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HERODOTUS. Literally Translated from the 
Text of BAEHK, by HENRY CAKY, M.A. 
3 s. 6d. 

IN H.M.S. " BEAGLE." 25. 

RELIUS. Translated from the Greek by 

lated from the Greek, with Introduction and 
Notes, by T. W. ROLLESTO.N. is. 6d. 

BACON'S ESSAYS. With an Introduction by 
HE.NKY MORLEY, LL.D. is. 6d. 





F.R.S., D.C.L., LL.D., 

IN the year 1886 I gave an address on " Books and Reading" 
at the Working Men's College, which in the following year was 
printed as one of the chapters in my " Pleasures of Life." 

In it I mentioned about one hundred names, and the list has 
been frequently referred to since as my list of " the hundred best 
books." That, however, is not quite a correct statement. If I 
were really to make a list of what are in my judgment the hundred 
greatest books, it would contain several Newton's " Principia," 
for instance which I did not include, and it would exclude several 
the " Koran," for instance which I inserted in deference to the 
judgment of others. Again, I excluded living authors, from some 
of whom Ruskin and Tennyson, Huxley and Tyndall, for in- 
stance, to mention no others I have myself derived the keenest 
enjoyment ; and especially I expressly stated that I did not select 
the books on my own authority, but as being those most frequently 
mentioned with approval by those writers who have referred 
directly or indirectly to the pleasure of reading, rather than as 
suggestions of my own. 

I have no doubt that on reading the list, many names of 
books which might well be added would occur to almost any one. 
Indeed, various criticisms on the list have appeared, and many 
books have been mentioned which it is said ought to have been 
included. On the other hand no corresponding omissions have 
been suggested. I have referred to several of the criticisms, and 
find that, while 300 or 400 names have been proposed for addition, 
only half a dozen are suggested for omission. Moreover, it is 
remarkable that not a single book appears in all the lists, or even 
in half of them, and only about half a dozen in more than one. 

But while, perhaps, no two persons would entirely concur as to 
all the books to be included in such a list, I believe no one would 
deny that those suggested are not only good, but among the best. 

I am, however, ready, and indeed glad, to consider any sugges- 
tions, and very willing to make any changes which can be shown 
to be improvements. I have indeed made two changes in the list 
as it originally appeared, having inserted Kalidasa's " Sakoontala, 


or The Ring," and Schiller's "William Tell"; omitting Lacretius, 
which is perhaps rather too difficult, and Miss Austen, as English 
novelists were somewhat over-represented. 

Another objection made has been that the books mentioned are 
known to every one, at any rate by name ; that they are as household 
words. Every one, it has been said, knows about Herodotus and 
Homer, Shakespeare and Milton. There is, no doubt, some truth 
in this. But even Lord Iddesleigh, as Mr. Lang has pointed out 
in his " Life," had never read Marcus Aurelius, and I may add 
that he afterwards thanked me warmly for having suggested the 
"Meditations" to him.* If, then, even Lord Iddesleigh, " prob- 
ably one of the last of English statesmen who knew the literature 
of Greece and Rome widely and well," had not read Marcus 
Aurelius, we may well suppose that others also may be in the same 
position. It is also a curious commentary on what was no doubt 
an unusually wide knowledge of classical literature that Mr. Lang 
should ascribe and probably quite correctly Lord Iddesleigh's 
never having had his attention called to one of the most beautiful 
and improving books in classical, or indeed in any other literature, 
to the fact that the emperor wrote in "crabbed and corrupt Greek." 

Again, a popular writer in a recent work has observed that " why 
any one should select the best hundred, more than the best eleven, 
or the best thirty books, it is hard to conjecture." But this remark 
entirely misses the point. Eleven books, or even thirty, would be 
very few ; but no doubt I might just as well have given 90, or 'no. 
Indeed, if our arithmetical notition had been duodecimal instead 
of decimal, I should no doubt have made up the number to 120. 
I only chose 100 as being a round number. 

Another objection has been that 'every one should be left to 
choose for himself. And so he must. No list can be more than 
a suggestion. But a great literary authority can hardly perhaps 
realize the difficulty of selection. An ordinary person turned into 
a library and sarcastically told to choose for himself, has to do so 
almost at haphazard. He may perhaps light upon a book with an 
attractive title, and after wasting on it much valuable time and 
patience, find that, instead of either pleasure or profit, he has 
weakened, or perhaps lost, his love of reading. 

Messrs. George Routledge and Sons have conceived the idea ol 
publishing the books contained in my list in a handy and cheap 
form, selecting themselves the editions which they prefer ; and I 
believe that in doing so they will confer a benefit on many who 
have not funds or space to collect a large library. 



30 March, 1891. 

* I have since had many other letters to the same effect. 












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 volun- 
teered my services, which received, through the kindness of the 
hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of 
the Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities which I en- 
joyed of studying the Natural History of the different countries 
we visited have been wholly due to Captain Fitz Roy, I hope 
I may here be permitted to repeat my expression of gratitude 
to him ; and to add that, during the five years we were together, 
I received from him the most cordial friendship and steady 
assistance. Both to Captain Fitz Roy and to all the Officers of 
the Beagle * I shall ever feel most thankful for the undeviating 
kindness with which I was treated during our long voyage. 

This volume contains, in the form of a Journal, a history of 
our voyage, and a sketch of those observations in Natural 
History and Geology, which I think will possess some interest 
for the general reader. I have in this edition largely condensed 
and corrected some parts, and have added a little to others, hi 
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. Water- 
house; of the Birds, by Mr. Gould; of the Fish, by the 

* 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 
*t Valparaiso. 


Rev. L. Jenynsj and of the Reptiles, by Mr. Bell. I hav 
appended to the descriptions of 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 Chan- 
cellor 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 a third volume 
frill soon appear on the " Geology of South America." The 
sixth volume of the " Geological Transactions " contains two 
papers of mine on the Erratic Boulders and Volcanic Phenomena 
of South America. I intend hereafter to describe, in a set of 
papers, some of the marine invertebrate animals collected during 
the voyage. Mr. Bell, I hope, will describe the Crustacea, and 
Mr. Sowerby the shells. Messrs. Waterhouse, Walker, New- 
man, 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 assist- 
ance 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 under-graduate at Cambridge, 
was one chief means of giving me a taste for Natural History, 
who, during my absence, took charge of the collections I sent 
home, and by his correspondence directed my endeavours, and 
who, since my return, has constantly rendered me every assist- 
ance which the kindest friend could offer. 

June, 1845. 



Port > 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 Confervse 
and Infusoria Causes of discoloured 
Sea i 


Rio de Janeiro Excursion north of Cape 
Frio Great Evaporation Slavery Boto- 
fogo 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 Gre- 
garious Spider Spider with an Unsym- 
metrical Web 14 


Monte Video Maldonado Excursion to R. 
Polanco Lazo and Bolas Partridges 
Absence of Trees Deer Capybara, or 
River Hog Tucutuco Mololhrus, Cuc- 
koo-like Habits Tyrant Flycatcher 
Mocking-bird Carrion Hawks Tubes 
formed by Lightning House struck . 38 


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 Incrsstations Punta Alta 
Zorillo 45 


Bahia Blanca Geology Numerous gigan- 
tic extinct Quadrupeds Recent Extinc- 
tion Longevity of Species Large 

Animals do not require a Luxuriant 
Vegetation Southern Africa Siberian 
Fossils Two Species of Ostrich Habita 
of Oven-bird Armadilloes Venomous 
Snake, Toad, Lizard Hybernation of 
Animals Habits of Sea-Pen Indian 
Wars and Massacres Arrow-head 
Antiquarian Relic 58 


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 Hailstorm Natural 
Enclosures in the Sierra Tapalguen 
Flesh of Puma Meat Diet Guardia del 
Monte Effects of Cattle on ths Vegetation 
Cardoon Buenos A3Tes Corral where 
Cattle are slaughtered 76 


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 King-fisher, Parrot, and 
Scissor-tail Revolution Buenos Ayres 
State of Government 88 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacra mi en to 
Value of an Estancia Cattle, how counted 
Singular Breed of Oxen Perforated 
Pebbles Shepherd-D9gs Horses bro- 
ken-in, Gauchos Riding Character of 
Inhabitants Rio Plata Flocks of Butter- 
flies Aeronaut Spiders Phosphores- 
cence of the Sea Port Desire Guanaco 
Port St. Julian Geology of Patagonia 
Fossil gigantic Animal Types of 
Organization constant Change in the 
Zoology of America Caust A of Extinc- 
tion , , J3 



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, 128 


Tierra del Fuego, first Arrival Good Suc- 
cess Bay An Account of the Fuegians 
on Board Interview with the Savages 
Scenery of the Forests Cape Horn 
Wigwam Cove Miserable Condition of 
the Savages Famines Cannibals Mat- 
ricide Religious Feelings Great Gale 
Beagle Cfiannel 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 147 


Strait of Magellan Port Famine Ascent of 
Mount Tarn Forests Edible Fungus 
Zoology Great Sea-weed Leave Tierra 
del Fuego Climate Fruit Trees and 
Productions of the Southern Coasts 
Height of Snow-line on the Cordillera 
Descent of Glaciers to the Sea Icebergs 
formed Transported of Boulders Cli- 
mate and Productions of the Antarctic 
Islands Preservation of Frozen Car- 
casesRecapitulation ., 167 


Valparaiso Excursion to the Foot of the 
Andes Structure of the Land Ascend 
the Bell of Quillota Shattered Masses of 
Greenstone Immense Vallevs Mines 
State of Miners Santiago Hot-baths of 
Cauquenes Gold-mines Grinding-mills 
Perforated Stones Habits of the Puma 

El Turco and Tapacolo Humming- 
birds 183 


Chiloe General Aspect Boat Excursion 
Native Indians Castro Tame Fox 
Ascend San Pedro Chonos Archipelago 

Peninsula of Tres Monies Granitic 
Range Boat-wrecked Sailors Low's 
Harbour Wild Potato Formation of 
Peat Myopot.imus, Otter and Mice 
Cheiirau and Barking-bird Opetio- 
rhynchus Singular Character of Orni- 
thologyPetrels , 198 


San Carlos, Chiloe Osorno in eruption, 
contemporaneously with Aconcagua and 
Coseguma Ride to Cucao Impenetrable 
Forests Valdivia Indians Earthquake 
Concepcion Great Earthquake Rocks 
Fissured Appearance of theformer Towns 
The Sea black and boiling Direction 
of the Vibrations Stones twisted round 
Great Wave Permanent Elevation of 
the Land Area of Volcanic 1'henomena 
The Connection between the Elevatory 
and Eruptive Forces Cause of Earth- 
quakes Sk>w Elevation of Mountain- 


Valparaiso Portillo Pass Sagacity of 
Mules Mountain Torrents Mines, how 
discovered Proofs of the Gradual Eleva- 
tion 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 Cum bre Casuchas 
Valparaiso aaj 


Coast-road to Coquimbo Great Loads car- 
ried by the Miners Coquimbo Earth- 
quake Step-formed Terraces Absence 
of recent Deposits Contemporaneous- 
ness of the Tertiary Formations Excur- 
sion up the Valley Road to Guasco 
Deserts Valley of Copiapd Rain and 
Earthquakes Hydrophobia The Des- 
poblado Indian Ruins Probable Change 
of Climate River-bed arched by an Earth- 
quake Cold Gales of Wind Noises from 
a Hill Iquique Salt Alluvium Nitrate 
of Soda Lima Unhealthy Country 
Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an Earth- 
quake Recent Subsidence Elevated 
Shells on San Lorenzo, their Decompo- 
sitionPlain with Embedded Shells and 
Fragments of Pottery Antiquity of the 
Indian Race 245 


Galapagos Archipelago The Whole Group 
Volcanic Number of Craters Leafless 
Bushes Colony at Charles Island James 
Island Salt-lake in Crater Natural 
History of the Group Ornithology, 
Curious Finches Reptiles Great Tor- 
toises, Habits of Marine Lizard, feeds on 
Sea-weed Terrestrial Lizard, burrowing 
Habits, Herbivorous Importance of 
Reptiles in the Archipelago Fish, Shells, 
Insects Botany American Type of Or- 


raniration- Differences in the Species or 
Races on Different Islands Tameness of 
the Birds Fear of Man, an Acquired 
Instinct 270 


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 Zea- 
land Woman Sail for Australia 292 


Sydney Excursion to Bathurst Aspect of 
the Woods Party of Natives Gradual 
Extinction of ithe Aborigines Infection 
generated by Associated Men in Health 
Blue Mountains View of the Grand Gulf- 
like Valleys Their Origin and Formation 
Bathurst, general Civility of the Lower 
Orders State of Society Van Diemen's 
Land Hobart Town Aborigines all 
Banished Mount Wellington King 
George's Sound Cheerless Aspect of the 
Country Bald Head, calcareous Casts of 
Branches of Trees Party of Natives- 
Leave Australia 


Keeling Island Singular Appearance 
Scanty Flora Transport of Seeds Birds 
and Insects Ebbing and Flowing Wells- 
Fields of Dead Coral Stones transported 
in the Roots of Trees Great Crab Sting- 
ing 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 Foun- 
dationsBarrier 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 Dis- 
tribution of Volcanoes Subsidence Slow, 
and Vast in Amount ,3$, 


Mauritius, Beautiful Appearance of Great 
Crateriform Ring of Mountains Hindooe 
St. Helena History of the Changes in 
the Vegetation Cause of the Extinction of 
Land-snells Ascension Variation in the 
Imported Rats Volcanic Bombs Beds 
of Infusoria Bahia Brazil Splendour 
of Tropical Scenery Pernambuco Singu- 
lar Reef Slavery Return to England 
Retrospect on our Voyage 351 






Porto Praya Ribeira Grande Atmospheric Dust with InfusoriaHabits 
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 Discoloured 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 expedition 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 
Teneriffe, 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 
i6th 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, inter- 
spersed 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 would generally be considered as 
very uninteresting; but to any one accustomed only to an English 


landscape, the novel aspect of an utterly sterile land possesses a 
grandeur which more vegetation might spoil. A single green leaf can 
scarcely be discovered over wide tracts of the lava plains ; yet flocks 
of goats, together with a few cows, contrive to exist. It rains very 
seldom, but during a short portion of the year heavy torrents fall, 
and immediately afterwards a light 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 neighbourhood of Porto Praya was 
clothed with trees,* the reckless destruction of which has caused 
here, as at St. Helena, and at some of the Canary Islands, almost 
entire sterility. The broad, flat-bottomed valleys, many of which 
serve during a few 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 lagoensis), 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. 

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 appear- 
ance ; but here, a very small rill of water produces a most refreshing 
margin of luxuriant vegetation. In the course of an hour we arrived 
at Ribeira Grande, and were surprised at the sight of a large ruined 
fort and cathedral. This little town, before its harbour was filled up, 
was the principal place in the island ; it now presents a melancholy, 
but very picturesque appearance. Having procured a black Padre for 
a guide, and a Spaniard who had served in the Peninsular war as an 
interpreter, we visited a collection of buildings, of which an ancient 
church formed the principal part. It is here the governors and captain- 
generals of the islands have been buried. Some of the tombstones 
recorded dates of the sixteenth century.f The heraldic ornaments 
were the only things in this retired place that reminded us of Europe. 
The church or chapel formed one side of a quadrangle, in the middle 
of which a large clump of bananas were growing. On another side 
was a hospital, containing about a dozen miserable-looking inmates. 

We returned to the venda to eat our dinners. A considerable 
number of men, women, and children, all as black as jet, 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 inharmonious cries. We presented the black priest with a 

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

j" 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 1427* 

1832.] ST. DOMINGO. 3 

few shillings, and the Spaniard, patting him on the head, said, with 
much candour, he thought his colour made no great difference. We 
then returned, as fast as the ponies would go, to Porto Praya. 

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

Near Fuentes we saw a large flock of guinea-fowl probably fifty 
or sixty in number. They were extremely wary, and could not be 
approached. They avoided us, like partridges on a rainy day in 
September, running with their heads cocked up ; and if pursued, 
they readily took to the wing. 

The scenery of St. Domingo possesses a beauty totally 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 vintems, which were received with 
screams of laughter, and we left them redoubling the noise of their song. 

One morning the view was singularly clear; the distant 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 
2Q'6 degrees, between the temperature of the air, and the point at 
which dew was precipitated. This difference was nearly double that 
which I had observed on the previous mornings. This unusual degree 
of atmospheric dryness was accompanied by continual flashes of 
lightning. Is it not an uncommon case, thus to find a remarkable 
degree of ae"rial 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 * finds that this dust consists 
in great part of infusoria with siliceous shields, and of the siliceous 
tissue of plants. In five little packets which I sent him, he has 
ascertained no less than sixty-seven different organic forms ! The 
infusoria, with the exception of two marine species, are all inhabitants 
of fresh water. I have found no less than fifteen 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 it in 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, mixed with finer matter. After this fact one need 
not be surprised at the diffusion of the far lighter and smaller sporules 
of cryptogamic plants. . 

The geology of this island is the most interesting part of its natural 
history. On entering the harbour, a perfectly horizontal white band 
in the face of the sea cliff, may be seen running for 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 neighbouring coast. It rests on ancient volcanic rocks, and 
has been covered by a stream of basalt, which must have entered the 
sea when the white shelly bed was lying at the bottom. It is interest- 
ing 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. When 
the lime has been caught up by the scoriaceous fragments of the lower 

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


surface of the stream, it is converted into groups of beautifully radiated 
tibres resembling arragonite. The beds of lava rise in successive 
gently-sloping plains, towards the interior, whence the deluges of melted 
stone have originally proceeded. Within historical times, no signs 
of volcanic activity have, I believe, been manifested in any part of 
St. Jago. Even the form of a crater can but rarely be discovered on 
the summits of the many red cindery hills ; yet the more recent 
streams can be 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 streams. 

During our stay, I observed the habits of some marine animals. A 
large Aplysia is very common. This sea-slug is about five inches long ; 
and is of a dirty yellowish colour, veined with purple. On each side 
of the lower surface, or foot, there is a broad membrane, which appears 
sometimes to act as a ventilator, in causing a current of water to flow 
over the dorsal branchiae or lungs. It feeds on the delicate sea-weeds 
which grow among the stones in muddy and shallow water; and I 
found in its 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, \viththerapidity 
of an arrow, from one side of the pool to the other, at the same instant 
discolouring the water with a dark chestnut-brown ink. These animals 
also escape detection by a very extraordinary, chameleon-like power of 
changing their colour. They appear to vary 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 yeUowish-green. 
The colour, examined more carefully, was a French grey, with numerous 
minute spots of bright yellow : the former of these varied in intensity ; 
the latter entirely disappeared and appeared again by turns. These 
changes were effected in such a manner, that clouds, varying in tint 
between a hyacinth-red and a chestnut-brown,* were continually passing 
over the body. Any part, being subjected to a slight shock of galvanism, 
became almost black : a similar effect, but in a less degree, was pro- 
duced 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.! 

* So named according to Patrick Symes's nomenclature. 

J See "Encyclop. of Anat. and Physiol.," article Cephalopoda, 


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 indivi- 
dual, which seemed fully aware that I was watching it. Remaining for 
a time motionless, it would then stealthily advance an inch or two, like 
a cat after a mouse ; sometimes changing its colour : it thus proceeded, 
till having gained a deeper part, it darted away, leaving a dusky train 
of ink to hide the hole into which it had crawled. 

While looking for marine animals, with my head about two feet 
above the rocky shore, I was more than once saluted by a jet of water, 
accompanied by a slight grating noise. At first I 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 tnese 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 the i6th of February, close to the island of St. Paul's. This 
cluster of rocks is situated in o 58' north latitude, and 29" 15' west 
longitude. It is 540 miles distant from the coast of America, and 350 
from the island of Fernando Noronha. The highest point is only fifty 
feet above the level of the sea, and the entire circumference is under 
three-quarters of a mile. This small point rises abruptly out of the 
depths of the ocean. Its mineral ogical constitution is not simple ; in some 
parts the rock is of a cherty, in others of a felspathic nature, including 
thin veins of serpentine. It is a remarkable fact, that all the many 
small islands, lying far from any continent, in the Pacific, Indian, and 
Atlantic Oceans, with the exception of the Seychelles and this little 
I -dint 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 sea- 
fowl, 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 nulliporse (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 are of a pearly texture, like the enamel of teeth, but so 
hard as just to scratch plate-glass. I may here mention, that on a part 
of the coast of Ascension, where there is a vast accumulation of shelly 
sand, an incrustation is deposited on the tidal rocks, by the water of the 
sea, resembling, as represented in the woodcut, certain crypto^amic 
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 grey. I have shown specimens of this incrustation to several 
geologists, and they all thought that they were of volcanic or igneous 
origin I 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 bohes and 
shells, of all living animals, it is an interesting physiological fact * to 

* Mr. Homer 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. 


find substances harder than the enamel of teeth, and coloured surfaces 
as well polished as those of a fresh shell, reformed through inorganic 
means from dead organic matter mocking, also, iri 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 terrestrial 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 foundation for the 
growth of innumerable kinds of seaweed and compound animals, 
supports likewise a large number of fish. The sharks and the seamen 
in 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 con- 
siderable depth, was first discovered by the circumstance of fish having 
been observed in the neighbourhood. 

FERNANDO NORONHA, Feb. zoth. 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 remark- 
able 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 

1832.] BAHIA BRAZIL. g 

yielding strata, which thus had formed the moulds for these gigantic 
obelisks. The whole island is covered with wood ; but from the dryness 
of the climate there is no appearance of luxuriance. Halfway 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. zqth. The day has passed 
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 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 2,000 miles, 
and certainly for a considerable space inland, wherever solid rock occurs, 
it belongs to a granitic formation. The circumstance of this enormous 
area being constituted of materials which most geologists believe to 
have been crystallized when heated under pressure, gives rise to many 
curious reflections. Was this effect produced beneath the depths of a 
profound ocean ? or did a covering of strata formerly extend over it, 
which has since been removed ? Can we believe that any power, 
acting for a time short of infinity, could have denuded the granite over 
so many thousand square leagues ? 

On a point not far from the city, where a rivulet entered the sea, I 
observed a fact connected with a subject discussed by Humboldt.* At 
the cataracts of the great rivers Orinoco, Nile, and Congo, the syenitic 
rocks are coated by a black substance, appearing as if they had been 
polished with plumbago. The layer is of extreme thinness; and on 
analysis by Berzelius it was found to consist of the oxides of manganese 
* " Personal Narrative.," vol. v., pt. L, p. 18. 


and iron. In the Orinoco it occurs on the rocks periodically vyashed 
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 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 under- 
stood ; and no reason, I believe, can be assigned for their thickness 
remaining the same. 

One day I was amused by watching the habits of the Diodon anten- 
natus, which was caught swimming near the shore. This fish, with its 
flabby skin, is well known to possess the singular power of distending 
itself into a nearly spherical form. After having been taken out of 
water for a short time, and then again immersed in it, a considerable 
quantity both of water and air is absorbed by the mouth, and perhaps 
likewise by the branchial orifices. This process is effected by two 
methods ; the air is swallowed, and is then forced into the cavity of 
the body, its return being prevented by a muscular contraction which is 
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 regulating its specific gravity. This Diodon 
possessed several means of defence. It could give a severe bite, and 
could eject water from its mouth to some distance, at the same time 
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, float- 
ing 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 iStk. We sailed from Bahia. A few days afterwards, when 
not far distant from the Abrolhos Islets, my attention was called to a 
reddish-brown appearance in the sea. The whole surface of the water, 
as it appeared under a weak lens, seemed as if covered by chopped 
bits of hay, with their ends jagged. These are minute cylindrical con- 
fervse, in bundles or rafts of from twenty to sixty in each. Mr. Berkeley 
informs me that they are the same species (Trichodesmium erythraeum) 
with that found over large spaces in the Red Sea, and whence its name 
of Red Sea is derived.* 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 confervee. They appear especially common in 
the sea near Australia ; and off Cape Leeuvvin 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 

Near Keeling Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I observed many little 
masses of confervas a few inches square, consisting of long cylindrical 
threads of excessive thinness, so as to be barely visible to the naked 
eye, mingled with other rather larger bodies, finely conical at both 
ends. Two of these are shown in the 
woodcut united 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 parts 
a green septum, formed of granular matter, and thickest in the middle, 
may generally be seen. This, I believe, is the bottom of a most deli- 
cate, colourless sac, composed of a pulpy substance, which lines the 
exterior case, but does not extend within the extreme conical points. 
In some specimens, small but perfect spheres of 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 the whole was united into a perfect little sphere, 
which occupied the position of the septum at one end of the now 

M. Montagne, in Contptts Rendus, etc., Juillet, 1844; and Annul, des. 
Sftenc. Nat., Dec. 1844. 


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 dis- 
colouration 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 reddist tint; and, examined under 
a microscope, was seen to swarm with minute animalcula darting about, 
and (often exploding. 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. Sometimes both 
ends burst at once, sometimes only one, and a quantity of coarse, 
brownish, granular matter was ejected. The animal an instant before 
bursting expanded to half again its natural size ; and the explosion 
took place about fifteen seconds after the rapid progressive motion had 
ceased: in a few cases it was preceded for a short interval by a 
rotatory movement on the longer axis. About two minutes after any 
number were isolated in a drop of water, they thus perished. The 
animals move with the narrow apex forwards, by the aid of their 
vibratory ciliae, and generally by rapid starts. They are exceedingly 
minute, and quite invisible to the naked eye, only covering a space 
equal to the square of the thousandth of an inch. Their numbers were 
infinite ; for the smallest drop of water which I could remove contained 
very many. In one day we passed through two spaces of water thus 
stained, one of which alone must have extended over several square 
miles. What incalculable numbers of these microscopical animals ! 
The colour of the water, as seen at some distance, was like that 
of a river which has flowed through a red clay district; but under 
the shade of the vessel's side it was quite as dark as chocolate. The 
line where the red and blue water joined was distinctly defined. The 
weather for some days previously had been calm, and the ocean 
abounded, to an unusual degree, with living creatures.* 

In 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 

* M. Lesson (Voyage de la Coquille, torn, i., p. 255) mentions red water 
off Lima, apparently produced by the same cause. Peron, the distinguished 
naturalist, in the " Voyage aux Terres Australes," gives no less than twelve 
references to voyagers who have alluded to the discoloured waters of the sea 
(vol. ii., p. 239). To the references given by Peron may be added, Hum- 
bold t's " Pers. Narr.," vol. vi., p. 804 ; Flinders' " Voyage," vol. i., p. 92; Labil- 
ladiere, vol. L, p. 287 ; Ullioa's " Voyage " ; "Voyage of the Astrolabe and ot 
the Coquille " : Captain King's " Survey of Australia," etc. 


feed on them I do not know ; but terns, cormorants, and immense 
herds of great unwieldy seals derive, on some part of the coast, their 
chief sustenance from these swimming crabs. Seamen invariably 
attribute the discolouration 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 evules were embedded ; 
they were of two distinct kinds, one being of a reddish colour and of a 
different shape from the other. I cannot form a conjecture as to what 
two kinds of animals these belonged. Captain Colnett remarks, that 
this appearance is very common among the Galapagos Islands, and 
that the direction of the bands indicates that of the currents ; in the 
described case, however, the line was caused by the wind. The only 
other appearance which I have to notice, is a thin oily coat on the 
water which displays iridescent colours. I saw a considerable tract of 
the ocean thus covered on the coast of Brazil ; the seamen attribute it 
to the putrefying carcass of some whale, which probably was floating 
at no great distance. I do not here mention the minute gelatinous 
particles, hereafter to be referred to, which are frequently dispersed 
throughout the water, for they are not sufficiently abundant to create 
any change of colour. 

There are two circumstances in the above accounts which appear 
remarkable : first, how do the various bodies which 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 anything like voluntary action 
with the ovules, or the confervae, 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 current of the air or sea. Under this supposition we must 
believe that the various organized bodies are produced in certain 
favourable places, and are thence removed by the set of either wind 
or water. I confess, hovrever, there is a very great difficulty in imagin- 
ing 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 distributed by the winds and waves 
over the immense ocean. But on no other hypothesis can I understand 
their linear grouping. I may add that Scoresby remarks, that green 
water abounding with pelagic animals is invariably found in a certain 
part of the Arctic Sea, 




Rio de Janeiro Excursion North of Cape Frio Great Evaporation 
Slavery Botofoga Bay Terrestrial Planarise Clouds on the Cor- 
covado Heavy Rain Musical Frogs Phosphorescent Insects Elater, 
Springing Powers of Blue Haze Noise made by a Butterfly Ento- 
mology Ants Wasp killing a Spider Parasitical Spider Artifices of 
an Epeira Gregarious Spider Spider with an Unsymmetrical Web. 

April &,th to July $th, 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 8t/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 cultivated country, we entered a forest, which in the 
grandeur of all its parts could not be exceeded. We arrived by mid- 
day 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, con- 
trived to eke out a subsistence. At length they were discovered, and a 
party of soldiers being sent, the whole were seized with the exception 
of one old woman, who, sooner than again be led into slavery, dashed 
herself to pieces from the summit of the 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 

April gth. We left our miserable sleeping-place before sunrise. 
The road passed through a narrow sandy plain, lying between the sea 

,832.] UVING AT A VENDA. 15 

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 extremely hot, and the reflection of the light and heat from 
the white sand was very distressing. We dined at Alandetiba ; the 
thermometer in the shade being 84. The beautiful view of the 
distant wooded hills, reflected in the perfectly calm water of an exten- 
sive lagoon, quite refreshed us. As the venda* here was a very good 
one, and I have the pleasant, but rare remembrance, of an excellent 
dinner, I will be grateful and presently describe it, as the type of its 
class. These houses are often large, and are built of thick upright 
posts, with boughs interwoven, and afterwards plastered. They 
seldom have floors, and never glazed windows ; but are generally pretty 
well roofed. Universally the front part is open, forming a kind of 
verandah, in which tables and benches are placed. The bed-rooms 
join on each side, and here the passenger may sleep as comfortably as 
he can, on a wooden platform, covered by a thin straw mat. The 
venda stands in a courtyard, where the horses are fed. On first arriving, 
it was our 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. " Anything 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 ps the 
favour of giving ? " " Oh ! no, sir." " Any soup ? " " No, sir." " Any 
bread?" "Oh! no, sir." "Any dried meat?" "Oh! no, sir." 11 
we were lucky, by waiting a couple of hours, we obtained fowls, rice, 
and farinha. It not unfrequently happened, that we were obliged to 
kill, with stones, the poultry for our own supper. When, thoroughly 
exhausted by fatigue and hunger, we timorously hinted that we should 
be glad of our meal, the pompous, and (though true) most unsatis- 
factory answer was, " It will be ready when it is ready." If we had 
dared to remonstrate any further, we should have been told to proceed 
on our journey, as being too impertinent. The hosts are most ungracious 
and disagreeable in their manners ; their houses and their persons are 
often filthily dirty ; 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" 

* Venda, the Portuguese name for n inn. 


Leaving Mandetiba, we continued to pass through an intricate 
wilderness of lakes ; in some of which were fresh, in others salt water 
shells. Of the former kind, I found a Limnoea in great numbers in a 
lake, into which, the -inhabitants assured me, that the sea enters once a 
year, and sometimes oftener, and makes the water quite salt. I have 
no doubt many interesting facts, in relation to marine and fresh-water 
animals, might be observed in this chain of lagoons, which skirt the 
coast of Brazil. M. Gay * has stated 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 frequently 
observed in the lagoon near the Botanic Garden, where the water is 
only a little less salt than in the sea, a species of hydrophilus, very 
similar to a water-beetle common in the ditches of England : in the 
same lake the only shell belonged to a genus generally found in 

Leaving the coast for a time, we again entered the forest. The trees 
were very lofty, and remarkable, compared with those of Europe, from 
the whiteness of their trunks. I see by my note-book, " wonderful and 
beautiful, flowering parasites," invariably struck me as the most novel 
object in these grand scenes. Travelling onwards we passed through 
tracts of pasturage, much injured by the enormous conical ants' nests, 
which were nearly twelve feet high. They gave to the plain exactly the 
appearance of the mud volcanos at Jorullo, as figured by Humboldt. 
We arrived at Engenhodo after it was dark, having been ten hours on 
horseback. I never ceased, during the whole journey, to be surprised 
at the amount of labour which the horses were capable of enduring ; 
they appeared also to recover from any injury much sooner than those 
of our English breed. The Vampire bat is often the cause of much 
trouble, by biting the horses on their withers. The injury is generally 
not so much owing to the loss of blood, as to the inflammation which 
the pressure of the saddle afterwards produces. The whole circumstance 
has lately been doubted in England ; I was therefore fortunate in being 
present when one (Desmodus d'orbignyi, Wat.) was actually caught on 
a horse's back. We were bivouacking late one evening near Coquiinbo, 
in Chile, when my servant, noticing that one of the horses was very 
restive, went to see what was the matter, and fancying he could 
distinguish something, suddenly put his hand on the beast's withers, 
and secured the vampire. In the morning the spot where the bite had 
been inflicted was easily distinguished from being slightly swollen and 
bloody. The third day afterwards we rode the horse without any ill 

April i^th. 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 
workshops for the blacks, who had been taught various trades, formed 
* Anna Its tits Scitncts Naturtllts for 1833, 



a rude kind of quadrangle ; in the centre of which a large pile of coffee 
was drying. These buildings stand on a little hill, overlooking the 
cultivated ground, and surrounded on every side by a wall of dark green 
luxuriant forest. The chief produce of this part of the country is 
coffee. Each tree is supposed to yield annually, on an average, two 
pounds ; but some give as much as eight. Mandioca or cassada is 
likexvise cultivated in great quantity. Every part of this plant is 
useful : the leaves and stalks are eaten by the horses, and the roots are 
ground into a pulp, which, when pressed dry and baked, forms the 
farinha, the principal article of sustenance in the Brazils. It is a 
curious, though well-known fact, that the juice of this most nutritious 
plant is highly poisonous. A few years ago a cow died at this Fazenda, 
in consequence of having drunk some of it. Senhor Figuireda told me 
that he had planted, the year before, one bag of feijao or beans, and 
three of rice ; the former of which produced eighty, and the latter three 
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 l^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 piece had been cleared, yet 
almost every acre was capable of yielding all the various rich productions 
of a tropical land. Considering the enormous area of Brazil, the 
proportion of cultivated ground can scarcely be considered as any- 
thing, compared to that which is left in the state of nature : at some future 
age, how vast a population it will support 1 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 curva- 
ture 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 ol 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 to- 
gether for many years, even occurred to the owner. Yet I will pledge 
myself, that in humanity and good feeling he was superior to the 

f common run of men. It may be said there exists no limit to the 
blindness of interest and selfish habit. I may mention one very 
trifling anecdote, which at the time struck me more forcibly than any 
story of cruelty. I was crossing a ferry with a negro, who was 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 

April iSfA. In returning we spent two days at Socego, and I 

employed them in collecting insects in the forest. The greater number 

of trees, although so lofty, are not more than three or four feet in 

circumference. There are, of course, a few of much greater dimension. 

Senhor Manuel was then making a canoe 70 feet in length from a solid 

trunk which had originally been no feet long, and of great thickness. 

\ The contrast of palm trees, growing amidst the common branching 

' xkinds, never fails to give the scene an intertrnpical character. Here 

1 the woods were ornamented by the Cabbage Palm one of the most 

- beautifuljpf its family. With a stem so narrow that it might be clasped 

with the two hands, it waves its elegant head at the height of forty or 

fifty feet above the ground. The woody creepers, themselves covered 

by other creepers, were of great thickness : some which I measured 

were two feet in circumference. Many of the older trees presented a 

very curious appearance from the tresses of a liana hanging from their 

boughs, and resembling bundles of hay. If the eye was turned from 

1832.] RETURN TO RIO. 19 

the world of foliage above, to the ground beneath, it was attracted by 
the extreme elegance of the leaves of the ferns and mimosas. The 
latter, in some parts, covered the surface with a brushwood only a few 
inches high. In walking across these thick beds of mimoaes, 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 igth. Leaving Socego, during the two first days, we retraced 
our steps. It was very wearisome work, as the road generally ran 
across a glaring hot sandy plain, not far from the coast. I noticed that 
each time the horse put its foot on the fine siliceous sand, a gentle 
chirping noise was produced. On the third day we took a different 
line, and passed through the gay little village of Madre de Deos. This 
is one of the principal lines of road in Brazil ; yet it was in so bad a 
state that no wheel vehicle, excepting the clumsy bullock-waggon, could 
pass along. In our whole journey we did not cross a single bridge 
built of stone; and those made of logs of wood were frequently so 
much out of repair, that it was necessary to go on one side to avoid 
them. All distances are inaccurately known. The road is often marked 
by crosses, in the place of milestones, to signify where human blood 
lias been spilled. On the evening of the 23rd we arrived at Rio, having 
finished our pleasant little excursion. 

