the nature of the land, however, 
around Maldonado, no such reason is apparent ; the rocky 
mountains afford protected situations, enjoying various kinds of 
soil ; streamlets of water are common at the bottoms of nearly 
every valley ; and the clayey nature of the earth seems adapted 
to retain moisture. It has been inferred, with much probability, 
that the presence of woodland is generally determined x by the 
annual amount of moisture ; yet in this province abundant and 
heavy rain falls during the winter ; and the summer, though 

1 Maclaren, art. "America," Encyclop. Britann. 


dry, is not so in any excessive degree. 1 We see nearly the 
whole of Australia covered by lofty trees, yet that country 
possesses a far more arid climate. Hence we must look to 
some other 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 remarkable manner, that of the damp winds. In the 
southern part of the continent, where the western gales, charged 
with moisture from the Pacific, prevail, every island on the 
broken west coast, from lat. 3 8° to the extreme point of Tierra 
del Fuego, is densely covered by impenetrable 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. 3 2° 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 nuXfall periodically, 
the shores of the Pacific, so utterly desert in Peru, assume near 
Cape Blanco the character of luxuriance so celebrated at 
Guayaquil and Panama. Hence in the southern and northern 
parts of the continent, the forest and desert lands occupy 
reversed positions with respect to the Cordillera, and these posi- 
tions are apparently determined by the direction of the prevalent 
winds. In the middle of the continent there is a broad 
intermediate band, including central Chile and the provinces of 
La Plata, where the rain-bringing winds have not to pass over 
lofty mountains, and where the land is neither a desert nor 
covered by forests. But even the 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. These 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 

1 Azara says, " Je crois que la quantite annuelle des pluies est, dans toutes ces 
contrees, plus considerable qu'en Espagne." — Vol. i. p. 36. 


50 MALDONADO chap. 

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 impossible to find an acre of land not 
covered by the densest forest. In this case, both the direction 
of the heavy gales of wind and of the currents of the sea are 
favourable to the transport of seeds 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 attempts made to transplant 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, 
throughout the countries bordering the Plata and in Northern 
Patagonia. 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 
exceedingly wary. In this country nobody goes on foot, and 
the deer knows man as its enemy only when he is mounted 
and armed with the bolas. At Bahia Blanca, a recent establish- 
ment 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, 
though 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 
overpoweringly strong and offensive odour which proceeds from 
the buck. It is quite indescribable : several times whilst skin- 
ning the specimen which is now mounted at the Zoological 
Museum, I was almost overcome by nausea. I tied up the 


skin in a silk pocket-handkerchief, and so carried it home : this 
handkerchief, after being well washed, I continually used, and 
it was of course as repeatedly washed ; yet every time, for a 
space of one year and seven months, when first unfolded, I 
distinctly perceived the odour. This appears an astonishing 
instance of the permanence of some matter, which 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 the whole air tainted with the effluvium. 
I believe the smell from the buck is most powerful at the 
period when its horns are perfect, or free from the hairy skin. 
When in this state the meat is, of course, quite uneatable ; but 
the Gauchos assert, that if buried for some time in fresh earth, 
the taint is removed. I have somewhere read that the islanders 
in the north of Scotland treat the rank carcasses of the fish- 
eating birds in the same manner. 

The order Rodentia is here very numerous in species : of 
mice alone I obtained no less than eight kinds. 1 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 
the end of the snout to the stump-like fahVwas three feet two 
inches ; and its girth three 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 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. 2 When viewed at a distance, from their manner of walk- 
ing and colour they resemble pigs : but when seated on their 
haunches, and attentively watching any object with one eye, 

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

2 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 oesophagus is so constructed that nothing 
much larger than a crow-quill 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. 

52 MALDONADO chap. 

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 walking, 
I approached within three yards of four old ones. This tame- 
ness 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 rather 
arising from the sudden expulsion of air : the only noise I know 
at all like it, is the first hoarse bark of a large dog. Having 
watched the four from almost within arm's length (and they me) 
for several minutes, they rushed into the water at full gallop 
with the greatest impetuosity, and emitted at the same time 
their bark. After diving a short distance they came again to 
the surface, but only just showed the upper part of their heads. 
When the female is swimming in the water, and has young ones, 
they are said to sit on her back. These animals are easily killed 
in numbers ; but their skins are of trifling value, and the meat 
is very indifferent. 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 
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 
fetlocks. The tucutucos appear, to a certain degree, to be 
gregarious : the man who procured the specimens for me had 
caught six together, and he said this was a common occurrence. 
They are nocturnal in their habits; and their 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 : x the name Tucutuco is given 
in imitation 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 slowly 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 ; others were a little wilder. 

The man who caught them asserted that very many are 
invariably found blind. A specimen which I preserved in 
spirits was in this state ; Mr. Reid considers it to be the effect 
of inflammation in the nictitating membrane. When the animal 
was alive I placed my finger within half an inch of its head, 
and not the slightest notice was taken : it made its way, how- 
ever, about the room nearly as well as the others. Considering 
the strictly subterranean habits of the^tiic^utuco, the blindness, 
though so 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 2 (probably 
with more truth than usual with him) on the gx^^dWy- 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 

1 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. 

2 Philosoph. Zoolog. torn. i. p. 242. 

54 MALDONADO chap. 

probably useful to the animal when it leaves its burrow. In 
the tucutuco, which I believe never comes to the surface of the 
ground, the eye is rather larger, but often rendered blind and 
useless, though without 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 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the un- 
dulating grassy plains around Maldonado. There are several 
species of a family allied in structure and manners to our Star- 
ling : one of these (Molothrus niger) is remarkable from its 
habits. Several may often be seen standing together on the 
back of a cow or horse ; and while perched on a hedge, plum- 
ing themselves in the sun, they sometimes attempt to sing, or 
rather to hiss ; the noise being very peculiar, resembling that of 
bubbles of air passing 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 other birds' nests. 
I was several times told by the country people that there cer- 
tainly is some bird having this habit ; and my assistant in 
collecting, who is a very 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 the 
Plata, even in such trifling peculiarities as standing on the 
backs of cattle ; it differs 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 repre- 
sentative species coming from opposite quarters of a great 
continent, always strikes one as interesting, though of common 

Mr. Swainson has well remarked, 1 that with the exception 
of the Molothrus pecoris, to which must be added the M. niger, 
the cuckoos are the only birds which can be called truly para- 
sitical ; namely, such as " fasten themselves, as it were, on 
another living animal, whose animal heat brings their young 
into life, whose food they live upon, and whose death would 

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


cause theirs during the period of infancy." It is remarkable 
that some of the species, but not all, both of the Cuckoo and 
Molothrus should agree in this one strange habit of their para- 
sitical propagation, 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 these two genera are widely 
removed from each other. Many theories, even phrenological 
theories, have been advanced to explain the origin of the 
cuckoo laying its eggs in other birds' nests. M. Prevost alone, 
I think, has thrown light by his observations 1 on this puzzle : 
he finds that the female cuckoo, which, according to most 
observers, lays at least from four to six eggs, must pair with 
the male each time after laying only one or two eggs. Now, 
if the cuckoo was obliged to sit on her own eggs, she would 
either have to sit 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 certainrjr-would not have time 
enough for the successive hatchings. HenceHve 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-parents. I am 
strongly inclined to believe that this view is correct, 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 undertaking 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 
Saurophagus 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. 
L have frequently observed it, hunting a field, hovering over 

l - Read before the Academy of Sciences in. Paris. L?Institut, 1834, P- 4*8.- , 

56 MALDONADO chap. 

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 neigh- 
bourhood 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 appears too great for the body. In the even- 
ing the Saurophagus takes its stand on a bush, often by the 
roadside, 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 com- 
pared to that of the Sedge warbler, but is more powerful ; some 
harsh notes and some very high ones being mingled with a 
pleasant warbling. It is heard only during the spring. At 
other times its cry is harsh and far from harmonious. 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 uninhabited plains of Patagonia another closely allied 
species, O. Patagonica of d'Orbigny, which frequents the valleys 
clothed with spiny bushes, is a wilder bird, and has a slightly 
different tone of voice. It appears to me a curious circum- 
stance, as showing the fine shades of difference in habits, that 
judging from this latter respect alone, when I first saw this 
second species, I thought it was different from the Maldonado 
kind. Having afterwards procured a specimen, and comparing 
the two without particular care, they appeared so veiy similar, 


that I changed my opinion ; but now Mr. Gould says that they 
are certainly distinct ; a conclusion in conformity with the 
trifling difference of habit, of which, however, he was not 

The number, tameness, and disgusting habits of the carrion- 
feeding hawks of South America make them pre-eminently 
striking to any one accustomed only to the birds of Northern 
Europe. In this list may be included four species of the 
Caracara or Polyborus, the Turkey buzzard, the Gallinazo, and 
the Condor. The Caracaras are, from their structure, placed 
among the eagles : we shall soon see how ill they become so 
high a rank. In their habits they well supply the place of our 
carrion-crows, magpies, and ravens ; a tribe of birds widely dis- 
tributed 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 through- 
out the sterile plains of Patagonia. In the desert between the 
rivers Negro and Colorado, numbers constantly attend the line 
of road to devour the carcasses of the exhausted animals which 
chance to perish from fatigue and— triirst. Although thus 
common in these dry and open countries^and likewise on the 
arid shores of the Pacific, it is nevertheless found inhabiting the 
damp impervious forests of West Patagonia and Tierra del 
Fuego. The Carranchas, together with the Chimango, con- 
stantly attend in numbers the estancias and slaughtering-houses. 
If an animal dies on the plain the Gallinazo commences the 
feast, and then the two species of 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 

58 MALDONADO chap. 

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 animal ; and their vulture-like, 
necrophagous habits are very evident to any one who has fallen 
asleep on the desolate plains of Patagonia, for when he wakes, 
he will see, on each surrounding hillock, one of these birds 
patiently watching him with an evil eye : it is a feature in 
the landscape of these countries, which will be recognised by 
every one who has wandered over them. If a party 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 through the air with much ease. It runs (in contradis- 
tinction to hopping), but not quite so quickly as some of its 
congeners. At times the Carrancha is noisy, but is not 
generally so : its cry is loud, very harsh and peculiar, and may 
be likened to the sound of the Spanish guttural g> followed by a 
rough double r r ; when uttering this cry it elevates its head 
higher and higher, till at last, with its beak wide open, the 
crown almost touches the lower part of the back. This fact, 
which has been doubted, is quite true ; I have seen them 
several times with their heads backwards in a completely 
inverted position. To these observations I may add, on the high 
authority of Azara, that the Carrancha feeds on worms, shells, 
slugs, grasshoppers, and frogs ; that it destroys young lambs by 
tearing the umbilical cord ; and that it pursues the Gallinazo, 
till that bird is compelled to vomit up the carrion it may have 
recently gorged. Lastly, Azara states that several Carranchas, 
five or six together, will unite in chase of large birds, even such 
as herons. All these facts show that it is a bird of very 
versatile habits and considerable ingenuity. 

The Polyborus Chimango is considerably smaller than the 


last species. It is 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 Novae 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 sustenance must depend on the sea. They are ex- 
traordinarily 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 Falk- 
lands 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^pf these birds. They 
actually pounced on a dog that was lyings fast asleep close by 
one of the party ; and the sportsmen had difficulty in preventing 
the wounded geese from being seized before their eyes. It is 
said that several together (in this respect resembling the 
Carranchas) wait at the mouth of a rabbit-hole, and together 
seize on the animal when it comes out. They were constantly 
flying on board the vessel when in the harbour ; and it was 
necessary to keep a good look-out to prevent the leather being 
torn from the rigging, and the meat or game from the stern. 
These birds are very mischievous and inquisitive ; they will 
pick up almost anything 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 Rater'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 

60 MALDONADO chap. 

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 Car- 
rancha. 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 Hofn 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. 4 1 °. 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 
districts. At the present day they are numerous in the valley 
of the Colorado, which is three hundred miles due south of 
Monte Video. It seems probable that this additional migration 
has happened since the time of Azara. The Gallinazo generally 
prefers a humid climate, or rather the neighbourhood of fresh 
water ; hence it is extremely abundant in Brazil and La Plata, 
while it is never found on the desert and arid plains of Northern 
Patagonia, excepting near some stream. These birds frequent 
the whole Pampas to the foot of the Cordillera, but I never saw 
or heard of one in Chile : in Peru they are preserved as 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 wheel- 
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 
matrimonial 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, sili- 
ceous 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 
tubes projected above the surface ; and numerous fragments 
lying near, showed that they had IbYmerly been buried to a 
greater depth. Four sets entered the sana 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 

1 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. 


are of a black colour, and from their glossy surface possess a 
metallic lustre. The thickness of the wall of the tube varies 
from a thirtieth to a twentieth of an inch, and occasionally even 
equals a tenth. On the outside the grains of sand are rounded, 
and have a slightly glazed appearance : I could not distinguish 
any signs of crystallisation. In a similar manner to that 
described in the Geological Transactions, the tubes are generally 
compressed, and have deep longitudinal furrows, so as closely 
to resemble a shrivelled vegetable stalk, or the bark of the elm 
or cork tree. Their circumference is about two inches, but in 
some fragments, which are cylindrical and without any furrows, 
it is as much as four inches. The compression from the sur- 
rounding loose sand, acting while the tube was still softened 
from the effects of the intense heat, has evidently caused the 
creases or furrows. Judging from the uncompressed fragments, 
the measure or bore of the lightning (if such a term may be 
used) must have been about one inch and a quarter. At Paris 
M. Hachette and M. Beudant 1 succeeded in making tubes, in 
most respects similar to these fulgurites, by passing very strong 
shocks of galvanism through finely-powdered glass : when salt 
was added, so as to increase its fusibility, the tubes were larger in 
every dimension. They failed both with powdered felspar and 
quartz. One tube, formed with pounded glass, was very nearly 
an inch long, namely .982, and had an internal diameter of 
.019 of an inch. When we hear that the strongest battery 
in Paris was used, and that its power on a substance of such 
easy fusibility as glass was to form tubes so diminutive, we 
must feel greatly astonished at the force of a shock of light- 
ning, 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 consi- 
derable bend, to the amount of thirty-three degrees. From this 
same tube, two small branches, about a foot apart, were sent 
off; one pointed downwards, and the other upwards. This 

1 Annates de Clumie et de Physique, torn, xxxvii. p. 319. 


latter case is remarkable, as the electric fluid must have turned 
back at the acute angle of 26°, to the line of its main course. 
Besides the four tubes which I found vertical, and traced be- 
neath the surface, there were several other groups of fragments, 
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 distance of 
about half a mile from a chain of hills four or five hundred feet 
in height. The most remarkable circumstance, as it appears to 
me, in this case as well as in that of Drigg, and in one described 
by M. Ribbentrop in Germany, is the number of tubes found 
within such limited spaces. At Drigg, within an area of fifteen 
yards, three were observed, and the same number occurred in 
Germany. In the case which I have described, certainly more 
than four existed within the space of the sixty by twenty yards. 
As it does not appear probable that the tubes are produced by 
successive distinct shocks, we must believe that the lightning, 
shortly before entering the ground, divides itself into separate 

The neighbourhood of the Rio Plata seems peculiarly sub- 
ject to electric phenomena. In the year 1793, 1 one of the 
most destructive thunderstorms perhaps^on record happened at 
Buenos Ayres : thirty-seven places within the city were struck 
by lightning, and nineteen people killed. From facts stated in 
several books of travels, I am inclined to suspect that thunder- 
storms are very common near the mouths of great rivers. Is it 
not possible 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 although the room was about 
fifteen feet high, the globules, dropping on the chairs and furni- 
ture, had drilled in them a chain ot minute holes. A part of 
the wall was shattered as if by gunpowder, and the fragments 
had been blown off with force sufficient to dent the wall on the 
1 Azara's Voyage, vol. i. p. 36. 

6 4 


CHAP. Ill 

opposite side of the room. The frame of a looking-glass was 
blackened, and the gilding must have been volatilised, for a 
smelling-bottle, which stood on the chimneypiece, was coated 
with bright metallic particles, which adhered as firmly as if they 
had 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 Lieutenant — 
Bahia Blanca— Saline Incrustations — Punta Alta — Zorillo. 


July 241/1, 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 
civilised man. 


66 RIO NEGRO chap. 

The country near the mouth of the river is wretched in the 
extreme : on the south side a long line of perpendicular cliffs 
commences, which exposes a section of the geological nature of 
the country. The strata are of sandstone, and one layer was 
remarkable from being composed of a firmly-cemented con- 
glomerate 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 
northern boundary of the great valley in which the Rio Negro 
flows. On the way we passed the ruins of some fine " estancias," 
which a few years since had been destroyed by the Indians. 
They withstood several attacks. A man present at one gave 
me a very lively description of what took place. The inhabit- 
ants had sufficient notice to drive all the cattle and horses into 
the " corral " x which surrounded the house, and likewise to 
mount some small cannon. 

The Indians were Araucanians from the south of Chile ; 
several hundreds in number, and highly disciplined. They 
first appeared in two bodies on a neighbouring hill ; having 
there dismounted, and taken off their fur mantles, they 
advanced naked to the charge. The only weapon of an 
Indian is a very long bamboo or chuzo, ornamented with 
ostrich feathers, and pointed by a sharp spear-head. My 
informer seemed to remember with the greatest horror the 
quivering of these chuzos as they approached near. When 
close, the cacique Pincheira hailed the besieged to give up their 
arms, or he would cut all their throats. As this would prob- 
ably have been the result of their entrance under any circum- 
stances, 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 

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


together by iron nails instead of leather thongs, and, of course, 
in vain attempted to cut them with their knives. This saved 
the lives of the Christians : many of the wounded Indians were 
carried away by their companions ; and at last, one of the 
under caciques being wounded, the bugle sounded a retreat. 
They retired to their horses, and seemed to hold a council 
of war. This was an awful pause for the Spaniards, as all 
their ammunition, with the exception of a few cartridges, was 
expended. In an instant the Indians mounted their horses, and 
galloped out of sight. Another attack was still more quickly 
repulsed. A cool Frenchman managed the gun ; he stopped 
till the Indians approached close, and then raked their line 
with grape-shot : he thus laid thirty -nine of them on the 
ground ; and, of course, such a blow immediately routed the 
whole party. 

The town is indifferently called El Carmen or Patagones. 
It is built on the face of a cliff which fronts the river, and many 
of the houses are excavated even in the sandstone. The river 
is about two or three hundred yards wide, and is deep and 
rapid. The many islands, with their willow-trees, and the flat 
headlands, seen one behind the other on the northern boundary 
of the broad green valley, forrn^ by the aid of a bright sun, a 
view almost picturesque. The number of inhabitants does not 
exceed a few hundreds. These Spanish colonies do not, like 
our British ones, carry within themselves the elements of growth. 
Many Indians of pure blood reside here : the tribe of the 
Cacique Lucanee constantly have their Toldos 1 on the out- 
skirts of the town. The local government partly supplies them 
with provisions, by giving them all the old worn-out horses, and 
they earn a little by making horse-rugs and other articles of 
riding-gear. These Indians are considered civilised ; but what 
their character may have gained by a lesser degree of ferocity, 
is almost counterbalanced by their entire immorality. Some 
of the younger men are, however, improving ; they are willing 
to labour, and a short time since a party went on a sealing- 
voyage, and behaved very well. They were now enjoying the 
fruits of their labour, by being dressed in very gay, clean clothes, 
and by being very idle. The taste they showed in their dress 
was admirable ; if you could have turned one of these young 

1 The hovels of ihe Indians arc thus called. 

68 RIO NEGRO chap. 

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 con- 
verted 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 with a floor of salt, two and three feet in 
thickness, even when under water during the winter. One of 
these brilliantly white and level expanses, in the midst of the 
brown and desolate plain, offers an extraordinary spectacle. A 
large quantity of salt is annually drawn from the salina ; and 
great piles, some hundred tons in weight, were lying ready for 

The season for working the salinas forms the harvest of 
Patagones ; for on it the prosperity of the place depends. 
Nearly the whole population encamps on the bank of the 
river, and the people are employed in drawing out the salt 
in bullock -waggons. This salt is crystallised in great cubes, 
and is remarkably pure : Mr. Trenham Reeks has kindly 
analysed 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 the Cape 
de Verd Islands ; and a merchant at Buenos Ayres told me 
that 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, 1 that those 
salts answer best for preserving cheese which contain most of 
the deliquescent chlorides. 

The border of the lake is formed of mud : and in this 
numerous large crystals of gypsum, some of which are three 
inches long, lie embedded ; whilst on the surface others of sul- 
phate of soda lie scattered about. The Gauchos call the former 

1 Report of the Agricult. Chem. Assoc, in the Agrkult. Gazette, 1845, p. 93. 


the " Padre del sal," and the latter the « Madrc ; " 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 confervae : I 
attempted to carry home some of this green matter, but from 
an accident failed. Parts of the lake seen from a short distance 
appeared of a reddish colour, and this perhaps was owing to 
some infusorial animalcula. The mud in many places was 
thrown up by numbers of 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 ; throughout 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 ; ancr\these latter probably feed on 
infusoria or confervae. Thus we have a little living world 
within itself, adapted to these inland lakes of brine. A 
minute crustaceous animal (Cancer salinus) is said * to live in 
countless numbers in the brine-pans at Lymington ; but only 
in those in which the fluid has attained, from evaporation, 
considerable strength — namely, about a quarter of a pound of 
salt to a pint of water. Well may we affirm that every part 
of the world is habitable ! Whether lakes of brine, or those 
subterranean ones hidden beneath volcanic mountains — warm 
mineral springs — the wide expanse and depths of the ocean — 

1 Linncean Trans, vol. xi. p. 205. It is remarkable how all the circumstances 
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 depressions in the plains ; in both the 
mud on the borders is black and fetid ; beneath the crust of common salt, sulphate 
of soda or of magnesia occurs, imperfectly crystallised ; and in both, the muddy sand 
is mixed with lentils of gypsum. The Siberian salt-lakes are inhabited by small 
crustaceous animals; and flamingoes {Edin. Neiu Philos. Jour. Jan. 1830) likewise 
frequent them. As these circumstances, apparently so trifling, occur in two distant 
continents, we may feel sure that they are the necessary results of common causes. — 
See Pallas 's Trav:ls> 1793 to *794> PP- 129-134. 


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 
inhabited country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have only 
one small settlement, recently established at Bahia Blanca. 
The distance in a straight line to Buenos Ayres is very nearly 
five hundred British miles. The wandering tribes of horse 
Indians, which have always occupied the greater part of this 
country, having of late much harassed the outlying estancias, 
the government at Buenos Ayres equipped some time since an 
army under the command of General Rosas for the purpose of 
exterminating them. The troops were now encamped on the 
banks of the Colorado ; a river lying about eighty miles north- 
ward 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 fiostri), so as to be enabled to keep up a 
communication with the capital. As the Beagle intended to 
call at Bahia Blanca, I determined to proceed there by land ; 
and ultimately I extended my plan to travel the whole way by 
the postas to Buenos Ayres. 

August i ith. — 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 Colo- 
rado, as I have already said, is nearly eighty miles distant: and as 
we travelled slowly, we were two days and a half on the road, 
The whole line of country deserves scarcely a better name than 
that of a desert. Water is found only in two small wells ; it 
is called fresh ; but even at this time of the year, during the 
rainy season, it was quite brackish. In the summer this must 
be a distressing passage ; for now it was sufficiently desolate. 

The valley of the Rio Negro, broad as it is, has merely 
been excavated out of the sandstone plain ; for immedi- 
ately above the bank on which the town stands, a level 
country commences, which is interrupted only by a few trifling 
valleys and depressions. Everywhere the landscape wears 
the same sterile aspect ; a dry gravelly soil supports tufts of 


brown withered grass, and low scattered bushes, armed with 

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a 
famous tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of Wal- 
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 thorn)- : 
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, etc., 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 bones of horses which had been slaughtered 
as sacrifices. All Indians^of every age and sex make their 
offerings ; they then think that their horses will not tire, and 
that they themselves shall be prosperous. The Gaucho who 
told me this, said that in the time of peace he had witnessed 
this scene, and that he and others used to wait till the Indians 
had passed by, for the sake of stealing from Walleechu the 

The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as 
the god itself; but it seems far more probable that they regard 
it as the altar. The only cause which I can imagine for this 
choice, is its being a landmark in a dangerous passage. The 
Sierra de la Ventana is visible at an immense distance ; and a 
Gaucho told me that he was once riding with an Indian a few 
miles to the north of the Rio Colorado, when the Indian com- 
menced making the same loud noise, which is usual at the first 
sight of the distant tree ; putting his hand to his head, and 
then pointing in the direction of the Sierra. Upon being 
asked the reason of this, the Indian said in broken Spanish, 
" First see the Sierra." 

72 RIO COLORADO chap. 

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 chase, and in a few 
minutes dragged her in with their lazos, and slaughtered her. 
We here had the four necessaries of life "en el campo," — 
pasture for the horses, water (only a muddy puddle), meat 
and firewood. The Gauchos were in high spirits at finding 
all these luxuries ; and we soon set to work at the poor 
cow. This was the first night which I passed under the open 
sky, with the gear of the recado for my bed. There is high 
enjoyment in the independence of the Gaucho life — to be able 
at any moment to pull up your horse, and say, " Here we will 
pass the night." The deathlike stillness of the plain, the dogs 
keeping watch, the gipsy-group of Gauchos making their beds 
round the fire, have left in my mind a strongly-marked picture 
of this first night, which will never be forgotten. 

The next day the country continued similar to that above 
described. 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 animal here represents our hares. It differs, 
however, from that genus in many essential respects ; for 
instance, it has only three toes behind. It is also nearly twice 
the size, weighing from twenty to twenty-five pounds. The 
Agouti is a true friend of the desert ; it is a common feature 
in the landscape to see two or three hopping quickly one after 
the other in a straight line across these wild plains. They are 
found as far north as the Sierra Tapalguen (lat. 3 7° 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), which 
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. We passed also a muddy swamp 
of considerable extent, which in summer dries, and becomes 
incrusted with various salts ; and hence is called a salitral. It 
was covered by low succulent plants, of the same kind with 
those growing on the sea-shore. The Colorado, at the pass 
where we crossed it, is only about sixty yards wide ; generally 
it must be nearly double that width. Its course is very 
tortuous, being marked by willow-trees and beds of reeds : in a 
direct line the distance to the mouth of the river is said to be 
nine leagues, but by water twenty-five. We were delayed 
crossing in the canoe by some immense troops of mares, which 
were swimming the river In-order to follow a division of troops 
into the interior. A more ludicrous spectacle I never beheld 
than the hundreds and hundreds of heads, all directed one way, 
with pointed ears and distended snorting nostrils, appearing 
just above the water like a great shoal of some amphibious 
animal. Mare's flesh is the only food which the soldiers have 
when 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 surprising : I have been assured that an 
unloaded horse can travel a hundred miles a day for many 
days successively. 

The encampment of General Rosas was close to the 
river. It consisted of a square formed by waggons, artillery, 
straw huts, etc. The soldiers were nearly all cavalry ; and I 
should think such a villainous, banditti-like army was never 
before collected together. The greater number of men were 
of a mixed breed, between Negro, Indian, and Spaniard. 
I know not the reason, but men of such origin seldom have 
a good expression of countenance. I called on the Secretary 

74 RIO COLORADO chap. 

to show my passport. He began to cross-question me in the 
most dignified and mysterious manner. By good luck I had 
a letter of recommendation from the government of Buenos 
Ayres * to the commandant of Patagones. This was taken 
to General Rosas, who sent me a very obliging message ; and 
the Secretary returned all smiles and graciousness. We took 
up our residence in the rancho, or hovel, of a curious old 
Spaniard, who had served with Napoleon in the expedition 
against Russia. 

We 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 over- 
flowed 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 hundred Indian allies. The men were a tall, fine race, yet 
it was afterwards -easy to see in the Fuegian savage the same 
countenance rendered hideous by cold, want of food, and less 
civilisation. ■ , [j : 

Some authors, in defining the primary races of mankind, 
have separated these Indians into two classes; but this is 
certainly incorrect. Among the young women or chinas 
some deserve to be called even beautiful. Their hair was 
coarse, but bright and black ; and they wore it in two plaits 
hanging down to the waist They had a high colour, and eyes 
that; glistened with brilliancy ; their legs, feet, and arms were 
small and elegantly formed ; their ankles, and sometimes their 
waists, were ornamented by broad bracelets of blue beads. 
Nothing could be more interesting than some of the family 
groups, A mother with one or two daughters would often 
come to our rancho, mounted on the same horse. « They ride 
like men, but with their knees tucked up much higher. This 
habit, perhaps, arises from their being accustomed, when 
travelling, to ride the loaded horses. The duty of the women 
is to load and unload the horses; to make the tents for the 
night; in short to be, like the wives of all savages, useful 
slaves. The men fight, hunt, take care of the horses, and 

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




make the riding gear. One of their chief 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 
a'° W made of silver ; I have seen a cacique with 

his spurs, stirrups, handle of his knife, and 
bridle made of this metal : the head -stall 
and reins^being of wire, were not thicker 
than whipcord ; and to see a fiery steed 
wheeling about under the command of so 
light a chain, gave to the horsemanship a 
remarkable character of elegance. 

General Rosas intimated a wish to see 
me ; a circumstance which I was afterwards 
very glad of. He is a man of an extra- 
ordinary character, and has a 
most predominant influence 
in the country, which it 
seems probable he will use 


76 RIO COLORADO chap. 

to its prosperity and advancement. 1 He is said to be the 
owner of seventy -four square leagues of land, and to have 
about three hundred thousand head of cattle. His estates are 
admirably managed, and are far more productive of corn than 
those of others. He first gained his celebrity by his laws for 
his own estancias, and by disciplining several hundred men, so 
as to resist with success the attacks of the Indians. There are 
many stories current about the rigid manner in which his laws 
were enforced. One of these was, that no man, on penalty of 
being put into the stocks, should carry his knife on a Sunday : 
this being the principal day for gambling and drinking, many 
quarrels arose, which from the general manner of fighting with 
the knife often proved fatal. 

One Sunday the Governor came in great form to pay the 
estancia a visit, and General Rosas, in his hurry, walked out 
to receive him with his knife, as usual, stuck in his belt. The 
steward touched his arm, and reminded him of the law ; upon 
which, turning to the Governor, he said he was extremely 
sorry, but that he must go into the stocks, and that till let 
out, he possessed no power even in his own house. After 
a little time the steward was persuaded to open the stocks, 
and to let him out, but no sooner was this done, than 
he turned to the steward and said, "You now have broken 
the laws, so you must take my place in the stocks." 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 accomplish- 
ment 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 who- 
ever 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 

1 This prophecy has turned out entirely and miserably wrong. 1845. 


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

In conversation he is enthusiastic, sensible, and very grave. 
His gravity is carried to a high pitch : I heard one of his mad 
buffoons (for he keeps two, like the barons of old) relate the 
following anecdote : " I wanted very much to hear a certain 
piece of music, so I went to the general two or three times to 
ask him ; he said to me, ' Go about your business, for I am 
engaged.' I went a second time ; he said, ' If you come again 
I will punish you.' A third time I asked, and he laughed. 
I rushed out of the tent, but it was too late ; he ordered two 
soldiers to catch and stake me. I begged by all the Saints in 
heaven he would let me off ; but it would not do ; — when the 
general laughs he spares neither mad man nor sound." The 
poor flighty gentleman looked quite dolorous at the very recol- 
lection of the staking. ThlsSs 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 govern- 
ment post-horses, and this he gave me in the most obliging 
and ready manner. 

In the morning we started for Bahia Blanca, which we 
reached in two days. Leaving the regular encampment, we 
passed by the toldos of the Indians. These are round like 
ovens, and covered with hides ; by the mouth of each, a 
tapering chuzo was stuck in the ground. The toldos were 
divided into separate groups, which belonged to the different 
caciques' tribes, and the groups were again divided into smaller 
ones, according to the relationship of the owners. For several 
miles we travelled along the valley of the Colorado. The 
alluvial plains on the side appeared fertile, and it is supposed 
that they are well adapted to the growth of corn. 

7% SAND -DUXES chap. 

Turning northward from the 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 disappeared, 
and the plains were left without a thicket 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 Banda 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 their origin to the rocks of the Cordillera. North of the 
Colorado this bed thins out, and the pebbles become exceed- 
ingly small, and here the characteristic vegetation of Patagonia 

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 
advantage arising from depressions and elevations of the soil, 
is not often brought home to the mind. The two miserable 
springs in the long passage between the Rio Negro and 
Colorado were caused by trifling inequalities in the plain ; 
without them not a drop of water would have been found. 
The belt of sand-dunes is about eight miles wide ; at some 
former period, it probably formed the margin of a grand estuary, 
where the Colorado now flows. In this district, where absolute 
proofs of the recent elevation of the land occur, such specula- 
tions 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 ranche 
between the Colorado and Buenos Ayres in nearly such neat 
order as his. He had a little room for strangers, and a small 
corral for the horses, all made of sticks and reeds ; he had 
also dug a ditch round his house, as a defence in case of being 
attacked. This would, however, have been of little avail, if the 
Indians had come ; but his chief comfort seemed to rest in the 
thought of selling his life dearly. A short time before, a body 
of Indians had travelled past in the night ; if they had been 
aware of the posta, our black friend and his four soldiers 
would assuredly have been slaughtered. I did not anywhere 
meet a more civil and obliging man than this negro ; it was 
therefore the more painful to see that he would not sit down 
and eat with us. 

In the morning we sent for the horses very early, and 
started for another exhilarating gallop. We passed the Cabeza 
del Buey, an old name given to the head of a large marsh, 
which extends from Bahia Blanca. Here we changed horses, 
and passed through some leagues of swamps and 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 
the best mode of escape. We were glad to arrive within the 
walls, when we found all the alarm was about nothing, for the 
Indians turned out to be friendly ones, who wished to join 
General Rosas. 

Bahia Blanca scarcely deserves the name of a village. A 
few houses and the barracks for the troops are enclosed by a 
deep ditch and fortified wall. The settlement is only of recent 
standing (since 1828) ; and its growth has been one of trouble. 
The government of Buenos Ayres unjustly occupied it by force, 
instead of following the wise example of the Spanish Viceroys, 
who purchased the land near the older settlement of the Rio 
Negro, from the Indians. Hence the need of the fortifications ; 
hence the few houses and little cultivated land without the 
limits of the walls : even the cattle are not safe from the 

8o BAH J A BLANC A chap. 

attacks of the Indians beyond the boundaries of the plain on 
which the fortress stands. 

The part of the harbour where the Beagle intended to 
anchor being distant twenty- five miles, I obtained from the 
Commandant a guide and horses, to take me to see 
whether she had arrived. Leaving the plain of green turf, 
which 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 succulent plants which luxuriate 
only w r here salt abounds. Bad as the country was, ostriches, 
deers, agoutis, and armadilloes, were abundant. My guide 
told me, that two months before he had a most narrow escape 
of his life : he was out hunting 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 chase, soon 
overtook and killed his two friends. His own horse's legs 
were also caught by the bolas ; but he jumped off, and with 
his knife cut them free : while doing this he was obliged to 
dodge round his horse and received two severe wounds from 
their chuzos. Springing on the saddle, he managed, by a 
most wonderful exertion, just to keep ahead of the long spears 
of his pursuers, who followed him to within sight of the fort. 
From that time there was an order that no one should stray 
far from the settlement. I did not know of this when I 
started, and was surprised to observe how earnestly my guide 
watched a deer, which appeared to have been frightened from a 
distant quarter. 

We found the Beagle had not arrived, and consequently set 
out on our return, but the horses soon tiring, we were obliged 
to bivouac on the plain. In the morning we had caught an 
armadillo, which, although a most excellent dish when roasted 
in its shell, did not make a very substantial breakfast and 
dinner for two hungry men. The ground at the place where 
we stopped for the night was incrusted with a layer of 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 


the morning they were soon exhausted from not having 
had anything to drink, so that we were obliged to walk. 
About noon the dogs 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 circum- 
stances, I cannot imagine : at the same time, I must confess 
that my guide did not suffer at all, and was astonished that one 
day's deprivation should be so troublesome to me. 

I have several times alluded to the surface of the ground 
being incrusted with salt. This phenomenon is quite different 
from that of the salinas, and 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 composed 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. This 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 crystallised 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. Parchappe 1 found that the saline in- 
crustation 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 to the coast, the 

1 Voyage dans PA merit] tie Merid. par M. A. d'Orbigny. Part. Hist. torn. i. p. 

82 BAH I A BLAXCA chap. 

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


them to be the wife and sister-in-law of the major's son, 
hunting for ostrich's eggs. 

I have described this man's conduct, because he acted under 
the full impression that they were Indians. As soon, however, 
as the absurd mistake was found out, he gave me a hundred 
reasons why they could not have been Indians ; but all 
these were forgotten at the time. We then rode on in 
peace and quietness to a low point called Punta Alta, whence 
we could see nearly the whole of the great harbour of Bahia 

The wide expanse of water is choked up by numerous 
great mudbanks, which the inhabitants call Cangrejales, or 
crabberies, from the number of small crabs. The mud is so 
soft that it is impossible to walk over them, even for the 
shortest distance. Many of the banks have their surfaces 
covered with long rushes, the tops of which alone are visible at 
high water. On one occasion, when in a boat, we were so 
entangled by these shallows that we could hardly find our way. 
Nothing was visible but the flat beds of mud ; the day was not 
very clear, and there was much refraction, or, as the sailors 
expressed it, " things loomed high." The only object within 
our view which was not level was the horizon ; rushes looked 
like bushes unsupported in the air, and water like mudbanks, 
and mudbanks 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 mudbanks 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, w r hich are far from uncommon. 
In general appearance the Zorillo resembles a polecat, but it is 
rather larger, and much thicker in proportion. Conscious of 
its power, it roams by day about the open plain, and fears 
neither dog nor man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its 
courage is instantly checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, 
which brings on violent sickness and running at the nose. 
Whatever is once polluted by it, is for ever useless. Azara 




says the smell can be perceived at a league distant ; more than 
once, when entering the harbour of Monte Video, the wind 
being off shore, we have perceived the odour on board the 
Beagle. Certain it is, that every animal most willingly makes 
room for the Zorillo. 





