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Journal of Researches 

Charles Darwin. 

Journal of Researches 

During the 

Voyage of H.M.S. "Beagle" 

Charles Darwin 



Eight Photographs 

Collins' Clear-Type Press 
London and Glasgow 




10 19 


bo U 







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, accom- 
panied by an offer from him of giving up part of his own 
accommodations, that I volunteered my services, which 
received, through the kindness of the hydrographer, 
Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of the 
Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities which I 
enjoyed of studying the Natural History of the different 
countries we visited have been wholly due to Captain Fitz 
Roy, I hope I may here be permitted to repeat my expression 
of gratitude to him ; and to add that, during the five years 
we were together, I received from him the most cordial 
friendship and steady assistance. Both to Captain Fit? 
Roy and to all the Officers of the Beagle * I shall ever feel 
most thankful for the undeviating kindness with which 
I was treated during our long voyage. 

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

' I must tnke this opportunity of rcturniiiR- my sincere thnnks to Mr. Hyiior, 
the surgeon of" the Bea^lt, for his very kind attention to mc when I was ill 
at Valparaiso. 


authors, could not have been undertaken, had it n< 
been for the liberality of the Lords Commissioners 
Her Majesty's Treasury, who through the representation 
of the Right Honourable the Chancellor ot the Exchequei 
have been pleased to grant a sum of one thousand pounc' 
towards defraying part of the expenses of publication. 

I have myself published separate volumes on the ** Stru( 
ture and Distribution of Coral Reefs;" on the "VolcanJ 
Islands visited during the Voyage of the Beagle 
and a third volume will soon appear on the "Geolo^ 
of South America." The sixth volume of the **Ge< 
logical Transactions " contains two papers of mine oj 
the Erratic Boulders and Volcanic Phenomena of Soutj 
America. Messrs. Waterhouse, Walker, Newman, an^ 
White have published several able papers on the Insect^ 
which were collected, and I trust that many others will 
hereafter follow. The plants from the southern parts of 
America will be given by Dr. J. Hooker, in his great work 
on the Botany of the Southern Hemisphere. The Flora 
of the Galapagos Archipelago is the subject of a separate 
memoir by him, in the " Linnean Transactions." The 
Reverend Professor Henslow has published a list of 
the plants collected by me at the Keeling Islands ; 
and the Reverend J. M. Berkeley has described my 
cryptogamic plants. 

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

June, 1845. 



1 1 TAKE the opportunity of a new edition of my Journal 
' to correct a few errors. At page 92 1 have stated that 
the majority of the shells which were embedded with the 
extinct mammals at Punta Alta, in Bahia Blanca, were 
still living species. These shells have since been examined 
(see "Geological Observations in South America," p. 83) by 
M. Alcide d'Orbigny, and he pronounces them all to be 
recent. M. Aug. Bravard has lately described, in a Spanish 
work('*ObservacionesGeologicas,"i857), this district, and he 
believes that the bones of the extinct mammals were washed 
out of the underlying Pampean deposit, and subsequently 
became embedded with the still existing shells ; but I am 
not convinced by his remarks. M. Bravard believes that 
the whole enormous Pampean deposit is a sub-aerial forma- 
tion, like sand-dunes : this seems to me to be an untenable 

At page 374 I give a list of the birds inhabiting the 
Galapagos Archipelago. The progress of research has 
shown that some of these birds, which were then thought 
to be confined to the islands, occur on the American 
continent. The eminent ornithologist, Mr. Sclater, informs 
me that this is the case with the Strix punctatissima and 
Pyrocephalus nanus ; and probably with the Otus gala- 
pagoensis and Zenaida galapagoensis : so that the number 
of endemic birds is reduced to twenty-three, or probably 
to twenty-one. Mr. Sclater thinks that one or two of 
these endemic forms should be ranked rather as varieties 
than species, which always seemed to me probable. 

The snake mentioned at page 376, as being, on the 
authority of M. Bibron, the same with a Chilian species, 
is stated by Dr. Gunter (Zoolog. Soc, Jan. 24th, 1859) to 
be a peculiar species, not known to inhabit any other 

Feb. \sl, i860. 



Porto Praya — Ribeira Grande — Atmospheric dust with infusoria— Habits of 
a sea-slug and cuttle-fish — St. Paul's Rocks, non-volcanic — Singular in- 
crustations—Insects the first colonists of islands — Fernando Noronha — 
Bahia— Burnished rocks — Habits of a diodon — Pelagic confervae and 
infusoria — Causes of discoloured sea 15 


Rio de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great evaporation — Slavery 
— Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial planariae — Clouds on the Corcovado — Heavy 
rain — Musical frogs — Phosphorescent insects — Elater, springing powers 
of — Blue haze — Noise made by a butterfly — Entomology — Ants — Wasp 
killing a spider — Parasitical spider — Artifices of an epeira — Gregarious 
spider — Spider with an unsymmetrical web • 3* 


Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and bolas — 
Partridges — Absence of trees — Deer — Capybara, or river hog — Tucutuco 
— Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits — Tyrant-flycatcher — Mocking-bird — 
Carrion-hawks — Tubes formed by lightning — House struck . . • SO 


Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by the Indians — Salt-lakes — Flamingoes — 
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 — Zorilla . 73 


Bahia Blanca — Geology — Numerous gigantic extinct quadrupeds — Recent 
extinction — Longevity of species — Large animals do not require a 
luxuriant vegetation — Southern Africa — Siberian fossils — Two species of 
ostrich — Habits of ov«o-bird — Armadilloes — Venomous snake, toad, 
lizard— Hybernation of animals-^Habits of Kca-pen — Indians' wars and 
massacre* — Arrow-head, antiquarian relic 90 


Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sierra Ventana — Third Poata — 
Driving horses — Bolas — Partridges and foxes — Features of the country — 
Ix)ng-legged plover — Teru-tero — Hail-Btorm — Natural enclosures in (he 
Sierra Tanalguen — Flesh of puma — Meat diet — Guardia del Monto — 
Effects of cattle on the vegetation— Cardoon— Buenos Ayres— Corral 
where cattle are »laiightrred 113 



Excursion to St. F^— Thistle betls— Habits of the bizcacha— Little owl— » 
Saline streams — Level plains — Mastodon — St. F6— Change in landscape 
— Geology — Tooth of extinct horse — Relation of the fossil and recent 
quadrupecls of North and South America — Effects of a great drought — 
Parana — Habits of the jaguar — Scissor-beak — Kingfisher, parrot, and 
scissor-tail — Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State of government . 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — Value of an estancia — Cattle, how 
counted — Singular breed of oxen — Perforated pebbles — Shepherd dogs — 
Horses broken-in, Gauchos riding — Character of inhabitants — Rio Plata 
— Flocks of butterflies — Aeronaut spiders — Phosphorescence of the sea — 
Port Desire — Guanaco — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia — Fossil 
gigantic animal — Types of organisation constant — Change in the zoology/ 
of America — Causes of extinction 


Santa Ciuz — 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 — W'oU-like fox — Fire made of bones — Manner of hunting' ' 
wild cattle — Geology — Streams of stones — Scenes of violence — Penguin — 
Geese — Eggsofdoris — Compound animals iSi 


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival — Good Success Bay — An account of the 
Fuegians on board — Interview with the savages — Scenery of the forests 
— Cape Horn — 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 207 


Strait of Magellan — Port Famine— Ascent of Mount Tarn — Forests — Edible 
fungus — Zoology — Great seaweed — Leave Tierra del Fuego — Climate — 
Fruit-trees and productions of the southern coasts — Height of snow-line 
on the Cordillera — Descent of glaciers to the sea — Icebergs formed — 
Transportal of boulders —Climate and productions of the Antarctic Islands 
— Preservation of frozen carcasses — Recapitulation 233 


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 ...,,.. 253 



Chiloe— Gener.1l 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 — Myopotanius, otter and mice — Cheucau and bark- 
ing-bird — Opetiorhynchus — Singular of ornithology — Petrels . 272 


San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with Acon- 
cagua and Coseguina — Ride to Cucao — Impenetrable forests — Valdivia — 
Indians — Earthquake — Concepcion — Great earthquake — Rocks fissured- 
Appearance of the former towns — The sea black and boiling — Direction of 
the vibrations — Stones twisted round — Great wave— Permanent elevation 
of the land — Area of volcanic phenomena — The connection between the 
elevatory and eruptive forces — Cause of earthquakes — Slow elevation of 
mountain-chains 290 


Valparaiso — Porlillo 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 — 
Mcndoza — Uspallata pass — Silicified trees buried as they grew — Incas' 
Bridge — Badness of the passes exaggerated — Cumbre — Casuchas — 
— Valparaiso 3TI 


Coast-road to Coquimbo — Great loads carried by the miners — Coqtiimbo— 
Earthquake — Step-formed terraces — Absence of recent deposits — Contem- 
poraneousness of the tertiary formations — Excursion up the valley — Road 
to Guasco— Deserts — Valley of Copiap6— Rain and earthquakes — Hydro- 
phobia — Tiic Despoblado — Indian ruins — Probable change of climate — 
I'ivcr-hed arched by an eartliquake — 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 em- 
bedded shells and fragments of pottery — Antiquity of the Indian race . " . 


The Galapagos group volcanic— Number of craters — Leafless bushes- 
Colony at Ch.-irleg island— James Island— Salt lake in crater — Natural 
history of the group— Ornilhoiogfy, curious finches — Reptiles— Great 
tortoises, habits of — Marine lizard, feeds on sea-weed — Terrestrial 
lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous— -Importance of reptiles in the 
archipelaKo— Fish, shells, insects -Botany— American type of organwa* 
tion— Differences in the species or races on dilFerent islands — Tnmeness 
of the birds— Fear of man, an acquired instinct 36S 



Pass through the Low ArchipeUigo — Tahiti — Aspect— Veg-etation on the 
mountains — View of Eimeo — ICxcursion into the interior — Profound 
ravines — Succession of w'atei falls —Nun^ber of wild iisetui plants — 
Temperance of the inluibitants— 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 New Zealand woman — Sail for Australia .... 


Sydney — Excursion to Kathurst — Aspect of the woods — Party of natives — 
Gradual extinction of the aborigines — Infection generated by associated 
men in health — Blue Mountains — View of the grand gulf-like valleys — 
Their origin and formation — Bathurst, general civility of the lower orders 
— State of society — Van Diemen's Land — Hobart Town — Aborigines all 
banished — Mount Wellington — King George's Sound — Cheerless aspect 
of the country — Bald Head, calcareous casts of branches of trees — Party 
of natives — Leave Australia 424 


Keeling Island — Singular appearance — Scanty flora — Transport of seeds — 
Birds and insects— Ebbing and flowing springs — Fields of dead coral 
— Stones transported in the roots of trees— Great crab — Stinging corals — 
Coral-eating fish — Coral formations — Lagoon islands or atolls— Depth at 
which reef-building corals can live — Vast areas interspersed with low 
coral islands — Subsidence of their foundations — Barrier reefs— Fringing 
reefs — Conversion of fringing reefs into barrier reefs, and into atolls — 
Evidence of changes in level— Breaches in barrier reefs — Maldiva atolls ; 
their peculiar structure — Dead and submerged reefs — Areas of subsidence 
and elevation — Distribution of volcanoes — Subsidence slow, and vast in 
amount 444 


Mauritius, beautiful appearance of— Great crateriform ring of mountains-^ 
Hindoos — St. Helena— History of the changes in the vegetation — Cause 
of the extinction of land-shells — Ascension — Variation in the imported 
rats — Volcanic bombs — Beds of infusoria — Bahia — Brazil — Splendour of 
tropical scenery — Pemambuco — Singular reef — Slavery — Return to 
England — Retrospect on our voyage 474 

The Voyage of the ''Beagle." 



Porto Praya — Rlbeira Grande — Atmospheric Dust with Itifusoiia 
— 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 — Pelag'ic Confervae 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 Pniya, 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 

i6 AT rORTO PRAYA. [chap.. 

his own happiness. The island would generally be cc 
sidered as very uninteresting ; but to any one accustonu 
only to an English landscape, the novel aspect of an uttei 
sterile land possesses a grandeur which more vcgetati(i 
might spoil. A single green leaf can scarcely be d'd 
covered over wide tracts of the lava plains ; yet flocf 
of goats, together with a few cows, contrive to exist. 
rains very seldom, but during a short portion of the ye^ 
heavy torrents fall, and immediately afterwards a lig| 
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. VVheiv 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 {Dace/o 
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 

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to Ribeira 
Grande, a village a few miles eastward of Porto Praya. 
Until we reached the valley of St. Martin, the country 
presented its usual dull brown appearance ; but here, a 
very small rill of water produces a most refreshing margin 
of luxuriant 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- 
bulldlngs, of which an ancient church formed the principal 
part. It is here the governors and captains-general of the 
islands have been buried. Some of the tombstones recorded 

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

^ 1832.] NATURAL VANES. 17 

dates of the sixteenth century.* The heraldic ornaments 
L- were the only things in this retired place that reminded us 
I of Europe. The church or chapel formed one side of a 
[ quadrangle, in the middle of which a large clump of 
i; 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 consider- 
able 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 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 prevailing direction of the force of the trade- 
wind. The travelling had made so little impression on the 
barren soil, that we here missed our track, and took that 
to Fuentes. This we did not find out till we arrived there ; 
and we were afterwards glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a 
pretty village, with a small stream ; and everything appeared 
to prosper well, excepting, indeed, that which ought to do 
so most — its inhabitants. The black children, completely 
naked, and looking very wretched, were carrying bundles 
of firewood half as big as their own bodies. 

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

' The Cape d< Vcrd Islands were dibCovcrcd in 1449. There was a tombstone 
of a bishop with the date of 1571 ; and a crest of a band and dagg^ 
dated 1497. 

' total5 

18 AT ST. DOMINGO. [chap, 

The scenery of St. Domingo possesses a beauty 
unexpected, from the prevalent gloomy character of the 
rest of the island. The village is situated at the bottom oi 
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 appear- 
ance, and from similar cases in England, I supposed that 
the air was saturated with moisture. The fact, however, 
turned out quite the contrary. The hygrometer gave a 
difference of 29.6 degrees, between the temperature of the 
air, and the point at which dew was precipitated. This 
difference was nearly double that which I had observed on ! 
the previous mornings. This unusual degree of atmospheric 
dryness was accompanied by continual flashes of lightning. 
Is it not an uncommon case, thus to find a remarkable 
degree of aerial transparency with such a state of weather ? 

Generally the atmosphere is hazy ; and this is caused by 
the falling of impalpably fine dust, which was found to have 
slightly injured the astronomical instruments. The morning 
before we anchored at Porto Praya, I collected a little 
packet of this brown-coloured fine dust, which appeared to 
liave 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 

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

1832.] STRANGE DUST. 19 

siliceous shields, and of the siliceous tissue of plants. In 
five little packets which I sent him, he has ascertained no 
less than s?xty-seven different organic forms ! The Infusoria, 
with the exception of two marine species, are all Inhabitants 
of fresh water. I have found no less than fifteen different 
accounts of dust having fallen on vessels when far out In 
the Atlantic. From the direction of the wind whenever It 
has fallen, and from Its having always fallen during those 
months when the harmattan Is known to raise clouds of 
dust high Into the atmosphere, we may feel sure that It all 
comes from Africa. It Is, however, a very singular fact, 
that, although Professor Ehrenberg knows many species of 
infusoria peculiar to Africa, he finds none of these in the 
dust which I sent him : on the other hand, he finds In It 
two species which hitherto he knows as living only In 
South America. The dust falls in such quantities as to 
dirty everything on board, and to hurt people's eyes ; 
vessels even have run on shore owing to the obscurity of 
the atmosphere. It has often fallen on ships when several 
hundred, and even more than a thousand, miles from the 
coast of Africa, and at points sixteen hundred miles 
distant in a north and south direction. In some dust 
which was collected on a vessel three hundred miles from 
the land, I was much surprised to find particles of stone 
above the thousandth of an Inch square, mixed with finer 
matter. After this fact one need not be surprised at the 
diffusion of the far lighter and smaller sporules of crypto- 
gamlc plants. 

The geology of this Island Is the most Interesting part of 
its natural history. On entering the harbour, a perfectly 
horizontal white ban^ 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 over- 
lying 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 scorlaccous fragments of the lower surface 

20 A SEA SLUG. [chap. 

of the stream, It is converted into groups of beautiful 
radiated fibres resembling arragonite. The beds of hi\ 
rise in successive gently-sloping plains, towards the Interic 
whence the deluges of melted stone have originally pr 
ceeded. Within historical times, no signs of volcar 
activity have, I believe, been manifested in any part 61 
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 a 
of the streams. 


During our stay, I observed the habits of some marl 
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 muddj 
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 purpllsh-red fluid, which stains 
the water for the space of a foot around. Besides this 
means of defence, an acrid secretion, which Is spread over 
its body, causes a sharp, stinging sensation, similar to that 
produced by the Physalia, or Portuguese man-of-war. 

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

1832.] THE OCTOPUS. 21 

colour, examined more carefully, was a French gray, with 
numerous minute spots of bright yellow : the former of 
these varied in intensity ; the latter entirely 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 pass- 
ing over the body. Any part being subjected to a slight 
shock of galvanism, became almost black : a similar effect, 
but in a less degree, was produced by scratching the skin 
with a needle. These clouds, or blushes as they may be 
called, are said to be produced by the alternate expansion 
and contraction of minute vesicles containing variously 
coloured fluids. t 

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

While looking for marine animals, with my head about 
two feet above the rocky shore, I was more than once 
saluted by a jet of water, accompanied by a slight grating 
noise. At first I could not think what it was, but after- 
wards 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 siplion on the under side of its 
body. From the difficulty which these animals have in 
carrying their heads, they cannot crawl with ease when 
placed on the ground. I observed that one which I kept in 
the cabin was slightly phosphorescent in the dark. 

St. Paul's Rocks,— In crossing the Atlantic we hove-to, 
during the morning of 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 

* So named according: to Patrick Syines's nomenclature. 

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

22 WHITE ROCKS. [chap. 

island of Fernando Noronha. The highest point is onl 
fifty feet above the level of the sea, and the entire circui 
ference is under three-quarters of a mile. This small poii 
rises abruptly out of the depths of the ocean. Its mineral 
ogical constitution is not simple ; in some parts the roclj 
is of a cherty, in others of a felspathic nature, includinij 
thin veins of serpentine. It is a remarkable fact, that 
the many small islands, lying far from any continent, in thij 
Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, with the exception 
the Seychelles and this little point of rock, are, I believe 
composed either of coral or of erupted matter. The volcanif 
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 
nulliporae (a family of hard calcareous sea-plants), that in 
lately looking hastily over my collection I did not perceive the 
diffet;ence. 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 certain cryptogamic 
plants {MarchanticB) often seen on damp walls. The surface 
of the fronds is beautifully glossy ; and those parts formed 
where fully exposed to the light, are of a jet black colour, 
but those shaded under ledges are only gray. I have shown 
specimens of this incrustation to several geologists, and 
they all thought that they were of volcanic or igneous 


origin ! In its hardness and translucency — in its polish, 
equal to that of the finest oliva-shell — in the bad smell given 
out, and loss of colour under the blowpipe — it shows a close 
similarity with living sea-shells. Moreover, in sea-shells, it 
is known that the parts habitually covered and shaded by 
the mantle of the animal, are of a paler colour than those 
fully exposed to the light, just as is the case with this 
incrustation. When we remember that lime, either as a 
phosphate or carbonate, enters into the composition of the 
hard parts, such as bones and shells, of all living animals, 
it is an interesting physiological fact* to 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, 
in shape some of the lower vegetable productions. 

We found on St. Paul's only two kinds of birds — the booby 
and the noddy. The former is a species of gannet, and the 
latter a tern. Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, 
and are so unaccustomed to visitors, that I could have killed 
any number of them with my geological hammer. The 
booby lays her eggs on the bare rock ; but the tern makes 
a very simple nest with seaweed. By the side of many ot 
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 dis- 
turbed 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 {Offersia) 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 

* Mr. Horner and Sir David Brewster have described (" Philosophical Trans- 
actions," 1836, p. 65) a sinffiilar "artificial substance resembling shell." It 
is deposited in fine, transparent, highly polished, brown-coloured laminae, 
posbessinsT 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 it much softer, more transparent, and contains more animal 
matter, than the natural incrustation at Ascension ; but we here again see 
the stronff tendency whidi carbonate of lime and animal matter evince to 
form a solid substance allied to shell. 

24 OCEAN ISLANDS. [chap. 

beneath the dung ; and lastly, numerous spiders, whi( 
I suppose prey on these small attendants and scavenge! 
of the waterfowl. The often-repeated description of th 
stately palm and other noble tropical plants, then bird^ 
and lastly man, taking possession of the coral islets 
soon as formed, in the Pacific, is probably not quite correct 
I fear it destroys the poetry of this story, that feather ai 
dirt-feeding and parasitic insects and spiders should be t\ 
first inhabitants of newly-formed oceanic land. 

The smallest rock in the tropical seas, by giving a founda- 
tion 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 considerable depth, was first discovered by the cir- 
cumstance offish having been observed in the neighbourhood. 

Fernando Noronha, Feb. 20th. — As far as I was enabled 
to observe, during the few hours we stayed at this place, 
the constitution of the island is volcanic, but probably not 
of a recent date. The most remarkable feature is a conical 
hill, about one thousand feet high, the upper part of which 
is exceedingly steep, and on one side overhangs its base. 
The rock is phonolite, and is divided into Irregular columns. 
On viewing one of these isolated masses, at first one is 
inclined to believe that it has been suddenly pushed up in 
a semi-fluid state. At St. Helena, however, I ascertained 
that some pinnacles, of a nearly similar figure and constitu- 
tion, had been formed by the injection of melted rock Into 
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. Half-way up the mountain, some great 
masses of the columnar rock, shaded by laurel-like trees, 
and ornamented by others covered with fine pink flowers, 
but without a single leaf, gave a pleasing effect to the 
nearer parts of the scenery. 

Bahia, or San Salvador. Brazil, Feb. 2^th. — 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. 

1832.] SAN SALVADOR. 25 

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 vegeta- 
tion, 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 wander- 
ing 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 
two thousand 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 crystallised when heated under pressure, gives 
rise to many curious reflections. Was this effect produced 
beneath the depths of a profound ocean ? or did a covering 
of strata formerly extend ovfer 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 

* " Personal Narrative," voL v.i pt i,, p. i8. 

26 THE DIODON. [chap.M 

of manganese and iron. In the Orinoco it occurs on tfl 
rocks periodically v/ashed by the floods, and in those pai^ 
alone where the stream is rapid; or, as the Indians sdfl 
"the rocks are black where the waters are white." HeH 
the coating is of a rich brown instead of a black coloi^B 
and seems to be composed of ferruginous matter alonfl 
Hand specimens fail to give a just idea of these brov^B 
burnished stones which glitter in the sun's rays. Th^H 
occur only within the limits of the tidal waves ; and ^| 
the rivulet slowly trickles down, the surf must supply t^M 
polishing power of the cataracts in the great rivers. 19 
like manner, the rise and the fall of the tide probably answer 
to the periodical inudations ; and thus the same effects are 
produced under apparently different, but really similar, cir- 
cumstances. The origin, however, of these coatings of 
metallic oxides, which seem as if cemented to the rocks, 
is not understood ; and no reason, I believe, can be assigned 
for their thickness remaining the same. 

One day I was amused by watching the habits of the 
Diodon antennaius^ 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 cut of water, but a 
stream drawn in by the mouth constantly flows through 


The fish, having remained in this distended state for a 
short time, generally expelled the air and water with con- 
siderable 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, floating alive and distended, in the stomach 
of the shark ; and that on several occasions he has known 
it eat its way, not only through the coats of the stomach, 
but through the sides of the monster, which has thus been 
killed. Who would ever have imagined that a little soft 
fish could have destroyed the great and savage shark ? 

March iZth. — We sailed from Bahia. A few days after- 
wards, 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 
confervae, in bundles or rafts of from twenty to sixty in each. 
Mr. Berkeley informs me that they are the same species 
{Trichodesmium erythrceum) 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 confervse. They 
appear especially common in the sea near Australia ; and 
off Cape Leeuwin I found an allied, but smaller and 

• M. Montajfne, in "Comptes Rendui," etc., Juillet, 1844; and " Annal, dea 
Scienc. Nat.," Dec. 1R44. 




apparently different, species. Captain Cook, in his thl 
voyage, remarks, that the sailors gave to this appearam 
the name of sea-sawdust. 

Near Keeling Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I observed many 
little masses of confervae a few inches square, consisting of 
long cylindrical threads of excessive thinness, so as to ~ 
barely visible to the naked eye, mingled with other rath 
larger bodies, finely conical at both ends. They vary 
length from .04 to .06 and even to .08 of an inch In lengt 
and in diameter from .006 to .008 of an inch. Near o 
extremity of the cylindrical part a green septum, formed of 
granular matter, and thickest in the middle, may general,' 
be seen. This, I believe, is the bottom of a most delica 
colourless sac, composed of a pulpy substance, which lin 
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 con- 
tract itself, so that in the course of a second the whole 
was united into a perfect little sphere, which occupied the 
position of the septum at one end of the now quite hollow case. 
The 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, cone beside cone, 
at that end where the septum occurs. 

I will here add a few other observations connected 
with the discoloration of the sea from organic causes. On 
the coast of Chile, a few leagues north of Concepcion, the 
Beagle one day passed through great bands of muddy 
water, exactly like that of a swollen river ; and again, a 
degree south of Valparaiso, when fifty miles from the land, 
the same appearance was still more extensive. Some of the 
water placed in a glass was of a pale reddish tint ; and, 
examined under a microscope, was seen to swarm with 
minute animalcula darting about, and often exploding. 
Their shape is oval, and contracted in the middle by a 
ring of vibrating curved clllae. 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 feed on them I do not 
know ; but terns, cormorants, and immense herds of great 
unwieldy seals derive, on some part pf the coast, their chief 
sustenance from these swimming crabs. Seamen invariably 
attribute the discoloration of the water to spawn ; but I 
found this to be the case only on one occasion. At the 
distance of several leagues from the Archipelago of the 
Galapagos» the ship sailed through three strips of a dark 
yellowish, or mud-like water ; these strips were some miles 
long, but only a few yards wide, and they were separated 

* M. Lesson ('* Voyage de la CoquilU," torn, i., p. 2155) mentions red water 
off Lima, apparently produced by the same cause Pcron, 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 
fvol, ii., p. ait)). To the references given hy Peron may be added, Humboldt's 

Personal Narrative," vol. vi., p. 804; Flinders' "Voyage," vol. i., p. 92; 
Labillardiire, vol. i., p. 287 ; Ulloa's "Voyage " ; " Voyaire of the Astrolabt and 
of the CoquilU " ; Captain Kin^;'* " Survey of Austialia, etc 

n of 



from the surrounding water by a sinuous yet distinct 
margin. The colour was caused by little gelatinous balls, 
about the fifth of an inch in diameter, in which numerous 
minute spherical ovules were embedded ; they were of two 
distinct kinds, one being of a reddish colour and of a 
different shape from the other. I cannot form a conjecture 
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 o^ 
the bands indicates that of the currents ; in the descril 
case, however, the line was caused by the wind, 
only other appearance which I have to notice, is a 
oily coat on the water, which displays iridescent colours, 
saw a considerable tract of the ocean thus covered on th~ 
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 confervas, nor is it probable among the infusoria. 
Secondly, what causes the length and narrowness of the 
bands ? The appearance so much resembles that which 
may be seen in every torrent, where the stream uncoils into 
long streaks the froth, collected in the eddies, that I must 
attribute the effect to a similar action either of the current 
of the air or sea. Under this supposition we must believe 
that the various organised bodies are produced in certain 
favourable places, and are thence removed by the set of 
either wind or water. I confess, however, there is a very 
great difficulty in imagining any one spot to be the birth- 
place 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. 


1833. 1 31 


RIO DE janf:iro. 

Rio de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great Evapora- 
tion — Slavery — Botofogfo Bay — Terrestrial Planariae — 
Clouds on the Corcovado — Heavy rain — Musical Frogs — 
Phosphorescent Insects — Elater, springing powers of— 
Blue Haze — Noise made by a Butterfly — Entomology- 
Ants — Wasp killing a Spider — Parasitical Spider — Artifices 
of an Epeira — Gregarious Spider — Spider with an unsym- 
metrical Web. 

April Afth to July c^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 ^th. — 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 midday 
at Ithacaia ; this small village is situated on a plain, and 
round the central house are the huts of the negroes. 
These, from their regular form and position, reminded 
me of the drawings of the Hottentot habitations in 
Southern Africa. As the moon rose early, we determined 
to start the same evening for our sleeping-place at the 
Lagoa Marlca. 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 notorlou.9 
from having been, for a long tmie, the residence of some 
runaway slaves, who, by cultivating a little ground near 
the top contrived to eke out a subsistence. At lengtli 
they were discovered, and a party of soldiers being sent, 
the whole were seized, with the exception of one old woman, 

32 A WAYSIDE INN. [chAp? 

who, sooner than again be led into slavery, dashed hen 
to pieces from the summit of the mountain. In a Romai 
matron this would have been called the noble love o 
freedom : in a poor negress it is mere brutal obstinacy 
We continued riding for some hours. For the few las' 
miles the road was intricate, and it passed through £ 
desert waste of marshes and lagoons. The scene by the 
dimmed light of the moon was most desolate. A few 
fireflies flitted by us ; and the solitary snipe, as it rose, 
uttered its plaintive cry. The distant and sullen roar of 
the sea scarcely broke the stillness of the night. 

April ^th, — We left our miserable sleeping-place before 
sunrise. The road passed through a narrow sandy plain, 
lying between the sea and the interior salt lagoons. The 
number of beautiful fishing birds, such as egrets and 
cranes, and the succulent plants assuming most fantastical 
forms, 'gave to the scene an interest which it would not 
otherwise have possessed. The few stunted trees were 
loaded with parasitical plants, among which the beauty 
and delicious fragrance of some of the orchideae were most 
to be admired. As the sun rose, the day became extremely 
hot, and the reflection of the light and heat from the white 
sand was very distressing. We dined at Mandetiba ; the 
thermometer in the shade being 84'. The beautiful view 
of the distant wooded hills, reflected in the perfectly calm 
water of an extensive lagoon, quite refreshed us. As the 
venda* here was a very good one, and I have the pleasant, 
but rare remembrance, of an excellent 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 bedrooms join on each side, 
and here the passenger may sleep as comfortably as he 
can, on a wooden platform, covered by a thin straw mat. 
The vinda 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 senh6r 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 

* V^nda, the Portuguese name for an inn. 


Providence for having guided us to so good a man. The 
conversation proceeding, the case universally became 
deplorable. "Any fish can you do us the favour of 
giving ?"—" Oh, no, sir." "Any soup ? "— " No, sir." 
"Any bread ? "— " Oh, no, sir." "Any dried meat ? "— *'Oh, 
no, sir." If we were lucky, by waiting a couple of hours, 
we obtained fowls, rice, and farinha. It not unfrequently 
happened, that we were obliged to kill, with stones, the 
poultry for our own supper. When, thoroughly exhausted 
by fatigue and hunger, we timorously hinted that we should 
be glad of our meal, the pompous, and (though true) most 
unsatisfactory answer was, "It will be ready when it is 
ready." If we had dared to remonstrate any further, we 
should have been told to proceed on our journey, as being 
too impertinent. The hosts are most ungracious and 
disagreeable in their manners ; their houses and their 
persons are often filthily dirty ; the want of the accom- 
modation 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 v^nda, being asked if he knew anything of 
a whip which one of the party had lost, gruffly answered, 
"How should I know? why did you not take care of it? 
— I suppose the dogs have eaten it." 

Leaving Mandetiba, we continued to pass through an 
intricate wilderness of lakes ;* in some of which were fresh, 
in others salt water shells. Of the former kind, I found 
a Limnaea in great numbers in a lake, into which, the 
inhabitants assured me, that the sea enters once a year, 
and sometimes oftener, and makes the water quite salt. 
I have no doubt many interesting facts, in relation 
to marine and fresh-water animals, might be observed 
in this chain of lagoons, which skirt the coast of Brazil. 
M. Gay* has stated that he found in the neighbourhood 
of Rio, shells of the marine genera solen and mytilus, and 
fresh-water ampullarlae, living together in brackish water. 
I also frequently observed in the lagoon near the Botanic 
Garden, where Ihe water is only a little less salt than in 
the sea, a species of hydrophilus, very similar to a water-beetle 

• " Annal«»K des Sciences Naturclles " ff>r iR-t^. 