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

The few observations which I was enabled to make were almost 
exclusively confined to the invertebrate animals. The existence of a 
division of the genus Planaria, 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 
narrower 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 teiif:trial Planariat 



in different parts of the southern hemisphere.* Some specimens 
which I obtained at Van Diemen's Land, I kept alive for nearly two 
months, feeding them on rotten wood. Having cut one of them 
transversely into two nearly equal parts, in the course of a fortnight 
both had the shape of perfect animals. I had, however, so divided 
the body, that one of the halves contained both the inferior orifices, 
and the other, in consequence, none. In the course of twenty-five 
days from the operation, the more perfect half could not have been 
distinguished from any other specimen. The other had increased 
much in size ; and towards its posterior end, a clear space was formed 
in the parenchymatous mass, in which a rudimentary cup-shaped 
mouth could clearly be distinguished; on the other surface, however, 
no corresponding slit was yet open. If the increased heat of the 
weather, as we approached the equator, had not destroyed all the 
individuals, there can be no doubt that this last step would have 
completed its structure. Although so well-known an experiment, it 
was interesting to watch the gradual production of every essential 
organ, out of the simple extremity of another animal. It is extremely 
difficult to preserve these Planariae; as soon as the cessation of life 
allows the ordinary laws of change to act, their entire bodies become 
soft and fluid, with a rapidity which I have never seen equalled. 

I first visited the forest in which these Planarise were found, in 
company with an old Portuguese priest who took me out to hunt with 
him. The sport consisted in turning into the cover 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 
maybe partly attributed to this habit. The Brazilians are so dexterous 
with the knife, that they can throw it to some distance with precision, 
and with sufficient force to cause a fatal wound. I have seen a 
number of little boys practising this art as a game of play, and from 
their skill in hitting an upright stick, they promised well for more 
earnest attempts. My companion, the day before, had shot two large 
bearded monkeys. These animals have prehensile tails, the extremity 
of which, even after death, can support the whole weight of the body. 
One of them thus remained fast to a branch, and it was necessary to 
cut down a large tree to procure it This was soon effected, and 
down came tree and monkey with an awful crash. Our day's sport, 
besides the monkey, was confined to sundry small green parrots and 
a few toucans. I profited, however, by my acquaintance with the 
Portuguese padre, for on another occasion he gave me a fine specimen 
of the Yagouaroundi cat 

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Botofogo. 

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


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

I was often interested by watching the clouds, which, 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 
2,300 feet. Mr. Daniell has observed, in his meteorological essays, 
that a cloud sometimes appears fixed on a mountain summit, while 
the wind continues to blow over it. The same phenomenon here 
presented a slightly different appearance. In this case the cloud was 
clearly seen to curl over, and rapidly pass by the summit, and yet 
was neither diminished nor increased in size. The sun was setting, 
and a gentle southerly breeze, striking against the southern side of 
the rock, mingled its current with the colder air above, and the vapour 
was thus condensed ; but as the light wreaths of cloud passed over 
the ridge, and came within the influence of the warmer atmosphere of 
the northern sloping bank, they were immediately redissolved. 

The climate, during the months of May and June, or the beginning 
of winter, was delightful. The mean temperature, from observations 
taken at nine o'clock, both morning and evening, was only 72'. It 
often rained heavily, but the drying southerly winds soon again 
rendered the walks pleasant. One morning, in the course of six hours, 
1-6 inches of rain fell. As this storm passed over the forests which 
surround the Corcovado, the sound produced by the drops pattering 
on the countless multitude of leaves was very remarkable ; it could be 
heard at the distance of a quarter of a mile, and was like the rushing 
of a great body of water. After the hotter days, it was delicious to 
sit quietly in the garden and watch the evening pass into night. 
Nature, in these climes, chooses her vocalists from more humble per- 
formers 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 
absolutely 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 number of specimens were of Lampyris occidentalism* I 
found that this insect emitted the most brilliant flashes when irritated : 
in the intervals, the abdominal rings were obscured. The flash was 
almost co-instantaneous in the two rings, but it was 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. 
W.hen the insect wa"s decapitated the rings remained uninterruptedly 
bright, but not so brilliant as before: local irritation with a needle 
always increased the vividness of the light. The rings in one instance 
retained their luminous property nearly twenty-four hours after the 
death of the insect. From these facts it would appear probable, that 
the animal has only the power of concealing or extinguishing the light 
for short intervals, and that at other times the display is involuntary. 
On the muddy and wet gravel-walks I found the larvae of this lampyris 
in great numbers : they resembled in general form the female of the 
English glowworm. These larvae possessed but feeble luminous 
powers ; very differently from their parents, on the slightest touch 
they feigned death, and ceased to shine; nor did irritation excite 
any fresh display. I kept several of them alive for some time : their 
tails are very singular organs, for they act, by a well-fitted contrivance, 
as suckers or organs of attachment, and likewise as reservoirs for 
saliva, or some such fluid. I 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, not- 
withstanding 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 springing powers of this insect, which have 
not, as it appears to me, been properly described.! The elater, when 
placed on its back and preparing to spring, moved its head and thorax 
backwards, so that the pectoral spine was drawn out, and rested on the 
edge of its sheath. The same backward movement being continued, 
the spine, by the full action of the muscles, was bent like a spring ; 
and the insect at this moment rested on the extremity of its head and 
wing-cases. The effort being suddenly relaxed, the head and thorax 
flew up, and in consequence, the base of the wing-cases struck the 

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

f "Kirby's Entomology," vol II, p, 317, 


supporting surface with such force, that the insect by the reaction was 
jerked upwards to the height of one or two inches. The projecting 
points of the thorax, and the sheath of the spine, served to steady the 
whole body during the spring. In the descriptions which I have read, 
sufficient stress does not appear to have been laid on the elasticity of 
the spine : so sudden a spring could not be the result of simple muscular 
contraction, without the aid of some mechanical contrivance. 

On several occasions I enjoyed some short but most pleasant excur- 
sions in the neighbouring country. One day I "went to the Botanic 
Garden, where many plants, well known for their great utility, might 
ba 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 landscape in the neighbourhood of Bahia almost takes 
its character from the two latter trees. Before seeing them, I had no 
idea that any trees could cast so black a shade on the ground. Both 
of them bear to the 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 vege- 
tation, 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 

During this day I was particularly struck with a remark of Humboldt's, 
who often alludes to "the thin vapour which, without changing the 
transparency of the air, renders its tints more harmonious, 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 
grey, mingled with a little blue. The condition of the atmosphere 
between the morning and about noon, when the effect was most evident, 
had undergone little change, excepting in its dryness. In the interval, 
the difference between the dew point and temperature had increased 
from 7. 5 to 17. 

On another occasion I started early and walked to the Gavia, or top- 
sail 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 aa 
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 befglit 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 land- 
scape attains its most brilliant tint ; and every form, every shade, so 
completely surpasses in magnificence all that the European has ever 
beheld in his own country, that he knows not how to express his feel- 
ings. The general effect frequently recalled to my mind the gayest 
scenery of the Opera house or the great theatres. I never returned 
from these excursions empty handed. This day I found a specimen of 
a curious fungus, called Hymenophallus. Most people know the 
English Phallus, which in autumn taints the air with its odious smell : 
this, however, as the entomologist is aware, is to some of our beetles a 
delightful fragrance. So was it here ; for a Strongylus, attracted by 
the odour, alighted on the fungus as I carried it in my hand. We here 
see in two distant countries a similar relation between plants and 
insects of the same families, though the species of both are different 
When man is the agent in introducing into a country a new species, 
this relation is often broken : as one instance of this I may mention, 
that the leaves of the cabbages and lettuces, which in England afford 
food to such a multitude of slugs and caterpillars, in the gardens near 
Rio are untouched. 

During our stay at Brazil I made a large collection of insects. A few 
general observations on the comparative importance of the different 
orders may be interesting to the English 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 tewer 
numbers than in our own temperate regions. I was much surprised at 
the habits of Papilio feronia. This butterfly is not uncommon, and 
generally frequents the orange-groves. Although a high flier, yet it 
very frequently alights on the trunks of trees. On these occasions its 
head is invariably placed downwards ; and its wings are expanded in 
a horizontal plane, instead of being folded vertically, as is commonly 
the case. This is the only butterfly which I have ever seen, that uses 
its legs for running. Not being aware of this fact, the insect, more than 
once, as I cautiously approached with my forceps, shuffled on one side 
just as the instrument was on the point of closing, and thus escaped. 
But a far more singular fact is the power which this species possesses 
of making a noise.* Several times when a pair, probably male and 
female, were chasing each other in an irregular course, they passed 
within a few yards of me ; and I distinctly heard a clicking noise, 

* 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 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. Cathe- 
rine's on the coast of Brazil, a butterfly called Februa Hoffmanseggi, makes 
a noise, when flying away, like a rattle. 

1832.] SWARM OF ANTS. 2$ 

similar to that produced by a toothed wheel passing under a spring 
catch. The noise was continued at short intervals, and could be dis- 
tinguished at about twenty yards' distance : I am certain there is no 
error in the observation. 

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleoptera. The 
number of minute and obscurely-coloured beetles is exceedingly great.* 
The cabinets of Europe can, as yet, boast only ot the larger species 
from tropical climates. It is sufficient to disturb the composure of an 
entomologist's mind, to look forward to the future dimensions of a 
complete catalogue. The carnivorous beetles, or Carabidse, 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 observation both 
on entering Brazil, and when I saw the many elegant and active forms 
of the Harpalidae re-appearing on the temperate plains of La Plata. 
Do the very numerous spiders and rapacious Hymenoptera supply the 
place of the carnivorous beetles? The carrion-feeders and Brachelytera 
are very uncommon ; on the other hand, the Rhyncophora and 
Chrysomelidae, 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 character in the entomology of 
different countries depends. The orders Orthoptera and Hemiptera 
are particularly numerous ; as likewise is the stinging division of the 
Hymenoptera ; the bees, perhaps, being excepted. A person, on first 
entering a tropical forest, is astonished at the labours of the ants : well- 
beaten paths branch off in every direction, on which an army of never- 
failing foragers may be seen, some going forth, and others returning, 
burdened with pieces of green leaf, often larger than their own bodies. 

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

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


sion, 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 

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of the 
verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numerous in the neigh- 
bourhood 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 * 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 sufficient to crawl into a thick tuft of 
grass. The wasp soon returned, and seemed surprised at not imme- 
diately 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 antennae. The spider, though well 
concealed, 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 examining with its 
antennae the now motionless spider, it proceeded to drag away the 
body. But I stopped both tyrant and prey.f 

The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, is here, com- 
pared 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 characterized 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 very long fore-legs, and which appears to belong to an 
undescribed genus, lives as a parasite on almost every one of these 
webs. I suppose it is too insignificant to be noticed by the great 
Epeira, and is therefore allowed to prey on the minute insects, which, 

* In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his observa- 
tions 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. 

t Don Felix Azara (vol. i., p. 175), mentioning a hymenopterous insect, 
probably of the same genus, says, he saw it dragging a dead spider through 
tall grass, in a straight line to its nest, which was one hundred and sixty- 
three paces distant. He adds that the wasp, in order to find the road, every 
now and then made " demi-tours d'enviroa trois palmes/' 

I8 3 3.] SPIDERS. 7 

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 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 powerless 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 xvith its head down- 
wards 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 perseveringly 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 gre- 
garious habits. The webs were placed vertically, as is invariably the 
case with the genus Epeira : they were separated from each other by a 
space of about two feet, but were all attached to certain common lines, 
which were of great length, and extended to all parts of the community. 
In this manner the tops of some large bushes were encompassed by 

MALDONADO. [ CHA p. in. 

the united nets. Azara * has described a gregarious spider in Paraguay 
which Walckenaer thinks must be a Theridion, but probably it is an 
Epeira, and perhaps even the same species with mine. I cannot, how- 
ever, recollect seeing a central nest as large as a hat, in which, durin<* 
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-work ; so that 
the net, instead of being, as is generally the case, circular, consisted of 
a wedge-shaped segment. All the webs were similarly constructed. 



Monte Video Maldonado Excursion to R. Polanco Lazo and Bolas 
Partridges Absence of Trees Deers Capybara, or River Hog Tucu- 
tuco Molothrus, Cuckoo-like Habits Tryant-flycatcher Mocking-bird 
Carrion Hawks Tubes formed by Lightning House struck. 

July $th, 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 
phosphorus. The sea was so highly luminous, that the tracks of the 
penguins were marked by a fiery wake, and the darkness of the sky 
was momentarily illuminated by the most vivid lightning. 

When within the mouth of the river, I was interested by observing 
how slowly the waters of the sea and river mixed. The latter, muddy 
* " Azara's Voyage," vol. i,, p. 213. 


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

MALDONADO is situated on the northern bank of the Plata, and not 
very far from the mouth of the estuary. Iti 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 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 unin- 
teresting ; 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 procured. Before 
making any observations respecting them, I will give an account of 
a little excursion I made as far as the river Polanco, which is about 
seventy miles distant, in a northerly direction. I may mention, as 
a proof how cheap 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 

30 MALDONADO. (cats. in. 

with pistols and sabres ; a precaution which I thought rather unneces- 
sary ; 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, shotild 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. It 
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 1 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 specu- 
lation at the village of Las Minas ; a superior tradesman closely 
cross-questioned me about so singular a practice; and likewise why 
on board we wore our beards ; for he had heard from my guide that 
we did so. He eyed me with much suspicion ; perhaps he had hea-rd 
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 astonishment at the compass, 
and my other feats in jugglery, was to a certain degree advantageous, 
as with that, and the long stories my guides told of my breaking stones, 
knowing 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 same ; an inhabitant 
of the Pampas no doubt would have considered it as truly Alpine. 
The country is so thinly inhabited, that during the whole day we 
scarcely met a single person. Las Minas is much smaller even than 
Maldonado. It is seated on a little plain, and is surrounded by low 


rocky mountains. It is of the usual symmetrical form ; and with its 
whitewashed church standing in the centre, had rather a pretty appear- 
ance. 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 haiidsome, 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 con- 
tained 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 horse- 
cloths belonging to his recado (or saddle of the Pampas) he makes 
his bed. It is curious how similar circumstances produce such 
similar results in manners. At the Cape of Good Hope the same 
hospitality, and very nearly the same points of etiquette, are universally 
observed. The difference, however, between the character of the 
Spaniard and that of the Dutch boor is shown, by the former never 
asking his guest a single question beyond the strictest rule ot politeness, 
while 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 

32 MALDONADO. [c 8 ^- * 

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, con- 
sisted of two huge piles, one of roast beef, the other of boiled, with 
some pieces of pumpkin : beside this latter there was no other vege- 
table, and not even a morsel of bread. For drinking, a large earthen- 
ware 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 vege- 
tables. 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 catching ostriches, consists of two round stones, 
covered with leather, and united by a thin plaited thong, about eight 
feet long. The other kind differs only in having three balls united 
by the thongs to a common centre. The Gaucho holds the smallest 
of the three in his hand, and whirls the other two round and round 
his head; then, taking aim, sends them like chain shot revolving 
through the air. The balls no sooner strike any object, than, winding 
round it, they cross each other, and become firmly hitched. The size 
and weight of the balls varies, according to the purpose for which they 
are made : when of stone, although not 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 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 furthest point which 
t was anxious to examine. The country wore the same aspect, till at 
last the fine green turf became more wearisome than a dusty turnpike 
road. We everywhere saw great numbers of partridges (Nothura 
major). These birds do not go in coveys, nor do they conceal them- 
selves like the English kind. It appears a very silly bird. A man on 
horseback by riding round and round in a circle, or rather in a spire, so 
as to approach closer each time, may knock on the head as many as he 
pleases. The more common method is to catch them with a running 
noose, or little lazo, made of the stem of an ostrich's feather, fastened to 
the end of a long stick. A boy.on a quiet old horse will frequently thus 
catch thirty or forty in a day.' In Arctic North America* 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 long. 

On our return to Maldonado, we followed rather a different line of 
road. Near Pan de Azucar, a landmark well known to all those who 
have sailed up the Plata, I stayed a day at the house of a most hospitable 
old Spaniard. Early in the morning we ascended the Sierra de las 
Animas. By the aid of the rising sun the scenery was almost pictur- 
esque. To the westward the view extended over an immense level 
plain as far as the Mount, at Monte Video, and to the eastward, over 
the mammillated country of Maldonado. On the summit of the 
mountain there were several small heaps of stones, which evidently 
had lain there for many years. My companion assured me that they 
were the work of the Indians in the old time. The heaps were similar, 
but on a much smaller scale, to those so commonly found on the 
mountains of Wales. The desire to signalize any event, on the highest 
point of the neighbouring land, seems an universal passion with man- 
kind. At the present day, not a single Indian, either civilized or wild, 
exists in this part of the province ; nor am I aware that the former 
inhabitants have left behind them any more permanent records than 
these insignificant piles on the summit of the Sierra de las Animas. 

The general, and almost entire absence of trees in Banda Oriental is 

remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are partly covered by thickets, 

and on the banks of the larger streams, especially to the north of Las 

Mrnas, willow-trees are not uncommon. Near the Arroyo Tapes I 

* Hearne's "Journey," p. 383 

34 MALDONADO. [CHA. isi. 

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 favour- 
able 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* by the annual amount of 
moisture ; yet in this province abundant and heavy rain falls during the 
winter ; and the summer, though dry, is not so in any excessive degree.f 
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. 38 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. 32 S., may be described as a 
desert: on this western coast, northward of lat. 4 S., where the trade- 
wind loses its regularity, and heavy torrents of rain fall periodically, 
the shores of the Pacific, so utterly desert in Peru, assume near Cape 
Blanco the character of luxuriance so celebrated at Guyaquil and 
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 positions 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 

* Maclaren, article America, Encyclop. Britann. 

f AzarA says, " Je crois que la quantity annuelle des pluies est, dans toutei 
ces contrecs, plus considerable qu'ea Espagne," VoL i, p. 36. 


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 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 

During our stay at Maldonado I collected several quadrupeds, 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 establishment in Northern Patagonia, I was surprised to find 
how little the deer cared for the noise of a gun : one day I fired tea 
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 
u 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 over- 
poweringly strong and offensive odour which proceeds from the buck. 
It is quite indescribable : several times whilst skinning the specimen 
which is now mounted at the Zoological Museum, I was almost over- 
come 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 the 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 skirt. 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. 1 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.* 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 tail, 
was 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.f When viewed at a 
distance, from their manner of walking and colour they resemble pigs : 
but when seated on their haunches, and attentively watching any object 
with one eye, they reassume the appearance of their congeners, cavies 
and rabbits. Both the front and side view of their head has quite a 
ludicrous aspect, from the great depth of their jaw. These animals, at 
Maldonado, were very tame; by cautiously walking, I approached 
within three yards of four old ones. This tameness may probably be 
accounted for, by the Jaguar having been banished for some years, and 
by the Gaucho not thinking it worth his while to hunt them. As I 
approached nearer and nearer they frequently made their peculiar 
noise, which is a low abrupt grunt, not having much actual sound, 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 

* 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. Water- 
house 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. 

j- 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 crowquill can be passed down. 
Certainly the broad teeth and strong jaws of this animal are well fitted to 
grind into pulp the aquatic plants on which it feeds, 

1832-3.] THE TUCUTUCO. 37 

the meat is very indifferent. On the islands in the Rio Parana they 
are exceedingly abundant, and afford the ordinary prey to the Jaguar. 

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 grega- 
rious: the man who procured the specimens for me had caught six 
together, and he said this was a common occurrence. They ara 
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 : * 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, however, about the room nearly as well as the others. Con- 
sidering the strictly subterranean habits of the tucutuco, 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 f (probably with more truth than usual 

* 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 doub t 
concerning it. 

f Philosophy Zoolog.,iom. L, p. 242. 


with him) oft the gradually-a^z>^ blindness of the Aspalax, a 
Gnawer living under ground, and of the Proteus, a reptile living in 
dark caverns filled with water ; in both of which animals the eye is in 
an almost rudimentary state, and is covered by a tendinous membrane 
and skin. In the common mole the eye is extraordinarily small but 
perfect, though many anatomists doubt whether it is connected with 
the true optic nerve ; its vision must certainly be imperfect, though 
probably useful to the animal when it leaves its burrow. In the 
tucutuco, which I believe never comes to 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 Proteus. 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the undulating 
grassy plains around Maldonado. There are several species of a 
family allied in structure and manners to our Starling: 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, pluming themselves in the sun, they sometimes 
attempt to sing, or rather to hiss ; the noise being very peculiar, re- 
sembling 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 certainly 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 representative species coming from opposite 
quarters of a great continent, always strikes one as interesting, though 
of common occurrence. 

Mr. Swainson has well remarked,* 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 parasitical ; 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 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 parasitical 
propagation, whilst opposed to each other in almost every other habit : 
Ihe molothrus, like our starling, is eminently sociable, and lives on the 
3pen plains without art or disguise : the cuckoo, as every one knows, 
8 a singularly shy bird; it frequents the most retired thickets, and 
* Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i., p. 217. 

1832-3.] HABITS OF THE CUCKOO. 39 

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 * 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 certainly would not have time enough for the successive 
hatchings. Hence we can perceive in the fact of the cuckoo pairing 
several times, and laying her eggs at intervals, the cause of her de- 
positing 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. I have frequently observed it, hunting 
a field, hovering over one spot like a hawk, and then proceeding on to 
another. When seen thus suspended in the air, it might very readily 
at a short distance be mistaken for one of the Rapacious order; its 
stoop, however, is very inferior in force and rapidity to that of a hawk. 
At other times the Saurophagus haunts the neighbourhood of water, 
and there, like a kingfisher, remaining stationary, it catches any small 
fish which may come near the margin. These birds are not unfrequently 
kept either in cages or in courtyards, with their wings cut. They soon 
become tame, and are very amusing from their cunning odd manners, 
which were described to me as being similar to those of the common 
magpie. Their flight is undulatory, for the weight of the head and bill 
appear too great for the body. In the evening the Saurophagus takes 
its stand on a bush, often by the 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 

A mocking-bird (Minus 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 

* Read before the Academy of Sciences in Paris. L'lnstifnf, 1834, p. 418, 


which I have observed to take its stand for the purpose of singing. 
The song may be compared to that of the Sedge warbler, but is more 
powerful ; some 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 circumstance, as 
showing the fine shades of difference in habits, that judging from this 
latter respect alone, when I first saw this second species, I thought 
it was different from the Maldonado kind. Having afterwards pro- 
cured a specimen, and comparing the two without particular care, 
they appeared so very similar that I changed my opinion ; but now 
Mr. Gould says that they are certainly distinct; a conclusion in 
conformity with the trifling difference of habit, of which, however, 
he was not aware. 

The number, lameness, 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 distributed over the rest of the world, but entirely absent in 
South America. To begin with the Polyborus Brasiliensis : this is 
a common bird, and has a wide geographical range; it is most numerous 
on the grassy savannahs of La Plata (where it goes by the name of 
Carrancha), and is far from unfrequent throughout the sterile plains 
of 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 thirst 
Although thus common in these dry and open countries, and likewise 
on the arid shores of the Pacific, it is nevertheless found inhabiting the 
damp impervious forests of West Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The 
Carranchas, together with the Chimango, constantly attend in numbers 
the estancias and slaughtering-houses. If an animal dies on the plain 
the Gallinazo commences the feast, and then the two 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 b'ranch 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 

1832-3.] CARRION HAWKS. 41 

numbers, they are not gregarious: for in desert places they may be 
seen solitary, or more commonly by pairs. 

The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal great numbers 
of eggs. They attempt, also, together with the Chimango, 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 its own peculiar spirit and accuracy. These false eagles most 
rarely kill any living bird or animal ; and their vulture-like, necropha- 
gous 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 recognized 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. Alter 
feeding, the uncovered craw protrudes ; at such times, and indeed 
generally, the Carrancha is an inactive, tame, and cowardly bird. Its 
flight is heavy and slow like that of an English rook. It seldom soars; 
but I have twice seen one at a great height gliding through the air 
with much ease. It runs (in contradistinction to hopping), but not 
quite so quickly as some of its congeners. At times the Carrancha is 
noisy, but is not generally so : its cry is loud, very harsh and peculiar, 
and may be likened to the sound of the Spanish guttural g, followed 
by a rough double r r\ 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, grasshopers, 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 con- 
siderable 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 extraordinarily tame 


and fearless, and haunt the neighbourhood of houses for offal. If a 
hunting party kills an animal, a number soon collect and patiently 
await, standing on the ground on all sides. After eating, their un- 
covered craws are largely protruded, giving them a disgusting appear- 
ance. They readily attack wounded birds : a cormorant in this state 
having taken to the shore, was immediately seized on by several, and 
its death hastened by their blows. The Beagle was at the Falklands 
only during the summer, but the officers of the Adventure, who were 
there in the winter, mention many extraordinary instances of the bold- 
ness and rapacity of these birds. They actually pounced on a dog that 
was lying fast asleep close by one of the party ; and the sportsmen had 
difficulty in preventing the wounded geese from being seized before 
their eyes. It is said that several together (in this respect resembling 
the Carranchas) wait at the mouth of a rabbit-hole, and together seize 
on the animal when it conies 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 Kater's compass 
in a red morocco leather case, which was never recovered. These 
birds are, moreover, quarrelsome and very passionate ; tearing up the 
grass with their bills from rage. They are not truly gregarious ; they 
do not soar, and their flight is heavy and clumsy ; on the ground they 
run extremely fast, very much like pheasants. They are noisy, uttering 
several harsh cries ; one of which is like that of the English rook ; 
hence the sealers always call them rooks. It is a curious circumstance 
that, when crying out, they throw their heads upwards and backwards, 
alter the same manner as the Carrancha. They build in the rocky 
cliffs of the sea-coast, but only on the small adjoining islets, and not on 
the two main islands : this is a singular precaution in so tame and 
fearless a bird. The sealers say that the flesh of these birds, when 
cooked, is quite white, and very good eating ; but bold must the man 
be who attempts such a meal. 

We have now only to mention the turkey-buzzard (Vultur aura), and 
the Gallinazo. The former is found wherever the country is moderately 
damp, from Cape Horn to North America. Differently from the 
Polyborus Brasiliensis and Chimango, it has found its way to the 
Falkland Islands. Thejturkey-buzzard is a solitary bird, or at most goes 
in pairs. It may at once be recognized from a long distance, by its 
lofty soaring, and most elegant flight. It is well known to be a true 
carrion-feeder. On the west coast of Patagonia, among the thickly- 
wooded islets and broken land, it lives exclusively on what the sea 
throws up, and on the carcasses of dead seals. Wherever these 
animals are congregated on the rocks, there the vultures may be seen. 
The Gallinazo (Cathartes atratus) has a different range from the last 
species, as it never occurs southward of lat 41. Azara states that 


there exists a tradition that these birds, at the time of the Conquest, 
were not found near Monte Video, but that they subsequently followed 
the inhabitants from more northern 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 scavengers. 
These vultures certainly may be called gregarious, for they seem to have 
pleasure in society, and are not solely brought together by the attraction 
of a common prey. On a fine day a flock may often be observed at a 
great height, each bird wheeling round and round without closing its 
wings, in the most graceful evolutions. This is clearly 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 introduced when we 
visit a country more congenial to its habits than the plains of La Plata. 

In a broad band of sand-hillocks which separate the Laguna del 
Potrero from the shores of the Plata, at the distance of a few miles 
from Maldonado, I found a group of those vitrified, siliceous tubes, 
which are 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 formerly been buried to a 
greater depth. Four sets entered the sand perpendicularly : by working 
with my hands I traced one of them two feet deep ; and some fragments 
which evidently had belonged to the same tube, when added to the 
other part, measured five feet three inches. The diameter of the whole 
tube was nearly equal, and therefore we must suppose that originally 
it extended to a much greater depth. These dimensions are however 
small, compared to those of the tubes from Drigg, one of which was 
traced to a depth of not less than thirty feet. 

The internal surface is completely vitrified, glossy, and smooth. A 
small fragment examined under the microscope appeared, from the 
number of minute entangled air or perhaps steam bubbles, like an 
assay fused before the blowpipe. The sand is entirely, or in greater 
part, siliceous ; but some points are of a black colour, and from their 

* 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. 


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 occasion- 
ally 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 crystallization. In a similar manner to that described in the 
Geological Transactions, the tubes are generally compressed, and have 
deep longitudinal furrows, so as closely to resemble a shrivelled 
vegetable stalk, or the bark of the elm or cork tree. Their circumference 
is about two inches, but in some fragments, which are cylindrical and 
without any furrows, it is as much as four inches. The compression 
from the surrounding loose sand, acting while the tube was still softened 
from the effects of the intense heat, has evidently caused the creases or 
furrows. Judging from the uncompressed fragments, the measure or 
bore of the lightning (if such a term may be used), must have been 
about one inch and a quarter. At Paris, M. Hachette and M. Beudant * 
succeeded in making tubes, in most respects similar to these fulgurites, 
by passing very strong shocks of galvanism through finely-powdered 
glass : when salt was added, so as to increase its fusibility, the tubes 
were larger in 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 lightning, which, striking the sand in several places, has formed 
cylinders, in one instance of at least thirty feet long, and having an 
internal bore, where not compressed, of full an inch and a half; and this 
in a material ,so extraordinarily refractory as quartz 1 

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 considerable 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 latter case is remarkable, as the electric 
fluid must have turned back at the acute angle of 26, to the line 
of its main course. Besides the four tubes which I found vertical, 
and traced beneath the surface, there were several other groups of 
fragments, the original 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 
we!! 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 
* " Annalcs de Chimie et de Physique," torn, xxxvii., p. 319. 


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 subject to 
electric phenomena. In the year 1793,* one of the most destructive 
thunderstorms perhaps on record happened at Buenos Ayres : thirty- 
seven places within the city were struck by lightning, and nineteen 
people killed. From facts stated in several books of travels, I am 
inclined to suspect that thunderstorms 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 furniture, had drilled in them a chain ol 
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 opposite side of the room. The frame of a looking-glass 
was blackened, and the gilding must have been volatilized, for a 
smelling-bottle, which stood on the chimney-piece, was coated with 
bright metallic particles, which adhered as firmly as if they had been 



Rio Negro Estancias attacked by the Indians Salt Lakes Flaming 

Rio Negro to Rio Colorado Sacred Tree Patagonian Hare Indian 
Families General Rosas Proceed to Bahia Blanca Sand Dunes 
Negro Lieutenant Bahia Blanca Saline Incrustations Punta Alta 

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

The country near the mouth of the river is wretched in the extreme; 
* Azara's " Voyage," vol. i., p. 36. 

46 RIO NEGRO. [CHAP. iv. 

on the south side a. long line of perpendicular cliffs commences, which 
exposes a section of the geological nature of the country. The strata 
are of sandstone, and one layer was remarkable from being composed 
of a firmly-cemented conglomerate of pumice pebbles, which must 
have travelled more than four hundred miles from the Andes. The 
surface is everywhere 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 inhabitants had sufficient notice to drive all the cattle and 
horses into the " corral " * which surrounded the house, and likewise 
to mount some small cannon. The Indians were Araucanians from the 
south of Chile ; several hundreds in number, and highly disciplined; 
They first appeared in two bodies on a neighbouring hill ; having there 
dismounted, and taken off their fur mantles, they advanced naked to 
the charge. The only weapon of an Indian is a very long bamboo or 
chuzo, ornamented with ostrich feathers, and pointed by a sharp spear- 
head. My informer seemed to remember with the greatest horror the 
quivering of these chuzos as they approached near. When close, the 
cacique Pincheira hailed the besieged to give up their arms, or he 
would cut all their throats. As this would probably have been the 
result of their entrance under any circumstances, the answer was given 
by a volley of musketry. The Indians, with great steadiness, came to 
the very fence of the corral ; but to their surprise they found the posts 
fastened together by iron nails instead of leather thongs, and, of course, 
in vain attempted to cut them with their knives. This saved the lives 
of the Christians : many of the wounded Indians were carried away 
by their companions ; and at last one of the under caciques being 
wounded, the bugle sounded a retreat. They retired to their horses, 
and seemed to hold a council of war. This was an awful pause for 
the Spaniards, as all their ammunition, with the exception of a few 
cartridges, was expended. In an instant the Indians mounted their 
horses, and galloped out of sight. Another attack was still more 
quickly repulsed. A cool Frenchman managed the gun ; he 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 

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


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, 
form, by the aid of a bright sun, a view almost picturesque. The 
number of inhabitants does not exceed a few hundreds. These Spanish 
colonies do not, like our British ones, carry within themselves the 
elements of growth. Many Indians of pure blood reside here : the 
tribe of the Cacique Lucanee constantly have their Toldos * on the 
outskirts of the town. The local government partly supplies them 
with provisions by giving them all the old worn-out horses, and they 
earn a little by making horse-rugs and other articles of riding-gear. 
These Indians are considered civilized ; but what their character may 
have gained by a lesser degree of ferocity, is almost counterbalanced 
by their entire immorality. Some of the younger men are, however, 
improving ; they are willing to labour, and a short time since a party 
went on a sealing-voyage, and behaved very well. They were now 
enjoying the fruits of their labour by being dressed in very gay, clean 
clothes, and by being very idle. The taste they showed in their dress 
was admirable ; if you could have turned one of these young Indians 
into a statue of bronze, his drapery would have been perfectly graceful. 

One day I rode to a large salt lake, or Salina, which is distant fifteen 
miles from the town. During the winter it consists of a shallow lake of 
brine, which in summer is converted into a field of snow-white salt 
The layer near the 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 limes 
larger, and with a floor of salt, two and three feet in thickness, even 
when under water during the winter. One of these brilliantly-white 
and level expanses, in the midst of the brown and desolate plain, offers 
an extraordinary spectacle. A large quantity of salt is annually drawn 
from the salina ; and great piles, some hundred tons in weight, were 
lying ready for exportation. 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 crystallized in great cubes, and is remarkably pure ; Mr. Trenham 
Reeks has kindly analyzed some for me, and he finds in it only 0-26 of 
gypsum, and 0-22 of earthy matter. It is a singular fact, that it does 
not serve so well for preserving meat as sea-salt from the Cape de 
Verd Islands ; and a merchant at Buenos Ayres told me that he con- 
sidered 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 sus- 
pected, but which is supported by the fact lately ascertained,! that 

* The hovels of the Indians are thus called. 

f Report of tlve Agricult Chem. Assoc. in the Agricult. GaeetU, 1845,?. 93, 


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 em- 
bedded ; whilst on the surface others of sulphate of soda lie scattered 
about. The Gauchos call the former the " Padre del sal," and the latter 
the " Madre ; " they state that these progenitive salts always occur on 
the borders of the Salinas when the water begins to evaporate. The 
mud is black, and has a fetid odour. I could not at first imagine the 
cause of this ; but I afterwards perceived that the froth which the wind 
drifted on shore was coloured green, as if by confervas : 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 
w.ese 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 ; and 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 the 
upper regions of the atmosphere, and even the surface of perpetual 
enow all support organic beings, 

To the northward of the Rio Negro, between it and the inhabited 

* Liwiean Trans., vol. xi., p. 205. It is remarkable how all the circum- 
stances connected with the salt-lakes in Siberia and Patagonia are similar. 
Siberia, like Patagonia, appears to have been recently elevated above the 
waters of the sea. In both countries the salt-lakes occupy shallow depres- 
sions in the plains; in both the mud on the borders is black and fetid; 
beneath the crust of common salt, sulphate of soda or of magnesia occurs, 
imperfectly crystallized ; and in both, the muddy sand is mixed with lentils of 
gypsum. The Siberian salt-lakes are inhabited by small crustaceous ani- 
mals ; and flamingoes (Edt'n. New 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 "Travels," 1793 to 1794, pp. 129-134, 

1833.] R. NEGRO TO R. COLORADO. 49 

country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have only one small settle- 
ment, 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 
Ihe Colorado ; a river lying about eighty miles northward of the Rio 
Negro. When General Rosas left Buenos Ayres he struck in a direct 
line across the unexplored plains ; and as the country was thus pretty 
well cleared of Indians, he left behind him, at wide intervals, a small 
party of soldiers with a troop of horses (a pasta), 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 nth. Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at Patagones, a 
guide, and five Gauchos, who were proceeding to the army on business, 
were my companions on the journey. The Colorado, as I have already 
said, is nearly eighty miles distant ; and as we travelled slowly, we 
were two days and a half on the road. The whole line of country 
deserves scarcely a better name than that of a desert. Water is found 
only in two small wells ; it is called fresh ; but even at this time of the 
year, during the rainy season, it was quite brackish. In the summer this 
must be a distressing passage ; for now it was sufficiently desolate. 
The valley of the Rio Negro, broad as it is, has merely been excavated 
out of the sandstone plain; for immediately above the bank on which 
the town stands, a level country commences, which is interrupted only 
by a few trifling valleys and depressions. Everywhere the landscape 
wears the same sterile aspect; a dry gravelly soil supports tufts of 
brown withered grass, and low scattered bushes, armed with thorns. 