Bahia 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 — Hybernation of Animals — 
Habits of Sea- Pen — Indian Wars and Massacres — Arrowhead, antiquarian 


THE Beagle arrived here on the 24th of August, and a week 
afterwards sailed for the Plata. With Captain Fitz Roy's 
consent I was left behind, to travel by land to Buenos Ayres. 
I will here add some observations, which were made during 
this visit and on a previous occasion, when the Beagle was 
employed in surveying the harbour. 

The plain, at the distance of a few miles from the coast, 

86 BAHIA BLANCA chap. 

belongs to the great Pampean 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 the upper plain, and from mud, gravel, and sand 
thrown up by the sea during the slow elevation of the land, of 
which elevation we have evidence in upraised beds of recent 
shells, and in rounded pebbles of pumice scattered over the 
country. At Punta Alta we have a section of one of these 
later -formed little plains, which is highly interesting from the 
number and extraordinary character of the remains of gigantic 
land-animals embedded in it. These have been fully described 
by Professor Owen, in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, 
and are deposited 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 
Scelidotherium, also an allied animal, of which I obtained a 
nearly perfect skeleton. It must have been as large as a 
rhinoceros : 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 gigantic 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 Macrau- 
chenia, 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 
detached 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 
fragments 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, according to Professor 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 and reddish mud, just such as the sea might now wash 
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. 1 From the bones 
of the Scelidotherium, including even the kneecap, being 
entombed in their proper relative positions, 2 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 quadrupeds 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 (C longevity of the species in 

1 Since this was written, M. Alcide d'Orbigny has examined these shells, and 
pronounces them all to be recent. 

a M. Aug. Eravard has 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 formation, like 
sand-dunes : this seems to me to be an untenable doctrine. 

88 BAHIA BLANCA chap. 

the mammalia is upon the whole inferior to that of the 
testacea." 1 

The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals, 
including the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and 
Mylodon, is truly wonderful. The habits of life of these 
animals were a complete puzzle to naturalists, until Professor 
Owen 2 solved the problem with remarkable ingenuity. The 
teeth indicate, 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, not to say preposterous, idea to conceive even ante- 
diluvian trees, with branches strong enough to bear animals as 
large as elephants. 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 be imagined 
without having been seen, become, on this view, of obvious service, 
instead of being an encumbrance : 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 giraffe, 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 

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

2 This theory was first developed in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, and 
subsequently in Professor Owen's Memoir on Mylodon robmtus. 


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 
naturally 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 shells are the same with those 
now living in the bay, I was at first inclined to think that the 
former vegetation 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 characters of the inhabitants of the sea are useless as guides 
to judge of those on the land. Nevertheless, from the following 
considerations, I do not believe that the simple fact of many 
gigantic quadrupeds having lived on the plains round Bahia 
Blanca, is any sure guide that they formerly were clothed with 
a luxuriant vegetation : I have no doubt that the sterile country 
a little southward, near the Rio 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 probably been derived from India, and the 
Indian islands, where troops of elephants, noble forests, and im- 
penetrable jungles, are associated together in every 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 character of the country, or to the 
numbers of large animals inhabiting 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 intelligible. 

Dr. Andrew Smith, who, at the head of his adventurous 
party, has lately succeeded in passing the Tropic of Capricorn, 

90 BAHIA BLANC A chap. 

informs mc 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 1 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 occasion- 
ally half an hour's delay in cutting down bushes, gives, perhaps, a 
more definite 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 speciej 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 very different. He informs 
me, that in lat. 24°, in one day's march with the bullock- 
waggons, he saw, without wandering to any great distance on 
either side, between one hundred and one hundred and fifty 
rhinoceroses, which belonged to three species : 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 crocodiles. Of course it was a case quite 
extraordinary, to see so many great animals crowded together, 
but it evidently proves that they must exist in great numbers. Dr. 
Smith describes the country passed through that day, as " being 

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


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 
hyaena, 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 quadrupeds no doubt roam over wide tracts in search of 
it ; and their food chiefly consists of underwood, which probably 
contains much nutriment in a small bulk. Dr. Smith also 
informs me that the vegetation has a rapid growth ; no sooner 
is a part consumed, than its place is supplied by a fresh stock. 
There can be no doubt, however, that our ideas respecting the 
apparent amount of food necessary for the support of large 
quadrupeds are much exaggerated : it should have been 
remembered that the camel, an animal of no mean bulk, has 
always been considered as the emblem of the desert. 

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the vegetation 
must necessarily be luxuriant, is the more remarkable, because 
the converse is far from true. Mr. Burchell observed to me 
that when entering Brazil, nothing struck him more forcibly 
than the splendour of the South American vegetation contrasted 
with that of South Africa, together with the absence of all 
large quadrupeds. In his Travels} he has suggested that the 
comparison of the respective weights (if there were sufficient 
data) of an equal number of the largest herbivorous quadrupeds 
of each country would be extremely curious. If we take on 
the one side the elephant, 2 hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, 

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

2 The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change was estimated (being partly 
weighed) at five tons and a half. The elephant actress, as I was informed, weighed 
one ton less ; so that we may take five as the average of a full-grown elephant. I 
was told at the Surrey Gardens, that a hippopotamus which was sent to England cut 
up into pieces was estimated at three tons and a half ; we will call it three. From 


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 alongside each other, it is not easy to conceive ranks 
more disproportionate in size. After the above facts, we are 
compelled to conclude, against anterior probability, 1 that among 
the mammalia 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 epochs, 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 
large 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 know 2 that the extreme regions of North America 

these premises we may give three tons and a half to each of the five rhinoceroses ; 
perhaps a ton to the giraffe, and half to the bos caffer as well as to the elan (a large 
ox weighs from 1200 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 pounds for the two tapirs together, 550 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 overstating the result. 
The ratio will therefore be as 6048 to 250, or 24 to I, for the ten largest animals 
from the two continents. 

1 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 carcass so gigantic being supported 
on the minute Crustacea and mollusca living in the frozen seas of the extreme 
North ? 

2 See Zoological Remarks to Capt. Back's Expedition, by Dr. Richardson. He 
says, "The subsoil north of latitude 56° is perpetually frozen, the thaw on the coast 


many degrees beyond the limit where the ground at the 
depth of a few feet remains perpetually congealed, are covered 
by forests of large and tall trees. In a like manner, in Siberia, 
we have woods of birch, fir, aspen, and larch, growing in a 
latitude * (64 ), where the mean temperature of the air falls 
below the freezing point, and where the earth is so completely 
frozen, that the carcass of an animal embedded in it is perfectly 
preserved. With these facts we must grant, as far as quantity 
alone of vegetation is concerned, that the great quadrupeds of 
the later tertiary epochs might, in most parts of Northern Europe 
and Asia, have lived on the spots where their remains are now 
found. I do not here speak of the kind of vegetation necessary 
for their support ; because, as there is evidence of physical 
changes, and as the animals have become extinct, so may we 
suppose that the species of plants have likewise been changed. 
These remarks, I may be permitted to add, directly bear on 
the case of the Siberian animals preserved in ice. The firm 
conviction of the necessity of a vegetation possessing a 
character of tropical luxuriance, to support such large animals, 
and the impossibility of reconciling this with the proximity of 
perpetual congelation, was one chief cause of the several 
theories of sudden revolutions of climate, and of overwhelming 
catastrophes, which were invented to account for their entomb- 
ment. I am far from supposing that the climate has not 
changed since the period when those animals lived, which now 
lie buried in the ice. At present I only wish to show, that as 
far as quantity of food alone is concerned, the ancient 
rhinoceroses might have roamed over the steppes of central 
Siberia (the northern parts probably being under water) even in 
their present condition, as well as the living rhinoceroses and 
elephants over the Karros of Southern Africa. 

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the 
more interesting birds which are common on the wild plains 
of Northern Patagonia ; and first for the largest, or South 

not penetrating above three feet, and at Bear Lake, in latitude 64 , not more than 
twenty inches. The frozen substratum does not of itself destroy vegetation, for 
forests flourish on the surface, at a distance from the coast." 

1 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 . 

94 BAHIA BLANCA chap. 

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 the ostrich in its habits is so 
shy, wary, and solitary, and although so fleet in its pace, it is 
caught without much difficulty 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 running against the wind ; yet at the 
first start they expand their wings, and like a vessel make all 
sail. On one fine hot day I saw several ostriches enter a bed 
of tall rushes, where they squatted concealed, till quite closely 
approached. It is not generally known that ostriches readily 
take to the water. Mr. King informs me that at the Bay of 
San 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, 1 when descending the 
Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus in the act of 

The inhabitants of the country readily distinguish, even at 
a distance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger 
and darker coloured, 2 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 

1 Shirt's Travels, vol. ii. p. 74. 

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


over the country. They lie either scattered and single, in which 
case they are never hatched, and are called by the Spaniards 
huachos ; or they are collected together into a shallow ex- 
cavation, which forms the nest. Out of the four nests which I 
saw, three contained twenty-two eggs each, and the fourth 
twenty-seven. In one day's hunting on horseback sixty-four 
eggs were found ; forty-four of these were in two nests, and 
the remaining twenty, scattered huachos. The Gauchos 
unanimously affirm, and there is no reason to doubt their 
statement, that the male bird alone hatches the eggs, and for 
some time afterwards accompanies the young. The cock when 
on the nest lies very close ; I have myself almost ridden over 
one. It is asserted that at such times they are occasionally 
fierce, and even dangerous, and that they have been known to 
attack, a man on horseback, trying to kick and leap on him. 
My informer pointed out to me an old man, whom he had 
seen much terrified by one chasing him. I observe in 
Burchell's Travels in South Africa that he remarks, 
" Having killed a male ostrich, and the feathers being dirty, 
it was said by the Hottentots to be a nest bird." I under- 
stand that the male emu in the Zoological Gardens takes 
charge of the nest : this habit, therefore, is common to the 
family. \ 

The Gauchos unanimously affirm that several females lay 
in one nest. I have been positively told that four or five hen 
birds have been 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. 1 
Although this habit at first appears very strange, I think the 
cause may be explained in a simple manner. The number of 
eggs in the nest varies from twenty to forty, and even to 
fifty ; and according to Azara, sometimes to seventy or eighty. 
Now although it is most probable, from the number of eggs 
found in one district being so extraordinarily great in proportion 
to 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, 2 that a female in a state of domestication laid seventeen 

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

96 BAHIA BLANCA chap. 

eggs, each at the interval 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 different nests, and several hens, as is 
stated to be the case, combined together, then the eggs in one 
collection would be nearly of the same age. If the number 
of eggs in one of these nests is, as I believe, not greater on an 
average than the number laid by one female in the season, then 
there must be as many nests as females, and each cock bird 
will have its fair share of the labour of incubation ; and that 
during a period when the females probably could not sit, from 
not having finished laying. 1 I have before mentioned the great 
numbers of huachos, or deserted 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 together, and finding a 
male ready to undertake the office of incubation ? It is evident 
that there must at first be some degree of association 
between at least two females ; otherwise the eggs would remain 
scattered over the wide plains, at distances far too great to 
allow of the male collecting them into one nest : some 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 Rio Negro in Northern Patagonia, I repeatedly 
heard the Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which they called 
Avestruz Petise. They described it as being less than the common 
ostrich (which is there abundant), but with a very close general 
resemblance. They said its colour was dark and mottled, and 
that its legs were shorter, and feathered lower down than those 
of the common ostrich. It is more easily caught by the 
bolas than the other species. The few inhabitants who had 
seen both kinds, affirmed they could distinguish them apart 
from a long distance. The eggs of the small species appeared, 
however, more generally known ; and it was remarked, with 

i Liclitenstein, 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. 


surprise, that they were very little less than those of the Rhea 
but of a slightly different form, and with a tinge of pale blue. 
This species occurs most rarely on the plains bordering the 
Rio Negro ; but about a degree and a half farther south they 
are tolerably abundant. When at Port Desire, in Patagonia 
(lat. 4 8°), 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 common sort. It was cooked and eaten before my 
memory returned. Fortunately the head, neck, legs, wings, 
many of the larger feathers, and a large part of the skin, had 
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 he had ever heard of the Avestruz Petise. He answered 
by saying, " Why, there are none others in these southern 
countries." He informed me that the number of eggs in the 
nest of the petise is considerably less than 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 off 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 northern kind. In conclusion I 
may observe that the Struthio rhea inhabits the country of La 
Plata as far as a little south of the Rio Negro in lat. 41 , and 
that the Struthio Darwinii takes its place in Southern Patagonia ; 
the part about the Rio Negro being neutral territory. M. A. 
d'Orbigny, 1 when at the Rio Negro, made great exertions to 

1 When at the Rio Negro, we heard much of the indefatigable labours of this 
naturalist. M. Alcide d'Orbigny, during the years 1825 to 1833, traversed several large 
portions of South America, and has made a collection, and is now publishing the 
results on a scale of magnificence, which at once places himself in the list of American 
travellers second only to Humboldt. 



procure this bird, but never had the good fortune to succeed. 
Dobrizhoffer 1 long ago was 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 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 difficult 
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 appearance changes ; the long pointed wings, so different 
from those in the gallinaceous order, the irregular manner of 
flight, and plaintive cry uttered at the moment of rising, recall 
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 

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other South 
American birds. Two species of the genus Attagis are in 
almost every respect ptarmigans in their habits ; one 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 

i Account of the Abipones, A.D. 1 749, vol. i. (English translation), p. 314. 


an inhabitant of the antarctic regions ; it feeds on seaweed and 
shells on the tidal rocks. Although not web-footed, from some 
unaccountable habit it is frequently met with far out at sea. 
This small family of birds is one of those which, from its varied 
relations to other families, although at present offering only 
difficulties to the systematic naturalist, ultimately may assist in 
revealing the grand scheme, common to the present and past 
ages, on which organised beings have been created. 

The genus Furnarius contains several species, all small 
birds, living on the ground, and inhabiting open dry countries. 
In structure they cannot be compared to any European form. 
Ornithologists have generally included them among the creepers, 
although opposed to that family in every habit. The best 
known species is the common oven-bird of La Plata, the Casara 
or 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 pre- 
cisely 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 
plumage, 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 hardened 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 

ioo BAHIA BLANCA chap. 

must be of acquiring any notion of thickness, for although they 
were constantly 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 

I have already mentioned nearly all the mammalia common 
in this country. Of armadilloes three species occur, namely, 
the Dasypus minutus or picky, the D. villosus or peludo, and 
the apar. The first extends ten degrees farther south than any 
other kind : a fourth species, the Mulita, does not come as far 
south as Bahia Blanca. The four species have nearly similar 
habits ; the pcludo, however, is nocturnal, while the others 
wander by day over the open plains, feeding on beetles, larvae, 
roots, and even small snakes. The apar, commonly called 
mataco, is remarkable by having only three movable 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 ijie 
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 picky 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- 
cephaly, or Cophias, subsequently called by M. Bibron T. 
crepitans), from the size of the poison channel in its fangs, must 
be very deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, 
makes this a sub -genus of the rattlesnake, and intermediate 
between it and the viper. In confirmation of this opinion, I 


observed a fact, which appears to me very curious and instruc- 
tive, as showing how every character, even though it may be in 
some degree independent of structure, has a tendency to vary 
by slow degrees. The extremity of the tail of this snake is 
terminated by a point, which is very slightly enlarged ; and as 
the animal glides along, it constantly vibrates the last inch ; 
and this part striking against the dry grass and brushwood, 
produces a rattling noise, which can be distinctly heard at the 
distance of six feet. As often as the animal was irritated or 
surprised, its tail was shaken ; and the vibrations were extremely 
rapid. Even as long as the body retained its irritability, a 
tendency to this habitual movement was evident. This Trigo- 
nocephalus has, therefore, 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 
face was hideous and fierce ; the pupil consisted of a vertical 
slit in a mottled and coppery iris ; the jaws were broad at the 
base, and the nose terminated in a triangular projection. I do 
not think I ever saw anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, 
some of the vampire bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect 
originates from the features being placed in positions, with 
respect to each other, somewhat proportional to those of the 
human face ; and thus we obtain a scale of hideousness. 

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only one little 
toad (Phryniscus nigricans), which was most singular from its 
colour. If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in the 
blackest ink, and then, when dry, allowed to crawl over a board, 
freshly painted with the brightest vermilion, so as to colour 
the soles of its feet and parts of its stomach, a good idea of its 
appearance will be gained. If it 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 Maldonado, I found one in a situation nearly 
as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and thinking to give it a great treat, 

io2 BAHIA BLANCA chap. 

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

I will here add a few remarks on the hybernation of animals 
in this part of South America. When we first arrived at Bahia 
Blanca, September 7th, 1832, we thought nature had granted 
scarcely a living creature to this sandy and dry country. By 
digging, however, in the ground, several insects, large spiders, 
and lizards were found in a half torpid state. On the 15 th a 
few animals began to appear, and by the 18th (three days 
from the equinox) everything announced the commencement 
of spring. The plains were ornamented by the flowers of a 
pink wood -sorrel, wild peas, cenotherae, and geraniums ; and 
the birds began to lay their eggs. Numerous Lamellicorn and 
Heteromerous insects, the latter remarkable for their deeply 
sculptured bodies, were slowly crawling about ; while the lizard 
tribe, the constant inhabitants of a sandy soil, darted about in 
every direction. During the first eleven days, whilst nature 
was dormant, the mean temperature taken from observations 
made every two hours on board the Beagle, was 5 I ° ; and in 
the middle of the day the thermometer seldom ranged above 
5 5°. On the eleven succeeding days, in which all living things 
became so animated, the mean was 5 8°, and the range in the 
middle of the day between sixty and seventy. Here then an 
increase of seven degrees in mean temperature, but a greater 
one of extreme heat, was sufficient to awake the functions of 
life. At Monte Video, from which we had just before sailed, 
in the twenty-three days included between the 26th of July 
and the 19th of August, the mean temperature from 276 
observations was 58°.4; the mean hottest day being 65°.5, and 



the coldest 46 . The lowest point to which the thermometer 
fell was 4i°.5, and occasionally in the middle of the day it 
rose to 6g° or yo°. 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 south- 
ward, and therefore with a climate only a very little colder, 


this same temperature, with a rather less extreme heat, was 
sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings. This shows 
how nicely the stimulus required to arouse hybernating animals 
is governed by the usual climate of the district, and not by the 
absolute heat. It is well known that within the tropics the 
hybernation, or more properly aestivation, of animals is deter- 
mined not by the temperature, but by the times of drought. 
Near Rio de Janeiro, I was at first surprised to observe that, 
a few days after some little depressions had been filled with 
water, they were peopled by numerous full-grown shells and 
beetles, which must have been lying dormant. Humboldt has 
related the strange accident of a hovel having been erected 
over a spot where a young crocodile lay buried in the hardened 

104 BAHIA BLANCA chap. 

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

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (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 two feet. The stem at one ex- 
tremity is truncate, but at the other is terminated by a vermi- 
form 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, projecting 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 polypus, though 
closely united to its brethren, has a distinct mouth, body, and 
tentacula. Of these polypi, in a large specimen, there must be 
many thousands ; yet we see that they act by one movement : 
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. 1 Well may one be 
allowed to ask, What is an individual ? It is always interest- 
ing to discover the foundation of the strange tales of the 
old voyagers ; and I have no doubt but that the habits of 

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


this Virgularia explain one such case. Captain Lancaster, in 
his Voyage 1 in 1601, narrates 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 greatness, 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 

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 beehxfound all murdered. The next day three hundred 
men arrivea from the Colorado, under the command of Com- 
mandant Miranda. A large portion of these men were Indians 
(mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of the Cacique 
Bernantio. They passed the night here ; and it was im- 
possible to conceive anything more wild and savage than 
the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they were intoxi- 
cated ; others swallowed the steaming blood of the cattle 
slaughtered for their suppers, and then, being sick from 
drunkenness, they cast it up again, and were besmeared with 
filth and gore. 

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

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, 
with orders to follow the " rastro," or track, even if it led them 

1 Kerr's Collection of Voyages, vol. viii. p. 119. 

106 BAHIA BLANC A chap. 

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 

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 expedi- 
tion was a very intelligent man. He gave me an account of 
the last engagement at which he was present. Some Indians, 
who had been taken prisoners, gave information of a tribe 
living north of the Colorado. Two hundred soldiers were sent ; 
and they first discovered the Indians by a cloud of dust from 
their horses' feet as they chanced to be travelling. The 
country was mountainous and wild, and it must have been far 
in the interior, for the Cordillera were in sight. The Indians, 
men, women, and children 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 ; but when overtaken, like wild animals, they 
fight against any number to the last moment. One dying 
Indian seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, 


and allowed his own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish 
his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping a 
knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer said, 
when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out for mercy, 
at the same time that he was covertly loosing the bolas from 
his waist, meaning to whirl it round his head and so strike his 
pursuer. " I however struck him with my sabre to the ground, 
and then got off my horse, and cut his throat with my knife." 
This is a dark picture ; but how much more shocking is the 
unquestionable fact, that all the women who appear above twenty 
years old are massacred in cold blood ? When I exclaimed 
that this appeared rather inhuman, he answered, "Why, what 
can be done ? they breed so ! " 

Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just 
war, because it is against barbarians. Who would believe in 
this age that such atrocities could be committed in a Christian 
civilised 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 com- 
plain of. 

In the battle four men ran away together. They were 
pursued, one was killed, and the other three were taken alive. 
They turned out to be messengers or ambassadors from a large 
body of Indians, united in the common cause of defence, near 
the Cordillera. The tribe to which they had been sent was on 
the point of holding a grand council ; the feast of mare's flesh 
was ready, and the dance prepared : in the morning the ambas- 
sadors were to have returned to the Cordillera. They were 
remarkably fine men, very fair, above six feet high, and all 
under thirty years of age. The three survivors of course pos- 
sessed 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 were one after the other shot. 
The third also said, " No se ; " adding, " Fire, I am a man, and 
can die ! " Not one syllable would they breathe to injure the 
united cause of their country ! The conduct of the 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 

108 BAHIA BLANC A chap. 

seven hundred Indians together, and that in summer their 
numbers would be doubled. Ambassadors were to have been 
sent to the Indians at the small Salinas, near Bahia Blanca, 
whom I 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 the main attack, 
because the plains are then without water, and the Indians can 
only travel in particular directions. The escape of the Indians 
to the south of the Rio Negro, where in such a vast unknown 
country they would be safe, is prevented by a treaty with the 
Tehuelches to this effect ; — that Rosas pays them so much to 
slaughter every Indian who passes to the south of the river, but 
if they fail in so doing, they themselves are to be exterminated. 
The war is waged chiefly against the Indians near the 
Cordillera ; for many of the tribes on this eastern side are 
fighting with Rosas. The general, however, like Lord Chester- 
field, thinking that his friends may in a future day become 
his enemies, always places them in the front ranks, so that 
their numbers may be thinned. Since leaving South America 
we have heard that this war of extermination completely 

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 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 1 says that 
in 1535, when Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages 

1 Purchas's Collection of Voyages. I believe the date was really 1537. 


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 chase, they now wander 
about the open plains, without home or fixed occupation. 

I heard also some account of an engagement which took 
place, a few weeks previously to the one mentioned, at Cholechel. 
This is a very important station on account of being a pass for 
horses ; and it was, in consequence, for some time the head- 
quarters of a division of the army. When the troops first 
arrived there they found a tribe of Indians, of whom they killed 
twenty or thirty. The cacique escaped in a manner which 
astonished every one. The chief Indians always have one or 
two picked horses, which they keep ready for any urgent 
occasion. On one of these, an old white horse, the cacique 
sprung, taking with him his little son. The horse had neither 
saddle nor bridle. To avoid the shots, the Indian rode in the 
peculiar method of his nation ; namely, with an arm round the 
horse's neck, and one leg only on its back. Thus hanging on 
one side, he was seen patting the horse's head, and talking to him. 
The pursuers urged every effort in the chase ; the Commandant 
three times changed his horse, but all in vain. The old Indian 
father and his son escaped, and were free. What a fine 
picture one can form in one's mind, — the naked, bronze-like 
figure of the old man with his little boy, riding like a Mazeppa 
on the white horse, thus leaving far behind him the host of his 
pursuers ! 

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint, 
which I immediately recognised as having been a part of the 
head of an arrow. He told me it was found near the island 
ot Cholechel, and that they are frequently picked up there. 
It was between two and three inches long, and therefore twice 
as large as those now used in Tierra del Fuego : it was 
made of opaque cream-coloured flint, but the point and barbs 
had been intentionally broken off. It is well known that 
no Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I believe 
a small tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted ; but 




they are widely separated from the Pampas Indians, and 
border close on those tribes that inhabit the forest, and 
live on foot. It appears, therefore, that these arrow-heads are 
antiquarian Y relics of the Indians, before the great change 
in habits consequent on the introduction of the horse into South 

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

[Several similar agate arrow-heads have since been dug up at Chupat, and two 
were given to me, on the occasion of my visit there, by the Governor. — R. T. 
Pritchett, 1880.] 




Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sierra 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 


September St/i — 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 another 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 distance, 
he would mistake it for an Indian, and would fly like the wind 
away. The distance to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred 
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 which Bahia Blanca 
stands, we entered on a wide desolate plain. It consists of a 


crumbling argillaceo-calcareous rock, which, from the dry nature 
of the climate, supports only scattered tufts of withered grass, 
without a single bush or tree to break the monotonous uniformity. 
The weather was fine, but the atmosphere remarkably hazy ; I 
thought the appearance foreboded a gale, but the Gauchos said 
it was owing to the plain, at some great distance in the interior, 
being on fire. After a long gallop, having changed horses 
twice, we reached the Rio Sauce : it is a deep, rapid, little stream, 
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 that point, in its course to the sea, it is 
quite impassable, and hence makes a most useful barrier against 
the Indians. 

Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose 
information is generally so very correct, figures it as a consider- 
able river, rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With respect 
to its source, I do not doubt that this is the case ; for the 
Gauchos assured me, that in the middle of the dry summer 
this stream, at the same time with the Colorado, has periodical 
floods, which can only originate in the snow melting on the 
Andes. It is extremely improbable that a stream so small as 
the Sauce then was should traverse the entire width of the 
continent ; and indeed, if it were the residue of a large river, 
its waters, as in other ascertained cases, would be saline. 
During the winter we must look to the springs round the Sierra 
Ventana as the source of its pure and limpid stream. I suspect 
the plains of Patagonia, like those of Australia, are traversed 
by many watercourses, 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 officers employed in the 

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we took 
fresh horses and a soldier for a guide, and started for the 
Sierra de la Ventana. This mountain is visible from the 
anchorage at Bahia Blanca ; and Captain 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. When we reached the foot of 
the main ridge, we had much difficulty in finding any water, 
and we thought we should have been obliged to have passed 
the night without any. At last we discovered some by looking 
close to the mountain, for at the distance even of a few hundred 
yards, the streamlets were buried and entirely lost in the 
friable calcareous stone and loose detritus. I do not think 
Nature ever made a more solitary, 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. 1 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 whitish -gray of the quartz rock, and the light 
brown of the withered grass of the plain, being unrelieved 
by any brighter tint. From custom one expects to see in the 
neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain a broken country 
strewed over with huge fragments. Here Nature shows that 
the last movement before the bed of the sea is changed into 
dry land may sometimes be one of tranquillity. Under these 
circumstances I was curious to observe how far from the parent 
rock any pebbles could be found. On the shores of Bahia 
Blanca, and near the settlement, there were some of quartz, 
which certainly must have come from this source : the distance 
is forty-five miles. 

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the 
saddle-cloths tinder which we slept, was in the morning frozen. 
The plain, though appearing horizontal, had insensibly sloped 

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



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 traversely 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 second ascent. It was late in the 
day, and this part of the mountain, like the other, was steep 
and rugged. I was on the top of the second peak by two 
o'clock, but got there with extreme difficulty ; every twenty 
yards I had the cramp in the upper part of both thighs, so 
that I was afraid I should not have been able to have got 
down again. It was also necessary to return by another road, 
as it was out of the question to pass over the saddle-back. I 
was therefore obliged to give up the two higher peaks. Their 
altitude was but little greater, and every purpose of geology 
had been answered ; so that the attempt was not worth the 
hazard of any further exertion. I presume the cause of the 
cramp was the great change in the kind of muscular action, 
from that of hard riding to that of still harder climbing. It is 
a lesson worth remembering, as in some cases it might cause 
much difficulty. 

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


that the jagged and battered forms of the hard quartz yet show 
the effects of the waves of an open ocean. 

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even 
the view was insignificant ; — a plain like the sea, but without 
its beautiful colour and defined outline. The scene, however, 
was novel, and a little danger, like salt to meat, gave it a relish. 
That the danger was very little was certain, for my two 
companions made a good fire — a thing which is never done 
when it is suspected that Indians are near. I reached the 
place of our bivouac by sunset, and drinking much 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 

September lot/i. — In the morning, having fairly scudded 
before the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the 
Sauce posta. On the road we saw great numbers of deer, and 
near the mountain a guanaco. The plain, 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 con- 
versation; as was generally the case, being about the Indians. 
The Sierra Ventana was formerly a great place of resort ; and 
three or four years ago there was much fighting 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 

September 1 1 th. — Proceeded to the third posta in company 
with the lieutenant who commanded it. The distance is called 
fifteen leagues ; but it is only guess-work, and is generally 
overstated. The road was uninteresting, over a dry grassy 
plain ; and on our left hand at a greater or less distance there 
were some low hills ; a 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 puma, or even a fox, approaches, 


nothing can prevent the horses dispersing in every direction ; 
and a storm will have the same effect. A short time since, an 
officer left Buenos Ayres with 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 
uncommon degree the wildness of their appearance. They 
turned out to be a party of Bernantio's friendly tribe, going to 
a salina for salt. The Indians eat much salt, their children 
sucking it like sugar. This habit is very different from that of 
the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the same kind of life, eat 
scarcely any : according to Mungo Park, 1 it is people who live 
on vegetable food who have an unconquerable desire for salt. 
The Indians gave us good-humoured nods as they passed at 
full gallop, driving before them a troop of horses, and followed 
by a train of lanky dogs. 

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

1 7 ravels in Africa, p. 233. 


came at full gallop after him, shouting to him to stop, and 
saying that he only wanted to speak to him. Just as the 
Spaniard was on the point of reaching the boat, Luciano threw 
the balls : they struck him on the legs with such a jerk, as to 
throw him down and to render him for some time insensible. 
The man, after Luciano had had his talk, was 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 flogged 
with a whip. In the middle of the day two men arrived, w r ho 
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 another partly a mulatto ; but two such 
mongrels, with such detestable expressions, I never saw before. 
At night, when they were sitting round the fire, and playing at 
cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa scene. They 
were seated under a low cliff, so that I could look down upon 
them ; around the party were lying dogs, arms, remnants of 
deer and ostriches ; and their long spears were stuck in the 
turf, farther in the dark background their horses were tied 
up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness of the 
desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking, 
a soldier, leaving the fire, would place his head close to 
the ground, and thus slowly scan the horizon. Even if the 
noisy teru-tero uttered its scream, there would be a pause 
in the conversation, and every head, for a moment, a little 

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

The little hovel, built of thistle-stalks, in which they slept 



neither kept out the wind nor 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, etc., 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 

mat£ pots and bambillio. 

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 feast." 

In the morning we all sallied forth to hunt, and although 
we had not much success, there were some animated chases. 
Soon after starting the party separated, and so arranged their 
plans, that at a certain time of the day (in guessing which they 
show much skill) they should all meet from different points of 
the compass on a plain piece of ground, and thus drive together 
the wild animals. One day I went out hunting at Bahia Blanca, 
but the men there merely rode in a crescent, each being about 


a quarter of a mile apart from the other. A fine male ostrich 
being turned by the headmost riders, tried to escape on one 
side. The Gauchos pursued at a reckless pace, twisting their 
horses about with the most admirable command, and each man 
whirling the balls round his head. At length the foremost 
threw them, revolving through the air : in an instant the 
ostrich rolled over and over, its legs fairly lashed together by 
the thong. 

The plains abound with three kinds of partridge, 1 two of 
which are as large as hen pheasants. Their destroyer, a small 
and pretty fox, was also singularly numerous ; in the course of 
the day we could not have seen less than forty or fifty. They 
were generally near their earths, but the dogs killed one. When 
we returned to the posta, we found two of the party returned 
who had been hunting by themselves. They had killed a puma, 
and had found an ostrich's nest with twenty-seven eggs in it. 
Each of these is said to equal in weight eleven hens' eggs ; so 
that we obtained from this one nest as much food as 297 hens' 
eggs would have given. 

September \\tJi. — 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 
lending me his private horses — I wanted to make him some 
remuneration. I asked my guide whether I might do so, but he 
told me certainly not ; that the only answer I should receive 
probably would be, " We have meat for the dogs in our country, 
and therefore do not grudge it to a Christian." It must not be 
supposed that the rank of lieutenant in such an army would at 
all prevent the acceptance of payment : it was only the high 
sense of hospitality, which every traveller is bound to acknow- 
ledge as nearly universal throughout these provinces. After 
galloping some leagues, we came to a low swampy country, which 
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 

1 Two species of Tinamus, and Etidro7nia 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 I ^th. — 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 
unoccupied by the larger ruminating quadrupeds, it seems neces- 
sary to remove the superfluous vegetation 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 con- 
siderable size. It has been wrongfully accused of inelegance ; 
when wading about in shallow water, which is its favourite 
resort, its gait is far from awkward. These birds in a flock 
utter a noise, that singularly resembles the cry of a pack of 
small dogs in full chase : waking in the night, I have more than 
once been for a moment startled at the distant sound. The 
teru-tero (Vanellus cayanus) 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 takes its name from the sound of its voice, 


so does the teru-tero. While riding over the grassy plains, one 
is constantly pursued by these birds, which appear to hate man- 
kind, and I am sure deserve to be hated for their never-ceasing, 
unvaried, harsh screams. To the sportsman they are most 
annoying, by telling every other bird and animal of his approach : 
to the traveller in the country they may possibly, as Molina 
says, do good, by warning him of the midnight robber. During 
the breeding season, they attempt, like our peewits, by feigning 
to be wounded, to draw away from their nests dogs and 
other enemies. The eggs of this bird are esteemed a great 

September 16th. — To the seventh posta at the foot of the 
Sierra Tapalguen. The country was quite level, with a coarse 
herbage and a soft peaty soil. The hovel was here remark- 
ably 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. We were here told a fact, which I would 
not have credited, if I had not had partly ocular proof of it ; 
namely, that, during the previous night, hail as large as small 
apples^and extremely hard, had fallen with such violence as to 
kill the greater number of the wild animals. One of the men 
had already found thirteen deer (Cervus campestris) lying dead, 
and I saw their fresh hides ; another of the party, a few minutes 
after my arrival, brought in seven more. Now I well know, 
that one man without dogs 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 was nearly broken down, and my in- 
former, putting his head out to see what was the matter, received 
a severe cut, and now wore a bandage. The storm was said to 
have been of limited extent : we certainly saw from our last 
night's bivouac a dense cloud and lightning in this direction. It 
is marvellous how such strong animals as deer could thus have 
been killed ; but I have no doubt, from the evidence I have 


given, that the story is not in the least exaggerated. I am glad, 
however, to have its credibility supported by the Jesuit Dobriz- 
hoffer, 1 who, speaking of a country much to the northward, 
says, hail fell of an enormous size and killed vast numbers of 
cattle : the Indians hence called the place Lalegraicavalca, 
meaning " the little white things." Dr. Malcolmson, also, 
informs me that he witnessed in I 83 1 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 ; farther eastward I understand it is 
granitic. 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 cliffs between thirty 
and forty feet high, excepting at one spot, where the entrance, 
lies. Falconer 2 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 

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 

1 History of the Abipones, vol. ii. p. 6. 
2 Falconer's Patagonia, p. 70. 

vi MEAT DIET 123 

in great esteem, having no small affinity with veal, both in 
colour, taste, and flavour." Such certainly is the case with the 
Puma. The Gauchos differ in their opinion whether the 
Jaguar is good eating, but are unanimous in saying that cat is 

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

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been 
several days without tasting anything 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 animalised nature ; and they particularly dislike dry 
meat, such as that of the Agouti. Dr. Richardson, 1 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 phy- 
siological 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 

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


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

September iSt/i. — 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 igth. — 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 1 of 

1 See Mr. Atwater's "Account of the Prairies," in Sillimarts N. A. Journal, vol. i. 
p. 117. 



to face p. 125. 


North America, where coarse grass, between five and six feet 
high, when grazed by cattle, changes into 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 occurring in the neighbourhood, on the borders of any track 
that leads to a newly-constructed hovel. In another part he 
says, 1 " Ces chevaux (sauvages) ont la manie de preferer les 
chemins, et le bord des routes pour deposer 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) 2 has a far wider range : it occurs 
in these latitudes on both sides of the Cordillera, across the con- 
tinent. X I saw it in unfrequented spots in Chile, Entre Rios, and 
Banda Oriental. In the latter country alone, very many (prob- 
ably 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 

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

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


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 prin- 
ciples so well laid down by Mr. Lyell, few countries have under- 
gone more remarkable changes, since the year 1535, when the 
first colonist of La Plata landed with seventy-two horses. The 
countless herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, not only have altered 
the whole aspect of the vegetation, but they have almost banished 
the guanaco, deer, and ostrich. Numberless other changes must 
likewise have taken place ; the wild pig in some parts probably 
replaces the peccari ; packs of wild dogs may be heard howling 
on the wooded banks of the less frequented streams ; and the 
common cat, altered into a large and fierce animal, inhabits 
rocky hills. 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 naturalised ; 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 

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


September 20th. — We arrived by the middle of the day at 
Buenos Ayres. The outskirts of the city looked quite pretty, 
with the agave hedges, and groves of olive, peach, and willow- 
trees, all just throwing out their fresh green leaves. I rode to 
the house of Mr. Lumb, an English merchant, to whose kind- 
ness and hospitality, during my stay in the country, I was 
greatly indebted. 