34 BATS AND HORSES. [chap. 

common in the ditches of England : in the same lal 
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 
volcanoes at Jorullo, as figured by Humboldt. We arrived 
at Engenhodo after it was dark, having been ten hours on 
horseback. I never ceased, during the whole journey, to be 
surprised at the amount of labour which the horses were 
capable of enduring ; they appeared also to recover from any 
injury much sooner than those of our English breeci. 
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 after- 
wards produces. The whole circumstance has lately been 
doubted in England ; I was therefore fortunate in being 
present when one {Desmodus (Torbignyi, Wat.) was actually 
caught on a horse's back. We were bivouacking late one 
evening near Coquimbo, in Chile, when my servant, 
noticing that one of the horses was very restive, went to 
see what was the matter, and fancying he could distinguish 
something, 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 after- 
wards we rode the horse without any ill efi'ects. 

April i-Tfth. — After three days' travelling we arrived at 
Soclgo, the estate of Senhdr 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 con- 
trasted with the whitewashed walls, thatched roof, and 
windows without glass. The house, together with the 
granaries, the stables, and workshops for the blacks, who 
had been taught various trades, formed a rude kind of 
quadrangle ; in the centre of which a large pile of coffee 


was drying. These buildings stand on a little hill, over- 
looking the cultivated ground, and surrounded on every 
side by a wall of dark green luxuriant forest. The chief 
produce of this part of the country is coffee. Each tree 
is supposed to yield annually, on an average, two pounds ; 
but some give as much as eight. Mandioca or cassada 
is likewise cultivated in great quantity. Every part of 
this plant is useful : the leaves and stalks are eaten by the 
horses, and the roots are ground into a pulp, which, 
when pressed dry and baked, forms the farinha, the 
principal article of sustenance in the Brazils. It is a 
curious, though well-known fact, that the juice of this 
most nutritious plant is highly poisonous. A few years 
ago a cow died at this fazenda, in consequence of having 
drunk some of it. Senhor Figuireda told me that he had 
planted, the year before, one bag of feijad, 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 rooms 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 
his family for the whole week. 

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

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


' who was uncommonly stupid. In endeavouring to make 
^ him understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing 
which I passed my hand near his face. He, I suppose, 
thought I was in a passion, and was going to strike him ; 
for instantly, with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, he 
dropped his hands. I shall never forget my feelings of 
surprise, disgust, and shame, at seeing a great powerful 
man afraid even to ward off a blow, directed, as he thought, 
at his face. This man had been trained to a degradation 
lower than the slavery of the most helpless animal. 

April i^th. — In returning we spent two days at Socage, 
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. Senhdr 
Manuel was then making a canoe 70 feet in length from a 
solid trunk, which had originally been 1 10 feet long, and of 
great thickness. The contrast of palm trees, growing 
amidst the common branching kinds, never fails to give the 
scene an Intertropical character. Here the woods were 
ornamented by the Cabbage Palm — one of the most beautiful 
of its family. With a stem so narrow that it might be 
clasped with the two hands, it waves Its elegant head at 
the height of forty or fifty feet above the ground. The 
woody creepers, themselves covered by other creepers, were 
of great thickness : some which I measured were two feet 
in circumference. Many of the older trees presented a very 
curious appearance from the tresses of a liana hanging from 
their boughs, and resembling bundles of hay. If the eye 
was turned from the world of foliage above, to the ground 
beneath, It was attracted by the extreme elegance of the 
leaves of the ferns and mimosa2. The latter, in some parts, 
covered the surface with a brushwood only a few inches 
high. In walking across these thick beds of mimosae, a 
broad track was marked by the change of shade, produced 
by the drooping of their sensitive petioles. It is easy to 
specify the individual objects of admiration in these grand 
scenes ; but it Is not possible to give an adequate idea of the 
higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, 
which fill and elevate the mind. 

April i^th. — Leaving Soc6go, 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 
' ntn the coast. I noticed that each time the horse put Its 

se was ¥ 

38 A ROUGH ROAD. [chap. 

foot on the fine siliceous sand, a gentle chirping noise 
produced. On the third day we took a different line, and 
passed through the gay little village of Madre de Deds. 
This is one of the principal lines of road in Brazil ; yet it 
was in so bad a state that no wheel vehicle, excepting the 
clumsy bullock- waggon, could pass along. In our whole 
journey we did not cross a single bridge built of stone ; and 
those made of logs of wood were frequently so much out of 
repair, that it was necessary to go on one side to avoid 
them. All distances are inaccurately known. The road is 
often marked by crosses, in the place of milestones, to 
signify where human blood has been spilled. On the 
evening of the 23rd we arrived at Rio, having finished our 
pleasant little excursion. 



During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in 
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 advantagi 
by always having something to attract his attentio 
but in these fertile climates, teeming with life, t 
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 terrestrial 


Planariae 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 paren- 
chymatous 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 Planariaj ; as soon as 
the cessation of life allows the ordinary laws of change to 
act, their entire bodies become soft and fluid, with a rapidity 
which I have never seen equalled. 

I first visited the forest in which these Planariae were 
found, in company with an old Portuguese priest, who took 
me out to hunt with him. The sport consisted in turning 
into the cover a few dogs, and then patiently waiting to fire 
at any animal which might appear. We were accompanied 
by the son of a neighbouring farmer — a good specimen of a 
wild Brazilian youth. He was dressed in a tattered old 
shirt and trousers, and had his head uncovered : he carried 
an old-fashioned gun and a large knife. The habit of 
carrying the knife is universal ; and in traversing a thick 
wood it is almost necessary, on account of the creeping 
plants. The frequent occurrence of murder may be partly 
attributed to this habit. The Brazilians are so dexterous 
with the knife, that they can throw it to some distance with 
precision, and with sufficient force to cause a fatal wound. 
1 have seen a number of little boys practising this art as a 
game of play, and from their SKill in hitting an upright 

* I have described and named thf!«e ipecics in the "AnnaU of Natursi 
Hiatory," vol. xiv., p. 041. 


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 ex- 
tremity 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. 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 2300 feet. Mr. 
Daniell has observed, in his meteorological essays, that 
a cloud sometimes appears fixed on a mountain summit, 
while the wind continues to blow over it. The same 
phenomenon here presented a slightly different appearance. 
In this case the cloud was clearly seen to curl over, and 
rapidly pass by the summit, and yet was neither diminished 
nor increased in size. The sun was setting, and a gentle 
southerly breeze, striking against the southern side of 
the rock, mingled its current with the colder air above, 
and the vapour was thus condensed : but as the light 
wreaths of cloud passed over the ridge, and came within 
the influence of the warmer atmosphere of the northern 
sloping bank, they were immediately redissolved. 

The climate, during the months of May and June, 
or the beginning of winter, was delightfiil. 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 pro- 
duced by the drops pattering on the countless multitude 
of leaves was very remarkable ; it could be heard at the 
distance of a quarter of a mile, and was like the rushing 
of a great body of water. After the hotter days, it was 
delicious to sit quietly in the garden and watch the evening 
pass into night. Nature, in these climes, chooses her 
vocalists from more humble performers than in Europe. 
A small frog, of the genus Hyla, sits on a blade of grass 
about an inch above the surface of the water, and sends 
forth a pleasing chirp : when several are together they sing 
in harmony on different notes. I had some difficulty in 
catching a specimen of this frog. The genus Hyla has 
its toes terminated by small suckers ; and I found this 
animal could crawl up a pane of glass, when placed 
absolutely perpendicular. Various cicadas and crickets, at 
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 diffierent kinds of glowworms, shining elaters, and 
various marine animals (such as the Crustacea, medusas, 
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 be- 
longed to the LampyridcB (in which family the English 
glowworm is included), and the greater number of specimens 
were of Lampyris occidentalis.'^ I found that this insect 
emitted the most brilliant flashes when irritated : in the 
intervals, the abdominal rings were obscured. The flash 
was almost co-instantaneous in the two rings, but it wajj 
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 scintilla- 
tion, whilst the uninjured parts were obscured. When the 
insect was decapitated, the rings remained uninterruptedly 

* I am greatly indebted to Mr. Waterhouse for his kindness in naminK 
tor me this and many other insects, and in giving me much valuabU 
2 assistance. 

n witn 


bright, but not so brilliant as before : local irritation 
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 obse.rved, that every now and then tl 
extremity of the tail was applied to the mouth, and a drc 
of fluid exuded on the meat, which was then in the 
of being consumed. The tail, notwithstanding so mud 
practice, does not seem to be able to find its way to the 
mouth ; at least the neck was always touched first, anj 
apparently as a guide. 

When we were at Bahia, an elater or beetle {Pyrophc 
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 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 

* Kirby's " Entomology," vol. u., p. 317. 





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 con- 
traction, without the aid of some mechanical contrivance. 

On several occasions I enjoyed some short but most 
pleasant excursions in the neighbouring country. One day 
I went to the Botanic Garden, where many plants, well 
known for their great utility, might be seen growing. The 
leaves of the camphor, pepper, cinnamon, and clove trees 
were delightfully aromatic ; and the bread-fruit, the jaca, 
and the mango, vied with each other in the magnificence of 
their foliage. The 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 vegetation, because many of them 
are at the same time most useful to man. Who can doubt 
that these qualities are united in the banana, the cocoa-nut, 
the many kinds of palm, the orange, and the bread-fruit 

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 gray, mingled 
with a little blue. The condition of the atmosphere between 
the morning and about noon, when the effect was most 
evident, had undergone little change, excepting in its 
dryness. In the interval, the difference between the dew 
point and temperature had increased from 7.5° to 17°. 

On another occasion I started early and walked to the 
Gavia, or topsail mountain. The air was delightfully 
cool and fragrant ; and the drops of dew still glittered on 
the leaves of the large liliaceous plants, which shaded the 

44 HUMMING BIRDS. [chap. 

streamlets of clear water. Sitting down on a block 
granite, it was delightful to watch the various insects anc 
birds as they flew past. The humming-bird seems particu- 
larly fond of such shady, retired spots. Whenever I saw 
these little creatures buzzing round a flower, with their 
wings vibrating so rapidly as to be scarcely visible, I 
was reminded of the sphinx moths : their movements and 
habits are indeed in many respects very similar. 

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

During our stay 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 fewer numbers than in our own temperate 
regions. I was much surprised at the habits of Papilio 
\feronia. This butterfly is not uncommon, and generally 


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

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleoptera. 
The number of minute and obscurely-coloured beetles is 
exceedingly great, t The cabinets of Europe can, as yet, 
boast only of the larger species from tropical climates. It 
is sufficient to disturb the composure of an entomologist's 
mind, to look forward to the future dimensions of a complete 
catalogue. The carnivorous beetles, or CaralidcB 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 HarpalidcB reappearing on the temperate 

* 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 LangsdorlFs 
travels (in the years 1803-7, p. 74) '■< is ^aid, 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. 

t 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 cauglr, 
sixty-eight snccien of that order. Among these, there were only two of tlit 
Carabin.-c, tour Brachclytra, fifteen Rhyncophora, and fourteen of th<- 
Chrysomclidac. Thirty-seven species of Arachnida:, which I brouglit homr, 
will be sufficient to prove that I was not paying overmuch attention to the 
generally favoured order of Coleoptera. 


rs ancP 

46 MIGRATING ANTS. [chap. 

plains of La Plata. Do the very numerous spiders 
rapacious Hymenoptera supply the place of the carnivorous 
beetles? The carrion-feeders and Brachelytra are very 
uncommon ; on the other hand, the Rhyncophora and 
Chrysomelidce all of which depend on the vegetable world 
for subsistence, are present in astonishing numbers. I do 
not here refer to the number of different species, but to that 
of the individual insects ; for on this it is that the most 
striking character in the entomology of different countries 
depends. The orders Orthoptera and Hemiptera are 
particularly numerous : as likewise is the stinging divisior. 
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 countleaH 
numbers. One day, at Bahia, my attention was drawn t^H 
observing many spiders, cockroaches, and other insects, 
and some lizards, rushing in the greatest agitation across 
a bare piece of ground. A little way behind, every stalk 
and leaf was blackened by a small ant. The swarm having 
crossed the bare space, divided itself, and descended an old 
wall. By this means many insects were fairly enclosed ; 
and the efforts which the poor little creatures made to 
extricate themselves from such a death were wonderful. 
When the ants came to the road they changed their course, 
and in narrow files reascended the wall. Having placed 
a small stone so as to intercept one of the lines, the whole 
body attacked it, and then immediately retired. Shortly 
afterwards another body came to the charge, and again 
having failed to make any impression, this line of march 
was entirely given up. By going an inch round, the file 
might have avoided the stone, and this doubtless would 
have happened if it had been originally there ; but having 
been attacked, the lion-hearted little warriors scorned the 
idea of yielding. 

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners 
of the verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numerous 
in the neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full 
of half-dead spiders and caterpillars, which they seem 
wonderfully to know how to sting to that degree as to 

i832.] AN INSECT DUEL. 47 

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 immediately 
finding its victim. It then commenced as regular a hunt 
as ever hound did after fox ; making short semicircular 
casts, and all the time rapidly vibrating its wings and 
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.t 

The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, 
is here, compared with England, very much larger ; perhaps 
more so than with any other division of the articulate 
animals. The variety of species among the jumping 
spiders appears almost infinite. The genus, or rather family 
of Epeira, is here characterised by many singular forms ; 
some species have pointed coriaceous shells, others enlarged 
and spiny tibiae. Every path in the forest is barricaded 
with the strong yellow web of a species, belonging to the 
same division with the Epeira clavipes of Fabricius, which 
was formerly said by Sloane to make, in the West 
Indies, webs so strong as to catch birds. A small and 
pretty kind of spider, with 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 EpeirUy and 

• In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his observa- 
tions in Georgia; see Mr. A. Whites paper in the "Annals of Natural 
History," 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. 

\ Don Felix Azara (vol. i., p. 175), mentioning a hymenopterous insect, 
probably of the same genus, saysj he saw it dragging a dead spider througli 
tall grass, in a straight line to its nest, which wa.s one hundred and sixt)- 
three paces distant. He adds that the wasp, in order to find the road, every 
now and then mad« " demi-tours d'envirua irois palm«s." 


is therefore allowed to prey on the minute insects, whiclB 
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 tuherculata 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 grass- 
hopper 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 
envelopes its prey in a case like the cocoon of a silkworn. 
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 with its 
head downwards near the centre of the web. When 
disturbed, it acts differently according to circumstances ; if 
there is a thicket below, it suddenly falls down ; and I have 
distinctly seen the thread from the spinners lengthened by 
the animal whilst 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 

1832.] SPIDERS. 49 

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. F6 
Bajada, many large black spiders, with ruby-coloured 
marks on their backs, having gregarious habits. The 
webs were placed vertically, as is invariably the case 
with the genius Epeira : they were separated from each 
other by a space of about two feet, but were all attached 
to certain common lines, which were of great length, and 
extended to all parts of the community. In this manner 
the tops of some large bushes were encompassed by the 
united nets. Azara* has described a gregarious spider in 
Paraguay, which Walckenaer thinks must be a Theridion, 
but probably it is an Epeira, and perhaps even the same 
species with mine. I cannot, however, recollect seeing a 
central nest as large as a hat, in which, during autumn, 
when the spiders die, Azara says the eggs are deposited. 
As all the spiders which I saw were of the same size, 
they must have been nearly of the same age. This gre- 
garious 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. 

* Azara's " Voyage," vol. i., p. ai> 

50 [chap. 



Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and 
Solas — Partridges — Absence of Trees — Deer — Capybara, or 
River Hog- — Tucutuco — Molotlirus, cuckoo-like habits — 
Tyrant-flycatcher — Mocking--bird — Carrion Hawks — Tubes 
formed by Lightning — House. Stiuck. 


July ^th, 1832. — In the morning we got under way, an< 
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 fur- 
rowed 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 penguin's, 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 and discoloured, from its less 
specific gravity, floated on the surface of the salt water. 
This was curiously exhibited in the wake of the vessel, 
where a line of blue water was seen mingling in little 
eddies, with the adjoining fluid. 

July 26th. — We anchored at Monte Video. The Beagle 
was employed in surveying the extreme southern and 
eastern coasts of America, south of the Plata, 

1832.] MALDONADO. 51 

the two succeeding years. To prevent useless repetitions, 
I I will extract those parts of my journal which refer to 
the same districts, without always attending to the order 
in which we visited them. 

Maldonado is situated on the northern bank of the Plata, 
' and not very far from the mouth of the estuary. It is a 
most quiet, forlorn little town ; built, as is universally 
the case in these countries, with the streets running at 
right angles to each other, and having in the middle a 
large plaza or square, which, from its size, renders the 
scantiness of the population more evident. It possesses 
scarcely any trade ; the exports being confined to a few 
hides and living cattle. The inhabitants are chiefly land- 
owners, 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 uninteresting ; 
there is scarcely a house, an enclosed piece of ground, 
or even a tree, to give it an air of cheerfulness. Yet, after 
being imprisoned for some time in a ship, there is a 
charm in the unconfined feeling of walking over bound- 
less 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 


maai 1 
• miles 

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

On the first night we slept at a retired little country- 
house ; and there I soon found out that I possessed two 
or three articles, especially a pocket compass, which created 
unbounded astonishment. In every house I was asked 
to show the compass, and by its aid, together with a 
map, to point out the direction of various places. It ex- 
cited the liveliest admiration that I, a perfect stranger, 
should know the road (for direction and road are synony- 
mous in this open country) to places where I had never 
been. At one house a young woman, who was ill 'in bed, 
sent to entreat me to come and show her the compass. 
If their surprise was great, mine was greater, to find such 
ignorance among people who possessed their thousands of 
cattle, and " estancias " of great extent. It can only be 
accounted for by the circumstance that this retired part 
of the country is seldom visited by foreigners. I was asked 
whether the earth or sun moved ; whether it was hotter 
or colder to the north ; where Spain was, and many other 
such questions. The greater number of the inhabitants 
had an indistinct idea that England, London, and North 
America, were different names for the same place ; but the 
better informed well knew that London and North America 
were separate countries close together, and that England 
was a large town in London ! I carried with me some 
promethean matches, which I ignited by biting ; it was 
thought so wonderful that a man should strike fire with 
his teeth, that it was usual to collect the whole family to 
see it : I was once offered a dollar for a single one. Wash- 
ing my face in the morning caused much speculation at 
the village of Las Minas ; a superior tradesman closely 
cross-questioned me about so singular a practice ; and 
likewise why on board we wore our beards ; for he had 


/ neard from my guide that we did so. He eyed me with 
' much suspicion ; perhaps he had heard of ablutions in 
the Mahomedan religion, and knowing me to be a heretic, 
\ probably he came to the conclusion that all heretics were 
Turks. It is the general custom in this country to ask 
for a night's lodging at the first convenient house. The 
astonishment at the compass, and my other feats in 
jugglery, was to a certain degree advantageous, as with 
that, and the long stories my guide told of my breaking- 
stones, knowing venomous from harmless snakes, collect- 
ing 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 

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 appearance. The outskirting 
houses rose out of the plain like isolated beings, without the 
accompaniment of gardens or courtyards. This is generally 
the case in the country, and all the houses, have, in con- 
sequence, an uncomfortable aspect. At night we stopped 
at a pulperia, or drinking-shop. During the evening a 
great number of Gauchos came in to drink spirits and 
smoke cigars : their appearance is very striking ; they are 
generally tall and handsome, but with a proud and dissolute 
expression of countenance. They frequently wear their 
moustaches, and long black hair curling down their backs. 
With their brightly coloured garments, great spurs clank- 
ing 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 ex 
cessive ; 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 cours 
as I was employed in examining some beds of marble, 
the fine plains of turf we saw many ostriches {Struthio rhedj^ 
Some of the flocks contained as many as twenty or thirty 
birds. These, when standing on any little eminence, and 
seen against the clear sky, presented a very noble appearance;. 
I never met with such tame ostriches in any other part of 
the country : it was easy to gallop up within a short distance 
of them ; but then, expanding their wings, they made all 
sail right before the wind, and soon left the horse astern. / 

At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a 
rich landed proprietor, but not personally known to either 
of my companions. On approaching the house of a stranger, 
it is usual to follow several little points of etiquette : riding 
up slowly to the door, the salutation of Ave Maria is given, 
and until somebody comes out and asks you to alight, it is 
not customary even to get off your horse ; the formal answer 
of the owner is, '* Sin pecado concebida" — that is, conceived 
without sin. Having entered the house, some general con- 
versation 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 of 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 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 con- 
sisted of hardened mud, and the windows were without 
glass ; the sitting-room boasted only of a few of the roughest 

1832.] THE LAZO. 55 

chairs and stools, with a couple of tables. The supper, 
although several strangers were present, consisted of two 
huge piles, one of roast beef, the other of boiled, with some 
pieces of pumpkin ; beside this latter there was no other 
vegetable, and not even a morsel of bread. For drinking, 
a large earthenware jug of water served the whole party. 
Yet this man was the owner of several square miles of land, 
of which nearly every acre would produce corn, and, with 
a little trouble, all the common vegetables. The evening, 
was spent in smoking, with a little impromptu singing, 
accompanied by the guitar. The signoritas all sat together 
in one corner of the room, and did not sup with the men. 

So many works have been written about these countries, 
that it is almost superfluous to describe either the lazo or 
the bolas. The lazo consists of a very strong, but thin, 
well-plaited rope, made of raw hide. One end is attached 
to the broad surcingle, which fastens together the compli- 
cated gear of the recado, or saddle used in the Pampas ; the 
other is terminated by a small ring of iron or brass, by 
which a noose can be formed. The Gaucho, when he is 
going to use the lazo, keeps a small coil in his bridle-hand, 
and in the other holds the running noose, which is made 
very large, generally having a diameter of about eight feet. 
This he whirls round his head, and by the dexterous move- 
ment of his wrist keeps the noose open ; then, throwing it, 
he causes it to fall on any particular spot he chooses. The 
lazo, when not used, is tied up in a small coil to the after 
part of the recado. The bolas, or balls, are of two kinds ; 
the simplest, which is chiefly used for catching ostriches, 
consists of two round stones, covered with leather, and 
united by a thin plaited thong, about eight feet long. The 
other kind differs only in having three balls united by the 
thongs to a common centre. The Gaucho holds the smallest 
of the three in his hand, and whirls the other two round and 
round his head ; then, taking aim, sends them like chain 
shot revolving through the air. The balls no sooner strike 
any object, than, winding round it, they cross each other, 
and become firmly hftched. 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 tnem. 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 I was anxious to examine. The country wore 
the same aspect, till at last the fine green turf became more 
wearisome than a dusty turnpike road. We everywhere saw 
great numbers of partridges {Nothura major). These birds 
do not go in coveys, nor do they conceal themselves like the 
English kind. It appears a very silly bird. A man on 
horseback by riding round and round in a circle, or rather 
in a spire, so as to approach closer each time, may knock 
on the head as many as he pleases. The more common 
method is to catch them with a running noose, or little lazo, 
made of the stem of an ostrich's feather, fastened to the 
end of a long stick. A boy on a quiet old horse will 
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 
picturesque. To the westward the view extended over an 
immense level plain as far as the Mount, at Monte Video, 
and to the eastward, over the mammillated country of 

* Heame's " Journey," p. 383. 


Maldonado. On the summit of the mountain there were 
several small heaps of stones, which evidently had lain 
there for many years. My companion assured me that they 
were the work of the Indians in the old time. The heaps 
were similar, ;but on a much smaller scale, to those so 
commonly found on the mountains of Wales. The desire 
to signalise any event, on the highest point of the neighbour- 
ing land, seems an universal passion with mankind. At the 
present day, not a single Indian, either civilized or wild, 
exists in this part of the province ; nor am I aware that 
the ^former inhabitants have left behind them any more 
permanent records than these insignificant piles on the 
summit of the Sierra de las Animas. 

The general, and! almost entire absence of trees in Banda 
Oriental is remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are 
partly covered by thickets, and on the banks of the larger 
streams, especially to the north of Las Minas, willow-trees 
are not uncommon. Near the Arroy Tapes I heard of a 
wood of palms ; and one of these trees, of considerable 
size, I saw near the Pan de Azucar, in lat. 35°. These, 
and the trees planted by the Spaniards, offer the only 
exceptions to the general scarcity of wood. Among the 
introduced kinds may be enumerated poplars, olives, 
peach, and other fruit trees ; the peaches succeed so well, 
that they afford the main supply of firewood to the city 
of Buenos Ayres. Extremely level countries, such as the 
Pampas, seldom appear favourable to the growth of trees. 
This may possibly be attributed either to the force of the 
winds, or the kind of drainage. In the nature of the land, 
however, around Maldonado, no such reason is ap- 
parent ; 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 prob- 
ability, 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 
\cessive degree.t We see nearly the whole of Australia 

' Maclaren, article America, Kncyclop. Britann. 

t Azara sayn, "Jecroia que la quantity annuelle dei pluies est, dana toutea 
c«a cuntr^ea, plua conaid^rable qu'en Espagne." — Vol. i., p. 36. 

lAP. 9 


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 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 Guayaquil and Panama. 
Hence in the southern and northern parts of the continent, 
the forest and desert lands occupy reversed positions 
with respect to the Cordillera, and these 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 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 

1832-3.] INQUISITIVE DEER. 59 

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 trans- 
port of seeds from Tierra del Fuego, as is shown by the 
canoes and trunks of trees drifted from that country, 
and frequently thrown on the shores of the Western 
Falkland. Hence perhaps it is that there are many plants 
in common to the two countries ; but with respect to the 
trees of Tierra del Fuego, even attempts made to transplant 
them have failed. 

During our stay at Maldonado I collected several 
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 horse- 
back, they are exceedingly wary. In this country nobody 
goes on foot, and the deer knows man as its enemy only 
when he is mounted and armed with the bolas. At Bahia 
Blanca, a recent establishment in Northern Patagonia, I 
was surprised to find how little the deer cared for the noise 
of a gun : one day I fired ten times from within eighty 
yards at one animal ; arid it was much more startled at the 
ball cutting up the ground than at the report of the rifle. 
My powder being exhausted, I was obliged to get up (to 
my shame as a sportsman be it spoken, though well able 
to kill birds on the wing) and halloo till the deer ran away. 

The most curious fact with respect to this animal, is 
the overpoweringly strong and offensive odour which 
proceeds from the buck. It is quite indescribable : several 
times whilst skinning the specimen which is now mounted 
at the Zoological Museum, I was almost overcome by 
nausea. I tied up the skin in a silk pocket-handkerchief, 
and so carried it home : this handkerchief, after being 
well washed, I continually used, and it was of course as 
repeatedly washed ; yet every time, for the space of one 
year and seven months, when first unfolded, I distinctly 

6o A LARGE RODENT. [chap, ii 

perceived the odour. This appears an astonishing instanc 
of the permanence of some matter, which nevertheless in i^ 
nature must be most subtile and volatile. FrequentlyT 
when passing at the distance of half a mile to leeward of 
a herd, I have perceived the whole air tainted with effluvium. 
I believe the smell from the buck is most powerful at the 
period when its horns are perfect, or free from the hairy 
skin. When in this state the meat is, of course, quite 
uneatable ; but the Gauchos assert, that if buried for some 
time in fresh earth the taint is removed. I have somewhere 
read that the islanders in the north of Scotland treat the 
rank carcasses of the fish-eating birds in the same manner. 

The order Rodentia is here very numerous in species : 
of mice alone I obtained no less than eight kinds.* The 
largest gnawing animal in the world, the HydrochcBrus 
capyhara (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, t 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 

* 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. 

t 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 
g'rind into pulp the aquatic plants on which it feeds. 

1832-3.] THE TUCUTUCO. 61 

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 this, is the first hoarse bark of a large 
dog. Having watched the four from almost within arm's 
length (and they me) for several minutes, they rushed 
into the water at full gallop with the greatest impetuosity, 
and emitted at the same time their bark. After diving 
a short distance they came again to the surface, but only 
just showed the upper part of their heads. When the 
female is swimming in the water, and has young ones, 
they are said to sit on her back. These animals ^ are easily 
killed in numbers ; but their skins are of trifling value, 
and the meat is very indifferent. On the islands in the 
Rio Parana they are exceedingly abundant, and afford the 
ordinary prey to the 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 gregarious : the man 
who procured the specimens for me had caught six together, 
and he said this was a common occurrence. They are 
nocturnal in their habits ; and their principal food is the 
roots of plants, which are the object of their extensive and 
superficial burrows. This animal is universally known by 
a very peculiar noise which it makes when beneath the 
ground. A person the first time he hears it, is much 
surprised ; for it is not easv 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 suc- 
cession : * the name Tucutuco is given in imitation of the 

* At the R. Neg^ro, in Northern Patagonia, there is an animal of the same 
habits, and probably a closely allied Hpecies, but which I never saw. Its 
noiss is different from that of^the Matdonado kind ; it is repeated only twice 

riAP. fjM 


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 

The man who caught them asserted that very many are 
invariably found blind. A specimen which I preserved irj 
spirits was in this state ; Mr. Reid considers it to be the 
effect of inflammation in the nictitating membrane. When 
the animal was alive I placed my finger within half an inch 
of its head, and not the slightest notice was taken : it made 
its way, however, about the room nearly as well as the; 
others. Considering the 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* (probably with more truth 
than usual with him) on the gra.dua.Uy-acgutred 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 con- 
nected 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. 

instead of three or four times, and is more distinct and sonorous: when 
heard from a distance it so closely resembles the sound made in cutting 
down a small tree with an axe, that I have sometimes remained in doubt 
concerning- it. 

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

1832-3.] THE CUCKOO. 63 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the un- 
dulating grassy plains around Maldonado. There are 
several species of a family allied in structure and manners 
to our Starling : one of these {Molothrus niger) is remark- 
able 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 smg, or rather to hiss ; the noise being very 
peculiar, resembling that of bubbles of air passing rapidly 
from a small orifice under water, so as to produce an acute 
sound. According to Azara, this bird, like the cuckoo, 
deposits its eggs in other birds' nests. I was several times 
told by the country people, that there 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 ^%^ 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 bein^ 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 : the molothrus, like 
our starling, is eminently sociable, and lives on the open 
plains without art or disguise : the cuckoo, as every onr 
knows, Is a singularly shy bird ; it frequents the most 
retired thickets, and feeds on fruit and caterpillars. In 
structure also these two genera are widely removed from 

" " Magrazinc of Zoolog^y and Botany," vol. i., p. 917. 

64 THli CUCKOO. [cHAPTm. 

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

I will mention only two other birds, which are very 
common, and render themselves prominent from their 
habits. The Saurophagus sulphuratus is typical ot 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 

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

1832-3.] THE CALANDRIA. 65 

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 con- 
tinually repeats without change a shrill and rather agree- 
able cry, which somewhat resembles articulate words : the 
Spaniards say it is like the words, ** Bien te veo " (I see 
you well), and accordingly have given it this name. 

A mocking-bird {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 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. Pata- 
gonica 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 cir- 
cumstance, as showing the fine shades of difference in 
habits, that judging from this latter respect alone, when 
I first saw this second species, I thought it was different 
from the Maldonado kind. Having afterwards procured a 
specimen, and comparing the two without particular care, 
they appeared so very similar that I changed my opinion ; 
but now Mr. Gould says that they are certainly distinct ; a 
conclusion in conformity with the trifling difference of habit, 
of which, however, he was not aware. 

The number, tameness, and disgusting habits of the 
carrion-feeding hawks of South America make them pre- 
eminently striking to any one accustomed only to the birds 
of Northern Europe. In this list may be included four 
species of the Caracara or Polyborus, tne 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 


es, anff 

66 CARRION HAWKS. [chap. 

well supply the place of our carrion-crows, magpies, 
ravens ; a tribe of birds widely distributed over the rest of 
the world, but entirely absent in South America. To begin 
with the Polyhorus 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 branch of a 
tree or on the ground, the Chimango often continues for a 
long time flying backwards and forwards, up and down, in 
a semicircle, trying each time at the bottom of the curve 
to strike its larger relative. The Carrancha takes little 
notice, except by bobbing its head. Although the Carranchas 
frequently assemble in numbers, they are not gregarious ; 
for in desert places they may be seen solitary, or more 
commonly by pairs. 