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

The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as the god 
itself; but it seems far more probable, that they regard it as the altar. 
The only cause which I can imagine for this choice, is its being a land- 
mark 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 commenced making the same loud noise, which is usual at the 
first sight of the distant tree ; putting his hand to his head, and then 
pointing in the direction of the Sierra. Upon being asked the reason 
of this, the Indian said in broken Spanish, "First see the Sierra." 
About two leagues beyond this curious tree we halted for the night ; 
at this instant an unfortunate cow was spied by the lynx-eyed Gauchos, 
who set off in full 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 death-like 
stillness of the plain, the dogs keeping watch, the gipsy-group of 
Gauchos making their beds round the fire, have left in my mind a 
strongly-marked picture of this first night, which will never be 

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. 37 30'), where the plain rather suddenly 
becomes greener and more humid ; and their southern limit is between 
Port Desire and St. Julian, where there is no change in the nature of 
the country. It is a singular fact, that although the Agouti is not now 
found as far south as Port St. Julian, yet that Captain Wood, in his 
voyage in 1670, talks of them as being numerous there. What cause 
can have altered, in a wide, uninhabited, and rarely-visited country, 
the range of an animal like this ? It appears also from the number 


shot by Captain Wood in one day at Port Desire, that they must have 
been considerably more abundant there formerly than at present. 
Where the Bizcacha lives and makes its burrows, the Agouti uses 
them ; but where, as at Bahia Blanca, the Bizcacha is not found, the 
Agouti burrows for itself. Theame 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 habitation. 

The next morning, as we approached the Rio Colorado, the appear- 
ance 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 sur- 

Eising: I have been assured that an unloaded horse can travel a 
indred miles a day for many days successively. 

The encampment of General Rosas was close to the river. It con- 
sisted of a square formed by waggons, artillery, straw huts, etc. The 
soldiers were nearly all calvary ; 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 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 recommenda- 
tion 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 gracious- 
ness. We took up our residence in the rancho, or hovel, of a curious 
old Spaniard, who had served with Napoleon in the expedition against 

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


We stayed two days at the Colorado ; I had little to do, for the 
surrounding country was a swamp, which in summer (December), when 
the snow melts on the Cordillera, is overflowed by the river. My chief 
amusement was watching the Indian families as they came to buy little 
articles at the rancho where we stayed. It was supposed that General 
Rosas had about six 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 civiliza- 
tion. 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 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 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 ol 
wire, were not thicker than whipcord; and to see a fiery steed wheeling 
about under the command of so light a chain, gave to the horsemanship 
a remarkable character of elegance. 

General Rosas intimated a wish to see me ; a circumstance which I 
was afterwards very glad of. He is a man of an extraordinary character, 
and has a most predominant influence in the country, which it seems 
probable he will use to its prosperity and advancement.* He is said 
to be the owner of seventy-four square leagues of land, and to have 
about three hundred thousand head of cattle. His estates are admirably 
managed, and are far more productive of corn than those of others. 
He first gained his celebrity by his laws for his own estancias, and by 
* This prophecy has turned out entirely and miserably wrong, 1845. 


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 accomplishment of no 
small consequence in a country where an assembled army elected its 
general by the following trial: A troop of unbroken horses being 
driven into a corral, were let out through a gateway, above which was 
a cross-bar ; it was agreed whoever should drop from the bar on one 
of these wild animals, as it rushed out, and should be able, withoiit 
saddle or bridle, not only to ride it, but also to bring it back to the door 
of the corral, should be their general. The person who succeeded was 
accordingly elected ; and doubtless made a fit general for such an army. 
This extraordinary feat has also been performed by Rosas. 

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

In conversation he is enthusiastic, sensible, and very grave. His 
gravity is carried to a high pitch : I heard one of his mad buffoons 
(for he keeps two, like the barons of old) relate the following anecdote : 
" I wanted very much to hear a certain piece of i 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 recollection of the staking. This is a very severe 
punishment ; four posts are driven into the ground, and the man is 


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

In the morning we started for Bahia Blanca, which we reached in two 
days. Leaving the regular encampment, we passed by the toldos of 
the Indians. These are round like ovens, and covered with hides ; by 
the mouth of each, a tapering chuzo was stuck in the ground. The 
toldos were divided into separate groups, which belonged to the 
different caciques' tribes, and the groups were again divided into smaller 
ones, according to the relationship of the owners. For several miles we 
travelled along the valley of the Colorado. The alluvial plains on the 
side appeared fertile, and it is supposed that they are well adapted to 
th2 growth of corn. 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 
then- nakedness. This change in the vegetation marks the commence- 
ment 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 exceedingly small, and here the 
characteristic vegetation of Patagonia ceases. 

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

The house was situated at the base of a ridge, between one and two 
hundred feet high a most remarkable feature in this country. This 
posta was commanded by a negro lieutenant, born in Africa; to hi* 


credit be it said, there was not a rancho between the Colorado and 
Buenos Ayros in nearly such neat order as his. He had a little room 
for strangers, and a small corral for the horses, all made of sticks and 
reeds ; he had also dug a 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 
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 where salt 
abounds. Bad as the country was, ostriches, deers, agoutis, and arma- 
dilloes, 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 
Bun, yet the thirst rendered me very weak. How people survive two 
or three days under such circumstances, I cannot imagine ; at the same 
time, I must confess that my guide did not suffer at all, and was 
astonished that one day's deprivation should be so troublesome to me. 

I have several times alluded to the surface of the ground being in- 
crusted with salt. This phenomenon is quite different from that of the 
salihas, 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 crystallized at the bottoms of the puddles of 
water. The salitrales occur either on level tracts elevated only a few 
feet atove the level of the sea, or on alluvial land bordering rivers. 

1833.] AN ADVENTURE. 57 

M. Parchappe * found that the saline incrustation on the plain, at the 
distance of some miles from the sea, consisted chiefly of sulphate of 
soda, with only seven per cent, of common salt ; whilst nearer to the 
coast, the common salt increased to thirty-seven 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 phe- 
nomenon 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 immediately dismounted, and 
watching them intently, said, "They don't ride like Christians, and 
nobody can leave the fort." The three hunters joined company, and 
likewise dismounted from their horses. At last one mounted again, 
and rode over the hill out of sight. My companion said, " We must 
now get on our horses : load your pistol ; " and he looked to his own 
sword. I asked, " Are they Indians ? " " Quien sabe ? " (who knows ?) 
11 if there are no more than three, it does not signify." It then struck 
me that the one man had gone over the hill to fetch the rest of his 
tribe. I suggested this ; but all the answer I could extort was, " Quien 
sabe ? " His head and eye never for a minute ceased scanning slowly 
the distant horizon. I thought his uncommon coolness too good a joke, 
and asked him why he did not return home. I was startled when he 
answered, " We are returning, but in a line so as to pass near a swamp, 
into which we can gallop the horses as far as they can go, and then 
trust to our own legs ; so that there is no danger." I did not feel 
quite so confident of this, and wanted to increase our pace. He said, 
" No, not until they do." When any little inequality concealed us, we 
galloped ; but when in sight, continued walking. At last we reached 
a valley, and turning to the left, galloped quickly to the foot of a hill ; 
he gave me his horse to hold, made the dogs lie down, and then crawled 
on his hands and knees to reconnoitre. He 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 ostrichs' eggs. I have described this man's 
conduct, because he acted under the full impression that they were 
Indians. As soon, however, as the absurd mistake was found out, he 
gave me a hundred reasons why they could not have been Indians; 
but all these were forgotten at the time. We then rode on in peace 
and quietness to a low point called Punta Alta, whence we could see 
nearly the whole of the great harbour of Bahia Blanca. 

The wide expanse of water is choked up by numerous great mud- 

* "Voyage dans 1'Amerique Mcrid." par M. A. d'Orbigny, Part. Hist., 
torn, L, p. 664, 


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

We passed the night in Punta Alta, and I employed myself in search- 
ing for fossil bones ; this point being a perfect catacomb for monsters 
of extinct races. The evening was perfectly calm and clear ; the 
extreme monotony of the view gave it an interest even in the midst of 
mud-banks and gulls, sand-hillocks and solitary vultures. In riding 
back in the morning we came across a very fresh track of a Puma, but 
did not succeed in finding it. We saw also a couple of Zorillos, or 
skunks, odious animals, which are far from uncommon. In general 
appearance the Zorillo resembles a polecat, but it is 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 Luxu- 
riant Vegetation Southern Africa Siberian Fossils Two Species of 
Ostrich Habits of Oven-bird Armadilloes Venomous Snake, Toad, 
Lizard Hybernation of Animals Habits of Sea-penIndians' Wars 
and Massacres Arrow-head, Antiquarian Relic. 

THE Beagle arrived here on the 24th ol August,' and a week afterwards 
Bailed for the Plata. With Captain Fitz Roy's consent I was left behind, 
to travel by fend 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, 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 Megatherium, 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, 
*n extinct kind of horse, to which I shall have again to refer. Eighthly, 
a tooth of a Pachydermatous animal, probably the same with the 
Macrauchenia, a huge beast with a long neck like a camel, which I 
shall also refer to again. Lastly, the Toxodon, perhaps one of the 
strangest animals ever discovered : in size it equalled an elephant or 
megatherium, but the structure of its teeth, as Mr. Owen states, proves 
indisputably that it was intimately related to the Gnawers, the order 
which, at the present day, includes most of the smallest quadrupeds : 
in many details it is allied to the Pachydermata : judging from the 
position of its eyes, ears, and nostrils, it was probably aquatic, like the 
Dugong and Manatee, to which it is also allied. How wonderfully are 
the different Orders, at the present time so well separated, blended 
together in different points of the structure of the Toxodon 1 

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 circumstance that so many different 
species should be found together ; and it proves how numerous in kind 
the ancient inhabitants of this country must have been. At the distance 
of about thirty miles 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 ; 
whether the remaining ones are extinct or simply unknown, must be 
doubtful, as few collections of shells have been made on this coast. As, 
however, the recent species were embedded in nearly the same propor- 
tional numbers with those now living in the bay, I think there can be 
little doubt, that this accumulation belongs to a very late tertiary period. 
From the bones of the Scelidotherium, including even the knee-cap, 
being intombed in their proper relative positions, and from the osseous 
armour of the great armadillo-like animal being so well preserved, 
together with the bones of one of its legs, we may feel assured that 
these remains were fresh and united by their ligaments, when deposited 
in the gravel together with the shells. Hence we have good evidence 
that the above enumerated gigantic quadrupeds, more different from 
those of the present day than the oldest of the tertiary 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 " longevity of the species in 
the mammalia is upon the whole inferior to that of the testacea."* 

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 Owenf lately 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 down wards on trees, 
and feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, not to say preposterous, idea 
to conceive even antediluvian 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 encum- 
brance ; 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 1 The Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a 

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

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


long extensile tongue like that of the giraffe, which, by wie of those 
beautiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of its long neck 
its leafy food. I may remark, that in Abyssinia the elephant, according 
to Bruce, when it cannot reach with its proboscis the branches, deeply 
scores with its tusks the trunk of the tree, up and down and all round, 
till it is sufficiently weakened to be broken down. 

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only from fifteen to 
twenty feet above the level of high-water ; and hence the elevation of 
the land has been small (without there has been an intercalated period of 
subsidence, of which we have no evidence) since the great quadrupeds 
wandered over the surrounding 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 character of the inhabitants of the sea is useless as a guide 
to judge of those on the land. Nevertheless, from the following con- 
siderations, 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 impenetrable 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, informs me that, 
taking into consideration the whole of the southern part of Africa, 
there can be no doubt of its being a sterile country. On the southern 
and south-eastern coasts there are some fine forests, but with these 
exceptions, the traveller may pass for days together through open 
plains, covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. It is difficult to 


convey any accurate idea of degrees of comparative fertility ; but it 
may be safely said that the amount of vegetation supported at any 
one time * by Great Britain, exceeds, perhaps even tenfold, the quan- 
tity on an equal area, in the interior parts of Southern Africa. The 
fact that bullock-waggons can travel in any direction, excepting near 
the coast, without more than occasionally half an hour's delay in 
cutting down bushes, gives, perhaps, a more definite notion of the 
scantiness of the vegetation. Now, if we look to the animals inhabit- 
ing 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 boss caffer as large as a 
full-grown bull, and the elan but little less, two zebras, and the 
quaccha, two gnus, and several antelopes even larger than these latter 
animals. It may be supposed that although the species are numerous, 
the individuals of each kind are few. By the kindness of Dr. Smith, 
I am enabled to show that the case is very different. He informs me, 
that in lat. 24, in one day's march with the bullock-waggons, he saw, 
without wandering to any great distance on either side, between one 
hundred and one hundred and fifty rhinoceroses, which belonged to 
three species ; the same day he saw several herds of giraffes, 
amounting together to nearly a hundred ; and that, although no ele- 
phant 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 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 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 wild 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 

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


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, to- 
gether 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.f hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan, 
certainly three, and probably five species of rhinoceros; and on the 
American side, two tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari, 
capybara (after which we must choose from the monkeys to complete 
the number), and then place these two groups 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,} 
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 certainly exists 
no quarter of the globe which will bear comparison with Southern 
Africa. After the different statements which have been given, the 
extremely desert character of that region will not be disputed. In the 
European division of the world, we must look back to the tertiary 
epochs, to find a condition of things among the mammalia, resembling 

* "Travels in th^Tnterior of South Africa," vol. ii., p. 207. 

f 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 in- 
formed, weighed one ton less ; so that we may take five as tne average of a 
full-grown elephant. I was told at the Surrey Gardens, that a hippopotamus 
which was sent to England cut up into pieces was estimated at three tons 
and a half; we will call it three. From these premises we may give three 
tons and a half to each of the five rhinoceroses ; perhaps a ton to the giraffe, 
and half to the bos caffer as well as to the elan (a large ox weighs from 1,200 
to 1,500 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 1,200 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 6,048 to 250, or 24 to 
I, for the ten largest animals from the two continents. 

\ If we suppose the case of the discovery of a skeleton of a Greenland 
whale in a fossil state, not a single cetaceous animal being known to exist, 
what naturalist would have ventured conjecture on the possibility of a car- 
cass so gigantic being supported on the minute Crustacea and mollusca 
Hving in the frozen seas of the extreme North ? 


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 accumu- 
lated 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 * that the extreme regions of North America, many degrees 
beyond the limit where the ground at the depth of a few feet remains 
perpetually congealed, are covered by forests of large and tall trees. 
In a like manner, in Siberia, we have woods of birch, fir, aspen, and 
larch, growing in a latitude t (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 pre- 
served. 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 entombment. I 
am far from supposing that the climate has not changed since the 
period when those animals lived, which now lie buried in the ice. At 
present I only wish to show, that as far as quantity of food alone is 
concerned, the ancient rhinoceroses might have roamed over the steppes 
of central Siberia (the northern parts probably being under water) een 
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 interest- 

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

f 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 thp 
growth of trees in Siberia may be drawn under the parallel of 70, 


ing birds which are common on the wild plains of Northern Patagonia ; 
and first for the largest, or South American ostrich. The ordinary 
habits of the ostrich are familiar to every one. They live on vegetable 
matter, such as roots and grass ; but at Bahia Blanca I have repeatedly 
seen three or four come down at low water to the extensive mud-banks 
which are then dry, for the sake, as the Gauchos say, of feeding on 
small fish. Although 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,* when descending the Murrumbidgee, in 
Australia, saw two emus in the act of swimming. 

The inhabitants of the country readily distinguish, even at a distance, 
the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger and darker-coloured.t 
and has a bigger head. The ostrich, I believe the cock, emits a 
singular, deep-toned, hissing note: when first I heard it, standing in the 
midst of some sand-hillocks, I thought it was made by some wild 
beast, for it is a sound that one cannot tell whence it comes, or from 
how far distant. When we were at Bahia Blanca in the months of 
September and October, the eggs, in extraordinary numbers, were 
found all over the country. They lie either scattered and single, in 
which case they are never hatched, and are called by the Spaniards 
huachos ; or they are collected together into a shallow excavation, 
which forms the nest. Out of the four nests which I saw, three con- 
tained 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 

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

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


dangerous, and that they have been known to attack a man on horse- 
back, trying to kick and leap on him. My informer pointed out to me 
an old man, whom he had seen much terrified by one chasing him. I 
observe in Burchell's travels in South Africa, that he remarks, " Having 
killed a male ostrich, and the feathers being dirty, it was said by the 
Hottentots to be a nest bird." I understand that the 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.* 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,f that a female in a state of domestication 
laid seventeen 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 couldnot 
sit, from not having finished laying.J 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 

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

+ Azara, vol. iv., p. 173. 

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


the huachos, although often found addled and putrid, are generally 

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 that they could distinguish them 
apart from a long distance. The eggs of the small species appeared, 
however, more generally known ; and it was remarked, with surprise, 
that they were very little less than those of the Rhea, but of a slightly 
different form, and with a tinge of pale blue. This species occurs most 
rarely on the plains bordering the Rio Negro ; but about a degree and 
a half further south they are tolerably abundant. When at Port Desire, 
in Patagonia (lat. 48), Mr. Martens shot an ostrich ; and I looked at it, 
forgetting at the moment, in the most unaccountable manner, the whole 
subject of the Petises. and thought it was a not full-grown bird of the 
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,* when at the Rio Negro, made great 

* 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, tra- 
versed 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. 



exertions to procure this bird, but never had the good fortune to suc- 
ceed. Dobrizhoffer * long ago was aware of there being two kinds of 
ostriches ; he says, " You must know, moreover, that Emus differ iu 
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 grey 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 Tino- 
chorus 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, recal the idea of a snipe. The sportsmen of the Beagle 
unanimously called it the short-billed snipe. To this genus, or 
rather to the family of the Waders, its skeleton shows that it is really 

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 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 rela- 
tions 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 organized 
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- 

* "Account of the Abipones," A.D. 1749, vol i. (English translation), p. 314. 

1833.4 THE OVEN-BIRD. C-g 

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 ol 
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 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 fact. 

I have already mentioned nearly all the mammalia common in this 
country. Of armadilloes three species occur, namely, the Dasypus 
minutus or pichy } the D. villosus or peludo, and the apar. The first 
extends ten degrees further south than any other kind : a fourth species, 
the Muh'fa,.does not come as far south as Bahia Blanca. The four 
species have nearly similar habits ; the pelndo, 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 the attack of dogs ; for the dog not being 
able to take the whole in its mouth, tries to bite one side, and 
the ball slips away. The smooth hard covering of the mataco offers a 
better defence than the sharp spines of the hedgehog. The pichy 
prefers a very dry soil ; and the sand-dunes near the coast, where for 
many months it can never taste water, is its favourite resort : it often 
tries to escape notice, by squatting close to the ground. In the course 
of a day's ride near Bahia Blanca, several were generally met with. 
The instant one was oerceived, it was necessary, in order to catch it, 

ft bAtilA BLAffCA. 

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 Trigonocephalus, or 
Cophias), from the size of the poison channel in its fangs, must be very 
deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, makes this a 
sub-genus of the rattlesnake, and intermediate between it and the viper. 
In confirmation of this opinion, I observed a fact, which appears to me 
very curious and instructive, as showing how every character, even 
though it may be in some degree independent of structure, has a 
tendency to vary by slow degrees. The extremity of the tail of this 
snake is terminated by a point, which is very slightly enlarged ; and as 
the animal 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 Trigonocephalus 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 any- 
thing 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 crau-ls 
during the heat of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains, 
where not a single drop of water can be found. It must necessarily 
depend on the dew for its moisture ; and this probably is absorbed by 
the skin, for it is known that these reptiles possess great powers of 
cutaneous absorption. At Maldonado, I found one in a situation nearly 
as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and thinking to give it a great treat, carried 
it to a pool of water ; not only was the little animal unable to swim, 
but I think without help it would soon have been drowned. 

Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one (Proctotretus 
*) r-warkablf <r>w & teWts I* lives on the bare sand 


near the sea coast, and from its motvied 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. The 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, Sep- 
tember 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 I5th, a few animals began to appear, and by the 
1 8th (three days from the equinox), everything announced the com- 
mencement 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 51; and 
in the middle of the day the thermometer seldom ranged above 55. 
On the eleven succeeding days, in which all living things became so 
animated, the mean was 58, and the range in the middle of the day 
between sixty and seventy. Here then an increase of seven degrees in 
mean temperature, but a greater one of extreme heat, was sufficient to 
awake the functions of life. At Monte Video, from which we had just 
before sailed, in the twenty-three days included between the 26th ot 
July and the igth of August, the mean temperature from 276 observa- 
tions was 58 - 4; the mean hottest day being 65 0< 5, and the coldest 46. 
The lowest point to which the thermometer fell was 4i'5, and occasion- 
ally in the middle of the day it rose to 69 or 70. Yet with this high 
temperature, almost every beetle, several genera of spiders, snails, and 
land-shells, toads and lizards were all lying torpid beneath stones. But 
we have seon that at Bahia Blanca, which is four degrees southward, 
and therefore with a climate only a very little colder, this same tempera- 
ture u-ith 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 
determined 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 hav^i 
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 mu^d, He a4d,s, " The Indians often fiud 


enormous boas, which they call Uji, or water serpents, in the same 
lethargic state. To re-animate them they must be irritated or wetted 
with water." 

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I believe Virgularia 
Patagonica), a kind oi 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 feeL 
The stem at one extremity is truncate, but at the other is terminated by 
a vermiform fleshy appendage. The stony axis which gives strength 
to the stem may be traced at this extremity into a mere vessel filled 
with granular matter. At low water hundreds of these zoophytes 
might be seen, 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.* Well may one be 
allowed to ask, what is an individual ? It is always interesting to dis- 
cover the foundation of the strange tales of the old voyagers; and I 
have no doubt but that the habits of this Virgularia explain one such 
case. Captain Lancaster, in his voyage t 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 

* The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of the extremity 
were filled with a yellow pulpy matter, which, examined under a micro- 
scope, presented an extraordinary appearance. The mass consisted of 
rounded, semi-transparent, irregular grains, aggregated together into par- 
ticles of various sizes. All such particles, and the separate grains, possessed 
the power of rapid movement ; generally revolving around different axes, 
but sometimes progressive. The movement was visible with a very weak 
power, but even with the highest its cause could not be perceived. It was 
very different from the circulation of the fluid in the elastic bag, containing 
the thin extremity of the axis. On other occasion."?, 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 converted into ova. Certainly in this zoophyte 
such appeared to be the case. 

f Keir's "Collection of Voyages," vol viii, p. lip. 


becomes great. This transformation is one of the strangest wonders 
that I saw in all my travels ; for if this tree is plucked up, while young, 
and the leaves and bark stripped off, it becomes a hard stone when dry, 
much like white coral : thus is this worm twice transformed into 
different natures. Of these we gathered and brought home many." 

During my stay at Bahia Blanca, while waiting for the Beagle, the 
place was in a constant state of excitement, from rumours of wars and 
victories, between the troops of Rosas and the wild Indians. One day 
an account came that a small party forming one of the postas on the line 
to Buenos Ayres, had been found all murdered. The next day three 
hundred men arrived from 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 impossible to conceive anything more wild 
and savage than the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they were 
intoxicated; others swallowed the steaming blood of the cattle 
slaughtered for their suppers, and then, being sick from drunkenness, 
they cast it up again, and were besmeared with filth and gore. 

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

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, with orders 
to follow the " rastro," or track, even if it led them to Chile. We sub- 
sequently 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 indepen- 
dent? 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 world. 

A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these banditti-like 
soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of Indians at the small 
Salinas, who had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique. The Spaniard 
who brought the orders for this expedition was a very intelligent man. 
He gave me an account of the last engagement at which he was present 


Some Indians, who had been taken prisoners, gave information of a 
tribe living north of the Colorado. Two hundred soldiers were sent ; 
and they first discovered the Indians by a cloud of dust from their 
horses' feet, as they chanced to be travelling. The country was moun- 
tainous 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 ? J They breed 

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

In the battle four men ran away 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 mares' flesh was ready, and the dance prepared: in the 
morning the ambassadors were to have returned to the Cordillera. 
They were remarkably fine men, very fair, above six feet high, and all 
under thirty years of age. The three survivors of course possessed 
very valuable information ; and 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 
s6 ; " adding, " Fire, I am a man, and can die ! " Not one syllable 
would they breathe to injure the united cause of their country I 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 
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, be- 
tween the Indians, extends from the Cordillera to the coast of the 

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 Chesterfield, thinking that his friends may in a future day 
become his enemies, always places them in the front ranks, so that 
their numbers may be thinned. Since leaving South America we have 
heard that this war of extermination completely failed. 

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, there were 
two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been 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 * says that in 1535, when 
Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages containing two and 
three thousand inhabitants. Even in Falconer's time (1750) the Indians 
made inroads as far as Luxan, Areco, and Arrecife, but now they are 
driven beyond the Salado. Not only have whole tribes been exter- 
minated, 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 of 
* Pvirchas's "Collection of Voyages." I believe the date was really 153^, 


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 Hi tie 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 recognized as having been a part of the head of an arrow. 
He told me it was found near the island of Cholechel, and that they 
are frequently picked up there. It was between two and three inches 
long, and therefore twice as large as those now used in Tierra del 
Fuego : it was made of 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 * relics of the Indians, before the great change in habits 
consequent on the introduction of the horse into South America. 



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 En- 
closures in the Sierra Tapalguen Flesh of .Puma Meat Diet Guardia 
del Monte Effects of Cattle on the Vegetation Cardoon Buenos Ayres 
Corral where Cattle are slaughtered. 

September ^>lh. 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 unin- 
habited country. We started early in the morning ; ascending a few 
* Azara has even doubted whether the Pampas Indians ever used bows. 


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, bu' 
the atmosphere remarkably hazy ; I thought the appearance forebodea 
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 considerable river, rising at 
the foot of the Cordillera. With respect to its source, I do not doubi 
that this is the case ; for the Gauchos assured me, that in the middle ot 
the dry summer, this stream, at the same time with the Colorado, has 
periodical floods ; which can only originate in the snow melting on the 
Andes. It is extremely improbable that a stream so small as the Sauce 
then was, should traverse the entire width of the continent ; and indeed, 
if it were the residue of a large river, its waters, as in other ascertained 
cases, would be saline. During the winter we must look to the springs 
round the Sierra Ventana as the source of its pure and limpid stream. 
I suspect the plains of Patagonia, like those of Australia, are traversed 
by many water-courses, which only perform their proper parts at certain 
periods. -'robably 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 survey. 

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we took fresh 
horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for the Sierra de la 
Ventana. This mountain is visible from the anchorage at Bahia Blanca ; 
and Captain Fitz Roy calculates its height to be 3,340 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 Blarca 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.* 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-grey of the quartz rock, and the light brown of the withered 
grass of the plain, being unrelieved by any brighter tint. From custom 
one expects to see in the neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain, 
a broken country strewed over with huge 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 circum- 
stances I was curious to observe how far from the parent rock any 
pebbles could be found. On the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the 
settlement, there were some of quartz, which certainly must have come 
from this source : the distance is forty-five miles. 

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the saddle-cloths 
under which we slept, was in the morning frozen. The plain, though 
appearing horizontal, had insensibly sloped up to a height of between 
800 and 900 feet above the sea. In the morning (gth 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 transversely 
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 call these thistle-stalks for the want of a more correct name. I believ? 
k is a species of Eryngiunx - 

i$33-i SIERRA VENtANA. 7$ 

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 m 
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, fit 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 mat6, 
and smoking several cigaritos, soon made up my bed for the night. The 
wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept more comfortably. 

September loth. 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 
conversation, as was generally the case, being about the Indians. The 
Sierra Ventana was formerly a great place of resort ; and three or four 
years ago there was much righting there. My guide had been present 
when many Indians were killed : the women escaped to the top oi 
the ridge, and fought most desperately with great stones ; many thus 
saving themselves. 

September nth. 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 toward us ; when far distant my companions 
knew them to be Indians by their long hair streaming behind their 
tacks. 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 appear- 
ance. 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,* 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 i^th. 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, 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, who brought a parcel from the next posta to be forwarded to 
the general : so that besides these two, our party consisted this evening 
of my guide and self, the lieutenant, and his four soldiers. The latter 
were strange beings ; the first a fine young negro ; the second half 
Indian and negro ; and the two others nondescripts ; namely, an old 
Chilian miner, the colour of mahogany, and another partly a mulatto ; 
but two such mongrels, with such detestable expressions, I never saw 
before. At night, when they were sitting round the fire, and playing at 
cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa scene. They were seated 
under a low cliff, so that I could look down upon them ; around the 
party were lying dogs, arms, remnants of deer and ostriches ; and their 
long spears were stuck in the turf. Further in the dark background, 
their horses were tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness 
of the desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking, a soldier, 
leaving the fire, would place his head close to the ground, and thus 
"Travels in Africa," p. 233. 


slowly scan the horizon. Even if the noisy teru-tero uttered its 
scream, there would be a pause in the conversation, and every head, 
for a moment, a little inclined. 

What a life of misery these men appear to us to lead ! They were 
at least ten leagues from the Sauce posta, and since the murder 
committed by the Indians, twenty from another. The Indians are 
supposed to have made their attack in the middle of the night ; for very 
early in the morning after the murder, they were luckily seen approach- 
ing 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 or rain ; indeed in the latter case the only effect the 
roof had was to condense it into larger drops. They had nothing to 
eat excepting what they could catch, such as ostriches, deer, armadilloes, 
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 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 roll=*i over and over, its legs 
fairly lashed together by the thong. 

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

September \\th. As the soldiers belonging to the next posta meant 
to return, and we should together make a party of five, and all armed, 

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

fc &AtttA BLANCA fO BtfSffiS AYRES. 

I determined not to wait for the expected troops. My host, the lieu- 
tenant, 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 hos- 
pitality, which every traveller is bound to acknowledge 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 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 ot 
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 conflagrations. 
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 necessary to remove the supei- 
fluous vegetation by fire, so as to render the new year's growth 

The rancho at this place did not boast even of a roof, but merely con- 
sisted 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 (Himan- 
topus nigricollis), is here common in flocks of considerable size. It has 
been wrongfully accused of inelegance ; when wading about in shallow 
water, which is its favourite resort, its gait is far from awkward. These 
birds in a flock utter a noise, that singularly resembles the cry of a 
pack of small dogs in full chase : waking in the night. I have more than 
once been for a moment startled at the distant sound. The teru-tero 
(Vanellus cayanus) is another bird, which often disturbs the stillness of 
the night. In appearance and habits it resembles in many respects our 
peewits ; its wings, however, are armed with sharp spurs, line those on 
the legs of the common cock. As our peewit takes its name from the 


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

September i6th.To the seventh posta at the foot of the Sierra 
Tapalguen. The country was quite level, with a coarse herbage and 
a soft peaty soil The hovel was here remarkably neat, the posts 
and rafters being made of about a dozen dry thistle-stalks bound 
together with thongs of hide ; and by the support of these Ionic-like 
columns, the roof and sides were thatched with reeds. 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) j and they said that several were running about evidently 
blind in one eye. Numbers of smaller birds, as ducks, hawks, and 
partridges, were killed. I saw one of the latter with a black mark on 
its back, as if it had been struck with a paving-stone. A fence of 
thistle-stalks round the hovel was nearly broken down, and my informer, 
putting his head out to see what was the matter, received a severe cut, 
and now wore a bandage. The storm was said to have been of limited 
extent : xve certainly saw from our last night's bivouac a dense cloud 
and lightning in this direction. It is marvellous how such strong 
animals as deer could thus have been killed ; but I have no doubt, 
from the evidence I have given, that the story is not in the least 
exaggerated. I am glad, however, to have its credibility supported by 
the Jesuit Drobrizhoffer,* who, speaking of a country much to the 
northward, says, hail fell of an enormous size and killed vast numbers 
of cattle : the Indians hence called the place Lalegraicavaka, meaning 
"the little white things." Dr. Malcolmson, also, informs me that he 
witnessed in 1831 in India, a hail-storm, which killed numbers of large 
birds and much injured the cattle. These hail-stones were flat, and 
one was ten inches in circumference, 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| 
* " IlUtory of the Abipones," vol. it, p. 6, 


which commences at Cape Corrientes. The rock in this part is pure 
quartz ; further eastward I understand it is granitic. The hills are ol 
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 ol 
hundred yards in diameter ; but I saw others larger. One which goes 
by the name of the " Corral," is said to be two or three miles in 
diameter, and encompassed by perpendicular cliffs between thirty and 
forty feet high, excepting at one spot, where the entrance lies. 
Falconer * gives a curious account of the Indians driving troops of 
wild horses into it, and then by guarding the entrance, keeping them 
secure. I have never heard of any other instance of table-land in a 
formation of quartz, and which, in the hill I examined, had neither 
cleavage nor stratification. I was told that the rock of the " Corral " 
was white, and would strike fire. 

We did not reach the posta on the Rio Tapalguen till after it was 
dark. At supper, from something which was said, I was suddenly 
struck with horror at thinking that I was eating one of the favourite 
dishes of the country, namely, a half-formed calf, long before its proper 
time of birth. It turned out to be Puma ; the meat is very white, and 
remarkably like veal in taste. Dr. Shaw was laughed at for stating 
that "the flesh of the lion is in great esteem, having no small affinity 
with veal, both in colour, taste, and flavour.' 1 Such certainly is the case 
with the Puma. The Gauchos differ in their opinion, whether the 
Jaguar is good eating, but are unanimous in saying that cat is excellent. 

September 17 ih. We followed the course of the Rio Tapalguen, 
through a very fertile country, to the ninth posta. Tapalguen itself, or 
the town of Tapalguen, if it may be so called, consists of a perfectly 
level plain, studded over, as far as the eye can reach, with the toldos, 
or oven-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 exclusively to an animal diet, even with 
the hope of life before their eyes, have hardly been able to endure it. 
Yet the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together, touches nothing 
but beef. But they eat, I observe, a very large proportion of fat, which 
is of a less animalized nature ; and they particularly dislike dry meat, 
such as that of the Agouti. Dr. Richardson,f also, has remarked, 
* Falconer's " Patagonia," p. 70. 
f " Fauna Boreaii- Americana," vol. i., p. 35. 

1833- J MEAT DIET. 85 

" that when people have fed for a long time solely upon lean animal 
food, the desire for fat becomes so insatiable, that they can consume a 
large quantity of unmixed and even oily fat without nausea : " this 
appears to me a curious physiological fact. It is, perhaps, from their 
meat regimen that the Gauchos, like other carnivorous animals, can 
abstain long from food. I was told that at Tandeel, some troops 
voluntarily pursued a party of Indians for three days, without eating 
or drinking. 