The city of Buenos Ayres is large ; 1 and I should think 
one of the most regular in the world. Every street is at right 
angles to the one it crosses, and the parallel ones being 
equidistant, the houses are collected into solid squares of 
equal dimensions, which are called quadras. On the other 
hand, the houses themselves are hollow squares ; all the rooms 
opening into a neat little courtyard. They are generally only 
one story high, with flat roofs, which are fitted with seats, and 
are much frequented by the inhabitants in summer. In the 
centre of the town is the Plaza, where the public offices, fortress, 
cathedral, etc., stand. Here also, the old viceroys, before the 
revolution, had their palaces. The general assemblage of 
buildings possesses considerable architectural beauty, although 
none individually can boast of any. 

THe^great corral, where the animals are kept for slaughter 
to supply\ food to this beef-eating population, is one of the 
spectacles best worth seeing. The strength of the horse as 
compared to that of the bullock is quite astonishing : a 
man on horseback having thrown his lazo round the horns of 
a beast, can drag it anywhere 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 turning 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 strength ; the horse's girth being 
matched against the bullock's extended neck. In a similar 
manner a man can hold the wildest horse, if caught with the 
lazo, just behind the ears. When the bullock has been dragged 
to the spot where it is to be slaughtered, the matador with 
great caution cuts the hamstrings. Then is given the death 

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



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 
drenched with gore. 




Excursion ^o St. Fe — Thistle Beds — Habits 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 — Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor-tail — Revolution — Buenos 
Ayres — State of Government. 


September 27th. — In the evening I set out on an excursion to 
St. Fe, which is situated nearly three hundred English miles 
from Buenos Ayres, on the banks of the Parana. The roads 
in the neighbourhood of the city, after the rainy weather, were 
extraordinarily bad. I should never have thought it possible 
for a bullock -waggon to have crawled along: as it was, they 
scarcely went at the rate of a mile an hour, and a man was 
kept ahead, to survey the best line for making the attempt. 
The bullocks were terribly jaded : it is a great mistake to 
suppose that with improved roads, and an accelerated rate of 
travelling, the sufferings of the animals increase in the same 


I30 PAMPAS chap. 

proportion. We passed a train of waggons and a troop of 
beasts on their road to Mendoza. The distance is about 580 
geographical miles, and the journey is generally performed in 
fifty days. These waggons are very long, narrow, and thatched 
with reeds ; they have only two wheels, the diameter of which 
in some cases is 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. 

September 2%th. — We passed the small town of Luxan, 
where there is a wooden bridge over the river — a most unusual 
convenience in this country. We passed also Areco. The 
plains appeared level, but were not so in fact ; for in various 
places the horizon was distant. The estancias are here wide 
apart ; for there is little good pasture, owing to the land being 
covered by beds either of an acrid clover, or of the great 
thistle. The latter, well known from the animated description 
given by Sir F. Head, were at this time of the year two-thirds 
grown ; in some parts they were as high as the horse's back, 
but in others they had not yet sprung up, and the ground was 
bare and dusty as on a turnpike -road. The clumps were of 
the most brilliant green, and they made a pleasing miniature- 
likeness of broken forest land. When the thistles are full 
grown, the great beds are impenetrable, except by a few tracks, 
as intricate as those in a labyrinth. These are only known to 
the robbers, who at this season inhabit them, and sally forth 
at night to rob and cut throats with impunity. Upon asking 
at a house whether robbers were numerous, I was answered, 
" The thistles are not up yet ;" — the meaning of which reply 
was not at first very obvious. There is little interest in passing 
over these tracts, for they are inhabited by few animals or 
birds, excepting the bizcacha and its friend the little owl. 

The bizcacha 1 is well known to form a prominent feature 
in the zoology of the Pampas. It is found as far south as the 

1 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. 


Rio Negro, in lat. 41 , but not beyond. It cannot, like the 
agouti, subsist on the gravelly and desert plains of Patagonia, 
but prefers a clayey or sandy soil, which produces a different 
and more abundant vegetation. Near Mendoza, at the foot 
of the Cordillera, it occurs in close neighbourhood with the 
allied alpine species. It is a very curious circumstance in its 
geographical distribution, that it has never been seen, fortunately 
for the inhabitants of Banda Oriental, to the eastward of the 
river Uruguay : yet in this province there are plains which 
appear admirably adapted to its habits. The Uruguay has 
formed an insuperable obstacle to its migration ; although the 
broader barrier of the Parana has been passed, and the bizcacha 
is common in Entre Rios, the province between these two 
great rivers. Near Buenos Ayres these animals are exceedingly 
common. Their 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 very 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, etc., 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 anywhere near its habitation must cost much 
trouble. For what purpose it is done, I am quite unable to 
form even the most remote conjecture : it cannot be for 

i xi PAMPAS CttAP. 

defence, because the rubbish is chiefly placed above the mouth 
of the burrow, which enters the ground at a very small inclina- 
tion. 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 extra- 
ordinary Australian bird, the Calodera 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 coloured ones. Mr. Gould, 
who has described these facts, informs 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 mentioned, on the plains of Buenos Ayres exclusively 
inhabits the holes of the bizcacha ; but in Banda Oriental it 
is its own workman. During the open day, but more especially 
in the evening, these birds may be seen in every direction 
standing frequently by pairs on the hillock near their burrows. 
If disturbed they either enter the hole, or, uttering a shrill 
harsh cry, move with a remarkably undulatory flight to a 
short distance, and then turning round, steadily gaze at their 
pursuer. Occasionally in the evening they may be heard 
hooting. I found in the stomachs of two which I opened 
the remains of mice, and I one day saw a small snake killed 
and carried away. It is said 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 x 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. I 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. 

1 Journal of Asiatic Soc. vol. v. p. 363. 




29/// and 30///. — 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 absolutely perpendicular, and of a red 
colour ; at other times in large broken masses, covered with 
cacti and mimosa- trees. The real grandeur, however, of an 
immense river like this is derived from reflecting how 
important a means of communication and commerce it forms 
between one nation and another ; to what a distance it travels ; 
and from how vast a territory it drains the great body of fresh 
water which flows past your feet. 

For many leagues north and south of San Nicolas and 
Rozario, the country is really level. Scarcely anything which 
travellers have written about its extreme flatness can be con- 

134 RIO TERCERO chap. 

sidered as exaggeration. Yet I could never find a spot where, 
by slowly turning round, objects were not seen at greater 
distances in some directions than in others ; and this manifestly 
proves inequality in the plain. At sea, a person's eye being 
six feet above the surface of the water, his horizon is two miles 
and four-fifths distant. In like manner, the more level the 
plain, the more nearly does the horizon approach within these 
narrow limits ; and this, in my opinion, entirely destroys that 
grandeur which one would have imagined that a vast level 
plain would have possessed. 

October 1st. — We started by moonlight and arrived at the 


Rio Tercero by sunrise. This river is also called the Saladillo, 
and it deserves the name, for the water is brackish. I stayed 
here 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, project- 
ing in bold relief from the perpendicular cliff 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 

vti ST, F£ 135 

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

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

136 ST. F£ chap. 

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 

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 occu- 
pation 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 $t/t. — We crossed the Parana to St. F6 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 representatives, 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 Uruguay. 

I was delayed here five days, and employed myself in 
examining the geology of the surrounding country, which was 
very interesting. We here see at the bottom of the cliffs, beds 
containing 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 Pampaean 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 
probably an oscillation of level in the bottom of the ancient 
estuary. Until lately, my reasons for considering the Pampaean 
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 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 shows 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, 1 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 that 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 
characterising it, until he thought of comparing it with my 

1 I need hardly state here that there is good evidence against any horse living in 
America at the time of Columbus. 


ST f£ 


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, 1 and of a hollow-horned 
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 
southern part of Mexico 2 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 

1 Cuvier, Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 158. 

2 This is the geographical division followed by Lichtenstein, Swainson, Erichson, 
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 identifica- 
tion of a Mexican animal with the Synetheres prehensi/is, 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. " 


America strongly contrasted with each other. Some few species 
alone have passed the barrier, and may be considered as 
wanderers from the south, such as the puma, opossum, kinkajou, 
and peccari. South America is characterised by possessing 
many peculiar gnawers, a family of monkeys, the llama, peccari, 
tapir, opossums, and, especially, several genera of Edentata, the 
order which includes the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadilloes. 
North America, on the other hand, is characterised (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 
elephant, mastodon, horse, and three genera of Edentata, namely, 
the Megatherium, Megalonyx, and Mylodon. Within nearly 
this same period (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 geo- 
logical period these several genera in common, were much more 
closely related in the character of their terrestrial inhabitants 
than they now are. 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-characterised 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 separation of North and South America. The South 
American character of the West Indian mammals 1 seems to 
indicate that this archipelago was formerly united to the southern 
continent, and that it has subsequently been an area of subsidence. 

1 See Dr. Richardson's Report, p. 157; also U Institute 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 : Edin. New Phil. Jown. 1826, p. 395. 


ST. F£ 

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 


breadth of pelvis, 3 ft. 7 in. 

mylodon. Height, 7 ft. 6 in. ; girth round chest, 6 ft. 6 in. 

Straits l 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 

1 See the admirable Appendix by Dr. Buckland to Beechey's Voyage ; also the 
writings of Chamisso in Kotzebue's Voyage. 


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 Behring'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 numbers of animals of all kinds have been embedded 
together. The period included between the years 1827 and 
1830 is called the "gran seco," or the great drought. During 
this time so little rain fell, that the vegetation, even to the 
thistles, failed ; the brooks were dried up, and the whole 
country assumed the appearance of a dusty high-road. This 
was especially the case in the northern part of the province of 
Buenos Ayres and the southern part of St. Fe. Very great 
numbers of birds, wild animals, cattle, and horses perished 
from the want of food and water. A man told me that the 
deer 1 used to come into his courtyard to the well, which he 
had been obliged to dig to supply his own family with water ; 
and that the partridges had hardly strength to fly away when 
pursued. The lowest estimation of the loss of cattle in the 
province of Buenos Ayres alone, was taken at one million head. 
A proprietor at San Pedro had previously to these years 
20,000 cattle ; at the end not one remained. San Pedro is 
situated in the middle of the finest country ; and even now 
abounds again with animals ; yet, during the latter part of the 
" gran seco," live cattle were brought in vessels for the consump- 

1 Tn 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, when a desperate conflict ensued, which terminated in the ulti- 
mate discomfiture of the invaders, but not until they had killed one man, and 
wounded several others." The town is said to have a population of nearly three 
thousand ! Dr. Malcolmson 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. 

142 ST. FE chap. 

tion of the inhabitants. The animals roamed from their 
estancias, and, wandering far southward, were mingled together 
in such multitudes, that a government commission was sent 
from Buenos Ayres to settle the disputes of the owners. Sir 
Woodbine Parish informed me of another and very curious 
source of dispute ; the ground being so long dry, such quantities 
of dust were blown about, that in this open country the land- 
marks became obliterated, and people could not tell the limits 
of their estates. 

I was informed by an eye-witness that the cattle in herds of 
thousands rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted by 
hunger they were unable to crawl up the muddy banks, and 
thus were drowned. The arm 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 1 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 ? 2 

1 Travels, vol. i. p. 374. 

2 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 years. 


October \2tJ1. — I had intended to push my excursion 
farther, but not being quite well, I was compelled to return by 
a balandra, or one -masted vessel of about a hundred tons' 
burden, which was bound to Buenos Ayres. As the weather 
was not fair, we moored early in the day to a branch of a tree 
on one of the islands. The Parana is full of islands, which 
undergo a constant round of decay and renovation. In the 
memory of the master several large ones had disappeared, and 
others again had been formed and protected by vegetation. 
They are composed of muddy sand, without even the smallest 
pebble, and were then about four feet above the level of the 
river ; but during the periodical floods they are inundated. 
They all present one character ; numerous willows and a few 
other trees are bound together by a great variety of creeping 
plants, thus forming a thick jungle. These thickets afford a 
retreat for capybaras and jaguars. The fear of the latter 
animal quite destroyed all pleasure in scrambling through the 
woods. This evening I had not proceeded a hundred yards, 
before, finding indubitable signs of the recent presence of the 
tiger, I was obliged to come back. On every island there 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 from below when it was dark, was seized on the deck ; he 
escaped, however, with the loss of the use of one arm. When 
the floods drive these animals from the islands, they are most 
dangerous. I was told that a few years since a very large one 
found its way into a church at St. Fe : two padres entering one 
after the other were killed, and a third, who came to see what 

144 RIO PARANA chap. 

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 

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 moor- 
ings. 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 thermometei 
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 

October 1 $tk. — We got under way and passed Punta Gorda, 



where there is a colony of tame Indians from the province of 
Missiones. We sailed rapidly down the current, but before 
sunset, from a silly fear of bad weather, we brought- to in a 
narrow arm of the river. I took the boat and rowed some 
distance up this creek. It was very narrow, winding, and deep; 
on each side a wall thirty or forty feet high, formed by trees 
intwined with creepers, gave to the canal a singularly gloomy 
appearance. I here saw a very extraordinary bird, called the 
Scissor-beak (Rhynchops nigra). It has short legs, web feet, 
extremely long-pointed wings, and is of about the size of a tern. 


t46 RIO PARANA chap. 

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. 

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 
between the islands of the Parana, as the evening drew to a 
close, one of these scissor-beaks suddenly appeared. The water 
was quite still, and many little fish were rising. The bird 
continued for a long time to skim the surface, flying in its wild 
and irregular manner up and down the narrow canal, now dark 
with the growing night and the shadows of the overhanging 
trees. At Monte Video, I observed that some large flocks 
during the day remained on the mud-banks at the head of the 
harbour, in the same manner as on the grassy plains near the 
Parana ; and every evening they took flight seaward. From 

vii RIO PARANA 147 

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 mactrae buried in the sand- 
banks on the coast of Chile : from their weak bills, with the 
lower mandible so much projecting, 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 
kingfisher (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 gray breast, appears to prefer the tall trees on 
the islands to any other situation for its building- place. A 
number of nests are placed so close together as to form one 
great mass of sticks. These parrots always live in flocks, and 
commit great ravages on the 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 ornbu tree, near a house, and thence takes a short flight in 
pursuit of insects, and returns to the same spot. When on the 
wing it presents in its manner of flight and general appearance 
a caricature-likeness of the common swallow. It has the power 
of turning very shortly in the air, and in so doing opens and 
shuts its tail, sometimes in a horizontal or lateral and some- 
times in a vertical direction, just like a pair of scissors. 

October 16th. — 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. 

I Zth and igth. — 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 destitute of others, to another possessing a 
tropical climate, and a soil which, according to the best of 
judges, M. Bonpland, is perhaps unequalled in fertility in any 
part of the world. How different would have been the aspect 
of this river if English colonists had by good fortune first 
sailed up the Plata ! What noble towns would now have occu- 
pied its shores ! Till the death of Francia, the Dictator of 
Paraguay, these two countries must remain distinct, as if placed 
on opposite sides of the globe. And when the old bloody- 
minded tyrant is gone to his long account, Paraguay will be 
torn by revolutions, violent in proportion to the previous 
unnatural calm. That country will have to learn, like every other 
South American state, that a republic cannot succeed till it 
contains a certain body of men imbued with the principles of 
justice and honour. 

October 20th. — Being arrived at the mouth of the Parana, 
and as I was very anxious to reach Buenos Ayres, I went on 
shore at Las Conchas, with the intention of riding there. Upon 
landing, I found to my great surprise that I was to a certain 
degree a prisoner. A violent revolution having broken out, all 


the ports were laid under an embargo. I could not return to 
my vessel, and as for going by land to the city, it was out of 
the question. After a long conversation with the commandant, 
I obtained permission to go the next day to General Rolor, who 
commanded a division of the rebels on this side 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 general told me that the city was in 
a state of close blockade, and that all he could do was to give 
me a passport to the commander-in-chief of the rebels at 
Quilmes. We had therefore to take a great sweep round the 
city, and it was with much difficulty that we procured horses. 
My reception at the encampment was quite civil, but I was told 
it was impossible that I could be allowed to enter the city. I 
was very anxious about this, as I anticipated the Beagle s 
departure from the Rio Plata earlier than it took place. Having 
mentioned, however, General Rosas's obliging kindness to me 
when at the Colorado, magic itself could not have altered cir- 
cumstances quicker than did this conversation. I was instantly 
told that though they could not give me a passport, if I chose 
to leave my guide and horses, I might pass their sentinels. I 
was too glad to accept of this, and an officer was sent with me 
to give directions that I should not be stopped 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 looking at 
an old passport : and at length I was not a little pleased to 
find myself within the city. 

This revolution was supported by scarcely any pretext of 
grievances : but in a state which, in the course of nine months 
(from February to October 1820), underwent fifteen changes in 
its government — each governor, according to the constitution, 
being elected for three years — it would be very unreasonable to 
ask for pretexts. In this case, a party of men — who, being 
attached to Rosas, were disgusted with the governor Balcarce — to 
the number of seventy left the city, and with the cry of Rosas 
the whole country took arms. The city was then blockaded, no 
provisions, cattle or horses, were allowed to enter ; besides this, 




there was only a little skirmishing, and a few men daily killed. 
The outside party well knew that by stopping the supply of 
meat they would certainly be victorious. General Rosas could 
not have known of this rising ; but it appears to be quite con- 
sonant 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 extraordinary powers. This was refused, and since 
then his party have shown that no other governor can keep his 
place. The warfare on both sides was avowedly protracted till 
it was possible to hear from Rosas. A note arrived a few days 
after I left Buenos Ayres, which stated that the General disap- 
proved 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 5 5 00 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 alto- 
gether opposed to the constitutional principles of the republic. 


\, F&&- 


'. V^f?3^^^ ...V: ^y 



Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — 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 
Butterflies — Aeronaut Spiders — Phosphorescence of the Sea — Port Desire — 
Guanaco — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia — Fossil gigantic Animal — 
Types of Organisation constant — Change in the Zoology of America — Causes of 


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 excur- 
sion 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 i^tJi. — 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 Mer- 
cedes 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 much time. On a former 
excursion I crossed the Lucia near its mouth, and I was sur- 
prised to observe how easily our horses, although not used to 
swim, passed over a width of at least six hundred yards. On 
mentioning this at Monte Video, I was told that a vessel con- 
taining some mountebanks and their horses, being wrecked in 
the Plata, one horse swam seven miles to the shore. In the 
course of the day I was amused by the dexterity with which a 
Gaucho forced a restive horse to swim a river. He stripped off 
his clothes, and jumping on its back, rode into the water till it 
was out of its depth ; then slipping off over the crupper, he 
caught hold of the tail, and as often as the horse turned round, 
the man frightened it back by splashing water in its face. As 
soon as the horse touched the bottom on the other side, the 
man pulled himself on, and was firmly seated, bridle in hand, 
before the horse gained the bank. A naked man on a naked 


horse is a fine spectacle ; I had no idea how well the two 
animals suited each other. The tail of a horse is a very useful 
appendage ; I have passed a river in a boat with four people in 
it, which was ferried across in the same way as the Gaucho. If 
a man and horse have to cross a broad river, the best plan is 
for the man to catch hold of the 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 distant 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 galloping over the Pampas, my only surprise is, 
what could have induced me ever to have called it level. The 
country is a series of undulations, in themselves perhaps not 
absolutely great, but, as compared to the plains of St. Fe, real 
mountains. From these inequalities there is an abundance of 
small rivulets, and the turf is green and luxuriant. 

November \*]th. — We crossed the Rozario, which was deep 
and rapid, and passing the village of Colla, arrived at mid-day 
at Colonia del Sacramiento. The distance is twenty leagues, 
through a country covered with fine grass, but poorly stocked 
with cattle or inhabitants. I was invited to sleep at Colonia, 
and to accompany on the following day a gentleman to his 
estancia, where there were some limestone rocks. The town 
is built on a stony promontory something in the same manner 
as at Monte Video. It is strongly fortified, but both fortifica- 
tions and town suffered much in the Brazilian war. It is 
very ancient ; and the irregularity of the streets, and the sur- 
rounding groves of old orange and peach trees, gave it a pretty 
appearance. The church is a curious ruin ; it was used as a 
powder-magazine, and was struck by lightning in one of the 
ten thousand thunderstorms of the Rio Plata. Two-thirds of 
the building were blown away to the very foundation ; and 
the rest stands a shattered and curious monument of the 

154 BAND A ORIENTAL chap. 

united powers of lightning and gunpowder. In the evening I 
wandered about the half- demolished walls of the town. It 
was the chief seat of the Brazilian war — a war most injurious 
to this country, not so much in its immediate effects, as in 
being the origin of a multitude of generals and all other grades 
of officers. More generals are numbered (but not paid) in the 
United Provinces of La Plata than in the United Kingdom of 
Great 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 over- 
turn a government which as yet has never rested on any stable 
foundation. I noticed, however, both here and in other places, 
a very general interest in the ensuing election for the President ; 
and this appears a good sign for the prosperity of this little 
country. The inhabitants do not require much education in their 
representatives ; I heard some men discussing the merits of those 
for Colonia ; and it was said that " although they were not men 
of business, they could all sign their names : " with this they 
seemed to think every reasonable man ought to be satisfied. 

\%th. — Rode with my host to his estancia, at the Arroyo 
de San Juan. In the evening we took a ride round the estate : 
it contained two square leagues and a half, and was situated in 
what is called a rincon ; that is, one side was fronted by the 
Plata, and the two others guarded by impassable brooks. 
There was an excellent port for little vessels, and an abundance 
of small wood, which is valuable as supplying fuel to Buenos 
Ayres. I was curious to know the value of so complete an 
estancia. Of cattle there were 3000, and it would well support 
three or four times that number ; of mares 800, together with 
150 broken-in horses, and 600 sheep. There was plenty of 
water and limestone, a rough house, excellent corrals, and a 
peach orchard. For all this he had been offered ^2000, and 
he only wanted £5 00 additional, and probably would sell it 
for less. The chief trouble with an estancia is driving the 
cattle twice a week to a central spot, in order to make them 
tame, and to count them. This latter operation would be 
thought difficult, where there are ten or fifteen thousand head 
together. It is managed on the principle that the cattle 
invariably divide themselves into little troops of from forty to 
one hundred. Each, troop is recognised by a few peculiarly 


marked animals, and its number is known : so that, one being 
lost out of ten thousand, it is perceived by its absence from 
one of the tropillas. 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 
externally 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 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. 1 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 civilised 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 abnormal 2 one of the niata breed, 
characterises, as I am informed by Dr. Falconer, that great 
extinct ruminant of India, the Sivatherium. The breed is very 
true ; and a niata bull and cow invariably produce niata calves. 

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

2 A nearly similar abnormal, but I do not know whether hereditary, structure 
has been observed in the carp, and likewise in the crocodile of the Ganges. : Histoirt 
des Anomalies, par M. Isid. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, torn. i. p. 244.. 

156 BAND A ORIENTAL chap. 

A niata bull with a common cow, or the reverse cross, produces 
offspring- having an intermediate character, but with the niata 
characters strongly displayed : according to Senor Muniz, there 
is the clearest evidence, contrary 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 illustra- 
tion of how little we are able to judge from the ordinary habits 
of life, on what circumstances, occurring only at long intervals, 
the rarity or extinction of a species may be determined. 

November igt/i. — 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 Vivoras. In the morning we rode to a 
projecting headland on the banks of the river, called Punta 
Gorda. On the way we tried to find a jaguar. There were 
plenty of fresh tracks, and we visited the trees on which they 
are said to sharpen their claws ; but we did not succeed in 
disturbing one. From this point the Rio Uruguay presented 
to our view a noble volume of water. From the clearness and 
rapidity of the stream, its appearance was far superior to that 
of its neighbour the Parana. On the opposite coast, several 
branches from the latter river entered the Uruguay. As the 
sun was shining, the two colours of the waters could be seen 
quite distinct. 

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, been 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 captain at last said, he had one 
question to ask me, which he should be very much obliged if 
I would answer with all truth. I trembled to think how 
deeply scientific it would be : it was, " Whether the ladies of 
Buenos Ayres were not the handsomest in the world." I 
replied, 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 solemnly assured 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 procured 
me a most hospitable reception ; the captain forced me to take 
his bed, and he would sleep on his recado. 

2 1 st. — Started at sunrise, and rode slowly during the 
whole day. The geological nature of this part of the province 
was different from the rest, and closely resembled that of the 
Pampas. In consequence, there were immense beds of the 
thistle, as well as of the cardoon : the whole country, indeed, 
may be called one great bed of these plants. The two sorts 
grow separate, each plant in company with its own kind. The 
cardoon is as high as a horse's back, but the Pampas thistle is 
often higher than the crown of the rider's head. To leave the 
road for a yard is out of the question ; and the road itself is 
partly, and in some cases entirely, closed. Pasture, of course, 
there is none ; if cattle or horses once enter the bed, they are 
for the time completely lost. Hence it is very hazardous to 
attempt to drive cattle at this season of the year ; for when 
jaded enough to face the thistles, they rush among them, and 
are seen no more. In these districts there are very few 

158 BAND A ORIENTAL chap. 

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

November 22nd. — Arrived at an estancia on the Berquelo 
belonging to a very hospitable Englishman, to whom I had a 
letter of introduction from my friend Mr. Lumb. I 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 waste, is very considerable. An 
estanciero told me that he often had to send large herds of 
cattle a long journey to a salting establishment, and that the 
tired beasts were frequently obliged to be killed and skinned ; 
but that he could never persuade the Gauchos to eat of them, 
and every evening a fresh beast was slaughtered 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 turf-plain. 

When 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 them, for the purpose of making neck- 
laces and bracelets — a taste, I may observe, which is common 
to all savage nations, as well as to the most polished. I did 
not know what to understand from this story, but upon 
mentioning it at the Cape of Good Hope to Dr. Andrew 
Smith, he told me that he recollected finding on the south- 


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

While staying at this estancia, I was amused with what I 
saw and heard of the shepherd-dogs of the country. 1 When 
riding, it is a common thing to meet a large flock of sheep 
guarded by one or two dogs, at the distance of some miles 
from any house or man. I often wondered how so firm a 
friendship had been established. The method of education 
consists in separating the puppy, while very young, from the 
bitch, and in accustoming it to its future companions. An 
ewe is held three or four times a day for the little thing to 
suck, and a nest of wool is made for it in the sheep-pen ; at 
no time is it allowed to associate with other dogs, or with the 
children of the family. The puppy is, moreover, generally 
castrated ; so that, when grown up, it can scarcely have any 
feelings in common with the rest of its kind. From this 
education it has no wish to leave the flock, and just as another 
dog will defend its master, man, so will these the sheep. It 
is amusing to observe, when approaching a flock, how the dog 
immediately advances barking, and the sheep all close in his 
rear, as if round the oldest ram. These dogs are also easily 
taught to bring home the flock at a certain hour in the evening. 
Their most troublesome fault, when young, is their desire of 
playing with the sheep ; for m their sport they sometimes 
gallop their poor subjects most unmercifully. 

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some 


1 M. A. d'Oibigny has given nearly a similar account of these dogs, torn. i. 
p. 175- 


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 appears to me a curious instance of the pliability of 
the affections in the dog ; and yet, whether wild or however 
educated, he has a feeling of respect or fear for those that are 
fulfilling their instinct of association. For we can understand 
on no principle the wild dogs being driven away by the single 
one with its flock, except that they consider, from some con- 
fused 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 own 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 them in a flock with a shepherd -dog at their 

One evening a " domidor " (a subduer of horses) came for 
the purpose of breaking- in some colts. I will describe the 
preparatory steps, for I believe they have not been mentioned 
by other travellers. A troop of wild young horses is driven 
into the corral, or large enclosure of stakes, and the door is 
shut. We will suppose that one man alone has to catch and 
mount a horse, which as yet had never felt bridle or saddle. I 
conceive, except by a Gaucho, such a feat would be utterly 
impracticable. The Gaucho picks out a full-grown colt ; and 
as the beast rushes round the circus, he throws his lazo so as 
to catch both the front legs. Instantly the horse rolls over 
with a heavy shock, and whilst struggling on the ground, the 
Gaucho, holding the lazo tight, makes a circle, so as to catch 
one of the hind legs, just beneath the fetlock, and draws it close 
to the two front 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, without a bit, to the lower jaw : this he 
does by passing a narrow thong through the eye-holes at the 
end of the reins, and several times round both jaw and tongue. 
The two front legs are now tied closely together with a strong 
leathern thong, fastened by a slip-knot. The lazo, which bound 
the three together, being then loosed, the horse rises with 
difficulty. The Gaucho, now holding fast the bridle fixed to the 
lower jaw, leads the horse outside the corral. If a second man 
is present (otherwise the trouble is much greater) he holds the 
animal's head, whilst the first puts on the horsecloths and saddle, 
and girths the whole together. During this operation, the 
horse, from dread and astonishment at thus being bound round 
the waist, throws himself over and over again on the ground, 
and, till beaten, is unwilling to rise. At last, when the saddling 
is finished, the poor animal can hardly breathe from fear, and 
is white with foam and sweat. The man now prepares to 
mount by pressing heavily on the stirrup, so that the horse may 
not lose its balance ; and at the moment 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, where, reeking hot and scarcely alive, 
the poor beast is let free. Those animals which will not gallop 
away, but obstinately throw themselves on the ground, are by 
far the most troublesome. This process is tremendously severe, 
but in two or three trials the horse is tamed. It is not, how- 
ever, 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 account, that I did not choose to use my spurs. 
He exclaimed, with a look of great surprise, " Ah, Don Carlos, 
que cosa ! " It was clear that such an idea had never before 
entered his head. 

The Gauchos are well known to be perfect riders. The 
idea of being thrown, let the horse do what it likes, never 
enters their head. Their criterion of a good rider is, a man 
who can manage an untamed colt, or who, if his horse falls, 
alights on his own feet, or can perform other such exploits. I 
have heard of a man betting that he would throw his horse 
down twenty times, and that nineteen times he would not fall him- 
self. I recollect seeing a Gaucho riding a very stubborn horse, 
which three times successively reared so high as to fall backwards 
with great violence. The man judged with uncommon cool- 
ness 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 myself, " Surely if the horse starts, 
you appear so careless on your seat, you must fall." At this 
moment a male ostrich sprang from its nest right beneath the 
horse's nose : the young colt bounded on one side like a stag ; 
but as for the man, all that could be said was, that he started 
and took fright with his horse. 

In Chile and Peru more pains are taken with the mouth of 
the horse than in La Plata, and this is evidently a consequence 
of the more intricate nature of the country. In Chile a horse 
is not considered perfectly broken till he can be brought up 
standing, in the midst of his full speed, on any particular spot, 
— for instance, on a cloak thrown on the ground : or, again, 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 forefinger and thumb, taken at full gallop across a court- 
yard, and then made to wheel round the post of a verandah with 
great speed, but at so equal a distance, that the rider, with out- 
stretched arm, all the 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 
instantly, from the power of the two opposed animals, almost cut 
him in twain. On the same principle the races are managed ; 
the course is only two or three hundred yards long, the 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 
I was told an anecdote, which I believe was true ; and it offers 
a good illustration of the use of a well -broken animal. A 
respectable man riding one day met two others, one of whom was 
mounted on a horse, which he knew to have been stolen from 
himself. He challenged them ; they answered him by drawing 
their sabres and giving chase. The man, on his good and fleet 
beast, kept just ahead : as he passed a thick bush he wheeled 
round it, and brought up his horse to a dead check. The 
pursuers were obliged to shoot on one side and ahead. Then 
instantly dashing on, right behind them, he buried his knife in 
the back of one, wounded the other, recovered his horse 
from the dying robber, and rode home. For these feats of 
horsemanship two things are necessary : a most severe bit, like 
the Mameluke, the power of which, though seldom used, the 
horse knows full well ; and large blunt spurs, that can be 
applied either as a mere touch, or as an instrument of extreme 
pain. I conceive that with English spurs, the slightest touch 
of which pricks the skin, it would be impossible to break in a 
horse after the South American fashion. 

At an estancia near Las Vacas large numbers of mares are 
weekly slaughtered for the sake of their hides, although worth 
only five paper dollars, or about half-a-crown apiece. It seems 


at first strange that it can answer to kill mares for such a trifle ; 
but as it is thought ridiculous in this country ever to break in 
or ride a mare, they are of no value except for breeding. The 
only thing for which I ever saw mares used, was to tread out 
wheat from the ear ; for which purpose they were driven round 
a circular enclosure, where the wheat -sheaves were strewed. 
The man employed for slaughtering the mares happened to be 
celebrated for his dexterity with the lazo. Standing at the 
distance of twelve yards from the mouth of the corral, he has 
laid a wager that he would catch by the legs every animal, with- 
out missing one, as it rushed past him. There was another 
man who said he would enter the corral on foot, catch a mare, 
fasten her front legs together, drive her out, throw her down, 
kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying (which latter is a tedious 
job) ; and he engaged that he would perform this whole operation 
on twenty-two animals in one day. Or he would kill and take 
the skin off fifty in the same time. This would have been a 
prodigious task, for it is considered a good day's work to skin 
and stake the hides of fifteen or sixteen animals. 

November 26th. — I set out on my return in a direct line 
for Monte Video. Having heard of some giant's bones at 
a neighbouring farmhouse on the Sarandis, a small stream 
entering the Rio Negro, I rode there accompanied by my host, 
and purchased for the value of eighteenpence the head of the 
Toxodon. 1 When found it was quite perfect ; but the boys 
knocked out some of the teeth with stones, and then set up 
the head as a mark to throw at. By a most fortunate chance 
I found a perfect tooth, which exactly fitted one of the sockets in 
this skull, embedded by itself on the banks of the Rio Tercero, 
at the distance of about 180 miles from this place. 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 armadillo-like 
animal, and part of the great head of a Mylodon. The bones 
of this head are so fresh, that they contain, according 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 flame. 

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


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 ; 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. 

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

During the last six months I have had an opportunity of 
seeing a little of the character of the inhabitants of these 
provinces. The Gauchos, or countrymen, are very superior to 
those who reside in the towns. The Gaucho is invariably 
most obliging, polite, and hospitable : I did not meet 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-look- 
ing scars. Robberies are a natural consequence of universal 
gambling, much drinking, and extreme indolence. At Mercedes 
I asked two men why they did not work. One gravely said 
the days were too long ; the other that he was too poor. The 
number of horses and the profusion of food are the destruction 
of all industry. Moreover, there are so many feast-days ; and 
again, nothing can succeed without it be begun when the moon 
is on the increase ; so that half the month is lost from these 
two causes. 

Police and justice are quite inefficient. If a man who is 
poor commits murder and is taken, he will be imprisoned, and 
perhaps even shot ; but if he is rich and has friends, he may 
rely on it no very severe consequence will ensue. It is curious 
that the most respectable inhabitants of the country invariably 
assist a murderer to escape : they seem to think that the 
individual sins against the government, and not against the 
people. A traveller has no protection besides his firearms ; 
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 he is free. Sensuality, mockery of all religion, 
and the grossest corruption, are far from uncommon. Nearly 
every public officer can be bribed. The head man in the post- 
office sold forged government franks. The governor and prime 
minister openly combined to plunder the State. Justice, where 
gold came into play, was hardly expected by any one. I knew 
an Englishman who went to the Chief Justice (he told me that, 
not then understanding the ways of the place, he trembled 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 democratic form of government can succeed ! 


On first entering society in these countries, two or three 
features strike one as particularly remarkable. The polite and 
dignified manners pervading every 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 Ay res, but his father objected on the score 
of the danger alone. Many officers in the army can neither 
read nor write, yet all meet in society as equals. In Entre 
Rios, the Sala consisted of only six representatives. One of 
them kept a common shop, and evidently was not degraded by 
the office. All this is what would be expected in a new country ; 
nevertheless the absence of gentlemen by profession appears to 
an Englishman something strange. 

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

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

Several times when the ship has been some miles off the 
mouth of the Plata, and at other times when off the shores of 
Northern Patagonia, we have been surrounded by insects. One 
evening, when we were about ten miles from the Bay of San 
Bias, vast numbers of butterflies, in bands or flocks of countless 
myriads, extended as far as the eye could range. Even by the 

1 68 RIO PLATA chap. 