The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal 
great numbers of eggs. They attempt, also, together with 
the 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 dis- 
gusting 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, necrophagous habits are 
very evident to any one who has fallen asleep on the desolate 
plains of Patagonia, for when he wakes he will see, on each 
surrounding hillock, one of these birds patiently watching 
him with an evil eye ; it is a feature in the landscape of 
these countries, which will be recognised by every one who 

1832-3.] THE CARRANCHA. 67 

has wandered over them. If a party of men go out hunting 
with dogs and horses, they will be accompanied, during the 
day, by several of these attendants. After feeding, the 
uncovered craw protrudes ; at such times, and indeed 
generally, the Carrancha is an inactive, tame, and cowardly 
bird. Its flight is heavy and slow like that of an English 
rook. It seldom soars ; but I have twice seen one at a 
great height gliding through the air with much ease. It 
runs (in 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, 
grasshoppers, and frogs ; that it destroys young lambs by 
tearing the umbilical cord ; and that it pursues the Gallinazo, 
till that bird is compelled to vomit up the carrion it may 
have recently gorged. Lastly, Azara states that several 
Carranchas, five or six together, will unite in chase of 
large birds, even such as herons. All these facts show 
that it is a bird of very versatile habits and considerable 

The Polyhorus 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 Polyhorus Novce Zelandi<B, 
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 extra- 
ordinarily tame and fearless, and haunt the neighbourhood 
of houses for oflal. If a hunting party kills an animal, a 
number soon collect and patiently await, standing on the 


68 A PECULIAR BIRD. [chap. 

ground on all sides. After eating, their uncovered crawS 
are largely protruded, giving them a disgusting appearance. 
They readily attack wounded birds : a cormorant in this 
state having taken to the shore, was immediately seized on 
by several, and its death hastened by their blows. The 
Beagle was at the Falklands only during the summer, but 
the officers of the Adventure^ who were there in the winter, 
mention many extraordinary instances of the boldness and 
rapacity of these birds. They actually pounced on a dog 
that was lying fast asleep close by one of the party ; and the 
sportsmen had difficulty in preventing the wounded geese 
from being seized before their eyes. It is said that several 
together (in this respect resembling the Carranchas) wait at 
the mouth of a rabbit-hole, and together seize on the animal 
when it comes out. They were constantly flying on board 
the vessel when in the harbour ; and it was necessary to 
keep a good lookout 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, quarrel- 
some 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 there heads upwards and backwards, 
after the same manner as the Carrancha. They build in 
the rocky cliffs of the sea-coast, but only on the small 
adjoining islets, and not on the two main islands : this is a 
singular precaution in so tame and fearless a bird. The 
sealers say that the flesh of these birds, when cooked, is 
quite white, and very good eating ; but bold must the man 
be who attempts such a meal. 

We have now only to mention the turkey-buzzard ( Vultur 
aura)y and the Gallinazo. The former is found wherever 
the country is moderately damp, from Cape Horn to North 
America. Differently from the Polyhorus Brasilensis and 

JS32-3.J THE GALL1NA20. 69 

Chimango, it has found its way to the Falkland Islands. 
The turkey-buzzard is a solitary bird, or at most pfoes in 
pairs. It may at once be recognised from a long distance, 
by its lofty soaring, and most elegant flight. It is well 
known to be a true carrion-feeder. On the west coast of 
Patagonia, among the thickly-wooded islets and broken 
land, it lives exclusively on what the sea throws up, and on 
the carcasses of dead seals. Wherever these animals are 
congregated on the rocks, there the vultures may be seen. 
The Gallinazo {Cathartes atratus) has a different range from 
the last species, as it never occurs southward of lat. 41°. 
Azara states that there exists a tradition that these birds, at 
the time of the Conquest, were not found near Monte Video, 
but that they subsequently followed the inhabitants from 
more northern 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 oi 
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-teeders, 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 con- 
stantly changing their position. From this cause the 
tubes projected above the surface ; and numerous frag- 
ments 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 blow- 
pipe. The sand is entirely, or in greater part, siliceous ; 
but some points are of a black colour, and from their 
glossy surface possess a metallic lustre. The thickness 
of the wall of the tube varies from a thirtieth to a 
twentieth of an inch, and occasionally even equals a 
tenth. On the outside the grains of sand are rounded, 
and have a slightly glazed appearance : I could not dis- 
tinguish any signs of crystallisation. In a similar manner 
to that described in the ^'Geological Transactions," the 
tubes are generally compressed, and have deep longitudinal 
furrows, so as closely to resemble a shrivelled vegetable 
stalk, or the bark of the elm or cork tree. Their circum- 
ference 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 vised), must have been about one inch and a quarter. 

* " Transactions," vol. ii., p. 528. In the "Philosophical 
Transactions" (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. 


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 
extraordinary refractory as quartz ! 

The tubes, as I have already remarked, enter the sand 
nearly in a vertical direction. One, however, which was 
less regular than the others, deviated from a right line, 
at the most considerable bend, to the amount of thirty-three 
degrees. Fromlthis 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-nillocks, 
and at the distance of about half a mile from a chain 
of hills four or five hundred feet in height. The most 
remarkable circumstance, as it appears to me, in this 
case as well as in that of Drigg, and in one described 
by M. Ribbentrop in Germany, is the number of tubes 
found within such limited spaces. At Drigg, within an 
area of fifteen yards, three were observed, and the same 
number occurred in Germany. In the case which I 
have described, certainly more than four existed within 
the space of the sixty by twenty yards. As it does not 
appear probable that the tubes are produced by successive 
distinct shocks, we must believe that the lightning, 

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

»AP. -^M 


shortly before entering the ground, divides itself into 
separate branches. 

The neighbourhood of the Rio Plata seems peculiarly 
subject to electric phenomena. In the year 1793,* one of 
the most destructive thunderstorms perhaps on record 
happened at Buenos Ayres : thirty-seven places within the 
city were struck by lightning, and nineteen people killed. 
From facts stated in several books of travels, I am inclined 
to suspect 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 of minute holes. A part of 
the wall was shattered as if by gunpowder, and the frag- 
ments 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 volatilised, for a smelling-bottle, which stood on the 
chimney-piece, was coated with bright metallic particles, 
which adhered as firmly as if they had been enamelled. 

* Azara's " Voyage," vol. L, p. 36. 

1833.] 73 



Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by the Indians — Salt Lakes — 
Flamingoes — 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 — Zorillo. 

July 2^th, 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 civilised man. 

The country near the mouth of the river is wretched In 
the extreme ; on the south side a long line of perpendicular 
cliffs commences, which exposes a section of the geological 
nature of the country. The strata are of sandstone, and 
one layer was remarkable from being composed of a firmly- 
cemented conglomerate of pumice pebbles, which must have 
travelled more than four hundred miles from the Andes. 
The surface is 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 in- 
variably brackish. The vegetation is scanty ; and although 
there are bushes of many kinds, all are armed with formid- 
able 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 

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


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 dis- 
ciplined. They first appeared in two bodies on a neighbour- 
ing 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 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 

1833.] SALT LAKES. 75 

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 im- 
morality. 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 

One day I rode to a large salt lake, or Salina, which is 
distant fifteen miles from the town. During the winter it 
consists of a shallow lake of brine, which in summer is 
converted into a field of snow-white salt. The layer near 
the margin is from four to five inches thick, but towards the 
centre its thickness increases. This lake was two and a 
half miles long, and one broad. Others occur in the 
neighbourhood many times larger, and 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 ot" 
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 sail 
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 considered it as fifty per cent, less 
valuable. Hence the Cape de Verd salt is constantly im- 
ported, and is mixed with that from these salinas. The 
* The bovelt of the Indians are thus called. 

76 BORDERS OF SALINAS. [chap. iv. 

purity of the Patagonian salt, or absence from it of those 
other saline bodies found in all sea-water, is the only assign- 
able cause for this inferiority ; a conclusion which no one, 
I think, would have suspected, but which is supported by 
the fact lately ascertained,* that those salts answer best for 
preserving cheese which contain most of the deliquescent 

The border of the lake is formed of mud ; and in this 
numerous large crystals of gypsum, some of which are 
three inches long, lie embedded ; whilst on the surface 
others of sulphate of soda He 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 confervae : I attempted to carry 
home some of this green matter, but from an accident 
failed. Parts of the lake seen from a short distance 
appeared of a reddish colour, and this perhaps was owing 
to some infusorial animalcula. The mud in many places 
was thrown up by numbers of some kind of worm, or 
annelidous animal. How surprising it is that any creatures 
should be able to exist in brine, and that they should be 
crawling among crystals of sulphate of soda and lime ! 
And what becomes of these worms when, during the long 
summer, the surface is hardened into a solid layer of salt ? 
Flamingoes in considerable numbers inhabit this lake, and 
breed here ; throughout Patagonia, in Northern Chile, and 
at the Galapagos Islands, I met with these birds wherever 
there were lakes of brine. I saw them here wading about 
in search of food — probably for the worms which burrow 
in the mud ; 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 cnis- 
taceous animal {Cancer salinus) is saidt to live in countless 

* Report of the Agricult. Chem. Assoc, in the " Agricult. Gazette," 1845, p. 93. 

t "Linnean Trans.," vol. xi., p. 205. It is remarkable how all the circum- 
stances connected with tlie salt-lakes in Siberia and Patag:oma 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 8!h<»r''(jn salt-lakes are inhabited by small crustaceous animalii ; and 


numbers in the brine-pans at Lymington ; but only in those 
in which the fluid has attained, from evaporation, consider- 
able 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 snow — all support organic beings. 

To the northward of the Rio Negro, between it and the 
inhabited country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have 
only one small settlement, recently established at Bahia 
Blanca. The distance in a straight line to Buenos Ayres 
is very nearly five hundred British miles. The wandering 
tribes of horse Indians, which have always occupied the 
greater part of this country, having of late much harassed 
the outlying estancias, the government at Buenos Ayres 
equipped some time since an army under the command of 
General Rosas for the purpose of exterminating them. 
The troops were now encamped on the banks of the 
Colorado ; a river lying about eighty miles 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 postd)^ 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 proceed- 
ing 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 

flamingoes (" Edin. New Philos. Jour.," Jan. 1830) likewise trcquent them. Aa 
these circumstances, apparently so trifling:, occur in two distant continents 
we may feci sure that they arc the necessary results of common causes.— Sco 
Pallas  "Travels," 1793 to 1794, pp. 129-134. 

78 THE ALTAR OF WALLEECHU. [chap. iv. 

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. 

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight 
of a famous tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar 
ofWalleechu. 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 ; after- 
wards we met with a few others of the same kind, but 
they were far from common. Being winter the tree had 
no leaves, but in their place numberless threads by which 
the various offerings, such as cigars, bread, meat, pieces 
of cloth, etc., had been suspended. Poor Indians, not 
having anything better, only pull a thread out of their 
ponchos, and fasten it to the tree. Richer Indians are 
accustomed to pour spirits and mat^ into a certain hole, 
and likewise to smoke upwards, thinking thus to afford 
all possible gratification to Walleechu. To complete the 
scene, the tree was surrounded by the bleached bones of 
horses which had been slaughtered as sacrifices. All 
Indians of every age and sex make their offerings ; they 
then think that their horses will not tire, and that they 
themselves shall be prosperous. The Gaucho who told 
me this, said that in the time of peace he had witnessed 
this scene, and that he and others used to wait till the 
Indians had passed by, for the sake of stealing from 
Walleechu the 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 landmark in a dangerous 
passage. The Sierra de la Ventana is visible at an immense 
distance ; and a Gaucho told me that he was once riding 
with an Indian a few miles to the north of the Rio Colorado, 

1833.] THE AGOUTI. 79 

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 
tlie night ; at this instant an unfortunate cow was espied 
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 forgotten. 

The next day the country continued similar to that above 
described. It is inhabited by few birds or animals of any 
kind. Occasionally a deer, or a Guanaco (wild Llama) may 
be seen ; but the Agouti {Cavia Patagonicai) 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 forme 
than at present. Where the Bizcacha lives and makes its 
burrows, the Agouti uses them ; but where, as at Bahia 
Blanca, the Bizcacha is not found, the Agouti burrows 
for itself. The same thing occurs with the little owl 
of the Pampas {Athene cunicularia), which has so often 
been described as standing like a sentinel at the mouth 
of the burrows ; for in Banda Oriental, owing to the 
absence of the Bizcacha, it is obliged to hollow out its 
own habitation. 

The next morning, as we approached the Rio Colorado, 
the appearance of the country changed ; we soon came on a 
plain covered with turf, which, from its flowers, tall clover, 
and little owls, resembled the Pampas. We passed also a 
muddy swamp of considerable extent, which in summer 
dries, and becomes incrusted with various salts ; and hence 
is called a salitral. It was covered by low succulent plants 
of the same kind with those growing on the sea-shore. The 
Colorado, at the pass where we crossed it, is only about 
sixty yards wide ; generally it must be nearly double that 
width. Its course is very tortuous, being marked by 
willow-trees and beds of reeds : in a direct line the distance 
to the mouth of the river is said to be nine leagues, but by 
water twenty-five. We were delayed crossing in the canoe 
by some immense troops of mares, which were swimming 
the river in order to follow a division of troops into the 
interior. A more ludicrous spectacle I never beheld than 
the hundreds and hundreds of heads, all directed one way, 
with pointed ears and distended, snorting nostrils, appearing 
just above the water like a great shoal of some amphibious 
animal. Mare's flesh is the only food which the soldiers 
have when on an expedition. This gives them a great 
facility of movement ; for the distance to which horses can 
be driven over these plains is quite surprising ; I have been 
assured that an unloaded horse can travel a hundred miles 
a day for many days successively. 

The encampment of General Rosas was close to the 
river. It consisted of a square formed by waggons, artillery, 
straw huts, etc. The soldiers w6re nearly all cavalry ; and 
I should think such a villainous, banditti-like army "W^as 
never before collected together. The greater number of 
men were of a mixed breed, between Negro, Indian, and 
Spaniard. I know not the reason, but men of such origin 
seldom have a good expression of countenance. I called on 


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

We stayed two days at the Colorado ; I had little to do, 
for the surrounding country was a swamp, which in summer 
(December), when the snow melts on the Cordillera, is over- 
flowed by the river. My chief amusement was watching 
the Indian families as they came to buy little articles at the 
rancho where we stayed. It was supposed that General 
Rosas had about six hundred Indian allies. The men were 
a tall, fine race ; yet it was afterwards easy to see in the 
Fuegian savage the same countenance rendered hideous by 
cold, want of food, and less civilization. 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, 

* I am bound to express, in the strongest terms, my obligation to the 
Government of Buenos Ayres for the obligingf manner m which passports 
to aJl parts of the country wer« ipivcn me, as oaturallat of the BtagU. 


which roams free over the plain. In fighting, his fii 
attempt is to throw down the horse of his adversary with 
the bolas, and when entangled by the fall to kill him with 
the chuzo. If the balls only catch the neck or body of an 
animal, they are often carried away and lost. As the 
making the stones round is the labour of two days, the 
manufacture of the balls is a very common employment. 
Several of the men and women had their faces painted red, 
but I never saw the horizontal bands which are so common 
among the Fuegians. Their chief pride consists in having 
everything made of silver ; I have seen a cacique with his 
spurs, stirrups, handle of his knife, and bridle made of this 
metal ; the head-stall and reins being of wire, were not 
thicker than whipcord ; and to see a fiery steed wheeling 
about under the command of so light a chain, gave to the 
horsemanship a remarkable character of 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 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 

* This prophecy has turned out entirely and miserably wrongr. 1845. 

i833.] GENERAL ROSAS. 83 

turned to the steward and said, ''You now have broken 
the laws, so you must take my place in the stocks." Such 
actions as these delighted the Gauchos, who all possess 
high notions of their own equality and dignity. 

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

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

In conversation he is enthusiastic, sensible, and very 
grave. His gravity is carried to a high pitch : I heard one 
of his mad buffoons (for he keeps two, like the barons of 
old) relate the following anecdote : " I wanted very much to 
hear a certain piece of music, so I went to the general two 
or three times to ask him ; he said to me, 'Go about your 
business for I am engaged.' I went a second time; he 
said : ' If you come again I will punish you.' A third time 
I asked, and he laughed. I rushed out of the tent, but 
it was too late ; he ordered two soldiers to catch and stake 
me. I begged by all the saints in heaven he would let me 
off ; but it would not do ; — when the general laughs he 
spares neither mad man nor sound." The poor flighty 
gentleman looked quite dolorous at the very recollection of 
the staking. This is a very severe punishment ; four posts 
'ire driven into the ground, and the man is extended by hi'? 

ins and legs horizontally, and there left to stretch foi 

e usual 


several hours. The idea is evidently taken from the 
method of drying hides. My interview passed away without 
a smile, and I obtained a passport and order for the govern- 
ment post-horses, and this he gave me in the most obliging 
and ready manner. 

In the morning we started for Bahia Blanca, which we 
reached in two days. Leaving the regular encampment, we 
passed by the toldos of the Indians. These are round like 
ovens, and covered with hides ; by the mouth of each, a 
tapering chuzo was stuck in the ground. The toldos were 
divided into separate groups, which belonged to the different 
caciques' tribes, and the groups were again divided into 
smaller ones, according to the relationship of the owners. 
For several miles we travelled along the valley of the 
Colorado. The alluvial plains on the side appeared fertile, 
and it is supposed that they are well adapted to the growth 
of corn. Turning northward from the river, we soon 
entered on a country differing from the plains south of the 
river. The land still continued dry and sterile ; but it 
supported many different kinds of plants, and the grass, 
though brown and withered, was more abundant, as the 
thorny bushes were less so. These latter in a short space 
entirely disappeared, and the plains were left without a 
thicket to cover their nakedness. This change in the 
vegetation marks the commencement 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 depres- 
sions and elevations of the soil is not often brought home 
to the mind. The two miserable springs in the long passage 
between the Rio Negro and Colorado were caused, by 
trifling inequalities in the plain ; without them not a drop 


of water would have been found. The belt of sand-dunes is 
about eight miles wide ; at some former period, it probably 
formed the margin of a grand ©ctuary, where the Colorado 
now flows. In this district, where absolute proofs of the 
recent elevation of the land occur, such speculations can 
hardly be neglected by any one, although merely considering 
the physical geography of the country. Having crossed the 
sandy tract, we arrived in the evening at one of the post- 
houses ; and, as the fresh horses were grazing at a distance, 
we determined to pass the night there. 

The house was situated at the base of a ridge, between 
one and two hundred feet high — a most remarkable feature 
in this country. This posta was commanded by a negro 
lieutenant, born in Africa ; to his credit be it said, there was 
not a rancho between the Colorado and Buenos Ayres in 
nearly such neat order as his. He had a little room for 
strangers, and a small corraL for the horses, all made of 
sticks and reeds ; he had also dug a ditch round his house, 
as a defence in case of being attacked. This would, how- 
ever, 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 
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 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 

The part ol 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 armadilloes, were 
abundant. My guide told me, that two months before he 
had a most narrow escape of his life : he was out hunting 
with two other men, at no great distance from this part 
of the country, when they were suddenly met by a party 
of Indians, who, giving chase, soon overtook and killed 
his two friends. His own horse's legs were also caught 
by the bolas ; but he jumped off, and with his knife cut 
them free ; while doing this he was obliged to dodge round 
his horse, and received two severe wounds from their chuzos. 
Springing on the saddle, he managed, hy 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 

1833.] SALT LANDS. 87 

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 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 intoler- 
ably thirsty. This was the more distressing as the road, 
from some recent rain, was full of little puddles of clear 
water, yet not a drop was drinkable. I had scarcely been 
twenty hours without water, and only part of the time 
under a hot sun, yet the thirst rendered me very weak. 
How people survive two or three days under such circum- 
stances, I cannot imagine : at the same time, I must 
confess that my guide did not suffer at all, and was 
astonished that one day's deprivation should be so trouble- 
some to me. 

I have several times alluded to the surface of the ground 
being incrusted with salt. This phenomenon is quite 
different from that of the salinas, and more extraordinary. 
In many parts of South America, wherever the climate is 
moderately dry, these incrustations occur ; but I have no- 
where 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 above the 
level of the sea, or on alluvial land bordering rivers. 

ftp. \H 


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 circum- 
stance would tempt one to believe that the sulphate of soda 
is generated in the soil, from the muriate, left on the surface 
during the slow and recent elevation of this dry country. 
The whole phenomenon Is well worthy the attention of 
naturalists. Have the succulent, salt-loving plants, which 
are well known to contain much soda, the power of decom- 
posing 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?) ** 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, 

* Voyage dans rAmerique Mend., par M. A. d'Orbigny. Part. Hist., 
tom. i., p. 66< 

1833.] THE SKUNK. 89 

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

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

We passed the night in Punta Alta, and I employed 
myself in searching for fossil bones ; this point being a 
perfect catacomb for monsters of extinct races. The 
evening was perfectly calm and clear ; the extreme 
monotony of the view gave it an interest even in the midsl 
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 
do^ nor man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its courage 
is mstantly checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, which 
brings on violent sickness and running at the nose. What- 
ever is once polluted by it, is for ever useless. Azara say^ 

90 GEOLOGY. [chap. v. 

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 Quadru- 
peds — Recent Extinction — Longevity of Species — Large 
Animals do not require a Luxuriant Vegetation — Southern 
Africa — Siberian Fossils — Two Species of Ostrich — Habits 
of Oven-bird — Armadilloes — Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard 
— Hybernation of Animals — Habits of Sea-pen — Indians' 
Wars and Massacres — Arrow-head, Antiquarian Relic. 

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

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

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 bther respects it approaches to the 
armadilloes. Fourthly, the Mylodon Darwinii^ a closely 
related genus of little inferior size. Fifthly, another gigantic 
edental quadruped. Sixthly, a large animal, with an 
osseous coat in compartments, very like that of an armadillo. 
Seventhly, an extinct kind of horse, to which I shall have 
again to refer. Eighthly, a tooth of a Pachydermatous 
animal, probably the same with the 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 Pachydennata : judging from the position of its eyes, 
ears, and nostrils, it was probably aquatic, like the Dugong 
a,nd Manatee, to which it is also allied. How wonderfully 
are the different Orders, at the present time so well 
separated, blended together in different points of the 
structure of the Toxodon ! 

The remains of these nine great quadrupeds, and many 
detached bones were found embedded on the beach, within 
the space of about 200 yards square. It is a remarkable 
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 thi 
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 strati fiedL 

92 EXTINCT ANIMALS. [chap. v. 

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 proportional numbers with those now 
living in the bay, I think there can be little doubt, that this 
accumulation belongs to a very late tertiary period. From 
the bones of the Scelidotherium, including even the knee- 
cap, being entombed 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 ot 
Its legs, we may feel assured that these remains were fresh 
and united by tneir 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 Owen t 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 

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

t This theory was first developed in the " Zoology of the Voyage of the 
BeaglCf" and subsequently in Professor Owen's " Memoir on Mylodon robustus." 


the branches down to them, and tore up the smaller ones 
by the roots, and so fed on the leaves. The colossal breadth 
and weight of their hinder quarters, which can hardly be 
imagined without having been seen, become, on this view, 
of obvious service, instead of being an encumbrance ; their 
apparent clumsiness disappears. With their great tails and 
their huge heels firmly fixed like a tripod on the ground, 
they could freely exert the full force of their most powerful 
arms and great claws. Strongly rooted, indeed, must that 
tree have been, which could have resisted such force ! The 
Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a long extensile 
tongue like that of the giraffe, which, by one of those 
beautiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of 
its long neck its leafy food. I may remark, that in Abyssinia 
the elephant, according to Bruce, when it cannot reach with 
its proboscis the branches, deeply scores with its tusks the 
trunk of the tree, up and down and all round, till it is 
sufficiently weakened to be broken down. 

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only 
from fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high-water ; 
and hence 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 vegeta- 
tion was probably similar to the existing one ; but this 
would have been an erroneous inference, for some of these 
same shells live on the luxuriant coast of Brazil ; and 
generally, the character of the inhabitants of the sea is 
useless as a guide to judge of those on the land. Never- 
theless, from the following considerations, I do not believe 
that the simple fact of many gigantic quadrupeds having 
lived on the plains round Bahia Blanca, is any sure guide 
that they formerly were clothed with a luxuriant vegetation : 
I have no doubt that the sterile country a little southward, 
near the Rio Negro, with its scattered thorny trees, would 
support many and large quadrupeds. 

That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has 


been a general assumption which has passed from one 
work to another ; but I do not hesitate to say that it is 
completely false, and that it has vitiated the reasoning of 
geologists on some points of great interest in the ancient 
history of the world. The prejudice has probably been 
derived from India and the Indian islands, where troops of 
elephants, noble forests, and 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 Capri- 
corn, 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 com- 
parative fertility ; but it may be safely said that the amount 
of vegetation supported at any one time * by Great Britain, 
exceeds, perhaps even tenfold, the quantity on an equal 
area, in the interior parts of Southern Africa. The fact 
that bullock-waggons can travel in any direction, except- 
ing 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 inhabiting these wide 
plains, we shall find their numbers extraordinarily great, 
and their bulk immense. We must enumerate the elephant, 
three species of rhinoceros, and probably, according to Dr. 
Smith, two others, the hippopotamus, the giraffe, the 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. 

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


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 wander- 
ing to any great distance on either side, between one 
hundred and one hundred and fifty rhinoceroses, which 
belonged to three species ; the same day he saw several 
herds of giraffes, amounting together to nearly a hundred ; 
and that, although no elephant was observed, yet they are 
found in this district. At the distance of a little more 
than one hour's march from their place of encampment 
on the previous night, his party ' actually killed at one 
spot eight hippopotamuses, and saw many more. In 
this same river there were likewise crocodiles. Of 
course it was a case quite extraordinary, to see so 
many great animals crowded together, but it evidently 
proves that they must exist in great numbers. Dr. 
Smith describes the country passed through that day, 
as "being thinly covered with grass, and bushes about 
four feet high, and still more thinly with mimosa-trees." 
The waggons were not prevented travelling in a nearly 
straight line. 

Besides these large animals,^ every one the least acquainted 
with the natural history of the Cape, has read of the herds 
of antelopes, which can be compared only with the flocks 
of migratory birds. The numbers indeed of the lion, 
panther, and. hyaena, and the multitude of birds of prey, 
plainly speak of the abundance of the smaller quadrupeds : 
one evening seven lions were counted at the same time 
prowling round Dr. Smith's encampment. As this able 
naturalist remarked to me, the carnage each day in 
Southern Africa must indeed be terrific ! I confess it is 
truly surprising how such a number of animals can find 
support in a country producing so little food. The larger 
quadrupeds no doubt roam over wild tracts in search o! 
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 i- 
supplied by a fresh stock. There can be no doubt, ho\\ 
ever, that our ideas respecting the apparent amount ot 
food necessary for the support of large quadrupeds arc 
nuich exaggerated; it should have been remembered that 


the camel, an animal of no mean bulk, has always been 
considered as the emblem of the desert. 

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the vegeta- 
tion must necessarily be luxuriant, is the more remark- 
able, because the converse is far from true. Mr. Burchell 
observed to me that when entering Brazil, nothing struck 
him more forcibly than the splendour of the South American 
vegetation contrasted with that of South Africa, together 
with the absence of all large quadrupeds. In his Travels,* 
he has suggested that the comparison of the respective 
weights (if there were sufficient data) of an equal number 
of the largest herbivorous quadrupeds of each country 
would be extremely curious. If we take on the one side, 
the elephant, t hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan, 
certainly three, and probably five species of rhinoceros ; 
and on the American side, two tapirs, the guanaco, three 
deer, the vicupa, 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, I that among the mammalia there exists 
no close relation between the hulk of the species, and the 
quantity of the vegetation, in the countries which they 

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 

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

t The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change was estimated (being 
partly weighed) at five tons and a half. The elephant actress, as 1 was in- 
formed, weighed one ton less ; so that we may take five as the average of a 
full-grown elephant. I was told at the Surrey Gardens, that a hippopotamus 
which was sent to England cut up into pieces was estimated at three tons 
and a half; we will call it three. From these premises we may give three 
tons and a half to each of the five rhinoceroses ; perhaps a ton to the 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. 

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


statements which have been given, the extremely desert 
character of that region will not be disputed. In the 
European division of the world, we must look back to 
the tertiary epochs, to find a condition of things among 
the mammalia, resembling that now existing at the Cape 
of Good Hope. Those tertiary epochs, which we are apt 
to consider as abounding to an astonishing degree with 
large animals, because we find the remains of many ages 
accumulated 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 preserved. With 
these facts we must grant, as far as quantity alone of 
' vegetation is concerned, that the great quadrupeds of 
the later tertiary epochs might, in most parts of >forthern 
Europe and Asia, have lived on the spots where their 
remams are now found. I do not here speak of the hind 
of vegetation necessary for their support ; because, las 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 

* 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 tha 
coast. ' 

t See Humboldt, " Fragmens Asiatjques," p. 386; Barton's "Geography of 
Plants"; and Malte Brun. In the latter work it is said that the limit oC 
15 the growth of trees in Siberia may be drawn under the parallel of 70*. 


animals, and the impossibility of reconciling this with the 
proximity of perpetual congelation, was one chief cause 
of the several theories of sudden revolutions of climate, 
and of overwhelming catastrophes, which were invented 
to account for their entombment. I am far from supposing 
that the climate has not changed since the period when 
those animals lived, which now lie buried in the ice. At 
present I only wish to show, that as far as quantity of 
food alone is concerned, the ancient rhinoceroses might have 
roamed over the steppes of central Siberia (the northern 
parts probably being under water) even in their present 
condition, as well as the living rhinoceroses and elephants 
over the Karros of Southern Africa. 

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the 
more interesting birds which are common on the wild plains 
of Northern Patagonia ; and first for the largest, or South 
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 appears 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 countr)^ 
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 contained twenty-two eggs each, and the fourth 
twenty-seven. In one day's hunting on horseback sixty- 
four eggs were found ; forty-four of these were in two 
nests, and the remaining twenty, scattered huachos. 
The Gauchos unanimously affirm, and there is no 
reason to doubt their statement, that the male bird 
alone hatches the eggs, and for some time afterwards 
accompanies the young. The cock when on the nest lies 
very close ; I have myself almost ridden over one. It 
is asserted that at such times they are occasionally fierce, 
and even dangerous, and that they have been known to 
attack a man on horseback, trying to kick and leap on 
him. My informer pointed out to me an old man, whom 
he had seen much terrified by one chasing him. I observe 
in Burchell's "Travels in South Africa" that he re- 
marks, "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. 1 may add, also, that 
It is believed in Africa, that two or more females lay in on<.' 

* Sturt'* " Travel*," vol. ii., p. 74. 

t A Gaucho aaiiured me that he had once keen a aaoW'Wbitc or albino variety 
tad that it waa a most beautiful bird. 

loo OSTRICH HABITS. [chap. v. 

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 extra- 
ordinarily great in proportion to the parent birds, and like- 
wise 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 t 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 could not sit, from not having finished laying. | I 
have before mentioned the great numbers of huachos, or 
deserted eggs ; so that in one day's hunting twenty were 
found in this state. It appears odd that so many should be 
wasted. Does it not arise from the difficulty of several 
females associating together, and finding a male ready to 
undertake the office of incubation ? It is evident that there 
must at first be some degree of association between at least 
two females ; otherwise the eggs would remain scattered 
over the wide plains, at distances far too great to allow of 
the male collecting them into one nest : some authors have 
believed that the scattered eggs were deposited for the 
young birds to feed on. This can hardly be the case in 
America, because the huachos, although often found addled 
and putrid, are generally whole. 

When at the Rio Negro in Northern Patagonia, I 

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

t Azara, vol. iv., p. 173. 
_ { Lichtenstein, however, asserts ("Travels," vol. ii., p. 25) that the hens begrin 
sitting: when they have laid ten or twelve egrgs ; 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 

t833.] the AVESTRUZ PETISE. ioi 

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 
chese 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 

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 de- 

Eosited them. At Santa Cruz we saw several of these 
irds. 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 

102 THE TINOCHORUS. [chap. v. 

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 exertions to procure this bird, but never had the good 
fortune to succeed. Dobrizhoffer t long ago was aware of 
there being two kinds of ostriches ; he says, * * You must 
know, moreover, that emus differ in size and habits in 
different tracts of land ; for those that inhabit the plains of 
Buenos Ayres and Tucuman are larger, and have black, 
white, and gray feathers ; those near to the Strait of 
Magellan are smaller and more beautiful, for their white 
feathers are tipped with black at the extremity, and their 
black ones in like manner terminate in white. 

A very singular little bird, Tinochorus rumicivorus, is here 
common : in its habits and general appearance, it nearly 
equally partakes of the characters, different as they are, of 
the quail and snipe. The tinochorus is found in the whole 
of southern South America wherever there are sterile plains, 
or open dry pasture land. It frequents in pairs or small 
flocks the most desolate places, where scarcely another 
living creature can exist. Upon being approached they 
squat close, and then are very difficult to be distinguished 
from the ground. When feeding they walk rather slowly, 
with their legs wide apart. They dust themselves in roads 
and sandy places, and frequent particular spots, where they 
may be found day after day : like partridges, they take wing- 
in a flock. In all these respects, in the muscular gizzard 
adapted for vegetable food, in the arched beak and fleshy 
nostrils, short legs and form of foot, the tinochorus has a 
close affinity with quails. But as soon as the bird is seen 
flying, its whole appearance changes ; the long pointed 
wings, so different from those in the gallinaceous order, the 
irregular manner of flight, and plaintive cry uttered at the 
moment of rising, recall the idea of a snipe. The sportsmen 
of the Beagle unanimously called it the short-billed snipe. 