We saw in the shops many articles, such as horsecloths, belts, 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 contrived to keep tolerably dry. It was nearly dark when 
we arrived at the Salado ; the stream was deep, and about forty yards 
wide ; in summer, however, its bed becomes almost dry, and the little 
remaining water nearly as salt as that of the sea. We slept at one of 
the great estancias of General Rosas. It was fortified, and of such an 
extent, that arriving in the dark I thought it was a town and fortress. 
In the morning we saw immense herds of cattle, 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 \^th. 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 
withbizcacha 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 pass on to a carpet of fine green verdure. I at first 
attributed this to some change in the nature of the soil, but the in- 
habitants assured me that here, as well as in Banda Oriental, where 
there is as great a difference between the country around Monte Video 
and the thinly-inhabited savannahs of Colonia, the whole was to be 
attributed to the manuring and grazing of the cattle. Exactly the 
same fact has been observed in the prairies * of North America, where 
coarse grass, between five and six feet high, 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 

* See Mr. Atwater's account of the Prairies, in Silliman'* ' N. A. Journal," 
voJ L, p. 117. 


is likewise much perplexed by the immediate appearance of plants not 
occurring in the neighbourhood, on the borders of any track that leads 
to a newly-constructed hovel. In another part he says,* " ces chevaux 
(sauvages) ont la manie de preTerer les chemins, et le bord des routes 
pour deposer leurs excre'mens, dont on trouve des monceaux dans ces 
endroits." Does this not partly explain the circumstance? We thus 
have lines of richly-manured land serving as channels of communication 
across wide districts. 

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two European plants, 
now become extraordinarily common. The fennel in great profusion 
covers the ditch-banks in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, Monte 
Video, and other towns. But the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)f has a 
far wider range: it occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the 
Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it in unfrequented spots in 
Chile, Entre Rios, and Banda Oriental. In the latter country alone, 
very many (probably several hundred) square miles are covered 
by one mass of these prickly plants, and are impenetrable by 
man or beast. Over the undulating plains, where these great beds 
occur, nothing else can now live. Before their introduction, however, 
the surface must have supported, as in other parts, a rank herbage. I 
doubt whether any case is on record of an invasion on so grand a scale 
of one plant over the aborigines. As I have already said, I nowhere 
saw the cardoon south of the Salado ; but it is probable that in propor- 
tion as that country becomes inhabited, the cardoon will extend its 
limits. The case is different with the giant thistle (with variegated 
leaves) of the Pampas, for I met with it in the valley of the Sauce. 
According to the principles so well laid down by Mr. Lyell, few 
countries have undergone more remarkable changes, since the year 1535, 
when the first colonist of La Plata landed with seventy-two horses. 
The countless herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, not only have altered 
the whole aspect of the vegetation, but they have almost banished 
the guanaco, deer, and ostrich. Numberless other changes must 
likewise have taken place ; the wild pig in some parts probably replaces 
the peccari ; packs of wild dogs may be heard howling on the wooded 
banks of the less frequented streams ; and the common cat, altered into 
a large and fierce animal, inhabits rocky hills. As M. d'Orbigny has 

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

j- 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 
, \rdoon ; and more like a thistle properly so called. 

1833.] THE GREAT CORRAL. &j 

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

While changing horses at the Guardia several people questioned 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, abounding with various flocks, and with here and there a 
solitary estancia, and its one ombu tree. In the evening it rained 
heavily : on arriving at a post-house we were told by the owner that if 
we had not a regular passport we must pass on, for there were so many 
robbers he would trust no one. When he read, however, my passport, 
which began with " El Naturalista Don Carlos," 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 zoth. 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 kindness and hospitality, during my stay 
in the country, I was greatly indebted. 

The city of Buenos Ayres is large ; * and I should think one of the 
most regular in the world. Every street is at right angles to the one 
it crosses, and the parallel ones being equidistant, the houses are 
collected into solid squares of equal dimensions, which are called 
quadras. On the other hand, the houses themselves are hollow 
squares; all the rooms opening into a neat little courtyard. They 
are generally only one storey 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 revolu- 
tion, 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 

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


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 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 to St. F<5 Thistle Beds Habits of the Bizcacha Little Owl 
Saline Streams Level Plains Mastodon St. Fe Change in Land- 
scape Geology Tooth of Extinct Horse Relation of the Fossil 
and Recent Quadrupeds of North and South America Effects of a 
Great Drought Parana Habits of the Jaguar Scissor-beak King- 
f*her, Parrot and Scissor-tail Revolution Buenos Ayres State of 

September T.'jth. 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 neigfit'ourhood 
of the city, after the rainy weather, were extraordinarily bad. 1 should 
nevex 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 proportion. We 
passed a train of waggons and a troop of beasts on their road to 
Mendoza. The distance is about five hundred and eighty 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 inter- 
mediate pair, a point projects at right angles from the middle of the 
long one. The whole apparatus looked like some implement of war, 

1833.] THE BIZCACHA. 89 

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 laby- 
rinth. These are only known to the robbers, who at this season 
inhabit them, and sally forth at night to rob and cut throats with 
impunity. Upon asking at a house whether robbers were numerous, 
I was answered, " The thistles are not up yet ; " the meaning of which 
reply was not at first very obvious. There is little interest in passing 
over these tracts, for they are inhabited by few animals or birds, 
excepting the bizcacha and its friend the little owl. 

The bizcacha * is well known to form a prominent feature in the 
zoology of the Pampas. It is found as far south as the Rio Negro, 
in lat. 41, but not beyond. It cannot, like the agouti, subsist on the 
gravelly and desert plains of Patagonia, but prefers a clayey or sandy 
soil, which produces a different and more abundant vegetation. Near 
Mendoza, at the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs in close neighbourhood 
with the allied alpine species. It is a very curious circumstance in its 
geographical distribution, that it has never been seen, fortunately for 
the inhabitants of Banda Oriental, to the eastward of the river Uru- 
guay: 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, an** 2 man on horseback passing by seems 
only to present an object for their grave contemplation. They run 

* 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 pf the fur. 

go PAMPAS. [CHAP. va. 

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 neighbour- 
hood 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 defence, because the rubbish 
is chiefly placed above the mouth of the burrow, which enters the 
ground at a very small inclination. No doubt there must exist some 
good reason ; but the inhabitants of the country are quite ignorant of it. 
The only fact which I know analogous to it, is the habit of that 
extraordinary Australian bird, the 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, in- 
forms me, that the natives, when they lose any hard object, search 
the playing passages, and he has known a tobacco-pipe thus recovered. 

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has been so often 
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* 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 
one hundred and fifty English miles. At all events, the thirty-one 
leagues was only seventy-six miles in a straight line, and in an open 
* Journal of Asiatic Soc., vol. v., p. 363. 

1833.] &I6 TERCERO. 

country I should think lour additional miles for turnings would be a 
sufficient allowance. 

September i^th and y>th. 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 per- 
pendicular, 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 

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

October \st. We started by moonlight and arrived at the Rio Tercero 
by sunrise. This river is also called the Saladillo, and it deserves the 
name, for the water is brackish. I stayed 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, projecting in bold relief from the pendicular 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 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 1 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 luxuri- 

92 Sr. FE. [CHAP. vn. 

ance 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, composed of low prickly mimosas. We passed some 
houses that had been ransacked and since deserted ; we saw also a 
spectacle, which my guides viewed with high satisfaction : it was the 
skeletomof an Indian with the dried skin hanging on the bones, sus- 
pended to the branch of a tree. 

In the morning we arrived at St. F6. 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 yd and ^th. 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 of the country 
are ludicrously strange, but too disgusting to be mentioned. One of 
the least nasty is to kill and cut open two puppies and bind them on 
each side of a broken limb. Little hairless dogs are in great request to 
sleep at the feet of invalids. 

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

October yh. 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 introducti on 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 6,000 inhabitants, 
and t!2 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 alteration 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 it in 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,* and I took 
scrupulous care in ascertaining that it had been embedded contempora- 
neously 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 

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

$4 . F. ICHAI>. vn. 

from the United States a tooth ot a horse ; and it is an interesting fact, 
that Professor Owen could find in no species, either fossil or recent, 
a slight but peculiar curvature characterizing it, until he thought of 
comparing it with my specimen , found here : he has named this 
American horse Equus curvidens. Certainly it is a marvellous fact 
in the history of the Mammalia, that in South America a native horse 
should have lived and disappeared, to be succeeded in after ages by 
the countless herds descended from the few introduced with the Spanish 
colonists ! 

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the mastodon, 

Eossibly of an elephant,* and of a hollow-horned ruminant, discovered 
y MM. Lund and Clausen in the caves of Brazil, are highly interesting 
facts with respect to the geographical distribution of animals. At the 
present time, if we divide America, not by the Isthmus of Panama, but 
by the southern part of Mexico f in lat. 20, where the great table-land 
presents an obstacle to the migration of species, by affecting the climate, 
and by forming, with the exception of some valleys and of a fringe of 
low land on the coast, a broad barrier ; we shall then have the two 
zoological provinces of North and South America strongly contrasted 
with each other. Some few species alone have passed the barrier, and 
may be considered as wanderers from the south, such as the puma, 
opossum, kinkajou, and peccari. South America is characterized by 
possessing many peculiar gnawers, a family of monkeys, the llama, 
peccari, tapir, opossums, and, especially, several genera of Edentata, 
the order which includes the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos. North 
America, on the other hand, is characterized (putting on one side a few 
wandering species) by numerous peculiar gnawers, and by four genera 
(the ox, sheep, goat, and antelope) of hollow-horned ruminants, of 
which great division South America is not known to possess a single 
species. Formerly, but within the period when most of the now 
existing shells were living, North America possessed, besides hollow- 
horned ruminants, the 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 geological period these several genera 
in common, were much more closely related in the character of their 

* Cuvier, "Ossemens Fossiles," torn, i., p. 158. 

t 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 identification of a Mexican animal with the 
Syneiheres prthensilis, 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." 


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-characterized zoological provinces. 
The geologist, who is fully impressed with the vast oscillations of level 
which have affected the earth's crust within late periods, will not fear 
to speculate on the recent elevation of the Mexican platform, or, more 
probably, on the recent submergence of land in the West Indian 
Archipelago, as the cause of the present zoological separation of North 
and South America. The South American character of the West Indian 
mammals* seems to indicate that this archipelago was formerly united 
to the southern continent, and that it has subsequently been an area of 

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 Straits f and on the plains of Siberia, 
we are led to look to the north-western side of North America as the 
former point of communication between the Old and so-called New 
World. And as so many species, both living and extinct, of these same 
genera inhabit and have inhabited, the One 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 W r est 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 de- 
scriptions 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. F6. Very great numbers of birds, wild animals, 
cattle, and horses perished from the want of food and water. A man 

* See Dr. Richardson's Report, p. 157; also L'InsfiM, 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, 
Journ. 1826, p. 395. 

f See the admirable Appendix by Dr. Buckland to " Beechy's Voyage J * 
also the writings of Chain isso in M Ko tie b lie's Voyage." 

gfi ST. F. [CHAP. vu. 

told me that the deer * used to come into his courtyard to the well, 
which he had been obliged to dig to supply his own family with water ; 
and that the partridges had hardly strength to fly away when pursued. 
The lowest estimation of the less 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 con- 
sumption of the inhabitants. The animals roamed from their estancias, 
and, wandering far southward, were mingled together in such multi- 
tudes, that a government commission was sent from Buenos Ayres to 
settle the disputes of the owners. Sir Woodbine Parish informed me 
of another and very curious source of dispute ; the ground being so 
long dry, such quantities of dust were blown about, that in this open 
country the landmarks became obliterated, and people could not tell 
the limits of their estates. 

I was informed by an eyewitness that the cattle in herds of thousands 
rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted by hunger they were 
unable to crawl up the muddy banks, and thus were drowned. The 
arm of the river which runs by San Pedro was so full of putrid carcases, 
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 f 
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 
carcases 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 1832, a very rainy season followed, which caused 
great floods. Hence it is almost certain that some thousands of the 

* In Capt. Owen's " Surveying Voyage (vol. ii., p. 274) there is a curious 
account of the effects of a drought on the elephants, at Benguela (west coast 
of Africa). "A number of these animals had some time since entered the 
town, in a body, to possess themselves of the wells, not being able to procure 
any water in the country. The inhabitants mustered, when a desperate 
conflict ensued, which terminated in the ultimate discomfiture of the in- 
vaders, but not until they had killed one man, and wounded se% 7 eral others." 
The town is said to have a population of nearly three thousand ! Dr. Mai- 
colmson informs me, that during a great drought in India the wild animals 
entered the tents of some troops at Ellore, and that a hare drank out of 
vessel held by the adjutant of the regiment, 

f " Travels," vol. i., p. 374. 


skeletons were buried by the deposits of the very next year. What 
would be the opinion of a geologist, viewing such an enormous 
collection of bones, of all kinds of animals and of all ages, thus 
embedded in one thick earthy mass? Would he not attribute it to 
a flood having swept over the surface of the land, rather than to the 
common order of things ? * 

October 12th. I had intended to push my excursion further, but not 
being quite well, I was compelled to return by a balandra, or one- 
masted vessel of about a hundred tons' burden, which was bound to 
Buenos Ayres. As the weather was not fair, we moored early in the 
day to a branch of a tree on one of the islands. The Parana is full 
of islands, which undergo a 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 rinding 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 Indies " 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 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 

* 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 


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

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 com- 
mon cat, as with outstretched legs and exserted claws it scrapes the leg 
of a chair; and I have heard of young fruit trees in an orchard in 
England having been thus much injured. Some such habit must also 
be common to the puma, for on the bare hard soil of Patagonia I have 
frequently seen scores so deep that no other animal could have made 
them. The object of this practice is, I believe, to tear off the ragged 
points of their claws, and not, as the Gauchos think, to sharpen them. 
The jaguar is killed, without much difficulty, by the aid of dogs baying 
and driving him up a tree, where he is despatched with bullets. 

Owing to bad weather we remained two days at our moorings. Our 
only amusement was catching fish for our dinner ; there were several 
kinds, and all good eating. A fish called the "armado" (a Silurus) is 
remarkable from a harsh grating noise which it makes when caught by 
hook and line, and which can be distinctly heard when the fish is 
beneath the water. This same fish has the power of firmly catching 
hold of any object, such as the blade of an oar or the fishing-line, with 
the strong spine both of its pectoral and dorsal fin. In the evening the 
weather was quite tropical, the thermometer standing at 79. Numbers 
of fireflies were hovering about, and the musquitoes were very trouble- 
some. 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 i$th. 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. The beak is 
flattened laterally, that is, in a plane at right angles to that of a spoon- 
bill or duck. It is as flat and elastic as an ivory paper-cutter, and the 

1833.] THE SCISSOR-BEAK. 99 

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 irre- 
gular manner up and down the narrow canal, now dark with the growing 
night and the shadows of the overhanging trees. At Monte Video I 
observed that some large flocks during the day remained on the mud- 
banks at the head of the harbour, in the same manner as on the grassy 
plains near the Parana ; and every evening they took flight seaward. 
From these facts I suspect that the Rhynchops generally fishes by night, 
at which time many of the lower animals come most abundantly to the 
surface. M. Lesson states that he has seen these birds opening the 
shells of the mactrae buried in the sand-banks on the coast of Chile ; 
from their weak bills, with the lower mandible so much projecting. 

loo RIO PARANA. [CHAP. vu. 

their short legs and long wings, it is very improbable that this can be a 
general habit 

In our course down the Parana, I observed only three other birds, 
whose habits are worth mentioning. One is a small king-fisher 
(Ceryle Americana) ; it has a longer tail than the European species, and 
hence does not sit in so stiff and upright a position. Its flight also, 
instead of being direct and rapid, like the course of an arrow, is weak 
and undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. It utters a low note, 
like the clicking together of two small stones. A small green parrot 
(Conurus murinus), with a grey breast, appears to prefer the tall trees 
on the islands to any other situation for its building-place. A number 
of nests are placed so close together as to form one great mass of sticks. 
These parrots always live in flocks, and commit great ravages on the 
corn-fields. I was told that near Colonia 2,50x3 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 ombit 
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 sometimes in a vertical direction, just like a pair of scissors. 

October ibth. 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 

October l%th 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 occupied its shores ! Till the death of Francia, the Dictator 
of Paraguay, these two countries must remain distinct, as if placed on 
opposite sides of the globe. And when the old bloody-minded tyrant is 
gone to his long account, Paraguay will be torn by revolutions, violent 
in proportion to the previous unnatural calm. That country 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 2o//z. Being arrived at the mouth of the Parana, and as I 
was very anxious to reach Beunos 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 quite impossible that I could be allowed to enter 
the city. I was very anxious about this, as I anticipated the Beagles 
departure from the Rio Plata earlier than it took place. Having 
mentioned, however, General Rosas's obliging kindness to me when at 
the Colorado, magic itself could not have altered circumstances quicker 
than did this conversation. I was instantly told that though they could 
not give me a passport, if I chose to leave my guide and horses, I might 
pass their sentinels. I was too glad to accept of this, and an officer 
was sent with me to give directions that I 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 oi 
meat they would certainly be victorious. General Rosas could not 
have known of this rising ; but it appears to be quite consonant with the 
plans of his party. A year ago he was elected governor, but he refused 
it, unless the Sala would also confer on him extraordinary powers. 
This was refused, and since then his party have shown that no other 
governor can keep his place. The warfare on both sides was avowedly 
protracted till it was possible to hear from Rosas. A note arrived a 
few days after I left Buenos Ayres, which stated that the General 
disapproved of peace having been broken, but that he thought the 
outside party had justice on their side. On the bare reception of this, 
the Governor, ministers; and part of the military, to the number of some 
hundreds, fled from the city. The rebels entered, elected a new 
governor, and were paid for their services to the number ot 5,500 
men. From these proceedings, it was clear that Rosas ultimately would 
become the dictator : to the term king, the people in this, as in other 
republics, have a particular dislike. Since leaving South America we 
have heard that Rosas has been elected with powers, and for a time 
altogether opposed to the constitutional principles of the republic. 



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 Organization Constant 
Change in the Zoology of America Causes of Extinction. 

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

Our passage was a very long and tedious one. The Plata looks like 
8 noble estuary on the map; but is in truth a poor affair. A wide 


expanse of muddy water has neither grandeur nor beauty. At one 
time of the day, the two shores, both of which are extremely low, could 
just be distinguished from the deck. On arriving at Monte Video I 
found that the Beagle would not sail for some time, so I prepared for a 
short excursion in this part of Banda Oriental. Everything which I have 
said about the country near Maldonado is applicable to Monte Video ; 
hut the land, with the one exception of the Green Mount, 450 feet high, 
from wh'ch 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^th. We left Monte Video in the afternoon. I intended 
to proceed to Colonia del Sacramiento, situated on the northern bank of 
the Plata and opposite to Buenos Ayres, and thence, following up the 
Uruguay, to the village of Mercedes on the Rio Negro (one of the many 
rivers of this name in South America), and from this point to return 
direct toMonte 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 surprised to observe how easily our 
horses, although not used to swim, passed over a width of at least six 
hundred yards. On mentioning this at Monte Video, I was told that 
a vessel containing some mountebanks and their horses, being wrecked 
in the Plata, one horse swam seven miles to the shore. In the course 
of the day I was amused by the dexterity with which a Gaucho forced 
a restive horse to swim a river. He stripped off his clothes, and 
jumping on its back, rode into the water till it was out of its depth ; 
then slipping off over the crupper, he caught hold of the tail, and as 
often as the horse turned round, the man frightened it back by splashing 
water in its face. As soon as the horse touched the bottom on the 
other side, the man pulled himself on, and was firmly seated, bridle in 
hand, before the horse gained the bank. A naked man on a naked 
horse is a fine spectacle ; I had no idea how well the two animals suited 
each other. The tail of a horse is a very useful appendage ; I have 
passed a river in a boat with four people in it, which was ferried across 
in the same way as the Gaucho. If a man and horse have to cross 
a broad river, the best plan is for the man to catch hold of the 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 I 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 abun- 
dance of small rivulets, and the turf is green and luxuriant 

November 17 '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 surrounding groves of old 
orange and peach trees, gave it a pretty appearance. The church is a 
curious ruin ; it was used as a powder-magazine, and was struck by 
lightning in one of the ten thousand thunder-storms of the Rio Plata. 
Two-thirds of the building were blown away to the very foundation ; and 
the rest stands a shattered and curious monument of the united powers 
of 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 overturn a government which as yet 
has never rested on any stable foundation. I noticed, however, both here 
and in other places, a very general interest in the ensuing election for 
the President ; and this appears a good sign for the prosperity of this 
little country. The inhabitants do not require much education in their 
representatives ; I heard some men discussing the merits of those for 
Colonia ; and it was said that, " although they were not men of business, 
they could all sign their names : " with this they seemed to think every 
reasonable man ought to be satisfied. 

November i8/A. 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 supply- 
ing fuel to Buenos Ayres. I was curious to know the value of so 
complete an estancia. Of cattle there were 3,000, 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 2,ooo/., and he only wanted joo/. 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 recognized 
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 gave them the most 
ludicrous self-confident air of defiance imaginable. 

Since my return, I have procured a skeleton head, through the 
kindness of my friend Captain Sulivan, R.N., which is now deposited 
in the College of Surgeons.* Don F. Muniz, of Luxan, has kindly 
collected for me all the information which he could respecting this 
breed. From his account it seems that about eighty or ninety years 
ago they were rare, and kept as curiosities at Buenos Ayres. The 
breed is universally believed to have originated amongst the Indians 
southward of the Plata ; and that it was with them the commonest 
kind. Even to this day, those reared in the provinces near the Plata 
show their less civilized origin, in being fiercer than common cattle, 
and in the cow easily deserting her first calf, if visited too often or 
molested. It is a singular fact that an almost similar structure to the 
abnormal f one of the niata breed, characterizes, 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. 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 

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

\ 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 : " Histoire des Anomalies," par M. Isid. Geoffrey St. Hilaire, 
torn, i., p. 244. 


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 ii not 
attended to ; for the common cattle, like horses, are able just to keep 
alive, by browsing with their lips on twigs of trees and reeds ; this the 
niatas cannot so well do, as their lips do not join, and hence they are 
found to perish before the common cattle. This strikes me as a good 
illustration of how little we are able to judge from the ordinary habits 
of life, on what circumstances, occurring only at long intervals, the 
rarity or extinction of a species may be determined. 

November igth. 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, being ten 
leagues square, and the owner is one of the greatest landowners in 
the country. His nephew had charge of it, and with him there was 
a captain in the army, who the other day ran away from Buenos Ayres. 
Considering their station, the 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 I 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 judg- 
ment in combs and beauty procured me a most hospitable reception ; 

I333-] HILL Of 1 BEADS. x<# 

the captain forced me to take his bed, and he would sleep on his 

November 2isf. 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 conse- 
quence, there were immense beds of the thistle, as well as of the 
cardoon : the whole country, indeed, may be called one great bed ol 
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 itseli 
is partly, and in some cases entirely, closed. Pasture, of course, there 
is none ; if cattle or horses once enter the bed, they are for the time 
completely lost. Hence it is very hazardous to attempt to drive cattle 
at this season of the year ; for when jaded enough to face the thistles, 
they rush among them, and are seen no more. In these districts there 
are very few estancias, and these few are situated in the 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 undula- 
tions 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 northward. The name 
signifies hill of beads. I was assured that vast numbers of little round 
etones, of various colours, each with a small cylindrical hole, are found 
there. Formerly the Indians used to collect them, for the purpose of 
making necklaces and bracelets a taste, I may observe, which is 
common to all savage nations, as well as to the most polished. I did 


not know what to understand from this story, but upon mentioning it 
at the Cape of Good Hope to Dr. Andrew Smith, he told me that he 
recollected rinding 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 smajl canal 
extending from one extremity to the other, perfectly cylindrical, and of 
a size that readily admitted a coarse thread or a piece of fine catgut. 
Their colour was red or dull white. The natives were acquainted- with 
this structure in crystals. I have mentioned these circumstances because, 
although no crystallized body is at present known to assume this form, 
it may lead some future traveller to investigate the real nature of such 

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

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some meat, and 
as soon as it is given him, he skulks away as if ashamed of himself. On 
these occasions the house-dogs are very tyrannical, and the least of 
them will attack and pursue the stranger. The minute, however, the 
latter has reached the flock, he turns round and begins to bark, and 
then all the house-dogs take very quickly to their heels. In a similai 
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 

* M. A. d'Orbigny has given nearly a simi'ar account of these dogs, 
torn. L, p. 175. 


understand on no principle the wild dogs being driven away by the 
single one with its flock, except that they consider, from some confused 
notion, that the one thus associated gains power, as if in company with 
its own kind. F. Cuvier has observed, that all animals that readily 
enter into domestication, consider man as a member of their 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 head. 

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


tremendously severe, but in two or three .trials the horse is tamed. It 
is not, however, for some weeks that the animal is ridden with the iron 
bit and solid ring, for it must learn to associate the will of its rider 
with the feel of the rein, before the most powerful bridle can be of any 

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 re- 
spectable " 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 1 " 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 coolness the proper 
moment for slipping off, not an instant before or after the right time ; 
and as soon as the horse got up, the man jumped on his back, and 
at last they started at a gallop. The Gaucho never appears to exert 
any muscular force. I was one day watching a good rider, as we were 
galloping along at a rapid pace, and thought to 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 fore-finger and thumb, taken at full gallop across a court- 
yard, and then made to wheel round the post of a veranda with great 
speed, but at 'so equal a distance, that the rider, with outstretched arm, 
all the while kept one finger rubbing the post. Then making a demi- 
volte in the air, with the other arm outstretched in a like manner, he 
wheeled round, with astonishing force, in an opposite direction. 

Such a horse is well broken ; and although this at first may appear 


useless, it is far otherwise. It is only carrying that which is daily 
necessary into perfection. When a bullock is checked and caught by 
the lazo, it will sometimes gallop round and round in a circle, and the 
horse being alarmed at the great strain, if not well broken, will not 
readily turn like the pivot of a wheel. In consequence many men have 
been killed ; for if the lazo once takes a twist round a man's body, it 
will instantly, from the power of the two opposed animals, almost cut 
him in twain. On the same principle the races are managed ; the course 
is only two or three hundred yards long, the 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, without missing one, as it 
rushed past him. There was another man who said he would enter 
the corral on foot, catch a mare, fasten her front legs together, drive her 
out, throw her do\vn, kill, skin, and stake the hide for dyeing (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 l>th. I set out on my return in a direct line for Monte 
Video. Having heard of some giant's bones at a neighbouring farm- 
house on the Sarandis, a small stream entering the Rio Negro, I rode 
there accompanied by my host, and purchased for the value of eighteen 
pence the head of the Toxodon.* 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, em- 
bedded by itself on the banks of the Rio Tercero, at the distance of about 
one hundred and eighty 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. 
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 aSth, 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 

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 

* 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 assist- 
ance these valuable remains would never have reached England. 

l33-l STATE OF SOCIETY. 113 

is modest, both respecting himself and country, but at the same time a 
spirited, bold fellow. On the other hand, many robberies are com- 
mitted, and there is much bloodshed : the habit of constantly wearing 
the knife is the chief cause of the latter. It is lamentable to hear ho w 
many lives are lost in trifling quarrels. In fighting, each party tries to 
mark the face of his adversary by slashing his nose or eyes ; as is often 
attested by deep and horrid-looking scars. Robberies are a natural 
consequence of universal gambling, much drinking, and extreme indo- 
lence. 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 aft 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 con- 
sequence 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 

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, 
when 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 
Kosas. A son of a major at Bahia Blanca gained his livelihood by 
making paper cigars, and he wished to accompany me, as guide or 


Servant, to Buenos Ayres, but his father objected on the score of the 
danger alone. Many officers in the army can neither read nor write, 
yet all meet in society as equals. In Entre Rios, the Sala consisted of 
only six representatives. One of them kept a common shop, and 
evidently was not degraded by the office. All this is what would be 
expected in a new country ; nevertheless the absence of gentlemen by 
profession appears to an Englishman -something strange. 

When speaking of these countries, the manner in which they have 
been brought up by their unnatural parent, Spain, should always be 
borne in mind. On the whole, perhaps, more credit is due for what 
has been done, than blame for that which may be deficient. It is 
impossible to doubt but that the extreme liberalism of these countries 
must ultimately lead to good results. The very general toleration ot 
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 witlf gratitude by those who have 
visited Spanish South America, 

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

Several times when the ship has been some miles off the mouth oi 
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 aid of a telescope it was not possible to see 
the space free from butterflies. The seamenccried 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 great 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 tnust 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 

* LyeU's Principles of Geology," vol lit, p, 63. 


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 
t<;en blown off the Patagonian shore. Captain Cook observed it, as 
did more lately Captain King in the Adventure. The cause probably 
is due to the want of shelter, both of trees and hills, so that an insect 
on the wing, with an off-shore breeze, would be very apt to be blown 
out to sea. The most remarkable instance I 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, three hundred and seventy miles distant* 

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 ; 

* The flies which frequently accompany a ship for some days on its 
passage from harbour to harbour, wandering from the ves?ti, Are oon lostj 
nd all disappear. 


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 atmosphere ? Its stock of web seemed inexhaustible. While 
watching some that were suspended by a single thread, I several times 
observed that the slightest breath of air bore them away out of sight, 
in a horizontal line. On another occasion (25th), under similar circum- 
stances, 1 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, 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 afterwards of the spider itself; the divergence 
of the lines has been attempted to be explained, I believe by 
Mr. Murray, by their similar electrical condition. The circumstance 
of spiders of the same species, but of 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 

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, 

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


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 floating marine animals. 

In deep water, far from the land, the number of living creatures is 
extremely small: south of the latitude 35, I never succeeded in 
catching 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 
56 and 57 south of Cape Horn, the net was put astern several times ; 
it never, however, brought up anything besides a few of two extremely 
minute species of 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 time. The central and inter-tropical parts of 
the Atlantic swarm with Pteropoda, Crustacea, and Radiata, and with 
their devourers the flying-fish, and again with their devourers the 
bonitos and albicores ; I presume that the numerous lower pelagic 
animals feed on the Infusoria, which are now known, from the 
researches of Ehrenberg, to abound in the open ocean ; but on what, 
in the clear blue water, do these Infusoria subsist ? 

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

As we proceed further southward the sea is seldom phosphorescent ; 
and off Cape Horn I do not recollect more than once having seen it so, 
and then it was far from being brilliant. This circumstance probably 
has a close connection with the scarcity of organic beings in that part 
of the ocean. After the elaborate paper * by Ehrenberg, on the 
phosphorescence of the sea, it is almost superfluous on my part to 

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

ii& PORT DESIRE, [CHAP. viii. 

make any observations on the subject. I may however add, that the 
same torn and irregular particles of gelatinous matter, described by 
Ehrenberg, seem in the southern as well as in the northern hemisphere, 
to be the common cause of this phenomenon. The particles were so 
minute as easily to pass through fine gauze ; yet many were distinctly 
visible by the naked eye. The water when placed in a tumbler and 
agitated, gave out sparks, but a small portion in a watch-glass scarcely 
ever was luminous. Ehrenberg states that these particles all retain 
a certain degree of irritability. My observations, some of which were 
made directly alter 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 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 phosphorescent. 

On two occasions I have observed the sea luminous at considerable 
depths beneath the surface. Near the mouth of the Plata some circular 
and oval patches, from two to four yards in diameter, and with defined 
outlines, shone with a steady but pale light ; while the surrounding 
water only gave out a few sparks. The appearance resembled the 
reflection of the moon, or some luminous body ; for the edges were 
sinuous from the 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 favoura?-** v. *^s production. Certainly I think the sea is most 
luminous after a few days of more calm weather than ordinary, during 
whiC^i time it h a s swarmed with various animals. Observing that the 
water charged with gelatinous particles is in an impure state, and that 
the luminous Cppearance 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 r/f 
the organic particles, by which process (one is tempted almost to call 
it a kind of resoiration) the ocean becomes purified. 

December 23*^ We arrived at Port Desire, situated in lat. 47, or 


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 wen- 
rounded shingle mixed with a whitish earth. Here and there scattered 
tufts of brown wiry grass are supported, and, still more rarely, some 
low thorny bushes. The weather is dry and pleasant, and the fine 
blue sky is but seldom obscured. When standing in the middle of one 
of these desert plains and looking towards the interior, the view is 
generally bounded by the escarpment of another plain, rather higher, 
but equally level and desolate ; and in every other direction the hori- 
zon is indistinct from the trembling mirage which seems to rise from 
the heated surface. 

In such a country the fate of the Spanish settlement was soou 
decided ; the dryness of the climate during the greater part of the 
year, and the occasional hostile attacks of the wandering Indians, 
compelled the colonists to desert their half-finished buildings. The 
style, however, in which they were commenced shows the strong and 
liberal hand of Spain in the old time. The result of all the attempts to 
colonize this side of America south of 41, 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.* On the arid 
plains a few black beetles (Heteromera) might be seen slowly crawling 
about, and occasionally a lizard darted from side to side. Of birds we 
have three carrion hawks, and in the 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, cicadse, small lizards, and even 
scorpions.f At one time of the year these birds go in flocks, at anothei 

* I found here a species of cactus, described by Professor Henslow, under 
the name of Opuntia Daruiinii (Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. L, 
p. 466), which was remarkable by the irritability of the stamens, when I 
inserted either a piece of stick or the end of my ringer 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 

" t These insects were not uncommon beneatfr stones. I found one cannibal 
scorpion quietly devouring another, 

120 PORT DESIRE. [CHA.P. vm, 

in pairs ; their cry is very loud and singular, like the neighing of the 

The guanaco, or wild llama, is the characteristic quadruped of the 
plains of Patagonia ; it is the South American representative 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 continent, as far south as the islands near 
Cape Horn. It generally lives in small herds of from half a dozen to 
thirty in each ; but on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw one herd 
which must have contained at least five hundred. 

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes told me, 
that he one day saw through a glass a herd of these animals which 
evidently had been frightened, and were running away at full speed, 
although 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 
eee the herd standing 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 
track to a neighbouring hill. If, however, by chance he abruptly meets 
a single animal, or several together, they will generally stand motion- 
less 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 more- 
over 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 hirrj 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 huntsman can come up. In many of their habits 
they are like sheep in a flock. Thus when they see men approaching 
in several directions on horseback, they soon 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 

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, 1 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 

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 under- 
stand the reason of this, but I may observe, that the wounded guanacos 
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 ; ws 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. Ffpin the softness of these materials it was worn 


into many gulleys. There was not a tree, and, excepting the guanaco, 
which stood on the hill-top a watchful sentinel over its herd, scarcely 
an animal or a bird. All was stillness and desolation. Yet in passing 
over these scenes, without one bright object near, an ill-defined but 
strong sense of pleasure is vividly excited. One asked how many agea 
the plain had thus lasted, and how many more it was doomed thus to 

None can reply all seems eternal now. 

The wilderness has a mysterious tongue, 

Which teaches awful doubt.* 

In the evening we sailed a few miles further up, and then pitched the 
tents for the night. By the middle of the next day the yawl was 
aground, and from the shoalness of the water could not proceed any 
higher. The water being found partly fresh, Mr. Chaffers took the 
dingey and went up two or three miles further, where she also 
grounded, but in a fresh-water river. The water was muddy, and 
though the stream was most insignificant in size, it would be difficult 
to account for its origin, except from the melting snow on the Cordillera 
At the spot where we bivouaced, 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 thii 
rocky crevice in the wide plain. 

The second day after our return to the anchorage, a party of officers 
and myself went to ransack an old Indian grave, which I had found on 
the summit of a neighbouring hill. Two immense stones, each probably 
weighing at least a couple of tons, had been placed in front of a ledge 
of rock about six feet high. At the bottom of the grave on the hard 
rock there was a layer of earth about a foot deep, which must have beec 
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 fragment 
and to throw it over the pile so as to rest on the two blocks. We 
undermined the grave on both sides, but could not find any relics, 01 
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, 
* Shelley, Lines on Mont Blanc. 