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 common 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 the migrations of 
another butterfly, Vanessa cardui ; * 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 miles off Cape 
Corrientes, I had a net overboard to catch pelagic animals. 
Upon drawing it up, to my surprise I found a considerable 
number of beetles in it, and although in the open sea, they did 
not appear much injured by the salt water. I lost some of the 
specimens, but those which I preserved belonged to the genera 
Colymbetes, Hydroporus, Hydrobius (two species), Notaphus, 
Cynucus, Adimonia, and 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 appeared to me most probable that 
they were floated into the sea by a small stream which drains a 
lake near Cape Corrientes. On any supposition it is an 
interesting circumstance to find live insects swimming in the 
open ocean seventeen miles from the nearest point of land. 
There are several accounts of insects having been blown off 
the Patagonian shore. Captain Cook observed it, as did more 
lately Captain King in the Adventure. The cause probably is 
due to the want of shelter, both of trees and hills, so that an 

1 Lyell's Principles of Geology, vol. iii. p. 63. 


insect on the wing, with an offshore 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 distant. 1 

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 
was sixty miles distant from the land, in the direction of a 
steady though light breeze. Vast numbers of a small spider, 
about one- tenth of an inch in length, and of a dusky red colour, 
were attached to the webs. There must have been, I should 
suppose, some thousands on the ship. The little spider, when 
first coming in contact with the rigging, was always seated on a 
single thread, and not on the flocculent mass. This latter 
seems merely to be produced by the entanglement of the single 
threads. The spiders were all of one species, but of both sexes, 
together with young ones. These latter were distinguished by 
their smaller size and more dusky colour. I will not give the 
description of this spider, but merely state that it does not 
appear to me to be included in any of Latreille's genera. The 
little aeronaut as soon as it arrived on board was very active, 
running about, sometimes letting itself fall, and then reascending 
the same thread ; sometimes employing itself in making a small 
and very irregular mesh in the corners between the ropes. It 
could run with facility on the surface of water. When disturbed 
it lifted up its front legs, in the attitude of attention. On its 
first arrival it appeared very thirsty, and with exserted maxillae 
drank eagerly of drops of water ; this same circumstance has 
been observed by Strack : may it not be in consequence of the 
little insect having passed through a dry and rarefied atmo- 
sphere? Its stock of web seemed inexhaustible. While 

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

170 RIO PLATA chap. 

watching some that were suspended by a single thread, 1 
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 unaccountable. I thought I could perceive that the spider, 
before performing the above preparatory steps, connected its 
legs together with the most delicate threads, but I am not sure 
whether this observation 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 compared to diverging rays of light ; 
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 ascending 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 circumstances, the atmosphere can 
never be so tranquil as not to affect a vane so delicate as the 
thread of a spider's web. If during a warm day we look either 
at the shadow of any object cast on a bank, or over a level 
plain at a distant landmark, the effect of an ascending current 
of heated air 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 indoors room. Hence I 
think there is not much difficulty in understanding the ascent 
of the fine lines projected from a spider's spinners, and after- 
wards 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 different 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 indifferently 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. 1 

During our different passages south of the Plata, I often 
towed astern a net made of bunting, and thus caught many 
curious animals. Of Crustacea there were many strange and 
undescribed genera. One, which in some respects is allied to 
the Notopods (or those crabs which have their posterior legs 
placed almost on their backs, for the purpose of adhering to 
the under side of 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 — the longest equalling that of 
the entire leg. These claws are very thin, and are serrated 
with the finest teeth, directed backwards : 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 float- 
ing marine animals. 

In deep water, far from the land, the number of living 
creatures is extremely small : south of the latitude 35 , I never 
succeeded in catching 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 Crustacea and some other animals are numerous, but only 
during the night. Between latitudes 5 6° 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 Entomostraca. Yet whales and seals, petrels 
and albatross, are exceedingly abundant throughout this part 
of the ocean. It has always been a mystery to me on what 
the albatross, which lives far from the 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 

1 Mr. Blackwall, in his Researches in Zoology, has many excellent observations 
on the habits of spiders. 


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

As we proceed farther southward the sea is seldom phos- 
phorescent ; and off Cape Horn I do not recollect more than 
once having seen it so, and then it was far from being brilliant. 
This circumstance probably has a close connection with the 
scarcity of organic beings in that part of the ocean. After the 
elaborate paper 1 by Ehrenberg, on the phosphorescence of the 
sea, it is almost superfluous on my part to make any observa- 
tions on the subject. I may however add, that the same torn 
and irregular particles of gelatinous matter, described by 
Ehrenberg, seem in the southern as well as in the northern 
hemisphere to be the common cause of this phenomenon. 
The particles were so minute as easily to pass through fine 
gauze ; yet many were distinctly visible by the naked eye. 
The water when placed in a tumbler and agitated gave out 
sparks, but a small portion in a watch-glass scarcely ever was 
luminous. Ehrenberg states that these particles all retain a 
certain degree. of irritability. My observations, some of which 
were made directly after taking up the water, gave a different 
result. I may also mention, that having used the net during 
one night, I allowed it to become partially dry, and having 
occasion twelve hours afterwards to employ it again, I found 

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


the whole surface sparkled as brightly as when first taken out 
of the water. It does not appear probable in this case that 
the particles could have remained so long alive. On one 
occasion having kept a jelly-fish of the genus Dianaea till it 
was dead, the water in which it was placed became luminous. 
When the waves scintillate with bright green sparks, I believe 
it is generally owing to minute Crustacea. But there can be 
no doubt that very many other pelagic animals, when alive, are 

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

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


December 23rd. — 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 01 
another plain, rather higher, but equally level and desolate ; 
and in every other direction the horizon 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 com- 
menced shows the strong and liberal hand of Spain in the old 
time. The result of all the attempts to colonise this side of 
America south of 41 ° has 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 misfortunes. At St. Joseph's Bay, on the coast 
of Patagonia, a small settlement was made ; but during one 
Sunday the Indians made an attack and massacred the whole 
party, excepting two men, who 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. 1 On 

1 I found here a species of cactus, described by Professor Henslow, under the 
name of Opuntia Darwinii (Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i. p. 466), which 




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 
valleys a few finches and insect-feeders. An ibis (Theristicus 
melanops — a species said to be found in central Africa) is not 
uncommon on the most desert parts : in their stomachs I found 
grasshoppers, cicadas, small lizards, and even scorpions. 1 At one 
time of the year these birds go in flocks, at another in pairs ; their 
cry is very loud and singular, like the neighing of the guanaco. 
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 East. 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 

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 . 

1 These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one cannibal 
scorpion cmietly devouring another. 

176 PORT DESIRE chap. 

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 their 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 long distance 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 
apparently slow, but really quick canter,along some narrow beaten 
tract 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 difference 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 
mountains 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, however, have no idea of defence ; even a 
single dog will secure one of these large animals, till the hunts- 
man can come up. In many of their habits they are like sheep 
in a flock. Thus when they see men approaching in several 
directions on horseback, they soon become bewildered, and 
know not which way to run. This greatly facilitates the Indian 
method of hunting, for they are thus easily driven to a central 
point, and are encompassed. 


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


i 7 8 PATAGONIA Chap. 

at the time exclaimed that it was the burial-ground of all the 
goats in the island. I mention these trifling circumstances, 
because in certain cases they might explain the occurrence of a 
number of uninjured bones in a cave, or buried under alluvial 
accumulations ; and likewise the cause why certain 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 harbour. In the morning we searched for some watering- 
places mentioned in an old Spanish chart. We found one creek, 
at the head of which there was a trickling rill (the first we had 
seen) of brackish water. Here the tide compelled us to wait 
several hours ; and in the interval I walked some miles into 
the interior. The plain as usual consisted of gravel, mingled 
with soil resembling chalk in appearance, but very different 
from it in nature. From the softness of these materials it was 
worn into many gulleys. There was not a tree, and, excepting 
the guanaco, which stood on the hilltop 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. 1 

In the evening we sailed a few miles farther up, and then 
pitched the tents for the night. By the middle of the next day 
the yawl was aground, and from the shoalness of the water could 
not proceed any higher. The water being found partly fresh, 
Mr. Chaffers took the dingey and went up two or three miles 
farther, 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 
which appeared more secluded from the rest of the world than 
this rocky crevice in the wide plain. 

1 Shelley, Lines on M. Blanc. 


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

January gtk y 1 834. — Before it was dark the Beagle anchored 
in the fine spacious harbour of Port St. Julian, situated about 
one hundred and ten miles to the south of Port Desire. We 
remained here eight days. The country is nearly similar to that 
of Port Desire, but perhaps rather more sterile. One day a 
party accompanied Captain Fitz 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 disappoint- 
ment to find a snow-white expanse of salt, crystallised in great 

180 PORT ST. JULIAN chai>. 

cubes ! We attributed our extreme thirst to the dryness of the 
atmosphere ; but whatever the cause might be, we were exceed- 
ingly glad late in the evening to get back to the boats. Although 
we could nowhere find, during our whole visit, a single drop of 
fresh water, yet some must exist ; for by an odd chance I found 
on the surface of the salt water, near the head of the bay, a 
Colymbetes not quite dead, which must have lived in some not 
far distant pool. Three other insects (a Cincindela, like hybrida, 
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 com- 
monly feed ? The guanaco is nearly the only warm-blooded 
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- 
mulated in bays, here along hundreds of miles of coast we have 
one great deposit, including many tertiary 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 the 
world : it certainly extends from near the Rio Colorado to 
between 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-way 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, without including the mud necessarily derived from 
their attrition, was piled into a mound, it would form a great 
mountain chain ! When 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 
stupefied in thinking over the long, absolutely necessary, lapse 
of years. Yet all this gravel has been transported, and prob- 
ably rounded, subsequently to the deposition of the white beds, 
and long subsequently to the underlying beds with the tertiary 

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 Patagonia 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, forming at 
successive levels the long lines of cliffs 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 was 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 
this 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 upraised 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 1 500 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 accumula- 
tion of the superincumbent strata. What a history of geo- 
logical changes does the simply-constructed coast of Patagonia 
reveal ! 

At Port St. Julian, 1 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 present shells. I was at first much surprised 
how a large quadruped could so lately have subsisted, in lat. 
49 15', on these wretched gravel plains with their stunted 
vegetation ; but the relationship of the Macrauchenia to the 
guanaco, now an inhabitant of the most sterile parts, partly 
explains this difficulty. 

The relationship, though distant, between the Macrauchenia 
and the Guanaco, between the Toxodon and the Capybara, — 
the closer relationship between the many extinct Edentata and 
the living sloths, ant-eaters, and armadilloes, now so eminently 
characteristic of South American zoology, — and the still closer 
relationship between the fossil and living species of Ctenomys 
and Hydrochaerus, are most interesting facts. This relation- 
ship is shown wonderfully — as wonderfully as between the 
fossil and extinct Marsupial animals of Australia — by the 

1 I have lately heard that Capt. Sulivan, R.N., has found numerous fossil 
bones, embedded in regular strata, on the banks of the R. Gallegos, in lat. 51 
4'. Some of the bones are large ; others are small, and appear to have belonged to 
an armadillo. This is a most interesting and important discovery. 


great collection lately brought 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 quadrupeds 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, 
armadilloes, 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 organic beings on our earth, 
and their disappearance from it, than any other class of 

It is impossible to reflect on the changed state of the 
American continent without the deepest astonishment. Formerly 
it must have swarmed with great monsters : now we find mere 
pigmies, compared with 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 greater number, if not all, of these extinct quadrupeds 
lived at a late period, and were the contemporaries of most of 
the existing 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 irresistibly hurried into the belief of some great 
catastrophe ; but thus to destroy animals, both large and small, 
in Southern Patagonia, 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 coextensive with the world : what those conditions were, 
no one has yet even conjectured. It could hardly have been 
a change of temperature, 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 Macrau- 
chenia, 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 Mega- 
therium and the other Edentata ? We must at least look to 
some other cause for the destruction 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 descendants of the stock 
introduced by the Spaniards ? Have the subsequently intro- 
duced species consumed the food of the great antecedent races ? 
Can we believe that the Capybara has taken the food of the 
Toxodon, the Guanaco of the Macrauchenia, the existing 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 existence of every animal ; nor do we always 
remember that some check is constantly preventing the too 
rapid increase of every organised 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 surprising 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 given 


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 and 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, differing 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 ! 
We 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 1 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 
observers ; 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 extinct. If then, as appears probable, species 
first become rare and then extinct — if the too rapid increase of 
every species, even the most favoured, is steadily checked, as 
we must admit, though 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 district — why should we feel 
such great astonishment at the rarity being carried a step 
farther to extinction ? An action going on, on every side of 
us, and yet barely appreciable, might surely be carried a little 
farther without exciting our observation. Who would 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 

1 See the excellent remarks on this subject by Mr. Lyell, in his Principles of 

1 86 



living monkeys ? and yet 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 
surprise 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 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 violence — Penguin — Geese — Eggs of Doris — Compound animals. 


April 13///, 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, 

188 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA chap. 

was obliged to return. Excepting what 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 I 8th three whale-boats started, carrying 
three weeks' provisions ; and the party consisted of twenty-five 
souls — a force which would have been sufficient to have defied 
a host of Indians. With a strong flood -tide and a fine day we 
made a good run, soon drank some of the fresh water, and were 
at night nearly above the tidal influence. 

The river here assumed a size and appearance which, even 
at the highest point we ultimately reached, was scarcely dimin- 
ished. It was generally from three to four hundred yards broad, 
and in the middle about seventeen feet deep. The rapidity of 
the current, which in its whole course runs at the rate of from 
four to six knots an hour, is perhaps its most remarkable feature. 
The water is of a fine blue colour, but with a slight milky tinge, 
and not so transparent as at first sight would have been expected. 
It flows over a bed of pebbles, like those which compose the 
beach and the surrounding plains. It runs in a winding course 
through a valley, which extends in a direct line westward. This 
valley varies from five to ten miles in breadth ; it is bounded by 
step-formed terraces, which rise in most parts, one above the 
other, to the height of five hundred feet, and have on the oppo- 
site sides a remarkable correspondence. 

April igth. — 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 

ix ZOOLOGY 189 

and collected firewood. By this order, in half an hour everything 
was ready for the night. A watch of two men and an officer 
was always kept, whose duty it was to look after the boats, keep 
up the fire, and guard against Indians. Each in the party had 
his one hour every night. 

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

April 2Qth. — 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 (2 1 st) 
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 
the night. 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 22nd. — The country remained the same, and was 
extremely 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. Everywhere we see the same birds and insects. Even 
the very banks of the river and of the clear streamlets which 
entered it, were scarcely enlivened by a brighter tint of green. 
The curse of sterility is on the land, and the water flowing over 
a bed of pebbles partakes of the same curse. Hence the number 
of waterfowl is very scanty ; for 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 1 than perhaps any other 
country in the world. Several species of mice are externally 

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

i$o 5. CRUZ, PATAGONIA chap. 

characterised 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 was a mouse 
caught in one of my traps than it was devoured by others. A 
small and delicately-shaped fox, which is likewise very abund- 
ant, 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 everywhere 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 2^th. — Like the navigators of old when approaching 
an unknown land, we examined and watched for the most trivial 
sign of a change. The drifted trunk of a tree, or a boulder of 
primitive rock, was hailed with joy, as if we had seen a forest 
growing on the flanks of the Cordillera. The top, however, of a 
heavy bank of clouds, which remained almost constantly in one 
position, was the most promising sign, and eventually turned out 
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 
thickness ; following up the river-course, the surface impercep- 
tibly rose and the mass became thicker, so that at forty miles 
above the first station it was 320 feet thick. What the thick- 
ness 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 
mountains 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 hundred miles. At 
the first glance of the basaltic cliffs on the opposite sides of the 
valley it was evident that the strata once were united. What 
power, then, has removed along a whole line of country a solid 
mass of very hard rock, which had an average thickness of 
nearly three hundred feet, and a breadth varying from rather 
less than two miles to four miles ? The river, though it has so 
little power in transporting 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 the arguments 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 America was formerly here cut off by a strait, 
joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, like that of Magellan. 
But it may yet be asked, how has the solid basalt been removed ? 
Geologists formerly would have brought into play the violent 
action of some overwhelming debacle : but in this case such a 

192 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA chap. 

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 Narrows 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 corroded so vast an area and thickness 
of solid basaltic lava. Nevertheless, we must believe that the 
strata undermined by the waters of this ancient strait were 
broken up into huge fragments, and these lying scattered on the 
beach were reduced first to smaller blocks, then to pebbles, and 
lastly to the most impalpable 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 ram- 
bling 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 cliffs I 
found some plants which I had seen nowhere else, but others I 
recognised as being wanderers from Tierra del Fuego. These 
porous rocks serve as a reservoir for the scanty rain-water ; and 
consequently on the line where the igneous and sedimentary 
formations unite, some small springs (most rare occurrences 
in Patagonia) burst forth ; and they could be distinguished 
at a distance by the circumscribed patches of bright green 

April 2yth. — The bed of the river became rather narrower, 
and hence the stream more rapid. It here ran at the rate ot 
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 

ix THE CONDOR 193 

feet. This bird is known to have a wide geographical range, 
being found on the 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. Farther 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 frequented by these birds, and about eighty miles up 
the river, where the sides of the valley are formed by steep 
basaltic precipices, the condor reappears. From these facts, it 
seems that the condors require perpendicular cliffs. In Chile, 
they haunt, during the greater part of the year, the lower 
country near the shores of the Pacific, and at night several roost 
together in one tree ; but in the early part of summer they 
retire to the most inaccessible parts of the inner Cordillera, 
there to breed in peace. 

With respect to their propagation, I was told by the country 
people in Chile that the condor makes no sort of nest, but in 
the months of November and December lays two large white 
eggs on a shelf of bare rock. It is said that the young condors 
cannot fly for an entire year ; and long after they are able, they 
continue to roost by night, and hunt by day with their parents. 
The old birds generally live in pairs ; but among the inland 
basaltic cliffs of the Santa Cruz I found a spot where scores 
must usually haunt. On coming suddenly to the brow of the 
precipice, 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 


194 £ CRUZ, PATAGONIA chap. 

extend their daily excursions to any great distance from their 
regular sleeping-places. 

The condors may oftentimes be seen at a great height, 
soaring over a certain spot in the most graceful circles. On 
some occasions 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 condors frequently attack young goats and lambs ; 
and the shepherd-dogs are trained, whenever they pass over, to 
run out, and looking upwards to bark violently. The Chilenos 
destroy and catch numbers. Two methods are used ; one is to 
place a carcass on a level piece of ground within an enclosure 
of sticks with an opening, and when the condors are gorged, to 
gallop up on horseback to the entrance, and thus enclose them : 
for when this bird has not space to run, it cannot give its body 
sufficient momentum to rise from the ground. The second 
method is to mark the trees in which, frequently to the number 
of five or six together, 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 I 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 and 
thirty were kept alive. They were fed only once a week, but 
they appeared in pretty good health. 1 The Chileno country- 
men 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 experiment, which very 
likely has been tried. 

When an animal is killed in the country, it is well known 
that the condors, like other carrion-vultures, soon gain intelligence 

1 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. 


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 the above-mentioned garden the following ex- 
periment : 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 wings. Under the same cir- 
cumstances 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 singularly balanced. 
Professor Owen has demonstrated that the olfactory 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 occasions 
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 Audubon and that one by 
myself, Mr. Bachman has tried in the United States many 
varied plans, showing that neither the turkey-buzzard (the 
species dissected by Professor Owen) nor the gallinazo find their 
food by smell. He covered portions of highly offensive offal 
with a thin canvas cloth, and strewed pieces of meat on it ; 
these the carrion-vultures ate up, and then remained quietly 
standing, with their beaks within the eighth of an inch of the 
putrid mass, without discovering it. A small rent was made in 
the canvas, and the offal was immediately discovered; the canvas 
was replaced by a fresh piece, and meat again put on it, and 
was again devoured by the vultures without their discovering the 

196 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA chap. 

hidden mass on which they were trampling. These facts are 
attested by the signatures of six gentlemen, besides that of Mr. 
Bachman. 1 

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 horizon, 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 wing at a height 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 overlooked ? When an animal is killed by 
the sportsman in a lonely valley, may he not all the while be 
watched from above by the sharp-sighted bird ? And will not 
the manner of its descent proclaim throughout the district 
to the whole family of carrion - feeders, that their prey is at 
hand ? 

When the condors 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 
intently watched from an oblique position the outlines of the 
separate and great terminal feathers of each wing ; and these 
separate feathers, if there had been the least vibratory move- 
ment, would have appeared as if blended together ; but they 
were seen distinct against the blue sky. The head and neck 
were moved frequently, 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 expanded 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 soaring, its motion must be 

1 Loudon's Magazine of Nat. Hist. vol. vii. 


sufficiently rapid, so that the action of the inclined surface of its 
body on the atmosphere may counterbalance its gravity. The 
force to keep up the momentum of a body moving in a 
horizontal plane in 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, 
without any apparent exertion, wheeling and gliding over 
mountain and river. 

April 2Qth. — From some high land we hailed with joy the 
white summits of the Cordillera, as they were seen occasionally 
peeping through their dusky envelope of clouds. During the 
few succeeding days we continued to get on slowly, for we 
found the river-course very tortuous, and strewed with immense 
fragments of various ancient slaty rocks, and of granite. The 
plain bordering the valley had here attained an elevation of 
about 1 1 00 feet above the river, and its character was much 
altered. The well-rounded pebbles of porphyry were mingled 
with many immense angular fragments of basalt and of primary 
rocks. The 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 in situ, 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 circum- 
stances it is, I believe, quite impossible to explain the trans- 
portal of these gigantic masses of rock so many miles from 
their parent -source, on any theory except by that of floating 

During the two last days we met with signs of horses, and 
with several small articles which had belonged to the Indians — 
such as parts of a mantle and a bunch of ostrich feathers — but 
they appeared to have been lying long on the ground. 
Between the place where the Indians had so lately crossed the 
river and this neighbourhood, though so many miles apart, the 
country appears to be quite unfrequented. At first, considering 

[98 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA chap. 

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 unshod horse from taking part in the chase. Never- 
theless, in two places in this very central region, I found small 
heaps of stones, which I do not think could have been accident- 
ally thrown together. They were placed on points projecting 
over the edge of the highest lava cliff, and they resembled, but 
on a small scale, those near Port Desire. 

May ^th. — 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 proceed any farther. Everywhere we met with the same 
productions, and the same dreary landscape. We were now 
one hundred and forty miles distant from the Atlantic, and 
about sixty from the nearest arm of the Pacific. The valley 
in this upper part expanded into a wide basin, bounded on the 
north and south by the basaltic platforms, and fronted by the 
long range of the snow-clad Cordillera. But we viewed these 
grand mountains with regret, for we were obliged to imagine 
their nature and productions, instead of standing, as we had 
hoped, on their summits. Besides the 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, although really 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. 

%th. — 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 days' labour in ascending. On the 8th 
we reached the Beagle after our twenty-one days' expedition. 
Every one, excepting myself, had cause to be dissatisfied ; but 
to me the ascent afforded a most interesting section of the great 
tertiary formation of Patagonia. 

On March 1st, 1833, and again on March \6th, 1834, the 


Beagle anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island. 
This archipelago 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 uninhabited. The government of 
Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private individual, but like- 
wise used them, as old Spain had done before, for a penal 
settlement. England claimed her right and seized them. The 
Englishman who was left in charge of the flag was consequently 
murdered. A British officer was next sent, unsupported by any 
power : and when we arrived, we found him in charge of a 
population, of which rather more than half were runaway rebels 
and murderers. 

The theatre is worthy of the scenes acted on it. An 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 gray quartz rock 
breaks through the smooth surface. Every one has heard of the 
climate of these regions ; it may be compared to that which is 
experienced at the height of between one and two thousand feet, 
on the mountains of North Wales ; having however less sunshine 
and less frost, but more wind and rain. 1 

1 6th. — 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 
covered by light brown withered grass and a few very small 
shrubs, all springing out of an elastic peaty soil. In the valleys 

1 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 represented. 


here and there might be seen a small flock of wild geese, and 
everywhere 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 
composed of quartz rock, the rugged and barren crests of which 
gave us some trouble to cross. On the south side we came to 
the best country for wild cattle ; we met, however, no great 
number, for they had been lately much harassed. 

In the evening we came across a small herd. One of my 
companions, St. Jago by name, soon separated a fat cow ; he 
threw the bolas, and it struck her legs, but failed in becoming 
entangled. Then dropping his hat to mark the spot where the 
balls were left, while at full gallop he uncoiled his lazo, and 
after a most severe chase again came up to the cow, and caught 
her round the horns. The other Gaucho had gone on ahead 
with the 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 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 ; otherwise, it stands motionless lean- 
ing on one side. This horse, however, was a young one, and 
would not stand still, but gave in to the cow as she struggled. 
It was admirable to see with what dexterity St. Jago dodged 
behind the beast, till at last he contrived to give the fatal touch 
to the main tendon of the hind leg ; after which, 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, 
sufficient for our expedition. We then rode on to our sleeping- 
place, and had for supper " carne con cuero," or meat roasted 
with the skin on it. This is as superior to common beef as 
venison is to mutton. A large circular piece taken from the back 
is roasted on the embers with the hide downwards and in 
the form of a saucer, so that none of the gravy is lost. If any 

ix WILD BULLS 201 

worthy alderman had supped with us that evening, "carne con 
cuero," without doubt, would soon have been celebrated in 

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 wander about single, 
or two and three together, and are very savage. I never saw 
such magnificent beasts ; they equalled in the size of their huge 
heads 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 heavy 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 large circuit The Gauchos in revenge determined to emascu- 
late him and render him for the future harmless. It was very 
interesting to see how art completely mastered force. One lazo 
was thrown over his horns as he rushed at the horse, and 
another round his hind legs : in a minute the monster was 
stretched powerless on the 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 himself. By the aid, however, of a second person throw- 
ing his lazo so as to catch both hind legs, it is quickly managed : 
for the animal, as long as its hind legs are kept outstretched, is 
quite 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 the legs of the struggling beast, which 
then rises free, shakes himself, and vainly rushes at his 

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, except 
from the strong attachment which horses have to any locality 
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 fate. 
Capt. Sulivan can so far corroborate this curious account, that 
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 -gray. 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. 
The 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 
informs 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 different parts of this one small island, different colours 
predominate. Round Mount Usborne, at a height of from 1000 
to 1500 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, whilst 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 undis- 
turbed 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 they 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. I should not have supposed that 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 cannot 
live out of doors. The first few pairs, moreover, had here to 
contend against pre-existing enemies, in the fox and some large 
hawks. The French naturalists have considered the black 
variety a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellanicus. 1 

1 Lesson's Zoology of the Voyage of the Coquille, torn. i. p. 168. All the early 
voyagers, and especially Bougainville, distinctly state that the wolf- like fox was the 
only native animal on the island. The distinction of 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 English hare 
rests upon nearly similar characters, only more strongly marked. 


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 gray, and they 
said that at all events it had not extended its range any farther 
than the gray 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, thought it was probably distinct ! 

The only quadruped native to the island 1 is a large wolf- like 
fox (Canis antarcticus), which is common to both East and 
West Falkland. I have no doubt it is a peculiar species, and 
confined to this archipelago ; because many sealers, Gauchos, 
and Indians, who have visited these islands, all maintain that no 
such animal is found in any part of South America. Molina, 
from a similarity in habits, thought that this was the same with 
his " culpeu ;" 2 but I have seen both, and they are quite distinct. 
These wolves are well known, from Byron's account of their 
tameness and curiosity, which the sailors, who ran into the 
water to avoid them, mistook for fierceness. To this day their 
manners remain the same. They have been observed to enter a 
tent, and actually pull some meat from beneath the head of a 
sleeping seaman. The Gauchos also have frequently 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 
numbers have rapidly decreased ; they are already banished 
from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of the 
neck of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkeley Sound. 

1 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. 

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


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 (17th) 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 
the flesh had been picked by the carrion -hawks. They told me 
that in winter they often killed a beast, cleaned the flesh from the 
bones with their knives, and then with these same bones roasted 
the meat for their suppers. 

1 %tJi. — It rained during nearly the whole day. At night we 
managed, however, with our saddle-cloths to keep ourselves 
pretty well dry and warm ; but the ground on which we slept 
was on each occasion nearly in the state of a bog, and there was 
not a dry spot to sit down on after our day's ride. I have in 
another part stated how singular it is that there should be abso- 
lutely no trees on these islands, although Tierra del Fuego is 
covered by one large forest. The largest bush in the island 
(belonging to the family of Composite) 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, immedi- 
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. 

igt/i. — 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 treatment, being too much terri- 
fied to leave the 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, the 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 them- 
selves glad when they reached the settlement, after our little 

The geological structure of these 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 symmetry, and the appear- 
ance of some of the masses is in consequence most singular. 
Pernety 1 has devoted several pages to the description of a Hill 
of Ruins, the successive strata of which he has justly compared 
to the seats of an amphitheatre. The quartz rock must have 
been quite pasty when it underwent such remarkable 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 having been heated to such a 
degree that it became viscid, and upon cooling crystallised. 
While in the soft state it must have been pushed up through 
the overlying beds. 

In many parts of the island the bottoms of the valleys are 
covered in an extraordinary manner by myriads of great loose 
angular 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 water- 
worn, their angles 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 much. They are not thrown together into 
irregular piles, but are spread out into level sheets or great 
streams. It is not possible to ascertain their thickness, but the 
water of small streamlets can be heard trickling through 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 encroaches on the borders, and even 
forms islets wherever a few fragments happen to lie close 
together. In a valley south of Berkeley Sound, which some of 
our party called the " great valley of fragments," it was necessary 
to cross an uninterrupted band half a mile wide, by jumping 
from one pointed stone to another. So large were the fragments, 
that being overtaken by a shower of rain, I readily found 
shelter beneath one of them. 

Their little inclination is the most remarkable circumstance 
in these "streams of stones." On the hill-sides I have seen 

1 Pernety, Voyage aux Isles Maloitincs, p. 526. 


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 continuous stream of these fragments followed 
up the course of a valley, and even extended to the very crest 
of the hill. On these crests huge masses, exceeding in dimen- 
sions 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 had flowed from many 
parts of the mountains into the lower country, and that when 
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 
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 (about 700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment, 
lying on its convex side, or back downwards. Must we believe 
that it was fairly pitched up in the air, and thus turned ? Or, 
with more probability, that there existed formerly a part of 
the same range more elevated than the point on which this 
monument of a great convulsion of nature now lies. As the 
fragments in the valleys are neither rounded nor the crevices 
filled up with sand, we must infer that the period of violence 
was subsequent to the land having been raised above the 
waters of the sea. In a transverse section within these valleys 
the bottom is nearly level, or rises but very little towards either 
side. Hence the fragments appear to have travelled from the 
head of the valley ; but in reality it seems more probable that 
they have been hurled down from the nearest slopes ; and that 
since, by a vibratory movement of overwhelming force, 1 the 

1 "Nous n'avons pas ete moins saisis d'etonnement a. la vue dc Finnombrable 
quantite de pierres de toutes grandeurs, bouleversees les unes sur les autres, et 


fragments have been levelled into one continuous sheet. If 
during the earthquake 1 which in 1835 overthrew Concepcion, 
in Chile, it was thought wonderful that small bodies should 
have been pitched a few inches from the ground, what must 
we say to a movement which has caused fragments many tons 
in weight 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 stupendous mountains 
have been broken into pieces like so much thin crust, and the 
strata thrown on their vertical edges ; but never did any scene, 
like 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 thought inex- 
plicable transportal of the erratic boulders which are strewed 
over the plains of Europe. 

I have little to remark on the zoology of these islands. I have 
before described the carrion-vulture or Polyborus. There are 
some other hawks, owls, and a few small land -birds. The 
waterfowl are particularly numerous, and they must formerly, 
from the accounts of the old navigators, have been much more 
so. One day I observed a cormorant playing with a fish which 
it had caught. Eight times successively the bird let its prey 
go, then dived after it, and although in deep water, brought it 
each time to the surface. In the Zoological Gardens I have 
seen the otter treat a fish in the same manner, much as a cat 
does a mouse : I do not know of any other instance where 
dame Nature appears so wilfully cruel. 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 

cependant rangees, comme si elles avoient ete amoncelees negligemment pour 
remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les effets prodigieux de la 
nature." — Pcrnety, p. 526. 

1 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. 



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. When crawling, it may be said on four 
legs, through the tussocks 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 
flocks, throughout the island. They do not migrate, but build 
on the small outlying islets. This is supposed to be from fear 
of the foxes : and it is perhaps from the same cause that these 
birds, though very tame by day, are shy and wild in the dusk 
of the evening. They live entirely on vegetable matter. The 
rock-goose, so called from living exclusively on the sea-beach 
(Anas antarctica), is common both here and on the west coast of 
America, as far north as Chile. In the deep and retired channels 
of Tierra del Fuego, the snow-white gander, invariably accom- 
panied by his darker consort, and standing close by each 
other on some distant rocky point, is a common feature in the 

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, racehorses ; 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 
birds. These clumsy, loggerheaded ducks make such a noise 
and splashing, that the effect is exceedingly curious. 

Thus we find in South America three birds which use their 
wings for other purposes besides flight ; the penguin as fins, the 
steamer as paddles, and the ostrich as sails : 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 birds 
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 made 
many observations on the lower marine animals, 1 but they are 
of little general interest. I will mention only one class of facts, 
relating to certain zoophytes in the more highly organised divi- 
sion of that class. Several genera (Flustra, Eschara, Cellaria, 
Crisia, and others) agree in having singular movable organs 
(like those of Flustra avicularia, found in the European seas) 
attached to their cells. The organ, in the greater number of 
cases, very closely resembles the head of a vulture ; but the 
lower mandible can be opened much wider than in a real bird's 
beak. The head itself possesses considerable powers of move- 
ment, by means of a short neck. In one zoophyte the head itself 
was fixed, but the lower jaw free : in another it was replaced by 

1 I was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large white Doris (this sea- 
slug was three and a half inches long), how extraordinarily numerous they were. From 
two to five eggs (each three-thousandths of an inch in diameter) were contained in a 
spherical little case. These were arranged two deep in transverse rows forming a 
ribbon. The ribbon adhered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I 
found measured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By counting how 
many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the row, and how many rows in 
an equal length of the ribbon, on the most moderate computation there were six 
hundred thousand eggs. Yet this Doris was certainly not very common : although 
I was often searching under the stones, I saw only seven individuals. No fallacy is 
more common with naturalists, than that the members of an individual species depend 
on its powers of propagation. 


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. 

The young cells at the end of the branches of these corallines 
contain quite immature polypi, yet the vulture-heads attached 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 
forwards at the rate of about five seconds each turn ; others 
moved rapidly and by starts. When touched with a needle, the 
beak generally seized the point so firmly that the whole branch 
might be shaken. 

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production 
of the 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 append- 
age 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 flower-buds. 

In another elegant little coralline (Crisia?) each cell was 
furnished 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 we 


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 different 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 
instance of uniform action, though of a very different nature, in a 
zoophyte closely allied to Clytia, and therefore very simply 
organised. Having kept a large tuft of it in a basin of salt water, 
when it was dark I found that as often as I rubbed any part of 
a branch, the whole became strongly phosphorescent with a 
green light : I do not think I ever saw any object more 
beautifully so. But the remarkable circumstance was, that the 
flashes of light always proceeded up the branches, from the base 
towards the extremities. 

The examination of these compound animals was always 
very interesting to me. What can be more remarkable than to 
see a plant-like body producing an egg, capable of swimming 
about and of choosing a proper place to adhere to, which then 
sprouts into branches, each crowded with innumerable distinct 
animals, often of complicated organisations ? The branches, 
moreover, as we have just seen, sometimes possess organs capable 
of movement 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 plants. 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 reflecting 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 propagated by buds seem more intimately related 
to each other, than eggs or seeds are to their parents. It seems 
now pretty well established 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. 




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- 
wam Cove — Miserable condition of the savages- — Famines- — Cannibals — 
Matricide — 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. 


December \*]tJi y 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 Bay of Good Success. While entering 
we were saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of this 
savage land. A group of Fuegians, partly concealed by the 
entangled forest, were perched on a wild point overhanging the 


sea ; and as we passed by, they sprang up and waving their 
tattered cloaks sent forth a loud and sonorous shout. The 
savages followed the ship, and just before dark we saw their fire, 
and again heard their wild cry. The harbour consists of a fine 
piece of water half surrounded by low rounded mountains of 
clay -slate, which are covered to the water's edge by one dense 
gloomy forest. A single glance at the landscape was sufficient 
to show me how widely different it was from anything 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 without exception the most curious and interesting spectacle 
I ever beheld : I could not have believed how wide was the dif- 
ference between savage and civilised 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 men, about six feet high. The 
women and children had been sent away. These Fuegians are a 
very different race from the stunted, miserable wretches 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 ; 
the 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 
was repeated several times ; it was concluded by three hard slaps, 
which were given me cm the breast and back at the same time. 
He then bared his bosom for me to return the compliment, which 
being done, he seemed highly pleased. The language of these 
people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called 
articulate. Captain Cook has compared it to a man clearing 
his throat, but certainly no European ever cleared his throat with 
so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds. 

They are excellent mimics : as often as we coughed or 
yawned, or made any odd motion, they immediately imitated 
us. Some of our party began to squint and look awry ; but one of 
the young Fuegians (whose whole face was painted black, except- 
ing 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 of 
mimicry. I was told, almost in the same words, of the same 
ludicrous habit among the Cafrres : the Australians, likewise, 
have long been notorious for being able to imitate and describe 
the gait of any man, so that he may be recognised. How can 
this faculty be explained? is it a consequence of the more prac- 
tised habits of perception and keener senses, common to all men 
in a savage state, as compared with those long civilised ? 

When a song was struck up by our party, I thought the 
Fuegians would have fallen down with astonishment. With 
equal surprise they viewed our dancing ; but one of the young 
men, when asked, had no objection to a little waltzing. Little 


accustomed to Europeans as they appeared to be, yet they knew 
and dreaded our firearms ; 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 the 
Admiralty had resolved to send out this expedition, Captain 
Fitz Roy 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 smallpox, 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, I was 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 many good qualities, that he should have been of the same 
race, and doubtless partaken of the same character, with the 
miserable, 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 
information from them concerning the habits of their country- 
men : this was partly owing to their apparent difficulty in 
understanding 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 understood anything which they had 
asserted. Their sight was remarkably acute : it is well known 
that sailors, from long practice, 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 object has been, and though 
doubted by every one, they have proved right when it has 
been examined through a telescope. They were quite conscious 
oi this power ; and Jemmy, when he had any little quarrel 


with the officer on watch, would say, " Me see ship, me no 

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 conversation one with another on the subject. The old 
man addressed a long harangue to Jemmy, which it seems was 
to invite him to stay with them. But Jemmy understood very 
little of their language, and was, moreover, thoroughly ashamed 
of his countrymen. When York Minster afterwards came on 
shore, they noticed him in the same way, and told him he 
ought to shave ; yet he had not twenty dwarf hairs on his face, 
whilst we all wore our untrimmed beards. They examined 
the colour of his skin, and compared it with ours. One of our 
arms being bared, they expressed the liveliest surprise and 
admiration at its whiteness, 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 much pleased at his height being 
noticed. When placed back to back with the tallest of the 
boat's crew, he tried his best to edge on higher ground, and to 
stand on tiptoe. He opened his mouth to show his teeth, and 
turned his face for a side view ; and all this was done with 
such alacrity, that I daresay he thought himself the handsomest 
man in Tierra del Fuego. After our first feeling 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 mountain 
sides, except on the exposed western coast, are covered from 
the water's edge upwards by one great forest. The trees reach 
to an elevation of between iooo and 1500 feet, and are 
succeeded by a band of peat, with minute alpine plants ; and 
this again is succeeded by the line of perpetual snow, which, 


according to Captain King, in the Strait of Magellan descends 
to between 3000 and 4000 feet. To find an acre of level 
land in any part of the country is most rare. I recollect only 
one little flat piece near Port Famine, and another of rather 
larger extent near Goeree Road. In both places, and every- 
where 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 hardly 
crawl along : but the bed of the stream soon became a little 
more open, from the floods having swept the sides. I continued 
slowly to advance for an hour along the broken and rocky 
banks, and was amply repaid by the grandeur of the scene. 
The gloomy depth of the ravine well accorded with the universal 
signs of violence. On every side were lying irregular masses 
of rock and 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 
the tropics — yet there was a difference : for in these still 
solitudes, Death, instead of Life, seemed the predominant spirit. 
I followed the watercourse till I came to a spot where a great 
slip had cleared a straight space down the mountain side. By 
this road I ascended to a considerable elevation, and obtained 
a good view of the surrounding woods. The trees all belong 
to one kind, the Fagus betuloides ; for the number of the other 
species of Fagus and of the Winter's Bark is quite inconsider- 
able. 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 20tk. — 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 
dwindled 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 compact mass of little beech-trees about four or five 
feet high. They were as thick together as box in the border 
of a garden, and we were obliged to struggle over the flat but 


treacherous surface. After a little more trouble we gained the 
peat, and then the bare slate rock. 