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

t " Account of the Abipones," a.d. 1749, vol. i. (English translation), p. 314. 

1833.] OVEN BIRDS. 103 

To this genus, or rather to the family of the Waders, its 
skeleton sKows that it is really related. 

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 snovi^-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 relations to other 
families, although at present offering only difficulties to the 
systematic naturalist, ultimately may assist in revealing 
the grand scheme, common to the present and past ages, 
on which organized beings have been created. 

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

Another and smaller species of Fumaritcs {F. cuntcularius), 
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 
iK^st 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 

iicceeded m getting to the end of the passage. The bird 

iiooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by the side of a 

104 ARMADILLOS. [chap. v. 

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 armadillos three species 
occur, namely, the Dasyptis tninuttis or pichy^ the D. villosvs 
or peludOf and the apar. The first extends ten degrees 
further south than any other kind : a fourth species, the 
Mulita^ does not come as far south as Bahia Blanca. 
The four species have nearly similar habits ; the peludOy 
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 off"ers 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, are its favourite 
resort : it often tries to escape notice by squatting close to 
the ground. In the course of a day's ride near Bahia 
Blanca, several were generally met with. The instant one 
was perceived, it was necessary, in order to catch it, 
almost to tumble off one's horse ; for in soft soil the animal 
burrowed so quickly, that its hinder quarters would almost 
disappear before one could alight. It seems almost a pity 
to kill such nice little animals, for, as a Gaucho said, while 
sharpening his knife on the back of one, "Son tan mansos" 
(they are so quiet). 

Of reptiles there are many kinds : one snake (a TrigonO" 

1833.] A HIDEOUS SNAKE. 105 

cephaltis, or Cophtas), 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 struc- 
ture 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 termin- 
ated in a triangular projection. I do not think I ever saw 
anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, some of the 
vampire bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect originates 
from the features being placed in positions, with respect to 
each other, somewhat proportional to those of the human 
face ; and thus we obtam 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 vermiHon, 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 
Diaholicus, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear of Eve. 
Instead of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads are, 
and living in damp obscure recesses, it crawls during the 
heat of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains, 
where not a single drop of water can be found. It must 
necessarily depend on the dew for its moisture ; and this 
probably is absorbed by the skin, for it is known that these 


reptiles possess great powers of cutaneous absorption. At 
Maldonado, 1 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 

Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one {Procto- 
tretus multimaculatus) remarkable from its habits. It lives 
on the bare sand near the sea coast, and from its mottled 
colour, the brownish scales being speclded 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 hibernation of 
animals in this part of South America. When we first 
arrived at Bahia Blanca, September 7th, 1832, we thought 
nature had granted scarcely a living creature to this sandy 
and dry country. By digging, however, in the ground, 
several insects, large spiders, and lizards were found in a 
half torpid state. On the 15th, a few animals began to 
appear, and by the i8th (three days from the equinox), every- 
thing announced the commencement of spring. The plains 
were ornamented by the flowers of a pink wood-sorrel, wild 
peas, Oenotheras, 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 observa- 
tions made every two hours on board the Beagle ^ was 51° ; 
and in the middle of the day the thermometer seldom 
ranged above 55°. On the eleven succeeding days, in 
which all living things became so animated, the mean was 
58°, and the range in the middle of the day between sixty 
and seventy. Here then an increase of seven degrees in 
mean temperature, but a greater one of extreme heat, was 
sufficient to awake the functions of life. At Monte Video, 
from which we had just before sailed, in the twenty-three 
days included between the 26th of July and the 19th of 
August, the mean temperature from 276 observations was 


58.4° ; the mean hottest day being 65.5°, and the coldest 46°. 
The lowest point to which the thermometer fell was 41.5°, 
and occasionally in the middle of the day it rose to 69° or 70°. 
Yet with this high temperature, almost every beetle, several 
genera of spiders, snails, and land-shells, toads and lizards 
were all lying torpid beneath stones. But we have seen 
that at Bahia Blanca, which is four degrees southward, 
and therefore with a climate only a very little colder, this 
same temperature with a rather less extreme heat, was 
sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings. This 
shows how nicely the stimulus required to arouse hibernat- 
ing 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 hibernation, or more properly sestivation, 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 
have been lying dormant. Humboldt has related the strange 
accident of a hovel having been erected over a spot where a 
young crocodile lay buried in the hardened mud. He adds, 
"The Indians often find enormous boas, which they call 
uji, or water-serpents, in the same lethargic state. To 
reanimate them they must be irritated or wetted with 
water. " 

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I 
believe Virgularia Patagonica\ a kind of sea-pen. It 
consists of a thin, straight, fleshy stem, with alternate rows 
of polypi on each side, and surrounding an elastic stony 
axis, varying in length from eight inches to two feet. The 
stem at one 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, 
liie 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 zoopliyte is enabled to rise 
again through the mud. Each polypus, though closely 

io8 AN OLD TALE EXPLAINED. [chap. v. 

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 move- 
ment ; 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 discover the foundation of the strange tales 
of the old voyagers ; and I have no doubt but that the habits 
of this Virgularia explain one such case. Captain Lancaster, 
in his voyage 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 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 transfonhed 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 

* 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, irreg^ular grains, aggregated together into par- 
ticles 01 various sizes. All such particles, and the separate grains, possessed 
the power of rapid movement ; generally revolving around different axes, 
but sometimes pro^rressive. The movement was visible with a very weak 
power, but even with the highest its cause could not be perceived. It was 
very different from the circulation of the fluid in the elastic bag, containing 
the thin extremity of the axis. On other occasions, when dissecting small 
marine animals beneath the microscope, I have seen particles of pulpy matter, 
some of lar^e size, as soon as they were disengaged, commence revolving. 
I have imagined, I know not with now 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. 

t Kerr's "Collection of Voyages," vol. viii., p. 119. 

1833.-] INDIAN STORIES. 109 

of Commandant Miranda. A large portion of these men 
were Indians {mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of 
the Cacique Bernantio. They passed the night here ; and 
it was impossible to conceive 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, vinopue sepultus 
Cervicem inflexam posuit, jacuitque per antrum 
Immensus, saniem eructans, ac f»-usta cruenta 
Per somnum commixta mero. 

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, 
v/ith orders to follow the "rastro," or track, even if it 
led them to Chile. We subsequently heard that the wild 
Indians had escaped into the great Pampas, and from some 
cause the track had been missed. One glance at the rastro 
tells these people a whole history. Supposing they examine 
the track of a thousand horses, they will soon guess the 
number of mounted ones by seeing how many have 
cantered ; by the depth of the other impressions, whether 
any horses were loaded with cargoes ; by the irregularity 
of the footsteps, how far tired ; by the manner in which the 
food has been cooked, whether the pursued travelled in 
haste ; by the general appearance, how long it has been 
since they passed. They consider a rastro of ten days or a 
fortnight quite recent enough to be hunted out. We also 
heard that Miranda struck from the west end of the Sierra 
Ventana, in a direct line to the island of Cholechel, situated 
seventy leagues up the Rio Negro. This is a distance of 
between two and three hundred miles, through a country 
completely unknown. What other troops in the world are 
so independent? With the sun for their guide, mares' 
flesh for food, their saddle-cloths for beds, as long as there 
is a little water, these men would penetrate to the end of 
the 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 informa- 
tion of a tribe living north of the Colorado. Two hundred 
soldiers were sent ; and they first discovered the Indians by 
a cloud of dust from their horses' feet, as they chanced to be 
travelling. The country was mountainous and wild, and it 
must have been far in the interior, for the Cordillera were 
in sight. The Indians, men, women, and children, were 
about one hundred and ten in number, and they were nearly 
all taken or killed, for the soldiers sabre every man. The 
Indians are now so terrified that they offer no resistance in 
a body, but each flies, neglecting even his wife and children ; 
but when overtaken, like wild animals, they fight against 
any number to the last moment. One dying Indian seized 
with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, and allowed his 
own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish his hold. 
Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping a knife 
ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer said, 
when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out for 
mercy, at the same time that he was covertly loosing the 
bolas from his waist, meaning to whirl it round his head 
and so strike his pursuer. " I however struck him with 
my sabre to the ground, and then got off" my horse, and cut 
his throat with my knife. " This is a dark picture ; but how 
much more shocking is the unquestionable fact, that all the 
women who appear above twenty years old are massacred 
in cold blood ! When I exclaimed that this appeared rather 
inhuman, he answered, "Why, what can be done? They 
breed so ! " 

Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just 
war, because it is against barbarians. Who would believe 
in this age that such atrocities could be committed in a 
Christian 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 informa- 
tion ; and to extort this they were placed in a line. The 
two first being questioned, answered, "No s6 " (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 ! 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, between the Indians, extends 
from the Cordillera to the coast of the Atlantic. 

General Rosas's plah 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 
re fighting with Rosas. The general, however, like Lord 

hesterfield, 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 
( ompletely 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 

112 AN INDIAN MAZEPPA. [chaK v. 

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 in- 
habitants. Even in Falconer's time (1750) the Indians 
made inroads as far as Luxan, Areco, and Arrecife, but 
now they are driven beyond the Salado. Not only have 
whole tribes been exterminated, but the remaining Indians 
have become more barbarous : instead of living in large 
villages, and being employed in the arts of fishing, as 
well as of the chase, they now wander about the open 
plains, without home or fixed occupation. 

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

* Purchas's "Collection of Voyages." I beUeve the date was really tS37' 


I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of 
flint, which I immediately recognised as having been a 
part of the head of an arrow. He told me it was found 
near the island of Cholechel, and that they are frequently 
picked up there. It was between two and three inches , 
long, and therefore twice as large as those now used in 
Tierra del Fuego : it was made of 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 Enclosures in the Sierra Tapalguen — 
Flesh of Puma— Meat Diet— Guardia del Monte— Effects of 
Cattle on the Vegetation — Cardoon — Buenos Ayres — Corral 
where Cattle are slaughtered. 

September Sth. — I hired a Gaucho to accompany me on 
my ride to Buenos Ayres, though with some difficulty, as 
the father of one man was afraid to let him go, and another, 
who seemed willing, was described to me as so fearful, 
that I was afraid to take him, for I was told that even if 
he saw an ostrich at a distance, he would mistake it for 
an Indian, and would fly like the wind away. • The distance 
to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred miles, and nearly 
the whole way through an uninhabited country. We started 
early in the morning ; ascending a few hundred feet from 
the basin of green turf on which Bahia Blanca stands, we 
entered on a wide desolate plain. It consists of a crumbling 
argillaceo-calcareous rock, which, from the dry nature of 
the climate, supports only scattered tufts of withered grass, 

* Azara has even duubted whether the Pampas Indiant ever uatd bow*. 


114 THE RIO SAUCE. [chap, 

without a single bush or tree to break the monotono" 
uniformity. The weather was fine, but the atmosphere 
remarkably hazy ; I thought the appearance foreboded a 
gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at 
some great distance in the interior, being on fire. After 
a long gallop, having changed horses twice, we reached 
the Rio Sauce : it is a deep, rapid, little stream, not above 
twenty-five feet wide. The second posta on the road to 
Buenos Ayres stands on its banks ; a little above there 
is a ford for horses, where the water does not reach to 
the horses' belly ; but from that point, in its course to the 
sea, it is quite impassable, and hence makes a most useful 
barrier against the Indians. 

Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose 
information is generally so very correct, figures it as a 
considerable river, rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With 
respect to its source, I do not doubt that this is the case ; 
for the Gauchos assured me, that in the middle of the dry 
summer, this stream, at the same time with the Colorado, 
has periodical floods ; which can only originate in the snow 
melting on the Andes. It is extremely improbable that a 
stream so small as the Sauce then was, should traverse 
the entire width of the continent ; and indeed, if it were 
the residue of a large river, its waters, as in other ascer- 
tained cases, would be saline. During the winter we must 
look to the springs round the Sierra Ventana as the source 
of its pure and limpid stream. I suspect the plains of 
Patagonia, like those of Australia, are traversed by many 
water-courses, which only perform their proper parts at 
certain periods. Probably this is the case with the water 
which flows into the head of Port Desire, and likewise 
with the Rio Chupat, on the banks of which masses of 
highly cellular 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 3340 feet — an altitude ver}^ 
remarkable on this eastern side of the continent. I am 
not aware that any foreigner, previous to my visit, had 
ascended this mountain ; and indeed very few of the soldiers 
at Bahia Blanca knew anything about it. Hence we heard 
of beds of coal, of gold and silver, of caves, and of forests, 


all of which inflamed my curiosity, only to disappoint it. 
The distance from the posta was about six leagues, over 
a level plain of the same character as before. The ride 
was, however, interesting, as the mdtmtain 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 with- 
out 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 
fri-ible 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-gray of the quartz rock, 
and the light brown of the withered grass of the plain, being 
unrelieved by any brighter tint. From custom, one expects 
to see in the neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain, a 
broken country strewed over with huge fragments. Here 
Nature shows that the last movement before the bed of the 
sea is changed into dry land may sometimes be one of 
tranquillity. Under these circumstances I was curious to 
observe how far from the parent rock any pebbles could be 
found. On the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the settle- 
ment, 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 in- 
sensibly sloped up to a height of between 800 and 900 feet 
above the sea. In the morning (9th of September) the 
guide told me to ascend the nearest ridge, which he thought 
would lead me to the four peaks that crown the summit. 
Irhe 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 

* 1 call these thistle-stalks for the w ■m f correct name. 1 believe 

^ a apecien of Erj-nKium. 


the ridge, my disappointment was extreme in finding! 
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 pro- 
ceeded 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 on 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 

I have already said the mountain is composed of white 
quartz rock, and with it a little glossy clay-slate is associ- 
ated. At the height of a few hundred feet above the plain, 
patches of conglomerate adhered in several places to the 
solid rock. They resembled in hardness, and in the nature 
of the cement, the masses which may be seen daily forming 
on some coasts. I do not doubt these pebbles were in a 
similar manner aggregated, at a period when the great 
calcareous formation was depositing beneath the surround- 
ing sea. We may believe that the jagged and battered 
forms of the hard quartz yet show the eff"ects 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 10th. — In the morning, having fairly scudded 
before the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the 
Sauce posta. On the road we saw great numbers • of deer, 
and near the mountain a guanaco. The plain, 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 fighting there. My guide had 
been present when many Indians were killed : the women 
escaped to the top of the ridge, and fought most desperately 
with great stones ; many thus saving themselves. 

September 11th. — Proceeded to the third posta in company 
with the lieutenant who commanded it. The distance is 
called fifteen leagues ; but it is only guess work, and is 
generally overstated. The road was uninteresting, over 
a dry grassy plain ; and on our left hand at a greater or 
less distance there were some low hills ; a 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 snort time since, an 
officer left Buenos Ayres with five hundred horses, and 
when he arrived at the army he had under twenty. 

Soon afterwards we perceived, by the cloud of dust, that 
a party of horsemen were coming towards us ; when far 
distant my companions knew them to be Indians by their 
long hair streaming behind iheir backs. The Indians 
generally have a fillet round their heads, but never any 
covering ; and their black hair blowing across their swarthy 
faces, heightens to an uncommon degree the wlldness 
of their appearance. They turned out to be a party of 
Bernantio's friendly tribe, going to a salina for salt. The 


Indians eat much salt, their children sucking it like sug'£ 
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 13M. — 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 

* " Travel* ia Africa," p. «33. 

1833.] A WRETCHED PARTY. 119 

such mongrels, with such detestable expressions, I never saw 
before. .At night, when they were sitting round the fire, 
and playing at cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa 
scene. They were seated under a low cliff, so that I could 
look down upon them ; around the party were lying dogs, 
arms, remnants of deer and ostriches ; and their long spears 
were stuck in the turf. Further in the dark background, 
their horses were tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If 
the stillness of the desolate plain was broken by one of the 
dogs barking, a soldier, leaving the fire, would place his 
head close to the ground, and thus slowly scan the horizon. 
Even if the noisy teru-tero uttered its scream, there would 
be a pause in the conversation, and every head, for a 
moment, a little inclined. 

What a life of misery these men appear to us to lead ! 
They were at least ten leagues from the Sauce posta, and 
since the murder committed by the Indians, twenty from 
another. The Indians are supposed to have made their 
attack in the middle of the night ; for very early in the 
morning after the murder, they were luckily seen 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, armadillos, 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 
mat6. 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. 

id thus drive together the wild animals. One day I went 

I20 AN OSTRICH'S NEST. [chap. vi. 

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

The plains abound with three kinds of partridge,* two of 
which are as large as hen pheasants. Their destroj^er, 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 i/^th. — As the soldiers belonging to the next 
posta meant to return, and we should together make a 
party of five, and all armed, I determined not to wait for 
the expected troops. My host, the lieutenant, pressed me 
much to stop. As he had been very obliging — not only 
providing me with food, but lending me his private horses — 
I wanted to make him some remuneration. I asked my 
guide whether I might do so, but he told me certainly not ; 
that the only answer I should receive, probably would be, 
"We have meat for the dogs in our country, and therefore 
do not grudge it to a Christian." It must not be supposed 
that the rank of lieutenant in such an army would at all 
prevent the acceptance of payment ; it was only the high 
sense of hospitality, which every traveller is bound to 
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 

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


but shallow lakes, and large beds of reeds. The country on 
the whole resembled the better parts of the Cambridgeshire 
fens. At night we had some difficulty in finding, amidst 
the swamps, a dry place for our bivouac. 

September i^th. — Rose very early in the morning, and 
shortly after passed the posta where the Indians had 
murdered the five soldiers. The officer had eighteen chuzo 
wounds in his body. By the middle of the day, after a hard 
gallop, we reached the fifth posta : on account of some 
difficulty in procuring horses \^e 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 armadillos 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 superfluous 
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 consisted of a ring of thistle-stalks, to break the 
force of the wind. It was situated on the borders of an 
extensive but shallow lake, swarming with wild fowl, 
among which the black-necked swan was conspicuous. 

The kind of plover which appears as if mounted on stilts 
{Himantopus nigrkollis) is here common in flocks of 
considerable size. It has been wrongfully accused of in- 
elegance ; 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, 
like those on the legs of the common cock. As our peewit 
takes its name from the sound of its voice, so does the 
teru-tero. While riding over the grassy plains, one is 
constantly pursued by these birds, which appear to hate 

122 HEAVY HAILSTORMS. [chap. '^^ 

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 1 
saw their fresh hides ; another of the party, a few minutes 
after my arrival, brought in seven more. Now I well know, 
that one man without dogs could hardly have killed seven 
deer in a week. The men believed they had seen about 
fifteen dead ostriches (part of one of which we had for 
dinner) ; and they said that several were running about 
evidently blind in one eye. Numbers of smaller birds, as 
ducks, hawks, and partridges, were killed. I saw one of 
the latter with a black mark on its back, as if it had been 
struck with a paving-stone. A fence of thistle-stalks round 
the hovel was nearly broken down, and my informer, putting 
his head out to see what was the matter, received a severe 
cut, and now wore a bandage. The storm was said to have 
been of limited extent : we certainly saw from our last 
night's bivouac a dense cloud and lightning in this direction. 
It is marvellous how such strong animals as deer could thus 
have been killed ; but I have no doubt, from the evidence 
I have given, that the story is not in the least exaggerated. 
I am glad, however, to have its credibility supported by the 
Jesuit Drobrizhoffer,* who, speaking of a country much to 
the northward, says, hail fell of an enormous size and killed 

* " History of the Abipoaes," vol. u., p, 6. 

1833.] THE PUMA AS FOOD. 123 

vast numbers of cattle : the Indians hence called the place 
Lalegraicavalca, meaning "the little white things." Dr. 
Malcolmson, also, informs me that he witnessed in 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, 
makinp: round holes, but not cracking thern. 

Having finished our dinner of hail-stricken meat, we 
crossed the Sierra Tapalguen ; a low range of hills, a few 
hundred feet in height, which commences at Cape Corrientes. 
The rock in this part is pure quartz ; further eastward I 
understand it is granitic. The hills are of a remarkable 
form ; they consist of flat patches of table-land surrounded 
by low perpendicular cliffs, like the outliers of a sedimentary 
deposit. The hill which I ascended was very small, not 
above a couple of hundred yards in diameter ; but I saw 
others larger. One which goes by the name of the ** Corral, " 
is said to be two or three miles in 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 " lie flesh of the lion is in great esteem, 
having no small afiinity with veal, both in colour, taste, and 
flavour." Such certainly is the case with the puma. The 
<iauchos differ in their opinion, whether the jaguar Is good 
ating, but are unanimous in saying that cat is excellent. 

September lyth. — We followed the course of the Ri • 
Tapalguen, through a very fertile country, to the ninth 

* Falconer's " Patagonia," p. 70. 

124 AN ANIMAL DIET. [chap. vi. 

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, residea 
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 hand- 
some — 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 them- 
selves 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,* also, has remarked, 
' ' that when people have fed for a long time solely upon lean 
animal food, the desire for fat becomes so insatiable, that 
they can consume a large quantity of unmixed and even oily 
fat without nausea : " this appears to me a curious physio- 
logical 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 i^th. — 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 

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


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-hke 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 

September i<^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 with bizcacha holes. I was 
very much struck with the marked change in the aspect of 
the country after having crossed the Salado. From a 
coarse herbage we 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 inhabitants assured me that here, as well as in 
Banda Oriental, where there is as great a difi"erence 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 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, t "ces chevaux (sauvages) 
ont la manie de pr6f6rer les chemins, et le bord des routes 

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

t Azara's " Voyag^e," vol. i., p. 373. 

126 FENNEL AND CARDOON. [chap. vi. 

pour d6poser leurs excremens, dont on trouve des monceaux 
dans ces endroits." Does this not partly explain the 
circumstance? We thus have lines of richly-manured land 
serving as channels of communication across wide districts. 
Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two 
European plants, now become extraordinarily common. 
The fennel in great profusion covers the ditch-banks in the 
neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, and other 
towns. But the cardoon {Oynara carduncuhis)* has a far 
wider range : it occurs in these latitudes on both sides of 
the Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it in un- 
frequented 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, how- 
ever, 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 proportion as that 
country becomes inhabited, the cardoon will extend its 
limits. The case is different with the giant thistle (with 
variegated leaves) of the Pampas, for I met with it in the 
valley of the Sauce. According to the principles so well 
laid down by Mr. Lyell, few countries have undergone more 
remarkable changes, since the year 1535, when the first 
colonist of La Plata landed with seventy-two horses. The 
countless herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, not only have 
altered the whole aspect of the vegetation, but they have 
almost banished the guanaco, deer, and ostrich. Number- 
less other changes must likewise have taken place ; the 
wild pig in some parts probably replaces the peccari ; packs 

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

1833.] VALUE OF A PASSPORT. 127 

of wild dogs may be heard howling on the wooded banks of 
the less frequented streams ; and the common cat, altered 
into a large and fierce animal, inhabits rocky hills. As 
M. d'Orbigny has remarked, the increase in numbers of 
the carrion-vulture, since the introduction of the domestic 
animals, must have been infinitely great ; and we have 
given reasons for believing that they have extended their 
southern range. No doubt many plants, besides the cardoon 
and fennel, are naturalised ; thus the islands near the 
mouth of the Parana are thickly clothed with peach and 
orange trees, springing from seeds carried there by the 
waters of the 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 **E1 Naturalista Don 
Carlos," his respect and civility were as unbounded as his 
suspicions had been before. What a naturalist might be, 
neither he nor his countrymen, I suspect, had any idea ; but 
probably my title lost nothing of its value from that cause. 

September 20th. — We arrived by the middle of the day at 
Buenos Ayres. The outskirts of the city looked quite 
pretty, with the agave hedges, and groves of olive, peach, 
and willow trees, all just throwing out their fresh green 
leaves. I rode to the house of Mr. Lumb, an English 
iierchant, to whose kindness and hospitality, during my 
.^tay 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 

tight angles to the one it crosses, and the' parallel ones 

iKiing equidistant, the houses are collected into solid 

quares of equal dimensions, which are called quadcas. 

• It in said to contain 60,000 inh<-\bitant9. Monte Video, the second town 
of importance on the banks of the Plata, has 15,000. 

128 A GREAT CORRAL [chap, vi. 

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 revolution, 
had their palaces. The general assemblage of buildings 
possesses considerable architectural beauty, although none 
individually can boast of any. 

The great corral, where the animals are kept for slaughter 
to supply food to this beef-eating population, is one of the 
spectacles best worth seeing. The strength of the horse as 
compared to that of the bullock is quite astonishing ; a man 
on horseback having thrown his lazo round the horns of 
a beast, can drag it anywhere ihe chooses. The animal 
ploughing up the ground with outstretched legs, in vain 
efforts to resist the force, generally dashes at full speed to 
one side ; but the horse immediately turning to receive the 
shock, stands so firmly that the bullock is almost thrown 
down, and it is surprising that their necks are not broken. 
The struggle is not, however, one of fair strength ; the 
horse's girth being matched against the bullock's extended 
neck. In a similar manner a man can hold the wildest 
horse, if caught with the lazo, just behind the ears. When 
the bullock has been dragged to the spot where it is to be 
slaughtered, the matador with great caution cuts the ham- 
strings. 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. Tne 
whole sight Is horrible and revolting : the ground Is almost 
made of bones ; and the horses and riders are drenched with 

i833-] 129 



Excursion to St. F^— Thistle Beds— Habits of the Bizcacha— 
Little Owl — Saline Streams — Level Plains — Mastodon — St. 
F^ — Change in Landscape — Geolog-y — Tooth of extinct 
Horse — Relation of the fossil and recent Quadrupeds of 
North and South America — Effects of a Great Drought — 
Parana — Habits of the Jaguar — Scissor-beak — Kingfisher, 
Parrot, and Scissor-tail — Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State 
of Government. 

September 2yth. — In the evening I set out on an excursion to 
St. F6, which is situated nearly three hundred English miles 
from Buenos Ayres, on the banks of the Parana. The roads 
in the neighbourhood of the city, after the rainy weather, 
were extraordinarily bad. I should never have thought it 
possible for a bullock wagon 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 
wagons 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 wagons are very long, narrow, and thatched with 
reeds ; they have only two wheels, the diameter of which in 
some cases is as much as ten feet. Each is drawn by six 
bullocks, which are urged on by a goad at least twenty feet 
long ; this is suspended from within the roof ; for the wheel 
bullocks a smaller one is kept ; and for the intermediate 
pair, a point projects at right angles from the middle of the 
long one. The whole apparatus looked like some imple- 
ment of war. 

September T&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 hero wide apart ; for there is little good pasture, owing 
K to tlio land being covered by beds either of an acrid clover, 


or of the great thistle. The latter, well known from the 
animated description given by Sir F. Head, were at this 
time of the year two-thirds grown ; in some parts they were 
as high as the horse's back, but in others they had not yet 
sprung up, and the ground was bare and dusty as on a 
turnpike road. The clumps were of the most brilliant 
green, and they made a pleasing miniature-likeness of 
broken forest land. When the thistles are full-grown, the 
great beds are impenetrable, except by a few tracks, as 
intricate as those in a labyrinth. These are only known to 
the robbers, who at this season inhabit them, and sally forth 
at night to rob and cut throats with impunity. Upon asking 
at a house whether robbers were numerous, I was answered, 
** The thistles are not up yet ; " — the meaning of which 
reply was not at first very obvious. There is little interest 
in passing over these tracts, for they are inhabited by few 
animals or birds, excepting the bizcacha and its friend the 
little owl. 

The bizcacha * 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 circum- 
stance in its geographical distribution, that It has never 
been seen, fortunately for the Inhabitants of Banda Oriental, 
to the eastward of the river Uruguay : yet In this province 
there are plains which appear admirably adapted to its 
habits. The Uruguay has formed an insuperable obstacle 
to its migration ; although the broader barrier of the Parana 
has been passed, and the bizcacha is common in Entre Rios, 
the province between these two great rivers. Near Buenos 
Ayres these animals are exceedingly common. Their most 
favourite resort appears to be those parts of the plain which 
during one half of the year are covered with giant thistles, 
to the exclusion of other plants. The Gauchos affirm that 
it lives on roots ; which, from the great strength of Its 
gnawing teeth, and the kind of places frequented by it, 

* The bizcacha {Lagvstomus trichodactylus) somewhat resembles a larg-e 
rabbit, but with bigger g-nawing teeth and a long tail : it has, however, only 
three toes behind, like the agouti. During the last three or four years the 
skins of these animals have been sent to England for the sake of the fur. 

1833.] THE BIZCACHA. 131 

seems probable. In the evening- the bizcachas come out in 
numbers, and quietly sit at the mouths of their burrows on 
their haunches. At such times they are very tame, and a 
man on horseback passing by seems only to present an 
object for their grave contemplation. They run very 
awkwardly, and when running out of danger, from their 
elevated tails and short front legs, much resemble great 
rats. Their flesh, when cooked, is very white and good, 
but it is seldom used. 

The bizcacha has one very singular habit ; namely, 
dragging every hard object to the mouth of its burrow ; 
around each group of holes many bones of cattle, stones, 
thistle-stalks, hard lumps of earth, dry dung, etc., are 
collected into an irregular heap, which frequently amounts 
to as much as a wheelbarrow would contain. I was credibly 
informed that a gentleman, when riding on a dark night, 
dropped his watch ; he returned in the morning, and by 
searching the neighbourhood of every bizcacha hole on the 
line of road, as he expected, he soon found it. This habit 
of picking up whatever may be lying on the ground any- 
where near its habitation, must cost much trouble. For 
what purpose it is done, I am quite unable to form even the 
most remote conjecture : it cannot be for defence, because 
the rubbish is chiefly placed above the mouth of the burrow, 
which enters the ground at a very small inclination. No 
doubt there must exist some good reason ; but the inhabi- 
tants of the country are quite ignorant of it. The only fact 
which I know analogous to it, is the habit of that extra- 
ordinary Australian bird, the Calodera maculaia, which 
makes an elegant vaulted passage of twigs for playing in, 
and which collects near the spot, land and sea-shells, bones, 
and the feathers of birds, especially brightly coloured ones. 
Mr. Gould, who has described these facts, informs me, that 
the natives, when they lose any hard object, search the 
• playing passages, and he has known a tobacco-pipe thus 

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 

132 THE PARANA. [chap. vii. 

undulatory flighttoa 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 country I should think four 
additional miles for turnings would be a sufficient allowance. 

September 2^th and 'Tpth. — We continued to ride over 
plains of the same character. At San Nicolas I first saw 
the noble river of the Parana. At the foot of the cliff on 
which the town stands, some large vessels were at anchor. 
Before arriving at Rozario, we crossed the Saladillo, a 
stream of fine clear running water, but too saline to drink. 
Rozario is a large town built on a dead level plain, which 
forms a cliff about sixty feet high over the Parana. The 
river here is very broad, with many islands, which are low 
and wooded, as is also the opposite shore. The view would 
resemble that of a great lake, if it were not for the linear- 
shaped islets, which alone give the idea of running water. 
The cliffs are the most picturesque part ; sometimes they 
are absolutely perpendicular, and of a red colour ; at other- 
times in large broken masses, covered with cacti and 
mimosa-trees. The real grandeur, however, of an immense 
river like this, is derived from reflecting how important a 
means of communication and commerce it forms between 
one nation and another ; to what a distance it travels ; and 
from how vast a territory it drains the great body of fresh 
water which flows past your feet. 

For many leagues north and south of San Nicolas and 

* Journal of Asiatic Sac., vol. v., p. 363. 

1833.] FOSSIL BONES. 133 

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 1st. — We started by moonlight, and arrived at 
the Rio Tercero by sunrise. This river is also called the 
Saladillo, and it deserves the name, for the water is brackish. 
I stayed here the greater part of the day, searching for 
fossil bones. Besides a perfect tooth of the toxodon, and 
many scattered bones, I found two immense skeletons near 
each other, projecting in bold relief from the perpendicular 
cliff of the Parana. They were, however, so completely 
decayed, that I could only bring away small fragments of 
one of the great molar teeth ; but these are sufficient to 
show that the remains belonged to a mastodon, probably 
to the same species with that which formerly must have 
inhabited the Cordillera in Upper Peru in such great 
numbers. The men who took me in the canoe, said they 
had long known of these skeletons, and had often wondered 
how they had got there : the necessity of a theory being 
felt, they came to the conclusion that, like the bizcacha, 
the mastodon was formerly a burrowing animal ! In the 
evening we rode another stage, and crossed the Monge, 
another brackish stream, bearing the dregs of the washings 
of the Pampas. 