January gth, 1834. Before it was dark the Beagle anchored in the 
fine spacious harbour of Port St. Julian, situated about one hundred 
and ten miles to the south of Port Desire. We remained here eight 
days. The country is nearly similar to that of Port Desire, but perhaps 
rather more sterile. One day a party accompanied Captain Fitz Roy 
on a long walk round the head of the harbour. We were eleven hours 
without tasting any water, and some of the party were quite exhausted. 
From the summit of a hill (since well named Thirsty Hill) a fine lake 
was spied, and two of the party proceeded with concerted signals to 
show whether it was fresh water. What was our disappointment to 
find a snow-white expanse of salt, crystallized in great cubes! We 
attributed our extreme thirst to the dryness of the atmosphere; but 
whatever the cause might be, we were exceedingly glad late in the 
evening to get back to the boats. Although we could nowhere find, 
during our whole visit, a single drop of fresh water, yet some must 
exist ; lor 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 
occasionally overflowed by the sea), and one other found dead on the 
plain, complete the list of the beetles. A good-sized fly (Tabanus) was 
extremely numerous, and tormented us by its painful bite. The common 
horse-fly, 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 musquitoes on the blood of what animals do these 
insects commonly 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 accumulated in bays, 
here along hundreds of miles of coast we have one great deposit, 
including many tertiary shells, all apparently extinct. The most com- 
mon 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 ; halfway 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 
(ts average breadth as 200 miles, and its average thickness as about o 


feet. If this great bed of pebbles, without including the mud neces- 
sarily 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 >n 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 fai 
transported, the mind is stupefied in thinking over the long, absolutely 
necessary, lapse of years. Yet all this gravel has been transported, 
and probably rounded, subsequently to the deposition of the white beds, 
and long subsequently to the underlying beds with the tertiary shells. 

Everything in this southern continent has been effected on a grand 
scale : the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del Fuego, a distance of 
1,200 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 Santa Cruz slopes 
up to a height of 3,000 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 1,000 feet in thick- 
ness : hence the bed of the sea, on which these shells once lived, 
must have sunk downwards several hundred feet, to allow of the 
accumulation of the superincumbent strata. What a history of geological 
changes does the simply-constructed coast of Patagonia reveal ! 

At Port St. Julian, * in some red mud capping the gravel on the go- 
feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macrauchenia Patachonica, 
a remarkable quadruped, full as large as a camel. It belongs to the 
same division of the Pachydermata with the rhinoceros, tapir, and 

* I have lately heard that Captain Sulivan, R.N., has found numerous 
fossil bones, embedded in regular strata, on the banks of the R. Gallegos, in 
lat 52 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 


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 llam^ 
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 Macrauchema 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, betxveen the Toxodon and the Capybara, the closer relation- 
ship between the many extinct Edentata and the living sloths, ant-eaters, 
and armadillos, now so eminently characteristic of South American 
zoology, and the still closer relationship between the fossil and 
living species of Ctenomys and Hydrochaerus, are most interesting 
facts. This relationship is shown wonderfully as wonderfully as 
between the fossil and extinct Marsupial animals of Australiaby the 
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, armadillos, tapirs, peccaries, guanacos, opossums, and 
numerous South American gnawers and monkeys, and other animals. 
This wonderful relationship in the same continent between the dead 
and the living, will, I do not doubt, hereafter throw more light on the 
appearance of organic beings on our earth, and their disappearance 
from it, than any other class of facts. 

It is impossible to reflect on the changed state of the American 
continent without the deepest 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 exami- 
nation, moreover, of the geology of La Plata and Patagonia, leads to 
the beli?f that all the features of the land result from slow and gradua* 
changes. It appears from the character of the fossils in Europe, Asia, 


Australia, and in North and South America, that those conditions which 
favour the life of the larger quadrupeds were lately co-extensive with 
the world : what those conditions were, no one has yet even conjectured. 
It could hardly have been a change of 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 ice- 
bergs now never arrive : from conclusive but indirect reasons we may 
feel sure, that in the southern hemisphere the Macrauchenia, also, lived 
long subsequently to the ice-transporting boulder-period. Did man, 
after his first inroad into South America, destroy, as has been suggested, 
the unwieldy Megatherium and the other 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 introduced 
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 ol their 
numerous gigantic prototypes ? Certainly, no fact in the long history 
of the world is so startling as the wide and repeated exterminations ot 
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 organized being left in a 
state of nature. The supply of food, on an average, remains constant ; 
yet the tendency in every animal to increase by propagation is geome- 
trical ; 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 i\s conditions. If asked how this is, one 


diately 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 inappre- 
ciable by us, determine whether a given species shall be abundant or 
scanty in numbers. 

In the cases where \ve can trace the extinction of a species through 
man, either wholly or in one limited district, we know that it becomes 
rarer and rarer, and is then lost : it would be difficult to point out any 
just distinction * between a species destroyed by man or by the 
increase of its natural enemies. The evidence of rarity preceding 
extinction, is more striking in the successive tertiary strata, as remarked 
by several able 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 extinc' "-*-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 further to extinction? An action going on, on 
every side of us, and yet barely appreciable, might surely be carried 
a little further, without exciting our observation. Who would feel any 
great surprise at hearing that the Megalonyx was formerly rare com- 
pared with the Megatherium, or that one of the fossil monkeys was 
few in number compared with one of the now 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 comparative 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. 

* See the excellent remarks on this subject by Mr, Lye.Ur *B his " Prin- 
ciples of Geology." 




Santa Cruz Expedition up the River Indians Immense Streams of Basaltic 
Lava Fragments not transported by the River Excavation of the Valley 
Ccndor, Habits of Cordillera Erratic Boulders of great size Indian 
Relics Return to the Ship Falkland Islands Wild Horses, Cattle, 
Raboits Wolf-like Fox Fire made of Bones Manner of Hunting Wild 
Cattle Geology Streams of Stones Scenes of Violenca Penguin 
Geese Eggs of Coris Compound Animals, 

April i-$th, 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 proceeded thirty miles 
up it, but then, from the want of provisions, was obliged to return. 
Excepting what was discovered at that time, scarcely anything was 
known about this large river. Captain Fitz Roy now determined to 
follow its course as far as time would allow. On the i8th three whale- 
boats started, carrying three weeks' provisions ; and the party consisted 
of twenty-five souls a force which would have been sufficient to have 
defied a host of Indians. With a strong flood-tide and a fine day we 
made a good run, soon drank some of the fresh water, and were at 
night nearly above the tidal influence. 

The river here assumed a size and appearance which, even at the 
highest point we ultimately reached, was scarcely diminished. It was 
generally from three to four hundred yards broad, and in the middle 
about seventeen feet deep. The rapidity of the current, which in its 
whole course runs at the rate of from four to six knots an hour, is 
peihaps 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 west- 
ward. This valley varies from five to ten miles in breadth ; it is 
bounded by step-formed terraces, which rise in most parts, one above 
the other, to the height of five hundred feet, and have on the opposite 
sides a remarkable correspondence. 

April iqth. Against so strong a current it was, of course, quite im- 
possible to row or sail ; consequently the three boats were fastened 
together head and stern, two hands left in each, and the rest came on 
shore to track. As the general arrangements made by Captain 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 
ea-ch boat was quite independent of the others. After sunset the first 

1834.] ZOOLOGY >-> 

ievel spot where any bushes were growing, was chosen for our night's 
lodging. Each of the crew took it in turns to be cook. Immediately 
.the boat was hauled up, the cook made his fire ; two others pitched the 
tent ; the coxswain handed the things out of the boat ; the rest carried 
them up to the tents and collected firewood. By this order, in half an 
hour everything was ready for the night. A watch of two men and an 
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 

April 20//z. 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 alto- 
gether. 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 (2ist) 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 2.2nd. The country remained the same, and was extremely 
uninteresting. The complete similarity of the productions throughout 
Patagonia is one of its most striking characters. The level plains of 
arid shingle support the same stunted and dwarf plants ; and in the 
valleys the same thorn-bearing bushes grow. Everywhere we see the 
same birds and insects. Even the very banks of the river and of me 
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 * than perhaps any other country in the 
world. Several species of mice are externally characterized by large 
thin ears and a very fine fur. These little animals swarm amongst the 
thickets in the valleys, where they cannot for months together taste 
a drop of water excepting the dew. They all seem to be cannibals ; 
for no sooner was a mouse caught in one of my traps than it was 
devoured by others. A small and delicately-shaped fox, which is like- 
wise very abundant, probably derives its entire support from these 

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



small animals. The guanaco is also in its 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 every- 
where on the banks of the river ; and the remains of several guanacos, 
with their necks dislocated and bones broken, showed how they had 
met their death. 

April 24//z. 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 Cordil- 
lera. 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 mis- 
taken for the mountains themselves, instead of the masses of vapour 
condensed by their icy summits. 

April 2,6th. We this day met with a marked change in the geolo- 
gical 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 distance of five or six miles, the angular edge of a 
great basaltic platform. When we arrived at its base we found the 
stream bubbling among the fallen blocks. For the next twenty-eight 
miles the river-course was encumbered with these basaltic masses. 
Above that limit immense fragments 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 : consider- 
ing 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 one hundred and twenty feet in thick- 
ness ; following up the river course, the surface imperceptibly rose and 
the mass became thicker, so that at forty miles above the first station it 
was three hundred and twenty feet thick. What the thickness may be 
close to the Cordillera, I have no means of knowing, but the platform 
there attains a height of about three thonsand feet above the level ot 
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. 


\Vhat 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 vallej 
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 ol 
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 
supposition would have been quite inadmissible; because, the same 
step-like plains with existing sea-shells lyiag 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. Never- 
theless, 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 rambling up some of the 
narrow and rocky defiles, I could almost have fancied myself trans- 
ported 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 recognized 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 Pata- 
gonia) burst forth ; and they could be distinguished at a distance by 
the circumscribed patches of bright green herbage. 

April 27th. The bed of the river became rather narrower, and henoa 
the stream more rapid. It here ran at the rate of six knots an hour 

132 5. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [CHAP. a. 

From this cause, and from the many great angular fragments, tracking 
the boats became both dangerous and laborious. 

This day I shot a condor. It measured from tip to tip of the wings, 
eight and a half feet, and from beak to tail, four feet. This bird is 
Known to have a wide geographical range, being found on the west 
coast of South America, from the Strait of Magellan along the Cordillera 
as far as eight degrees north 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 lour hundred miles from the great 
central line of their habitation in the Andes. Further south, among the 
bold precipices at the head of Port Desire, the condor is not uncommon ; 
yet only a few stragglers occasionally visit the sea-coast. A line of 
cliff near the mouth of the Santa Cruz is 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 con- 
sidered as a gregarious bird. In this part of the country they live 
altogether on the guanacos which have died a natural death, or, as 
more commonly happens, have been killed by the pumas. I believe, 
from what I saw in Patagonia, that they do not on ordinary occasions 
extend their daily excursions to any great distance from their regular 

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 

1834.] THE CONDOR. 133 

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 horse- 
back 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.* The Chileno 
countrymen assert that the condor will live, and retain its vigour, 
between five and six weeks without eating : I cannot answer for 
the truth of this, but it is a cruel experiment, which very likely has 
been tried. 

When an animal is killed in the country, it is well known that the 
condors, like other carrion-vultures, soon gain intelligence of it, and 
congregate in an inexplicable manner. In most cases it must not be 
overlooked, that the birds have discovered their prey, and have picked 
the skeleton clean, before the flesh is in the least 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 experiment : the condors were tied, each by a rope, in a long 
row at the bottom of a wall ; and having folded up a piece of meat in 
white paper, I walked backwards and forwards, carrying it in my hand 
at the distance of about three yards from them, but no notice whatever 
was taken. I then threw it on the ground, within one yard of an old 
male bird; he looked at it for a moment with attention, but then 
regarded it no more. With a stick I pushed it closer and closer, until 
at last he touched it with his beak ; the paper was then instantly torn 
off with fury, at the same moment, every bird in the long row began 
struggling and flapping its wings. Under the same circumstances, it 
would have been quite impossible to have deceived a dog. The evidence 
in favour of and against the acute smelling powers of carrion-vultures 
is 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 

* 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. 


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

Often when lying down to rest on the open plains, on looking upwards 
I have seen carrion-hawks sailing through the air at a great height. 
Where the country is level I do not believe a space of the heavens, of 
more than fifteen degrees above the 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 movement, 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 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 
leady movement of a paper kite. In the case of any bird soaring, its 
emotion must be sufficiently rapid, so that the action of the inclined 
* Loudon's Mngazint of Nat. Hist., vol vii. 

1834.] TRACES OF INDIANS. 13$ 

surface of its body on the atmosphere may counter-balance 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 2gtk. 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 clonds. 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 eleven hundred 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 circumstances it is, I believe, quite impossible to explain the 
transportal of these gigantic masses of rock so many miles from their 
parent-source, on any theory except by that of floating icebergs. 

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

May tfh. Captain Fitz Roy determined to take the boats no higher. 
The river had a winding course, and was very rapid ; and the appear- 
ance of the country offered no temptation to proceed any further. 
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. 

May $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 isf, 1833, and again on March ibth, 1834, the Beagle 
anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island. This archi- 
pelago is situated in nearly the same latitude with the mouth of the 
Strait of Magellan ; it covers a space of one hundred and twenty by 
sixty geographical miles, and is 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 Govern- 
ment of Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private individual, but 
likewise used them, as old Spain had done before, for a penal settle- 
ment. England claimed her right, and seized them. The Englishman 
who was left in charge of the flag was consequently murdered. A 
British officer was next sent, unsupported by any power: and when 
we arrived, we found him in charge of a population, of which rather 
more than half were runaway rebels and murderers. 

The theatre is worthy of the scenes acted on it. An undulating land, 
with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere covered by a peaty 
soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous brown colour. Here and there 
a peak or ridge of grey quartz rock breaks through the smooth surface. 
Every one has heard of the climate of these regions ; it may be com- 
pared 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.* 

May ibth. I will now describe a short excursion which I made 
round a part of this island. In the morning I started with six horses 

* From accounts published since our voyage, and more especially from 
several interesting letters from Captain 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. 


and two Gauchos : the latter were capital men for the purpose, and 
well accustomed to living on their own resources. The weather was 
very boisterous and cold, with heavy hailstorms. We got on, how- 
ever, 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 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 coun- 
try 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 diffi- 
culty 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 
nim ; 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 
leaning on one side. This horse, however, was a young one, and 
would not stand still, but gave into 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 t 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 worthy alderman had supped 
with us that evening, "carne con cuero," without doubt, would soon 
have been celebrated in London. 

During the night it rained, and the next day (i7th) 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. 
Captain 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 emasculate 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 throwing 
his lazo so as to catch both hind legs, it is quickly managed ; for the 
animal, as long as its hind legs are kept outstretched, is quite 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 antagonist 

During our whole ride we saw only one troop of wild horses. These 
animals, as well as the cattle, were introduced by the French in 1764, 
since which time both have greatly increased. It is a curious fact, 
that the horses have never left the eastern end of the island, although 
there is no natural boundary to prevent 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 origi- 
nally 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 ? Captain Suli- 
van 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 compelling the mares to accompany them, 
whether or not the young foals are able to follow. One Gaucho told 
Captain 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 

<HAP. ix,] WILD RABBITS. 139 

ro its fate. Captain Sulivan can so lar 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-grey. 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 pro- 
bably 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. Captain 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 1,000 to 1,500 feet above the sea, about half of some of the 
herds are mouse or lead-coloured, a tint which is not common in other 
parts of the island. Near Port Pleasant dark brown prevails, whereas 
south of Choiseul Sound (which almost divides the island into two 
parts), white beasts with black heads and feet are the most common : 
in all parts black, and some spotted animals may be observed. Captain 
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, while south of Choiseul Sound 
they appeared like white spots on the hill-sides. Captain 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 break- 
ing into three colours, of which some one colour would in all proba- 
bility ultimately prevail over the others, if the herds were left undisturbed 
for the next several centuries. 

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced, and has 
succeeded very well; so that they abound over large parts of the 
island. Yet, like the horses, they are confined within certain limits ; 
lor 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 pair, moreover, had here to 


contend against pre-existing enemies, in the fox and some large hawks. 
The French naturalists have considered the black variety a distinct 
species, and called it Lepus Magellanicus.* They imagined that 
Magellan, when talking of an animal under the name of " conejos " in 
the Strait of Magellan, referred tr 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 tKe black kind being different from the 
grey, and they said that at all events it had not extended its range any 
further than the grey kind ; that the two were never found separate ; 
and that they readily bred together, and produced piebald offspring. 
Of the latter I now possess a specimen, and it is marked about the head 
differently from the French specific description. This circumstance 
shows how cautious naturalists should be in making species ; for even 
Cuvier, on looking at the skull of one of these rabbits, thought it was 
probably distinct 1 

The only quadruped native to the island t is a large wolf-like fox 
CCanis antarcticus), which is common to both East and West Falkland. 
I have do doubt it is a peculiar species, and confined to this archi- 
pelago ; 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 ; " J 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. Within a very few years after 
these islands shall have become regularly settled, in all probability this 

* Lesson's " Zoology of the Voyage of the Coquille" torn, i., p. 1 68. 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. 

f 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. 

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


fox will be classed with the dodo, as an animal which has perished from 
the face of the earth. 

At night (i7th) we slept on the neck of land at the head of Choiseul 
Sound, which forms the south-west peninsula. The valley was pretty 
well sheltered from the cold wind ; but there was very little brushwood 
for fuel. The Gauchos, however, soon found what, to my great surprise, 
made nearly as hot a fire as coals ; this was the skeleton of a bullock 
lately killed, from which 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. 

May \%th. 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 d#iy's ride. I have in another part stated how singular it is 
that there should be absolutely 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 Compositse) 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, immediately make a fire. They sought 
beneath the tufts of grass and bushes for a few dry twigs, and these 
they rubbed into fibres; then surrounding them with coarser twigs, 
something like a bird's nest, they put the rag with its spark of fire in 
the middle and covered it up. The nest being then held up to the wind, 
by degrees it smoked more and more, and at last burst out in flames. 
I do not think any other method would have had a chance of succeeding 
with such damp materials. 

May igth. 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, lor 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 terrified 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 themselves glad when they 
reached the settlement, after our little excursion. 

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 appearance of some of the masses is in consequence 
most singular. Pernety * has devoted several pages to the description 
of a Hill of Ruins, the successive strata of which he has justly compared 
to the seats of an amphitheatre. The quartz rock must have been 
quite pasty when it underwent such remarkable 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 crystallized. 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 waterworn, 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 
* Pernety, "Voyage aux Isles Malouines," p. 526, 


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 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 dimensions any small building, 
seemed to stand arrested in their headlong course ; there, also, the 
curved strata of the archways lay piled on each other, like the ruins of 
some vast and ancient cathedral. In endeavouring to describe these 
scenes of violence one is tempted to pass from one simile to another. 
We may imagine that streams of white lava 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 
seven hundred 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 
kvel, 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 over- 
whelming force,* the fragments have been levelled into one continuous 
sheet. If during the earthquake f which in 1835 overthrew Concepcion, 
in Chile, it was thought wonderful that small bodies should have been 

* "Nous n'avons pas ete moins saisis d'etonnement a la vue de 1'innom- 
brable quantite de pierres de toutes grandeurs, bouleversees les unes sur les 
autres, et cependant rangees, comme si elles avoient ete amoncelees negh- 
gemment pour remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les eflets 
prodigieux de la nature." Pernety, p. 526. 

f An inhabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of judging, assured 
me that, during the several years he had resided on these islands, he had 
never felt the slightest shock of an earthquake. 


witched a few inches from the ground, what must we say to a 
novement 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 pro- 
bably some day give a simple explanation of this phenomenon, as it 
already has of the so long-thought inexplicable 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 water-fowl are 
particularly numerous, and they must formerly, from the accounts of 
the old navigators, have been much more so. One day I observed a 
cormorant playing with a fish which it had caught. Eight times succes- 
sively 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 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 
mattes, The rock-goose, so called from living exclusively on the sea- 


beach (Anas antarctica), is common both here and on the west coast of 
America, as far north as Chile. In the deep and retired channels of 
Tierra del Fuego, the snow-white gander, invariably accompanied by 
his darker consort, and standing close by each other on some distant 
rocky point, is a common feature in the landscape. 

In these islands a great logger-headed duck or goose (Anas brachyp- 
tera), which sometimes weighs twenty-two pounds, is very abundant. 
These birds were in former days called, from their extraordinary 
manner of paddling and splashing upon the water, race-horses ; but 
now they are named, much more appropriately, steamers. Their wings 
are too small and weak to allow of flight, but by their aid, partly 
swimming and partly flapping the surface of the water, they move very 
quickly. The manner is something like that by which the common 
house-nduck 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, logger-headed 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 Dinornis, possess only 
rudimentary representatives of wings. The steamer is able to dive 
only to a very short distance It fe^ds entirely on shell-fish from the 
kelp and tidal rocks; hence the beak and head, for the purpose ot 
breaking them, are surprisingly 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,* but they are of little 
general interest. I will mention only one class of facts, relating to 
certain zoophytes in the more highly organized division of that class. 
Several genera (Flustra, Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, and others) agree in 

** 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 ad- 
hered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I found, mea- 
sured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By counting 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 
even individuals. No fallacy is wore common with naturalists, than that tin 
numbers of an individual species depend on its powers of propagation. 


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 movement, 
by means of a short neck. In one zoophyte the head itself was fixed, 
but the lower jaw free ; in another it was replaced by a triangular 
hood, with a beautifully fitted trap-door, which evidently answered to 
the lower mandible. 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, thdugh 
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 mauaible 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 furnished 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 independ- 
ently of the polypi, and do not appear to be in any way connected 
with them ; and as they differ in size on the outer and inner rows of 
cells, I have little doubt, that in their functions, they are related rather 
to the horny axis of the branches than to the polypi in the cells. The 
fleshy appendage at the lower extremity of the sea-pen (described at 
Bahia Blanca) also forms part of the zoophyte, as a whole, in the same 
manner as the roots of a tree form part of the whole tree, and not of 
the individual leaf or 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 transmis- 
sion of will in the zoophyte, though composed of thousands of distinct 
polypi, as in any single animal. The case, indeed, is not different from 
that of the pea-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 organized. Having kept a 


large tuft of it In a basin of salt-water, when it was dark I found that 
as often as I rubbed any part of a branch, the whole became strongly 
phosphorescent with a green light : I do not think I ever saw any 
object more beautifully, so. But the remarkable circumstance was, 
that the flashes of light always proceeded up the branches, from the 
base towards the extremities. 

The examination of these compound animals was always very inter- 
esting 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 
organizations? The branches, moreover, as we have just seen, some- 
times 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 realized; so that the union of separate individuals in a 
common body is more striking in a coralline than in a tree. Our con- 
ception 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. 



Tierrn del Fuego, First Arrival Good Success Bay An Account of the 
uegians on Board Interview with the Savages Scenery of the Forests 
Cape Horn Wigwam Cove Miserable Condition of the Savages 
Famines Cannibals Matricide Religious Feelings Great Gale 
Beagle Channel 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 ijth, 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, inhospitable Staten-land was visible amidst the clouds. 
In the afternoon we anchored in the Bay of Good Success. While 
entering we were saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of this 
savage land. A group of Fuegians partly concealed by the entangled 
forest, were perched on a wild point overhanging the sea ; and as we 
passed by, they sprang up and waving their tattered cloaks sent forth a 
loud and sonorous shout. The savages followed the ship, and just 
before dark we saw their fire, and again heard their wild cry. The 
harbour consists of a fine piece of water half surrounded by low 
rounded mountains of clay-slate, which are covered to the water's edge 
by one dense gloomy forest. A single glance at the landscape was 
sufficient to show me how widely different it was from anything I 
had ever beheld. At night it blew a gale of wind, and heavy squalls 
irom 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 

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 difference between savage and civi- 
lized 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 west- 
ward ; and they seem closely allied to the famous Patagonians of the 
Strait of Magellan. Their only garment consists of a mantle made 
of guanaco skin, with the wool outside ; this they wear just thrown 
over their shoulders, leaving their persons as often exposed as covered. 
Their skin is of a dirty coppery-red colour. 

The old man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head, 
which partly confined his black, coarse, and entangled hair. His face 
was crossed by two broad transverse bars ; one, painted bright red, 
reached from ear to ear and included the upper lip ; the other, white 
like chalk, extended 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 counte- 
nanos distrustful, surprised, and startled. After we had presented them 
with some scarlet cloth, which they immediately tied round iheir necks, 


they became good friends. This was shown by the old man patting 
our breasts, and making a chuckling kind of noise, as people do when 
feeding chickens. I walked with the old man, and this demonstration 
of friendship was repeated several times; it was concluded by three 
hard slaps, which were given me on the breast and back at the same 
time. He then bared his bosom for me to return the compliment, 
which being done, he seemed highly pleased. The language of these 
people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called articu- 
late. Captain Cook has compared it to a man clearing his throat, 
but certainly no European ever cleared his throat with so many hoarse, 
guttural, and clicking sounds. 

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

When a song was struck up by our party I thought the Fuegians 
would have fallen down with astonishment. With equal surprise 
they viewed our dancing ; but one of 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 Captain 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 missionary, 
R. Matthews; of whom nd of the natives, Captain Fitz Roy has 
published a full and excellent account Two men, one of whom died 
in England of the small-pox, a boy and a little girl, were originally 
taken; and we had now on board, York Minster, Jemmy Button (whose 
name expresses his purchase-money), and Fuegia Basket York 
Minster was a full-grown, short, thick, powerful man ; his disposition 
was reserved, taciturn, morose, and when excited violently passionate ; 
his affections were very strong towards a few friends on board; his 
intellect good. Jemmy Button was a universal favourite, but likewise 
passionate ; the expression of his face at once showed his nice disposi- 
tion. He was merry and often laughed, and was remarkably sympa- 
thetic 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 I " 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 
looking-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 quali- 
ties, 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 know- 
ledge 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 countrymen ; 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 im- 
po-seible to find out, by cross-questioning, whether one had rightly 


understood anything which they had asserted. Their sight was remark- 
ably 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 of this power ; and 
Jemmy, when he had any little quarrel with the officer on watch, would 
say, " Me see ship, me no tell." 

It was interesting to watch the conduct of the savages, when we 
landed, towards Jemmy Button ; they immediately perceived the differ- 
ence 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 ol 
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 1,000 and 
1,50x3 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 3,000 and 4,000 feet. To find an acre of level land in any 
part of the country is most rare. I recollect only one little flat piece 
near Port Famine, and another of rather larger extent near Goeree 
Road. In both places, and everywhere else, the surface is covered by 
a thick bed of swampy peat. Even within the forest, the ground is 


concealed by a mass of slowly putrefying vegetable matter, which, from 
being soaked with water, yields to the foot. 

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way through the wood, I 
followed the course of a mountain torrent. At first, from the waterfalls 
and number of dead trees, I could 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 inconsiderable. This beech 
keeps its leaves throughout the year ; but its foliage is of a peculiar 
brownish-green colour, with a tinge of yellow. As the whole landscape 
is thus coloured, it has a sombre, dull appearance ; nor is it often 
enlivened by the rays of the sun. 

December loth. One side of the harbour is formed by a hill about 
1,500 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 thesr. 
animals, like sheep, always follow the same line. When we reached 
the hill we found it the highest in the immediate neighbourhood, and 

CHAP, x.] CAPE HORN. 153 

the waters flowed to the sea in opposite directions. We obtained a 
wide view over the surrounding country : to the north a swampy moor- 
land extended, but to the south we had a scene of savage magnificence, 
well becoming Tierra del Fuego. There was a degree of mysteriouj 
grandeur in mountain behind mountain, with the deep intervening 
valleys, all covered by one thick, dusky mass of forest. The atmo- 
sphere, 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 beycno 
the confines of this world. 

December 2isf. The Beagle got under way ; and on the succeeding 
day, favoured to an uncommon degree by a fine easterly breeze, we 
closed in with the Barnevelts, and running past Cape Deceit with 
its stony peaks, about three o'clock doubled the weather-beaten Cape 
Horn. The evening was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view 
of the surrounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute, 
and before night sent us a gale of wind directly in our teeth. We stood 
out to sea, and on the second day again made the land, when we saw 
on our weather-bow 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 moun- 
tains, which made the ship surge at her anchors. 

December 2$th. Close by the cove, a pointed hill, called Kater'a 
Peak, rises to the height of 1,700 feet. The surrounding 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 neigh- 
bourhood 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 oi 


ihese 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 cer- 
tainly wretched : the summer solstice was now passed, yet every day 
snow fell on the hills, and in the valleys there was rain, accompanied 
by sleet. The thermometer generally stood about 45, but in the night 
fell to 38" or 40. From the damp and boisterous state of the atmo- 
sphere, 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 sufficient to cover their backs as low 
down as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and 
according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side. But these 
Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even one full-grown 
woman was absolutely so. It was raining heavily, and the fresh water, 
together with the spray, trickled down her body. In another harbour 
not far distant, a woman, who was suckling a rec&ntly-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 1 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 violent. 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 fungi. 

They often suffer from famine: I heard Mr. Low, a sealing-master 
intimately acquainted with the natives of this country, give a curious 
account of the state of a party of one hundred and fifty natives on the 
west coast, who were very thin and in great distress. A succession of 
gales prevented the women from getting shell-fish on the rocks, and 
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 concurrent, but quite 
independent evidence of the boy taken by Mr. Low, and of Jemmy 
Button, it is certainly true, that when pressed iu 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 mountains, but that 
they are pursued by the men, and brought back to the slaughter-house 
at their own firesides 1 

Captain Fitz Roy could never ascertain that the Fuegians have any 
distinct belief in a future life. They sometimes bury 'heir 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 quarter-master firmly believed that the successive 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 CYork 
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 chiel ; 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 can only move about in their wretched 
canoes. They cannot know the feeling of having a home, and still less 
that of domestic affection ; for the husband is to the 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 years 

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have they come ? 
What could have tempted, or what change compelled a tribe of men, to 
leave the fine regions of the north, to travel down the Cordillera or 
backbone oi 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 produc- 
tions of his miserable country. 


After having been detained six days in Wigwam Cove by very bad 
weather, we put to sea on the 3Oth 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 com- 
pelled 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 two hundred feet in height. On the I2th the gale was very heavy, 
and we did not know exactly where we were : it was a most unpleasant 
sound to hear constantly repeated, " Keep a good look-out to leeward." 
On the 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 westward ; 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 delight- 
ful was that still night, after having been so long involved in the din of 
the warring elements ! 

January \t>th, 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 compared to the valley of Lochness 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. 

January igf/i. 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 retire- 
ment. The next day (2oth) we smoothly glided onwards in our little 
fleet, and came to a more inhabited district. Few if any oi 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 then- heads, and sent forth the most hideou 

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 feeling it soft and cold, showed as much disgust al 
it as I should have done at putrid blubber. Jemmy was thoroughly 
ashamed of his countrymen, and declared his own tribe were quite differ- 
ent, 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 
41 give me." After pointing to almost every object, one after the other, 
even to the buttons on our coats, and saying their favourite word in as 
many intonations as possible, they would then use it in a neuter sense, 
and vacantly repeat " yammerschooner." After yammerschoonering for 
any article very eagerly, they would 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 (2ist), 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 leasl 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 care- 
fully 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 under- 
stand how it is effected ; for the fact of a body being invisible from its 
velocity would perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. More- 
over, 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. 

Jamiary 22nd. 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 drift-weed on a sea-beach. 

At night we slept close to the junction of Ponsonby Sound with the 
Beagle Channel. A small family of Fuegians, who were living in the 


cove, were quiet and inoffensive, and soon joined our party round a 
blazing fire. We were well clothed, and though sitting close to the fire 
were far from too warm ; yet these naked savages, though further off, 
were observed, to our great surprise, to be streaming with perspiration 
at undergoing such a roasting. They seemed, however, very well 
pleased, and all joined in the chorus of the seamen's songs ; but the 
manner in which they were invariably a little behindhand was quite 

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,* and red, they 
looked like so many demoniacs who had been fighting. We then pro- 
ceeded (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 seen 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 began to 
pour in, and Jemmy's mother and brothers arrived. Jemmy recognized 

* 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) th at ^ is composed of infusoria, including four- 
teen 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 researches ; for Jemmy Button told me 
that it is always collected at the bottoms of mountain-brooks. It is, more- 
over, 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 
substarce, although brought from the extreme southern point of Tierra del 
Fucgo, are old, known forms. 


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 demon- 
stration 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 them other 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 

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 inter- 
ested 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 further off, had coolly spit in the sentry's face, and had then, 
by gestures acted over a sleeping Fuegian, plainly showed, as it was 
said, that he should like to cut up and eat our man. Captain Fitz Roy, 
to avoid the chance of an encounter, which would have been fatal to 
so many of the Fuegians, thought it advisable for us to sleep at a cove 
a few miles distant. Matthews, with his usual quiet fortitude (remark- 
able 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 out 
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 * spoutinp 
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 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 "i^th. 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 thiee 
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 r vvhite 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 oi 
half a mile a perpendicular cliff of ice, and were wishing that some 

* 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, t.hey splashed 
Che water high upj and the sound reverberated like a distant broadside. 


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 ot 
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 desolate islands, 
and the weather was wretchedly bad. We met with no natives. 
The coast was almost everywhere so steep that we had several times 
to pull many miles before we could find space enough to pitch our 
two tents ; one night we slept on large round boulders, with putrefying 
sea-weed between them ; and when the tide rose, we had to get up 
and move our blanket-bags. The 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 everything which had not been concealed under- 
ground. 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 shown 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 power- 
ful 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 civilized men, would, I am sure, have been glad to have retained 
their new habits ; but this was obviously impossible. I fear it is more 
than doubtful, whether their visit will have been of any use to them. 
In the evening, with Matthews on board, we made sail back to the 
ship, not by the Beagle Channel, but by the southern coast. The 
boats were heavily laden and the sea rough, and we had a dangerous 
passage. By the evening of the 7th we were on board the Beagle 
after an absence of twenty days, during which time we had gone three 
hundred miles in the open boats. On the nth, 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 settle- 
ment 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 
zig-zag course. I was amused at finding what a difference the circum- 
stance 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 I " 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 

CHAP, x.] FUEGIANS. 16$ 

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 con- 
sultation with his naked beauties, was paddled away by them. 

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 immediately 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 ourselves, excited their admira- 
tion 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 1'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 recognize him till he was close to us ; for he was ashamed of him- 
self, and turned his back to the ship. We had left him plump, fat, 
clean, and well dressed ; I never saw so complete and grievous a 
change. As soon, however, as he was clothed, and the first flurry was 
over, things wore a good appearance. He dined with Captain Fitz 
Roy, and ate his dinner as tidily as formerly. He told us he had ' too 
much ' (meaning enough) to eat, that he was not cold, that his relations 
were very good people, and that he did not wish to go back to England ; 
in the evening we found out the cause of this great change in Jemmy's 
feelings, in the arrival of his young and nice-looking wife. With his 
usual good feeling, he brought two beautiful otter-skins for two of his 
best friends, and some spear-heads and arrows made with his own 
hands for the Captain. He said he had built a canoe for himself, and 
he boasted that he could talk a little of his own language ! But it 
is a most singular fact, that he appears to have taught all his tribe 
some English : an old man spontaneously announced ' Jemmy Button's 
wife.' Jemmy had lost all his property. He told us that York Minster 
had built a large canoe, and with his wife Fuegia,* had several months 
Captain Sulivan, who, since his voyage in the Beagle, has been em- 
ployed on the survey of the Falkland Islands, heard from a sealer in (1842 ?), 

166 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [cat*.*. 

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 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 I 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 sea. 

The pei feet equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian 
tribes, must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those 
animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a 
chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the races of man- 
kind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more 
civilized always have the most artificial governments. For instance, 
the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, were governed 
by hereditary kings, had arrived at a far higher grade than another 
branch of the same people, the New Zealanders, who, although 
benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, 
were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, 
until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any 
acquired 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 dis- 
tributed ; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the 
other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise till there is 
property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority and 
increase his power. 