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


ficence, well becoming Tierra del Fuego. There was a degree 
of mysterious grandeur in mountain behind mountain, with the 
deep intervening valleys, all covered by one thick, dusky mass 
of forest. The atmosphere, likewise, in this climate, where 
gale succeeds gale, with rain, hail, and sleet, seems blacker 
than anywhere else. In the Strait of Magellan, looking due 
southward from Port Famine, the distant channels between the 
mountains appeared from their gloominess to lead beyond the 
confines of this world. 

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 weatherbeaten Cape Horn. The evening was 
calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view of the surrounding 
isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute, and before 
night sent us a gale of wind directly in our teeth. We stood 
out to sea, and on the second day again made the land, when 
we saw on our weather-bow this notorious promontory in its 
proper form — veiled in a mist, and its dim outline surrounded 
by a storm of wind and water. Great black clouds were rolling 
across the heavens, and squalls of rain, with hail, swept by us 
with such extreme violence, that the Captain determined to 
run into Wigwam Cove. This is a snug little harbour, not far 
from Cape Horn ; and here, at Christmas-eve, we anchored in 


smooth water. The only thing which reminded us of the gale 
outside was every now and then a puff from the mountains, 
which made the ship surge at her anchors. 

December 2$th. — Close by the cove, a pointed hill, called 
Kater's Peak, rises to the height of 1 700 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 submerged chain of mountains already alluded 
to. The cove takes its name of " Wigwam " from some of the 
Fuegian habitations ; but every bay in the neighbourhood 
might be so called with equal propriety. The inhabitants, 
living chiefly upon shell-fish, are obliged constantly to change 
their place of residence ; but they return at intervals to the 
same spots, as is evident from the 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, which invariably grow on them. Among 
these may be enumerated the wild celery and scurvy grass, 
two very serviceable plants, the use of which has not been 
discovered by the natives. 

The Fuegian wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions, a 
haycock. It merely consists of a few broken branches stuck in 
the ground, and very imperfectly thatched on one side with a 
few tufts of grass and rushes. The whole cannot be 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 past, 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 3 8° 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, 
and on the west, they possess seal-skins. Amongst these central 
tribes the men generally have an otter -skin, or some small scrap 
about as large as a pocket-handkerchief, which is barely suffi- 
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 with the spray, trickled down her body. In another 
harbour not far distant a woman, who was suckling a recently- 
born child, came one day alongside the vessel, and remained 
there 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 
bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy 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 what pleasure in life some 
of the lower animals can enjoy : how much more reasonably the 
same question may be asked with respect to these barbarians ! 
At night five or six human beings, naked and scarcely protected 
from the wind and rain of this tempestuous climate, sleep on the 
wet ground coiled up like animals. Whenever it is low water, 
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 food 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 shellfish on the rocks, and they could not go out in 



their canoes to catch 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 off 
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 bury large pieces 
of it in the sand, as a resource in time of famine ; and a native 
boy, 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 firesides ! 

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 believe 
that they perform any sort of religious worship ; though perhaps 
the 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 office 
we 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 quartermaster 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 
approach 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 then 
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 
elements 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, 
where 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 
reduced to the stones on the beach ; in search of food they are 
compelled unceasingly to wander from spot to spot, and so steep 
is the coast, that they tan 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 
wife a brutal master to a laborious slave. Was a more horrid 
deed ever perpetrated, than that witnessed on the west 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 ingenious work, poor as it is, has remained the same, 
as we know from Drake, for the last two hundred and fifty 

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, Whence have they 
come ? What could have tempted, or what change compelled, a 
tribe of men to leave the fine regions of 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 
reflections 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 
suppose that they enjoy a sufficient share of happiness, of 
whatever kind it may be, to render life worth having. Nature 
by making habit omnipotent, and its effects hereditary, has 
fitted the Fuegian to the climate and the productions of his 
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 nth 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 Fuegian), when a violent squall 



compelled us to shorten sail and stand out to sea. The surf 
was breaking fearfully on the coast, and the spray was carried 
over a cliff estimated at 200 feet in height. On the 12th 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 lookout to leeward." On the 1 3th 
the storm raged with its full fury : our horizon was narrowly 
limited by the sheets of spray borne by the wind. The sea 
looked ominous, like a dreary waving plain with patches of 
drifted snow ; whilst the ship laboured heavily, the albatross 


glided with its expanded wings right up the wind. At noon a 
great sea broke over us, and filled one of the whale-boats, which 
was obliged to be instantly cut away. The poor Beagle 
trembled at the shock, and for a few minutes 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 west- 
ward ; the men were worn out with fatigue, and they had not 
had for many nights or days a dry thing to put on. Captain 
Fitz Roy gave up the attempt to get westward 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 i$t/t, 1833. — The Beagle anchored 
in Goeree Roads. Captain Fitz Roy having 
resolved to settle the Fuegians, according to their 
wishes, in Ponsonby Sound, four boats were 
equipped to carry them there through the Beagle 
Channel. This channel, which was discovered by 
Captain 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 com- 
pared 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 Tierra del 
Fuego in an east and west line, 
and in the middle is joined at 
right angles on the south side 

by an irregular channel, which has been called Ponsonby Sound. 
This is the residence of Jemmy Button's tribe and family. 

19th. — Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a party of 



twenty-eight, started under the 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. Nothing could look more comfortable than this scene. 
The glassy water of the little harbour, with the branches of the 
trees hanging over the rocky beach, the boats at anchor, the 
tents supported by the crossed oars, and the smoke curling up 
the wooded valley, formed a picture of quiet retirement. The 
next day (20th) we smoothly glided onwards in our little fleet, 
and came to a more inhabited district. Few if any of these 
natives could ever have seen a white man ; certainly nothing 
could exceed their astonishment at the apparition of the four 
boats. Fires were lighted on every point (hence the name of 
Tierra del Fuego, or the land of fire), both to attract our attention 
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 yells. 

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. At 
first they were not inclined to be friendly ; for until the Captain 
pulled in ahead of the other boats, they kept their slings in 
their hands. We soon, however, delighted them by trifling 
presents, such as tying red tape round their heads. They liked 
our biscuit : but one of the savages touched with his finger some 
of the meat preserved in tin cases which I was eating, and feel- 
ing 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 children, as much as to say, " If you will not 
give it me, surely you will to such as these." 

At night we endeavoured in vain to find an uninhabited 
cove ; and at last were obliged to bivouac not far from a party 
of natives. They were very inoffensive as long as they were 
few in numbers, but in the morning (21st) being joined by 
others they showed symptoms of hostility, and we thought that 
we should have come to a skirmish. An European labours 
under great disadvantages when treating with savages like 
these who have not the least idea of the power of firearms. 
In the very act of levelling his musket he appears to the savage 
far inferior to a man armed with a bow and arrow, a spear, or 
even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them our superiority 
except by striking a fatal blow. Like wild beasts, they do not 
appear 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 Roy, 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 ; for the fact of a body being invisible from its velocity 
would perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. 
Moreover, the extreme force of a bullet that penetrates a hard 
substance without tearing it, may convince the savage that it 
has no force at all. Certainly I believe that many savages of 
the lowest grade, 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. 

22itd. — 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 own. 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 this 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 magnificent 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 unbroken sweep from the 
water's edge, and were covered to the height of fourteen or 
fifteen hundred feet by the dusky-coloured forest. It was most 
curious to observe, 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 
driftweed 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. We were well clothed, 
and though sitting close to the fire were far from too warm ; 
yet these naked savages, though farther off, were observed, to 
our great surprise, to be streaming with perspiration at under- 
going such a roasting. They seemed, however, very well 
pleased, and all joined in the chorus of the seamen's songs ; 
but the manner in which they were invariably a little behindhand 
was quite ludicrous. 

During the night the news had spread, and early in the 


morning (23rd) a fresh party arrived, belonging to the Tekenika, 
or Jemmy's tribe. Several of them had run so fast that their 
noses were bleeding, and their mouths frothed from the rapidity 
with which they talked ; and with their naked bodies all 
bedaubed with black, white, 1 and red, they looked like so many 
demoniacs who had 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 with the 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 native 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 Roy originally intended, as before 
stated, to have taken York Minster and Fuegia to their own 
tribe on the west coast ; but as they expressed a wish to 
remain here, and as the spot was singularly 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 

1 This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little specific gravity ; 
Professor Ehrenberg has examined it : he states (Konig Akad. der Wissen : Berlin, 
Feb. 1845) that it is composed of infusoria, including fourteen polygastrica and four 
phytolitharia. He says that they are all inhabitants of fresh water ; this is a beautiful 
example of the results obtainable through Professor Ehrenberg's microscopic re- 
searches ; 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 del Fuego, 
are old, known forms. 


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 companion. There was no demonstration of 
affection ; they simply stared for a short time at each other ; 
and the mother immediately went to look after her canoe. 
We heard, however, through York that the mother had been 
inconsolable for the loss of Jemmy, and had searched everywhere 
for him, thinking that he might have been left after having 
been taken in the 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 
there was scarcely another human being with so small a stock 
of language, for his English was very 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 the gardens were digging and wigwams building. We 
estimated the number 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 anything 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 : breathless with astonishment he came running 
to Mr. Bynoe, with whom he was out walking — " Oh, Mr. Bynoe, 
oh, bird all same horse ! " 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 he 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 thought 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 offence taken by an old savage, who, when told to 
keep farther 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. 
Matthews, with his usual quiet fortitude (remarkable in a man 
apparently 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 (28th) 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 
overpoweringly hot, so that our skins were scorched ; with this 
beautiful weather, the view in the middle of the Beagle Channel 
was very remarkable. Looking towards either hand, no object 
intercepted the vanishing points of this long canal between the 
mountains. The circumstance of its being an arm of the sea 
was rendered very evident by several huge whales 1 spouting in 
different directions. On one occasion I saw two of these 
monsters, probably male and female, slowly swimming one after 
the other, within less than a stone's throw of the shore, over 
which the beech -tree extended its branches. 

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 

1 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. 


in our blanket -bags, on a good bed of smooth pebbles, we passed 
most comfortable nights. 

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

January 29th. — Early in the morning we arrived at the point 

where the Beagle Channel divides into two arms ; and we 

entered the northern one. The scenery here becomes even grander 

than before. The lofty mountains on the north side compose the 

granitic axis, or backbone of the country, and boldly rise to a 

height of between three and four thousand feet, with one peak 

above six thousand 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 anything 

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 that 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. The 

men ran down as quickly as they could to the boats ; for the 

chance of their being dashed to pieces was evident. One of the 

seamen just caught hold of the bows, as the curling breaker 

reached it ; he was knocked over and over, but not hurt ; and 

the boats, though thrice lifted on high and let fall again, received 

no damage. This was most fortunate for us, for we were a hundred 

miles distant from the ship, and we should have been left without 

provisions or firearms. I had previously observed that some 

large fragments of rock on the beach had been lately displaced ; 


but until seeing this wave I did not understand the cause. 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. 

When 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 seaweed between them ; and when the 
tide rose, we had to get up and move our blanket-bags. The 
farthest 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 
ultimately he was left at New Zealand, where his brother was a 
missionary. 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 
seemed to have been torn up and divided by the natives. 
Matthews 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 wigwam, immediately returned with a large stone in his hand ; 
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 them 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 
Fuegians 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 Fuegia. 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 countrymen, 
" 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 civilised 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 

I I th 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 things. 

On the last day of February in the succeeding year (1834), 
the Beagle anchored in a beautiful little cove at the eastern 
entrance of the Beagle Channel. Captain Fitz Roy determined 
on the bold, and as it proved successful, attempt to beat against 
the westerly winds 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 
followed by ten or twelve canoes. The natives did not at all 
understand the reason of our tacking, and, instead of meeting us 
at each tack, vainly strove to follow us in our zigzag course. I 
was amused at finding what a difference the circumstance of 
being quite superior in force made, in the interest of beholding 
these savages. While in the boats I got to hate the very sound 
of their voices, so much trouble did they give us. The first and 
last word was " yammerschooner." When, entering some quiet 
little cove, we have looked round and thought to pass a quiet 


night, the odious word " yammerschooner " has shrilly sounded 
from some gloomy nook, and then the little signal-smoke has 
curled up to spread the news far and wide. On leaving some 
place we have said to each other, " Thank Heaven, we have at 
last fairly left these wretches ! " when one more faint halloo from 
an all-powerful voice, heard at a prodigious distance, would 
reach our ears, and clearly could we distinguish — "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, etc. ; they grasping at the chance of finding 
people so foolish as to exchange such splendid ornaments for a 
good supper. It was most amusing to see the undisguised smile 
of satisfaction with which one young woman with her face 
painted black, tied several bits of scarlet cloth round her head 
with rushes. Her husband, who enjoyed the very universal 
privilege in this country of possessing two wives, evidently became 
jealous of all the attention paid to his young wife ; and after a 
consultation with his naked beauties, was paddled away by 

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 Mr. 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 
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'ceuvres de l'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, 


but 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 
he 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, 1 had several months since gone to his own 
country, and had taken farewell by an act of consummate 
villainy ; 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 under weigh, which 
frightened his wife, who continued crying violently till he got 

1 Captain Sulivan, who, since his voyage in the Beagle, has been employed on 
the survey of the Falkland Islands, heard from a sealer (in 1842?) that when in the 
western part of the Strait of Magellan, he was astonished by a native woman coming 
on board, who could talk some English. Without doubt this was Fuegia Basket. 
She lived (I fear the term probably bears a double interpretation) some days on 



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 civilisation. 
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 civilised always have the most 
artificial governments. For instance, the inhabitants ofOtaheite, 
who, when first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, 
had arrived at a far higher grade than another branch of the 
same people, the New Zealanders, — who, although benefited by 
being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were 
republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, 
until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any 
acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems 
scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be 
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 

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 civilised. 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 
boomerang, his spear and throwing- stick, his method of 
climbing trees, of tracking animals, and of hunting. Although 
the Australian 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 have read of the Australians, I should think the case 
was exactly the reverse. 




Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Ascent of Mount Tarn — Forests — Edible fungus 
— Zoology — Great Seaweed — 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 car- 
casses — Recapitulation. 


In the end of May 1834 we entered for the 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, like 
those of Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little within the 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 




Gregory Bay, that is about sixty miles, the difference is still more 
wonderful. At the former place we have rounded mountains 
concealed by impervious forests, which are drenched with the 
rain brought by an endless succession of gales ; while at Cape 
Gregory there is a clear and bright blue sky over the dry and 
sterile plains. The atmospheric currents, 1 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 
at Cape Gregory with the famous so-called gigantic Patagonians, 

■•\#:^ WW? 


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 

1 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. Temperature Co°, dew-point 42 , — difference 1 8°. 




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 
determined 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 com- 
munication 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 ; firearms being refused, tobacco was 
in greatest request, far more so than axes or tools. The whole 
population of the toldos, 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 
important 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 Cor- 
dillera ; sometimes they travel as far as the Rio Negro, 750 miles 
to the north. They are well stocked with horses, each man having, 
according to Mr. Low, six or seven, and all the women, and even 
children, their one own horse. In the time of Sarmiento (1 580) 
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, 
and the colony being then for a time deserted, the horse ran wild j 1 
in 1 5 80, 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 winter 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 with 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 notable 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 afforded 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. 

1 Rengger, Natter, der Saeugethierc von Paraguay. S. 334. 



They turned out to be two sailors who had 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 daresay they 
were worthless vagabonds, but I never saw more 
miserable-looking ones. They had been living for 
some days on mussel-shells and berries, and their 
tattered clothes had been burnt by sleeping 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 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 behind 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 
^V we were left in peace and quietness. During the 

A* former voyage the Fuegians were here very trouble- 

some, 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 contrast with the 
profound silence which in a minute or two afterwards prevailed. 


The next morning not a single Fucgian 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 deathlike 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 bar- 
ricaded 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 
wood ; at other times, when attempting to lean against a firm 
tree, one was startled by finding a mass of decayed matter ready 
to fall at the slightest touch. We at last found ourselves among 
the stunted trees, and then soon reached the bare ridge, which 
conducted us to the summit. Here was a view characteristic of 
Tierra del Fuego ; irregular chains of hills, mottled with patches 


of snow, deep yellowish-green valleys, and arms of the sea inter- 
secting the land in many directions. The strong wind was 
piercingly cold, and the atmosphere rather hazy, so that 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, 1 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 mountains 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 
globular, 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 honeycombed, as 
represented in the accompanying woodcut. This fungus 
belongs to a new and curious genus ; 2 I found a second 

1 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 observations, 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. 

2 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 Bulgaria. 

xi ZOOLOGY 251 

species on another species 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 relationship 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 mucilaginous, slightly sweet taste, with 

a faint smell like that of a mushroom. cyttaria darwinh. 

With the exception of a few berries, chiefly of a dwarf arbutus, 

the natives eat no vegetable food besides this fungus. 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 ex- 
pected 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 Magellanicus 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 corre- 
spondence 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 to believe that the land was 
once joined, and thus allowed animals so delicate and helpless 
as the tucutuco and Reithrodon to pass over. The correspond- 
ence of the cliffs is far from proving any junction ; because 
such cliffs generally are formed by the intersection of sloping 
deposits, which, before the elevation of the land, had been 
accumulated near the then existing shores. It is, however, a 
remarkable coincidence, that in the two large islands cut off 
by the Beagle Channel from the rest of Tierra del Fuego, one 
has cliffs composed of matter that may be called stratified 
alluvium, which front similar ones on the opposite side of the 


channel, — while the other is exclusively bordered by old crystal- 
line rocks ; in the former, called Navarin Island, both foxes 
and guanacos occur ; but in the latter, Hoste Island, although 
similar in every respect, and only separated by a channel 
a little more than half a mile wide, I have the word of 
Jemmy Button for saying that neither of these animals is 

The 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 impene- 
trabte ravines, it may be met with. This little bird no doubt 
appears more numerous than it really is, from its habit of 
following with seeming curiosity any person who enters these 
silent woods : continually uttering a harsh twitter, it flutters 
from tree to tree, within a few feet of the intruder's face. It 
is far from wishing for the modest concealment of the true 
creeper (Certhia familiaris) ; nor does it, like that bird, run up 
the trunks of trees, but industriously, after the manner of a 
willow-wren, hops about, and searches for insects on every twig 
and branch. In the more open parts, three or four species of 
finches, a thrush, a starling (or Icterus), two Opetiorhynchi, and 
several hawks and owls occur. 

The absence of any species whatever in the whole class of 
Reptiles is a marked feature in the zoology of this country, as 
well as in that of the Falkland Islands. I do not ground this 
statement merely on my own observation, but I heard it from 
the Spanish inhabitants of the latter place, and from Jemmy 
Button with regard to Tierra del Fuego. On the banks of the 
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 south 
as the Strait of Magellan, where the country retains the char- 
acter 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 
foreseen ; 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 
(Harpalidae and Heteromidae) living under stones. The vege- 
table-feeding Chrysomelidae, so eminently characteristic of the 
Tropics, are here almost entirely absent ; l 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 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. 2 I 

1 I believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single specimen of a Melasoma. 
Mr. Waterhouse informs me, that of the Harpalidse 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 : Staphylinidse, Elateridoe, Cebrionidae, 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 described by Mr. Waterhouse in the Annals of Nat. Hist. 

2 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. 

254 T1ERRA DEL FUEGO chap. 

believe, during the voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, not 
one rock near the surface was discovered which was not buoyed 
by this floating weed. The good service it thus affords to 
vessels navigating near this stormy land is evident ; and it 
certainly has saved many a one from being wrecked. I know 
few things more surprising than to see this plant growing and 
flourishing amidst those great breakers of the western ocean, 
which no mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can long resist. 
The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and seldom has a 
diameter of so much as an inch. A few taken together are 
sufficiently strong to support the weight of the large loose 
stones, to which in the inland channels they grow attached ; 
and 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 per- 
pendicular 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 * up from 
the greater depth of forty-five fathoms. The beds of this 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 the waves from the open sea, as they travel 
through the straggling stems, sink in height, and pass into 
smooth water. 

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 seaweed. Almost all the leaves, excepting those that 
float on the surface, are so thickly incrusted with corallines as 

1 Voyages of (he Adventure and Beagle, vol. i. p. 363. It appears that seaweed 
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. esculentus six feet, in 


to be of a white colour. We find exquisitely delicate structures, 
some inhabited by simple hydra -like polypi, others by more 
organised kinds, and beautiful compound Ascidise. On the 
leaves, also, various patelliform shells, Trochi, uncovered mol- 
luscs, and some bivalves are attached. Innumerable Crustacea 
frequent every part of the plant. On shaking the great 
entangled roots, a pile of small fish, shells, cuttlefish, crabs of 
all orders, sea -eggs, starfish, beautiful Holothuriae, 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 not thrive very well, the numerous 
shells, corallines, and Crustacea are absent ; but there yet remain 
a few of the Flustraceae, and some compound Ascidiae ; the 
latter, however, are of different species from those in Tierra del 
Fuego ; we here see the fucus possessing a wider range than 
the animals which use it as an abode. I can only compare 
these great aquatic forests of the southern hemisphere with 
the terrestrial ones in the intertropical regions. Yet if 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 destruction 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. 

June St/i. — We weighed anchor early in the morning and left 
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 
passage which I have before alluded to, as appearing to lead to 
another and worse world. The wind was fair, but the atmo- 
sphere 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 ; J a gg e d points, cones of snow, blue glaciers, strong outlines, 
marked on a lurid sky, were seen at different distances and 


heights. In the midst of such scenery we anchored at Cape 
Turn, close to Mount Sarmiento, which was then hidden in the 
clouds. At the base of the lofty and almost perpendicular 
sides of our little cove there was one deserted wigwam, and 
it alone reminded us that man sometimes wandered 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. 

June gth. — 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 white 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 Niagaras ; 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 this 
narrow arm of the sea, during a pitch-dark night of fourteen 
hours long. 

June 10th. — In the morning we made the best of our way 
into the open Pacific. The western coast generally 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 farther northward there are so many breakers that 
the sea is called the Milky Way. One sight of such a coast is 
enough to make a landsman dream for a week about ship- 
wrecks, 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 
subjects, 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. 

On the Climate and Prodiictions 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 : — 

Tierra del Fuego . 
Falkland Islands . 


. 53°38'S. 

. 51 30 s. 





33 °.o8 

Mean of Summer 
and Winter. 



. 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 9J 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 
Norway, is as high as 5 J°. 8, and this place is actually 13 
nearer the pole than Port Famine! 1 Inhospitable as this 
climate appears to our feelings, evergreen trees flourish 
luxuriantly under it. Humming-birds may be seen sucking 
the flowers, and parrots feeding on the seeds of the Winter's 
Bark, in lat. 5 5° S. I have already remarked to what a 
degree the sea swarms with living creatures ; and the shells 

1 With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the results are deduced from the observations 
by Capt. King {Geographical Journal, 1 830), and those taken on board the Beagle. 
For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Capt. Sulivan for the mean of the mean 
temperature (reduced from careful observation at midnight, 8 a.m., noon, and 
8 p.m.) of the three hottest months, viz. December, January, and February. The 
temperature of Dublin is taken from Barton. 



(such as the Patellae, Fissurellae, 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 ot 
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 must 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 1 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 not at all. These fruits, in corresponding latitudes in 
Europe, are well known to succeed to perfection ; and even in 
this continent, 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 
unfavourable to our fruits, yet the native forests, from lat. 45 ° 
to 3 8°, almost rival in luxuriance those of the glowing inter- 
tropical regions. Stately trees of many kinds, with smooth 
and highly coloured barks, are loaded by parasitical monocoty- 

1 Agiieros, Descrip. Hist, de la Rrov. de Chiloe, 1791, p. 94. 


ledonous plants ; large and elegant ferns are numerous, and 
arborescent grasses entwine the trees into one entangled mass 
to the height of thirty or forty feet above the ground. Palm- 
trees grow in lat. 37 ; an arborescent grass, very like a 
bamboo, in 40 ; and another closely allied kind, of great 
length, but not erect, flourishes even as far south as 45 ° S. 

An equable climate, evidently due to the large area of sea 
compared with the land, seems to extend over the greater part 
of the southern hemisphere ; and as a consequence, the vegeta- 
tion partakes of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns thrive 
luxuriantly in Van Diemen's Land (lat. 45°), and I measured 
one trunk no less than six feet in circumference. An arbor- 
escent fern was found by Forster in New Zealand in 46 °, where 
orchideous plants are parasitical on the trees. In the Auckland 
Islands, ferns, according to Dr. Dieffenbach, 1 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 
Macquarrie Islands, parrots abound. 

On the Height of the Snow-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 : — 


Equatorial region ; mean result 
Bolivia, lat. 16 to 18 S. . . 
Central Chile, lat. 33 S. . . 
Chiloe, lat. 41 to 43 S. . . 

Tierra del Fuego, 54 S. . . 

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems chiefly to 
be determined by the extreme heat of the summer, rather than 
by the mean temperature of the year, we ought not to be 
surprised at its descent in the Strait of Magellan, where the 
summer is so cool, to only 3500 or 4000 feet above the level 
of the sea ; although in Norway, we must travel to between 
lat. 6y° 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 
Cordillera behind Chiloe (with its highest points ranging from 

1 See the German Translation of this Journal : and for the other facts Mr. 
Brown's Appendix to Flinders's Voyage. 

of Snow-line. 






14,500 to 15,000 

Gillies, and the Author 


Officers of the Beagle 

and the Author. 

3500 to 4000 



only 5600 to 7500 feet) and in central Chile * (a distance of only 
9 of latitude) is truly wonderful. The land from the south- 
ward 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 other hand, a little northward of 
Concepcion, 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. 2 
No doubt the plane of perpetual snow undergoes the above 
remarkable flexure of 9000 feet, unparalleled in other parts of 
the world, 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 
astonished when I first saw a range, only from 3000 to 4000 
feet in height, in the latitude of Cumberland, with every valley 
filled 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 
glaciers," 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, produce great waves which break on the adjoining 
coasts. It is known that earthquakes frequently cause masses 
of earth to fall from sea-cliffs : how terrific, then, would be the 

1 On the Cordillera of central Chile, I believe the snow-line varies exceedingly in 
height in different summers. I was assured that during one very dry and long 
summer, all the snow disappeared from Aconcagua, although it attains the prodigious 
height of 23,000 feet. It is probable that much of the snow at these great heights 
is evaporated, rather than thawed. 

2 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 Ingenio, I saw some large date-palm trees. 




effect of a severe shock (and such occur here 1 ) 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 outwards, and one of them must have 
been at least 168 feet in total height. Some of the icebergs 
were loaded with blocks of no inconsiderable size, of granite 

46° 40' 

- 50' 

47 00 


and other rocks, different from the clay-slate of the surrounding 
mountains. The glacier farthest 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 the sea-coast. But even a few 
miles northward of this glacier, in the Laguna de San Rafael, 
some Spanish missionaries 2 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 

1 Bulkeley's and Cummin's Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wager. The 
earthquake happened August 25, 1741. 

2 Agiieros, Desc. Hist, de Chiloe, p. 227. 


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. 6y°. Now this is more than 20° of latitude, 
or 1230 miles, nearer the pole than the Laguna de San Rafael. 
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 descend 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 the commonest 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 the 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 unstratified formation of mud and 
sand, containing rounded and angular fragments of all sizes, 
which has originated - 1 in the repeated 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 which lie near lofty mountains have been 
pushed forward by the glaciers themselves, and that 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 
their geographical distribution over the earth. In South 
America they are not found farther than 48 of latitude, 
measured from the southern pole ; in North America it appears 

1 Geological Transactions^ vol. vi. p. 415. 


that tljc limit of their transportal extends to 5 3^° 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, they have 
never been observed ; nor at the Cape of Good Hope, nor in 
Australia. 1 

On the Climate and Prodtictions 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 1 o broad, in the latitude of Yorkshire, " in the very height 
of summer, is in 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 io° 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 2 found 
the bay, in which he was at anchor, beginning to freeze at a 
period corresponding with our 8th of September. The soil 
here consists of ice and volcanic ashes interstratified ; and at 
a little depth beneath the surface it must remain perpetually 
congealed, for Lieut. Kendall found the body of a foreign 
sailor which had long been buried, with the flesh and all the 
features perfectly preserved. It is a singular fact 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 
5 6° in North America at the depth of three feet, 3 and in 62 

1 I have given details (the first, I believe, published) on this subject in the first 
edition, and in the Appendix to it. I have there shown that the apparent exceptions 
to the absence of erratic boulders in certain hot countries are due to erroneous 
observations j several statements there given I have since found confirmed by various 

2 Geographical Journal, 1 830, pp. 65, 66. 

3 Richardson's Append, to Back's Exped. and Humboldt's Fragnt. Asiat. torn, 
ii. p. 386. 


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 hemisphere. 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 hot. In the Southern 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, which regulates the zone of perpetually congealed under- 
soil, is low. It is evident that a rank vegetation, which does not 
so much require heat as it does protection from intense cold, 
would approach much nearer to this zone of perpetual con- 
gelation 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 vegetation for their support, nevertheless it is 
important to find in the South Shetland Islands a frozen 
under-soil w r ithin 360 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 imagined difficulty of 
supplying them with food from the adjoining 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, that in 
the shallow sea on the arctic coast of America the bottom 
freezes, 1 and does not thaw in spring so soon as the surface 

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




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 3 2°, 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 preserve the 
flesh ; and hence, carcasses 
drifted beyond the shallow 
parts near an arctic coast, 
would have only their skele- 
tons preserved : now in the 
extreme northern parts of 
Siberia bones are infinitely 
numerous, so that even islets 
are said to be almost com- 
posed of them j 1 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 indefinite period, if it were 
soon afterwards covered with 
mud sufficiently thick to pre- 
vent the heat of the summer 
water penetrating to it ; and 
if, when the sea-bottom was 
upraised into land, the cover- 
ing was sufficiently thick to 
prevent the heat of the 
summer air and sun thawing and corrupting it. 

1 Cuvier {Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 151), from Billing's Voyage. 


266 RECAP 1 TULA TION chap. 

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, entwined 
by arborescent grasses and with the trees loaded with parasitical 
plants, would hide the face of the land. The puma and the 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 Orchideae would thrive amidst the thick woods. 
Even as far north as central Denmark humming-birds would be 
seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and parrots feeding amidst 
the evergreen woods ; and in the sea there we should have a 
Voluta, and all the shells of large size and vigorous growth. 
Nevertheless, 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 which 
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 
astonishing glaciers." These lonely channels would frequently 
reverberate 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 inconsider- 
able 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 sur- 
rounding mountains, sending down their 
many grand icy streams to the sea-coast, 
and their progress in the boats would be 
checked by the 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 ! 1 

1 In the former edition and Appendix, I 
have given some facts on the transportal of 
erratic boulders and icebergs in the Antarctic 
Ocean. This subject has lately been treated 
excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the Boston Jozimal 
(vol. iv. p. 426). The author does not appear 
aware of a case published 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 land, and perhaps much more distant. 
In the Appendix 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 com- 
monly 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 flats quite 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 writing 
that Appendix, I have seen in North Wales 
{London Phil. Mag. vol. xxi. p. 180) the 
adjoining action of glaciers and of floating 




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 — Grind- 
ing-mills — Perforated stones — Habits of the Puma — El Turco and Tapacolo — 


July 2yd. — 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 
anchorage is very pretty. The town is built at the very foot 
of a range of hills, about 1600 feet high, and rather steep 

chap, xii BAY OF VALPARAISO 269 

From its position, it consists of one long, straggling street, 
which runs parallel to the beach, and wherever a ravine comes 
down, the houses are piled up on each side of it. The rounded 
hills, being only partially protected by a very scanty vegetation, 
are worn into numberless little gullies, which expose a singularly 
bright red soil. From this cause, and from the low white- 
washed houses with tile roofs, the view reminded me of St. 
Cruz in Teneriffe. In a north-easterly direction there are 
some fine glimpses of the Andes ; but these mountains appear 
much grander when viewed from the neighbouring hills ; the 
great distance at which they are situated can then more 
readily be perceived. The volcano of Aconcagua is particularly 
magnificent. This huge and irregularly conical mass has an 
elevation greater than that of Chimborazo ; for, from measure- 
ments made by the officers in the 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 watch how clearly their rugged 
outlines could be distinguished, yet how varied and how 
delicate were the shades of their colour. 

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Richard 
Corfield, an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality 
and kindness I was greatly indebted, in having afforded me a 
most pleasant residence during the Beagles stay in Chile. The 
immediate neighbourhood of Valparaiso is not very productive 
to the naturalist. During the long summer the wind blows 
steadily from the southward, and a little off shore, so that rain 
never falls ; during the three winter months, however, it is 
sufficiently abundant. The vegetation in consequence is very 
scanty : except in some deep valleys there are no trees, and 
only a little grass and a few low bushes are scattered over the 
less steep parts of the hills. When we reflect that at the 
distance of 350 miles to the south, this side of the Andes is 
completely hidden by one impenetrable forest, the contrast is 
very remarkable. I took several long walks while collecting 
objects of natural history. The country is pleasant for exercise. 
There are many very beautiful flowers ; and, as in most other 
dry climates, the plants and shrubs possess strong and peculiar 
odours — even one's clothes by brushing through them became 

270 CENTRAL CHILE chap. 

scented. I did not cease from wonder at finding each suc- 
ceeding day as fine as the foregoing. What a difference does 
climate make in the enjoyment of life ! How opposite are the 
sensations when viewing black mountains half- enveloped in 
clouds, and seeing another range through the light blue haze 
of a fine day ! The one for a time may be very sublime ; the 
other is all gaiety and happy life. 

August i^th. — I set out on a riding excursion, for the 
purpose of geologising the basal parts of the Andes, 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 the Hacienda of Quintero, the estate 
which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. My object in 
coming here was to see the great beds of shells which stand 
some yards above the level of the sea, and are burnt for lime. 
The proofs of the elevation of this 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 
under the microscope that this vegetable mould is really marine 
mud, full of minute particles of organic bodies. 

i$th. — 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, 
scattered on the hill-sides. We were obliged to cross the 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 remark- 
able artificial luxuriance. The valley is very broad and quite 
flat, and is thus easily irrigated in all parts. The little square 
gardens are crowded with orange and olive trees and every 
sort of vegetable. On each side huge bare mountains rise, 
and this from the contrast renders the patchwork valley the 
more pleasing. Whoever called " Valparaiso " the " Valley of 



27 i 

Paradise," must have been thinking of Ouillota. We 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 parallel to the great range. Between these outer lines and 
the main Cordillera, a succession of level basins, generally 
opening into each other by narrow passages, extend far to the 


southward ; in these the principal towns are situated, as San 
Felipe, Santiago, San Fernando. These basins or plains, 
together with the transverse flat valleys (like that of Ouillota) 
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 

272 ^ CENTRAL CHILE chap. 

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 sufficient 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 extensively cultivated, and a 
good deal of Indian corn : a kind of bean is, however, the 
staple article of food for the common labourers. The orchards 
produce an overflowing abundance of peaches, figs, and grapes. 
With all these advantages the inhabitants of the country ought 
to be much more prosperous than they are. 

1 6th. — The mayor-domo of the Hacienda was good enough 
to give me a guide and fresh horses ; and in the morning we 
set out to ascend the Campana, or Bell Mountain, which is 
6400 feet high. The paths were very bad, but both the geology 
and scenery amply repaid the trouble. We reached, by the 
evening, a spring called the Agua del Guanaco, which is 
situated at a great height. This must be an old name, for it 
is very many years since a guanaco drank its waters. During 
the ascent I noticed that nothing but bushes 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 than at the base or top. They are excessively numerous 
in some parts of Chile, and valuable on account of a sort of 
treacle made from the sap. On one estate near Petorca they 
tried to count them, but failed, after having numbered several 


hundred thousand. Every year in 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 expose a fresh surface. A good tree will give ninety 
gallons, and all this must have been contained in the vessels of 
the apparently dry trunk. It is said that the sap flows much 
more quickly on those days when the sun is powerful ; and 
likewise, that it is absolutely necessary to take care, in cutting 
down the tree, that it should fall with its head upwards on the 
side of the hill ; for if it falls down the slope, scarcely any sap 
will flow ; although in that case one would have thought that 
the action would have been aided, instead of checked, by the 
force of gravity. The sap is concentrated by boiling, and is 
then called treacle, which it very much resembles in taste. 