October 2nd. — We passed through Corunda, which, from 
the luxuriance of its gardens, was one of the prettiest 
villages I saw. From this point to St. F6 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 skeleton 


of an Indian with the dried skin hanging on the bones, 
suspended to the branch of a tree. 

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

October <,ih. — 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 

1833.] AT SANTA Ft, 135 

introduction to an old Catalonian Spaniard, who treated me 
with the most uncommon hospitality. The Bajada is the 
capital of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town contained 6000 
inhabitants, and the province 30,000 ; yet, few as the in- 
habitants are, no province has suffered more from bloody 
and desperate revolutions. They boast here of repre- 
sentatives, ministers, a standing army, and governors : so 
it is no wonder that they have their revolutions. At some 
future day this must be one of the richest countries of La 
Plata. The soil is varied and productive ; and its almost 
insular form gives it two grand lines of communication by 
the rivers Parana and 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 quad- 
rupeds. 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 
in it many infusoria, partly salt-water and partly fresh- 
water forms, with the latter rather preponderating ; and 
therefore, as he remarks, the water must have been 
brackish. M. A. d'Orbignv found on the banks of the 
Parana, at the heii^^ht 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 

136 A FOSSIL HORSE. [chap. vii. 

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

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the 
mastodon, possibly of an elephant, t and of a hollow-horned 
ruminant, discovered by MM. Lund and Clausen in the 
caves of Brazil, are highly interesting facts with respect to 
the 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, | in lat. 20°, where the 

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

t Cuvier, *' Ossemens Fossiles," torn, i., p. 158. 

X 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 Zoolopry of N. America read before- the Brit. Assoc, 
1836 (p. 157), talking of the identification of a Mexidan animal with the 
Syrutheres prehensilis, says, " We do not know with what propriety, but if 
correct, it is, if not a solitary instance, at least very nearly so, of a rodent 
animal being common to North and Sou tit America." 


great table-land presents an obstacle to\the migration of 
species, by affecting the climate, and by irpnning, with the 
exception of some valleys and of a fringe ^of low land on 
the coast, a broad barrier ; we shall then ihaye the two 
zoological provinces of North and South Ameirica 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 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 prob- 
ably, 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 

" See Dr. Richardson's Report, p. icy; also L'lnstitut, 1837, p. sm. 
ivier says the kinkajou is found in the Larger Antilles, but this is doubtful. 

138 A FATAL DROUGHT. [chap? 

to indicate that thi^ archipelago was formerly united to the 
southern continer^t, and that it has subsequently been an 
area of subsidenj^g. 

When America, ^and especially North America, possessed 
its elephanjts, mastodons, horse, and hollow - horned 
ruminant5ij' {^ ^^s much more closely related in its 
zoologij}^! characters to the temperate parts of Europe and 
Asia than it now is. As the remains of these genera are 
feund on both sides of Behring's Straits * and on the plains 
of Siberia, we are led to look to the north-western side of 
North America as the former point of communication 
between the Old and so-called New World. And as so 
many species, both living and extinct, of these same 
genera inhabit, and have inhabited, the Old World, it 
seems most probable that the North American elephants, 
mastodons, horse, and hollow-horned ruminants migrated, 
on land since submerged near Behring's Straits, from 
Siberia into North America, and thence, on land since 
submerged in the West Indies, into South America, 
where for a time they mingled with the forms character- 
istic of that southern continent, and have since become 

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

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. 
Jou-m. 1826, p. 395. 

* Seethe admirable Appendix by Dr. Buckland to " Beechy's Voyage ;" also 
the writings of Chamisso in " Kotzebue's Voyage." 

+ In Capt. Owen's "Surveying Voyage" (vol. 2, 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 

1833.] A FATAL DROUGHT. 139 

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

I was informed by an eye-witness that the cattle in herds 
of thousands rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted 
by hunger they were unable to crawl up the muddy banks, 
and thus were drowned. The arm of the river which runs 
by San Pedro was so full of putrid carcasses, that the master 
of a vessel told me that the smell rendered it quite im- 
passable. 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 
1 escribes * the fury of the wild horses on a similar occasion, 
ushing into the marshes, those which arrived first being 
overwhelmed and crushed by those which followed. He 
tdds that more than once he has. seen the carcasses of 

I .wn, in a body, to possess themselves of the wells, not being- able to procure 
. riy water in the country. The inhabitants mustered, when a desperate 
imflict ensued, which terminated In the ultimate discomfiture of the in- 
vaders, but not until they had killed one man, and wounded several others." 
The town is said to have a population of nearly three thousand I Dr. Mal- 
f.olmBon informs me, that during a great drought in India the wild animals 
entered the tents of some troops at fillore, and that a hare drank out of a 
vessel held by the adjutant of the re{;imcat. 
* " Travels," vol. i., p. 374. 

140 DECAYING ISLANDS. [chap, vil 


upwards of a thousand wild horses thus destroyed. ^H 
noticed that the smaller streams in the Pampas wer^^ 
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 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, finding indubitable signs of the recent presence 
of the tiger, I was obliged to come back. On every island 
there were tracks ; and as on the former excursion " el 
rastro de los Indios " had been the subject of conversation, 
so in this was ** el rastro del tigre." 

The wooded banks of the great rivers appear to be the 
favourite haunts of the jaguar ; but south of the Plata, I 

* 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 

i833.] THE JAGUAR. 141 

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. F6 ; two padres, entering one after 
the other, were killed, and a third,' who came to see what 
was the matter, escaped with difficulty. The beast was 
destroyed by being shot from a corner of the building which 
was unroofed. They commit also at these times great 
ravages among cattle and horses. It is said that they 
kill their prey by breaking their necks. If driven from the 
carcass they seldom return to it. The Gauchos say that 
the jaguar, when wandering about at night, is much 
tormented by the foxes yelping as they follow him. This 
is a curious coincidence with the fact which is generally 
affirmed of the jackals accompanying in a similarly officious 
manner, the East Indian tiger. The jaguar is a noisy 
animal, roaring much by night, and especially before bad 

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 diff"erent ages. A common method of 
ascertaining whether a jaguar is in the neighbourhood is 
to examine these trees. I imagine this habit of the jaguar 
is exactly similar to one which may any day be seen in the 
common cat, as with outstretched legs and exserted claws 
it scrapes the leg of a chair ; and I have heard of young 
fruit trees in an orchard in England having been thus 
much injured. Some such habit must also be common to 

142 THE SCISSOR BEAK. [chap. 

the puma, for on the bare hard soil of Patagonia I have 
frequently seen scores so deep that no other animal could 
have made them. The object of this practice is, I believe, 
to tear off the ragged points of their claws, and not, as the 
Gauchos think, to sharpen them. The jaguar is killed, 
without much difficulty, by the aid of dogs baying and 
driving him up a tree, where he is despatched with bullets. 

Owing to bad weather we remained two days at our 
moorings. Our only amusement was catching fish for our 
dinner; there were several kinds and all good eating. A 
fish called the * ' armado " (a Silurus) is remarkable from a 
harsh grating noise which it makes when caught by hook 
and line, and which can be distinctly heard when the fish 
is beneath the water. This same fish has the power of 
firmly catching hold of any object, such as the blade 
of an oar or the fishing-line, with the strong spine both of 
its pectoral and dorsal fin. In the evening the weather 
was quite tropical, the thermometer standing at 79°. 
Numbers of fireflies were hovering about, and the 
musquitoes were very troublesome. I exposed my hand 
for five minutes, and it was soon black with them ; I do 
not suppose there could have been less than fifty, all busy 

October iK^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 literally, 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 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 

1833.] THE SCISSOR BEAK. 143 

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 quick- 
ness, 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 
primaiy 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 on its wild and irregular manner 
up and down the narrow canal, now dark with the growing 
night and the shadows of the overhanging trees. At Monte 
Video I observed that some large flocks during the day 
remained on the mud-banks at the head of the harbour, 
in the same manner as on the grassy plains near the 
Parana ; and every evening they tooK flight seaward. 
From these facts 1 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 mactnp 
buried in the sand-banks on the coast of Chile ; from thoii 
weak bills, with the lower mandible so much projecting, 
their short legs and long wings, it is very improbable that 
this can be a general habit. 

In our course down the Parana, I observed only three 
other birds, whose habits are worth mentionin g. One is 

144 OTHER BIRDS. [chap. vii. 

a small kingfisher {Ceryle Americana) ; it has a longer tail 
than the European species, and hence does not sit in so 
stiff and upright a position. Its flight also, instead of 
being direct and rapid, like the course of an arrow, is weak 
and undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. It utters a 
low note, like the clicking together of two small stones. 
A small green parrot {Conurus murimis), with a gray breast, 
appears to prefer the tall trees on the islands to any other 
situation for its building-place. A number of nests are 
placed so close together as to form one great mass of sticks. 
These parrots always live in flocks, and commit great 
ravages on the corn-fields. I was told that near Colonia 
2500 were killed in the course of one year. A bird with a 
forked tail, terminated by two long feathers {Tyrannus 
savana), and named by the Spaniards scissor-tail, is very 
common near Buenos Ayres ; it commonly sits on a branch 
of the ombu 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 16th. — Some leagues below Rozario, the western 
shore of the Parana is bounded by perpendicular cliffs, which 
extend in a long line to below San Nicolas ; hence it more 
resembles a sea-coast than that of a fresh-water river. It 
is a great drawback to the scenery of the Parana, that, from 
the soft nature of its banks, the water is very muddy. The 
Uruguay, flowing through a granitic country, is much 
clearer ; and where the two channels unite at the head of 
the Plata, the waters may for a long distance be distinguished 
by their black and red colours. In the evening, the wind 
being not quite fair, as usual we immediately moored, and 
the next day, as it blew rather freshly, though with a 
favouring current, the master was much too Indolent to 
think of starting. At Bajada, he was described to me as 
** hombre muy aflicto " — a man always miserable to get on ; 
but certainly he bore all delays with admirable resignation. 
He was an old Spaniard, and had been many years in this 
country. He professed a great liking to the English, but 
stoutly maintained that the battle of Trafalgar was merely 
won by the Spanish captains having been all bought over; 

i833.] DOWN THE PARANA. 145 

and the only really gallant action on either side was per- 
formed by the Spanish admiral. It struck me as rather 
characteristic, that this man should prefer his countrymen 
being thought the worst of traitors, rather than unskilful 
or cowardly. 

October iSth 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 revolu- 
tions, 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 con- 
tains a certain body of men imbued with the principles of 
justice and honour. 

October 2.0th. — Being arrived at the mouth of the Parana, 
and as I was very anxious to reach Buenos Ayres, I went 
on shore at Las Conchas, with the intention of riding there. 
Upon landing, I found to my great surprise that I was to 
a certain degree a prisoner. A violent revolution having 
broken out, all the ports were laid under an embargo. I 
could not return to my vessel, and as for going by land to 
the city, it was out of the question. After a long conversa- 
tion 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 

[AP. ^1 

146 A REVOLUTION. [chap. 

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 Beagle's de- 
parture 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 con- 
versation. 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 ot 
grievances ; but In a state which, in the course of nine 
months (from February to October, 1820), underwent fifteen 
changes in Its government — each governor, according to 
the constitution, being elected for three years — it would be 
very unreasonable to ask for pretexts. In this case, a party 
of men — who, being attached to Rosas, were disgusted with 
the governor Balcarce — to the number of seventy left the 
city, and with the cry of Rosas the whole country took 
arms. The city was then blockaded, no provisions, cattle, 
or horses were allowed to enter ; besides this, there was 
only a little skirmishing, and a few men daily killed. The 
outside party well knew that by stopping the supply of meat 
they would certainly be victorious. General Rosas could 
not have known of this rising ; but it appears to be quite 
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 of 5500 men. From these proceedings, it was 
clear that Rosas ultimately would become the dictator : to 
the term king, the people in this, as in other, republics 
have a particular dislike. Since leaving South America, 
we have heard that Rosas has been elected with powers 
and for a time altogether opposed to the constitutional 
principles of the republic. 



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 

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

Our passage was a very long and tedious one. The 
Plata looks like a noble estuary on the map ; but 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 arrivmg at Monte Video 
I found that the BenfrJe 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 ; but the 
land, with the one exception of the Green Mount, 450 feet 
high, from which it takes its name, is far more level. 
Very little of the undulating- grassy plain is enclosed ; but 
near the town there are a few hedge-banks, covered with 
agaves, cacti, and fennel. 

November i^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 to Monte Video. We slept at the house of my guide 
at Canelones. In the morning we rose early, in the hopes 
of being able to ride a good distance ; but it was a vain 
attempt, for all the rivers were flooded. We passed in 
boats the streams of Canelones, St. Lucia, and San Jos6, 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 splash- 
ing 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 

1833.] OVER THE ROZARIO. 149 

being flooded. It would not, however, be of much con- 
sequence ; for, although he had passed through some of the 
principal towns in Banda Oriental, his luggage consisted 
of two letters ! The view from the house was pleasing ; 
an undulating green surface, with distant glimpses of the 
Plata. I find that I look at this province with very 
different eyes from what I did upon my first arrival. I 
recollect I then thought it singularly level ; but now, after 
galloping over the Pampas, my only surprise is, what could 
have induced me ever to have called it level. The country 
is a series of undulations, in themselves perhaps not 
absolutely great, but, as compared to the plains of St. F6, 
real mountains. From these inequalities there is an 
abundance of small rivulets, and the turf is green and 

November 17M. — We crossed the Rozario, which was 
deep and rapid, and passing the village of Colla, arrived 
at mid-day at Colonia del Sacramiento. The distance is 
twenty leagues, through a country covered with fine grass, 
but poorly stocked with cattle or inhabitants. I was 
invited to sleep at Colonia, and to accompany on the 
following day a gentleman to his estancia, where there 
were some limestone rocks. The town Is built on a stony 
promontory something in the same manner as at Monte 
Video. It is strongly fortified, but both fortifications and 
town suff"ered much in the Brazilian war. It is very 
ancient ; and the irregularity of the streets, and the sur- 
rounding groves of old orange and peach trees, gave it 
a pretty appearance. The church is a curious ruin ; It was 
used as a powder-magazine, and was struck by lightning 
In. one of the ten thousand 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 

ISO CATTLE TROOPS. [chap. viii. 

disturbance, and to overturn a government which as yet 
has never rested on any stable foundation. I noticed how- 
ever, both here and in other places, a very general interest 
in the ensuing election for the President ; and this appears 
a good sign for the prosperity of this little country. The 
inhabitants do not require much education in their repre- 
sentatives ; 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 iZth. — Rode with my host to his estancia, at 
the Arroyo de San Juan. In the evening we took a ride 
round the estate : it contained two square leagues and a 
half, and was situated in what is called a rincon ; that is, 
one side was fronted by the Plata, and the two others 
guarded by impassable brooks. There was an excellent 
port for little vessels, and an abundance of small wood, 
which is valuable as supplying fuel to Buenos Ayres. I was 
curious to know the value of so complete an estancia. Of 
cattle there were 3000, and it would well support three or 
four times that number; of mares 800, together with 150 
broken-in horses, and 600 sheep. There was plenty of 
water and limestone, a rough house, excellent corrals, and 
a peach orchard. For all this he had been offered ,-^2000, and 
he only wanted ;^5oo 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 dilBcult, where there are ten or fifteen 
thousand head together. It is managed on the principle 
that the cattle invariably divide themselves into little troops 
of from forty to one hundred. Each troop is recognised 
by a few peculiarly marked animals, and its number is 
known : so that, one being lost out of ten thousand, it is 
perceived by its absence from one of the tropillas. During 
a stormy night the cattle all mingle together ; but the 
next morning the tropillas separate as before ; so that 
each animal must know its fellow out of ten thousand 

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 

i833-] CURIOUS CATTLE. 151 

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, 
d.nd 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 t one of the niata breed, 
characterizes, as I am informed by Dr. Falconer, the 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 trans- 
mits her peculiarities more strongly than the niata bull 
when crossed with a common cow. When the pasture is 
tolerably long, the niata cattle feed with the tongue and 
palate as well as common cattle ; but during the great 
droughts, when so many animals perish, the niata breed 

• Mr, Watcrhouse has drawn up a detailed description of this head 
which I hope he will puljlifih in nornc Journal. 

t A nearly nimilar abnormal, but I do not know whether hereditary, 
structure ha« been observed in tlie carp, and likewise in the crocodile of 
the f^fes : " Histoirc dcs Anomalies,' par M. laid. Geoffroy St. Hilaire. 
torn, i., p. 244. 


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

November i()th. — 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, un- 
bounded astonishment at the globe being round, and could 
scarcely credit that a hole would, if deep enough, come out 
on the other side. They had, however, heard of a country 
where there were six months' light and six of darkness, and 
where the inhabitants were very tall and thin ! They were 
curious about the price and condition of horses and cattle 
in England. Upon finding out we did not catch our 
animals with the lazo, they cried out, **Ah, then, you 
use nothing but the bolas : " the idea of an enclosed country 
was quite new to them. The captain at last said, he had 
one question to ask me, which he should be very much 


Dbliged if I would answer with all truth. I trembled to 
think how deeply scientific it would be ; it was, ** Whether 
the ladies of Buenos Ayres were not the handsomest in the 
world?" I replied, like a renegade, ** Charmingly so." 
He added, ** I have one other question : Do ladies in any 
other part of the world wear such large combs ? " I 
solemnly assured him that they did not. They were 
absolutely delighted. The captain exclaimed, " Look there ! 
a man who has seen half the world says it is the case ; 
we always thought so, but now we know it." My excellent 
judgment in combs and beauty procured me a most hospit- 
able reception ; the captain forced me to take his bed, and 
he would sleep on his recado. 

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

Novembet 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 ; 

154 A HILL OF BEADS. [chap. viii. 

yet there were square leagues without a single head of 
cattle. Tlie 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 con- 
sumption, from waste, is very considerable. An estanciero 
told me that he had 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 I The view of the Rio Negro 
from the Sierra was more picturesque than any other 
which I saw in this province. The river, broad, deep, and 
rapid, wound at the foot of a rocky precipitous cliff ; a belt 
of wood followed its course, and the horizon, terminated in 
the distant undulations of the turf-plain. 

When in this neighbourhood, I several times heard of 
the Sierra de las Cuentas ; a hill distant many miles to 
the northward. The name signifies hill of beads. I was 
assured that vast numbers of little round stones, of 
various colours, each with a small cylindrical hole, are 
found there. Formerly the Indians used to collect them, 
for the purpose of making necklaces and bracelets — a taste, 
I may observe, which is common to all savage nations, as 
well as to the most polished. I did not know what to 
understand from this story, but upon mentioning it at 
the Cape of Good Hope to Dr. Andrew Smith, he told me 
that he recollected finding on the south-eastern coast of 
Africa, about one hundred miles to the eastward of St. 
John's river, some quartz crystals with their edges blunted 
from attrition, and mixed with gravel on the sea-beach. 
Each crystal was about five lines in diameter, and from an 
inch to an inch and a half in length. Many of them had 
a small canal extending from one extremity to the other, 
perfectly cylindrical, and of a size that readily admitted a 
coarse thread or a piece of fine catgut. Their colour was 
red or dull white. The natives were acquainted with this 
structure in crystals. I have mentioned these circumstances 
because, although no crystallized body is at present known 
to assume this form, it may lead some future traveller to 
investigate the real nature of such stones. 

While staying at this estancia, I was amused with what 

1833.] CLEVER DOGS. 155 

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 sometimes 
gallop their poor subjects most unmercifully. 

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some 
meat, and as soon as it is given him, he skulks away as if 
ashamed of himself. On these occasions the house-dogs 
are. very tyrannical, and the least of them will attack and 
pursue the stranger. The minute, however, the latter has 
reached the flock, he turns round and begins to bark, and 
then all the house-dogs take very quickly to their heels. 
In a similar manner the whole pack of the hungry wild 
dogs will scarcely ever (and I was told by some never) 
venture to attack a flock guarded by even one of these 
faithful shepherds. The whole account appears to me a 
curious instance of the pliability of the affections in the 
dog ; and yet, whether wild or however educated, he has 
a feeling of respect or fear for those that are fulfilling their 
instinct of association. For we can understand on no 
principle the wild dogs being driven away by the single 
one with its flock, except that they consider, from sonif" 
confused notion, that the one thus associated gains power, 
-<s if in company with its own kind. F. Cuvier ha^ 

\T. A. fl'Orbig'ny has given nearly a similar account ot these dogs, i.. p. T75. 


observed, that all animals that readily enter into domesti- 
cation, 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 if 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 horsesj came 
for the purpose of breaking in some colts. I will describe 
the preparatory steps, for I believe they have not been 
mentioned by other travellers. A troop of wild young 
horses is driven into the corral, or large enclosure of 
stakes, and the door is shut. We will suppose that one 
man alone has to catch and mount a horse, which as yet 
had never felt bridle or saddle. I conceive, except by a 
Gaucho, such a feat would be utterly impracticable. The 
Gaucho picks out a full-grown colt ; and. as the beast 
rushes round the circus, he throws his lazo so as to 
catch both the front legs. Instantly the horse rolls over 
with a heavy shock, and whilst struggling on the ground, 
the Gaucho, holding the lazo tight, makes a circle, so as 
to catch one of the hind legs, just beneath the fetlock, and 
draws it close to the two front legs : he then hitches the 
lazo, so that the three are bound together. Then sitting 
on the horse's neck, he fixes a strong bridle, without a bit, 
to the lower jaw : this he does by passing a narrow thong 
through the eye-holes at the end of the reins, and several 
times round both jaw and tongue. The two front legs are 
now tied closely together with a strong leathern thong, 
fastened by a slip-knot. The lazo, which bound the three 
together, being then loosed, the horse rises with difficulty. 
The Gaucho now holding fast the bridle fixed to the lower 
jaw, leads the horse outside the corral. If a second man is 
present (otherwise the trouble is much greater) he holds 
the animal's head, whilst the first puts on the 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 is 
tremendously severe, but in two or three trials the horse is 
tamed. It is not, however, for some weeks that the 
animal is ridden with the iron bit and solid ring, for it 
must learn to associate the will of its rider with the feel 
of the rein, before the most powerful bridle can be of any 

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

The Gauchos are well known to be perfect riders. The 
idea of being thrown, let the horse do what it likes, never 
enters their head. Their criterion of a good rider is, a man 
who can manage an untamed colt, or who, if his horse falls, 
alights on his own feet, or can perform other such exploits. 
I have heard of a man betting that he would throw his 
horse down twenty times, and that nineteen times he would 
not fall himself. I recollect seeing a Gaucho riding a very 
stubborn horse, which three times successively reared so 
high as to fall backwards with great violence. The man 
judged with uncommon coolness the proper moment for 
slipping off, not an instant before or after the right time ; 
and as soon as the horse got up, the man jumped on his 

ck, and at last they started at a gallop. The Gaucho never 

iS8 WELL-BROKEN HORSES. [chap, viil 

appears to exert any muscular force. I was one day watch- 
ing 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 con- 
sequence 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-linger and 
thumb, taken at full gallop across a courtyard, 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 laizo 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 

^ 1833.] WELL-BROKEN HORSES. 159 

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 

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 down, kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying (which 
latter is a tedious job) ; and he engaged that he would 
perform this whole operation on twenty-two animals In one 
day. Or he would kill and take the skin olT 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 26M. — 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 

i6o A TOXODON'S HEAD. [chaP 

entering the Rio Negro, I rode there accompanied by my 
host, and purchased for the value of eighteenpence 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, embedded 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 extraordmary 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 sub- 
aqueous deposit in which they were originally embedded. 
We may conclude that the whole area of the Pampas is one 
wide sepulchre of these extinct gigantic quadrupeds. 

By the middle of the day, on the 28th, we arrived at 
Monte Video, having been two days and a half on the road. 
The country for the whole way was of a very uniform 
character, some parts being rather more rocky and hilly 
than near the Plata. Not far from Monte Video we passed 
through the village of Las Pietras, so named from some 
large rounded masses of syenite. Its appearance was rather 

* 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. 


pretty. In this country a few fig-trees round a group of 
houses, and a site elevated a hundred feet above the general 
level, ought always to be called picturesque. 

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

Police and justice are quite Inefficient. If a man who is 
poor commits murder and is taken, he will be Imprisoned, 
and perhaps even shot ; but If he is rich and has friends, 
he may rely on it no very severe consequence will ensue. 
It is curious that the most respectable inhabitants of the 
country invariably assist a murderer to escape ; they seem 
to think that the individual sins against the government, 
and not against the people. A traveller has no protection 
besides his firearms ; and the constant habit of carrying 
them is the main check to more frequent robberies. 

The character of the higher and more educated classes 
who reside in the towns, partakes, but perhaps in a lesser 
degree, of the good parts of the Gaucho, but is, I fear, 
stained by many vices of which he is free. Sensuality, 
mockery of all religion, and the grossest corruption, are 
far from uncommon. Nrarly every public officer can be 
bribf'd. The head man in the post-ofBce sold forged 

i62 MANNERS OF THE COUNTRY, [chap. vm. 

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 
Rosas. A son of a major at Bahia Blanca gained his 
livelihood by making paper cigars, and he wished to accom- 
pany me, as guide or servant, to Buenos Ayres, but his 
father objected on the score of the danger alone. Many 
officers in the army can neither read nor write, yet all meet 
in society as equals. In Entre Rios, the Sala consisted of 
only six representatives. One of them kept a common shop, 
and evidently was not degraded by the office. All this is 
what would be expected in a new country ; nevertheless 
the absence of gentlemen by profession appears to an 
Englishman something strange. 

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


should be recollected with gratitude by those who have 
visited Spanish South America. 

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

Several times when the ship has been some miles off the 
mouth of the Plata, and at other times when off the shores 
of Northern Patagonia, we have been surrounded by insects. 
One evening, when we were about ten miles from the Bay 
of San 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 seamen cried 
out " it was snowing butterflies," and such in fact was the 
appearance. More species than one were present, but the 
main part belonged to a kind very similar to, but not 
identical with, the common English Colias edusa. Some 
moths and hymenoptera accompanied the butterflies ; and 
a fine beetle {Calosoma) flew on board. Other instances 
are known of this beetle having been caught far out at 
sea ; and this is the more remarkable, as the great number 
of the Carahidce seldom or never take wing. The day had 
been fine and calm, and the one previous to it equally so, with 
light and variable airs. Hence we cannot suppose that 
the insects were blown off the land, but we must conclude 
that they voluntarily took flight. The great bands of the 
Colias seem at first to afford an instance like those on 
record of the migrations of another butterfly, Vanessa 
cardui;* but the presence of other insects makes the case 
distinct, and even less intelligible. Before sunset a strong 
breeze sprung up from the north, and this must have caused 
tens of thousands of the butterflies and other insects to 
have perished. 

On another occasion, when seventeen miles off Cape 
Corrientes, I had a net overboard to catch pelagic animals. 
Upon drawing it up, to my surprise I found a considerable 
number of beetles in it, and although in the open sea, 
they did not appear much injured by the salt water. 1 
lost some of the specimens, but those which I preserved 
belonged to the genera Colymbetes, Hydroporus, rJydrotnus 

* Lyell't " Principle! of Geology," vol. m., p. 63. 

i64 INSECTS AT. SEA. [chap. viii. 

(two species), Notaphusy Cynucus, Adimonia, and Scara- 
bcBus. At first I thought that these insects had been 
blown from the shore ; but upon reflecting that out of the 
eight species four were aquatic, and two others partly so in 
their habits, it appeared to me most probable that they 
were floated into the sea by a small stream which drains a 
lake near Cape Corrientes. On any supposition it is an 
interesting circumstance to find live insects swimming in 
the open ocean seventeen miles from the nearest point of 
land. There are several accounts of insects having been 
blown off' the Patagonian shore. Captain Cook observed 
it, as did more lately Captain King in the Adventure. 
The cause probably is due to the want of shelter, both of 
trees and hills, so that an 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 grass- 
hopper (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 
ist, 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, T 
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 pro- 
duced 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 

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

1833.] SPIDERS, 16^ 

give the description of this spider, but merely state that 
it does not appear to me to be included in any of Latreille's 
genera. The little aeronaut as soon as it arrived on board 
was very active, running about, sometimes letting itself 
fall, and then reascending the same thread ; sometimes 
employing itself in making a small and very irregular 
mesh in the corners between the ropes. It could run 
with facility on the surface of water. When disturbed 
it lifted up its front legs in the attitude of attention. On 
its first arrival it appeared very thirsty, and with exserted 
maxillae drank eagerly of drops of water ; this same 
circumstance has been observed by S track : may it not 
be in consequence of the little insect having passed 
through a dry and rarefied atmosphere? Its stock of 
web seemed inexhaustible. While watching some that 
were suspended by a single thread, I several times 
observed that the slightest breath of air bore them away 
out of sight, in a horizontal line. On another occasion 
(25th), under similar circumstances, I repeatedly observed 
the same kind of small spider, either when placed or 
having crawled on some little eminence, elevate its 
abdomen, send forth a thread, and then sail away 
horizontally, but with a rapidity which was quite un- 
accountable. I thought I could perceive that the spider, 
before performing the above preparatory steps, connected 
its legs together with the most delicate threads, but I 
am not sure whether this observation was correct. 

One day, at St. Fe, 1 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 da^ was hot and apparently quite calm ; yet under 
irh circumstances, the atmosphere can never be so 
mquil as not to affect a vane so delicate as the thread 
t I spider's web. If during a warm day wo look either 

i66 SPIDERS. [chap. viii. 

at the shadow of any object cast on a bank, or over a 
level plain at a distant landmark, the effect of an ascend- 
ing 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 voyages.* 

During our different passages south of the Plata, I often 
towed astern a net made of bunting, and thus caught 
many curious animals. Of Crustacea there were many 
strange and undescribed genera. One, which in some 
respects is allied to the notopods (or those crabs which 
have their posterior legs placed almost on their backs, 
for the purpose of adhering to the under side of rocks), 
is very remarkable from the structure of its hind pair of 
legs. The penultimate joint, instead of terminating in a 
simple claw, ends m three bristle-like appendages of dis- 
similar 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 extrem- 
ities 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°, 

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


I never succeeded in catching anything besides some boroe, 
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 entomo- 
straca. 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 intertropical parts of the Atlantic swarm 
with pteropoda, Crustacea, and radiata, and with their 
devourers the flying-fish, and again with their devourers 
the bonitos and albicores ; I presume that the numerous 
lower pelagic animals feed on the infusoria, which are now 
known, from the researches of Ehrenberg, to abound in the 
open ocean ; but on what, in the clear blue water, do these 
infusoria subsist ? 

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

* An abstract i* given in No. IV. of the Mafoaint of Zoology and Botany. 


northern hemisphere, to be the common cause of this 
phenomenon. The particles were so minute as easily to 
pass through fine gauze ; yet many were distinctly visible 
by the naked eye. The water when placed in a tumbler 
and agitated gave out sparks, but a small portion in a 
watch-glass scarcely ever was luminous. Ehrenberg states 
that these particles all retain a certain degree of irritability. 
My observations, some of which were made directly after 
taking up the water, gave a different result. I may also 
mention, that having used the net during one night, I 
allowed it to become partially dry, and having occasion 
twelve hours afterwards to employ it again, I found 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 Diancea 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, with- 
out 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 atmo- 
sphere was most favourable to its production. Certainly 
I think the sea is most luminous after a few davs of more. 

1833.J A'l PORT DESIRE. 169 

calm weather than ordinary, during which time it has 
swarmed with various animals. Observing that the water 
charged with gelatinous particles is in an impure state, and 
that the luminous appearance in all common cases is pro- 
duced by the agitation of the fluid in contact with the 
atmosphere, I am inclined to consider that the phosphor- 
escence is the result of the decomposition of the organic 
particles, by which process (one is tempted almost to call 
it a kind of respiration) the ocean becomes purified. 

December 2.yd. — We arrived at Port Desire, situated in 
lat. 47°, on the coast of Patagonia. The creek runs for 
about twenty miles inland, with an irregular width. The 
Beagle anchored a few miles within the entrance, in front 
of the ruins of an old Spanish settlement. 

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

In such a country the fate of the Spanish settlement 
was soon decided; the dryness of the climate during the 
greater part of the year, and the occasional hostile attacks 
of the wandering Indians, compelled the colonists to desert 
their half-finished buildings. The style, however, in which 
they were commenced shows the strong and liberal hand 
of Spain in the old time. The result of all the attempts to 
colonize this side of America south of 41°, has been miser- 
able. 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 

I70 THE GUANACO. [chap. viii. 