I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a 
lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. The 
South Sea Islanders of the two races inhabiting the Pacific, are com- 
paratively civilized. The Esquimaux, in his subterranean hut, enjoys 
some of the comforts of life, and in his canoe, when fully equipped, 
manifests much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern Africa, prowling 
about in search of roots, and living concealed on the wild and arid plains, 
are sufficiently wretched. The Australian, in the simplicity of the 
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 board, 


arts of life, comes nearest the Fuegian ; he can, however, boast of his 
boomerang, his spear and throvving-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 Sea-weed Leave Tierra del Fuego Climate 
Fruit-trees and Productions of the Southern Coasts Height of Snow- 
line on the Cordilleri Descent of Glaciers to the Sea Icebergs formed 
Transportal of Boulders Climate and Productions of the Antarctic 
Islands Preservation of Frozen Carcases 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 imper- 
vious 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, * 
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, who gave us a 
cordial reception. Their height appears greater than it really is, from 

* The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry. January agth, 
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 1 5th, 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. Temper*- 
ture 60, dew-point 42, difference 18. 


their large guanaco mantles, their long flowing hair, and general figure ; 
on an average their height is about six feet, with some men taller and 
only a few shorter ; and the women are also tall ; altogether they are 
certainly the tallest race which we anywhere saw. In features they 
strikingly resemble the more northern Indians whom I saw with Rosas, 
but they have a wilder and more formidable appearance ; their faces 
were much painted with red and black, and one man was ringed and 
dotted with white like a Fuegian. Captain 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, helping themselves with knives, forks, and spoons ; nothing 
was so much relished as sugar. This tribe has had so much communi- 
cation with sealers and whalers, that most of the men can speak a little 
English and Spanish; and they are half civilized, and proportionally 

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 Cordillera ; sometimes they travel as far as the Rio Negro, seven 
hundred and fifty 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 (i58o),these Indians had bows and arrows, now long since dis- 
used ; they then also possessed some horses. This is a very curious fact, 
showing 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;* in 1580, 
only forty-three years afterwards, we hear of them at the Strait of 
Magellan ! Mr. Low informs me, that a neighbouring tribe of foot- 
Indians is now changing into horse-Indians ; the tribe at Gregory Bay 
giving them their worn-out horses, and sending in winter a few of their 
best skilled men to hunt for them. 

June ist. We anchored in the fine bay of Port Famine. It was now 
the beginning of winter, and I never saw a more cheerless prospect ; 
the dusky woods, piebald with snow, could be only 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 6,800 feet high, presented a very noble spectacle. I was 
tiequently surprised, in the scenery of Tierra del Fuego, at the little 
apparent elevation of mountains really lofty. I suspect it is owing to 
* Rengger, "Natur. der. Saeugethiere von Paraguay." S. 534. 

1834.] PORT FAMINE. ^ 

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 bas 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. 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 we were 
left in peace and quietness. During the former voyage the Fuegians 
were here very troublesome, and to frighten them a rocket was fired at 
night over their wigwams ; it answered effectually, and one of the 
officers told me that the clamour first raised, and the barking of the 
dogs, was quite ludicrous in contrast with the profound silence, which 
in a minute or two afterwards prevailed. The next morning not a 
single Fuegian was in the neighbourhood. 

When the Beagle was here in the month of February, I started one 
morning at four o'clock to ascend Mount Tarn, which is 2,600 feet 
high, and is the most elevated point in this immediate district. We 
went in a boat to the foot of the mountain (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 land- 
mark, though in a mountainous country, was completely shut out. la 


the deep ravines, the death-like scene of desolation exceeded all de- 
scription ; outside it was blowing a gale, but in these hollows, not even 
a breath of wind stirred the leaves of the tallest trees. So gloomy, 
cold, and wet was every part, that not even the fungi, mosses, or ferns 
could flourish. In the valleys it was scarcely possible .to crawl along, 
they were so completely barricaded by great mouldering trunks, which 
had fallen down in every direction. When passing over these natural 
bridges, one's course was often arrested by sinking knee deep into the 
rotten wood ; at other times, when attempting to lean against a firm 
tree, one was startled by finding a mass of decayed matter ready to. fall at 
the slightest touch. We at last found ourselves among the stunted 
trees, and then soon reached the bare ridge, which conducted us to the 
summit. Here was a view characteristic of Tierra del Fuego ; irregular 
chains of hills, mottled with patches of snow, deep yellowish-green 
valleys, and arms of the sea intersecting the land in many directions. 
The strong wind was piercingly cold, and the atmosphere rather hazy, 
so that we did not stay long on the top of the mountain. Our descent 
was not quite so laborious as our ascent ; for the weight of the body 
forced a passage, and all the slips and falls were in the right direction. 

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of the ever- 
green forests, * in which two or three species of trees grow, to the 
exclusion of all others. Above the forest land, there are many dwarf 
alpine plants, which all spring from the mass of peat, and help to 
compose it ; these plants are very remarkable from their close alliance 
with the species growing on the 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 import- 
ance 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 

* 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 haying read some obser- 
vations, showing that in England the leaves fall earlier in a warm and fine 
autumn, than in a late and cold one. The change in the colour being here 
retarded in the more elevated, and therefore colder situations, must be 
owing to the same general law of vegetation. The trees of Tierra del Fuego 
during no part of the year entirely shed their leaves. 

I834-] ZOOLOGY. 171 

fungus belongs to a new and curious genus ; * I found a second 
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 rela- 
tionship 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. 
With the exception of a few berries, chiefly 
of a dwarf arbutus, the natives eat no vege- 
table food beside this fungus. In New Zea- 
land, before the introduction of the potato, 
the roots of the fern were largely consumed ; 
at the present time, I believe, Tierra del 
Fuego is the only country in the world where 
a cryptogamic plant affords a staple article of food. 

The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been expected trom 
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 correspondence of the 
cliffs of soft sandstone, mud, and shingle, on the opposite sides of the 
Strait, and on some intervening islands, one is strongly tempted to 
believe that the land was once joined, and thus allowed animals so 
delicate and helpless as the tucutuco and Reithrodon to pass over. 
The correspondence of the cliffs is far from proving any junction ; 
because such cliffs generally are formed by the intersection of sloping 
deposits, which, before the elevation of the land, had been accumulated 
near the then existing shores. It is, however, a remarkable coincidence, 
that in the two large islands cut off by the Beagle Channel from the 
rest of Tierra del Fuego, one has cliffs composed of matter that may 
be called stratified alluvium, which front similar ones on the opposite 
side of the channel, while the other is exclusively bordered by old 
crystalline 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 are found. 

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds ; occasionally the 

* 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 tA 


plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius albiceps) 
may be heard, concealed near the summit of the most lofty trees ; and 
more rarely the loud strange cry of a black woodpecker, with a fine 
scarlet crest on its head. A little, dusky-coloured wren (Scytalopus 
Magellanicus) hops in a skulking manner among the entangled mass 
of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the creeper (Oxyurus tupinieri) 
is the commonest bird in the country. Throughout the beech forests, 
high up and low down, in the most gloomy, wet, and impenetrable 
ravines, it may be met with. This little bird no doubt appears more 
numerous than it really is, from its habit of following with seeming 
curiosity any person who enters these silent woods ; continually utter- 
ing 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 

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 character 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 Hete- 
romidae) living under stones. The vegetable-feeding Chrysomelidse, 
so eminently characteristic of the Tropics, are here almost entirely 
absent ;* I saw very few flies, butterflies, or bees, and no crickets or 
Orthoptera. In the pools of water I found but few aquatic beetles, 
and not any fresh-water shells : Succinea at first appears an exception ; 

* I believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single specimen of a 
Melasoma. Mr. Waterhou^e informs me, that of the Harpalidae there are 
eight or nine species the forms of the greater number being very peculiar ; 
of Heteromera, four or five species ; of Rhyncophora six or seven ; and 
of the following families one species in each : Staphylinidae, Elateridas, 
Cebrionidae, Melolonthidse. The species in the other orders arc even fewer. 
In all the orders, the scarcity of the individuals is even more remarkable 
than that of the species. Most of the Coleoptera have been carefully de- 
scribed by Mr. Waterfaouse in the "Annals of Natural History." 

1834-1 GREAT SEA-WEED. 273 

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 Macro- 
cystis pyrifera. This plant grows on every rock from low-water mark 
to a great depth, both on the outer coast and within the channels.* I 
believe, during the voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, not one rock 
near the surface 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 ar.d 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 perpendicular direction, but makes a very 
acute angle with the bottom, and much of it afterwards spreads many 
fathoms on the surface of the sea, I am well warranted to say that some 
of it grows to the length of sixty fathoms and upwards." I do not 
suppose the stem of any other plant attains so great a length as three 
hundred and sixty feet, as stated by Captain Cook. Captain Fitz Roy, 
moreover, found it growing f up from the greater depth of forty-five 

* Its geographical range is remarkbly 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) at lat. 43, but on 
the western coast, as Dr. Hooker tells me,' it extends to the Rio San 
Francisco in California, and perhaps even to Kamtschatka. We thus have 
an immense range in latitude; and as Cook, who must have been wt:ll 
acquainlsd with the species, found it at Kerguelen Land, no less than 140 
in longitude. 

f " Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle" vol. i., p. 363. It appears that 
sea- weed grows extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson found (Wilson's " Voyage 
round Scotland," vol. ii., p. 228) that a rock uncovered only at spring-tides, 
which had been chiselled smooth in November, on the following May, that 
is within six months afterwards, was thickly covered with Fucus digitatus 
two feet, and F. esculentus six feet, in length. 


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 

The number of living creatures of all Orders, whose existence 
intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful. A great volume might be 
written, describing the inhabitants of one of these beds of sea-weed. 
Almost all the leaves, excepting those that float on the surface, are so 
thickly incrusted with corallines as to be of a white colour. We find 
exquisitely delicate structures, some inhabited by simple hydra-like 
polypi, others by more organized kinds, and beautiful compound Ascidiae. 
On the leaves, also, various patelliform shells, Trochi, uncovered 
molluscs, and some bivalves are attached. Innumerable Crustacea 
Irequent every part of the plant. On shaking the great entangled roots, 
a pile of small fish, shells, cuttle-fish, crabs of all orders, sea-eggs, star- 
fish, beautiful Holuthurise, 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 Ascidise ; 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 $>th. 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 atmosphere was very thick ; so that we missed 
much curious scenery. The dark ragged clouds were rapidly driven 
over the mountains, from their summits nearly down to their bases. 
The glimpses which we caught through the dusky mass, were highly 
interesting ; jagged points, cones of snow, blue glaciers, strong outlines, 
marked on a lurid sky, were seen at different distances and heights. In 
the midst of such scenery we anchored at Cape Turn, close to Mount 
Saimiento, which was then hidden in the clouds. At the base of the 
loity and almost perpendicular sides of our little cove there was one 

1834.] MOUNT SARMIENTO. 175 

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 6,800 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 loth. 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 foi 
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 Productions of Tierra del Fuego and of the 
South-west Coast, The following table gives the mean temperature of 


Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and, for comparison, that of 
Dublin : 

Summer WinUr Mean of Summer 
Temp. Temp. and Winter. _. 

Tierra del Fuego ; \ 5338'S. 50 33 '08 41 -54 

Falkland Islands , 51 30 S. 51 

Dublin S3 21 N. 59-54 39 'a 49 '37 

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is colder in 
winter, and no less than 9^ less hot in summer, than Dublin. Accord- 
ing to Von Buch the mean temperature of July (not the hottest month 
in the year) at Saltenfiord in Norway, is as high as 57'8, and this place 
is actually 13 nearer the pole than Port Famine!* 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. 55 S. I 
have already remarked to what a degree the sea swarms with living 
creatures ; and the shells (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 Blancha, in lat. 39 S., 
the most abundant shells were three species of Oliva (one of large 
size), one or two Volutas, and a Terebra. Now these are amongst the 
best characterised tropical forms. It is doubtful whether even one 
small species of Oliva exists on the southern shores of Europe, and 
there are no species of the two other genera. If a geologist were to 
find in lat. 39 on the coast of Portugal, a bed containing numerous 
shells belonging to three species of Oliva, to a Voluta and Terebra, he 
would probably assert that the climate at the period of their existence 
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 further 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 perfection. Even the crops of barley and wheat f are often brought 
into the houses to be dried and ripened. At Valdivia (in the same 

* With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the results are deduced from the 
observations by Captain King (Geographical Journal, 1830), and those taken 
on board the Beagle. For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Captain 
Sulivan for the mean of the mean temperature (reduced from careful ob- 
servation at midnight, 8 A.M., noon, and 8 P.M.) of the three hottest months^ 
viz., December, January, and February. The temperature of Dublin is taken 
from Barton. 

f Agueros, "Descrip. Hist, de la Prov. de Chilo^," 1791, p. 94, 


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 unfavour- 
able to our fruits, yet the native forests, from lat. 45 to 38, almost 
rival in luxuriance those of the glowing intertropical regions. Stately 
trees of many kinds, with smooth and highly coloured barks, are loaded 
by parasitical monocotyledonous plants ; large and elegant ferns are 
numerous, and arborescent grasses entwine the trees into one entangled 
mass to the 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 vegetation 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 circum- 
ference. An arborescent 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,* 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 15-748 Humboldt. 

Bolivia, lat. 16 to 18 S. . . 17,000 Pentland. 

Central Chile, lat. 33 S. . . 14.500 to 15,000 Gillies, and the Author. 

Chiloe, lat. 41 to 43 S. . . 6,000 Officers of the Beagle, and 

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

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 3,500 or 4,000 feet above the level of the sea ; although in Norway 
we must travel to between lat. 67 and 70 N., that is, about 14 nearer 
the pole, to meet with perpetual snow at this low level. The difference 

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


in height, namely, about 9,000 feet, between the snow-line on the 
Cordillera behind Chiloe (with its highest points ranging from onlj 
5,600 to 7,500 feet) and in central Chile* (a distance of only 9 ol 
latitude), is truly wonderful. The land from the southward of Chiloe 
to near Concepcion (lat. 37), is hidden by one dense forest dripping 
with moisture. The sky is cloudy, and we have seen how badly the 
fruits of southern Europe succeed. In central Chile on the 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.! 
No doubt the plane of perpetual snow undergoes the above remark- 
able flexure of 9,000 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 
3,000 to 4,000 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 effect of a 
severe shock (and such occur here): on a body like a glacier, already 
in motion, and traversed by fissures ! I can readily believe that the 
water would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest channel, and 
then returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl about huge 
masses of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre's Sound, in the latitude of 
Paris, there are immense glaciers, and yet the loftiest neighbouring 

* On the Cordillera of central Chile, I believe the snow-line varies ex- 
ceedingly in height in different summers. I was assured that during one 
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. 

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

J Bulkeley's and Cummin's " Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wagtr,* 
The earthquake happened August 2510, 1741. 



mountain is only 6,200 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 and other rocks, different 
from the clay-slate of the surrounding mountains. The glacier furthest 
from the Pole, surveyed during the voyages of the Adventure and 
Beagle, is in lat. 46 50', in the Gulf of Penas. It is fifteen miles long, 
and in one part seven 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* encountered " many icebergs, some great, some 
small, and others middle-sized," in a narrow arm of the sea, on the 

47 orf 

22nd of the month corresponding with our June, and in a latitude 
corresponding with that of the Lake of Geneva I 

In Europe, the most southern glacier which comes down to the 
sea is met with, according to Von Buch, on the coast of Norway, in 
lat. 67. Now this is more than 20 of latitude, or 1,230 miles, nearer 
the pole than the Laguna de San Rafael The position of the glacier! 
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 4i 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 1 
Agueros, " Desc. Hist, de Chiloe," p. 227. 


These facts are of high geological interest with respect to the climate 
of the northern hemisphere, at the period when boulders were trans- 
ported. 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 greet unstratified formation of mud and sand, con- 
taining rounded and angular fragments of all sizes, which has originated* 
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 further than 48 
of latitude, measured from the southern pole; in North America it 
appears that the limit of their transportal to 53^ from the northern 
pole ; but in Europe to not more than 40 of latitude, measured 
from the same point. On the other hand, in the intertropical parts 
of America, Asia, and Africa, they have never been observed: nor 
at the Cape of Good Hope, nor in Australia.f 

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands. Con- 
sidering 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 ninety-six miles long and ten 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 correnderd), yet Iceland, which is 
10 nearer the pole, has, according to Mackenzie, fifteen land-birds. 
The South Shetland Islands, in the same latitude as the southern half 
of Norway, possess only some lichens, moss, and a little grass ; and 
Lieutenant Kendall \ found the bay, in which he was at anchor, begin- 
ning 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 

* "Geological Transactions," voL vi., p. 415. 

f 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 appa- 
rent exceptions to the absence of erratic boulders in certain hot countries, 
are due to erroneous observations : several statements there given, I have 
since found confirmed by various authors. 

$ Gtographical Journal, 1830, pp. 65, 66. 


depth beneath the surface it must remain perpetually congealed, for 
Lieutenant 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 hemi- 
sphere (but not in the broken land of Europe between them), we have 
the zone of perpetually frozen under-soil in a low latitude namely, 
in 56 in North America at the depth of three feet,* and in 62 in Siberia 
at the depth of twelve to fifteen feet as the result of a directly opposite 
condition of things, to those of the southern 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 ex- 
cessively 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 congelation under the equable climate of the 
southern hemisphere, than under the extreme climate of the northern 

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 within 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, f and does not thaw in spring so soon as the surface of 
the land ; moreover at greater depths, where the bottom of the sea does 
not freeze, the mud a few feet beneath the top layer might remain even 
in summer below 32, as is the case on the land with the soil at the 
depth of a few feet. At still greater depths, the temperature of the mud 

* Richardson's Append, to "Back's Exped.," and Humboldt's "Fragm. 
Asiat.," torn, ii., p. 386. 

f Messrs. Dease & Simpson, in Geographical Journal, vol. viii., pp. 2l8, 220, 


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 skeletons preserved : now in the extreme 
northern parts of Siberia bones are infinitely numerous, so that even 
islets are said to be almost composed of them ; * 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 prevent the heat of the summer-water penetrating 
to it ; and if, when the sea-bottom was upraised into land, the covering 
was sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer air and sun 
thawing and corrupting it. 

Recapitulation. I will recapitulate the principal facts with regard to 
the climate, ice-action, and organic productions of the southern hemi- 
sphere transposing the places in imagination to Europe, with which we 
are so much better acquainted. Then, near Lisbon, the commonest 
sea-shells, namely, three species of Oliva, a Voluta and Terebra, would 
have a tropical character. In the southern provinces of France, 
magnificent forests, intwined by arborescent grasses and with the trees 
loaded with parasitical plants, would hide the face of the land. The 
puma and the 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 ever- 
green 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 astonish- 
ing 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 inconsiderable blocks of rock," would be stranded on 
the outlying islets ; at intervals violent earthquakes would shoot 
* Cuvier COssemeiis Fossiles, torn, i., p. 151), from Billing's Voyage, 

1834-] CENTRAL CHILE. 183 

prodigious masses of ice into the waters below. Lastly, some Mission- 
aries attempting to penetrate a long arm of the sea, would behold the 
not lofty surrounding 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 
?reat ; and this would have occurred on our twenty-second of June, 
and where the Lake of Geneva is now spread out I * * 



Valparaiso Excursion to the Foot of the Andes Structure of the Land 
Ascend the Bell of Quillota Shattered Masses of Greenstone Immense 
Valleys Mines State of Miners Santiago Hot-baths of Cauquenes 
Gold-mines Grinding-mills Perforated Stones Habits of the Puma 
El Turco and Tapacolo Humming-birds. 

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 1,600 feet high, and rather steep. From 
its position, it consists of one long, straggling street, which runs 
parallel to the beach, and wherever a ravine comes down, the houses 
are piled up on each side of it. The rounded hills, being only partially 
protected by a very scanty vegetation, are worn into numberless little 
gullies, which expose a singularly bright red soil. From this cause, 

* 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 
Journal (vol. iv., p. 426). The author does not appear aware of a case pub- 
lished by me (Geographical Journal, vol. ix., p. 528), of a gigantic boulder 
embedded in an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean, almost certainly one hundred 
miles distant from any land, and perhaps much more distant. In the Ap- 
pendix I have discussed at length, the probability (at that time hardly 
thought of) of icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing rocks, like 
glaciers. This is now a very commonly received opinion ; and I cannot 
still avoid the suspicion that it is applicable even to such cases as that of the 
Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me, that the icebergs off North America 
push before them pebbles and sand, and leave the submarine rocky 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., n. 180) the adjoining action of glaciers and of floating iceberrs. 


and from the low whitewashed houses with tile roofs, the view reminded 
me of St. Cruz in Teneriffe. In a north-easterly direction there are 
some fine glimpses of the Andes ; but these mountains appear much 
grander when viewed from the neighbouring hills ; the great distance 
at which they are situated, can then more readily be perceived. The 
volcano of Aconcagua is particularly magnificent. This huge and 
irregularly conical mass has an elevation greater than that of Chim- 
borazo ; for, from measurements 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 

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Richard Corfield, an 
old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality and kindness I was 
greatly indebted, in having afforded me a most pleasant residence 
during the Beagle's stay in Chile. The immediate neighbourhood ol 
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, how- 
ever, 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 scented. I did not cease from wonder at 
finding each succeeding day as fine as the foregoing. W r hat a differ- 
ence 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 l^th. I set out on a riding excursion, for the purpose of 
geologizing the basal parts of the Andes, which alone at this time of 
the year 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 ot coast are unequivocal : 
at the height of a few hundred feet old-looking shells are numerous, 
and I found some at 1,300 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. 

August lyh. 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 remarkable 
artificial luxuriance. The valley is very broad and quite flat, and is 
thus easily irrigated in all parts. The little square gardens are crowded 
with orange and olive trees, and every sort of vegetable. On each side 
huge bare mountains rise, and this from the contrast renders the patch- 
work valley the more pleasing Whoever called "Valparaiso" the 
11 Valley of Paradise," must have been thinking of Quillota. We a 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 Quillota) which 
connect them with the coast, I have no doubt are the bottoms of ancient 
inlets and deep bays, such as at the present day intersect every part of 
Tierra del Fuego and the western coast. Chile must formerly have 
resembled the latter country in the configuration of its land and water. 
The resemblance was occasionally shown strikingly when a level fog- 
bank covered, as with a mantle, all the lower parts of the country : the 
white vapour curling into the ravines, beautifully represented little coves 
and bays ; and here and there a solitary hillock peeping up, showed 
that it had formerly stood there as an islet The contrast of these flat 
valleys and basins with the irregular mountains, gave the scenery a 
character which to me was new and very interesting. 

From the natural slope to seaward of these plains, they are very 
easily irrigated, and in consequence singularly fertile. Without this 
process the land would produce scarcely anything, for during the whole 
summer the sky is cloudless. The mountains and hills are dotted over 
with bushes and low trees, and excepting these the vegetation is very 
scanty. Each landowner in the valley possesses a certain portion of hill- 
country, where his half-wild cattle, in considerable numbers, manage to 
find 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. 

July ibth. 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 6,400 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 4,500 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, how- 
ever, 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 abso- 
lutely 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 beep, took our mate", and were quite comfort- 
able. 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 goat-sucker, were occasionally to be 
heard. Besides these, few birds, or even insects, frequent these dry, 
parched mountains. 

August ijth. In the morning we climbed up the rough mass of 
greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as frequently 
happens, was much shattered and broken into huge angular fragments. 
I observed, however, one remarkable circumstance, namely, that many 
of the surfaces presented every degree of freshness some appearing 
as if broken the day before, whilst on others lichens had either just 
become, or had long grown, attached. I so fully believed that this was 
owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt inclined to hurry from 
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 Cor- 
dillera into gravel and mud. 

The appearance of the Andes was different from that which I had 
expected. The lower line of the snow was of course horizontal, and to 
this line the even summits of the range seemed quite parallel Only at 
long intervals, a 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 un- 
examined. I spent the evening as before, talking round the fire with my 
two companions. The Guasos of Chile, who correspond to he Gauchos 
ol the Pampas, are, however, a very different set of beings. Chile is the 
more civilized of the two countries, and the inhabitants, in sonsequence, 


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 gentle- 
man ; 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 
trowsers 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 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 i8M. 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. Tke 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 
:; but his admiration for the mines of Cornwall remained un- 


bounded. Amongst many other questions, he asked me, " Now that 
George Rex is dead, how many more of the family of Kexes are yet 
alive ? " This Rex certainly must be a relation of the great author 
Finis, who wrote all books 1 

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 improvements intro- 
duced by foreigners have been, first, reducing by previous roasting the 
copper pyritejs 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. 1 
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, including the 
spines, was six feet and four inches in circumference. The height of 
the common cylindrical, branching kind, is from twelve to fifteen feet, 
and the girth (with spines) of the branches between three and four 

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

August 26th. We left Jajuel and again crossed the basin of San 
Felipe. The day was truly Chilian : glaringly bright, and the atmo- 
sphere 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 2"jth. 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>th. 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 farmhouse, 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 absur- 
dity of a bishop having a wife particularly struck them ; they scarcely 
knexv whether to be most amused or horror-struck at such an enormity. 

September 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, \vhen 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 dislo- 
cation, 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 

19* CENTRAL CfftLE. . , [CHAP. xir. 

this appears to be the result of an unequal mixture of cold water : tor 
those with the lowest temperature have scarcely any mineral taste. 
After the great earthquake of 1822 the springs ceased, and the water 
did not return for nearly a year. They were also much affected by the 
earthquake of 1835 i the temperature being suddenly changed from 
1 1 8 to 92.* It seems probable that mineral waters rising deep from 
the bowels of the earth, would always be more deranged by subter- 
ranean disturbances than those nearer the surface. The man \vho had 
charge of the baths, assured me that in summer the water is hotter and 
more plentiful than in winter. The former circumstance I should have 
expected, from the less mixture, during the dry season, of cold water ; 
but the latter statement appears very strange and contradictory. The 
periodical increase during the summer, when 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 divided 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-cast Spaniard, who collected a great body of 
Indians together and established himself by a stream in the Pampas, 
which place none of the forces sent after him could ever discover. 
From this point he used to sally forth, and crossing the Cordillera by 
passes hitherto unattenipted, he ravaged the farmhouses and drove the 
cattle to his secret rendezvous. Pincheira was a capital horseman, 
and he made all around him equally good, for he invariably shot any 
one who hesitated to follow him. It was against this man, and other 
wandering Indian tribes, that Rosas waged the war of extermination. 

September i^th. We left the baths of Cauquenes, and rejoining 
the main road slept at the Rio Claro. From this place we rode to 
the town of San 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. San Fernando is forty leagues from 
Santiago ; and it was my farthest point southward ; for we here turned 
.* Caldcleugh, in Phibsofh. Transact, for 1836. 


at right angles towards the coast. We slept at the gold mines of 
Yaquil, which are worked by Mr. Nixon, an American gentleman, to 
whose kindness I was much indebted during the four days I stayed 
at his house. The next morning we rode to the mines, which are 
situated at the distance of some leagues, near the summit of a lofty 
hill. On the way we had a glimpse of the lake Tagua-tagua, celebrated 
for its floating islands, which have been described by M. Gay.* They 
are composed of the stalks of various dead plants 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 twenty-four to twenty-eight shillings per 
month. They leave the mine only once in three weeks ; when they stay 
with their families for two days. One of the rules in this mine sounds 
very harsh, but answers pretty well for the master. The only method 
of stealing gold is to secrete pieces of the ore, and take them out as 
occasion may offer. Whenever the major-domo finds a lump thus 
hidden, its full value is stopped out of the wages of all the men ; who 
thus, without they all combine, are obliged to keep watch over each 

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 de- 
Bcribed, 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. 

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

194 CENTRAL CHIL&. (CHA*. ill. 

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 discovery of a 
method to effect this before the first grinding, would without doubt 
raise the value of gold-ores many fold. It is curious to find how the 
minute particles of gold, 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 counterpart of 
what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer degradation and wear 
away, and with them the metallic veins which they contain. The 
hardest rock is worn into impalpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, 
and both are removed ; but gold, platina, and a few others are nearly 
indestructible, and from their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left 
behind. After whole mountains have passed through this grinding-mill, 
and have been washed by the hand of nature, the residue becomes 
metalliferous, and man finds it worth his while to complete the task of 

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. Hencei extreme poverty is very common among 
the labouring classes in this country. 

There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, and I was 
shown one of the perforated stones, which Molina mentions as being 
found in many places in considerable numbers. They are of a circular 
flattened form, from five to six inches in 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 * 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 
* BurchelTs " Travels," vol. ii., p, 45, 

THE PUMA. 195 

them. Renous speaks Spanish so well, that the old lawyer mistook 
him for a Chilian. Renous, alluding to me, asked him what he thought 
of the King of England sending out a collector to their country, to pick 
up lizards and beetles, and to break stones? The old gentleman 
thought seriously for some time, and then said, " It is not well, hayun 
gato encerrado aqui (there is a cat shut up here). No man is so rich as 
to send out people to pick up such rubbish. I do not like it : if one of 
us were to go and do such things in England, do not you think the 
King of England would very soon send us out of his country?" And 
this old gentleman, from his profession, belongs to the better informed 
and more intelligent classes ! Renous himself, two or three years 
before, left in a house at San Fernando some caterpillars, under charge 
of a girl to feed, that they might turn into butterflies. This was 
rumoured through the town, and at last the Padres and Governor 
consulted together, and agreed it must be some heresy. Accordingly, 
when Renous returned, he was arrested. 

September igth. 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. (2Oth) 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 

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.' 

September 24th. Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, 
which with great difficulty I reached on the 27th, and was there con- 
fined 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 

196 CENTRAL CHILE fcHAP. xii, 

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 teet. 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 quad- 
rupeds ; 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 often returns on its former track, 
and then suddenly making a spring on one side, waits there till the dogs 
have passed by. It is a very silent animal, uttering no cry even when 
wounded, and only rarely during the breeding season. 

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos (megapodius and 
albicollis of Kittlitz) are perhaps the most conspicuous. The former, 
called by the Chillenos " 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 uncom- 
mon. 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 1 " It cannot be made to take flight without the greatest 
trouble, nor does it run, but only hops. The various loud cries which 

1834-] HUMMING-BIRDS. 197 

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 ; a 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 hedge-rows, and the bushes 
scattered over the barren hills, where scarcely another bird can exist. 
In its general manner of feeding, of quickly hopping out of the thickets 
and back again, in its desire of concealment, unwillingness to take 
flight, and nidification, it bears a close resemblance to the Turco ; but 
its appearance is not quite so ridiculous. The Tapacolo is very crafty: 
when frightened by any person, it will remain motionless at the bottom 
of a bush, and will then, after a little while, try with much address to 
crawl away on the opposite side. It is also an active bad, and con- 
tinually making a noise ; these noises are various and strangely odd ; 
some are like the cooing of doves, others like the bubbling of water, and 
many defy all similes. The country people say it changes its cry five 
times in the year according to some change of season, I suppose.* 

Two species of humming-birds are common ; Trochilus forficatus is 
found over a space of 2,500 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 

* 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 bei least expected. 

108 ASPECT Of CHILOE. [CHAP. xiu. 

powerful in proportion to the weight of its body. When hovering by a 
flower, its tail is constantly expanded and shut like a fan, the body 
being kept in a nearly vertical position. This action appears _to steady 
and support the bird, between the slow movements of its wings. 
Although flying from flower to flower in search of food, its stomach 
generally contained abundant remains of insects, which I suspect are 
much more the object of its search than honey. 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 Opetiorhynchus Singular Character of Ornithology 

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 2ist we anchored in the bay of 
San Carlos, the capital of Chiloe. 

This island is about ninety miles long, with a breadth of rather less 
than thirty. The land is hilly, but not mountainous, and is covered by 
one great forest, except where a few green patches have been cleared 
round the thatched cottages. From a distance the view somewhat 
resembles that of Tierra del Fuego ; but the woods, when seen nearer, 
are incomparably more beautiful. Many kinds of fine evergreen trees, 
and plants with a tropical character, here take the place of the gloomy 
beech of the southern shores. In winter the climate is detestable, and 
in summer it is only a little better. I should think there are few parts 
of the world, within the temperate regions, where so much rain falls. 
The winds are very boisterous, and the sky almost always clouded : to 
have a week of fine weather is something wonderful. It is even diffi- 
cult 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 
tne decomposition of the volcanic rocks, supports a rank vegetation, 

1834.] BOAT EXCURSION. ' 199 

yet the climate is not favourable to any production which requires 
much sunshine to ripen it. There is very little pasture for the larger 
quadrupeds ; and in consequence, the staple articles of food are pigs, 
potatoes, and fish. The people all dress in strong woollen garments, 
which each family makes for itself, and dyes with indigo of a dark blue 
colour. The arts, however, are in the rudest state ; as may be seen in 
their strange fashion of ploughing, their method of spinning, grinding 
corn, and in the construction of their boats. The forests are so 
impenetrable, that the land is nowhere cultivated except near the coast 
and on the adjoining islets. Even where paths exist, they are scarcely 
passable from the soft and swampy slate 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 exchange. 

November 242/1. The yawl and whale-boat wero 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 out- 
side, so as thus to circumnavigate the whole. I accompanied this 
expedition, but instead of going in the boats the first day, I hired horses 
to take me to Chacao, at the 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 be- 
longing 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 
San 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 mast-head, he asked, with the utmost indifference, 
whether it was always to fly at Chacao. In several places, the inhabit- 
ants 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 

200 CHILOE. [CHAP. xm. 

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. 

November z^th. 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. 

November zbth. 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 deserv- 
ing the name of " el famoso Corcovado." Thus we beheld, from one 
point of view, three great active volcanos, each about seven thousand 
feet high. In addition to this, far to the south, there were other lofty 
cones 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 neighbour- 
hood, 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 con- 
verged 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 semicircle. 

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 
connection of the different American tribes, who nevertheless speak 
distinct languages. This party could muster but little Spanish, and 
talked to each other in their own tongue. It is a pleasant thing to see 
the aborigines advanced to the same degree of civilization, however 
low that may be, which their white conquerors have attained. More 
to the south we saw many pure Indians: indeed, all the inhabitants 
of some of the islets retain their Indian surnames. In the census 
of 1 832, 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 

1834.] TENURE OF LAND. 201 

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 government, which makes it necessary 
before buying ever so small a piece, to pay two shillings to the 
surveyor for measuring each quadra (150 yards square), together with 
whatever price he fixes for the value of the land. After his valua- 
tion, 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 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 7o/. 

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached the 
island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most cultivated part of 
the Archipelago ; for a broad strip of land on the coast of the main 
island, as well as on many of the smaller adjoining ones, is almost 
completely cleared. Some of the farmhouses seemed very comfortable. 
I was curious to ascertain how rich any of these people might be, but 
Mr. Douglas says that no one can be considered as possessing a regular 
income. One of the richest landowners might possibly accumulate, in 
a long industrious life, as much as 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 y>th. Early on Sunday morning we reached Castro, the 
ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn and deserted place. 
The usual quadrangular arrangement of Spanish towns could be traced, 
but the streets and plaza were coated with fine green turf, on which 
sheep were browsing. The church, which stands in the middle, is 

202 CHILOE. [CHAP, xiiu 

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 Jthe 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 in- 
habitants. 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 capsi- 
cum, old clothes, and gunpowder. The latter article was required for 
a very innocent purpose : each parish has a public musket, and the 

mpowder was wanted for making a noise on their saint or feast 

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. At certain 
seasons they catch also, in " corrales," or hedges under water, many 
fish which are left on the mud-banks as the tide falls. They occasion- 
ally 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 be a fine duck ; and with some cotton handkerchiefs, 

1834.] SAN PEDRO. 203 

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 under- 
standing Spanish, if we saw any person in the dark, we should 
assuredly shoot him. The constable, with much humility, agreed to 
the perfect propriety of this arrangement, and promised us that no one 
should stir out of his house during that night. 

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing southward. 
The general features of the country remained the same, but it was 
much less thickly inhabited. On the large island of Tanqui there was 
scarcely one cleared spot, the trees on every side extending their 
branches over the sea-beach. I one day noticed, 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 6th. We reached Caylen, called " el fin del Cristiandad." 
In the morning we stopped for a lew 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 ! 

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 i of angles with the theodolite. A fox (Canis fulvipes), 
of a kind said to be peculiar to the island, and very rare in it, and 
which is a new species, was sitting on the rocks. He was so intently 
absorbed in watching the work of the officers, that I was able, by 
quietly walking up behind, to knock him on the head with my 
geological hammer. This fox, more curious or more scientific, but 
less wise, than the generality of his brethren, is now mounted in the 
museum of the Zoological Society. 