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and prepared to 
pass the night. The evening was fine, and the atmosphere so 
clear that the masts of the vessels at anchor in the bay of 
Valparaiso, although no less than twenty-six geographical miles 
distant, could be distinguished clearly as little black streaks. 
A ship doubling the point under sail appeared as a bright 
white speck. Anson expresses much surprise, in his voyage, 
at the distance at which 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 beef), 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 ; — the shrill noise of the mountain bizcacha, and the 
faint cry of a goatsucker, were occasionally to be heard. 
Besides these, few birds, or even insects, frequent these dry, 
parched mountains. 

August iyth. — In the morning we climbed up the rough 
mass of greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as 


274 CENTRAL CHILE chap. 

frequently happens, was much shattered and broken into huge 
angular fragments. I observed, however, one remarkable 
circumstance, namely, that many of the surfaces presented 
every degree of freshness — some appearing as if broken the 
day before, whilst on others lichens had either just become, or 
had long grown, attached. I so fully believed that this was 
owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt inclined to hurry 
from 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 
Pacific, was seen as in a map. The pleasure from the scenery, 
in itself beautiful, was heightened by the many reflections 
which arose from the mere view of the Campana range with 
its lesser parallel ones, and of the broad valley of Quillota 
directly intersecting 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, removed, and levelled whole masses of them ? 
It is well in this case to call to mind the vast shingle and 
sedimentary beds of Patagonia, which, if heaped on the 
Cordillera, would increase its height by so many thousand feet. 
When in that country, I wondered how any mountain -chain 
could have supplied such masses, and not have been utterly 
obliterated. We must not now reverse the wonder, and doubt 
whether all-powerful time can grind down mountains — even 
the gigantic Cordillera — into gravel and mud. 

The appc- irance of the Andes was different from that 
which I had expected. The lower line of the snow was of 
course horizontal, and to this line the even summits of the 
range seemed quite parallel. Only at long intervals a group 
of points or a single cone showed where a volcano had 
existed, or does' now exist. Hence the range resembled a 
great solid wall, surmounted here and there by a tower, and 
making a most perfect barrier to the country. 


Almost every part of the hill had been drilled by attempts 
to open gold-mines : 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. Chile is the more 
civilised of the two countries, and the inhabitants, in con- 
sequence, have lost much individual character. Gradations in 
rank are much more strongly marked : the Guaso does not by 
any means consider every man his equal ; and I was quite 
surprised to find that my companions did not like to eat at 
the same time with myself. This feeling of inequality is a 
necessary consequence of the existence of an aristocracy of 
wealth. It is said that some few of the greater landowners 
possess from five to ten thousand pounds sterling per annum : 
an inequality of riches which I believe is not met with in any 
of the cattle-breeding countries eastward of the Andes. A 
traveller does not here meet that unbounded hospitality which 
refuses all payment, but yet is so kindly offered that no 
scruples can be raised in accepting it. Almost every house 
in Chile will receive you for the night, but a trifle is expected 
to be given in the morning ; even a rich man will accept two 
or three shillings. The Gaucho, although he may be a cut- 
throat, is a gentleman ; the Guaso is in few respects better, 
but at the same time a vulgar, ordinary fellow. The two men, 
although employed much in the same manner, are different 
in their habits and attire ; and the peculiarities of each are 
universal in their respective countries. The Gaucho seems 
part of his horse, and scorns to exert himself excepting when 
on its back ; the Guaso may be hired to work as a labourer 
in the fields. The former lives entirely on animal food ; the 
latter almost wholly on vegetable. We do not here see the 
white boots, the broad drawers, and scarlet chilipa ; the 
picturesque costume of the Pampas. Here, common trousers 
are protected by black and green worsted leggings. The 
poncho, however, is common to both. The chief pride of the 
Guaso lies in his spurs ; which are absurdly large. I measured 
one which was six inches in the diameter of the rowel, and the 
rowel itself contained upwards of thirty points. The stirrups 
are on the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved 

276 CENTRAL CHILE chap. 

block of wood, hollowed out, yet weighing three or four pounds. 
The Guaso is perhaps more expert with the lazo than the 
Gaucho ; but, from the nature of the country, he does not 
know the use of the bolas. 

August 1 8t/i. — We descended the mountain, and passed 
some beautiful little spots, with rivulets and fine trees. Having 
slept at the same hacienda as before, we rode during the two 
succeeding days up the valley, and passed through Quillota, 
which is more like a collection of nursery-gardens than a town. 
The orchards were beautiful, presenting one mass of peach- 
blossoms. I saw, also, in one or two places the date-palm ; 
it is a most stately tree ; and I should think a group of them 
in their native Asiatic or African deserts must be superb. We 
passed likewise San Felipe, a pretty straggling town like 
Quillota. The valley in this part expands into one of those 
great bays or plains, reaching to the foot of the Cordillera, 
which have been mentioned as forming so curious a part of 
the scenery of Chile. In the evening we reached the mines 
of Jajuel, situated in a ravine at the flank of the great chain. 
I 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 are of copper, and the ore is all shipped to 
Swansea, to be smelted. Hence the mines have an aspect 
singularly quiet, as compared to those in England : here no 
smoke, furnaces, or great steam-engines, disturb the solitude of 
the surrounding mountains. 

The Chilian government, or rather the old Spanish law, 
encourages by every method the searching for mines. The 
discoverer may work a mine on any ground, by paying five 
shillings ; and before paying this he may try, even in the 
garden of another man, for twenty days. 

It is now well known that the Chilian method of mining 
is the cheapest. My host says that the two principal improve- 



ments 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 sulphur previous to smelting 

it, had never been discovered. A 

few improvements have likewise 

been introduced in some of the 

simple machinery ; but even to 

the present day, water is removed 

from some mines by men carrying 

it up the shaft in leathern bags ! 

The labouring men work very 
hard. They have little time allowed for their meals, and during 
summer and winter they begin when it is light, and leave off at 
dark. They are paid one pound sterling a month, and their food 
is given them : this for breakfast consists of sixteen figs and two 
small loaves of bread ; for dinner, boiled beans ; for supper, broken 
roasted wheat grain. They scarcely ever taste meat ; as, with the 
twelve pounds per annum, they have to clothe themselves and 
support their families. The miners who work in the mine 
itself have twenty -five shillings per month, and are allowed 




a little charqui. But these men come down from their bleak 
habitations only once in every fortnight or three weeks. 

During my stay here I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling 
about these huge mountains. The geology, as might have 
been expected, was very interesting. The shattered and baked 
rocks, traversed by innumerable dykes of greenstone, showed 
what commotions had formerly taken place. The scenery 
was much the same as that near the Bell of Quillota — dry 


barren mountains, dotted at intervals by bushes with a scanty 
foliage. The cactuses, or rather opuntias, were here very 
numerous. I measured one of a spherical figure, which, includ- 
ing 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 

xii LEA VE JAJUEL 279 

unaccountable reason, believe to be an arm of the sea. During 
a very dry season, it was proposed to attempt cutting a channel 
from it for the sake of the water, but the padre, after a con- 
sultation, declared it was too dangerous, as all Chile would be 
inundated, if, as generally supposed, the lake was connected 
with the Pacific. We ascended to a great height, but becoming 
involved in the snow-drifts failed in reaching this wonderful 
lake, and had some difficulty in returning. I thought we should 
have lost our horses ; for there was no means of guessing how 
deep the drifts were, and the animals, when led, could only 
move by jumping. The black sky showed that a fresh snow- 
storm was gathering, and we therefore were not a little glad 
when we escaped. By the time we reached the base the storm 
commenced, and it was lucky for us that this did not happen 
three hours earlier in the day. 

August 26th. — We left Jajuel and again crossed the basin 
of S. Felipe. The day was truly Chilian : glaringly bright, 
and the atmosphere quite clear. The thick and 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 humble : " Some see with two eyes and some with 
one, but for my part I do not think that Chile sees with 

August 2Jtk. — 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 
thousand feet above the sea, two species of acacia, which are 
stunted in their forms, and stand wide apart from each other, 
grow in large numbers. These trees are never found near the 
sea-coast ; and this gives another characteristic feature to the 
scenery of these basins. We crossed a low ridge which separates 
Guitron from the great plain on which Santiago stands. The 
view was here pre-eminently striking : the dead level surface, 
covered in parts by woods of acacia, and with the city in the 
distance, abutting horizontally against the base of the Andes, 


whose snowy peaks were bright with the evening sun. At the 
first glance of this view, it was quite evident that the plain 
represented the extent of a former inland sea. As soon as we 
gained the level road we pushed our horses into a gallop, and 
reached the city before it was dark. 

I 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 
hospitality at this 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 
informed that this same character is common to the cities on 
the great Mexican platform. Of the town I have nothing to 
say in detail : it is not so fine or so large as Buenos Ayres, 
but is built after the same model. I arrived here by a circuit 
to the north ; so I resolved to return to Valparaiso by a rather 
longer excursion to the south of the direct road. 

September $t/i. — 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 very pretty senoritas. 
They were much horrified at my having entered one of 
their churches out of mere curiosity. They asked me, 
" Why do you not become a Christian — for our religion is 
certain ?" I assured them I was a sort of Christian ; but 
they would not hear of it — appealing to my own words, " Do 
not your padres, your very bishops, marry ?" The absurdity of 
a bishop having a wife particularly struck them : they scarcely 
knew whether to be most amused or horror-struck at such an 

6th. — We proceeded due south, and slept at Rancagua. 
The road passed over the level but narrow plain, bounded on 


one side by lofty hills, and on the other by the Cordillera. 
The next day we turned up the valley of the Rio Cachapual, in 
which the hot- baths of Cauquenes, long celebrated for their 
medicinal properties, are situated. The suspension bridges, in the 
less frequented parts, are generally taken down during the winter 
when the rivers are low. Such was the case in this valley, and 
we were therefore obliged to cross the stream on horseback. 
This is rather disagreeable, for the foaming water, though not 
deep, rushes so quickly over the bed of large rounded stones, 
that one's head becomes quite confused, and it is difficult even 
to perceive whether the horse is moving onward or standing 
still. In summer, when the snow melts, the torrents are quite 
impassable ; their strength and fury is then extremely great, 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 mass of stratified rock, the whole of which 
betrays the action of heat. A considerable quantity of gas is 
continually escaping from the same orifices with the water. 
Though the springs are only a few yards apart, they have very 
different temperatures ; and this appears to be the result of an 
unequal mixture of cold water : for those with the lowest tem- 
perature have scarcely any mineral taste. After the great 
earthquake of 1822 the springs ceased, and the water did not 
return for nearly a year. They were also much affected by the 
earthquake of 1835 J the temperature being suddenly changed 
from 1 1 8° to 92 . 1 It seems probable that mineral waters 
rising deep from the bowels of the earth would always be more 
deranged by subterranean disturbances than those nearer the 
surface. The man who had charge of the baths assured me 
that in summer the water is hotter and more plentiful than in 
winter. The former circumstance I should have expected, from 
the less mixture, during the dry season, of cold water ; but the 
latter statement appears very strange and contradictory. The 

1 Caldcleugh, in Philosoph. Transact, for 1 836. 


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 which are covered by snow during that season 
are three or four leagues distant from the springs. I have no 
reason to doubt the accuracy of my informer, who, having lived 
on the spot for several years, ought to be well acquainted with 
the circumstance, — which, if true, certainly is very curious ; for, 
we must suppose that the 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 
thousand feet high. Here, as indeed everywhere else, scenes of 
the highest interest presented themselves. It was by one of 
these ravines that Pincheira entered Chile and ravaged the 
neighbouring country. This is the same man whose attack on 
an estancia at the Rio Negro I have described. He was a 
renegade half-caste Spaniard, who collected a great body of 
Indians together and established himself by a stream in the 
Pampas, which place none of the forces sent after him could 
ever discover. From this point he used to sally forth, and 
crossing the Cordillera by passes hitherto unattempted, he 
ravaged the farm-houses and drove the cattle to his secret 
rendezvous. Pincheira was a capital horseman, and he made 
all around him equally good, for he invariably shot any one 
who hesitated to follow him. It was against this man, and 
other wandering Indian tribes, that Rosas waged the war of 

September I ^th. — 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 
extended so far to the south that the snowy summits of the 
more distant Andes were seen as if above the horizon of the sea. 
S. Fernando is forty leagues from Santiago ; and it was my 


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. 1 They are composed of the stalks of 
various dead plants intertwined together, and on the surface 
of which other living ones take root. Their form is generally 
circular, and their thickness from four to six feet, of which 
the greater part is immersed in the water. As the wind blows, 
they pass from one side of the lake to the other, and often carry 
cattle and horses as passengers. 

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by the pale 
appearance of many of the men, and inquired from Mr. Nixon 
respecting their condition. The mine is 450 feet deep, and 
each man brings up about 200 pounds weight of stone. With 
this load they have to climb up the alternate notches cut in 
the trunks of trees, placed in a zigzag line up the shaft. Even 
beardless young men, eighteen and twenty years old, with little 
muscular development of their bodies (they are quite naked 
excepting drawers) ascend with this great load from nearly the 
same depth. A strong man, who is not accustomed to this 
labour, perspires most profusely, with merely carrying up his 
own body. With this very severe labour, they live entirely on 
boiled beans and bread. They 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 harsh, but answers pretty well for the master. The only 
method of stealing gold is to secrete pieces of the ore, and take 
them out as occasion may offer. Whenever the major-domo 

1 Annates des Sciences Naturelles, March 1833. M. Gay, a zealous and able 
naturalist, was then occupied in studying every branch of natural histoiy throughout 
the kingdom of Chile. 

284 CENTRAL CHILE chap. 

finds a lump thus hidden, its full value is stopped out of the 
wages of all the men ; who thus, without they all combine, are 
obliged to keep watch over each other. 

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground into an 
impalpable powder ; the process of washing removes all the 
lighter particles, and amalgamation finally secures the gold- 
dust. The washing, when described, sounds a very simple 
process ; but it is beautiful to see how the exact adaptation of 
the current of water to the specific gravity of the gold so 
easily separates the powdered matrix from the metal. The 
mud which passes from the mills is collected into pools, where 
it subsides, and every now and then is cleared out, and thrown 
into a common heap. A great deal of chemical action then 
commences, salts of various kinds effloresce on the surface, and 
the mass becomes hard. 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 intervals required (as the 
inhabitants say, to generate the metal) are longer. There can 
be no doubt that the chemical action, already mentioned, each 
time liberates fresh gold from some combination. The dis- 
covery of a method to effect this before the first grinding, 
would without doubt raise the value of gold-ores many fold. 
It is curious to find how the minute particles of gold, being 
scattered about and not corroding, at last accumulate in some 
quantity. A short time since a few miners, being out of work, 
obtained permission to scrape the ground round the house and 
mill ; they washed the earth thus got together, and so pro- 
cured thirty dollars worth of gold. This is an exact counter- 
part of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer degrada- 
tion and wear away, and with them the metallic veins which 
they contain. The hardest rock is worn into impalpable mud, 
the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed ; but gold, 
platina, and a few others are nearly indestructible, and from 
their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After 
whole mountains have passed through this grinding-mill, and 
have been washed by the hand of nature, the residue becomes 
metalliferous, and man finds it worth his while to complete the 
task of separation. 

Bad as the above treatment of the miners appears, it is 


gladly accepted of by them ; for the condition of the labouring 
agriculturists 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 

There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, 
and I was shown one of the perforated stones, which Molina 
mentions as being found in many places in considerable numbers. 
They are of a circular flattened form, from five to six inches in 
diameter, 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 l 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 Renous, called, and nearly at the same time an old 
Spanish lawyer. I was amused at being told the conversation 
which took 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 Eng- 
land 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 
tin gato cncerrado 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 Eng- 
land, do not you think the King of England would very soon 
send us out of his country ? " And this old gentleman, from 
1 Burchell's Trawls^ vol. ii. p. 45. 

286 CENTRAL CHILE chap. 

his profession, belongs to the better informed and more intelli- 
gent classes ! Renous himself, two or three years before, left 
in a house at S. Fernando some caterpillars, under charge of 
a girl to feed, that they might turn into butterflies. This 
was rumoured through the town, and at last the Padres 
and Governor consulted together, and agreed it must be 
some heresy. Accordingly, when Renous returned, he was 

September igt/i. — We left Yaquil, and followed the flat 
valley, formed like that of Quillota, in which the Rio 
Tinderidica flows. Even at these few miles south of Santiago 
the climate is much damper ; in consequence there were fine 
tracts of pasturage, which were not irrigated. (20t/i.) 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 off for firewood as those in the Pampas. 
Never having heard of these plains, I was much surprised at 
meeting with such scenery in Chile. The plains belong to 
more than one series of different elevations, and they are 
traversed by broad flat -bottomed valleys ; both of which 
circumstances, as in Patagonia, bespeak the 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 Cueva del Obispo ; having formerly been 
consecrated. During the day I felt very unwell, and from that 
time till the end of October did not recover. 

September 22nd. — We continued to pass over green plains 
without a tree. The next day we arrived at a house near 
Navedad, on the sea-coast, where a rich Haciendero gave us 
lodgings. I stayed here the two ensuing days, and although 
very unwell, managed to collect from the tertiary formation 
some marine shells. 

2\th. — Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, 
which with great difficulty I reached on the 27th, and was 
there confined to my bed till the end of October. During this 


time I was an inmate in Mr. Corfield's house, whose kindness 
to me I do not know how to express. 

I will here add a few observations on some of the animals 
and birds of Chile. The Puma, or South American Lion, is 
not uncommon. This animal has a wide geographical range ; 
being found from the equatorial forests, throughout the deserts 
of Patagonia, as far south as the damp and cold latitudes (53 
to 54 ) of Tierra del Fuego. I have seen its footsteps in the 
Cordillera 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 watching his 
prey — the word is given — and men and dogs hurry to the 
chase. Sir F. Head says that a Gaucho in the Pampas, upon 
merely seeing some condors wheeling in the air, cried "A lion!" 
I could never myself meet with any one who pretended to 
such powers of discrimination. It is asserted that if a puma 
has once been betrayed by thus watching the carcass, and has 
then been hunted, it never resumes this habit ; but that having 
gorged itself, it wanders far away. The puma is easily killed. 
In an open country it is first entangled with the bolas, then 
lazoed, and dragged along the ground till rendered insensible. 
At Tandeel (south of the Plata) I was told that within three 
months one hundred were 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 this sport. The puma is described as 
being very crafty : when pursued, it oftens 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 
imagination 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 stuffed specimen has escaped 
from some museum, and has come to life again !" It cannot be 
made to take flight without the greatest trouble, nor does it run, 
but only hops. The various loud cries which it utters when 
concealed amongst the bushes are as strange as its appearance. 
It is said to build its nest in a deep hole beneath the ground. 
I dissected several specimens : the gizzard, which was very 
muscular, contained beetles, vegetable fibres, and pebbles. From 
this character, from the length of its legs, scratching feet, 
membranous covering to the nostrils, short and arched wings, 
this bird seems in a certain degree to connect the thrushes with 
the gallinaceous order. 

The second species (or P. albicollis) is allied to the first in 
its general form. It is called Tapacolo, or " cover your 
posterior ;" and well does the shameless little bird deserve its 
name ; for it carries its tail more than erect, that is, inclined 
backwards towards its head. It is very common, and frequents 
the bottoms of hedgerows, 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 flight, and nidification, it bears a close resemblance to the 
Turco ; but its appearance is not quite so ridiculous. TheTapacolo 
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. 1 

Two species of humming-birds are common ; Trochilus 
forficatus 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, shot in different 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 belongs : when on the wing 
its appearance is singular. Like others of the genus, it moves 
from place to place with a rapidity which may be compared to 
that of Syrphus amongst flies, and Sphinx among moths ; but 
whilst hovering over a flower, it flaps its wings with a very 
slow and powerful movement, totally different from that 
vibratory one common to most of the species, which produces 
the humming noise. I never saw any other bird, where the 
force of its wings appeared (as in a butterfly) so powerful in 
proportion to the weight of its body. When hovering by a 
flower, its tail is constantly expanded and shut like a fan, the 

1 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 by authors on those very subjects where 
it might have been least expected. 


2 9 



body being kept in a nearly vertical position. This action 
appears to steady and support the bird, between the slow 
movements of its wings. Although flying from flower to flower 
in search of food, its stomach generally contained abundant 
remains of insects, which I suspect are much more the object 
of its search than honey. 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 Montes — Granitic 
range — Boat-wrecked sailors — Low's Harbour — Wild potato — Formation of 
peat — Myopotamus, otter and mice — Cheucau and Barking-bird — Opctio- 
rhynchus — Singular character of ornithology — Petrels. 


November loth.— 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 
Archipelago, as far south as the Peninsula of Tres Montes. 
On the 2 1st 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 

292 CH1L0E chap. 

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 detest- 
able, 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, 
appear to have three -fourths of Indian blood in their veins. 
They are an humble, quiet, industrious set of men. Although 
the fertile soil, resulting from the decomposition of 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 quadru- 
peds ; and in consequence, the staple articles of food are pigs, 
potatoes, and fish. The people all dress in strong woollen 
garments, which each family makes for itself, and dyes with 
indigo of a dark blue colour. The arts, however, are in the 
rudest state ; — as may be seen in their strange fashion of 
ploughing, their method of spinning, grinding corn, and in the 
construction of their boats. The forests are so impenetrable 
that the land is nowhere cultivated except near the coast and 
on the adjoining islets. Even where paths exist, they are 
scarcely passable from the soft and swampy state of the soil. 
The inhabitants, like those of Tierra del Fuego, 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 the lower orders cannot scrape together 
money sufficient to purchase even the smallest luxuries. There 
is also a great deficiency of a circulating medium. I have 
seen a man bringing on his back a bag of charcoal, with which 
to buy some trifle, and another 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 

November 24///. — The yawl and whale-boat were sent 
under the command of Mr. (now Captain) Sulivan to survey 
the eastern or inland coast of Chiloe ; and with orders to meet 
the Beagle at the southern extremity of the island ; to which 
point she would proceed by the outside, so as thus to circum- 
navigate 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 northern extremity of the island. 
The road followed the coast ; every now and then crossing 
promontories covered by fine forests. In these shaded paths 
it is absolutely necessary that the whole road should be made 
of logs of wood, which are squared and placed by the side of 
each other. From the rays of the sun never penetrating the 
evergreen foliage, the ground is so damp and soft that except 
by this means neither man nor horse would be able to pass 
along. I arrived at the village of Chacao shortly after the 
tents belonging to the boats 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 currents and rocks in the straits, the Spanish 
government burnt the church, and thus arbitrarily compelled 
the greater number of inhabitants to migrate to S. Carlos. 
We had not long bivouacked, before the barefooted son of the 
governor came down to reconnoitre us. Seeing the English 
flag hoisted at the yawl's masthead, he asked, with the utmost 
indifference, whether it was always to fly at Chacao. In 
several places the inhabitants were much astonished at the 
appearance of men-of-war's boats, and hoped and believed it 
was the forerunner of a Spanish fleet, coming to recover the 
island from the patriot government of Chile. All the men in 
power, 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 Spanish service, but now was miserably poor. He gave 
us two sheep, and accepted in return two cotton handkerchiefs, 
some brass trinkets, and a little tobacco. 

294 CHILOE chap. 

2^tJi. — Torrents of rain: we managed, however, to run 
down the coast as far as Huapi-lenou. The whole of this 
eastern side of Chiloe has one aspect : it is a plain, broken by 
valleys and divided into little islands, and the whole thickly 
covered with one impervious blackish-green forest. On the 
margins there are some cleared spaces, surrounding the high- 
roofed cottages. 

26th. — The day rose splendidly clear. The volcano of 
Osorno was spouting out volumes of smoke. This most 
beautiful mountain, formed like a perfect cone, and white with 
snow, stands out in front of the Cordillera. Another great 
volcano, with a saddle-shaped summit, also emitted from its 
immense crater little jets of steam. Subsequently we saw the 
lofty -peaked Corcovado — well deserving the name of "el 
famoso Corcovado." Thus we beheld, from one point of view, 
three great active volcanoes, each about seven thousand feet 
high. In addition to this, far to the south there were other 
lofty cones covered with snow, which, although not known to 
be active, must be in their origin volcanic. The line of the 
Andes is not, in this neighbourhood, nearly so elevated as in 
Chile ; neither does it appear to form so perfect a barrier 
between the regions of the earth. This great range, although 
running in a 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 convinces 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 civilisation, however 
low that may be, which their white conquerors have attained. 


More to the south wc saw many pure Indians : indeed, all the 
inhabitants of some of the islets retain their Indian surnames. 
In the census of 1832 there were in Chiloe and its dependencies 
forty-two thousand souls : the greater number of these 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 communication 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 constant 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. 

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the 
island of Caucahue. The people here complained of want of 
land. This is partly owing to their own negligence in not 
clearing the woods, and partly to restrictions by the govern- 
ment, which makes it necessary, before buying ever so small 
a piece, to* pay two shillings to the surveyor for measuring 
each quadra (150 yards square), together with whatever price 
he fixes for the value of the land. After his valuation, the 
land must be put up three times to auction, and if no one 
bids more, the purchaser can have it at that rate. All these 
exactions must be a serious check to clearing the ground, 
where the inhabitants are so extremely poor. In most countries, 
forests are removed without much difficulty by the aid of fire ; 
but in Chiloe, from the damp nature of the climate, and the 
sort of trees, it is necessary first to cut them down. This is 
a heavy drawback to the prosperity of Chiloe. In the time 
of the Spaniards the Indians could not hold land ; and a 
family, after having cleared a piece of ground, might be 
driven away, and the property seized by the government. 
The Chilian authorities are now performing an act of justice 
by making retribution to these poor Indians, giving to each 

296 CHILOE chap. 

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 £70 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 
adjoining ones, is almost completely cleared. Some of the farm- 
houses seemed very comfortable. I was curious to ascertain 
how rich any of these people might be, but Mr. Douglas 
says that no one can be considered as possessing a regular 
income. One of the richest landowners might possibly accumu- 
late, 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. 

November ^oth. — Early on Sunday morning we reached 
Castro, the ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn 
and deserted place. The usual quadrangular arrangement of 
Spanish towns could be traced, but the streets and plaza 
were coated with fine green turf, on which sheep were brows- 
ing. The church, which stands in the middle, is entirely built 
of plank, and has a picturesque and venerable appearance. 
The poverty of the place may be conceived from the fact, that 
although containing some hundreds of inhabitants, one of our 
party was unable anywhere to purchase either a pound of 
sugar or an ordinary knife. No individual possessed either 
a watch or a clock ; and an old man who was supposed to 
have a good idea of time, was employed to strike the church 
bell by guess. 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, senor." 

December \st. — We steered for the island of Lemuy. I 
was anxious to examine a reported coal-mine, which turned 
out to be lignite of little value, in the sandstone (probably of 
an ancient tertiary epoch) of which these islands are composed. 
When we reached Lemuy we had much difficulty in finding 
any place to pitch our tents, for it was spring-tide, and the 
land was wooded down to the water's edge. In a short time 
we were surrounded by a large group of the nearly pure Indian 
inhabitants. They were much surprised at our arrival, and 
said one to the other, " This is the reason we have seen so 
many parrots lately ; the cheucau (an odd red-breasted little 
bird, which inhabits the thick forest, and utters very peculiar 
noises) has not cried ' beware ' for nothing." They were soon 
anxious for barter. Money was scarcely worth anything, but 
their eagerness for tobacco was something quite extraordinary. 
After tobacco, indigo came next in value ; then capsicum, old 
clothes, and gunpowder. The latter article was required for a 
very innocent purpose : each parish has a public musket, and 
the gunpowder was wanted for making a noise on their saint 
or feast days. 

The people here live chiefly on shell -fish and potatoes. 
At certain seasons they catch also, in u corrales," or hedges 
under water, many fish which are left on the mud-banks as 
the tide falls. They occasionally possess fowls, sheep, goats, 
pigs, horses, and cattle ; the order in which they are here 
mentioned, expressing their respective numbers. I never saw 
anything more obliging and humble than the manners of these 
people. They generally began with stating that they were 
poor natives of the place, and not Spaniards, and that they 
were in sad want of tobacco and other comforts. At Caylen, 
the most southern island, 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 

298 CHILOE chap. 

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 was anchored some way 
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 we always placed sentinels 
with loaded arms, and not understanding Spanish, if we saw 
any person in the dark, we should assuredly shoot him. The 
constable, with much humility, agreed to the perfect propriety 
of this arrangement, and promised us that no one should stir 
out of his house during that night. 

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing 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 
indented on its margin. I measured one which was nearly eight 
feet in diameter, and therefore no less than twenty-four in 
circumference ! The stalk is rather more than a yard high, and 
each plant sends out four or five of these enormous leaves, 
presenting together a very noble appearance. 

December 6tk. — 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 
Christians 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 travelled three days and a half on foot, and had 
as many to return, for the sake of recovering the value of a 
small axe and a few fish. How very difficult it must be to buy 
the smallest article, when such trouble is taken to recover so 
small a debt ! 

xiii SAN PEDRO 299 

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 w r as able, by quietly walking up behind, to 
knock him on the head with my geological hammer. This fox, 
more curious or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality 
of his brethren, is now mounted in the museum of the Zoological 

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 consequence was more like that of Tierra del Fuego 
than of Chiloe. In vain we tried to gain the summit : the 
forest was so impenetrable that no one who has not beheld it 
can imagine so entangled a mass of dying and dead trunks. I 
am sure that often, for more than ten minutes together, our feet 
never touched the ground, and we were frequently ten or fifteen 
feet above it, so that the seamen as a joke called out the sound- 
ings. At other times we crept one after another, on our hands 
and knees, under the rotten trunks. In the lower part of the 
mountain, noble trees of the Winter's Bark, and a laurel like the 
sassafras with fragrant leaves, and others, the names of which I 
do not know, were matted together by a trailing bamboo or cane. 
Here we were more like fishes struggling in a net than any other 
animal. On the higher parts, brushwood takes the place of larger 
trees, with here and there a red cedar or an alerce pine. I was 
also pleased to see, at an elevation of a little less than 1000 
feet, our old friend the southern beech. They were, however, 
poor stunted trees ; and I should think that this must be nearly 
their northern limit. We ultimately gave up the attempt in 

December 1 oth. — 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 ordinary 
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 up and down over the sharp rocks of 
mica-slate ; and as for the woods, our faces, hands, and shin- 
bones all bore witness to the maltreatment we received, in 
merely attempting to penetrate their forbidden recesses. 

December \Zth. — We stood out to sea. On the 20th we 
bade farewell to the south, and with a fair wind turned the 
ship's head northward. From Cape Tres Montes we sailed 
pleasantly along the lofty weather-beaten coast, which is 
remarkable for the bold outline of its hills, and the thick 
covering of forest even on the almost precipitous flanks. The 
next day a harbour was discovered, which on this dangerous 
coast might be of great 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 under- 
taking, for the sides were so steep that in some parts it was 
necessary to use the trees as ladders. There were also several 
extensive brakes of the Fuchsia, covered with its beautiful 
drooping flowers, but very difficult to crawl through. In these 
wild countries it gives much delight to gain the summit of 
any mountain. There is an indefinite expectation of 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 triumph and pride which 
a grand view from a height communicates to the mind. In 
these little frequented countries there is also joined to it some 
vanity, that you perhaps are the first man who ever stood on 
this pinnacle or admired this view. 

A strong desire is always felt tc 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 had used an axe. The fire, 
bed, and situation showed the dexterity of an Indian ; but he 
could scarcely have been an Indian, for the race is in this part 
extinct, owing to the Catholic desire of making at one blow 
Christians and Slaves. I had at the time some misgivings 


that the solitary man who had made his bed on this wild spot, 
must have been some poor shipwrecked sailor, who, in trying 
to travel up the coast, had here laid himself down for his 
dreary night. 

December 2%th. — The weather continued very bad, but it 
at last permitted us to proceed with the survey. The time 
hung heavy on our hands, as it always did when we were 
delayed from day to day by successive gales of wind. In the 
evening another harbour was discovered, where we anchored. 
Directly afterwards a man was seen waving his shirt, and a 
boat was sent which brought back two seamen. A party of 
six had run away from an American whaling vessel, and had 
landed a little to the southward in a boat, which was shortly 
afterwards knocked to pieces by the surf. They had now 
been wandering up and down the coast for fifteen months, 
without knowing which way to go, or where they were. What 
a singular piece of good fortune it was that this harbour was 
now discovered ! Had it not been for this one chance, they 
might have wandered till they had grown old men, and at last 
have perished on this wild coast. Their sufferings had been 
very great, and one of their party had lost his life by falling 
from the cliffs. They were sometimes obliged to separate in 
search of food, and this explained the bed of the solitary man. 
Considering what they had undergone, I think they had kept 
a very good reckoning of time, for they had lost only four 

December ^oth. — 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 ascended 
one of these mountains, which was 2400 feet high. The 
scenery was remarkable. The chief part of the range was 
composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of granite, which 
appeared as if they had been coeval with the beginning of the 
world. The granite was capped with mica-slate, and this in 
the lapse of ages had been worn into strange finger-shaped 
points. These two formations, thus differing in their outlines, 
agree in being almost destitute of vegetation. This barrenness 
had to our eyes a strange appearance, from having been so 
long accustomed to the sight of an almost universal forest of 
dark green trees. I took much delight in examining the 


structure of these mountains. The complicated and lofty 
ranges bore a noble aspect of durability — equally profitless, 
however, to man and to all other animals. Granite to the 
geologist is classic ground : from its widespread limits, and its 
beautiful and compact texture, few rocks 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, how- 
ever formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the crust of this 
globe to which man has penetrated. The limit of man's know- 
ledge in any subject possesses a high interest, which is perhaps 
increased by its close neighbourhood to the realms of imagination. 

January 1st, 1835. — The new year is ushered in with the 
ceremonies proper to it in these regions. She lays out no false 
hopes ; a heavy north-western gale, with steady rain, bespeaks 
the rising year. Thank God, we are not destined here to see 
the end of it, but hope then to be in the Pacific 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 as the 
boat passed. They did not remain long under water, but 
rising, followed us with outstretched necks, expressing great 
wonder and curiosity. 

yth. — 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 consequence 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, including " 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 Chiloe. 

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 
resembled in every respect, and had the same smell as English 
potatoes ; but when boiled they shrunk much, and were watery 
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 different 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 Mr. Sabine 1 from Valparaiso, but that they form a 

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


variety which by some botanists has been considered as 
specifically distinct. It is remarkable that the same plant 
should be found on the sterile mountains of central Chile, 
where a drop of rain does not fall for more than six months, 
and within the damp forests of 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 proportion 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. 1 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 northern 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 del Fuego, above the region of woodland, the 
former of these eminently sociable plants is the chief agent in 
the production of peat. Fresh leaves are always succeeding one 
to the other round the central tap-root ; the lower ones soon 
decay, and in tracing a root downwards in the peat, the leaves, 
yet holding 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, 
• — here and there a small creeping Myrtus (M. nummularia) ) 
with a woody stem like our cranberry and with a sweet berry 

1 By sweeping with my insect-net, I procured from these situations a considerable 
number of minute insects, of the family of Staphylinidae, and others allied to 
Pselaphus, and minute Hymenoptera. But the most characteristic family in number, 
both of individuals and species, throughout the more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos 
is that of the Tclephoridaj. 



— 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 the 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 water, which stand 
at different heights, and appear as if artificially excavated. 
Small streams of water, flowing underground, complete the 
disorganisation of the vegetable matter, and consolidate the 

The climate of the southern part of America appears 
particularly favourable to the production of peat. In the 
Falkland Islands almost every kind of plant, even the coarse 
grass which covers the whole surface of the land, becomes 
converted into this substance : scarcely any situation checks its 
growth ; some of the beds are as 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 efficient. 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 that in Chiloe (lat. 41 to 42 ), although there is much 
swampy ground, no well-characterised 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. 3 5°) 
I was told by a Spanish resident, who had visited Ireland, that 
he had often sought for this substance, but had never been able 
to find any. He showed me, as the nearest approach to it 
which he had discovered, a black peaty soil, so penetrated 
with roots as to allow of an extremely slow and imperfect 

The zoology of these broken islets of the Chonos Archipelago 
is, as might have been expected, very poor. Of quadrupeds two 
aquatic kinds are common. The Myopotamus 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 
numerous ; this animal does not feed exclusively on fish, but, 
like the seals, draws a large supply from a small red crab, which 
swims in shoals near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe saw 
one in Tierra del Fuego eating a cuttlefish ; 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, 1 
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 inhabitants " Cheucau " 
(Pteroptochos rubecula) : it frequents the most gloomy and 
retired spots within the damp forests. Sometimes, although its 
cry may be heard close at hand, let a person watch ever so 
attentively he will not see the cheucau ; at other times let him 
stand motionless and the red-breasted little bird will approach 
within a few feet in the most familiar manner. It then busily 
hops about the entangled mass of rotting canes and branches, 
with its little tail cocked upwards. The cheucau is held in 
superstitious fear by the Chilotans, on account of its strange and 
varied cries. There 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 

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


I defy any one at first to feel certain that a small dog is not 
yelping somewhere in the forest. Just as with the cheucau, a 
person will sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain may 
endeavour by watching, and with still less chance by beating 
the bushes, to see the bird ; yet at other times the guid-guid 
fearlessly comes near. Its manner of feeding and its general 
habits are very similar to those of the cheucau. 

On the coast, 1 a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus 
Patagonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from its quiet 
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 dis- 
turb the general silence. The yelping of the guid-guid, and 
the sudden whew-whew of the cheucau, 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) follows the intruder screaming and twittering ; the 
humming-bird may be seen every now and then darting from 
side to side, and emitting, like an insect, its shrill chirp ; lastly, 
from the top of some lofty tree the indistinct but plaintive note 
of the white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (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 meeting 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 insignificant 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 3 7° 
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 

1 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. 34 , 
these birds had young ones in the nest, while among the Chonos Islands, three months 
later in the summer, they were only laying, the difference in latitude between these 
two places being about 700 miles. 