St Joseph's Bay, on the coast of Patagonia, a small 
sottlement was made ; but during one Sunday the Indians 
*nade an attack and massacred the whole party, excepting 
two men, who remained captives during many years. At 
che 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, cicadas, small lizards, and 
even scorpions, t At one time of the year these birds go in 
flocks, at another in pairs ; their cry is very loud and 
singular, like the neighing of the guanaco. 

The guanaco, or wild llama, is the characteristic quad- 
ruped 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 

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes 
told me, that he one day saw through a glass a herd of 
these anirnals which evidently had been frightened, and 
were running away at full speed, although their distance 
was so great that he could not distinguish them with his 
naked eye. The sportsman frequently receives the first 
notice of their presence, by hearing from a long distance 
their peculiar shrill neighing note of alarm. If he then 
looks attentively, he will probably see the herd standing in 

* I foood here a species of cactus, described by Professor Henslow, under 
the name of O/nentia Dartmnii {Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i., 
p. 466), which was remarkable by the irritability of the stamens, when I 
inserted either a piece of stick or the end of my finger in the flower. The 
acgtnents 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 
Jatitade as here, namely, in both cases, in 47°. 

t These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one cannibal 
•OQTpion quietly devouring another. 


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 motionless and intently 
gaze at him ; then perhaps move on a few yards, turn 
round, and look again. What is the cause of this difference 
in their shyness ? Do they mistake a man in the distance 
for their chief enemy the puma ? Or does curiosity over- 
come 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 repeatedly practised by our sportsmen with success, 
and it had moreover the advantage of allowing several shots 
to be fired, which were all taken as part of the performance. 
On the mountains of Tierra del Fuego, I have more than 
once seen a guanaco, on being approached, not only neigh 
and squeal, but prance and leap about in the most ridiculous 
manner, apparently in defiance as a challenge. These 
animals are very easily domesticated, and I have seen some 
thus kept in northern Patagonia near a house, though not 
under any restraint. They are in this state very bold, and 
readily attack a man by striking him from behind with both 
knees. It is asserted that the motive for these attacks is 
jealousy on account of their females. The wild guanacos, 
however, have no idea of defence ; even a single dog will 
secure one of these large animals, till the 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 
I ndian method of hunting, for they are thus easily driven to 
a central point, and are encompassed. 

The guanacos readily take to the water : several times at 
fort 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 
IJIanco. I imagine in several parts of the country, if they 
flo not drink salt water, they drink none at all. In the 
middle of the day they frequently roll in the dust, in sauc^'- 
shaped hollows. The males fight together; two one t. 

lya ANIMAL CEMETERIES. [chap. vili. 

passed quite close to me, squealing and trying to bite each 
other ; and several were shot with their hides deeply scored. 
Herds sometimes appear to set out on exploring parties ; at 
Bahia Blanca, where, within thirty miles of the coast, these 
animals are extremely unfrequent, I one day saw the tracks 
of thirty or forty, which had come in a direct line to a 
inuddy salt-water creek. They then must have perceived 
that they were approaching the sea, for they had wheeled 
with the regularity of cavalry, and had returned back in as 
straight a line as they had advanced. The guanacos have 
one singular habit, which is to me quite inexplicable; 
namely, that on successive days they drop their dung in the 
same defined heap. I saw one of these heaps which was 
eight feet in diameter, and was composed of a large quantity. 
This habit, according to M. A. d'Orbigny, is common to all 
the species of the genus ; it is very useful to the Peruvian 
Indians, who use the dung for fuel, and are thus saved the 
trouble of collecting it. 

The guanacos appear to have favourite spots for lying 
down to die. On the banks of the St. Cruz, in certain 
circumscribed spaces, which were generally bushy and all 
near the river, the ground was actually white with bones. 
On one such spot I counted between ten and twenty heads. 
I particularly examined the bones ; they did not appear, as 
some scattered ones which I had seen, gnawed or broken, 
as if dragged together by beasts of prey. The animals in 
most cases must have crawled, before dying, beneath and 
amongst the bushes. Mr. Bynoe informs me that during 
a former voyage he observed the same circumstance on the 
banks of the Rio Gallegos. I do not at all understand the 
reason of this, but I may observe, that the wounded guanacos 
at the St. Cruz invariably walked towards the river. At 
St. J ago in the Cape de Verd Islands, I remember having 
seen in a ravine a retired corner covered with bones of the 
goat ; we at the time exclaimed that it was the burial- 
ground of all 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 3f the harbour. In the morning we searched for some 

1833.] A DESOLATE PLAIN. 173 

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

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

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, M*-. 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 bivouacked, 
we were surrounded by bold cliffs and steep pinnacles of 
porphyry. I do not think I ever saw a spot which appeared 
more secluded from the rest of the world, than this rocky 
crevice in the wide plain. 

The second day after our return to the anchorage, a party 
of officers and myself went to ransack an old Indian grave, 
which I had found on the summit of a neighbouring hill. 
Two immense stones, each probably weighing at least a 
couple of tons, had been placed in front of a ledge of rock 
about six feet high. At the bottom of the grave on the hard 
rock there was a layer of earth about a foot deep, which 
must have been brought up from the plain below. Above it 
a pavement of flat stones was placed, on which others weir 

• Shelley, lincH on Mont Blanc. 

174 AN INDIAN GRAVE. [chap. viii. 

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, or even bones. The latter probably had decayed long 
since (in which case the grave must have been of extreme 
antiquity), for I found in another place some smaller heaps, 
beneath which a very few crumbling fragments could yet be 
distinguished as havmg 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 there- 
fore generally have resided in the neighbourhood of the sea. 
The common prejudice of lying where one's ancestors have 
lain, would make the now roaming Indians bring the less 
perishable part of their dead to their ancient burial-ground 
on the coast. 

January <^th^ 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 ; for by an 
odd chance I found on the surface of the salt water, near the 
head of the bay, a colymbetes not quite dead, which must 
have lived in some not far-distant pool. Three other insects 
(a cincindela, like hyhrida^ 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 ( Tahanus) 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 common shell is a massive 
gigantic oyster, sometimes even a foot in diameter. These 
beds are covered by others of a peculiar 50ft 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 its average breadth as 
200 miles, and its average thickness as about 50 feet. If tliis 
great bed of pebbles, without including the mud necessarily 
derived from their attrition, was piled into a mound, It 
would form a great mountain chain ! When we consider 
that all these pebbles, countless as the grains of sand In the 
desert, have been derived from the slow falling of masses of 
rock on the old coast-lines and banks of rivers ; and that 
these fragments have been dashed into smaller pieces, and 
that each of them has since been slowly rolledf, rounded, 
and far transported, the mind is stupefied in thinking over 

176 GEOLOGICAL MOVEMENTS, [chap. viii. 

the long, absolutely necessary, lapse of years. Yet all this 
gravel has been transported, and probably rounded, sub- 
sequently 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 1200 miles, has been raised in mass 
(and in Patagonia to a height of between 300 and 400 feet), 
within the period of the now existing sea-shells. The old 
and weathered shells left on the surface of the upraised plain 
still partially retain their colours. The uprising movement 
has been interrupted by at least eight long periods of rest, 
during which the sea ate deeply back into the land, forming 
at successive levels the long lines of cliffs or escarpments, 
which separate the different plains as they rise like steps 
one behind the other. The elevatory movement, and the 
eating-back power of the sea during the periods of rest, 
have been equable over long lines of coast ; for I was 
astonished to find that the step-like plains stand at nearly 
corresponding heights at far distant points. The lowest 
plain is 90 feet high ; and the highest, which I ascended 
near the coast, is 950 feet ; and of this, only relics are left in 
the form of flat gravel-capped hills. The upper plain of 
Santa Cruz slopes up to a height of 3000 feet at the foot of 
the Cordillera. I have said that within the period of exist- 
ing 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 1500 feet. Nor has Patagonia been 
affected only by upward movements : the extinct tertiary 
shells from Port St. Julian and Santa Cruz cannot have 
lived, according to Professor E. Forbes, in a greater depth 
of water than from 40 to 250 feet ; but they are now covered 
with sea-deposited strata from 800 to 1000 feet in thickness : 
hence the bed of the sea, on which these shells once lived, 
must have sunk downwards several hundred feet, to allow 
of the 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 

* I have lately heard that Captain Sulivaa, 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 


on the 90-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 palaeo- 
therium ; but in the structure of the bones of its long neck 
its shows a clear relation to the camel, or rather to the 
guanaco and llama. From recent sea-shells being found 
on two of the higher step-formed plains, which must have 
been modelled and upraised before the mud was deposited 
in which the macrauchenia was intombed, it is certain 
that this curious quadruped lived long after the sea 
was inhabited by its present shells. I was at first much 
surprised how a large quadruped could so lately have 
subsisted, in lat. 49° 15', on these wretched gravel plains 
with their stunted vegetation ; but the relationship of the 
macrauchenia to the guanaco, now an inhabitant of the most 
sterile parts, partly explains this difficulty. 

The relationship, though distant, between the macrau- 
chenia and the guanaco, between the toxodon and the 
capybara — the closer relationship between the many extinct 
Edentata and the living sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos, 
now so eminently characteristic of South American zoology — 
and the still closer relationship between the fossil and living 
species of Ctenomys and Hydroch(BruSy are most interest- 
ing facts. This relationship is shown wonderfully — as 
wonderfully as between the fossil and extinct marsupial 
animals of Australia — by 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 mf^f pif^mics, rotiipared with the iinft-f>Mlent, 


allied races. If Buifon 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 seashells. Since they lived, no very great 
change in the form of the land can have taken place. 
What, then, has exterminated so many species and whole 
genera? The mind at first is irresistibly hurried into 
the belief of some great catastrophe ; but thus to destroy 
animals, both large and small, in Southern Patagonia, in 
Brazil, on the Cordillera of Peru, in North America up to 
Behring's Straits, we must shake the entire framework 
of the globe. An examination, moreover, of the geology 
of La Plata and Patagonia, leads to the belief that all the 
features of the land result from slow and gradual changes. 
It appears from the character of the fossils in Europe, Asia, 
Australia, and in North and South America, that those 
conditions which favour the life of the larger quadrupeds 
were lately co-extensive with the world : what those con- 
ditions were, no one has yet even conjectured. It could 
hardly have been a change of temperature, which at about 
the same time destroyed the inhabitants of tropical, 
temperate, and arctic latitudes on both sides of the globe. 
In North America we positively know from Mr. Lyell, 
that the large quadrupeds lived subsequently to that period 
when boulders were brought into latitudes at which icebergs 
now never arrive : from conclusive but indirect reasons we 
may feel sure, that in the southern hemisphere the 
macrauchenia, also, lived long subsequently to the ice- 
transporting boulder-period. Did man, after his first in- 
road 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 province 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 
introduce<f 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 of their numerous gigantic 
prototypes? Certainly, no fact in the long history of the 
world is so startling as the wide and repeated extermina- 
tions of its inhabitants. 

Nevertheless, if we consider the subject under another 
point of view, it will appear less perplexing. We do not 
steadily bear in mind how profoundly ignorant we are of 
the conditions of existence of every animal ; nor do we 
always remember, that some check is constantly preventing 
the too rapid increase of every organized being left in a 
state of nature. The supply of food, on an average, remains 
constant ; yet the tendency in every animal to increase by 
propagation is geometrical ; and its 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, 01 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 some place in the economy 
of nature, should be abundant in the neighbouring district, 
differing very little in its conditions. If asked how this 
is, one immediately replies that it is determined by some 
slight difference m climate, food, or the number of 
enemies : yet how rarely, if ever, we can point out the 
precise cause and manner of action of the check ! We are, 
therefore, driven to the conclusion, that causes generally 
quite inappreciable by us, determine whether a given 
species shall be abundant or scanty in numbers. 

In the cases where we can trace the extinction of a 

i'cies through man, either wholly or in one limited 

Ml lii( 1, \v( Ictiow that it becomes rarer and i-urT, .md is 


then lost : it would be difficult to point out any just distinc- 
tion* between a species destroyed by man or by the increase 
of its natural enemies. The evidence of rarity preceding 
extinction, is more striking in the successive tertiary strata, 
as remarked by several able observers ; it has often been 
found that a shell very common in a tertiary stratum is now 
most rare, and has even long been thought to be extinct 
If then, as appears probable, species first become rare and 
then extinct — if the too rapid increase of every species, even 
the most favoured, is steadily checked, as we must admit, 
though how and when it is hard to say — and if we see, 
without the smallest surprise, though unable to assign 
the precise reason, one species abundant and another 
closely-allied species rare in the same district — why should 
we feel such great astonishment at the rarity being carried 
a step 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 compared with the mega- 
therium, 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. Lyell, in his " Principles 
of Geology." 

1834.] *Sm 



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 g-reat 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 

April I'^thy 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 perhaps its most remarkable feature. The water is of 
a fine blue colour, but with a slight milky tinge, and not 
so transparent as at first sight would have been expected. 
It flows over a bed of pebbles, like those which compose 
the beach and the surrounding plains. It runs in a wind- 
ing course through a valley, which extends in a direct line 
westward. This valley varies from five to ten miles in 
breadth ; it is bounded by step-formed terraces, which rise 
in most parts, one above the other, to the height of five 

i82 SIGNS OF INDIANS. [chap. flP 

:,iundred feet, and have on the opposite sides a remarkable 

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

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

April 2oth. — We passed the islands and set to work. Our 
regular day's march, although it was hard enough, carried 
us on an average only ten miles in a straight line, and 
perhaps fifteen or twenty altogether. Beyond the place 
where we slept last night, the country is completely terra 
incognita^ for it was there that Captain Stokes turned back. 
We saw in the distance a great smoke, and found the 
skeleton of a horse, so we knew that Indians were in the 
neighbourhood. On the next morning (21st) tracks of 
a party of horse, and marks left by the trailing of the 
chuzos, or long spears, were observed on the ground. It 
was generally thought that the Indians had reconnoitred 
us during the night. Shortly afterwards we came to a 
spot where, from the fresh footsteps of men, children, and 
horses, it was evident that the party had crossed the river. 

April 22nd. — The country remained the same, and was 

1834.] CANNIBAL MICE. 183 

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 the clear streamlets which entered it, 
were scarcely enlivened by a brighter tint of green. The 
curse of sterility is on the land, and the water flowing 
over a bed of pebbles partakes of the same curse. Hence 
the number of waterfowl is very scanty ; for there is 
nothing to support life in the stream of this barren river. 

Patagonia, poor as she is in some respects, can, however, 
boast of a greater stock of small rodents* 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 likewise very abundant, 
probably derives its entire support from these 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 everywhere on the 
banks of the river ; and the remains of several guanacos, 
with their necks dislocated and bones broken, showed how 
they had met their death. 

April 2/\fh. — Like the navigators of old when approach- 
ing an unknown land, we examined and watched for the 
most trivial sign of a change. The drifted trunk of a tree, 
or a boulder of primitive rock, was hailed with joy, as if 
we had seen a forest growing on the flanks of the Cordillera. 
The top, however, of a heavy bank of clouds, which re- 
mained almost constantly in one position, was the most 
promising sign, and eventually turned out a true harbinger. 
At first the clouds were mistaken for the mountains 

The desert* of Syria are characterized, accordinflr to Volney (torn, i., 
!ii), bv woody bushes, numerous rats, gazelles, and hares. In the land- 
(ic of Patagonia, the g^uanaco replaces the gar.clle, and the afpoub* the hare. 

i84 BASALTIC PEBBLES. [chap. ix. 

themselves, instead of the masses of vapour condensed by 
their icy summits. 

April 26th. — We this day met with a marked change in 
the geological structure of the plains. From the first 
starting I had carefully examined the gravel in the river, 
and for the last two 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 : 
considering the singular rapidity of the great body of water 
in the Santa Cruz, and that no still reaches occur in any 
part, this example is a most striking one, of the inefficiency 
of rivers in transporting even moderately sized fragments. 

The basalt is only lava, which has flowed beheath 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 thickness ; 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 thousand feet above the level of the sea : we 
must therefore look to the mountains of that great chain 
for its source ; and worthy of such a source are streams 
that have flowed over the gently inclined bed of the sea to 
a distance of one hundred miles. At the first glance of the 
basaltic cliffs on the opposite sides of the valley, it was 
evident that the strata once were united. What power, 
then, has removed along a whole line of country a solid 
mass of very hard rock, which had an average thickness 
of nearly three hundred feet, and a breadth varying from 
rather less than two miles to four miles? The river, 


though it has so little power in transporting even incon- 
siderable fragments, yet in the lapse of ages might produce 
by its gradual erosion an effect, of which it is difficult to 
judge the amount. But in this case, independently of the 
insignificance of such an agency, good reasons can be 
assigned for believing that this valley was formerly occupied 
by an arm of the sea. It is needless in this work to detail 
the arguments leading to this conclusion, derived from the 
form and the nature of the step-formed terraces on both 
sides of the valley, from the manner in which the bottom of 
the valley near the Andes expands into a great estuary- 
like plain with sand-hillocks on it, and from the occurrence 
of a few sea-shells lying in the bed of the river. If I had 
space I could prove that South America was formerly here 
cut off by a strait, joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, 
like that of Magellan. But it may yet be asked, how has 
the solid basalt been removed ? Geologists formerly would 
have brought into play the violent action of some over- 
whelming debdcJe; but in this case such a supposition 
would have been quite inadmissible ; because, the same 
step-like plains with existing sea-shells lying on their 
surface, which front the long line of the Patagonian coast, 
sweep up on each side of the valley of Santa Cruz. No 
possible action of any flood could thus have modelled the 
land, either within the valley or along the open coast ; and 
by tlie formation of such step-like plains or terraces the 
valley itself has been hollowed out. Although we know 
that there are tides, which run within the Narrows of the 
Strait of Magellan at the rate of eight knots an hour, yet 
we must confess that it makes the head almost giddy to 
reflect on the number of years, century after century, which 
the tides, unaided by a heavy surf, must have required to 
have corroded so vast an area and thickness of solid basaltic 
lava. Nevertheless, we must believe that the strata, under- 
mined 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 transported back again to the 
barren valleys of the island of St. Jago. Amonjr tl^ 


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 
Patagonia) burst forth ; and they could be distinguished 
at a distance by the circumscribed patches of bright green 

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

This day I shot a condor. It measured from tip to tip 
of the wings, eight and a half feet, and from beak to tail, 
four feet. This bird is known to have a wide geographical 
range, being found on 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 
four hundred miles from the great central line of their 
habitation in the Andes. Further south, among the bold 
precipices at the head of Port Desire, the condor is not 
uncommon ; yet only a few stragglers occasionally visit the 
sea-coast. A line of cliff near the mouth of the Santa Cruz 
is frequented by these birds, and about eighty miles up the 
river, where the sides of the valley are formed by ste«p 
basaltic precipices, the condor reappears. From these facts, 
it seems that the condors require perpendicular cliffs. In 
Chile, they haunt, during the greater part of the year, the 
lower country near the shores of the Pacific, and at night 
several roost together in one tree ; but in the early part of 
summer, they retire to the most inaccessible parts of the 
inner Cordillera, there to breed in peace. 

With respect to their propagation, I was told by the. 
country people in Chile, that the condor makes no sort of 
nest, but in the months of November and December lays 
two large white eggs on a shelf of bare rock. It is said 
that the young condors cannot fly for an entire year ; and 
long after they are able, they continue to roost by night, 
and hunt by day with their parents. The old birds generally 


live in pairs ; but among the inland basaltic cliffs of the 
Santa Cruz, I found a spot, where scores must usually 
haunt On coming suddenly to the brow of the precipice, 
it was a grand spectacle to see between twenty and thirty 
of these great birds start heavily from their resting-place, 
and wheel away in majestic circles. From the quantity of 
dung on the rocks, they must long have frequented this 
cliff for roosting and breeding. Having gorged themselves 
with carrion on the plains below, they retire to these 
favourite ledges to digest their food. From these facts, 
the condor, like the gallinazo, must to a certain degree be 
considered as a gregarious bird. In this part of the country 
they live altogether on the guar acos 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 sleeping places. 

The condors may oftentimes be seen at a great height, 
soaring over a certain spot in the most graceful circles. 
On some occasions 1 am sure that they do this only for 
pleasure, but on others, the Chileno countryman tells you 
that they are watching a dying animal, or the puma 
devouring Its prey. If the condors glide down, and then 
suddenly all rise together, the Chileno knows that it is the 
puma which, watching the carcass, has sprung out to drive 
away the robbers. Besides feeding on carrion, the condors 
frequently attack young goats and lambs ; and the shepherd 
dogs are trained, whenever they pass over, to run out, and 
looking upwards to bark violently. The Chilenos destroy 
and catch numbers. Two methods are used ; one Is to 
place a carcass on a level piece of ground within an 
enclosure of sticks with an opening, and when the condors 
are gorged, to gallop up on horseback to the entrance, and 
thus enclose them : for when this bird has not space to run, 
it cannot give its body sufficient momentum to rise froili 
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 difiicult 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 m, had 
hccn tied with rope, and was much injured ; yet, the 

i88 SCENT IN CARRION-HAWKS, [chap. ix. 

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 1 pushed it closer and closer, until 
at last he touched it with his beak ; the paper was then 
instantly torn off" with fury, and at the same moment, every 
bird in the long row began struggling and flapping its 
wings. Under the same 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 {Caihartes aura) are highly developed ; and on the 
evening when Mr. Owen's paper was read at the Zoological 
Society, it was mentioned by a gentleman that he had seen 
the carrion-hawks in the West Indies on two occasions 
collect on the roof of a house, when a corpse had become 
offensive from not having been buried : in this case, the 
intelligence could hardly have been acquired by sight. 

* 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. 

1834.] FLIGHT OF CONDORS. 189 

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 discoveriiig 
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 Intended together ; but they were seen distinct against 

• Loudon's Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. rii. 

190 THE CORDILLERA. [chap. ix. 

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 the moment collapsed ; and when again expanded 
with an altered inclination, the momentum gained by the 
rapid descent seemed to urge the bird upwards with the even 
and steady movement of a paper kite. In the case of any 
bird soarings its motion must be sufficiently rapid, so that 
the action of the inclined surface of its body on the 
atmosphere may counterbalance its gravity. The force to 
keep up the momentum of a body moving in a horizontal 
plane in the air (in which there is so little friction) cannot 
be great, and this force is all that is wanted. The move- 
ment 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 2^th. — From some high land we hailed with joy 
the white summits of the Cordillera, as they were seen 
occasionally peeping through their dusky envelope of clouds. 
During the few succeeding days we continued to get on 
slowly, for we found the river-course very tortuous, and 
strewed with immense fragments of various ancient slaty 
rocks, and of granite. The plain bordering the valley had 
here attained an elevation of about 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 
suprised at this ; but it is explained by the stony nature of 
the plains, which would soon disable an unshod horse from 
taking her 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 ^th. — Captain Fitz Roy determined to take the boats 
no higher. The river had a winding course, and was very 
rapid ; and the appearance of the country offered no tempta- 
tion 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 gf-eat 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. 

192 AT EAST FALKLAND ISLAND, [chap, ix. 

On March ist^ 1833, ^"^ again on March 16th, 1834, 
the Beagle anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland 
Island. This archipelago is situated in nearly the same 
latitude with the mouth of the Strait of Magellan ; it covers 
a space of one hundred and twenty by sixty geographical 
miles, and is little more than half the size of Ireland. After 
the possession of these miserable islands had been contested 
by France, Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited. 
The Government of Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private 
individual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done 
before, for a penal settlement. England claimed her right, 
and seized them. The Englishman who was left in charge 
of the flag was consequently murdered. A British officer 
was next sent, unsupported by any power : and when we 
arrived, we found him in charge of a population, of which 
rather more than half were runaway rebels and murderers. 

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

May 16th. — I will now describe a short excursion which I 
made round a part of this island. In the morning I started 
with six horses and two Gauchos : the latter were capital 
men for the purpose, and well accustomed to living on their 
own resources. The weather was very boisterous and cold, 
with heavy hailstorms. We got on, however, pretty well, 
but, 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 

* From accounts published sincp 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. 

t834.] "CARNE con CUERO." 193 

to feed. Besides these two birds there were few others. 
There is one main range of hills, nearly two thousand feet in 
height, and composed of quartz rock, the rugged and barren 
crests of which gave us some trouble to cross. On the south 
side we came to the best country for wild cattle ; we met, 
however, no great number, for they had been lately much 

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 a full gallop, he 
uncoiled his lazo, and after a most severe chase, again came 
up to the cow, and caught her round the horns. The other 
Gaucho had gone on ahead with the spare horses, so that St. 
Jago had some difficulty in killing the furious beast. He 
managed to get her on a level piece of ground, by taking 
advantage of her as often as she rushed at him ; and when 
she would not move, my horse, from having been trained, 
would canter up, and with his chest give her a violent 
pu^h. 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 in to the cow as she struggled. 
It was admirable to see with what dexterity St. Jago dodged 
behind the beast, till at last he contrived to give the fatal 
touch to the main tendon of the hind leg ; after which, without 
much difficulty, he drove his knive into the head of the spinal 
marrow, and the cow dropped as if struck by lightning. He 
cut ofT 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 ofa saucer, so that none ot 
the gravy is lost. If any worthy alderman had supped with 
us tliat evening, '* carne con cuero," without doubt, would 
<;oon have been celebrated in London. 

During the night it rained, and the next day (17th) was 


194 A STUBBORN BULL. [chap. ix. 

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 interest- 
ing 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 dis- 
engage 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 help- 
less, 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 intro- 
duced 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. 

1834.] WEAKENED HORSES. 195 

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 locaHty to which they 
are accustomed. Considering that the island does not 
appear fully stocked, and that there are no beasts of prey, 
I was particularly curious to know what has checked their 
originally rapid increase. That in a limited island some 
check would sooner or later supervene, is inevitable ; but 
why has the increase of the horse been checked sooner than 
that of the cattle ? Captain Sulivan has taken much pains 
for me in this inquiry. The Gauchos employed here attribute 
it chiefly to the stallions constantly roaming from place 
to place, and 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 to its fate. Captain Sulivan can 
so far corroborate this curious account, that he has several 
times found young foals dead, whereas he has never found 
a dead calf. Moreover, the dead bodies of full-grown 
horses are more frequently found, as if more subject to 
disease or accidents than those of the cattle. From the 
softness of the ground their hoofs often grow irregularly 
to a great length, and this causes lameness. The pre- 
dominant colours are roan and iron-gray. All the horses 
bred here, both tame and wild, are rather small sized, 
though generally in good condition ; and they have lost so 
much strength, that they are unfit to be used in taking 
wild cattle with the lazo ; in consequence, it is necessary to 
go to the great expense of importing fresh horses from the 
Plata. At some future period the southern hemisphere 
probably will have its breed of Falkland ponies, as the 
northern has its Shetland breed. 

The cattle, instead of having degenerated like the horses, 
seem, as before remarked, to have increased in size, and 
they are much more numerous than the horses. 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 1000 to 1500 feet above the sea, 
about half of some of the herds are mouse or lead-coloured, 

tint which is not common in other parts of the island. 

196 ABOUT RABBITS. [chap. ix. 

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 for 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 
probability ultimately prevail over the others, if the herds 
were left undisturbed for the next several centuries. 

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced, 
and has succeeded very well ; so that they abound over 
large parts of the island. Yet, like the horses, they are 
confined within certain limits ; for 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 con- 
sidered the black variety a distinct species, and called it 
Lepus Magellanicus.* They imagined that Magellan, when 
talking of an animal under the name of "conejos" in the 
Strait of Magellan, referred to this species ; but he was 
alluding to a small cavy, which to this day is thus called by 
the Spaniards. The Gauchos laughed at the idea of the 

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

1834] DARING FOXES. 197 

black kind being different from the gray, and they said that 
at all events it had not extended its range any further than 
the gray 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 I 

The only quadruped native to the island * is a large wolf- 
like fox {Cants antarcticus), which is common to both East 
and West Falkland. I have no doubt it is a peculiar 
species, and confined to this archipelago ; because many 
sealers, Gauchos, and Indians, who have visited these 
islands, all maintain that no such animal is found in any 
part of South America. Molina, from a similarity in 
habits, thought that this was the same with his ** culpeu ; " t 
but I have seen both, and they are quite distinct. These 
wolves are well known, from Byron's account of their tame- 
ness 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 frpm 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 fox will be 
classed with the dodo, as an animal which has perished 
from the face of the earth. 

At night (17th) we slept on the neck of land at the head 

I have reason, however, to suspect that there is a field-mouse. The 
' otnmon 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 arc very fierce, and have great tusks. 

t The "culpeu" is the Canis Magcllanicus brought home by Captain 
King from the Strait of MaB:ellan. It is common in Chile. 

198 A NOVEL FIRE. [chaK ix. 

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 i^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 day'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 
CompositcB) 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 \^th. — Each morning, from not having ridden for 
some time previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to 
hear the Gauchos, who have from infancy almost lived on 
horseback, say that, under similar circumstances, they 
always suffer. St. Jago told me, that having been confined 
for three months by illness, he went out hunting wild cattle, 
and in consequence, for the next two days, his thighs were 
so stiff that he was obliged to lie in bed. This shows that 
the Gauchos, although they do not appear to do so, yet 
really must exert much muscular effort in riding. The 
hunting wild cattle, in a country so difficult to pass as this 


is on account of the swampy ground, must be very hard 
work. The Gauchos say they often pass at full speed over 
ground which would be impassable at a slower pace ; in the 
same manner as a man is able to skate over thin ice. When 
hunting, the party endeavours to get as close as possible 
to the herd without being discovered. Each man carries 
four or five pair of the bolas ; these he throws one after the 
other at as many cattle, which, when once entangled, are 
left for some days, till they become a little exhausted by 
hunger and struggling. They are then let free, and driven 
towards a small herd of tame animals, which have been 
brought to the spot on purpose. From their previous treat- 
ment, 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 sand- 
stone, containing fossils, very closely related to, but not 
identical with, those found in 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 
s(;ats 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 

• Fcrntty, Voyage aux hits Malouintt, p. 536, 

200 ROCK STREAMS. [chap. ix. 

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 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 Inclina- 
tion 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 endeavour- 
ing to describe these scenes of violence one is tempted to 

i834.j ROCK STREAMS. not 

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 down- 
wards. 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 subse- 
quent to the land having been raised above the waters of 
the sea. In a transverse section within these valleys, the 
bottom is nearly level, or rises but very little towards either 
side. Hence the fragments appear to have travelled from 
the head of the valley ; but in reality it seems more probable 
that they have been hurled down from the nearest slopes ; 
and that since, by a vibratory movement of overwhelming 
force,* the fragments have been levelled into one continuous 
sheet. If during the earthquake t which in 1835 overthrew 
Concepclon, in Chile, it was thought wonderful that small 
bodies should have been pitched a few inches from the 
ground, what must we say to a movement which has 
caused fragments many tons in weight, to move onwards 
like so much sand on a vibrating board, and find their 
level ? I have seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, the 
evident marks where stupendous mountains have been 
broken into pieces like so much thin crust, and the strata 
thrown on their vertical edges ; but never did any scene, 

* "Nous n'avons pas ^te moins sainiii d'itonncment 4 la vfle de I'lnnom- 
brable quantity de pierres de toutcs grandeurs, boulcverBdcs Ics uiics sur Ics 
autrcs, et ccpcndant ranj;ie9, comme si dies avoient iti amonccliics nigli- 
gfemmcnt pour rcmi»lir den ravins. On ne se Uussoit pas d'admirer les effeU 
prodigicux de la nature," — Pemety, p. 526. 

t An inhabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of judjfinK, assured 
•np that, during the several years he had resided on these isl.ind^, hi- had 

V er felt the ahghtest shock of'^an earthquake. 

202 PENGUINS. [chap. ix. 

like these "streams of stones," so forcibly convey to my 
mind the idea of a convulsion, of which in historical records 
we might in vain seek for any counterpart ; yet the progress 
of knowledge will probably some day give a simple explana- 
tion 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 Polyhorus. 
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 
successively the bird let its prey go, then dived after it, 
and although in deep water, brought it each time to the 
surface. In the Zoological Gardens I have seen the otter 
treat a fish in the same manner, much as a cat does a 
mouse : I do not know of any other instance where dame 
Nature appears so wilfully cruel. Another day, having 
placed myself between a penguin {Aptenodytes demersd) 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 grease frequent the Falklands. The upland 

1534.] HOW WINGS ARE USED. 203 

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

In these islands a great logger-headed duck or goose 
{Anas brachyptera), which sometimes weighs twenty-two 
pounds, is very abundant. These birds were in former 
days called, from their extraordinary manner of paddling 
and splashing upon the water, race-horses ; but now they 
are named, much more appropriately, steamers. Their 
wings are too small and weak to allow of flight, but by 
their aid, partly swimming and partly flapping the surface 
of the water, they move very quickly. The manner is 
something like that by which the common house-duck 
escapes when pursued by a dog ; but I am nearly sure that 
the steamer moves its wings alternately, instead of both 
together, as in other birds. These clumsy, 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 feeds entirely on shell- 
fish from the kelp and tidal rocks ; hence the beak and 
head for the purpose of breaking them, are surprisingly 
heavy and strong : the head is so strong that I have 
rarcely been able to fracture it with my geological 

immer ; 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 oda 
mixture of sounds which bull-frogs do within the tropics. 