We 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 soundings. At other times we 
crept one after another on our hands and knees, under the rotten 
trunks. In the lower part of the mountain, noble trees of the Winter's 
Bark, and a laurel like the sassafras with fragrant leaves, and others, 
the names of which I do not know, were matted together by a trailing 
bamboo or cane. Here we were more like fishes struggling in a net 
than any other animal. On the higher parts, brushwood takes the 
place of larger trees, with here and there a red cedar or an alerce pine. 
I was also pleased to see, at an elevation of a little less than 1,000 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 despair. 

December loth. The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr. Sulivan, pro- 
ceeded on their survey, but I remained on board the Beagle, which the 
next day left San Pedro for the southward. On the I3th we ran into 
an opening in the southern part of Guayatecas, or the Chonos Archi- 
pelago ; 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 rainbow, and it 
was curious to observe the effect of the spray, which, being carried 
along the surface, of the water, changed the ordinary semicircle into a 
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 i&th. We stood out to sea. On the 2oth 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 
recognized by a hill 1,600 feet high, which is even more perfectly 
conical than the famous sugar-loaf at Rio de Janeiro. The next day, 
after anchoring, I succeeded in reaching the summit of this hill. It was 
a laborious undertaking, for the sides were so steep that in some parts 
it was necessary to use the trees as ladders. There were also several 
extensive brakes of the Fuchsia, covered with its beautiful drooping 
flowers, but very difficult to crawl through. In these wild countries it 
gives much delight to gain the summit of any mountain. There is an 
indefinite expectation of 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 to ascertain whether any human being 
has previously visited an unfrequented spot. A bit of wood with a nail 
in it, is picked up and studied as if it were covered with hieroglyphics. 
Possessed with this feeling, I was much interested by finding, on a wild 
part of the coast, a bed made of grass beneath a ledge of rock. Close 
by it there had been a fire, and the man 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 28^. 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 after- 
wards 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 1 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 days. 


December jpth. 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 2,400 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 des- 
titute of vegetation. This barrenness had to our eyes a strange appear- 
ance, from having been so long accustomed to the sight of an almost 
universal forest of dark 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 recognized. Granite has given rise, 
perhaps, to more discussion concerning its origin than any other forma- 
tion. We generally see it constituting the fundamental rock, and, 
however formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the crust of this 
globe to which man has penetrated. The limit of man's knowledge in 
any subject possesses a high interest, which is perhaps increased by its 
close neighbourhood to the realms of imagination. 

January ist, 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 ip which the heap of seals, old and 

l835 WILD POTATO. *# 

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

January *jth. 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, compose d 
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 * from Valparaiso, but that they form 
a variety which by some botanists has been considered as specifically 
distinct. It is remarkable that the same plant should be found on 
the sterile mountains of Central Chile, where a drop of rain does not 
fall for more than six months, and within the damp forests of 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 

* 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 p'ant, which it appears was unknown in Mexico, in " Polit. Essay on 
New Spain," book iv,, chap, ix, 


appears too cold and wet to allow of their arriving at perfection ; but 
in these islands, within the forest, the number of species and great 
abundance of mosses, lichens, and small ferns, is quite extraordinary.* 
In Tierra del Fuego trees grow only on the hill-sides ; every level piece 
of land being invariably covered by a thick bed of peat ; but in Chiloe 
flat land supports the most luxuriant forests. Here, within the Chonos 
Archipelago, the nature of the climate more closely approaches that 
of Tierra del Fuego than that of 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, 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 resem- 
blance 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 disorganization of the vegetable matter, 
and consolidate the whole. 

The climate of the southern part of America appears particularly 
favourable to the production of peat. In the Falkland Islands almost 
every kind of plant, even the coarse grass which covers the whole 
surface of the 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 circum- 
stance, 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 characterized peat 
occurs; but in the Chonos Islands, three degrees farther southward, 

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 cha- 
racteristic family in number, both of individuals and species, throughout the 
more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos, is that of the Telephoridsc. 


we hava seen that it is abundant. On the eastern coast in La Plata 
(lat. 35) I was told by a Spanish resident, who had visited Ireland, 
that he had often sought for this substance, but had never been able to 
find any. He showed me, as the nearest approach to it which he had 
discovered, a black peaty soil, so penetrated with roots as to allow of 
an extremely slow and imperfect combustion. 

The zoology of these broken islets of the Chonos Archipelago is, as 
might have been expected, very poor. Of quadrupeds two aquatic 
kinds are common. The Myopotamus 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, ex- 
clusively 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 sh, but, like the seals, draws a large supply from a small red crab, 
which swims in shoals near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe saw 
one in Tierra del Fuego eating a cuttle-fish ; and at Low's Harbour, 
another was killed in the act of carrying to its hole a large volute shell. 
At one place I caught in a trap a singular little mouse (M. brachiotis) ; 
it appeared common on several of the islets, but the Chilotans at Low's 
Harbour said that it was not found in all. What a succession of 
chances,* or what changes of level must have been brought into play, 
thus to spread these small animals throughout this broken archipelago I 

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 I defy 
any one at first to feel certain that a small dog is not yelping some- 
where in the forest Just as with the cheucau, a person will sometimes 

* 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 distri- 
bution of the smaller gnawing animals on islands not very near each other. 


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,* a small idusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus Pata- 
gonicus) 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 disturb the general silence. The yelping 
of the guid-guid, and the sudden vvhevv-vvhew 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-fly- 
catcher (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 oi 
society, or at some former period may have been so. If America south 
of 37 were sunk beneath the waters of the ocean, these two birds 
might continue to exist in Central Chile for a long period, but it is very 
improbable that their numbers would increase. We should then see a 
case which must inevitably have happened with very many animals. 

These southern seas are frequented by several species of Petrels : the 
largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly (quebrantahuesos, or break- 
bones, of the Spaniards), is a common bird, both in the inland channels 
and on the open sea. In its habits and manner of flight, there is a very 
close resemblance with the albatross ; and as with the albatross, a person 
may watch itj for hours together without seeing on what it feeds. The 
" break-bones " is, however, a rapacious bird, for it was observed by 
seme of the officers at Port St. Antonio chasing a diver, which tried to 
cacape by diving and flying, but was continually 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 

* 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 2Oth, 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. 

I835-] CHILOE. an 

coast of Peru, is of a much smaller size than the P. gigantea, but, like 
it, of a dirty black colour. It generally frequents the inland sounds in 
very large' flocks : I do not think I ever saw so many birds of any other 
sort together, as I once saw of these behind the island of Chiloe. 
Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular line for several hours in one 
direction. When part of the flock settled on the water the surface was 
blackened, and a noise proceeded from them as of human beings talking 
in the distance. 

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only mention 
one other kind, the Pelacanoides Berardi, which offers an example of 
those extraordinary cases, of a bird evidently belonging to one well- 
marked family, yet both in its habits and structure allied to a very 
distinct tribe. This bird never leaves the quiet inland sounds. When 
disturbed it dives to a distance, and on coming to the surface, with the 
same movement takes flight. After flying by the rapid movement of 
its short wings for a space in a straight line, it drops, as if struck dead, 
and dives again. The form of its beak and nostrils, length of foot, and 
even the colouring of its plumage, show that this bird is a petrel ; on 
the other hand, its short wings and consequent little power of flight, its 
form of body and shape of tail, the absence of a hind toe to its foot, 
its habit of diving, and its choice of 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 Fuego. 



San Carlos, Chiloe Osorno in Eruption, Contemporaneously with Aconcagua 
andCoseguina RidetoCucao Impenetrable Forests Valdivia Indians 
Earthquake Conception Great Earthquake Rocks Fissured Ap- 
pearance of the Former Towns The Sea Black and Boiling Direction of 
the Vibrations Stones twisted Round Great Wave Permanent Eleva- 
tion of the Land Area of Volcanic Phenomena The Connection between 
the Elevatory and Eruptive Forces Cause of Earthquakes Slow Eleva- 
tion of Mountain-chains. 

ON January the ijth 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 igih 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 


312 CHILOE. [CHAP. xrv. 

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 land behind 
San 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 (2,700 
miles north of Aconcagua), accompanied by an earthquake felt over 
a 1,000 miles, also occurred within six hours of this same time. This 
coincidence is the more remarkable, 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 Vesuvius, 
Etna, and Hecla in Iceland (all three relatively nearer each other, 
than the corresponding points in South America) suddenly burst forth 
in eruption on the same night, the coincidence would be thought re- 
markable ; 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 2,000 miles on the western coast, show in how equable and 
connected a manner the elevatory forces have acted. 

Captain Fitz Roy being anxious that some bearings should be taken 
on the outer coast of Chiloe, it was planned that Mr. King and myself 
should ride to Castro, and thence across the island to the Capella 
de Cucao, situated on the west coast. Having hired horses and a 
guide, we set out on the morning of the 22nd. We had not proceeded 
far, before we were joined by a woman and two boys, who were bent 
on the same journey. Every one on this road acts on a " hail fellow 
well met fashion;" and one may here enjoy the privilege, so rare 
in South America, of 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 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, 

183$.] CHILOE. aij 

almost with the quickness and certainly 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 San 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 ia 
attempting to cross the forest. The first who succeeded was an Indian, 
who cut his way through the canes in eight days, and reached San 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 is, 
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 dissipate the effect 
of the gloomy dampness of the forest. Moreover, the many dead trunks 
that stand like skeletons, never fail to give to these primeval woods a 
character of solemnity, absent in those of countries long civilized. 
Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for the night. Our female corn- 
panion, who was rather good-looking, belonged to one of the most 
respectable families in Castro ; she rode, however, astride, and without 
shoes or stockings. I was surprised at the total want of pride shown 
by her and her brother. They brought food with them, but at all our 
meals sat watching Mr. King and myself whilst eating, till we were 
fairly shamed into feeding the whole party. The night was cloudless ; 
and while lying in our beds, we enjoyed the sight (and it is a high 
enjoyment) of the multitude of stars which illumined the darkness of 
the forest. 

January 2yd. We rose early in the morning, and reached the 
pretty quiet town of Castro by two o'clock. The old governor had died 
since our last visit, and a Chileno was acting in his place. We had a 
letter of introduction to Don Pedro, whom we found exceedingly 
hospitable and kind, and more disinterested than is usual on this side 
of the continent. The next day Don Pedro procured us fresh horses, 
and offered to accompany us himself. We proceeded to the south 
generally following the coast, and passing through several hamlets, each 
with its large barn-like chapel built of wood. At Vilipilli, Don Pedro 
asked the commandant to give us a guide to Cucao. The old gentle- 
man offered to come himself; but for a long time nothing would 

214 CHILOB. [CHAP, xiv 

persuade him, that two Englishmen really wished to go to such an out 
of the way place as Cucao. We were thus accompanied by the two 
greatest aristocrats in the country, as was plainly to be seen in the 
manner of all the poorer Indians towards them. At Chonchi we struck 
across the island, following intricate winding paths, sometimes passing 
through magnificent forests, and sometimes through pretty cleared spots, 
abounding with corn and potato crops. This undulating woody country, 
partially 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 
days, and during the night it falls calm : this has given rise to strange 
exaggerations, for the phenomenon, as described to us at San Carlos 
was quite a prodigy. 

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to embark 
in a periagua. The commandant, in the most authoritative manner, 
ordered six Indians to get ready to pull us over, without deigning to tell 
them whether they would be paid. The periagua is a strange rough boat, 
but the crew were still stranger : I doubt if six uglier little men ever got 
into a boat together. They pulled, however, very well and cheerfully. 
The stroke-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 alongside 
the boat, which was heeled towards her ; then placing two oars under 
her belly, with their ends resting on the gunwale, by the aid of these 
levers they fairly tumbled the poor beast, heels over head, into the 
bottom of the boat, and then lashed her down with ropes. At Cucao we 
found an uninhabited hovel (which is the residence of the padre when 
he pays this Capella a visit), where, lighting a fire, we cooked our 
supper, and were very comfortable. 

The district of Cucao is the only inhabited part on the whole west 
coast of Chi)oe. 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 manufac- 
ture, and they *;ave 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 authorita- 
tive manner in which they are treated by their rulers. Our companions, 
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 condescending to say how much, oy 

1835.] Rl^E. TO CUCAO. $ 

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 

The next day after Dreakfast, we rode a few miles northward to 
Punta Huantam6. 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 Huantam6 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 San 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. 

January 2&h. Re-embarking in the periagua, we returned across the 
lake, and then mounted our horses. The whole of Chiloe took 
advantage of this week of unusually fine weather, to clear the ground 
by burning. In every direction volumes of smoke were curling up- 
wards. 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 btface I forget this fareweH 

216 VALDIVIA. [CHAP. xiv. 

view of the magnificent Cordillera fronting Cliiloe. At night we 
bivouacked under a cloudless sky, and the next morning reached San 
Carlos. We arrived on the right day, for before evening heavy rain 

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 fhe 
boat proceeded to the town, which is distant about ten miles. We 
followed the course of the river, occasionally passing a few hovels, 
and patches of ground cleared out of the otherwise unbroken forest ; 
and sometimes meeting a canoe with an Indian family. The town 
is situated on the low banks of the stream, and is so completely buried 
in a wood of apple-trees that the streets are merely paths in an 
orchard. I have never seen any country where apple-trees appeared 
to thrive so well as in this damp part of South America ; on the borders 
of the roads there were many young trees evidently self-sown. la 
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 bis motto, " Necesidad es 
la madre del invencion," by giving an accoum 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 i ith. 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 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. 

February \-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 take 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 

2i8 VALDIVIA. [CHAP. xiv. 

be the wife of a cacique is an honour much sought after by the Indian 

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 deter- 
mination. 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 independence of manners is probably a consequence of their long 
wars, and the repeated victories which they alone, of all the tribes in 
America, have gained over the Spaniards. 

I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the padre. He 
was exceedingly kind and hospitable ; and coming from Santiago, had 
! contrived to surround himself with some few comforts, Being a man 
of some little education, he bitterly complained of the total want of 
society. With no particular zeal for religion, no business or pursuit, 
how completely must this man's life be wasted! The next day, on 
our return, we met seven very wild-looking Indians, of whom some 
were caciques that had just received from the Chilian government their 
yearly small stipend for having long remained faithful. They were 
fine-looking men, and they rode one after the other with most gloomy 
faces. An old cacique, who headed them, had been, I suppose, more 
excessively drunk than the rest, for he seemed both extremely grave 
and very crabbed. Shortly before this, two Indians joined us, who 
were travelling from a distant mission to Valdivia concerning some 
lawsuit. One was a good-humoured old man, but from his wrinkled 
beardless face looked more like an old woman than a man. I frequently 
presented both of them with cigars ; and though ready to receive them, 
and I daresay grateful, they would hardly condescend to thank me. 
A Chilotan Indian would have taken off his hat, and given his " Dios 
le page!" The travelling was very tedious, both from the 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 
proceeded on board. 

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of officers 
and landed near the fort called Niebla. The buildings were in a most 
ruinous state, and the gun-carriages quite rotten. Mr. Wickham 
remarked to the commanding officer, that with one discharge they 
would certainly all fall to pieces. The poor man, trying to put a 


good face upon it, gravely replied, "No, I am sure, sir, they would 
stand two ! " The Spaniards must have intended to have made this 
place impregnable. There is now lying in the middle of the courtyard 
a little mountain of mortar, which rivals in hardness the rock on 
which it is placed. It was brought from Chile, and cost 7,000 dollars. 
The revolution having broken out, prevented its being applied to any 
purpose, and now it remains a monument of the fallen greatness of 

I wanted to go to a house about a mile and a half distant, but n.y 
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 2oth. 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 oi 
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 earth- 
quakes, experienced by all who have thus seen, as well as felt, their 
effects. Within the forest it was a deeply interesting, but by no means 
an awe-exciting phenomenon. The tides were very curiously affected. 
The great shock took place at the time of low water ; and an old 

220 CONCEPCION. [CHAP. xiv. 

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 tfh. We entered the harbour of Concepcion. 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 2Oth : " 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 store- 
houses at Talcahuano had been burst open, and great bags of cotton, 
yerba, and other valuable merchandise were scattered on the shore. 
During my walk round the island, I observed 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 con- 
spicuous by the fresh fractures and displaced soil, must be confined to 
near the surface, for otherwise there would not exist a block of solid 
rock throughout Chile ; nor is this 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 Con- 

cepcion. Both towns presented the most awful yet interesting spectacle 
I ever beheld. To a person who had formerly known them, it 

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 dis- 
tinguished. From this circumstance Concepcion, although not so com- 
pletely desolated, was a more terrible, and, if I may so call it, 
picturesque sight. The first shock was very sudden. The mayor- 
domo at Quiriquina 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 court-yard, when one side 
of his house came thundering down. He retained presence of mind to 
remember, that if he once got on the top of that part which had already 
fallen, he would be safe. Not being able from the motion of the 
ground to stand, he crawled up on his hands and knees ; and no sooner 
had he ascended this little eminence, than the other side of the house 
fell in, the great beams sweeping close in front of his head. With his 
eyes blinded, and his mouth choked with the cloud of 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 I " and then with 
the other filched what they could from the ruins. The thatched roofs 

222 CONCEPCION. [CHAP . xiv. 

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 

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 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 twenty-three 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 fifteen 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 thirty-six 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 
cobody 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 in- 
teresting 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 thai: 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 another like the 
blowing of a great whale, were seen in the bay. The water also 
appeared every where 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 1822 ; 
they may, I think, be accounted for, by the disturbance of the mud at 
the bottom of the sea containing organic matter in decay. In the Bay 
of Callao, during a calm day, I noticed, that as the ship dragged her 
cable over the bottom, its course was marked by a line of bubbles. 
The lower orders in Talcahuano thought that the earthquake was 
caused by some old Indian women, who two years ago being offended 
stopped the volcano of 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 volcanos, 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 affected. 

The town of Concepcion was built in the usual Spanish fashion, 
with all the streets running at right angles to each other; one set 
ranging S.W. by W., and the other set N.W. by N. The walls in the 
former direction certainly stood better than those in the latter: the 
greater number of the masses of brick-work were thrown down towards 
the N.E. Both these 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 
Mitchell, 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 neaily three times 
the height of any other part of the coast. 

224 CONCEPCION. [CHAP. xiv. 

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to their 
direction, was well exemplified in the case of the Cathedral. The side 
which fronted the N.E. presented a grand pile of ruins, in the midst of 
which door-cases and masses of timber stood up, as if floating in a 
stream. Some of the angular blocks of brickwork were of great 
dimensions ; and they 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 circumstance was observed after an 
earthquake at Valparaiso, Calabria, and other places, including some of 
the ancient Greek temples.* This twisting displacement, at first 
appears to indicate a vorticose movement beneath each point thus 
affected; but this is highly improbable. May it not be caused by a 
tendency in each stone to arrange itself in some particular position, 
with respect to the 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, dunng 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 appear- 
ance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite impossible to convey the 
mingled feelings which I experienced. Several of the officers visited it 
before me, but their strongest language failed to give a just idea of the 
scene of desolation. It is a bitter and humiliating thing to see works, 
which have cost man so much time and labour, overthrown in one 
minute ; yet 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 disturbance seems 
generally, as in the case of Concepcion, to have been of two kinds : 
first, at the instant of the shock, the water swells high up on the beach 
with a gentle motion, and then as quietly retreats; secondly, some 
time afterwards, the whole body of the sea retires from the coast, and 
then returns in waves of over-whelming 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 
s oast of America, it is certain that the first great movement of the 

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


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 dose to' the land, eren OOA 
rather steep coast, would partake of the motion of the bottom : more- 
over, 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 movements 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 

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 i,ooofeet. At Valparaiso, as I have remarked, similar 
shells are found at the height of 1,300 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 
01 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 2Oth, violently shaken, so 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 1751, was then also affected more violently than other 
places at an equal distance from Concepcion, and this seems to show 
some subterranean connection between these two points. Chiloe, 
about 340 miles southward of 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 volcanos burst forth at the same instant in 
violent action. These two volcanos, 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 volcanos, did not perceive the 
shock of the 2oth, 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 
2oth, 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 ease 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 beer 
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 volcanos on the coast 
of Holland would have burst forth in action, and an eruption taken 
place at the bottom of the sea, near the 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 Mediterranean. 

The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 2oth was 
actually erupted, is 720 miles in one line, and 400 miles in another 
line at right angles to the first : hence, in all probability, 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 phenomena, we may confidently come to the conclusion, 
that the forces which slowly and by little starts uplift continents, and 
those which at successive periods pour forth volcanic matter from open 
orifices, are identical. From many reasons, I believe that the frequent 
quakings of the earth on this line of coast, are caused by the rending 
of the strata, 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 earth- 
quakes repeatedly affect the same areas in the same manner), form a 
chain of hills ; and the linear island of St. Mary, which was upraised 
thrice the height of the neighbouring country, seems to be undergoing 
this process. I believe that the solid axis of a mountain, differs in 
its manner of formation from a volcanic hill, only in the molten stone 
having been repeatedly injected, instead of having been repeatedly 
ejected. Moreover, 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.* 



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 Val- 

March 7th, 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 liis men to keep quiet, whilst he listened for 
the breakers. Captain Fitz Roy hailed him, in a loud clear voice, to 
anchor where lie then was. The poor man must have thought the 
* For a full account of the volcanic phenomena which accompanied the 
earthquake of the 2Oth, and for the conclusions deducible from them, I must 
refer to Volume V. of the Geological Transactions. 



voice came from the shore : such a babel of cries issued at once from 
the ship every one hallooing out, " Let go the anchor I veer cable ! 
shorten sail 1 " 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 nth 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 impassable in other parts by beasts of burden. 
The custom-house officers were very civil, which was perhaps partly 
owing to the passport which the 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, 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 instan'.ly, 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. Out manner pf 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 100 pounds less ; yet with what delicate 
slim limbs, without any proportional bulk of muscle, these animals 
support so great a burden! The mule always appears to me a most 
surprising animal. That a hybrid should possess more reason, memory, 
obstinacy, social affection, powers of muscular endurance, and length 
of life, than either of its parents, seems to indicate that art has here 
outdone nature. Of our ten animals, six were intended for riding, 
and four for 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 igt/t. 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 characterized by 
having, on both sides, a fringe or terrace of shingle and sand, rudely 
stratified, and generally of considerable thickness. These fringes 
evidently once extended across the valleys, and were united ; and the 
bottoms of the valleys in northern Chile, where there are no streams, 
are thus smoothly filled up. On these fringes the roads are generally 
carried, for their surfaces are even, and they rise with a very gentle 
slope up the valleys ; hence, also, they are easily cultivated by 
irrigation. They may be traced up to a height of between 7,000 and 
9,000 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 de- 
posited when the sea penetrated it now does the more southern 
coasts. No one fact in the geology of South America interested me 
more than these terraces of rudely-stratified shingle. They precisely 
resemble in composition the matter which the torrents in each valley 
would deposit, if they were checked in their course by any cause, such 
as entering a lake or arm of the sea; but the torrents, instead of 
depositing matter, are now steadily at work wearing away both the 
solid rock and these alluvial deposits, along the whole line of every 
main valley and side valley. It is impossible here to give the reasons, 
but I am convinced that the shingle terraces were accumulated during 


the gradual elevation of the Cordillera, by the torrents delivering, at 
successive levels, their detritus on the beach-heads of long narrow 
arms of the sea, first high up the valleys, then lower and lower down 
as the land slowly rose. If this be so, and I cannot doubt it, the grand 
and broken chain of the Cordillera, instead of having been 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 stone, 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, I have felt inclined to exclaim that 
causes, such as the present rivers and the present beaches, could never 
have ground down and produced such masses. But, on the other 
hand, when listening to the rattling noise of these torrents, and calling 
to mind that whole races of animals have passed away from the face 
of the earth, and that 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 
3,000 to 6,000 or 8,000 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 
San Pedro de Nolasko. Sir F. Head marvels how mines have been 
discovered in such extraordinary situations, as the bleak summit of 
the mountain of San Pedro de Nolasko. In the first place, metallic veins 


in this country are generally harder than the surrounding strata ; hence, 
during the gradual wear of the hills, they project above the surface 
of the ground. Secondly, almost every labourer, especially in the 
northern parts of Chile, understands something about the 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 dis- 
covered. 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. 

March loth. 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 bright-coloured detritus 
which sloped up at a high angle from the base of the mountains, 
sometimes to a height of more than 2,000 feet. 

I frequently observed, both in Tierra del Fuego and within the 
Andes, that where the rock was covered during the greater part of the 
year with snow, it was shivered in a very extraordinary manner into 
small angular fragments. Scoresby* has observed the same fact in 
Spitzbergen. 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-waterf than by rain, and therefore that the appearance 

* Scoresby's " Arctic Regions," vol. i., p. 122. 

f I have heard it remarked in Shropshire, that the water, when tha 
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 


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 

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 surround- 
ing rocky deserts. The valley takes its name of Yeso from a great bed, 
I should think at least 2,000 feet thick, of white, and in some parts 
quite pure, gypsum. "We slept with a party of men who were em- 
ployed in loading mules with this substance, which is used in the 
manufacture of wine. We set out early in the morning (2ist), 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 briet 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 of the Peuquenes ridge, and ot 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 Hie less wonderful, to hear 
of shells which were once crawling on the bottom of the sea, now 
standing nearly 14,000 feet above its level. The lower beds in this 
great pile of strata, have been dislocated, baked, crystallized and 
almost blended together, throush the agency of mountain masses of a 
peculiar white soaa-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 

in South America, remarks that those with blue or clear water have their 
source in the Cordillera, where the snow melts. 


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 con- 
clude, 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 sand- 
stone baked by it), we may feel sure, that the greater part of the injec- 
tion 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 6,000 
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 sup- 
position of the subsequent and gradual elevation of the Portillo line, 
this can be understood ; for a chain of islets would at first appear, and, 
as these were lifted up, the tides would be always wearing deeper and 
broader channels between them At the present day, even in the most 
retired Sounds on the coast of Tierra del Fuego, the currents in the 


transverse breaks which connect the longitudinal channels, are very 
strong, so that in one transverse channel even a small vessel under sail 
was whirled round and round. 

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes ridge, 
and then for the first time experienced some little difficulty in out 
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 imagination even in this ; 
for upon finding fossil shells on the highest ridge, I entirely forgot the 
puna in my delight. Certainly the exertion of walking was extremely 
great, and the respiration became deep and laborious : I am told that 
in Potosi (about 13,000 feet above the sea) strangers do not become 
thoroughly accustomed to the atmosphere for an entire year. The 
inhabitants 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 halfway up we met a large party with seventy loaded 
mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the muleteers, and 
to watch the long 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 pro- 
found valleys; the wild broken forms; the heaps of ruins, piled up 
during the lapse of ages ; the bright-coloured rocks, contrasted with 
the quiet mountains of snow ; all these together produced a scene no 
one could have imagined. Neither plant nor bird, excepting a few 
condors wheeling around the higher pinnacles, distracted my attention 
from the inanimate mass. I felt glad that I was alone: it was like 
watching a thunderstorm, or hearing in full orchestra a chorus of the 

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 footsteps of the mules 
stained a pale red, as if their hoofs had been slightly bloody. I at first 
thought that it was owing to dust blown from the surrounding mountains 
of red porphyry ; for from the magnifying power of the crystals of snow, 
the groups of these microscopical plants appeared like coarse particles. 

I835-] RZD SNOW. 23S 

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 * to blow steadily from the west- 
ward or Pacific side. As the observations have been chiefly made in 
summer, this wind must be an upper and return current. The Peak of 
Teneriffe, with a less elevation, and situated in lat. 28, in like manner 
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 other- 
wise 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 east- 
ward 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 mountainous 
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 exceedingly scanty. The root of a small scrubby plant 
served as fuel, but it made a miserable fire, and the wind was piercingly 
cold. Being quite tired with my day's work, I made up my bed as 
quickly as I could, and went to sleep. About midnight I observed the 
sky became suddenly clouded : I awakened the arriero to know if there 
was any danger of bad weather ; but he said that without thunder and 
lightning there was no risk of a heavy 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 temperature than it 

does in a less lofty country ; the case being the converse of that of a 

* Dr. Gillies in Journal of Natural and Geographical Science, Aug. 1830, 

This author <jives the heights of the Pa 


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 
companions discussing the cause ; they had come to the simple con- 
clusion, "that the cursed pot (which was a new one) did not choose to 
boil potatoes. 

March zind. 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-stonn, 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,* 
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 sur- 
rounding 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 unfortunate, 
as it continued the whole day, and quite intercepted our view. The 
pass takes its name of Portillo from a narrow cleft or doorway on the 
highest ridge, through which the road passes. From this point on a 
clear day, those vast plains which 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 

* This structure in frozen snow was long since observed by Scoresby in 
the icebergs near Spitzbergen, and lately, with more care, by Colonel 
Jackson (Journal of Geographical Society, 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 deposition. 


were dispersed it froze severely ; but as there was no wind, we slept 
very comfortably. 

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this elevation, 
owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was very remark- 
able. 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 transparency 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 cracked ; even the linen sheets, and leathern straps of 
the saddle, when handled, emitted sparks. 

March iyd. The descent on the eastern side of the Cordillera 
is much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side ; in other words, 
the mountains rise more abruptly from the plains than from the alpine 
country of Chile. A level and brilliantly white sea of clouds was 
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. 

1 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 quad- 
rupeds, and in a lesser degree with the birds and insects. I may 
instance the mice, of which I obtained thirteen species on the shoies 
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 

*j8 PORTILLO PASS. [CHAfr. xt 

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.* 

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 San 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 24/7*. Early in the morning I climbed up a mountain on one 
side of the valley, and enjoyed a far extended view over the Pampas. 
This was a spectacle to which I had always looked forward with 
interest, but I was disappointed : at the first glance it much resembled 
a distant view of the ocean, but in the northern parts many irregularities 
were soon distinguishable. The most striking feature consisted in the 
rivers, which, facing the rising sun, glittered like silver threads, till lost 
in the immensity of the distance. At midday we descended the valley, 
and reached a hovel, where an officer and three soldiers were posted 
to examine passports. One of these men was a thoroughbred 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 horse- 
back. 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 bivouacked. 

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

18350 SWARM OF LOCUSTS. 239 

March 2$th. I was reminded of the Pampas ot Buenos Ayres, by 
seeing the disc 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 efflorescence ; 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 further 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 forwards. 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 

240 MENDOZA. [CHAP. xv. 

lighting fires, by shouts, and by waving branches to avert the attack. 
This species of locust closely resembles, and perhaps is identical with 
the famous Gryllus migratorius of the East 

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 sur- 
rounded 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 27 'th. We rode on to Mendoza. The country was beautifully 
cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbourhood is celebrated for 
its fruit ; and certainly nothing could appear more flourishing than 
the vineyards and the orchards of figs, peaches, and olives. We bought 
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 irrigation ; 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, thay 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. 

1835-J MENDOZA. 241 

March 2gth. 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 formid- 
able 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. 

March 30^. The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name oi 
Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who has crossed 
the Andes. I stayed here and at some neighbouring mines during the 
two succeeding days. The geology of the surrounding country is very 
curious. The Uspallata range is separated from the main Cordillera 
by a long narrow plain or basin, like those so often mentioned in Chile, 
but higher, being 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-crystallized white calcareous spar. They were abruptly 
broken off, the upright stumps projecting a few feet above the ground. 
The trunks measured from three to five feet each in circumference. 
They stood a little way apart from each other, but the whole formed 
one group. Mr. Robert Brown has been kind enough to examine the 
wood: he says it belongs to the fir tribe, partaking of the character 
of the Araucarian family, but with some curious points of 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 accumu- 
lated in successive thin layers around their trunks ; and the stone yet 
retained the impression of the bark. 

It required little geological practice to interpret the marvellous 


story which this scene at once unfolded ; though I confess I was at 
first so much astonished, that I could scarcely believe the plainest 
evidence. 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 ot that ocean, torming 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 ist. 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 earth. 

The next day we crosse d 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 iull, 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 waiis 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 backwards, 
or got off his mule on either side. One of the bad passes, called las 
Animas (the Souls), I had crossed, and did not find out till a day 
afterwards, that it was one of the awful dangers. No doubt there are 
many parts in which, if the mule should stumble, the rider would be 
hurled down a great precipice; but of 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 $th. From the Rio de las Vacas to the Paente 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. 

April $th. 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 far distant mountains have been hidden 
beneath the horizon. 

April 6th. In the morning we found some thief had stolen one of 
our mules, and the bell of the madrina. We therefore rode only two or 
three miles down the valley, and 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. 

April 8/7*. 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 faking ; 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 loth 
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 Desposits Con- 
temporaneousness of the Tertiary Formations Excursion up the Valley 
Road to Guasco Deserts Valley of Copiapd 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 Decomposition 
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 Copiap6, 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 Copiapd I 
sold them again for twenty-three. We travelled in the same indepen- 
dent manner as before, cooking our own meals, and sleeping in the 
open air. As we rode towards the Vino del Mar, I took a farewell view 
of Valparaiso, and admired its picturesque appearance. For geological 
purposes I made a detour from the high road to the foot of the Bell 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. 

April 2&7/J. 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 nth and I2th, 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 sight. 

May 2nd. The road continued to follow the coast at no 


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 

May yd, 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 Copiap6 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. 

May tfh. 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 proceeded, encouraging each other 
by wild cries : altogether the scene formed a most strange funeral. 

We continued travelling northward in a zigzag line ; sometimes 
stopping a day to geologize. The country was so thinly inhabited, 
and the track so obscure, that we often had difficulty in finding our 
way. On the I2th 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, 6,000 or 8,000 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 infatua- 
tion ; 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 
fpr 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 1 At this time 
the apires were bringing up the usual load twelve times in the day ; 
that is, 2,400 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 cheer- 
ful. 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, con- 
tamination, and evil to be derived from contact with such a person. 
To this day they relate the atrocious actions of the bucaniers ; and 
especially of one man, who took away the figure of the Virgin Mary, 
and returned the year after for that of St. Joseph, saying it was a 
pity the lady should not have a husband. I heard also of an old lady 
who, at a dinner in Coquimbo, remarked how wonderfully strange it 
was that she should have lived to dine in the same room with an 
Englishman ; for she remembered as a girl, that twice, at the mere cry 
of " Los Ingleses," every soul, carrying what valuables they could, 
had taken to the mountains. 

May i4//z. 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 6,000 to 8,000 inhabitants. On the morning of the 
I7th it rained lightly, the first time this year, for about five hours. 
The farmers, who plant corn near the sea coast where the atmosphere 
is more humid, taking advantage of this shower, would break up the 
ground; after a second they would put the seed in; and if a tliiri 
shower should fall, they would reap a good harvest in the spring. K 


was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling amount of moisture. 
Twelve hours afterwards the ground appeared as dry as ever ; yet 
after an interval of ten days, all the hills were faintly tinged with green 
patches ; the grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibres a full 
inch in length. Before this shower every part of the surface was 
bare as on a high road. 

In the evening, Captain Fitz Roy and myself were dining with 
Mr. Edwards, an English resident well known for his hospitality by 
all who have visited Coquimbo, when a sharp earthquake happened. 
I heard the forecoming rumble, but from the screams of the ladies, 
the running of the servants, and the rush of several of the gentlemen 
to the doorway, I could not distinguish the motion. Some of the 
women afterwards were crying with terror, and one gentleman said he 
should not be able to sleep all night, or if he did, it would only be to 
dream of falling houses. The father of this person had lately lost all 
his property at 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 Copiap6. Accordingly he opened the door ; and 
no sooner had he done this, than he cried out, " Here it comes again 1 " 
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, how- 
ever, 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" ' 

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; tbey run up the valley for thirty-seven miles from the coast 


These step-formed terraces or fringes closely resemble those in the 
valley of San 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 fossil- 
iferous 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 thick- 
ness 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 forma- 
tion of Patagonia. Both at Navedad and at 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 con- 
tinent, 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 1,100 miles 
on the shores of the Pacific, and of at least 1,350 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 tlift enormous power cf 


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 sediment could 
be spread out, without the bottom sank down to receive the successive 
layers. This seems to have actually taken place at about the same 
period in southern Patagonia and Chile, though these places are a 
thousand miles apart. Hence, if prolonged movements of approxi- 
mately contemporaneous 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 of existing shells, the shores of Peru, 
Chile, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, and La Plata have been upraised 
then we can see that at the same time, at far distant points, circum- 
stances 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 zist. 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 1 The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them ; but 
they will not live here at the height of only three or four thousand feet : 
it can scarcely be 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 
2,000 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 
Copiap6, 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 furthest." The owner, who was standing by, 
bet a cigar with his friend on the race. The miner by this means 
watched the very point amongst the rubbish where the stone lay. In 
the evening he picked it up and carried it to his master, showing him 
a rich mass of silver-ore, and saying, " This was the stone on which 
you won a cigar by its rolling'so far." 