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 (quc- 
brantahuesos, or break-bones, of the Spaniards), is a common 
bird, both in the inland channels and on the open sea. In its 
habits and manner of flight there is a very close resemblance 
with the albatross ; and as with the 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, Cape 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 

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 
belonging to one well-marked family, yet both in its habits 
and structure allied to a very distinct tribe. This bird never 
leaves the quiet inland sounds. When disturbed it dives to a 
distance, and on coming to the surface, with the same move- 
ment 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 
living, and its choice of situation, 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 




San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruption contemporaneously with Aconcagua and 
Coseguina — Ride to Cucao — Impenetrable forests — Valdivia — Indians — Earth- 
quake — Concepcion — Great earthquake— Rocks fissured— Appearance of the 
former town*— The sea black and boiling — Direction of the vibrations— Stones 
twisted round — Great wave — Permanent elevation of the land — Area of volcanic 
phenomena— The connection between the elevatory and eruptive forces — Cause 
of earthquakes — Slow elevation of mountain-chains. 


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 Chiloe. On the night of the 19th the volcano of 
Osorno was 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 Cordillera. 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 iand behind S. 



Carlos, which is no less than ninety-three miles from the 
Corcovado. In the morning the volcano became tranquil. 

I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in 
Chile, 480 miles northwards, was in action on this same night ; 
and still more surprised to hear, that the great eruption of 
Coseguina (2700 miles north of Aconcagua), accompanied by 
an earthquake felt over 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, whether this coincidence was 
accidental, or shows some subterranean connection. If Vesu- 
vius, 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 
remarkable in this case, where the three vents fall on the 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 22 nd. We had not proceeded far, before we were 
joined by a woman and two boys, who were bent on the same 
journey. Every one on this road acts on a " hail-fellow-well- 
met fashion ; " and one may here enjoy the privilege, so rare 
in South America, of travelling without firearms. 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 

314 CHILOE chap. 

difficult. At that time of the year, the ground on each side 
becomes a morass, and is often overflowed : hence it is necessary 
that the longitudinal logs should be fastened down by transverse 
poles, which are pegged on each side into the earth. These 
pegs render a fall from a horse dangerous ; as the chance of 
alighting on one of them is not small. It is remarkable, 
however, how active custom has made the Chilotan horses. In 
crossing bad parts, where the logs 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. 
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 
discovered, a few years since, an English vessel, which had 
been wrecked on the outer coast. The crew were beginning 
to fail in provisions, and it is not probable that, without the 
aid of this man, they would 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 they 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 

xiv CHILOE 315 

in those of countries long- civilised. Shortly after sunset we 
bivouacked for the night. Our female companion, who was 
rather good-looking, belonged to one of the most respectable 
families in Castro : she rode, however, astride, and without 
shoes or stockings. I was surprised at the total want of pride 
shown by her and her brother. They brought food with them, 
but at all our meals sat watching Mr. King and myself whilst 
eating, till we were fairly shamed into feeding the whole party. 
The night was cloudless ; and while lying in our beds, we 
enjoyed the sight (and it is a high enjoyment) of the multi- 
tude of stars which illumined the darkness of the forest 

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 gentleman 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 wind- 
ing paths, sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and 
sometimes through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn 
and potato crops. This undulating woody country, partially 
cultivated, reminded me of the wilder parts of England, and 
therefore had to my eye a most fascinating aspect. At 
Vilinco, which is situated on the borders of the lake of Cucao, 
only a few fields 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, 

316 CHILOE chap. 

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 
embark in a per'iagua. The commandant, in the most authori- 
tative 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 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 difficulty, but the 
Indians managed it in a minute. They brought the cow along- 
side the boat, which was heeled towards her ; then placing two 
oars under her belly, with their ends resting on the gunwale, 
by the aid of these levers they fairly tumbled the poor beast, 
heels over head, into the bottom of the boat, and then lashed 
her down with ropes. At Cucao we found an uninhabited 
hovel (which is the residence of the padre when he pays this 
Capella a visit), where, lighting a fire, we cooked our supper, 
and were very comfortable. 

The district of Cucao is the only inhabited part on the whole 
west coast of Chiloe. It contains about thirty or forty Indian 
families, who are scattered along four or five miles of the shore. 
They are very much secluded from the rest of Chiloe, and have 
scarcely any sort of commerce, except sometimes in a little oil, 
which they get from seal-blubber. They are 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 than free men. They 
ordered provisions and the use of their horses, without ever con- 
descending 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 
complaints by saying," And it is only because we are poor Indians, 
and know nothing ; but it was not so when we had a King." 

The next day after breakfast we 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 
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 much scratched. I was amused by observing 
the precaution our Indian guide took, in turning up his trousers, 
thinking that they were more delicate than his own hard skin. 
This plant bears a fruit, in shape like an artichoke, in which a 
number of seed-vessels are packed : these contain a pleasant 
sweet pulp, here much esteemed. I saw at Low's Harbour the 
Chilotans 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 myself 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 of unusually fine weather, to clear 

318 CHILOE chap. 

the ground by burning. In every direction volumes of smoke 
were curling upwards. Although the inhabitants were so 
assiduous in setting fire to every part of the wood, yet I did not 
see a single fire which they had succeeded in making extensive. 
We dined with our friend the commandant, and did not reach 
Castro till after dark. The next morning we started very early. 
After having ridden for some time, we obtained from the brow 
of a steep hill an extensive view (and it is a rare thing on this 
road) of the great forest. Over the horizon of trees, the volcano 
of Corcovado, and the great flat-topped one to the north, stood 
out in proud pre-eminence : scarcely another peak in the long 
range showed its snowy summit. I hope it will be long before 
I forget this farewell view of the 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 ^th. — Sailed from Chiloe. During the last week 
I 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 

xiv VALDIVIA 319 

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, brown, 
wrinkled points project : these are always ready to change into 
roots, as may sometimes be seen, where any mud has been 
accidentally splashed against the tree. A branch as thick as a 
man's thigh is chosen 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 
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 I have myself seen) into a well-wooded tree, loaded 
with fruit. An old man near Valdivia illustrated his motto, 
" Necesidad 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 orchard. 

February 1 1 th. — I set out with a guide on a short ride, in 
which, however, I managed to see singularly little either of 
the geology of the country or of its inhabitants. There is not 
much cleared land near Valdivia : after crossing a river at the 
distance of a few miles, we entered the forest, and then passed 
only one miserable hovel, before reaching our sleeping -place 
for the night. The short difference in latitude, of 150 miles, 
has given 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 tint. 
As in Chiloe, the lower parts are matted together by canes : 
here also another kind (resembling 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 

320 VALDIVIA chap. 

is with this plant that the Indians make their chuzos, or long 
tapering spears. Our resting-house was so dirty that I preferred 
sleeping outside : 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 Llanos. The view of these open plains was very 
refreshing, after being 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 forest 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 dependent 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 wife lives a week in turn with the cacique ; 


but all are employed in weaving ponchos, etc., 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 trousers, 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 different from 
that of any other tribe which I had before seen. Their 
expression is generally grave, and even austere, and possesses 
much character: this may pass either for honest bluntness or fierce 
determination. The long black hair, the grave and much-lined 
features, and the dark complexion, called to my mind old 
portraits of James I. On the road we met with none of that 
humble politeness so universal in Chiloe. Some gave their 
" mari-mari " (good-morning) with promptness, but the greater 
number did not seem inclined to offer any salute. This inde- 
pendence of manners is probably a consequence of their long 
wars, and the repeated victories which they alone, of all the 
tribes in America, have gained over the Spaniards. 

I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the padre. 
He was exceedingly kind and hospitable ; and coming from 
Santiago, had contrived to surround himself with some few 
comforts. Being a man of some little education, he bitterly 
complained of the total want of society. With no particular 
zeal for religion, no business or pursuit, how completely must 
this man's life be wasted ! 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 


322 VALIDIVIA chap. 

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 daresay grateful, they would hardly con- 
descend 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 badness of the roads and from 
the number of great fallen trees, which it was necessary either 
to leap over or to avoid by making long circuits. We slept on 
the road, and next morning reached Valdivia, whence I pro- 
ceeded on board. 

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of 
officers, and landed near the fort called Niebla. The buildings 
were in a most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages quite rotten. 
Mr. Wickham remarked to the commanding officer, that with 
one discharge they would certainly all fall to pieces. The 
poor man, trying to put a good face upon it, gravely replied, 
" No, I am sure, sir, they would stand two ! " The Spaniards 
must have intended to have made this place impregnable. 
There is now lying in the middle of the courtyard a little 
mountain of mortar, which rivals in hardness the rock on 
which it is placed. It was brought from Chile, and cost 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 Spain. 

I wanted to go to a house about a mile and a half distant, 
but my guide said it was quite impossible to penetrate the 
wood in a straight line. He offered, however, to lead me, by 
following obscure cattle -tracks, the shortest way: the walk, 
nevertheless, took no less than three hours ! This man is 
employed in hunting strayed cattle ; yet, well as he must 
know the woods, he was not long since lost for two whole 
days, and had nothing to eat. These facts convey a good 
idea of the impracticability of the forests of these countries. 
A question often occurred to me — how long does any vestige of 
a fallen tree remain? This man showed me one which a party 
of fugitive royalists had cut down fourteen years ago; and taking 
this as a criterion, I should think a bole a foot and a half in 
diameter would in thirty years 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 appeared 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 the movement of a vessel in a little cross- 
ripple, or still more like that felt by a person skating over thin 
ice, which bends under the weight of his body. 

A bad earthquake at once destroys 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 reflection 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 were violently shaken, and the boards creaked 
and rattled together. The people rushed out of doors in the 
greatest alarm. It is these accompaniments that create that 
perfect horror of earthquakes 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 time 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 level ; this was also 
evident by the line of wet sand. This same kind of quick 
but quiet movement in the tide happened a few years since 
at Chiloe, during a slight earthquake, and created much 
causeless alarm. In the course of the evening there were 
many weaker shocks, which seemed to produce in the harbour 
the most complicated currents, and some of great strength. 

March 4th. — We entered the harbour of Concepcion. 

324 CONCEPCION chap. 

While the ship was beating up to the anchorage, I landed on 
the island of Quinquina. 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 Talcahuano." 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, etc., in great 
numbers, there were several roofs of cottages, which had been 
transported almost whole. The storehouses 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 that numerous 
fragments of rock, which, from the marine productions adhering 
to them, must recently have been lying in deep water, had 
been cast up high on the beach ; one of these was six feet 
long, three broad, and two thick. 

The island itself as plainly showed the overwhelming power 
of the earthquake, as the beach did that of the consequent 
great wave. The ground 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 cliffs 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 effect of the vibration on the hard primary slate, which 
composes the foundation of the island, was still more curious : 
the superficial parts of some narrow ridges were as completely 
shivered as if they had been blasted by gunpowder. This 
effect, which was rendered 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 through- 
out Chile ; nor is this improbable, 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 


Quinquina, 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 
interesting 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 possessed so little the air of a habitable place, 
that it was scarcely possible to imagine its former condition. 
The earthquake commenced at half-past eleven o'clock in the 
forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of the night, the 
greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one province 
amount to many thousands) 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 Quinquina 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 destruction of many cattle ; 
on one low island, near the head of the bay, seventy animals 
were washed off and drowned. It is generally thought that 
this has been the worst earthquake ever recorded in Chile ; 
but as the very 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 the 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 courtyard, when one side of his 
house came thundering down. He retained presence of mind 
to remember, that if he once got on the top of that part which 
had already fallen, he 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 dust which darkened 
the sky, at last he gained the street. As shock succeeded 
shock, at the interval of a few minutes, no one dared approach 
the shattered ruins ; and no one knew whether his dearest 
friends and relations 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 with the other filched 
what they 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 
become of the lofty houses, thickly packed cities, great 
manufactories, 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 

xiv GREAT WAVE 327 

distance 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 high and dry on shore, was carried off, again 
driven on shore, 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 must 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 consequently dashed against an anchor and cut 
in twain ; the old woman was drowned, but the child was picked 
up some hours afterwards clinging 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 interesting 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 individual 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 had been a picnic ; but soon afterwards heavy rain caused 
much discomfort, 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 

328 CONCEPCION chap. 

another like the blowing of a great whale, were seen in the bay. 
The water also appeared everywhere to be boiling ; and it 
" became black, and exhaled a most disagreeable sulphureous 
smell. " These latter circumstances were observed in the Bay 
of Valparaiso during the earthquake of 1 822 ; 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 Antuco. 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 volcanoes and the trembling of the 
ground. It was necessary to apply the witchcraft to the point 
where their perception of cause and effect failed ; 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 noways 

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.W. by 
N. The walls in the former direction certainly stood better 
than those in the latter : the greater number of the masses of 
brickwork were thrown down towards the N.E. Both these 
circumstances perfectly agree with the general idea of the 
undulations having come from the S.W. ; in which quarter 
subterranean noises were also heard : for it is evident that the 
walls running S.W. and N.E., which presented their ends to 
the point whence the undulations came, would be much less 
likely to fall than those walls which, running N.W. and S.E., 
must in their whole lengths have been at the same instant 
thrown out of the perpendicular ; for the undulations, coming 
from the S.W., must have extended in N.W. and S.E. waves, 
as they passed under the foundations. 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 they fall with more or less 


readiness, according as their direction more or less nearly 
coincides with the line of the waves. 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 these 
circumstances, which so clearly point to the S.W. as the chief 
focus of disturbance, it is a very interesting fact that the island 
of S. Maria, situated in that quarter, was, during the general 
uplifting of the land, 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. 
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 walls (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 circum- 
stance was observed after an earthquake at Valparaiso, Calabria, 
and other places, including some of the ancient Greek temples. 1 
This twisting displacement at first appears to indicate a vorti- 
cose 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 lines of vibration, — in a manner somewhat 
similar to pins on a sheet of paper 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 
crawling to a certain doorway, was this time crushed to pieces. 

I have not attempted to give any detailed description 
of the appearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite 

1 M. Arago in Vlnstilnt, 1839, p. 337. See also Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 392 ; 
also LyelPs Principles of Geology, chap. xv. book ii. 

330 CONCEPCION chap. 

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 compassion for the inhabitants 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 
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 then returns in 
waves of overwhelming force. The first movement seems to 
be an immediate consequence of the earthquake affecting 
differently a fluid and a solid, so that their respective levels are 
slightly deranged : but the second case is a far more important 
phenomenon. During most earthquakes, and especially during 
those on the west coast of America, it is certain that the first 
great movement of the waters has been a retirement. Some 
authors have attempted to explain this, by supposing that the 
water retains its level, whilst 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 Fernandez during this earthquake, and with 
Madeira during the famous Lisbon shock. I suspect (but 
the subject is a very obscure one) that a wave, however 
produced, first draws the water from the shore, on which it is 
advancing to break : I have observed that this happens with 
the little waves from the paddles of a steam -boat. It is 
remarkable that whilst 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 following 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 move- 
ments of the land, as the place where the great wave is first 
generated ; it would also appear that the wave is larger or 
smaller, according to the extent of shoal water which has been 
agitated together with the bottom on which it rested. 

The most remarkable effect of this earthquake was the 
permanent elevation of the land ; it would probably be far 
more correct 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 obliterated the old lines of tidal action on the sloping 
sandy shores, I could discover no evidence of this fact, except 
in the united testimony of the inhabitants, that one little rocky 
shoal, now exposed, 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 earthquakes, 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 earthquake 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 

332 CONCEPCION chap. 

that the trees beat against each other, and a volcano burst 
forth under water close to the shore : these facts are remarkable 
because this island, during the earthquake of 175 I, was then 
also affected more violently than other places at an equal 
distance from Concepcion, and this seems to show some 
subterranean connexion between these two points. Chiloe, 
about 340 miles southward of Concepcion, appears to have 
been shaken more strongly than the intermediate district of 
Valdivia, where the volcano of Villarica was noways affected, 
whilst in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe two of the volcanoes 
burst forth at the same instant in violent action. These two 
volcanoes, and some neighbouring ones, continued for 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 volcanoes, did not 
perceive the shock of the 20th, although the whole surrounding 
Province was then trembling ; here we have an eruption 
relieving and taking the place of an earthquake, as would have 
happened at Concepcion, according to the belief of the lower 
orders, if the volcano of Antuco had not been closed by 
witchcraft. Two years and 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 phenomena, if (as in the case of the glaciers) 
we suppose them to have taken place at corresponding distances 
in Europe : — then would 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 permanently elevated, together with some 
outlying islands, — a train of volcanoes on the coast of Holland 
would have burst forth in action, and an eruption taken place 
at the bottom of the sea, near the northern extremity of Ireland 
— and lastly, the ancient vents of Auvergne, Cantal, and Mont 
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 


The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 20th 
was actually erupted, is 720 miles in one line, and 400 miles 
in another line at right angles to the first ; hence, in all proba- 
bility, a subterranean lake of lava is here stretched out, of 
nearly double the area of the Black Sea. From the intimate 
and complicated manner in which the elevatory and eruptive 
forces were shown to be connected during this train of phe- 
nomena, 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, necessarily consequent 
on the tension of the land when upraised, and their injection 
by fluidified rock. This rending and injection would, if repeated 
often enough (and we know that earthquakes 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, I believe that it 
is impossible to explain the structure of great mountain- 
chains, such as that of the Cordillera, where the strata, 
capping the injected 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 injected, 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 inverted positions, by a single blow, 
the very bowels of the earth would 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. 1 

1 For a full account of the volcanic phenomena which accompanied the earth- 
quake of the 20th, and for the conclusions deducible from them, I must refer to 
Volume V. of the Geological Transactions. 



Valparaiso — Portillo Pass — Sagacity of mules — Mountain -torrents — Mines, how 
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 — Valparaiso. 


March yth, 1835. — We stayed three days at Concepcion, and 
then sailed for Valparaiso. The wind being northerly, we only 
reached the mouth of the harbour of Concepcion before it was 
dark. Being very near the land, and a fog coming on, the 
anchor was dropped. Presently a large American whaler 
appeared close alongside of us ; and we heard the Yankee 
swearing at his men to 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 thing I ever heard. If the ship's crew had been all 
captains, and no men, there could not have been a greater 
uproar of orders. We afterwards found that the mate stuttered : 
I suppose all hands were assisting him in giving his orders. 

On the 1 1 th we anchored at Valparaiso, and two days 
afterwards 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 Mendoza : the one most commonly used 
— namely, that of Aconcagua or Uspallata — is situated some 
way to the north ; the other, called the Portillo, is to the south, 
and nearer, but more lofty and dangerous. 

March iStk — 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 than 
by the waters of the sea. There are very few valleys which 
lead to the central ranges, and the mountains are quite impass- 
able in other parts by beasts of burden. The custom-house 
officers were very civil, which was perhaps partly owing to the 
passport which the President of the Republic had given me ; 
but I must express my admiration at the natural politeness of 
almost every Chileno. In this instance, the contrast with the 
same class of men in most other countries was strongly marked. 
I may mention an anecdote with which I was at the time much 
pleased : we met near Mendoza a little and very fat negress, 

336 PORTILLO PASS chap. 

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 cooked and ate our supper under a cloudless sky, and knew 
no trouble. My companions 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 her. The affection of these animals 
for their madrinas saves infinite trouble. If several large troops 
are turned into one field to graze, in the morning the muleteers 
have only to lead the madrinas a little apart, and tinkle their 
bells ; and although there may be two or three hundred together, 
each mule immediately knows the bell of its own madrina, and 
comes to her. It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule ; for 
if detained for several hours by force, she will, by the power of 
smell, like a dog, track out her companions, or rather the 
madrina, for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief object 
of affection. The feeling, however, is not of an individual 
nature ; for I believe I am right in saying that any animal with 
a bell will serve as 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 1 00 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 
carrying cargoes, each taking turn about. We carried a good 




deal of food, in case we should be snowed up, as the season was 
rather late for passing the Portillo. 

March igth. — We rode during this day to the last, and 
therefore most elevated house in the valley. The number of 
inhabitants became scanty ; 
but wherever water could 
be brought on the land, it 
was very fertile. All the 
main valleys in the Cordillera 
are characterised by having, 
on both sides, a fringe or 
terrace of shingle and sand, 
rudely stratified, and gener- 
ally 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 gener- 
ally 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 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 inter- 
ested 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 suddenly 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 
irrecoverable. So was it with these stones ; the ocean is their 
eternity, and each note of that wild music told of one more step 
towards their destiny. 

It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by a 
slow process, any effect which is produced by a cause repeated 
so often that the multiplier itself conveys an idea not more 
definite than the savage implies when he points to the hairs of 
his head. As often as I have seen beds of mud, sand, and 
shingle, accumulated to the thickness of many thousand feet, T 
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 during 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 6000 or 8000 feet high, with rounded outlines 
and steep bare 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 herds of cattle, which men were 
driving down from the higher valleys in the Cordillera. This 
sign of the approaching winter hurried our steps, more than was 
convenient for 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 extraordinary 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 

340 PORTILLO PASS chap. 

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 appearance of ores. 
In the great mining provinces of Coquimbo and Copiapo, 
firewood is very scarce, and men search for it over every hill and 
dale ; and by this means nearly all the richest mines have there 
been discovered. Chanuncillo, from which silver to the value 
of many hundred thousand pounds has been raised in the course 
of a few years, was discovered by a man who threw a stone at 
his loaded donkey, and thinking that it was very heavy, 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 
Sundays 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 discoverers. 

20th. — As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, with 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 
valleys being filled up with an immense thickness of stratified 
alluvium. 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 colours, chiefly red and purple, of the utterly bare and 
precipitous hills of porphyry, — the grand and continuous wall- 
like dikes, — the plainly -divided strata which, where nearly 
vertical, formed the picturesque and wild central pinnacles, but 
where less inclined, 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 height of 
more than 2000 feet. 

I frequently observed, both in Tierra del Fuego and within 1 
the Andes, that where the rock was covered during the greater 
part of the year with snow, it was shivered in a very extra- 
ordinary manner into small angular fragments. Scoresby l has- 

1 Scoresby's Arctic Regions, vol. 1. p. 122. 


observed 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 of 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-water l than by rain, and therefore that the 
appearance of a quicker disintegration of the solid rock under 
the snow was deceptive. 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 the 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 with a party of men who were employed 
in loading mules with 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 had 
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 with 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, which, 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 

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


of the Peuquenes ridge, and of the several great lines to the 
westward of it, are composed of a vast pile, many thousand 
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 masses are covered in the central parts by a 
great thickness of red sandstone, conglomerate, and calcareous 
clay-slate, associated with, and passing into, prodigious beds 
of gypsum. In these 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, 
crystallised 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 Peuquenes 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 forming ; but as the beds of the 
conglomerate have been thrown off at an angle of 45 ° by the 
red Portillo granite (with the underlying 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 the 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 the several parallel lines are of different 
ages. Only thus can we gain time at all sufficient 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 
consider 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 shells lived. The proof is the same with that 
by which it was shown that, at a much later period since the 
tertiary shells of Patagonia lived, there must have been there 
a subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing 
elevation. Daily it is forced home on the mind of the geologist 
that nothing, 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 longi- 
tudinal channels arc very strong, so that in one transverse channel 
even a small vessel under sail was whirled round and round. 

344 PORTILLO PASS chap. 

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 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 Chilenos "puna ;" 
and they have most ridiculous notions concerning its origin. 
Some say " All the waters here have puna : " others that " where 
there is snow there is puna ; " — and this no doubt is true. 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 imagina- 
tion 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 
1 3,000 feet above the sea) strangers do not become thoroughly 
accustomed to the atmosphere for an entire year. The inhabit- 
ants all recommend onions for the puna ; as this vegetable has 
sometimes been given in Europe for pectoral complaints, it 
may possibly be of real service : — for my part I found nothing 
so good as the fossil shells ! 

When about half-way up we met a large party with seventy 
loaded mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the 
muleteers, and to watch the long 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 atmosphere resplendently clear ; the sky an intense blue; 
the profound valleys ; the wild broken forms ; the heaps of 
ruins, piled up during the lapse of ages ; the bright-coloured 
rocks, contrasted with the quiet mountains of snow ; all these 
together produced a scene 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. J felt glaq! that J was alone ; It was like 

xv RED SNOW 345 

watching a thunderstorm, or hearing 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 
navigators. My attention was called to it by observing the foot- 
steps 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 red 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 faint 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 1 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. 2 8°, in like manner falls 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 irregular in its movements. 

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into a moun- 

1 Dr. Gillies \wJoiirn. of Nat. and Geograph. Science, Aug. 1 830. This author 
giyes the heights .of the Passes. 

346 P0RT1LL0 PASS chap. 

tainous country, intermediate between the two main ranges, 
and then took up our quarters for the night. We were now 
in the republic of Mendoza. The elevation was probably not 
under 11,000 feet, and the vegetation in consequence exceed- 
ingly scanty. The root of a small scrubby plant served as 
fuel, but it made a miserable fire, and the wind was piercingly 
cold. Being quite tired with my day's work, I made up my 
bed as quickly as I could, and went to sleep. About midnight 
I observed the sky became suddenly clouded : I awakened 
the arriero to know if there was any danger of bad weather ; 
but he said that without thunder and lightning there was no 
risk of a heavy snow-storm. The peril is imminent, and the 
difficulty of subsequent escape great, to any one overtaken by 
bad weather between the two ranges. A certain cave offers 
the only place of refuge : Mr. Caldcleugh, who crossed on this 
same day of the month, was detained there for some time by 
a heavy fall of snow. Casuchas, or houses of refuge, have not 
been built in this pass as in that of Uspallata, and therefore, 
during the autumn, the Portillo is little frequented. I may 
here remark that within the main Cordillera rain never falls, 
for during the summer the sky is cloudless, and in winter 
snow-storms alone occur. 

At the place where we slept water necessarily boiled, from 
the diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a lower temper- 
ature than it does in a less lofty country ; the case being the 
converse of that of a Papin's digester. Hence the potatoes, 
after remaining for some hours in the boiling water, were nearly 
as hard as ever. The pot was left on the fire all night, and 
next morning it was boiled again, but yet the potatoes were 
not cooked. I found out this by overhearing my two com- 
panions discussing the cause ; they had come to the simple 
conclusion " that the cursed 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 number 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. Now 
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, during the process of thawing, 
had in some parts been converted into pinnacles or columns, 1 
which, as they were high and close together, made it difficult 
for the cargo mules to pass. On one of these columns of ice 
a frozen horse was sticking as on a pedestal, but with its hind 
legs straight up 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 surrounding parts must have 
been removed by 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 takes its name of Portillo from a narrow 
cleft or doorway on the highest ridge, through which the road 
passes. From this point, on a clear day, those vast plains 
which uninterruptedly 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 fragments of rock. We met here some passengers, who 
made anxious inquiries about the state of the road. Shortly 
after it was dark the clouds suddenly cleared away, and the 
effect was quite magical. The great mountains, bright with 
the full moon, seemed impending over us on all sides, as over 
a deep crevice : one morning, very early, I witnessed the same 
striking effect. As soon as the clouds were dispersed it froze 
severely ; but as there was no wind, we slept very comfortably. 

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this eleva- 
tion, owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was 

1 This structure in frozen snow was long since observed by Scoresby in the 
icebergs near Spitzbergen, and lately, with more care, by Colonel Jackson {Journ. of 
Geograph. Soc. vol. v. p. 12) on the Neva. Mr. Lyell (Principles, vol. iv. p. 360) 
has compared the fissures, by which the columnar structure seems to be determined, 
to the joints that traverse nearly all rocks, but which are best seen in the non- 
stratified masses. I may observe that in the case of the frozen snow the columnar 
structure must be owing to a " metamorphic " action, and not to a process during 

348 PORTILLO PASS chap. 

very remarkable. Travellers having observed the difficulty of 
judging heights and distances amidst lofty mountains, have 
generally attributed it to the absence of objects of comparison. 
It appears to me that it is fully as much owing to the trans- 
parency of the air confounding objects at different distances, 
and likewise 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 dryness 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 flannel- 
waistcoat, when rubbed in the dark, appeared as if it had been 
washed with phosphorus ; every hair on a dog's back crackled ; 
— even the linen sheets, and leathern straps of the saddle, when 
handled, emitted sparks. 

March 23rd. — The descent on the eastern side of the Cor- 
dillera is much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side ; in 
other words, the mountains rise more abruptly from the plains, 
than from the alpine country of Chile. A level and brilliantly 
white sea of clouds was 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 uppermost 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 
vegetation 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 existed as a great barrier, since the present races of 
animals have appeared ; and therefore, unless we suppose the 
same species to have been created in two different 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 water. 1 

A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely 
the 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 we 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 that it would only have been following the plains 
of Patagonia up a mountainous ascent. 

March 2\th. — 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- 

1 This is merely an illustration of the admirable laws, first laid down by Mr. 
Lyell, on the geographical distribution of animals, as influenced by geological changes. 
The whole reasoning, of course, is founded on the assumption of the immutability of 
species; otherwise the difference in the species in the two regions might be con- 
sidered as superinduced during a length of time. 

35o PORTILLO PASS chap. 

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 mid-day we descended the valley, 
and reached a hovel, where an officer and three soldiers were 
posted to examine passports. One of these men was a thorough- 
bred Pampas Indian ; he was kept much for the same purpose 
as a bloodhound, to track out any person who might pass by 
secretly, either on foot or horseback. Some years ago a 
passenger 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 

March 2$tk — I was reminded of the Pampas of Buenos 
Ayres, by seeing the disk of the rising sun intersected by an 
horizon level as that of the ocean. During the night a heavy 
dew fell, a circumstance which we did not experience within 
the Cordillera. The road proceeded for some distance due 
east across a low swamp ; then meeting the dry plain, it 
turned to the north towards Mendoza. The distance is two 
very long days' journey. Our first day's journey was called 
fourteen leagues to Estacado, and the second seventeen to 
Luxan, near Mendoza. The whole distance is over a level 
desert plain, with not more than two or three houses. The 
sun was exceedingly powerful, and the ride devoid of all 
interest. There is very little water in this " traversia," and 
in our second day's journey we found only one little pool. 
Little water flows from the 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, we did not cross a single stream. 
In many parts the ground was incrusted with a saline efflor- 
escence ; hence we had the same salt-loving plants which are 
common near Bahia Blanca. The landscape has a uniform 
character from the Strait of Magellan, along the whole eastern 
coast of Patagonia, to the Rio Colorado ; and it appears that 
the same kind of country extends inland from this river, in a 
sweeping line as far as San Luis, and perhaps even farther 
north. To the eastward of this curved line lies the basin of 
the comparatively damp and green plains of Buenos Ayres. 
The 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 thistles, 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 
the 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 with 
the aid of a light breeze, they overtook us at a rate of ten or 
fifteen miles an hour. The main body filled the air from a 
height of twenty feet to that, as it appeared, of two or three 
thousand above the ground ; " 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 through the 
rigging of a ship. The sky, seen through the advanced guard, 
appeared like a mezzotinto engraving, but the main body was 
impervious to sight ; they were not, however, so thick together, 
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 
being green : the swarm having once alighted, the individuals 
flew from side to side in all directions. Locusts are not an 
uncommon 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, by lighting fires, 
by shouts, and by waving branches, to avert the attack. This 

352 MENDOZA chap. 

species of locust closely resembles, and perhaps is identical 
with, the famous Gryllus migratorius of the East. 

We crossed the Luxan, which is a river of considerable size, 
though its course towards the sea -coast is very imperfectly 
known ; it is even doubtful whether, in passing over the plains, 
it is not evaporated and lost. We slept in the village of Luxan, 
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 which 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 2jth. — 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 halfpenny apiece ; and for the value of threepence, half a 
wheelbarrowful of peaches. The cultivated and enclosed part 
of this province is very small ; there is little more than that 
which we passed through between Luxan and the Capital. The 
land, as in Chile, 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 
of the Pampas ; and their dress, riding -gear, and habits of life, 
are nearly the same. To my mind the town had a stupid, forlorn 
aspect. Neither the boasted alameda, nor the scenery, is at 
all comparable 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 
Mendozinos is to eat, sleep, and be idle. 

March 29th. — We set out on our return to Chile by the 
Uspallata pass situated north of Mendoza. We had to cross a 
long and most sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. The soil in 
parts was absolutely bare, in others covered by numberless 
dwarf cacti, armed with formidable spines, and called by the 
inhabitants " little lions." There were also a few low bushes. 
Although the plain is nearly three thousand feet above the 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 was 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. 

^oth. — 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 

2 A 

3$4 t/S PALL ATA PASS chap. 

basin, like those so often mentioned in Chile, but higher, being 
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, 
alternating 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 the Pacific. From 
this resemblance I expected to find silicified wood, which is 
generally characteristic of those formations. I was gratified in 
a very extraordinary manner. In the central part of the range, 
at an elevation 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 -crystallised 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 affinity 
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 
subsequently this dry land, with its upright trees, had been let 
down into the depths of the ocean. In these depths, the 
formerly 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 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 height. 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 compared 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 \st. — We crossed the Uspallata range, and at night 
slept at the custom-house — the only inhabited spot on the 
plain. Shortly before leaving the mountains, there was a 
very extraordinary view ; red, purple, green, and quite white 
sedimentary rocks, alternating with black lavas, were broken up 
and thrown into all kinds of disorder by masses of porphyry of 
every shade 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 

The next day we crossed the plain, and followed the course 
of the same great mountain stream which flows by Luxan. 
Here it was a furious torrent, quite impassable, and appeared 
larger than in the low country, as was the 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. 


The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared with 
that of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond the bare 
walls of the one grand, flat-bottomed valley, which the road 
follows up to the highest crest. The valley and the huge rocky 
mountains 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 back- 
wards, or got off his mule on either side. One of the bad 
passes, called las Animas (the Souls), I had crossed, and did 
not find out till a day afterwards that it was one of the awful 
dangers. No doubt there are many parts in which, if the 
mule should stumble, the rider would be hurled down a great 
precipice ; but of this there is little chance. I daresay, 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 
precipices. 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 drowned, 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 ^lh. — 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, 




cemented together by the deposits of the neighbouring hot 
springs. It appears as if the stream had scooped out a channel 
on one side, leaving an overhanging ledge, which was met by 
earth and stones falling down from the opposite cliff. Certainly 


an oblique junction, as would happen in such a case, was very- 
distinct on one side. The Bridge of the Incas is by no means 
worthy of the great monarchs whose name it bears. 

$t/i. — We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, 
from the Incas Bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which are situated 
near the lowest casucha on the Chilian side. These casuchas 


are round little towers, with steps outside to reach the floor, 
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 purpose of caves, or rather dungeons. Seated 
on some little eminence, they are not, however, ill suited to the 
surrounding scene of desolation. The zigzag ascent of the 
Cumbre, or the partition of the waters, was very steep and 
tedious; 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 wind on the summit 
was exceedingly cold, but it was impossible 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 this 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 

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 stayed 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 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. 

8t/i. — 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 ioth we reached Santiago, where 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 Valparaiso. 



Coast-road to Coquimbo — Great loads carried by the miners — Coquimbo — Earthquake 
— Step-formed terraces — Absence of recent deposits — Contemporaneousness 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 country — Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an 
earthquake — Recent subsidence — Elevated shells on San Lorenzo, their decom- 
position — Plain with embedded shells and fragments of pottery — Antiquity of 
the Indian Race. 


April 27th. — 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 
alternate 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 Vino del Mar, I took a 
farewell view of Valparaiso, and admired its picturesque appear- 
ance. For geological 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 gains are uncertain, 
they are unthrifty in their habits, and consequently poor. 

2%th. — In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the 
foot of the Bell mountain. The inhabitants were freeholders, 
which is not very usual in Chile. They supported themselves 
on the produce of a garden and a little field, but were very 
poor. Capital is 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 contractors live. The next day we 
joined the main road to Coquimbo. At night there was a 
very light shower of rain : this was the first drop that had 
fallen since the heavy rain of September 1 ith 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 
appearance. The surface of the country, on a small scale, was 
singularly broken and irregular ; abrupt little peaks of rock 
rising out of small plains or basins. The indented coast and 
the bottom of the neighbouring sea, studded with breakers, 
would, if converted into dry land, present similar forms ; and 


such a conversion without doubt has taken place in the part 
over which we rode. 

$rd. — 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, which 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 : the annual quantity is likewise small in proportion to 
the lateness of the season at which it commences. 

\th. — 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 fertile : it is bordered on each side, either by 
cliffs of stratified shingle, or by bare rocky mountains. Above 
the straight line of the uppermost irrigating ditch all is brown 
as on a high-road ; while all below is of as bright a green 
as verdigris, from the beds of alfarfa, a kind of clover. We 
proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining district, where the 
principal hill was drilled with holes, like a great ants' nest. 
The Chilian miners are 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 squander it. They 
drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days 
return penniless to their miserable abodes, there to work harder 


than beasts of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, 
is evidently the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily 
food is found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness ; 
moreover, temptation and the means of yielding to it are 
placed in their 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 
intelligent and well-conducted set of men. 

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather 
picturesque. He wears a very long shirt of some dark-coloured 
baize, with a leathern apron ; the whole being fastened round 
his waist by a bright -coloured sash. His trousers are very 
broad, and his small cap of scarlet cloth is made to fit the 
head closely. We met a party of these miners in full costume, 
carrying the body of one of their companions to be buried. 
They marched at a very quick trot, four men supporting the 
corpse. One set having run as hard as they could for about 
two hundred yards, were relieved by four others, who had 
previously dashed on ahead on horseback. Thus they pro- 
ceeded, encouraging each other by wild cries : altogether the 
scene formed a most strange funeral. 