204 LOWER MARINE ANIMALS. [chap. ix. 

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-organised division of that class. Several genera 
{Flttstra, Eschara, Cellaria^ Crisia, and others) agree in 
having singular movable organs (like those of Flustra 
aviculariay 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, though small, are in every respect 
perfect. When the polypus was removed by a needle from 
any of the cells, these organs did not appear in the least 
affected. When one of the vulture-like heads was cut ofl 
from a cell, the lower mandible retained- its power of 
opening and closing. Perhaps the most singular part of 
their structure is, that when there were more than two 
rows of cells on a branch, the central cells were 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 

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

'j??34 1 COMPOUND ANIMALS. 203 

starts. When touched with a needle, the beak generally 
seized the point so firmly, that the whole branch might 
be shaken. 

These bodies have no relation whatever with the 
production of the eggs or gemmules, as they are formed 
before the young polypi appear in the cells at the end of the 
growing branches ; as they move independently of the 
polypi, and do not appear to be in any way connected with 
them ; and as they differ in size on the outer and inner 
rows of cells, I have little doubt, that in their functions, 
they are related rather to the horny axis of the branches 
than to the polypi in the cells. The fleshy 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?)t 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 independ- 
ently of the others, but sometimes all on both sides of a 
branch, sometimes only those on one side, moved together 
coinstantaneously ; sometimes each moved in regular order 
one after another. In these actions we apparently behold 
as perfect a transmission of will in the zoophyte, though 
composed of thousands of distinct polypi, as in any single 
animal. The case, indeed, is not different from that of the 
sea-pens, which, when touched, drew themselves into the 
sand on the coast of Bahia Blanca. I will state one other 
instance of uniform action, though of a very different 
nature, in a zoophyte closely allied to Clytia, and therefore 
very simply organised. Having kept a large tuft of it in 
.1 basin of salt water, when it was dark I found that as 
often as I rubbed any part of a branch, the whole became 
-.trongly phosphorescent with a green light : I do not think 
I ever saw any object more beautifully so. But the remark- 
able circumstance was, that the flashes of light always 
proceeded up the branches, from the base towards the 

The examination of these compound animals was always 

very interesting to me. What can be more remarkable 

lian to see a plant-like body producing an e^^, capable of 

wimming about and of choosing a proper place to adhere 

), which then sprouts into branches, each crowded with 

2o6 COMPOUND ANIMALS. [chap. ix. 

innumerable distinct animals, often of complicated organiz- 
ations? The branches, moreover, as we have just seen, 
sometimes possess organs capable of movement and 
independent of the polypi. Surprising as this union of 
separate individuals in a common stock must always 
appear, every tree displays the same fact, for buds must be 
considered as individual plants. It is, however, natural to 
consider a polypus, furnished with a mouth, intestines, 
and other organs, as a distinct individual, whereas the 
individuality of a leaf-bud is not easily realised ; so that 
the union of separate individuals in a common body is 
more striking in a coralline than in a tree. Our concep- 
tion 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 hersell 
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. 

iS32.] 207 



Tierra del Fuegfo, First Arrival — Good Success 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 — 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 

December lyth, 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 Statenland was visible amidst the 
clouds. In the afternoon we anchored in the Baj^ of 
Good Success. Vhile 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 
mountams of clay-slate, which are covered to the water's 
edge by one dense gloomy forest. A single glance at 
the landscape was sufficient to show me how widely 
different it was from anything I had ever beheld. At 
night it blew a gale of wind, and heavy "squalls from 
the mountains swept past us. It would have been a bad 
time out at sea, and we, as well as others, may call this 
Good Success Bay. 

In the morning the captain sent a party to communicate 
with the Fuegians. When we came within hail, one of 
the four natives who were present advanced to receive us, 
and began to shout most vehemently, wishing to direct 
us where to land. When we were on shore the party 

2o8 A FUEGIAN FAMILY. [chap. x. 

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 civilized man ; it is greater than between a wild 
and domesticated animal, inasmuch as in man there is a 
greater power of improvement. The chief spokesman was 
old, and appeared to be the head of the family ; the three 
others were powerful young men, about six feet high. The 
women and children had been sent away. These Fuegians 
are a very different race from the stunted, miserable wretches 
farther westward ; and they seem closely allied to the famous 
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 countenances distrustful, surprised, and startled. After 
we had presented them with some scarlet cloth, which they 
immediately tied round their necks, they became good 
friends. This was shown by the old man patting our 
breasts, and making a chuckling kind of noise, as people 
do when feeding chickens. I walked with the old man, 
and this demonstration of friendship was repeated several 
times ; it was concluded by three hard slaps, which were 
given me on the breast and back at the same time. He 
then bared his bosom for me to return the compliment.. 
which being done, he seemed highly pleased. The language 
of these people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves 
to be called articulate. Captain Cook has compared it to 
a man clearing his throat, but certainly no European ever 
cleared his throat with so many hoarse, guttural, and 
clicking sounds. 

1832.] CLEVER MIxMICS. 209 

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 Cafifres : the Australians, 
likewise, have long been notorious for being able to imitate 
and describe the gait of any man, so that he may be recog- 
nised. How can this faculty be explained? Is it a con- 
sequence 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 waltz- 
ing. 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 

. Captain Fitz Roy to undertake our present voyage ; 

;id before the Admiralty had resolved to send out this 

jio CIVILIZED FUEGIANS. [chap. x. 

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 and of the natives, Captain Fitz Roy has published 
a full and excellent account. Two men, one of whom died 
in England of the small-pox, a boy and a little girl, were 
originally taken ; and we had now on board York Minster, 
Jemmy Button (whose name expresses his purchase-money), 
and Fuegia Basket. York Minster was a full-grown, short, 
thick, powerful man ; his disposition was reserved, taciturn, 
morose, and when excited violently passionate ; his affec- 
tions 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 disposition. He was merry and often 
laughed, and was remarkably sympathetic with any one 
in pain ; when the water was rough, I was often a little 
sea-sick, and he used to come to me and say in a plaintive 
voice, " Poor, poor fellow ! " but the notion, after his aquatic 
life, of a man being sea-sick, was too ludicrous, and he was 
generally obliged to turn on one side to hide a smile or 
laugh, and then he would repeat his **Poor, poor fellow!" 
He was of a patriotic disposition ; and he liked to praise 
his own tribe and country, in which he truly said there were 
"plenty of trees," and he abused all the other tribes; he 
stoutly declared that there was no devil in his land. Jemmy 
was short, thick, and fat, but vain of his personal appear- 
ance ; 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 qualities, that he should have been of the 
same race, and doubtless partakers of the same character, 
with the miserable, degraded savages whom we first met 
here- Lastly, Fuegia Basket was a nice, modest, reserved 
young girl, with a rather pleasing but sometimes sullen 
expression, and very quick in learning anything, especially 
languages. This she showed in picking up some Portuguese 


and Spanish, when left on shore for only a short time at 
Rio de Janeiro and Monte Video, and in her knowledge 
of English. York Minster was very jealous of any attention 
paid to her ; for it was clear he determined to marry her as 
soon as they were settled on shore. 

Although all three could both speak and understand a 
good deal of English, it was singularly difficult to obtain 
much information from them concerning the habits of their 
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 impossible to find 
out, by cross-questioning, whether one had rightly under- 
stood anything which they had asserted. Their sight was 
remarkably acute ; it is well known that sailors, from long 
practice, can make out a distant object much better than a 
landsman ; but both York and Jemmy were much superior to 
any sailor on board ; several times they have declared what 
some distant object has been, and though doubted by every 
one, they have proved right, when it has been examined 
through a telescope. They were quite conscious of this power ; 
and Jemmy, when he had any little quarrel with the officer 
on watch, would say, ** Me see ship, me no tell." 

It was interesting to watch the conduct of the savages, 
when we landed, towards Jemmy Button ; they immediately 
perceived the difference between him and ourselves, and held 
much 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 un- 
trimmed 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 white- 
ness, just in the same way in which I have seen the ourang- 
outang do at the Zoological Gardens. We thought tliat they 
mistook two or three of the officers, who were rather shorter 
and fairer, though adorned with large beards, for the ladies of 

2T2 IN TIERRA DEL FUEGO. [chap. x. 

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 tip-toe. 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 
Tierradel Fuego. After our first feeling of grave astonish- 
ment 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 looo 
and 1500 feet, and are succeeded by a band of peat, with 
minute alpine plants ; and this again is succeeded by the line 
of perpetual snow, which, according to Captain King, in the 
Strait of Magellan descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet. 
To find an acre of level land in any part of the country is 
most rare. I recollect only one little flat piece near Port 
Famine, and another of rather larger extent near Goeree 
Road. In both places, and 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 putrefy- 
ing 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 con- 
tinued 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 

1832.] SMALL BEECH-TREES. 213 

a difference : for in these still solitudes, Death, instead of 
Life, seemed the predominant spirit. I followed tlflfc water- 
course 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 Fagtcs hetuloides ; for the number of the other 
species of Fagus and of the Winter's Bark is quite in- 
considerable. This beech keeps its leaves throughout the 
year ; but its foliage is of a peculiar brownish-green colour, 
with a tinge of yellow. As the whole landscape is thus 
coloured, it has a sombre, dull appearance ; nor is it often 
enlivened by the rays of the sun. 

December 20th. — One side of the harbour is formed by a 
hill about 1500 feet hi^h, 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 com- 
pelled 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 
fraight path made by the guanacos ; for these animals, like 
lieep, always follow the same line. When we reached the 

ill we found it the highest in the immediate neighbourhood, 

nd the waters flowed to the sea in opposite directions. We 
obtained a wide view over the surrounding country : to the 


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

December 21st. — The Beagle got under way ; and on the 
succeeding day, favoured to an uncommon degree by a 
fine easterly breeze, we closed in with the Barnevelts, and 
running past Cape Deceit with its stony peaks, about three 
o'clock doubled the 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 mountains, 
which made the ship surge at her anchors. 

December 25^^.— Close by the cove, a pointed hill, called 
Kater's Peak, rises to the height of 1700 feet. The 
surrounding islands all consist of conical masses of green- 
stone, associated sometimes with less regular hills of baked 
and altered clay-slate. This part of Tierra del Fuego may 
be considered as the extremity of the submerged chain of 
mountains already alluded to. The cove takes its name of 
** Wigwam" from some of the Fuegian habitations; but 
every bay in the neighbourhood might be so called with 
equal propriety. The inhabitants, living chiefly upon shell- 
fish, are obliged constantly to change their place of 
residence ; but they return at intervals to the same spots, 
as is evident from the piles of old shells, which must often 


amount to many tons in weight. These heaps can be 
distinguished at a long distance by the bright green colour 
of certain plants which invariably grow on them. Among 
these may be enumerated the wild celery and scurvy grass, 
two very serviceable plants, the use of which has not been 
discovered by the natives. 

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

While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, 
we pulled alongside a canoe with six Fuegians. These 
were the most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere 
beheld. On the east coast the natives, as we have seen, 
have guanaco cloaks, 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 recently-born child, came one day 
alongside the vessel, and remained there out of mere 
curiosity, whilst the sleet fell and thawed on her naked 

 bosom and on the skin of her naked baby I These poc 

2i6 A HARD LIFE. [chap, x, 

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 sufi'er 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, as 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 in winter 
by hunger they kill and devour their old women before 
tliey 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 ! 

Captain Fitz Roy could never ascertain that the Fuegians 
have any distinct belief in a future life. They sometimes 
bury their dead in caves, and sometimes in the mountain 
forests ; we do not know what ceremonies they perform. 
Jemmy Button would not eat land -birds, because "eat 
dead men : " they are unwilling even to mention their 
dead friends. We have no reason to believe that they 
perform any sort of religious worship ; though perhaps 
the muttering of the old man before he distiibuted 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 (York imitating his manner), "What that?" 
;uid crawling onwards, he peeped over the clifT. and sa\^ 


"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, irl a race a little more advanced in culture, the 
elements would become personified. What the "bad 
wild men" were has always appeared to me most 
mysterious; from what York said, when we found the 
place like the form of a hare, where a single man had 
slept the night before, I should have thought that they 
were thieves who had been driven from their tribes ; but 
other obscure speeches made me doubt this ; I have 
sometimes imagined that the most probable explanation 
was that they were insane. 

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

1833.] CAUGHT IN A SQUALL. 219 

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have 
they come? What could have tempted, or what change 
compelled a tribe of men, to leave the fine regions of the 
north, to travel down the Cordillera or backbone of 
America, to invent and build canoes, which are not used 
by the tribes of Chile, Peru, and Brazil, and then to 
enter on one of the most inhospitable countries within 
the limits of the globe? Although such reflections must 
at first seize on the mind, yet we may feel sure that they 
are partly erroneous. There is no reason to believe that 
the Fuegians decrease in number ; therefore we must 
suppose that they enjoy a sufficient share of happiness, 
of whatever kind it may be, to render life worth having. 
Nature, by making habit omnipotent, and its effects 
hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the climate and the 
productions of his miserable country. 

After having been detained six days in Wigwam Cove 
by very bad weather, we put to sea on the 30th of 
December. Captain Fitz Roy wished to get westward 
to land York and Fuegia in their own country. When 
at sea we had a constant succession of gales, and the 
current was against us : we drifted to 57° 23' south. 
On the nth of January, 1833, by carrying a press of 
sail, we fetched within a few miles of the great rugged 
mountain of York Minster (so called by Captain Cook, 
and the origin of the name of the elder Fuegian), when 
a violent squall compelled us to shorten sail and stand 
out to sea. The surf was breaking fearfully on the 
coast, and the spray was carried over a cliff estimated 
at two hundred feet in height. On the 12th the gale 
was very heavy, and we did not know exactly where we 
were : it was a most unpleasant sound to hear constantly 
repeated, "Keep a good look-out to leeward." On the 
13th the storm raged with its full fury ; our horizon was 
narrowly limited by the sheets of spray borne by th< 
wind. The sea looked ominous, like a dreary wavin; 
plain with patches of drifted snow; whilst the shi| 
laboured heavily, the albatross glided with its expandon 
wings right up the wind. At noon a great sea brok< 
over us, and filled one of the whale-boats, which wa 
obliged to be instantly cut away. The poor Hea^i 
trembled at the shock, and for a few minutes would no' 
'»oy her helm; but soon, like a good ship that she was, 

220 IN PONSONBY SOUND. [chap. x. 

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 
delightful was that still night, after having been so long 
involved in the din of the warring elements ! 

January i^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 remark- 
able feature in the geography of this or indeed of any other 
country ; it may be compared to the valley of Loch Ness in 
Scotland, with its chain of lakes and friths. It is about 
one hundred and twenty miles long, with an average breadth, 
not subject to any very great variation, of about two miles ; 
and is throughout the greater part so perfectly straight that 
the view, bounded on each side by a line of mountains, 
gradually becomes indistinct in the long distance. It 
crosses the southern part of 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 i<)th. — Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a 
party of twenty-eight, started under the command of Captain 
Fitz Roy. In the afternoon we entered the eastern mouth 
of the channel, and shortly afterwards found a snug little 
cove concealed by some surrounding islets. Here we pitched 
our tents and lighted our fires. Nothing could look more 
comfortable than this scene. The glassy water of the little 
harbour, with the branches of the trees hanging over the 
rocky beach, the boats at anchor, the tents supported by 
the crossed oars, and the smoke curling up the wooded 
valley, formed a picture of quiet retirement. The next day 
(20th) we smoothly glided onwards in our little fleet, and 
came to a more inhabited district. Few if anv of these 

1833.] AMONG THE NATIVES. 221 

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 lire), 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 over- 
hanging cliff; they were absolutely naked, and their long 
hair streamed about their faces ; they held rugged staffs 
in their hands, and, springing from the ground, they waved 
their arms round their hf ads, and sent forth the most 
hideous yells. 

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. 
At first they were not inclined to be friendly ; for until the 
Captain pulled in ahead of the other boats they kept their 
slings in their hands. We soon, however, delighted them 
by trifling presents, such as tying red tape round their 
heads. They liked our biscuit; but one of the savages 
touched with his finger some of the meat preserved in tin 
cases which I was eating, and feeling it soft and cold, 
showed as much disgust at it as I should have done at 
putrid blubber. Jemmy was thoroughly ashamed of his 
countrymen, and declared his own tribe were quite different, 
in which he was woefully mistaken. It was as easy to 
please as it was difficult to satisfy these savages. Young 
and old, men and children, never ceased repeating the word 
"yammerschooner," which means " give me." After point- 
ing 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 (21st), being 
ioined by others, they showed symptoms of hostility, and 

' thought that we should have come to a skirmish. An 

uropean labours under great disadvantages when treating 
with savages like these, who have not the least idea of tiie 


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 understand how it is effected ; 
for the fact of a body being invisible from its velocity would 
perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. Moreover, 
the extreme force of a bullet that penetrates a hard substance 
without tearing it, may convince the savage that it has no 
force at all. Certainly I believe that many savages of the 
lowest grade, such as these of Tierra del Fuego, have seen 
objects struck, and even small animals killed by the musket, 
without being in the least aware how deadly an instrument 
it is. 

January 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 

1833.] FOREST-CLAD HILLS. 223 

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 higli, 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 
nnked bodies all bedaubed with black, white,* and red, 

' This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little specific 
gravity : Professor Elirenberg has examined it : he states (A'o/i/jf Aknd. 
der Pvissen : Herlin, Feb. 1^45) that it is composed of infusoria, mcludine 
fourteen polycfastrica and four phytolitharia. He says that they are all 
inhabitants of fresh water; this is a beautiful example of the results obtain- 
able throujjh Professor Ehrenberff's microscopin rosc.irches ; for Jemmy liuttf)i' 
told me that it is always collected at the bottoms of mountain brooks. It is, 
moreover, a strikint; fact in the geographical di.stnbutiun of the infusoria, 
which are well known to have very wide ranges, that all the species in thir 
substance, although brought from the extreme southern point of Tierrs dki 

i^-gro, are old, known formn. 

224 JEMMY AND HIS FRIENDS. [chap. x. 

they looked like so many demoniacs who had been fighting. 
We then proceeded (accompanied by twelve canoes, each 
holding four or five people) down Ponsonby Sound to the 
spot where poor Jemmy expected to find his mother and 
relatives. He had already heard that his father was dead ; 
but as he had had a "dream in his head" to that effect, 
he did not seem to care much about it, and repeatedly 
comforted himself with the very natural reflection — "Me 
no help it." He was not able to learn any particulars 
regarding his father's death, as his relations would not 
speak about it. 

Jemmy was now in a district well known to him, and 
guided the boats to a quiet pretty cove named Woollya, 
surrounded by islets, every one of which and every point 
had its proper native name. We found here a family of 
Jemmy's tribe, but not his relations ; we made friends with 
them, and in the evening they sent a canoe to inform 
Jemmy's mother and brothers. The cove was bordered by 
some acres of good sloping land, not covered (as elsewhere) 
either by peat or by forest trees. Captain Fitz Roy 
originally intended, as before stated, to have taken York 
Minster and Fuegia to their own tribe on the west coast ; 
but as they expressed a wish to remain here, and as the 
spot was singularly favourable. Captain Fitz Roy determined 
to settle here the whole party, including Matthews, the 
missionary. Five days were spent in building for them 
three large wigwams, in landing their goods, in digging 
two gardens, and sowing seeds. 

The next morning after our arrival (the 24th) the Fuegians 
began to pour in, and Jemmy's mother and brothers 
arrived. Jemmy recognized the stentorian voice of one of 
his brothers at a prodigious distance. The meeting was 
less interesting than that between a horse, turned out into 
a field, when he joins an old companion. There was no 
demonstration of affection ; they simply stared for a short 
time at each other ; and the mother immediately went to 
look after her canoe. We heard, however, through York, 
that the mother had been inconsolable for the loss of Jemmy, 
and had searched everywhere for him, thinking that he 
might have been left after having been taken in the boat. 
The women took much notice of, and were very kind to, 
Fuegia. We had already perceived that Jemmy had almost 
forgotten his own language. I should think there was 
scarcely another human being with so small a stock of 


language, for his English was very imperfect, it was 
laughable, but almost pitiable, to hear him speak to his 
wild brother in English, and then ask him in Spanish 
(** no sabe ? ") whether he did not understand him. 

Everything went on peaceably during the three next days, 
whilst the gardens were digging and wigwams building. 
We estimated the number of natives at about one hundred 
and twenty. The women worked hard, whilst the men 
lounged about all day long, watching us. They asked for 
everything they saw and stole what they could. They were 
delighted at our dancing and singing, and were particularly 
interested at seeing us wash in a neighbouring brook ; they 
did not pay much attention to anything else, not even to 
our boats. Of all the things which York saw, during his 
absence from his country, nothing seems more to have 
astonished him than an ostrich near Maldonado ; breathless 
with astonishment he came running to Mr. Bvnoe, with whom 
he was out walking — "Oh, Mr. Bynoe, on, bird all same 
horse I " 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. Every- 
thing 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 showeci, 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 milos distant. Matthews, with his usual 
quiet fortitude (remarkable in a man apparently possessing 
little energy of character), determined to stay with the 
Fuegians, who evinced no alarm for themselves ; and so we 
left them to pass their first awful night. 

On our return in the morning (28th) we were delighted 
lo find all quiet, and the men cniployod in thoir c:ino"» 
spearing fish. 


Captain FItz Roy determined to send the yawi and one 
whale-boat back to the ship ; and to proceed with the two 
other boats, one under his own command (in which he most 
kindly allowed me to accompany him), and one under Mr. 
Hammond, to survey the western parts of the Beagle 
Channel, and afterwards to return and visit the settlement. 
The day, to our astonishment, was overpoweringly hot, so 
that our skins were scorched : with this beautiful weather, 
the view in the middle of the Beagle Channel was very 
remarkable. Looking towards either hand, no object 
intercepted the vanishing points of this long canal between 
the mountains. The circumstance of its being an arm of 
the sea was rendered very evident by several huge whales * 
spouting in different directions. On one occasion I saw 
two of these monsters, probably male and female, slowly 
swimming one after the other, within less than a stone's 
throw of the shore, over which the beech-tree extended its 

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 yielding 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 conscious- 
ness 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 2<^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 three 

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


and four thousand feet, with one peak above six thousand 
feet. They are covered by a wide mantle of perpetual snow, 
and numerous cascades pour their waters, through the 
woods, into the narrow channel below. In many parts, 
magnificent glaciers extend from the mountain side to the 
water's edge. It is scarcely possible to imagine anything 
more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, 
and especially as contrasted with the dead white of the 
'upper expanse of snow. The fragments which had fallen 
from the glacier into the water were floating away, and 
the channel with its icebergs presented, for the space of a 
mile, a miniature likeness of the Polar Sea. The boats 
being hauled on shore at our dinner-hour, we were admiring 
from the distance of half a mile a perpendicular cliff of ice, 
and were wishing that some more fragments would fall. 
At last, down came a mass with a roaring noise, and 
immediately we saw the smooth outline of a wave travel- 
ling towards us. The men ran down as quickly as they 
could to the boats ; for the chance of their being dashed to 
pieces was evident. One of the seamen just caught hold of 
the bows as the curling breaker reached it ; he was 
knocked over and over, but not hurt ; and the boats, 
though thrice lifted on high and let fall again, received no 
damage. This was most fortunate for us, for we were a 
hundred miles distant from the ship, and we should have 
been left without provisions or firearms. I had previously 
observed that some large fragments of rock on the beach 
had been lately displaced ; but until seeing this wave, I 
did not understand the cause. One side of the creek was 
formed by a spur of mica-slate ; the head by a cliff of ice 
about forty feet high ; and the other side by a promontory 
fifty feet high, built up of huge rounded fragments 01 
granite and mica-slate, out of which old trees were grow- 
ing. 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 seaweed between them ; and when the tide rose, 
we had to get up and move our blanket-bags. The farthest 


point westward which we reached was Stewart Island, a 
distance of about one hundred and fifty miles from our 
ship. We returned into the Beagle Channel by the southern 
arm, and thence proceeded, with no adventure, back to 
Ponsonby Sound. 

February 6th. — We arrived at Woollya. Matthews gave 
so bad an account of the conduct of the Fuegians, that Captain 
Fitz Roy determined to take him back to the Beagle ; and 
ultimately he was left at New Zealand, where his brother' 
was a missionary. From the time of our leaving, a regular 
system of plunder commenced ; fresh parties of the natives 
kept arriving : York and Jemmy lost many things, and 
Matthews almost everything which had not been concealed 
underground. Every article seemed to have been torn up 
and divided by the natives. Matthews described the watch 
he was obliged always to keep as most harassing ; night 
and day he was surrounded by the natives, who tried to 
tire him out by making an incessant noise close to his 
head. One day an old man, whom Matthews asked to 
leave his wigwam, immediately returned with a large stone 
in his hand : another day a whole party came armed with 
stones and stakes, and some of the younger men and 
Jemmy's brother were crying ; Matthews met them* with 
presents. Another party showed by signs that they 
wished to strip him naked, and pluck all the hairs out of 
his face and body. I think we arrived just in time to 
save his life. Jemmy's relatives had been so vain and 
foolish, that they had 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 powerful resolute man, was pretty sure to 
get on well, together with his wife Fuegia. Poor Jemmy 
looked rather disconsolate, and would then, I have little 
doubt, have been glad to have returned with us. His own 
brother had stolen many things from him ; and as he re- 
marked, " What fashion call that ? " he abused his country- 
men, "all bad men, no sabe (know) nothing," and, though 
I never heard him swear before, "damned fools." Our 
three Fuegians, though they had been only three years 
with civilised men, would, I am sure, have been glad to 
have retained their new habits ; but this was obviously im- 
possible. 1 ff^ar 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 sai) 
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 tihe 
eastern entrance of the Beagle Channel. Captain Fitz 
Roy determined on the bold, and as it proved successful, 
attempt to beat against the westerly winds by the same 
route which we had followed in the boats to the settlement 
at Woollya. We did not see many natives until we were 
near Ponsonby Sound, where we were followed by ten or 
twelve canoes. The natives did not at all understand the 
reason of our tacking, and, instead of meeting us at each 
tack, vainly strove to follow us in our zig-zag course. I 
was amused at finding what a difference the circumstance 
of being quite superior in force made, in the interest of be- 
holding these savages. While in the boats I got to hate 
the very sound of their voices, so much trouble did they 
give us. The first and last word was * ' yammerschooner. " 
When, entering some quiet little cove we have looked 
round, and thought to pass a quiet night, the odious word 
"yammerschooner" has shrilly sounded from some gloomy 
nook, and then the little signal-smoke has curled up to 
spread the news far and wide. On leaving some place we 
have said to each other, ** Thank Heaven, we have at last 
fairly left these wretches ! " when one more faint halloo 
from an all-powerful voice, heard at a prodigious distance, 
would reach our ears, and clearly could we distinguish — 
"yammerschooner." 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 satis- 
faction with which one young woman, with her face painted 
black, tied several bits of scarlet cloth round her head with 


rushes. Her husband, who enjoyed the very universal privi- 
lege in this country of possessing two wives, evidently 
became jealous of all the attention paid to his young wife ; 
and, after a consultation with his naked beauties, was 
paddled away by thenni. 

Some of the Fuegians plainly showed that they had a fair 
notion of oarter. 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 admiration far more 
than any grand or complicated object, such as our ship. 
Bougainville has well remarked concerning these people, 
that they treat the "chef-d'oeuvres de I'industrie humaine, 
comme ils traitent les loix de la nature et ses ph^nom^nes." 

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 fla^ flying, was seen approach- 
ing, with one of the men in it washing the paint off his 
face. This man was poor Jemmy — now a thin, haggard 
savage, with long disordered hair, and naked, except a bit 
of a blanket round his waist. We did not recognise him 
till he was close to us ; for he was ashamed of himself, and 
turned his back to the ship. We had left him plump, fat, 
clean, and well dressed ; I never saw so complete and 
grievous a change. As soon, however, as he was clothed, 
and the first flurry was over, things wore a good appear- 
ance. 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 
Vork Minster had built a large canoe, and with his wife 
Fuegia,* had several months since gone to his own 
country, and had taken farewell by an act of consummate 
villainy ; he persuaded Jemmy and his mother to come with 
him, and then on the way deserted them by night, stealing 
every article of their property. 

Jemmy went to sleep on the 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 ! 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 perfect equality among the individuals composing the 
Fuegian tribes must for a long time retard their civilisation. 
As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to 
live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improve- 
ment, so is it with the races of mankind. Whether we look 

• Captain Sutivan, who, iiince his voyaRC in the Btagle, hai been employed 
on the iturvey of the FalklanrI Iblands, heard from a aealer in (1842?), tiiat 
when in the wcNtern part of the Strait of Mag:ell»n, he waa astonished by a 
native woman comini^ on board, who could talk aomc Kngliah. Without (timbt 
this was Fueifia liasket. Sh« lived (I fear the ttrm probably bears a doubU 
interpretation) aoins days on board. 


at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilised always 
have the most artificial governments. For instance, the 
inhabitants of Otahelte, who, when first discovered, were 
governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at a far higher 
grade than another branch of the same people, the New 
Zealanders — who, although benefited by being compelled 
to turn their attention to agriculture, were republicans in 
the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some 
chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired 
advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems 
scarcely possible that the political state of the country can 
be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one 
is torn into shreds and distributed ; and no one individual 
becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is 
difficult to 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 comparatively civilised. The 
Esquimaux, in his subterranean hut, enjoys some of the 
comforts of life, and in his canoe, when fully equipped, 
manifests much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern Africa, 
prowling about in search of roots, and living concealed on 
the wild and arid plains, are sufficiently wretched. The 
Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest 
the Fuegian ; he can, however, boast of his boomerang, his 
spear and throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, of 
tracking animals, and of hunting. Although the Australian 
may be superior in acquirements, it by no means follows 
that he is likewise superior in mental capacity ; indeed, from 
what I saw of the Fuegians when on board, and from what 
I have read of the Australians, I should think the case was 
exactly the reverse. 

1 834-] 233 



Strait of Mag-ellan — Port Famine — Ascent of Mount Tarn — 
Forests — Edible Fungus — Zoolog^y — Great Seaweed — Leave 
Tierra del Fuego — Climate — Fruit-trees and productions of 
the southern coasts — Height of Snow-line on the Cordillera 
— Descent of Glaciers to the Sea — Icebergs formed — Trans- 
portal of Boulders — Climate and Productions of the 
Antarctic Islands — Preservation of frozen carcasses — 

In the end of May, 1834, we entered for the second time the 
eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan. The country on 
both sides of this part of the Strait consists of nearly level 
plains, like those of Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little within 
the second Narrows, may be considered as the point where 
the land begins to assume the marked features of Tierra del 
Fuego. On the east coast, south of the Strait, broken park- 
like scenery In a like manner connects these two countries, 
which are opposed to each other In almost every feature. 
It Is truly surprising to find In a space of twenty miles such 
a change In the landscape. If we take a rather greater 
distance, as between Port Famine and Gregory Bay, that Is 
about sixty miles, the difference Is still more wonderful. At 
the former place, we have rounded mountains concealed 
by Impervious forests, which are drenched with the rain, 
brought by an endless succession of gales ; while at Cape 
Gregory, there Is a clear and bright blue sky over the dry 
and sterile plains. The atmospheric currents,* 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 Inter- 
view at Cape Gregory with the famous so-called gigantic 

• The Bouth-westerly breezes are generally very dry. January 29th, being 
At anchor under Capt- r.rcKory : a ver^ hard gale from W. by S., clear sky with 
few cumuli ; temperature 57*, dew-point 36°--(lilfcrcnce 21*. On January 15th, 
at Port St Julian : in the morning light winds with much rain, followed by a 
very heavy squAll with rain — »«Tttlc<l into heavy gale with larfjc cumuli — 
cleared up, blowing very strong from S.S.W. Temperature 60*, dew-point 4a* 
—difference 18*. 

334 AMONG THE PATAGONIANS. [chap. xi. 

Patagonians, who gave us a cordial reception. Their height 
appears greater than it really is, from their large guanaco 
mantles, their long flowing hair, and general figure ; on an 
average their height is about six feet, with some men taller 
and only a few shorter ; and the women are also tall ; 
altogether they are certainly the tallest race which we 
anywhere saw. In features they strikingly resemble the 
more northern Indians whom I saw with Rosas, but they 
have a wilder and more formidable appearance : their faces 
were much painted with red and black, and one man was 
ringed and dotted with white like a Fuegian. 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 communication with sealers and whalers, 
that most of the men can speak a little English and Spanish ; 
and they are half civilised, and proportionally demoralised. 