May 2yd. 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 further, to see what were declared to be some petrified shells 
and beans, which latter turned out to be small quartz pebbles. We 
passed through several small villages ; and the valley was beautifully 
cultivated, and the whole scenery very 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 produc- 
live 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 other. Our 
first day's ride was to a solitary house called Yerba Buena, where there 
was pasture for our horses. The shower mentioned as having fallen 
a fortnight ago, only reached about halfway to Guasco ; we had, therefore, 
in the first part of our journey a most faint tinge of green, which soon 
faded 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 yd. 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 extraordinary numbers on the driest spots. In the 
spring one humble little plant sends out a few leaves, and on these the 
snails feed. As they are seen only very early in the morning, when the 
ground is slightly damps 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. 

June 4lh. Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert 
plains, tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also the valley 


of ChaCeral ; 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 further 
northward, the vegetation became more 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 Fuego. 

We stayed two days at Freyrina. In the valley of Guasco there are 
four small towns. At the mouth there is the port, a spot entirely desert, 
and without any water in the immediate neighbourhood. Five leagues 
higher up stands Freyrina, a long straggling village, with decent white- 
washed houses. Again, ten leagues further up Ballenar is situated ; 
and above this Guasco Alto, a horticultural village, famous for its dried 
fruit. On a clear day the view up the valley is very fine ; the straight 
opening 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 realized. I was at Copiap6 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 %th. We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name from 
Ballenagh in Ireland, the birthplace of the family of O'Higgins, who, 
under the Spanish government, were presidents and generals in Chile. 
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 loth, for the upper part of the valley of Copiap6. 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 examina- 
tion ; 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 

June I I/A. 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 court- 
yard. 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 Copiap6. 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 happenedi 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 after- 


wards 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 12,000 souls, but its produce is sufficient only 
for three months in the year ; the rest of the supply being drawn from 
Valparaiso and the south. Before the discovery of the famous silver 
mines of Chanuncillo, Copiap6 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 Copiap6, forming a mere ribbon ot 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 Copiap6 
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 earthquake. 

The connection 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 connection between these phenomena ; in another part, however, 
he seems to think the connection fanciful. At Guayaquil, it is said 
that a heavy shower in the dry season is invariably followed by an 
earthquake. In Northern Chile, from the extreme infrequency of rain, 
or even of weather foreboding rain, the probability of accidental coin- 
cidences becomes very small ; yet the inhabitants are here most firmly 
convinced of some connection between the state of the atmosphere and 
of the trembling of the ground: I was much struck by this, when 
mentioning to some people at Copiap6 that there had been a sharp shock 

* Vol. iv., p. II ; and vol. ii., p. 217. For the remarks on Guayaquil, see 
Silliman's " Journal," vol. xxiv., p. 384. For those on Tacna by Mr. Hamilton, 
see Transactions of British Association, 1840. For those on Coseguina, see 
Mr. Caldcleugh m- Philosophical Transactions, 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. 


at Coquimbo : they immediately cried out, " How fortunate ! there will 
be plenty of pasture there this year." To their minds an earthquake 
foretold rain, as surely as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it 
did so happen that on the very day of the earthquake that shower of 
rain fell which I have described as in ten days' time producing a thin 
sprinkling of grass. At other times, rain has followed 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 erup- 
tions, 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 probability 
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 conse- 
quently 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 connection between 
the atmospheric and subterranean regions. 

Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we retraced our 
steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed two days 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 some- 
times 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 

1835.] HYDROPHOBIA. 257 

hot and others cold? why there were mountains in Chile, and not a 
hill in La Plata ? These bare questions at once satisfied and silenced 
the greater number ; some, however (like a few in England who are a 
century behindhand), thought that all such inquiries were useless 
and impious ; and that it was sufficient that God had thus made the 

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 know 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 hydrophobia. 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.* 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 Copiap6 ; 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 

* "Observa. sobre el clima de Lima," p. 67; 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 1'Isle de France 
par un Officier du Roi," tome i, p. 248; "Description of St. Helena," 
p. 123- 


Copiap6. 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 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 26//z. 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 considerable 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 retire- 
ment 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 it is with the rain 
of successive centuries on the bank of rock and soil, which we call a 

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 an^ bitter ; so that 



we could not force ourselves to drink either tea or mat<5. I suppose 
the distance from the river of Copiapd 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 halfway we passed some old Indian ruins near Punta 
Gorda : I noticed also in front of some of the valleys, which branch off 
from the Despoblado, two piles of stones placed a little way apart, and 
directed so as to point up the mouths of these small valleys. My 
companions knew nothing about them, and only answered my queries 
by their imperturbable " Quien sabe? " 

I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera : the most 
perfect, which I saw, were the Ruinas de Tambillos, in the Uspallata 
Pass. Small square rooms were there huddled together in separate 
groups : some of the doorways were yet standing ; they were formed 
by a cross slab of stone only about three feet high. Ulloa has remarked 
on the lowness of the doors in the ancient Peruvian dwellings. These 
houses, when 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 Copiap6 
I was assured by men who had spent their lives in travelling through 
the Andes, that there were very many (muchisimas) 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. Never- 
theless 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 1,000 to 1,300 feet, since the epoch of existing shells ; 
and further inland the rise possibly may have been greater. As the 
peculiarly arid character of the climate is evidently a consequence of 
the height of the 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 o 
extreme antiquity, but I do not think then- preservation under the 
Chilian climate any great difficulty. We must also admit on thij 
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 two hundred and twenty years, 
the rise has been somewhat less than nineteen feet : at Lima a sea-beach 
has certainly been upheaved from eighty to ninety 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 America. 

When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects* with Mr. Gill, a civil 
engineer, who had seen much of the interior country. He told me 
that a conjecture of a change of climate had sometimes crossed his 
mind ; but that he thought that the greater portion of land, now 
incapable of cultivation, but covered with Indian ruins, had been 
reduced to 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 

* Temple, in his travels through Upper Peru, or Bolivia, in go:ng from 
Potosi to Oruro, says, " I saw many Indian villages or dwellings in ruins, 
up even to the very tops of the mountains, attesting a former population 
where now all is desolate." He makes similar remarks in another place; 
but I cannot tell whether this desolation has been caused by a want of popu- 
lation, or by an altered condition of the land. 


Peruvians actually carried their irrigating streams in tunnels through 
hills of solid rock. Mr. Gill told me, he had been employed profes- 
sionally 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 have attempted such operations, with- 
out 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 forty yards in 
breadth and eight 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 forty or fifty 
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 fertilizing stream, and become a 

June zjth. We set out early in the morning, and by midday 
reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a tiny rill of water, with 
little vegetation, and even a few algarroba trees, a kind of mimosa. 
From having fire-wood, 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. 

June zSth. 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. la 
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 through 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 further southward, people lose their lives from 
snow-storms ; here, it sometimes happens from another cause. My 
guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was passing the Cordillera 
with a party in the month of May ; and while in the central parts, a 
furious gale of wind arose, so that the men could hardly cling on their 
mules, and stones were flying along the ground. The day was cloud- 
less, 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 
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 

June zgth. We gladly travelled down the valley to our former 
right's lodging, and thence to near the Agua amarga. On July ist 
we reached the valley of Copiap6. 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 suffi- 
cient attention to the account ; but, as far as I understood, the hill was 

I33S-] IQUIQUE. 263 

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,* 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 Brazil. 

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at the' Port, dis- 
tant 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. This poorness of the vege- 
tation is owing to the quantity of saline matter with which the soil is 
impregnated. The Port consists oi 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 

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, 
two thousand 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 (45. 6d.) an 
eighteen-gallon cask : I bought a wine-bottle full for threepence, la 
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 

* Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Jan. 1830, p. 74 ; and April 1830, p. 258. 
Also "Daubeny on Volcanoes." p. 438; and Bengal Jouma^ vol. vii,,- p. 324, 


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 theii 
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 beine in this state, the churches 
were again broken open, but this time the ^late 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. 

July i3/#. 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, rep- 
tile, nor insect. On the coast-mountains, at the height of about two thou- 
sand 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 reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in sufficient quantity to 
tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish colour. 
Further inland, during the whole ride of fourteen leagues, I saw only 
one other vegetable production, and that was a most minute yellow 
lichen, growing on the bones of the dead mules. This was the first 
true desert which I had seen : the effect on me was not impressive ; 
but I believe this was owing to my having become gradually accustomed 
to such scenes, as I rode northward from Valparaiso, through Coquimbo, 
to Copiap6. The appearance of the country was remarkable, from 
being covered by a thick crust of common salt, and of a stratified 
salifeious alluvium, which seems to have been deposited as the land 

i3S-] BAY OF CALLAO. 265 

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 appear- 
ance 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 surround- 
ing country is incrusted with various saline substances. We must there- 
fore conclude that it percolates underground 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 fourteen shillings per hundred pounds : the chief expense 
is its transport to the sea-coast. The mine consists of a hard stratum, 
between two and three feet thick, of the nitrate mingled with a little of 
the sulphate of soda and a good deal of common salt. It lies close 
beneath the surface, and 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 3,300 feet above the 

July iqth. 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, how- 
ever, it is said that the climate is much pleasanter. In all seasons, 

& PERU. [CHAP. xVi. 

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 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. Jago, at the Cape de Verds, offers another strongly- 
marked instance of a country, which any one would have expected to 
find most healthy, being very much the contrary. I have described the 
bare and open plains as supporting, during a few weeks after the 
rainy season, a thin vegetation, which directly withers away and dries 
up ; at this period the air appears to 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 ah-."* On the coast of Peru, however, the 
temperature is not hot to any excessive degree ; and perhaps in conse- 
quence, the intermittent fevers are not of the most malignant order. Ir 
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 greatei 
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 f of death commenced at Sierra Leone. 

No State in South America, since the declaration of independence, 
has suffered more from anarchy than Peru. At the time of our 

* "Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain," vol. iv., p. 199. 

f A similar interesting case is recorded in the Madras Medical Quarterly 
Journal, 1839, p. 340. Dr. Ferguson, in his admirable Paper (see 9th vol. of 
Edinburgh Royal Transactions}, shows clearly that the poison is generated in 
the drying process; and hence that dry hot countries are often the most 

1835., CALLAO. LIMA. t$7 

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 Deum 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 
unfortunate for me, as I was precluded from taking any excursions 
much beyond the limits of the town. The barren island of San 
Lorenzo, which forms the harbour, was nearly the only place where one 
could walk securely. The upper part, which is upwards of 1,000 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 Guyaquil, nearly under the equator, we 
find the most luxuriant forests. The change, however, from the sterile 
coast of Peru to that fertile land is described as taking place rather 
abruptly in the latitude of Cape Blanco, two degrees south of Guyaquil. 

Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants, both here 
and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of 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 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 teet: 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 occa- 
sional 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 

268 PERU. [CHAP. xvi. 

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 civilization. The burial mounds, called 
Huacas, are really stupendous; although in some places they appear 
to be natural hills incased and modelled. 

There is also another 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 destruc- 
tion must have been more complete even than at Talcahuano. Quanti- 
ties 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 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 
(both probably left by the evaporation of the spray, as the land slowly 
rose) lime, 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 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 associ- 
ated with much common salt, together with some of the saline substances 
composing 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 cottcn 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, containing 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 laud stood at a lower level, there was a 
plain very similar to that now surrounding Callao, which being pro- 
tected 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 1713 and 


1746. The water would then have deposited mud, containing frag- 
ments 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 1817 there 
has been a rise, partly insensible and partly by a start during the shock 
of 1822, of ten or eleven feet. The antiquity of the Indo-human race 
here, judging by the eighty-five feet rise of the land since the relics 
were embedded, is the more remarkable, as on the coast of Patagonia, 
when the land stood above 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 Bushes Colony 
at Charles Island James Island Salt-lake in Crater Natural History 
of the Group Ornithology, Curious Finches Reptiles Great Tortoises, 
Habits of Marine Lizard, feeds on Seaweed Terrestrial Lizard, 
Burrowing Habits, Herbivorous Importance of Reptiles in the Archi- 
pelago Fish, Shells, Insects Botany American Type of Organization 
Differences in the Species or Races on Different Islands Tameness 
of the Birds Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct. 

September it,th. THIS archipelago consists of ten principal islands, 
of whichjfive 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 exception. Some of the craters, surmount- 
ing the larger islands, are of immense size, and they rise to a height ot 
between three and four thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by 
innumerable smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to arhrm, that ther 
must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand craters. Ihese 
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 one of the twenty-eight tuff-craters which were 
examined, had their southern sides either much lower than the other 
Culpepper I. 

Q JT^ ^ TnUvtigatieL 

Chatte* /.' 


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 (ijth) 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 appearance. A broken field of black 
basaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves, and crossed by great 
fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun-burnt 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, 1 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 shape. 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 

,g 3 -.] THE SETTLEMENT. 273 

few dull-coloured birds cared no more for me, than the> did for the 
great tortoises. 

September iyd. The Beagle proceeded to Charles Island. This 
archipelago has long been frequented, first by the Buccaneers, 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 la 
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 beach. 

September 29^. We doubled the south-west extremity of Albemarle 
Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed between it and Nar- 
borough 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 Banks' 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 %th. 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 2,000 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 carne con cuero\ with the flesh on it, 
is very good ; and the young tortoises make excellent soup; but other- 
wise 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 ha? 
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 crystallized, white salt. The lake is quite circular, and 
is fringed with a border of bright green succulent plants ; the almost 
precipitous walls of the crater are clothed with wood, so that the scene 
was altogether both picturesque and curious. A few years since, the 
sailors belonging to a sealiug-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 op- 
pressive. On two days, the thermometer within the tent stood for 
some hours at 93 ; but in the open air, in the wind and sun, at only 
85. The sand was extremely hot ; the thermometer placed in some 
of a brown colour immediately rose to 137, and how much above that 
it would have risen, I do not know, for it was not graduated any higher. 
The black sand felt much hotter, so that even in thick boots it was 
quite disagreeable to walk over it. 

The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well 

&IRDS. #5 

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 archi- 
pelago 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 

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 sub- 
jected. 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 trans- 
portation 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, repre- 
senting the short-eared and white barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly, a 
wren, three tyrant fly-catchers (two of them species of Pyrocephalus, 
one or both of which would be ranked by some ornithologists as only 
varieties), and a dove all analogous to, but distinct from, American 
species. Fourthly, a swallow, which though differing from the Progne 
purperea of both _ Americas, only in being rather duller coloured, 
smaller, and slenderer, is considered by Mr. Gould as specifically 



[CHAP, xvn 

distinct. Fifthly, there are three species of mocking-thrush a form 
highly characteristic of America. The remaining land-birds form a 
most singular group of finches, related to each other in the structure 
of their beaks, short tails, form of body, and plumage: there are 
thirteen species, which Mr. Gould has divided into four sub-groups. 
All these species are peculiar to this archipelago; and so is the 
whole group, with the exception of one species of the sub-group 
Cactornis, lately brought from Bow Island, in the Low Archipelago. 
Of Cactornis, the two species may be often seen climbing about the 
flowers of the great cactus-trees ; but all the other species of this 
group of finches, mingled together in flocks, feed on the dry and 
sterile ground of the lower districts. The males of all, or certainly of 
the greater number, are jet black ; and the females (with perhaps one 

. Geospiza magnirostris, 
3. Geospiza parvula. 

a. Geospiza fortis. 

4. Certhidea olivacea. 

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. i, and the smallest in Fig. 3 ; but instead 
of there being only one intermediate species, with a beak of the size 
shown in Fig. 2, there are no less than six species with insensibly 
graduated beaks. The beak of the sub-group Certhidea, is shown in 
Fig. 4. The beak of Cactornis is 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 g r oup of birds, one might really fancy that from an 

I83SJ BIRDS. 277 

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 

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 

Two of the waders are rather smaller than the same species brought 
from other places ; the swallow is also smaller, though it is doubtful 
whether or not it is distinct from its analogue. The two owls, the 
two tyrant fly-catchers (Pyrocephalus), and the dove, are also smaller 
than the analogous but distinct species, to which they are most nearly 
related ; on the other hand, the gull is rather larger. The two owls, 
the swallow, all three species of mocking-thrush, the dove in its 
separate colours, though not in its whole plumage, the Totanus, and 
the gull, are likewise duskier 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 fly-catcher 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. 
The birds, plants, and insects have a desert character, and are not 
more brilliantly coloured than those from southern Patagonia ; we may, 
therefore, conclude that the usual g^udy 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 extra- 
ordinarily great There is one small lizard belonging to a South 
American genus, and two species (and probably more) of the Ambly- 
rhynchus 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. Of sea-turtle I 
believe there is more than one species ; and of tortoises there are, as 
we shall presently show, two or three species or races. Of toads and 
frogs there are none : I was surprised at this, considering how well 
suited for them the temperate and damp upper woods appeared to be. 
It recalled to my mind the remark made by Bory St. Vincent,* namely, 
that none of this family are found on 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 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 
>re 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 

* " Voyage aux Quatre lies d'Afrique." With respect to the Sandwich 
Islands, see Tyerman and Bennett's "Journal," vol. i., p. 434. For Mauritius, 
see "Voyage par un Officier," etc., part i., p. 170. There are no frogs in 
the Canary Islands (Webb et Berthelot, "Hist. Nat. des lies Canaries"). 
I saw none U St J*go in the Cape de Verds. There are none at St 

1835.] GREAT TORTOISL. 279 

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 con- 
siderable 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 I saw killed, the fluid was quite limpid, 
and had only a very slightly bitter taste. The inhabitants, however, 
always first drink the water in the pericardium, which is described as 
being best. 

The tortoises, when purposely moving towards any point, travel by 
night and day, and arrive at their journey's end much sooner than 
wouldjbe 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 cf sixty 
yards in ten minutes, that is, three hundred and sixty 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 


v.-ere 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 beeu 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 j?n v 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 are two species resembling each other in general 
form, one being terrestrial and the other aquatic. This latter species 
(A. cristatus) was first characterised by Mr. Bell, who well foresaw, from 
its short, 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 ease and quickness, by a serpentine .novement 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 

AmUyrhyncbus cristatus. a. Tooth of natural size, and likewise magnified 

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 out- 
stretched 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, tit 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 iits eggs ; they said that they knew nothing of its propagation, 
although well acquainted with the eggs of the land kind a fact, con- 
sidering 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, Harrington, and Indefatigable 
Islands. To the southward, in Charles, Hoop, 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 
Tames 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 tail.s 


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 frag 
ments of lava, but more generally on level patches of the soft 
sandstone-like stuff. 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 downhill, they cannot move very fast, apparently from 
the lateral position of their legs. They are not at all timorous ; when 
attentively watching any one, they curl their tails, and, raising them- 
selves on their front legs, nod their heads vertically, with a quick 
movement, and try to look very fierce; but in reality they are not at 
all so ; if one just stamps on the ground, down go their tails, and off 
they snuffle 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 suppose 
that this is an adaptation to their herbivorous appetites. It is very 
interesting thus to find a well-characterized genus, having its marine 
and terrestrial species, belonging to so confined a portion of the world. 
The aquatic species is by far the most remarkable, 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 Ambly- 
rhynchus 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 

To finish with the zoology : the fifteen kinds of sea-fish which I pro- 
cured 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 tbis 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 in- 
teresting results: of the ninety shells, no less than forty-seven are 
unknown elsewhere a wonderful fact, considering how widely dis- 
tributed 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 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 representative species ; for there is a Galapageian 
species of Monoceros, a genus only found on the west coast of 
America ; and there are Galapageian species of Fissurella and Can- 
cellaria, 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 comparison by Messrs. 
Cuming and Hinds of about two thousand 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 paias 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 tropic?! region, are of very small 
size and dull colours. Of beetles I collected twenty-five species (ex- 
cluding a Dermestes and Corynetes imported, wherever a ship touches) ; 
of these, two belong to the Harpalidae, two to the Hydrophilidse, 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 * 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 
* dn. and Mag. of Natural History, vol. xvi., p. 19. 


of mundane distribution. With the exception of a wood-feeding Apate, 
and of one or probably two water-beetles from the American continent, 
all the species appear to be new. 

The botany of this group is fully as interesting as the zoology. 
Dr. J. Hooker will soon publish in the " Linnean Transactions " a full 
account of the Flora, and I am much indebted to him for the following 
details. Of flowering plants there are, as far as at 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 archi- 
pelago. 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 dis- 
tance is only between 500 and 600 miles from the continent ; and thatt 
(according to Collnett, p. 58) drift-wood, bamboos, canes, and the 
nuts of a palm, are often washed on the south-eastern shores. The 
proportion of 100 flowering plants out of 185 (or 175 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 21 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 1 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 like- 
wise the one distinct Pacific species of the Galapageian groups 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 organization? It is 


probable that the islands of the Cape de Verd group resemble, in all 
their physical conditions, far more closely the Galapagos Islands than 
these latter 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 thf 
tortoises from the different islands ; and that they differ not only in size 
but in other characters. Captain Porter has described * 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. Mr. 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- 
* "Voyage in the U. S. ship Essex" vol. i., p. 215. 



[CHAP. xvn. 

marked races or varieties ; but the Mimus trifasciatus is very distinct. 
Unfortunately most of the specimens of the finch tribe were mingled 
together ; but I have strong reasons to suspect that some of the species 
of the sub-group Geospiza are confined to separate islands. If the 
different islands have their representatives of Geospiza, it may help to 
explain the singularly 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 speci- 
mens 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. 
Waterhcuse 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 oi 
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, 
tv enty-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 Composite, 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 Composite 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 Galapa- 
geian sub-groups of finches, and almost certainly of the Galapageian 
genus Amblyrhynchus. 

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would not be nearly 
so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had a 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 what- 
ever ; 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 had 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 inter- 
mediate islands between them which were not visited by me. James 
Island is only ten miles from the 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 

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 considera- 
tion 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 

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-fly-catchers, the dove, 
and carrion-buzzard. All of them often approached sufficiently near to 
be killed with a switch, and sometimes, as I myself tried, with a cap or 
hat. A gun is here almost superfluous ; for with the muzzle I pushed 
a hawk off the branch of a tree. One day, whilst lying down, a mocking- 
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. 
Covvley (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 
f 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 colonized about 
six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well with a switch in his hand, with 
which he killed the doves and finches as they came to drink. He had 
already procured a little heap of them for his dinner ; and he said that 
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 upland 
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 sports- 
man 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 wouiu 
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 colonized 
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* 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 hint, 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 generations it becomes hereditary. 
With domesticated animals we are accustomed to see new mental 
habits or instincts acquired and rendered hereditary ; but with animals 
in a state of nature, it must always be most difficult to discover 
instances of acquired hereditary knowledge. In regard to the wildness 
of birds towards man, there is no way of 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 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. 



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 con- 
vened New Zealand Bay of Islands Hippahs Excursion to Waimate 
Missionary Establishment English Weeds now run Wild Waiomio 
Funeral of a Ne%v Zealand Woman Sail for Australia. 

October zoth. THE survey of the Galapagos Archipelago being con- 
cluded, we steered towards Tahiti and commenced our long passage 
of 3,200 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 
* Linnean Transactions, 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 JBor.," 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 


weather, while running pleasantly along at the rate of 150 or 160 
miles a day before the steady trade wind. The temperature in this 
more central part of the Pacific is higher than near the American 
shore. The thermometer in the poop cabin, by night and day, ranged 
between 80 and 83, which feels very pleasant ; but with one degree 
or two higher, the heat becomes 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 overwhelmed by the 
all-powerful and never-tiring waves of that great sea, miscalled the 

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 pro- 
duced by the first impressions of a new country, and that country the 
charming Tahiti. A crowd of men, women, and children, was collected 
on the memorable Point Venus, ready to receive us with laughing, 
merry faces. They marshalled us towards the hous'e 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 evening. 

The land capable of cultivation, is scarcely in any part more than a 
fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round the base of the moun- 
tains, and protected from the waves of the sea by a coral reef, which 
encircles the entire line of coast. Within the reef there is an expanse 
of smooth water, like that of a lake, where the canoes of the natives can 
ply with safety and where ships anchor. The low land which comes 
down to the beach of coral-sand, is covered by the most beautiful pro- 
ductions 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 
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 fre- 
quently rear its young in shrubberies close to houses ! 

394 TAHITI [CHAP, xvui. 

abundance has become as noxious as a weed. In Brazil I have often 
admired the varied beauties 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 knowledge of their 
high productiveness no doubt enters largely into the feeling of admira- 
tion. 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 reception. 

I was pleased with nothing so much as with the inhabitants. There 
is a mildness in the expression of their countenances which at once 
banishes the idea of a savage ; and an intelligence which shows that 
they are advancing in civilization. The 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 em- 
braced by a delicate creeper. 

Many of the elder people had their feet covered with small figures, 
so placed as to resemble a sock. This fashion, however, is partly gone 
by, and has been succeeded by others. Here, although 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 bon- 
fires, 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. 

November 17 th. This day is reckoned in the log-book as Tuesday 
the 1 7th, instead of Monday the i6th, 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 been less than two hundred. It was 
the opinion of every one that it would have been difficult to have 
picked out an equal number from any other nation, who would have 
given so little trouble. Everybody brought something for sale : shells 
were the main article of trade. The Tahitians now fully understand 
the value of money, and prefer it to old clothes or other articles. 
The various coins, however, of English and Spanish denomination puzzle 
them, and they never seemed to think the small silver quite secure 
until changed into dollars. Some of the chiefs have accumulated con- 
siderable sums of money. One chief, not long since, offered 800 
dollars (about i6o/. sterling) for a small vessel ; and frequently they 
purchase whale-boats and horses at the rate of from 50 to 100 dollars. 

After breakfast I went on shore, and ascended the nearest slope to 
a height of between two and three thousand feet. The outer 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 land drains away slowly. 
The intermediate zone does not, like the upper one, reach into a damp 
and cloudy atmosphere, and therefore remains sterile. The woods in 
the upper zone are very pretty, tree-ferns replacing the cocoa-nuts on 
the coast. It must not, however, be supposed that these woods at all 
equal in splendour the forests of Brazil. The vast number of produc- 
tions, which characterize a continent, cannot be expected to occur in au 

296 TAHITI, [CHAP. x\ni, 

From the highest point which I attained, there was a good view of 
the distant island of Eimeo, dependent on the same sovereign with 
Tahiti. On the lofty and broken pinnacles white massive clouds were 
piled up, which formed an island in the blue sky, as Eimeo itself did 
in the blue ocean. The island, with the exception of one small gate- 
way, is completely encircled by a reef. At this distance, a narrow but 
well-defined brilliantly white line was alone visible, where the waves 
first encountered the wall of coral. The mountains rose abruptly out 
of the glassy expanse of the lagoon, included within this narrow white 
line, outside which the heaving waters of the ocean were dark-coloured. 
The view was striking: it may aptly be compared to a framed en- 
graving, where the frame represents the breakers, the marginal paper 
the smooth lagoon, and the drawing the island itself. When in the 
evening I descended from the mountain, a man, whom I had pleased 
with a trifling gift, met me, bringing with him hot roasted bananas, a 
pine-apple, and cocoa-nuts. After walking under a burning sun, I do 
not know anything more delicious than the milk of a young cocoa-nut. 
Pine-apples are here so abundant that the people eat them in the same 
wasteful manner as we might turnips. They are of an excellent flavour 
perhaps even better than those cultivated in England ; and this I 
believe is the highest compliment which can be paid to any fruit. 
Before going on board, Mr. Wilson interpreted for me to the Tahitian 
who had paid me so adroit an attention, that I wanted him and another 
man to accompany me on a short excursion into the mountains. 

November \$>ih. In the morning I came on shore early, bringing with 
me some provisions in a bag, and two blankets for myself and servant. 
These were lashed to each end of a long pole, which was alternately 
carried by my Tahitian companions on their shoulders. These men 
are accustomed thus to carry, for a whole day, as much as fifty pounds 
at each end of their poles. I told my guides to provide themselves 
\vith food and clothing ; but they said that there was plenty of food in 
the mountains, and for clothing, that their skins were sufficient. Our 
line of march was the valley of Tia-auru, down which a river flows into 
the sea by Point Venus. This is one of the principal streams in the 
island, and its source lies at the base of the loftiest central pinnacles, 
which rise to a height of about 7,000 feet. The whole island is so 
mountainous that the only way to penetrate into the interior is to 
follow up the valleys. Our road, at first, lay through woods which 
bordered each side of the river ; and the glimpses of the lofty central 
peaks, seen as through an avenue, with here and there a waving cocoa- 
nut tree on one side, were extremely picturesque. The valley soon 
began to narrow, and the sides to grow lofty and more precipitous. 
After having walked between three and four hours, we found the width 
of the ravine scarcely exceeded that of the bed of the stream. On each 
hand the walls were nearly vertical ; yet from the soft nature of the 
volcanic strata, trees and a rank vegetation sprung from every projecting 
ledge. These precipices must have been some thousand feet high ; and 
the whole formed a mountain gorge for more magnificent than anything 
which I had ever before beheld. Until the mid-day sun stood vertically 


over the ravine, the air felt cool and damp, but now it became very 
sultry. Shaded by a ledge of rock, beneath a fa?ade of columnar lava, 
we ate our dinner. My guides had already procured a dish of small 
fish and fresh-water prawns. They carried with them a small net 
stretched on a hoop ; and where the water was deep and in eddies, 
they dived, and like otters, with their eyes open followed the fish into 
holes and corners, and thus caught them. 

The Tahitians have the dexterity of amphibious animals in the water. 
An anecdote mentioned by Ellis shows how much they feel at home in 
this element. When a horse was landing for Pomarre in 1817, the 
slings broke, and it fell into the water: immediately the natives jumped 
overboard, and by their cries and vain efforts at assistance almost 
drowned it. As soon, however, as it reached the shore, the whole 
population took to flight, and tried to hide themselves from the man- 
carrying pig, as they christened the horse. 

A little higher up the river divided itself into three little streams. 
The two northern ones were impracticable, owing to a succession of 
waterfalls which descended from the jagged summit of the highest 
mountain ; the other to all appearance was equally inaccessible, but we 
managed to ascend it by a most extraordinary road. The sides of the 
valley were here nearly precipitous ; but, as frequently happens with 
stratified rocks, small ledges projected, which were thickly covered by 
wild bananas, liliaceous plants, and other luxuriant productions of the 
tropics. The Tahitians, by climbing amongst these ledges, searching 
for fruit, had discovered a track by which the whole precipice could be 
scaled. The first ascent from the valley was very dangerous ; for it 
was necessary to pass a steeply-inclined face of naked rock, by the aid 
of ropes which we brought with us. How any person discovered that 
this formidable spot was the only point where the side of the mountain 
was practicable, I cannot imagine. We then cautiously walked along 
one of the ledges till we came to one of the three streams. This ledge 
formed a flat spot, above which a beautiful cascade, some hundred feet 
in height, poured down its waters, and beneath, another high cascade 
fell into the main stream in the valley below. From this cool and shady 
recess we made a circuit to avoid the overhanging waterfall. As before, 
we followed little projecting ledges, the danger being partly concealed 
by the thickness of the vegetation. In passing from one of the ledges to 
another there was a vertical wall of rock. One of the Tahitians, a fine 
active man, placed the trunk of a tree against this, climbed up it, and 
then by the aid of crevices reached the summit. He fixed the ropes to 
a projecting point, andlewered them for our dog and luggage, and then 
we clambered up ourselves. Beneath the ledge on which the dead tree 
was placed, the precipice must have been five or six hundred feet deep ; 
and if the abyss had not been partly concealed by the overhanging ferns 
and lilies, my head would have turned giddy, and nothing should have 
induced me to ha%-e attempted it. We continued to ascend, sometimes 
along ledges, and sometimes along knife-edged ridges, having on each 
hand profound ravines. In the Cordillera I have seen mountains on a 
far grander scale, but for abruptness, nothing at all comparable with 

298 TAHITI. [CHAP. xvi 

this. In the evening we reached a flat little spot on the banks of the 
same stream, which we had continued to follow, and which descends in 
a chain of waterfalls : here we bivouacked for the night. On each side 
of the ravine there were great beds of the mountain-banana, covered 
with ripe fruit. Many of these plants were from twenty to twenty-five 
feet high, and from three to four in circumference. By the aid of strips 
of bark for rope, and the stems of bamboos for rafters, and the large 
leaf of the banana for a thatch, the Tahitians in a few minutes built us 
an excellent house ; and with withered leaves made a soft bed. 

They then proceeded to make a fire, and cook our evening meal. A 
light was procured, by rubbing a blunt-pointed stick in a groove made 
in another, as if with the intention of deepening it, until by the friction 
the dust became ignited. A peculiarly white and very light wood (the 
Hibiscus tiliaceus) is alone used for this purpose : it is the same which 
serves for poles to carry any burden, and for the floating outriggers to 
their canoes. The fire was produced in a few seconds ; but to a person 
who does not understand the art, it requires, as I found, the greatest 
exertion ; but at last, to my great pride, I succeeded in igniting the 
dust. The Gaucho in the Pampas uses a different method : taking an 
elastic stick about eighteen inches long, he presses one end on his 
breast, and the other pointed end into a hole in a piece of wood, and 
then rapidly turns the curved part, like a carpenter's centre-bit. The 
Tahitians having made a small fixe of sticks, placed a score of stones, 
of about the size of cricket-balls, on the burning wood. In about ten 
minutes the sticks were consumed, and the stones hot. They had 
previously folded up in small parcels of leaves, pieces of beef, fish, ripe 
and unripe bananas, and the tops of the wild arum. These green 
parcels were laid in a layer between two layers of the hot stones, and 
the whole then covered up with earth, so that no smoke or steam could 
escape. In about a quarter of an hour, the whole was most deliciously 
cooked. The choice green parcels were now laid on a cloth of banana 
leaves, and with a cocoa-nut shell we drank the cool water of the 
running stream ; and thus we enjoyed our rustic meal. 

I could not look on the surrounding plants without admiration. On 
every side were forests of banana ; the fruit of which, though serving 
for food in various ways, lay in heaps decaying on the ground. In 
front of us there was an extensive brake of wild sugar-cane ; and the 
stream was shaded by the dark green knotted stem of the Ava, so 
famous in former days for its powerful intoxicating effects. I chewed 
a piece, and found that it had an acrid and unpleasant taste, which 
would have induced any one at once to have pronounced it poisonous. 
Thanks to the missionaries, this plant now thrives only in these deep 
ravines, innocuous to every one. Close by I saw the wild arum, the 
roots of which, when well baked, are good to eat, and the young leaves 
better than spinach. There was the wild yam, and a liliaceous plant 
called Ti, which grows in abundance, and has a soft brown root, in 
shape and size like a huge log of wood : this sewed us for dessert, for 
it is as sweet as treacle, and with a pleasant taste. There were, 
moreover, several other wild fruits, and useful vegetables. The little 


stream, besides its cool water, produced ells and cray-fish. I did indeed 
admire this scene, when I compared it with an uncultivated one in the 
temperate zones. I felt the force of the remark, that man, at least 
savage man, with his reasoning powers only partly developed, is the 
child of the tropics. 

As the evening drew to a close, I strolled beneath the gloomy shade 
of the bananas up the course of the stream. My walk was soon 
brought to a close, by coming to a waterfall between two and three 
hundred feet high ; and again above this there was another. I mention 
all these waterfalls in this one brook, to give a general idea of the 
inclination of the land. In the little recess where the water fell, it did 
not appear that a breath of wind had ever blown. The thin edges of 
the great leaves of the banana, damp with spray, were unbroken, instead 
of being, as is so generally the case, split into a thousand shreds. From 
our position, almost suspended on the mountain-side, there were 
glimpses into the depths of the n