We continued travelling northward in a zigzag line ; 
sometimes stopping a day to geologise. The country was so 
thinly inhabited, and the track so obscure, that we often had 
difficulty in finding our way. On the 12th I stayed at some 
mines. The ore in this case was not considered particularly 
good, but from being abundant it was supposed the mine 
would sell for about thirty or forty thousand dollars (that is, 
6000 or 8000 pounds sterling) ; yet it had been bought by 
one of the English Associations for an ounce of gold (£3 : 8s.) 
The ore is yellow pyrites, which, as I have already remarked, 
before the arrival of the English was not supposed to contain 
a particle of copper. On a scale of profits nearly as great as 
in the above instance, piles of cinders, abounding with minute 
globules of metallic copper, were purchased ; yet with these 
advantages, the mining associations, as is well known, contrived 
to lose immense sums of money. The folly of the greater 
number of the commissioners and shareholders amounted to 
infatuation ; — a thousand pounds per annum given in some 


cases to entertain the Chilian authorities ; 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 be 197 pounds. The apire had carried this up 
eighty perpendicular yards, — part of the way by a steep passage, 
but the greater part up notched poles, placed in a zigzag line 
up the shaft. According to the general regulation, the apire 
is not allowed to halt for breath, except the mine is six hundred 
feet deep. The average load is considered as rather more than 
200 pounds, and I have been assured that one of 300 pounds 
(twenty-two stone and a half) by way of a trial has been 
brought up from the deepest mine ! At this time the apires 
were bringing up the usual load twelve times in the day ; that 
is, 2400 pounds from eighty yards deep; and they were 
employed in the intervals in breaking and picking ore. 

These men, excepting from accidents, are healthy, and appear 
cheerful. Their bodies are not very muscular. They rarely 
eat meat once a week, and never oftener, and then only the hard 
dry charqui. Although with a knowledge that the labour 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 the 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 remembers 
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 
impressed with an idea of the heresy, contamination, and evil to 
be derived from contact with such a person. To this day they 
relate the atrocious actions of the bucaniers ; and especially of 
one man, who took away the figure of the Virgin Mary, and 
returned the year after for that of St. Joseph, saying it was a 
pity the lady should not have a husband. I heard also of an 
old lady who, at a dinner in Coquimbo, remarked how wonder- 
fully 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. 

1 4///. — 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 1 7th 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 alter 
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 Talcahuano, 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. Accord- 


ingly he opened the door ; and no sooner had he done this, 
than he cried out, " Here it comes again !" and the famous shock 
commenced. The whole party escaped. The danger in an 
earthquake is not from the time lost in opening a door, but from 
the chance of its becoming jammed by the movement of the 

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 
earthquakes. 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 the 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 narrow, gently-sloping, fringe-like terraces 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 inhabitants. 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 continent. 

Shells of many existing species not only lie on the surface 
of the terraces at Coquimbo (to a height of 250 feet), but are 
embedded 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 
containing 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 escarpments or ancient sea-cliffs 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 Patagonia 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 intermediate between it 
and the ancient tertiary epoch, have been preserved on either 
side of the continent, yet that at this ancient tertiary epoch, 
sedimentary matter containing fossil remains should have been 
deposited and preserved at different points in north and south 


lines, over a space of 1 1 00 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 the 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 moderately 
shallow bottom, which alone is favourable to most living 
creatures, that a thick and widely extended covering of sedi- 
ment 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 contem- 
poraneous subsidence are generally widely extensive, as I am 
strongly inclined to believe from my examination of the Coral 
Reefs of the great oceans — or if, confining our view to South 
America, the subsiding movements have been coextensive with 
those of elevation, by which, within the same period oi 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 thickness ; 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 

May 2\st. — I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards 
to the silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of 
Coquimbo. Passing through a mountainous country, we 
reached by nightfall the mines belonging to Mr. Edwards. 
I enjoyed my night's rest here from a reason which will not 
be fully appreciated in England, namely, the absence of fleas ! 
The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them ; but they will not 

2 B 


live here at the height of only three or four thousand feet : it 
can scarcely be the 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 person with a copper-mine will gain ; with 
silver, he may gain ; but with gold, he is sure to lose." This 
is not true : all the large Chilian fortunes have been made by 
mines of the more precious metals. A short time since an 
English physician returned to England from Copiapo, taking 
with him the profits of one share in a silver -mine, which 
amounted to about 24,000 pounds sterling. No doubt a 
copper -mine with care is a sure game, whereas the other is 
gambling, or rather taking a ticket in a lottery. The owners 
lose great quantities of rich ores ; for no precautions can prevent 
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 fragments 
away at the same moment, and then cried out for a joke, " Let 
us see which rolls farthest." The owner, who was standing by, 
bet a cigar with his friend on the race. The miner by this 
means watched the very point amongst the rubbish where the 
stone lay. In the evening he picked it up and carried it to 
his master, showing him a rich mass of silver-ore, and saying, 
" This was the stone on which you won a cigar by its rolling 
so far." 

May 23rd. — We descended into the fertile valley of 
Coquimbo, and followed it till we reached an Hacienda 
belonging to a relation of Don Jose, where we stayed the 
next day. I then rode one day's journey farther, 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 grand. We were here 
near the main Cordillera, and the surrounding hills were lofty. 
In all parts of Northern Chile fruit-trees produce much more 
abundantly at a considerable height near the Andes than in 
the lower country. The figs and grapes 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 Coquimbo, 25,000 
inhabitants. 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 
othen Our first day's ride was to a solitary house, called Yerba 
Buena, where there was pasture for our horses. The shower 
mentioned as having fallen a fortnight ago, only reached about 
half-way 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. 

June 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. I 
saw traces only of one living animal in abundance, namely, the 
shells of a Bulimus, which were collected together in extraor- 
dinary numbers on the driest spots. In the spring one humble 
little plant sends out a few leaves, and on these the snails feed. 
As they are seen only very early in the morning, when the 
ground is slightly damp 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 horses. 

dfth. — Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert 
plains, tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also 
the valley of Chaneral ; which, although the most fertile one 
between Guasco and Coquimbo, is very narrow, and produces so 
little pasture that we could not purchase any for our horses. 
At Sauce we found a very civil old gentleman, superintending 


a copper-smelting furnace. As an especial favour, he allowed me 
to purchase at a high price an armful of dirty straw, which was 
all the poor horses had for supper after their long day's journey. 
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 farther northward, the vegetation became 
m6re and more scanty ; even the great chandelier-like cactus 
was here replaced by a different and much smaller species. 
During the winter months, both in Northern Chile 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 

We stayed two days at Freyrina. In the valley of Guasco 
there are four small towns. At the mouth there is a 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 farther up Ballenar is situated ; and above this Guasco 
Alto, a horticultural village, famous for its dried fruit. On a 
clear day the view up the valley is very fine ; the straight 
opening 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 appearance of the sky they had hopes of equally good 
fortune, which, a fortnight afterwards, were realised. I was at 
Copiapo at the time ; and there the people, with equal envy, 
talked of the abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very 
dry years, perhaps with not more than one shower during the 


whole time, a rainy year generally follows ; and this does more 
harm than even the drought. The rivers swell, and cover with 
gravel and sand the narrow strips of ground which alone are 
fit for cultivation. The floods also injure the irrigating ditches. 
Great devastation had thus been caused three years ago. 

June $t/i. — We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name 
from Ballenagh in Ireland, the birthplace of the family ol 
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. 

June nth. — We rode without stopping for twelve hours, 
till we reached an old smelting-furnace, where there was water 
and firewood ; but our horses again had nothing to eat, being 
shut up in an old courtyard. The line of road was hilly, and 
the distant views interesting from the varied colours of the 
bare mountains. It was almost a pity to see the sun shining 
constantly over so useless a country ; such splendid weather 
ought to have 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, the animals were quite fresh ; and no one could have 
told that they had eaten nothing for the last .fifty-five hours. 

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Bingley, who received 
me very kindly at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. This estate 
is between twenty and thirty miles long, but 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 
cannot be irrigated, and therefore is valueless, like the surrounding 
rocky desert. The small quantity of cultivated land in the 
whole line of valley does not 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 ensuing 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 three 
times nearly all the inhabitants have been obliged to emigrate 
to the south. This year there was plenty of water, and every 
man irrigated his ground as much as he chose ; but it has 
frequently been necessary to post soldiers at the sluices, to see 
that each estate took only its proper allowance during so many 
hours in the week. The valley is said to contain 1 2,000 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 overthrown 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 that it is of 
considerable length to its source in the Cordillera. The valleys 
of Guasco and Copiapo may both be considered as long narrow- 
islands, separated from the rest of Chile by deserts of rock 
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 received 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 foretell a storm of snow or 
rain, and whilst lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an 

The connexion between 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 Peru, to deny that there exists some connexion between 
these phenomena ; 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 earth- 
quake. In Northern Chile, from the extreme infrequency of 
rain, or even of weather foreboding rain, the probability of 
accidental coincidences becomes very small ; yet the inhabitants 
are here most firmly convinced of some connexion betw r een 
the state of the 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 

1 Vol. iv. p. 11, and vol. ii. p. 217. For the remarks on Guayaquil see 
Sillknan's Joum. 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 earthquakes ; and between 
earthquakes and meteors. 


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 earthquakes, 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 somewhat 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 ordinary 
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. Humboldt 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 prob- 
ability in the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that when 
the barometer 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, after an earthquake unaccompanied 
by an eruption ; such cases seem to bespeak some more 
intimate connexion between the atmospheric and subterranean 

Finding little ot interest in this part of the ravine, we 
retraced our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed 
two days collecting fossil shells and wood. Great prostrate 
silicified trunks of trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were 


extraordinarily numerous. I measured one which was fifteen 
feet in circumference : how surprising it is that every atom of 
the woody matter in this great cylinder should have been 
removed, and replaced by silex so perfectly that each vessel 
and pore is preserved ! 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 which I collected, almost in the same terms 
as were used a century 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 Chilenos : it was long before they could 
be convinced that I was not hunting for mines. This was 
sometimes troublesome : I found the most ready way of 
explaining my employment was to ask them how it was that 
they themselves were not curious concerning earthquakes and 
volcanoes ? — why some springs were hot and others cold ? — 
why there were mountains in Chile, and not a hill in La Plata? 
These bare questions at once satisfied and silenced the greater 
number ; some, however (like a few in England who are a 
century behindhand), thought that all such inquiries were use- 
less 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 visitation than others. Dr. Unanue states that 
hydrophobia was first known in South America in 1803 : this 
statement is corroborated by Azara and Ulloa having never 
heard of it in their time. Dr. Unanue says that it broke out 
in Central America, and slowly travelled southward. It 
reached Arequipa in 1807; and it is said that some men 
there, who had not been bitten, were affected, as were some 
negroes who had eaten a bullock which had died of hydro- 
phobia. At lea forty -two people thus miserably 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 
Burchell 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 to 
Mauritius and St. Helena. 1 In so strange a disease some 
information might possibly be gained by considering the 
circumstances under which it originates in distant climates ; 
for it is improbable that a dog already bitten should have 
been brought to these distant countries. 

At night a stranger arrived at the house of Don Benito, 
and asked permission to sleep there. He said he had been 
wandering 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 that he was 
obliged to keep bordering the central ranges. 

We returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached 
the town of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad, 
forming a fine plain like that of Quillota. The town covers a 
considerable space of ground, each house possessing a garden : 
but it is an uncomfortable place, and the dwellings are poorly 
furnished. Every one seems bent on the one object of making 
money, and then migrating as quickly as possible. All the 
inhabitants are more or less directly concerned with mines ; 
and mines and ores are the sole subjects of conversation. 
Necessaries of all sorts are extremely dear ; as the distance 
from the town to the port is eighteen leagues, and the land 

1 Observa. sobre el clima de Lima, p. 6j. — Azara's Travels, vol. i. p. 381. — 
Ulloa's Voyage, vol. ii. p. 28. — Burchell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 524. — Webster's 
Description of the Azores, p. 124. — Voyage a flsle de France par tin Ojficier du Roi, 
tome i. p. 248. — Description of St. Helena, p. 123. 


carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or six shillings ; 
meat is nearly as dear as in England ; firewood, or rather 
sticks, are brought on donkeys from a distance of two and 
three days' journey within the Cordillera ; and pasturage for 
animals is a shilling a day : all this for South America is 
wonderfully exorbitant 

June 26th. — I hired a guide and eight mules to take me 
into the Cordillera by a different line from my last 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 
uninhabited, branches off from that one by which we had 
arrived. Although a valley of the grandest dimensions, and 
leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is completely 
dry, excepting perhaps for a few days during some very rainy 
winter. The sides of the crumbling mountains were furrowed 
by scarcely any ravines ; and the bottom of the main valley, 
filled with shingle, was smooth and nearly level. No consider- 
able torrent could ever have flowed down this bed of shingle ; 
for if it had, a great cliff-bounded channel, as in all the southern 
valleys, would assuredly have been formed. I feel little doubt 
that 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 observed 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 and dale ; and here we have the original 
model in rock, formed as the continent rose during the secular 
retirement of the ocean, instead of during the ebbing and 
flowing of the tides. If a shower of 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 deserving the name of desert in the 
strictest sense. Yet about half-way 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 perfect, must have been capable of containing a consider- 
able number of persons. Tradition says that they were used 
as halting-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 Chile, within the Cordillera, old 
Indian houses are said to be especially numerous : by digging 
amongst the ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of 
precious metals, and heads of Indian corn, are not unfrequently 
discovered : an arrow-head made of agate, and of precisely 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 {inuchisimas) buildings at 
heights so great as almost to border on the perpetual snow, and 
in parts where there exist no passes, and where the land 
produces absolutely nothing, and what is still more extraordinary, 
where there is no water. Nevertheless it is the opinion of the 
people of the country (although they are much puzzled by the 
circumstance), that, from the appearance of the houses, the 
Indians must have used them as places of residence. In 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 
inhabitants 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 the flat 
broad valley. There was no water nearer than three or four 
leagues, and that only in very small quantity ; and bad : the soil 
was absolutely sterile ; I looked in vain even for a lichen 
adhering to the rocks. At the present day, with the advantage 
of beasts of burden, a mine, unless it were very rich, could 
scarcely be worked here with profit. Yet the Indians formerly 
chose it as a place of residence ! If at the present time two or 
three showers of rain were to fall annually, instead of one, 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 rendered sufficiently 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 farther inland the rise possibly 


may have been greater. As the peculiarly arid character of the 
climate is evidently a consequence of the height of the 
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 must 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 has 
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 atmospheric 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 

When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects 1 with Mr. 
Gill, a civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior country. 
He told me that a conjecture of a change of climate had 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- 
conduits, 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 irrigating streams in tunnels 
through 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 not most wonderful that men should 

1 Temple, in his travels through Upper Peru, or Bolivia, in going from Potosi to 
Oruro, says, " I saw many Indian villages or dwellings in rums, up even to the very 
tops of the mountains, attesting a former population where now all is desolate." 
lie makes similar remarks in another place ; but I cannot tell whether this desolation 
has been caused by a want of population, or by an altered condition of the land. 


have attempted such operations, 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 far 
distant from Lima), he found a plain covered with ruins and 
marks of ancient cultivation, but now quite barren. Near it 
was the dry course of a considerable river, whence the water 
for irrigation had formerly been conducted. There was nothing 
in the appearance of the watercourse to indicate that the 
river had not flowed there a few years previously ; in some 
parts beds of sand and gravel were 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 inclination ; Mr. Gill, 
therefore, was much astonished, when walking up the bed of this 
ancient river, to find himself suddenly going down hill. He 
imagined that the downward slope had a fall of about 40 or 50 
feet perpendicular. We here have unequivocal 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 fertilising stream and become a desert. 

June 2jtJi. — 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 firewood, a smelting-furnace had 
formerly 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 warm. 

28///. — 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 Vicuna : 
this latter animal is pre-eminently alpine in its habits ; it seldom 
descends much below the limit of perpetual snow, and therefore 
haunts even a more lofty and sterile situation than the guanaco. 


The only other animal which we saw in any number was a small 
fox : I suppose this animal preys on the mice and other small 
rodents which, as long as there is the least vegetation, subsist 
in considerable numbers in very desert places. In Patagonia, 
even on the borders of the salinas, where a drop of fresh water can 
never be found, 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 
uninteresting. 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 these 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 farther 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 
thermometer would not have stood very many degrees below the 
freezing-point, but the effect on their bodies, ill protected by 
clothing, must have been in proportion to the rapidity of the 
current of cold air. The gale lasted for more than a day ; the 

xvi EL BRAMADOR 385 

men began to lose their strength, and the 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 thirty 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 2gtk. — We gladly travelled down the valley to our 
former night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua amarga. 
On July 1st we reached the valley of Copiapo. The smell of 
the fresh clover was quite delightful, after the scentless air of 
the dry sterile Despoblado. Whilst staying in the town I 
heard an account from several of the inhabitants, of a hill in 
the neighbourhood 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 sand, 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, 1 as the cause of the sounds which have been 
heard by many travellers on Mount Sinai near the Red Sea. 
One person with whom I conversed had himself heard the 
noise ; he described it as very surprising ; 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 

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagles arrival at the 
Port, distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is very 
little land cultivated down the valley ; its wide expanse supports 
a wretched wiry grass, which even the donkeys can hardly eat. 

1 Edinburgh Phil. Joum. Jan. 1830, p. 74 ; and April 1 830, p. 258. Also 
Daubeny on Volcanoes, p. 438 ; and Bengal Joum. vol. vii. p. 324. 

2 C 

386 PERU CHAi*. 

This poorness of the vegetation is owing to the quantity of 
saline matter with which the 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 enough to reach the sea, the inhabitants enjoy the 
advantage of having fresh water within a mile and a half. 
On the beach there were large 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 Iquique. 

July 12th. — We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat. 
20° 12', on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a 
thousand 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 
necessary comes from a distance : water is brought in boats 
from Pisagua, about forty miles northward, and is sold at the 
rate of nine reals (4s. 6d.) an eighteen-gallon cask : I bought a 
wine-bottleful 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 difficulty, 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 principally used as a manure and in the 
manufacture of nitric acid : owing to its deliquescent property 


it will not serve for gunpowder. Formerly there were two 
exceedingly rich silver-mines in this neighbourhood, 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, thinking 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 declaring 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. 

1 $tk — In the morning I started for the saltpetre works, a 
distance 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 country, 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 Vultur 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, which lies on the surface quite unattached. This plant 
belongs to the genus Cladonia, and somewhat resembles the 

388 PERU chap. 

reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in sufficient quantity to 
tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish 
colour. Farther 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 Copiapo. The appearance of the country was remarkable, 
from being covered by a thick crust of common salt, and of a 
stratified saliferous 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 

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the 
saltpetre 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 
thirty-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, employed in carrying the saltpetre, are fed. 
The nitrate of soda was now selling at the ship's side at four- 
teen 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 follows 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 stratum. 
The surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific. 

igth. — We 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 country. During our whole visit the climate was far from 
being so delightful as it is generally represented. A dull 
heavy bank of clouds constantly hung over the land, so that 
during the first sixteen 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. This 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 difficult 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 was 
similarly circumstanced, and its healthiness was much improved 

39o PERU 

by the drainage of some little pools. Miasma is not always 
produced by a luxuriant vegetation with an ardent 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 climate, as in 
Chiloe, do not seem in the slightest degree to affect the healthy 
condition of the atmosphere. 

The island of St. J ago, 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 become 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." x On the coast of Peru, however, the 
temperature is not hot to any excessive degree ; and perhaps 
in consequence the intermittent fevers are not of the most 
malignant order. In all unhealthy countries the greatest risk 
is run by sleeping on shore. Is this owing to the state of the 
body during sleep, or to a greater abundance of miasma at 
such times ? It appears 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 hundred 
miles off the coast of Africa, and at the very same time that 
one of those fearful periods 2 of death commenced at Sierra 

No State in South America, since the declaration of 

1 Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, vol. iv. p. 199. 

2 A similar interesting case is recorded in the Madras Medical Quart. Jonrn. 
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 unhealthy. 

xvi CALLAO—LIMA 391 

independence, has suffered more from anarch}- than Peru. At 
the time of our visit there were four chiefs in arms contending 
for supremacy in the government : if one succeeded in becoming 
for a time very powerful, the others coalesced against him ; 
but no sooner were they victorious than they were again 
hostile to each other. The other day, at the Anniversary of 
the Independence, high mass was performed, the President 
partaking of the sacrament : during the Te Denm laudamus, 
instead of each regiment displaying the Peruvian flag, a black 
one with death's head was unfurled. Imagine a government 
under which such a scene could be ordered, on such an 
occasion, to be typical of their determination of fighting to 
death ! This state of affairs happened at a time very unfortu- 
nately for me, as I was precluded from taking any excursions 
much beyond the limits of the town. The 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), comes within the lower limit of the clouds ; 
and in consequence, an abundant cryptogamic vegetation, and 
a few flowers, cover the summit. On the hills near Lima, 
at a height 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 
Guayaquil, 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 Guayaquil 
Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants, 
both here and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of 
mixture between European, Negro, and Indian blood. They 
appear a depraved, drunken set of people. The atmosphere 
is loaded with foul smells, and that 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 

392 PERU chap 

officer to whom he could trust so important a charge. He 
himself had good reasons for thinking 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 conquered, taken prisoner, and 

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 difficult to believe one has ascended even one 
hundred feet : Humboldt has remarked 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 earthquakes, 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 
immediate 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 civilisation. The burial 


mounds, called Huacas, are really stupendous ; although in 
some places they appear to be natural hills encased and 

There is also another and 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 foundations of the 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 undergone some change since the 
foundation of the old town ; as no people in their senses would 
willingly 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 conclusion, 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 
fronting 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), together 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 terrace, 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 

394 PERU chap. 

exactly similar appearance, and lying in the same relative 
position. I have no doubt that this upper layer originally 
existed as a bed of shells, like that on the eighty -five -feet 
ledge ; but it does not now contain even a 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- 
decomposed shells in the lower parts are associated with much 
common salt, together with some of the saline substances com- 
posing the upper saline layer, and as these shells are corroded 
and decayed 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 
means the carbonate 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 highly 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 decomposition and early decay. 

I was much interested by finding on the terrace, at the 
height of eighty-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 depth of from three to six feet, of a reddish loam, contain- 
ing a few scattered sea-shells and numerous 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 period when the land stood 
at a lower level there was a plain very similar to that now 
surrounding Callao, which, being protected by a shingle 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 171 3 and 1746. The water would then have 
deposited mud, containing fragments of pottery from the kilns, 
more abundant 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 the 
Indo-human 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 Valparaiso, although 
in the 220 years before our visit the elevation cannot have 
exceeded nineteen feet, yet subsequently to 1 8 1 7 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 remark- 
able, 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 these 
extinct 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 whole coast of Patagonia there have certainly 
been many and long pauses in the upward action of the 
elevatory forces. 






The whole group volcanic — Number of craters — Leafless Lushes — Colony at Charles 
Island — James Island — Salt-lake in crater — Natural history of the group — 
( )rnithology, curious finches — Reptiles — Great tortoises, habits of — Marine 
lizard, feeds on seaweed — Terrestrial lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous — 
Importance of reptiles in the Archipelago — Fish, shells, insects — Botany — 
American type of organisation — Differences in the species or races on different 
islands — Tameness of the birds — Fear of man an acquired instinct. 

September i^iJi. — 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 formed 
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 height 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, 
sandstone -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 

Culpepper I. 

Wenman I. 

60 Mies 

Narborough T. 

Albemarle I 

Abingdon I. 

Tower 2. 

Indefatigable I. 

9 «£j Chatham I. 

Harrington I. 

Charles I. 


Hiod's I. 

one of the 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 


surrounding 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. Nothing 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 everywhere 
covered by stunted, sunburnt brushwood, which shows little 
signs of life. The dry and parched surface, being heated by 
the noonday sun, gave to the air a. close and sultry feeling, 
like that from 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 leafless as our trees during winter ; and it 
was some time before 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 
numerous : from one small eminence I counted sixty of them, 
all surmounted by craters more or less perfect. The greater 
number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae or slags 
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 permeated, 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 appearance, 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 was 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 me than they did for the great tortoises. 

2$rd. — The Beagle proceeded to Charles Island. This 
archipelago has long been frequented, first by the Bucaniers, 
and latterly by whalers, 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 height probably of a thousand 
feet. In the first 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 bananas. 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 
reduced in this island, but the people yet count on two days' 
hunting giving them food for the rest of the week. It is said 
that formerly single vessels have taken away as many as seven 
hundred, and that the ship's company of a frigate some years 
since brought down in one day two hundred tortoises to the 

September 2gth. — We doubled the south-west extremity of 
Albemarle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed 
between it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with 
immense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed either 
over 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 overpoweringly 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, 
between 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. The whole 
of this northern part of Albemarle Island is miserably sterile. 

October Zth. — 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 went for water. We found here a party of Spaniards, 
who had been sent from Charles Island to dry fish 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 on the coast. I paid this party two visits, 
and slept there 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 inches 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. While 
staying in this 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 salina, 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 only 
three or four inches deep, and rests on a layer of beautifully 
crystallised 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 


became 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 8 5 °. The sand was extremely hot ; 
the thermometer placed in some of a brown colour immediately 
rose to 1 37°, 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 is eminently curious, 
and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions 
are aboriginal creations found nowhere else ; there is even a 
difference between the inhabitants of the different islands ; yet 
all show a marked relationship with those of America, though 
separated 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 productions. 
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 
considered 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 characteristic 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 
in the roof of a newly-built hovel, and therefore its transportation 
in a vessel is not improbable : analogous facts have been 
observed by Dr. Richardson in North 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 
frequents 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-flycatchers (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 considered by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. 
Fifthly, there are three species of mocking -thrush — a form 
highly characteristic of America. The remaining land-birds 
form a most singular group ol 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. The 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 different species of Geospiza, from one as large as 
that of a hawfinch to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr. Gould is 
right in including his sub-group, Certhidea, 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 

1. Geospiza magnirostris. 
3. Geospiza parvula. 

2. Geospiza fortis. 
4. Certhidea olivacea. 


Cactornis is somewhat like that of a starling ; and that of the 
fourth 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 modified 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 summits of the islands) are new species. Considering 


the wandering habits of the gulls, I was surprised to find that 
the species inhabiting 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 archipelago. 

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-flycatchers (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 coloured than their analogous species ; 
and in the case of the mocking-thrush and Totanus, than any 
other species of the two genera. With the exception of a 
wren with a fine yellow breast, and of a tyrant-flycatcher with 
a scarlet tuft and breast, none of the birds are brilliantly 
coloured, as might have been expected in an equatorial 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. 1 The birds, plants, 

1 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. The 
eminent ornithologist, Mr. Sclater, informs me that this is the case with the Strix 
punctatissima and Pyrocephalus nanus ; and probably with the Otus galapagoensis 
and Zenakla galapagoensis : so that the number of endemic birds is reduced to 

xvn REPTILES 407 

and insects have a desert character, and are not more brilliantly 
coloured than those from southern Patagonia ; we may, there- 
fore, conclude that the usual gaudy colouring of the intertropical 
productions is not related either to the heat or light of those 
zones, but to some other cause, perhaps to the conditions of 
existence 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 Psammophis Temminckii from Chile. 1 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, 2 namely, that none of this 
family are found on any of the volcanic islands in the great 
oceans. As far as I can ascertain 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 Rana Mascariensis in 
abundance : this 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 Roi asserts that 
before 1768 it had been attempted, without success, 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. 

1 This is stated by Dr. Giinther (Zoolog. Soc. Jan. 24th, 1859) to be a peculiar 
species, not known to inhabit any other country. 

2 Voyage aux Quatre lies cVAfriquc. With respect to the Sandwich Islands, see 
Tyerman and Bennett's Journal, vol. i. p. 434. For Mauritius, see Voyage par tin 
Officier, etc., Part i. p. 170. There are no frogs in the Canary Islands (Webb t! 
Iterthelot, Hist. A r at. des lies Canaries). I saw none at St. J ago in the Cape de 
Verds. There are none at St. Helena. 


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 the greater 
facility with which the eggs of lizards, protected by calcareous 
shells, might be transported 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 numbers which have been caught in a single day, how 
very numerous they must be. Some grow to an immense size : 
Mr. Lawson, an 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 higher and damp regions eat the leaves of 
various trees, a kind of berry (called guayavita) which is acid 
and austere, and likewise 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, 
and wallowing in the mud. The 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 paths 
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 imagine 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 outstretched 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 mouthfuls, 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, which is said gradually to decrease in volume, and to 
become less pure. The inhabitants, 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 1 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 
observing marked individuals, consider that they travel a 
distance 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 accidents, 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 the 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 balance. 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, the 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 which has been so little 
frequented. 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 
Mauritius, associated with those of the extinct Dodo, have 
generally 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 arc two species, resembling 
each other in general form, one being terrestrial and the other 
aquatic. This latter species (A. cristatus) was first character- 
ised by Mr. Bell, who well foresaw, from its short, broad 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 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 large one weighed twenty pounds : 
on the island of Albemarle they seem to grow to a greater size 
than elsewhere. Their tails are flattened sideways, and all 
four feet partially webbed. They are occasionally seen some 
hundred yards from the shore, swimming 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 case and quickness, by a serpentine movement of 


its body and flattened tail — the legs being motionless 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 
distended with minced seaweed (Ulvae), which grows in thin 
foliaceous expansions of a bright green or a dull red colour. 
I do not recollect having observed this seaweed 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 seaweed. 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 having 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 the water. Hence it is easy to drive these 
lizards down to any little point overhanging the sea, where 
they will sooner allow a person to catch hold of their tails 
than jump into the water. They do not seem to have any 
notion of biting ; but when much frightened they 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 rapid 
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 
seaweed, 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 
possessed 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 instinct that the shore is its place of safety, whatever 
the emergency 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 inhabitants 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 common 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 central part of the archipelago, namely, to Albemarle, 
James, Barrington, and Indefatigable Islands. To the south- 
ward, 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 archipelago, and thence had been dispersed 
only to a certain distance. Some of these lizards inhabit the 
high and damp parts of the islands, but they are much more 
numerous in the lower and sterile 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 the sea- 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 movements 
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 alternately. 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 their 
burrows ; 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 watch- 
ing any one, they curl their tails, and, raising themselves on 
their front legs, nod their heads vertically, with a quick move- 
ment, 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 off 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 drawn. 

The individuals, and they are the greater number, which 
inhabit 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 animals 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 
vegetable fibres and leaves of different trees, especially of an 
acacia. In the upper region they live chiefly on the acid and 
astringent berries of the guayavita, 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 stomachs 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. 

These two species of Amblyrhynchus 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 form of the mouth may 
almost be compared to that of the tortoise ; one is led to sup- 
pose that this is an adaptation to their herbivorous appetites. 
It is very interesting thus to find a well-characterised genus, 


having its marine and terrestrial species, belonging to so con- 
fined a portion of the world. The aquatic species is by far 
the most remarkable, because it is the only existing lizard which 
lives on marine vegetable 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 world where this 
Order replaces the herbivorous mammalia in so extraordinary 
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, instead of possessing a humid climate and rank 
vegetation, cannot be considered otherwise than extremely arid, 
and, for an equatorial 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 genera, 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 fresh-water shell (Paludina) is common to Tahiti and 
Van Diemen's Land. Mr. Cuming, before our voyage, procured 
here ninety species of sea -shells, and this does not include 
several species not yet specifically examined, of Trochus, Turbo, 
Monodonta, and Nassa. 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, 
considering 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 distinguishable 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 

xvn Distribution of the shells 417 

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 conchological provinces have each sent several 
colonists. The American province has also sent here representa- 
tive 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 Galapageian 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 com- 
parison by Messrs. Cuming and Hinds of about 2000 shells 
from the eastern and western coasts of America, only one single 
shell was found in common, 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, quite distinct, 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, 
excepting some minute Diptera and Hymenoptera, mostly of 
common mundane forms. As before remarked, the insects, for 
a tropical region, are of very small size and dull colours. Of 
beetles I collected twenty-five species (excluding a Dermestes 
and Corynetes imported wherever a ship touches) ; of these, two 
belong to the Harpalidae, two to the Hydrophilidae, nine to three 
families of the Heteromera, and the remaining twelve to as many 
different families. 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 1 

1 Ann. and Mag. of Nat. Hist. vol. xvi. p. 19. 
2 E 


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 acount of the Flora ; and I am much indebted to him for 
the following details. Of flowering plants there are, as far as 
at present is known, 185 species, and 40 cryptogamic species, 
making 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 so 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 excluding 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 peculiarity of the Galapageian 
Flora is best shown in certain families ; — thus there are 2 1 
species of Composite, 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 archipelago ! 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 America. 


If this character were owing merely to immigrants from 
America, 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 Northern Chile, vividly 
brought before my eyes. Why, on these small points of land, 
which within a late geological 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 peculiar 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 
organisation ? 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 physically 
resemble the coast of America ; yet the aboriginal inhabitants 
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 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 partially mingled together the collections 
from two of the islands. I never dreamed that islands, about 
fifty or sixty miles apart, and most 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 that 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 remarkable 
fact in the distribution of organic beings. 

The inhabitants, as I have said, state that they can 
distinguish the tortoises from the different islands ; and that 
they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain 
Porter has described 1 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 considers 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 
representative species or races of the Amblyrhynchus, as well 
as of the tortoise. My attention was first thoroughly aroused 
by comparing 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 belonged to one species (Mimus trifasciatus) ; 
all from Albemarle Island to M. 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. Un- 
fortunately 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 different islands have their repre- 
sentatives of Geospiza, it may help to explain the singularly 

1 Voyage in the U.S. ship Essex, vol. i. p. 215. 



large number of the species of this sub-group in this one small 
archipelago, and as a probable consequence of their numbers, 
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 
specimens of these two sub-groups shot by four collectors at 
James Island, all were found to belong to one species of each ; 
whereas 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 
collections 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 : the 
Leguminosae, moreover, have as yet been only approximately 
worked out : — 




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 
aboriginal 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 arborescent genus of the Compositae, is confined to 
the archipelago : it has six species ; one from Chatham, one 
from Albemarle, 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 which have the 
same species on two islands, with the exception of one Borreria, 
which does occur on two islands. The species of the Compositae 
are particularly local ; and Dr. Hooker has furnished me with 
several other most striking illustrations of the difference of the 
species on the different islands. He remarks that this law of 
distribution holds good both with those genera confined to the 
archipelago, and those distributed 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 American genus of the mocking- 
thrush, as well as of two of the Galapageian sub-groups of 
finches, and almost certainly of the Galapageian genus 

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would 
not be nearly so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had 
a mocking -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 different 


genera, as does to a certain 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 
circumstance, 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 tortoise 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 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 
difference in the inhabitants of the 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 consideration than any 
other, with respect to the geographical distribution of their 
inhabitants. Reviewing the facts here given, one is astonished 
at the amount of creative force, if such an expression 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 the Galapagos Archipelago 
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 birds. 

This disposition is common to all the terrestrial species ; 
namely, to the mocking -thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant- 
flycatchers, 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 -thrush 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 company 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 
colonised 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 he 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 
Polyborus, 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 is not the cause of their tameness here. The up- 
land geese at 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 tameness of the birds, especially of the waterfowl, 
is strongly contrasted with the habits of the same species in 
Tierra del Fuego, where for ages past they have been persecuted 
by the wild inhabitants. 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 have been much tamer than at present ; he states that the 
Opetiorhynchus 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. They 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 colonised 
during the entire period. Even formerly, when all the birds 
were so tame, it was impossible 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 
Bourbon 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'Acunha in the Atlantic, Carmichael 1 states that 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 with regard to man is a particular instinct 
directed against /izm, and not dependent on any general degree 
of caution arising from other sources of danger ; secondly, that 
it is not acquired by individual birds, in a short time, even when 
much persecuted ; but that in the course of successive genera- 
tions 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 -accounting 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 individuals, on the 
other hand, both at the Galapagos and at the Falklands, have 

1 Linn. Trans, vol. xii. p. 496. The most anomalous fact on this subject 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-quarters in the United States are tame. 
There is much, as Dr. Richardson well remarks, 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 
frequently rear its young in shrubberies close to houses ! 




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 
have become adapted to the stranger's craft or power. 

c dAkvyiws 






Pass through the Low Archipelago — Tahiti — Aspect — Vegetation on the mountains 
— View of Eimeo — 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 

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 the coast of South America. We 
then enjoyed 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 

chap, xviii ARRIVE AT TAHITI 429 

thermometer in the poop cabin, by night and day, ranged 
between 8o° and 83 , which feels very pleasant; but with one 
degree or two higher, the heat becomes oppressive. We passed 
through the Low or Dangerous Archipelago, and 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, looking 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 invaders are not over- 
whelmed by the all-powerful and never-tiring waves of that 
great sea, miscalled the Pacific. 

November i$th. — 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 produced 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 returned there in the 

The land capable of cultivation is scarcely in any part more 
than a fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round the baes 
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 

43o TAHITI chap. 

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 together ; and here we also 
have the bread-fruit, conspicuous from its large, glossy, and 
deeply digitated leaf. It is admirable to behold groves of a 
tree, sending forth its branches with the vigour 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 know- 
ledge of their high productiveness no doubt enters largely into 
the feeling of admiration. The little winding paths, cool from 
the surrounding shade, led to the scattered houses ; the owners 
of which everywhere gave us a cheerful and most hospitable 

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 civilisation. The 
common people, when working, keep the upper part of their 
bodies quite naked ; and it is then that the Tahitians are seen 
to advantage. 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 a Tahitian 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 

Many of the elder people had their feet covered with small 
figures, so placed as to resemble a sock. This fashion, however, 
s partly gone by, and has been succeeded by others. Here, 
ilthough 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 disappointed 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 hole in each ear, is pretty. A 
crown of woven cocoa-nut leaves is also worn as a shade for the 
eyes. The women appear to be in greater want of some 
becoming costume even than the men. 

" Nearly all the natives understand a little English — that is, 
they know the names of common things ; and by the aid of 
this, together with signs, a lame sort of conversation could be 
carried on. In returning in the evening to the boat, we 
stopped to witness 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 their party. The songs were impromptu, 
and I believe related to 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. 

1 yth. — This day is reckoned in the Log-book as Tuesday 
the 17th, instead of Monday the 16th, owing to our, so far, 
successful 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 

432 TAHITI chap. 

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 under- 
stand 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 dollars (about £160 sterling) 
for a small vessel ; and frequently they purchase whale-boats 
and horses at the rate of from 5 o 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 mountains are smooth and conical, but steep ; and 
the old 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, the 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