The next morning a large party went on shore to barter for 
skins and ostrich-feathers ; firearms being refused, tobacco 
was in greatest request, far more so than axes or tools. 
The whole population of the toldos, men, women, and 
children, were arranged on a bank. It was an amusing 
scene, and it was impossible not to like the so-called giants, 
they were so thoroughly good-humoured and unsuspecting ; 
they asked us to come again. They seem to like to have 
Europeans to live with them ; and old Maria, an important 
woman in the tribe, once begged Mr. Low to leave any one 
of his sailors with them. They spend the greater part of 
the year here ; but in summer they hunt along the foot of 
the 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 
(1580), these Indians had bows and arrows, now long since 
disused ; 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 

* Reng-ger. " Natur. der Saeugethiere von Paraguay," S. 334. 

i834] AT PORT FAMINE. 235 

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 1st. — We anchored in the fine bay of Port Famine. 
It was now the beginning of winter, and I never saw a more 
cheerless prospect ; the dusky woods, piebald with snow, 
could be only seen indistinctly through a drizzling hazy 
atmosphere. We were, however, lucky in getting two 
fine days. On one of these. Mount Sarmiento, a distant 
mountain 6800 feet high, presented a very noble spectacle. 
I was frequently surprised, in the scenery of Tierra del 
Fuego, at the little apparent elevation of mountains really 
lofty. I suspect it is owing to a cause which would not at 
first be imagined, namely that the whole mass, from the 
summit to the water's edge, is generally in full view. I 
remember having seen a mountain, first from the Beagle 
Channel, where the whole sweep from the summit to the 
base was full in view, and then from Ponsonby Sound across 
several successive ridges ; and it was curious to observe in 
the latter case, as each fresh ridge 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 disinter- 
ested 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 da]^ 
without any shelter, to the late incessant gales, with rain, 

f-et, and snow, and yet they were in good health. 
During our stay at Port Famine, the Fuegians twice 
tame 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 

236 CLIMBING MOUNT TARN. [chap. xi. 

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 them- 
selves behind 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 effectu- 
ally, 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 m 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 2600 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 landmark, though in a mountainous 
country, was completely shut out. In the deep ravines, the 
death-like scene of desolation exceeded all description ; out- 
side 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 com- 
pletely 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 \yj 
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 

1834.] LARGE TREES. 237 

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 evergreen forests,* in which two or three species of 
trees grow, to the exclusion of all others. Above the forest 
land, there are many dwarf alpine plants, which all spring 
from the mass of peat, and help to compose it : these plants 
are very remarkable from their close alliance with the 
species growing on the 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 any- 
where else : 1 measured a Winter's Bark which was four 
feet six inches in girth, and several of the beech were as 
much as thirteen feet. Captain King also mentions a beech 
which was seven feet in diameter seventeen feet above 
the roots. 

There is one vegetable production deserving notice from 
Its importance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It 
is a globular, bright-yellow fungus, which grows in vast 
numbers on the beech-trees. When young it is elastic and 
turgid, with a smooth surface ; but when mature It shrinks, 
becomes tougher, and has its entire surface deeply pitted or 
honeycombed. This fungus belongs to a new and curious 
genus ; t I found a second species on another species of 

• Captain Fitz Roy informs me that in April (our October), the leaves ot 
those trees which grow near the base of the mountains change colour, but not 
those on the more elevated parts. I remember having read some observations, 
showing that in England the leaves fall earlier in a warm and fine autumn, 
than in a late and cold one. The change in the colour being here retarded in 
the more elevated, and therefore colder situations, must be owing to the same 
general law of vegetation. The trees of Tierra del Fuego during no part of the 
vcar entirely shed ihcir leaves. 

t DcBcribc'd from niy specimens, and notes by the Rev. J. M, Berkeley, in the 
hinncan Transactions " (vol. xix., j>. 37), under the name of Cvttariu iJarwiuii « 
'if C'fiilian sv)ri ics is thr ( .' Hrrteroii. This geous tfl allied to buli^aria. 

33» EDIBLE FUNGUS. [chap, xr? 

beech in Chile ; and Dr. Hooker informs me, that just 
lately a third species has been discovered on a third species 
of beeches in Van Diemen's Land. How singular is this 
relationship between parasitical fungi and the trees on 
which they grow, in distant parts of the world ! In Tierra 
del Fuego the fungus in its tough and mature state is 
collected in large quantities by the women and children, 
and is eaten uncooked. It has a mucilaginous, slightly 
sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of a mushroom. 
With the exception of a few berries, chiefly of a dwarf 
arbutus, the natives eat no vegetable food beside this 
fungus. In New Zealand, before the introduction of the 
potato, the roots of the fern were largely consumed ; at the 
present time, I believe, Tierra del Fuego is the only country 
in the world where a cryptogamic plant affords a staple 
article of food. 

The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been 
expected from the nature of its climate and vegetation, is 
very poor. Of mammalia, besides whales and seals, there 
is one bat, a kind of mouse {Reithrodon chinchilloides), two 
true mice, a ctenomys allied to or identical with the 
tucutuco, two foxes {Cants Magellanicus and C. AzarcB)y 
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 accumu- 
lated 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 ; occasion- 
ally the plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher 
{Myiohiics 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 
Magellanicv^) hops in a skulking manner among the 
entangled mass of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the 
creeper {Oxyumis tupinieri) is the commonest bird in the 
country. Throughout the beech forests, high up and low 
down, in the most gloomy, wet, and impenetrable ravines, 
it may be met with. This little bird no doubt appears more 
numerous than it really is, from its habit of following with 
seeming curiosity any person who enters these silent woods ; 
continually uttering a harsh twitter, it flutters from tree to 
tree, withm a few feet of the intruder's face. It is far from 
wishing for the modest concealment of the true creeper 
{Certhia fatniliaris) ; nor does it, like that bird, run up the 
trunks of trees, but industriously, after the manner of a 
willow-wren, hops about, and searches for insects on every 
twig and branch. In the more open parts, three or four 
species of finches, a thrush, a starling (or Icterus)^ two 
Opetiorhynchi, and several hawks and owls occur. 

The absence of any species whatever in the whole class of 
reptiles, is a marked feature in the zoology of this country, 
as well as in that of the Falkland Islands. 1 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 
1 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 {Ilarpalida and HeteromidcB) living undei 


2^0 KELP COVERED ROCKS, [chap, xi^ 

stones. The vegetable feeding Chrysomelidce, 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 : Suc- 
cinea at first appears an exception ; but here it must be 
called a terrestrial shell, for it lives on the damp herbage 
far from water. Land-shells could be procured only in the 
same alpine situations with the beetles. I have already 
contrasted the climate as well as the general appearance of 
Tierra del Fuego with that of Patagonia ; and the difference 
is strongly exemplified in the entomology. I do not believe 
they have one species in common ; certainly the general 
character of the insects is widely different. 

If we turn from the land to the sea, we shall find the latter 
as abundantly stocked with living creatures as the former 
is poorly so. In all parts of the world a rocky and partially 
protected shore perhaps supports, in a given space, a greater 
number of individual animals than any other station. There 
is one marine production, which from its importance is 
worthy of a particular history. It is the kelp, or Macrocystis 
pyrifera. This plant grows on every rock from low-water 
mark to a great depth, both on the outer coast and within 
the channels. t I believe, during the voyages of the Adven- 
ture and Beaglsy not one rock near the surface was dis- 
covered 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 sur- 
prising than to see this plant growing and flourishing 
amidst those great breakers of the western ocean, which no 
mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can long resist. The 

* I believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single specimen ol a 
Melasoma. Mr. Waterhouse informs me, that of the Harpalidse there are 
eight or nine species — the forms of the greater number being very peculiar ; of 
Heteromera, four or five species ; of Rhyncophora six or seven ; and of the 
following families one species in each : Staphylinida, Elateridae, Cebrionidae, 
Melonlonthidae. The species in the other orders are even fewer. In all 
the orders, the scarcity of the individuals is even more remarkable than 
that of the species. Most of the Coleoptera have been carefully described by 
Mr. Waterhouse in the "Annals of Natural History," 

t Its geographical range is remarkably wide : it is found from the extreme 
southern islets near Cape Horn, as far north on the eastern coast (according to 
information given me by Mr. Stokes) as lat 43* — but on the western coast, as 
Dr. Hooker tells me, it extends to the Rio San Francisco, in California, and 
perhaps even to Kamtschatka. We thus have an immense ran^e in latitude ; 
and as Cook, who must have been well acquainted with the species, found it at 
Kerjfuelen Land, no less than 140* in longitude. 


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 * up from the greater depth of forty-five 
fathoms. The beds of this sea-weed, even when of not 

freat breadth, make excellent natural floating breakwaters, 
t 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 
encrusted with corallines as to be of a white colour. We 
find exquisitely delicate structures, some Inhabited by simple 
hydra-like polypi, others by more organised kinds, and 
beautlfulj compound AscidicB. On the leaves, also, various 
patclllform shells, Trochi uncovered molluscs, and some 
bivalves are attached. Innumerable Crustacea frequent 
every part of the plant. On shaking the great entangled 
roots, a pile of small fish, shells, cuttle-fish, crabs of all 
orders, sea-eggs, star-fish, beautiful Holuthurice^ PlanaricB, 
and crawling nereldous animals of a multitude of forms, all 
fall out together. Often as I recurred to a branch of the 

• "Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle" vol. i., p. 361. — It appears that 
«ea-weed jjrows extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson found (Wilson's "Voyage 
round Scotland," vol. ii., p. itK) that a rock uncovere*! only at 8prin{;-tic!c.s, 
which had been chiselled bmooth in November, on the lolhiwini; May, that is 
within six months afterward*, was thickly covered with Fucus digitatus two 
'■-' ' '"'  'ilcntus six feet, in length. 

242 MARINE FORESTS. ^chap. xi. 

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 FlustracecB^ and 
some compound AscidicB ; the latter, however, are of dif- 
ferent 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 fish- 
ing 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 Sarmiento, which was then hidden in the 
clouds. At the base of the lofty and almost perpendicular 
sides of our little cove there was one deserted wigwam, and 
it alone reminded us that man sometimes wandered into 
these desolate regions. But it would be difficult to imagine 
a scene where he seemed to have fewer claims or less 
authority. The inanimate works of nature — rock, ice, 
snow, wind, and water — all warring with each other, yet 
combined against man — here reigned in absolute sovereignty, 

June <^th. — In the morning we were delighted by seeing 
the veil of mist gradually rise from Sarmiento, and display 

i834.] SARMIENTO. 243 

it to our view. This mountain, which is one of the highest 
in Tierra del Fuego, has an altitude of 6800 feet. Its base, 
for about an eighth of its total height, is clothed by dusky 
woods, and above this a field of snow extends to the summit. 
These vast piles of snow, which never melt, and seem 
destined to last as long as the world holds together, present 
a noble and even sublime spectacle. The outline of the 
mountain was admirably clear and defined. Owing to the 
abundance of light reflected from the white and glittering 
surface, no shadows were cast on any part ; and those lines 
which intersected the sky could alone be distinguished ; 
hence the mass stood out in the boldest relief. Several 
glaciers descended in a winding course from the upper great 
expanse of snow to the sea-coast : they may be likened to 
great frozen Niagaras ; and perhaps tihese cataracts of blue 
ice are full as beautiful as the moving ones of water. By 
night we reached the western part of the channel ; but the 
water was so deep that no anchorage could be found. We 
were in consequence- obliged to stand off and on in this 
narrow arm of the sea, during a pitch-dark night of fourteen 
hours long. 

June 10th. — In the morning we made the best of our way 
into the open Pacific. The western coast generally consists 
of low, rounded, quite barren hills of granite and greenstone. 
Sir J. Narborough called one part South Desolation, because 
it is " so desolate a land to behold " ; and well indeed might 
he say so. Outside the main islands, there are numberless 
scattered rocks on which the long swell of the open ocean 
incessantly rages. We passed out between the East and 
West Furies ; and a little farther northward there are so 
many breakers that the sea is called the Milky Way. One 
sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream 
for a week about shipwrecks, peril, and death ; and with 
this sight we bade farewell for ever to Tierra del Fuego. 

The following discussion on the climate of the southern 
parts of the continent with relation to its productions, on the 
snow-line, on the extraordinarily low descent of the glaciers, 
and on the zone of perpetual congelation in the antarctic 
islands, may be passed over by any one not interested in 
these curious 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 tb*» former edition of this work. 



[chap. XI. 

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




Mean of 


and Winter. 

Tierra del Fuego 
Falkland Islands 
Dublin .... 

53 2i'N. 


33°. 08 

41° .54 
49" .37 

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego 
is colder in winter, and no less than 9^" less hot in 
summer, than Dublin. According to Von Buch the mean 
temperature of July (not the hottest month in the year) 
at Saltenfiord in Norway, is as high as 57°. 8, and this place 
is actually 13° nearer the pole than Port Famine ! * In- 
hospitable 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 Patellce^ Fissurellcs, 
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 Terehra. 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 

* 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 Sullivan 
for the mean of the mean temperature (reduced from careful observation at 
midnight, 8 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m.) of the three hottest months, viz., December, 
January, and February. The temperature of Dublin is taken from Barton. 


Terehra, 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 * are often brought into the houses to be dried 
and ripened. At Valdivia (in the same latitude of 40°, with 
Madrid) grapes and figs ripen, but are not common olives 
seldom ripen even partially, and oranges not at all. These 
fruits, in corresponding latitudes in Europe, are well known 
to succeed to perfection ; and even in this continent, at the 
Rio Negro, under nearly the same parallel with Valdivia, 
sweet potatoes {convolvulus) are cultivated ; and grapes, figs, 
olives, oranges, water and musk melons, produce abundant 
fruit. Although the humid and equable climate of Chiloe, 
and of the coast northward and southward of- it, is so un- 
favourable to our fruits, yet the native forests, from lat. 45° 
to 38', almost rival in luxuriance those of the glowing inter- 
tropical regions. Stately trees of many kinds, with smooth 
and highly coloured barks, are loaded by parasitical mono- 
cotyledonous 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 Dlcmen'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 orchidcous plants are parasitical 
on the trees. In the Auckland Islands, ferns, accordl nt^'- to 

• AgrUeroi, " Dewcrip, HUt. de la Prov. de Chilo^," i?,', i 


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 : 


Heig-ht in Feet 
of Snow-line. 


Equatorial region ; mean 

Bolivia, lat. 16° to 18° S. . 
Central Chile, lat. 33° S. . 

Chiloe, lat. 41° to 43° S. . 
Tierra del Fuego, 54° S. . 


14,500 to 15,000 

3500 to 4000 


Gillies, and the 

Officers of the 


and the j 

King. 1 

As the height of the plain of perpetual snow seems chiefly 
to be determined by the extreme heat of the summer, 
rather than by the mean temperature of the year, we ought 
not to be surprised at its descent in the Strait of Magellan, 
where the summer is so cool, to only 3500 or 4000 feet 
above the level of the sea ; although in Norway we must 
travel to between lat. 67° and 70° N., that is, about 14° 
nearer the pole, to meet with perpetual snow at this low 
level. The difference in height, namely, about 9000 feet, 
between the snow-line on the Cordillera behind Chiloe (with 
its highest points ranging from only 5600 to 7500 feet) and 
in central Chile t (a distance of only 9° of latitude), is truly 
wonderful. The land from the southward of Chiloe to near 
Concepcion (lat. 37°), is hidden by one dense forest dripping 
with moisture. The sky is cloudy, and we have seen how 
badly the fruits of southern Europe succeed. In central 

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

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


Chile, on the other hand, a little northward of Concepclon, 
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 
remarkable flexure of 9000 feet, unparalleled in other parts 
of the world, not far from the latitude of Concepcion, where 
the land ceases to be covered with forest-trees ; for trees in 
South America indicate a rainy climate, and rain a clouded 
sky and little heat in summer. 

The descent of glaciers to the sea must, I conceive, 
mainly depend (subject, of course, to a proper supply of 
snow in the upper region) on the lowness of the line of 
perpetual snow on steep mountains near the coast. As 
the snow-line is so low in Tierra del Fuego, we might 
have expected that many of the glaciers would have reached 
the sea. Nevertheless I was astonished when I first saw 
a range, only from 3000 to 4000 feet in height, in the 
latitude of Cumberland, with every valley filled with 
streams of ice descending to the sea-coast. Almost every 
arm of the sea, which penetrates to the interior higher 
chain, not only in Tierra del Fuego, but on the coast 
for 650 miles northwards, is terminated by "tremendous 
and astonishing glaciers," as described by one of the 
officers on the survey. Great masses of ice frequently 
fall from these icy cliffs, and the crash reverberates like 
the broadside of a man-of-war, through the lonely channels. 
These falls, as noticed in the last chapter, produce great 
waves which break on the adjoining coasts. It is known 
that earthquakes frequently cause masses of earth to fall 
from sea-cliffs : how terrific, then, would be the effect of 
a severe shock (and such occur here)t on a body like a 
glacier, already in motion, and traversed by fissures ! 
1 can readily believe that the water would be fairly beaten 
back out of the deepest channel, and then returning with 
an overwhelming force, would whirl about huge masses 
of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre's Sound, in the 
latitude of Paris, there are immense glaciers, and yet the 
loftiest neighbouring mountain is only 6200 feet high. 

* Miers's "Chile," vol. i., p. 415. It is said that the sugnr-cane grew at 
Ingcnio, lat. 3a* to 33°, but not in sufficient quantity to make the manufacture 
profitable. In the valley of yuillota, south of Ingenio, 1 saw some large dat-- 

t Hulkelcy's and Cummin's " Faithful Narrative of the 1-oss of the IVaf^er." 
The earthquake happened Aufrust ajth, 1741. 

248 ROCKS IN ICEBERGS. [chap. xi. 

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 farthest from the 
Pole, surveyed during the voyages of the Adventure and 
Beadle, 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 mission- 
aries * encountered * * many icebergs, some great, some small, 
and others middle sized," in a narrow arm of the sea, on 
the 22nd of the month corresponding with our June, and in 
a latitude corresponding with that of the Lake of Geneva ! 

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

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

* Agiieros, "Desc. Hist, de Chiloe," p. 227. 
t ** Geologficsd Transactions." voL vL, p. 4.15. 


stranding^ of icebergs, and by the matter transported on 
them. Few geologists now doubt that those erratic 
boulders which lie near lofty mountains, have been pushed 
forward by the glaciers themselves, and that those distant 
from mountains, and embedded in subaqueous deposits, 
have been conveyed thither either on icebergs, or frozen in 
coast-ice. The connection between the transportal of 
boulders and the presence of ice in some form, is strikingly 
shown by their geographical distribution over the earth. 
In South America they are not found farther than 48° of 
latitude, measured from the southern pole ; in North 
America it appears 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.* 

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands. — 
Considering the rankness of the vegetation in Tierra del 
Fuego, and on the coast northward of it, the condition of 
the islands south and south-west of America js truly sur- 
prising. 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 correndera), yet Iceland, 
which is 10° nearer the pole, has, according to Mackenzie, 
fifteen land-birds. , The South Shetland Islands, in the 
same latitude as the southern half of Norway, possess only 
some lichens, moss, and a little grass ; and Lieutenant 
Kendall t found the bay, in which he was at anchor, 
beginning to freeze at a period 'corresponding with our 
8th of September. The soil here consists of ice and volcanic 
ashes interstratified ; and at a little depth beneath the 
surface it must remain perpetually congealed, for Lieutenant 

• I have given details (the firit, I beh'cve, pubHshed) on this aubject in the 
fiftt edition, and in the appendix to it. I have there shown that the apparent 
exceptions to the absence of erratic boulders in certain hot countries, are due 
to erroneous observations : several statemeiita there {fiven, I have since found 
confirmed by various iiiithors. 

t Gtofrra/ hical Jpu-^nal, 1830. pp. 65, 66. 

250 PRESERVATION IN ICE. i[chap. xi. 

Kendall found the body of a foreign sailor which had long 
been buried, with the flesh and all the features perfectly 
preserved. It is a singular fact, that on the two great 
continents in the northern hemisphere (but not in the broken 
land of Europe between them), we have the zone of perpetu- 
ally 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 excessively cold, but the summer is far less hot, 
for the clouded sky seldom allows the sun to warm the 
ocean, itself a bad absorbent of heat ; and hence the mean 
temperature of the year, which regulates the zone of 
perpetually congealed under-soil, is low. It is evident that 
a rank vegetation, which does not so much require heat as 
it does protection from intense cold, would approach much 
nearer to this zone of perpetual congelation under the 
equable climate of the southern hemisphere, than under the 
extreme climate of the northern continents. 

The case of the sailor's body perfectly preserved in the 
icy soil of the South Shetland Islands (lat. 62° to 63° S.) in 
a rather lower latitude than that (lat. 64° N.) under which 
Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros in Siberia, is very 
interesting. Although it is a fallacy, as I have endeavoured 
to show in a former chapter, to suppose that the larger 
quadrupeds require a luxuriant 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 hulk 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 
independejatly of the imagined difiiculty of supplying them 
with food from the adjoining countries, the whole case is 
not, I think, so perplexing as it has generally been con- 
sidered. The plains of Siberia, like those of the Pampas, 

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


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,* and does not thaw in spring so soon as the surface 
of the land ; moreover at greater depths, where the bottom 
of the sea does not freeze, the mud a few feet beneath the 
top layer might remain even in summer below 32°, as is 
the case on the land with the soil at the depth of a few feet. 
At still greater depths, the temperature of the mud and 
water would probably not be low enough to 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 ; t and those islets lie no less 
than ten degrees of latitude north of the place where Pallas 
found the frozen rhinoceros. On the other hand, a carcass 
washed by a flood into a shallow part of the Arctic Sea, 
would be preserved for an 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 hemisphere transposing the places in 
imagination to Europe, with which we are so much better 
acquainted. Then, near Lisbon, the commonest sea-shells, 
namely, three species of Oliva^ a Valuta^ 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 Orchidece would thrive amidst the 
thick woods. Even as far north as central Denmark 
humming-birds would be seen fluttering about delicat 
flowers, and parrots feeding amidst the evergreen woods 

* Mesars. Dca«e and Simpson, in Geographical Journal, voL viii., pp 
t CuvW (" Oa««man» FoaaiUa," torn, i., p. ij)i), from Billing:'* " Voy 

ai8, aa'. 

252 RliCAPlTULATlON. [chap. xi. 

and in the sea there, we should have a Volutay and all the 
shells of large size and vigbrous 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 ever- 
lasting snow," and would have each bay terminated by 
ice-cliffs, whence great masses would be yearly detached : 
this island would boast only of a little moss, grass, and 
burnet, and a titlark would be its only land inhabitant. 
From our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a chain of 
mountains, scarcely half the height of the Alps, would run 
in a straight line due southward ; and on its western flank 
every deep creek of the sea, or fiord, would end in "bold 
and astonishing glaciers." These lonely channels would 
frequently reverberate with the falls of ice, and so often 
would great waves rush along their coasts ; numerous 
icebergs, some as tall as cathedrals, and occasionally loaded 
with *' no inconsiderable blocks of rock," would be stranded 
on the outlying islets ; at intervals violent earthquakes 
would shoot prodigious masses of ice into the waters below. 
Lastly, some missionaries attempting to penetrate a long 
arm of the sea, would behold the not lofty surrounding 
mountains, sending down their many grand icy streams to 
the sea-coast, and their progress in the boats would be 
checked by the innumerable floating icebergs, some small 
and some great ; and this would have occurred on our 
twenty-second of June, and where the Lake of Geneva is 
now spread out ! * 

* In the former edition and appendix, I have g-iven some facts on the trans- 
portal of erratic boulders and icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean. This subject 
has lately been treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the Boston Journal (yo\. iv., 
p. 426). The author does not appear aware of a case published by me ideograph- 
ical Journal, vol. ix,, p. 528), of a gigantic boulder embedded in an iceberg in 
the Antarctic Ocean, almost certainly one hundred miles distant from any land, 
and perhaps much more distant. In the appendix I have discussed at length, 
the probability (at that time hardly thought of) of icebergs, when stranded, 
grooving and polishing rocks, like glaciers. This is now a very 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 

i834-] 253 



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. 

July 2.2,rd. — The Beagle anchored late at night in the Bay 
of Valparaiso, the chief seaport of Chile. When morning 
came, everything appeared delightful. After Tierra del 
Fuego, the climate felt quite delicious — the atmosphere so 
dry, and the heavens so clear and blue with the sun shining 
brightly, that all nature seemed sparkling with life. The 
view from the anchorage is very pretty. The town is built 
at the very foot of a range of hills, about 1600 feet high, 
and father steep. From its position, it consists of one long, 
straggling street, which runs parallel to the beach, and 
wherever a ravine comes down, the houses are piled up on 
each side of it. The rounded hills, being only partially 
protected by a very scanty vegetation, are worn into 
numberless little gullies, which expose a singularly bright 
red soil. From this cause, and from the low whitewashed 
houses with tile roofs, the view reminded me of St. Cruz 
in Teneriffe. In a north-easterly direction there are some 
fine glimpses of the Andes : but these mountains appear 
much grander when viewed from the neighbouring hills ; 
the great distance at which they are situated, can then 
more readily be perceived. The volcano of Aconcagua is 
particularly magnificent. This huge and irregularly conical 
mass has an elevation greater than that of Chimborazo ; 
for, from measurements made by the officers in the Beagle^ 
its height is no less than 23,000 feet. The Cordillera, 
however, viewed from this pomt, owe the greater part of 
their beauty to the atmosphere through which they are 

.cebergs off North Amcrici push before them pebbles and vand, and leave the 
submarine rocky flats quite bare; it is harclly possible to doubt that such 
ledfires must be polished and scored in the direction of the set of the prevailin; 
currents. Since writing^ that appendix, I have seen in North Wales (Londim 
I'hil. Mag.t vol. xxi., p. i8o) the adjoining: action of glaciers and ol lloating 

254 AT VALPARAISO. [chap. xii. 

seen. When the sun was setting in the Pacific, it was 
admirable to watch how clearly their rugged outlines could 
be distinguished, yet how varied and how delicate were the 
shades of their colour. 

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Richard 
Corfield, an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality 
and kindness I was greatly indebted, in having afforded me 
a most pleasant residence during the Beagle's stay in Chile. 
The immediate neighbourhood of Valparaiso is not very 
productive to the naturalist. During the long summer the 
wind blows steadily from the southward, and a little off 
shore, so that rain never falls ; during the three winter 
months, however, it is sufficiently abundant. The vegeta- 
tion 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 356 
.rniles 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. What a difference does climate make in the 
enjoyment of life ! How opposite are the sensations when 
viewing black mountains half enveloped in clouds, and 
seeing another range through the light blue haze of a fine 
day ! The one for a time may be very sublime ; the other 
is all gaiety and happy life. 

August 14M. — I set out on a riding excursion, for the 
purpose of geologising the basal parts of the Andes, which 
alone at this time of the year are not shut up by the winter 
snow. Our first day's ride was northward along the sea- 
coast. After dark we reached the Hacienda of Quintero, 
the estate which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. 
My object in coming here was to see the great beds ot 
shells, which stand some yards above the level of the sea, 
and are burnt for lime. The proofs of the elevation of this 
whole line of coast are unequivocal : at the height of a few 
hundred feet old-looking shells are numerous, and I found 
some at 1300 feet. These shells either lie loose on the 


surface, or are embedded in a reddish-black vegetable mould. 
I was much surprised to find under the microscope that this 
vegetable mould is really marine mud, full of minute 
particles of organic bodies. 

August ic^th. — We returned towards the valley of Quillota. 
The country was exceedingly pleasant ; just such as poets 
would call pastoral : green open lawns, separated by small 
valleys with rivulets, and the cottages, we may suppose of 
the shepherds, scattered on the hill-sides. We were obliged 
to cross the ridge of the Chilicauquen. At its base there 
were many fine evergreen forest-trees, but these flourished 
only in the ravines, where there was running water. Any 
person who had seen only the country near Valparaiso, 
would never have imagined that there had been such 
picturesque spots in Chile. As soon as we reached the 
brow of the Sierra, the valley of Quillota was immediately 
under our feet. The prospect was one of 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 
patchwork valley the more pleasing. Whoever called 
"Valparaiso" the "Valley of Paradise," must have been 
thinking of Quillota. We crossed over to the Hacienda 
de San Isidro, situated at the very foot of the Bell 

Chile, as may be seen in the maps, is a narrow strip of 
land between tne Cordillera and the Pacific ; and this strip 
is Itself traversed by several mountain-lines, which in this 
part run parallel to the pfreat 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 F'uego and the western coast. Chile must 
formerly have resembled the latter country in the con- 
figuration of Its land and water. The resemblance was 
ocrasionallv shown strikingly when a level fog-bank covered, 
Mantle, all the lower parts of the country: tli» 

2.S6 FERTILITY OF THE PLAINS. [chap. xii. 

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 over- 
flowing abundance of peaches, figs, and grapes. With all 
these advantages, the inhabitants of the country ought to 
be much more prosperous than they are. 

August i6th. — The major-domo of the Hacienda was 
good enough to give me a guide and fresh horses ; and in 
the morning we set out to ascend the Campana, or Bell 
Mountain, which is 6400 feet high. The paths were very 
bad, but both the geology and scenery amply repaid the 
trouble. We reached, by the evening, a spring called the 
Agua del Guanaco, which is situated at a great height. 
This must be an old name, for it is very many years since 
a guanaco drank its waters. During the ascent I noticed 
that nothing but bushes grew on the northern slope, whilst 
on the southern slope there was a bamboo about fifteen feet 
high. In a few places there were palms, and I was 
surprised to see one at an elevation of at least 4500 feet. 
These palms are, for their family, ugly trees. Their stem 
is very large, and of a curious form, being thicker in the 
middle than at the base or top. They are excessively 
numerous in some parts of Chile, and valuable on account 
of a sort of treacle made from the sap. On one estate near 
Petorca they tried to count them, but failed, after having 
numbered several hundred thousand. Every year in the 





early spring, in August, very many are cut down, and when 
Llie trunk is lying on the ground the crown of leaves is 
lopped off. The sap then immediately begins to flow from 
the upper end, and continues so doing for some months ; 
it is, however, necessary that a thin slice should be shaved 
off from that end every morning, so as to expose a fresh 
surface. A good tree will give ninety gallons, and all this 
must have been contained in the vessels of the apparently 
dry trunk. It is said that the sap flows much more quickly 
on those days when the sun is powerful ; and likewise, that 
it is absolutely necessary to take care, in cutting down the 
tree, that it should fall with its head upwards on the side of 
the hill ; for if it falls down the slope, scarcely any sap will 
flow; although in that case one would have thought that 
the action would have been aided, instead of checked, by 
the force of gravity. The sap is concentrated by boiling, 
and is then called treacle, which it very much resembles 
in taste. 

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and prepared 
to pass the night. The evening was fine, and the atmo- 
sphere so clear, that the masts pf 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 
beeQ. took our matd, and were quite comfortable. There 
is an inexpressible charm in thus living in the open air. 
The evening was calm and still ; the shrill noise of the 
mountain bizcacha, and the faint cry of a goat-sucker, were 
occasionally to be heard. Besides these, few birds, or even 
insects, frequent these dry, parched mountains. 

August 17M. — In the morning we climbed up the rough 

mass of greenstone which crowns the summit. Tiiis rock, 

as frequently happens, was much shattered and broken into 

huge angular fragments. I observed, however, one remark- 

I able circumstance, namely, that many of the surfaces 

258 ON THE BELL MOUNTAIN, [chap. xit. 

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 il 
they had been hurled into their present position thousands 
of years ago. 

We spent the day on the summit, and I never enjoyed one 
more thoroughly. Chile, bounded by the Andes and the 
Pacific, was seen as in a map. The pleasure from the 
scenery, in itself beautiful, was heightened by the many 
reflections which arose from the mere view of the Campana 
range with its lesser parallel ones, and of the broad valley 
of Quillota directly intersecting them. Who can avoid 
wondering at the force which has upheaved these mountains, 
and even more so at the countless ages which it must have 
required, to have broken through, removed, and levelled 
whole masses of them? It is well in this case, to call to 
mind the vast shingle and sedimentary beds of Patagonia, 
which, if heaped on the Cordillera, would increase its height 
by so many thousand feet. When in that country, I 
wondered how any mountain-chain could have supplied 
such masses, and not have been utterly obliterated. We 
must not now reverse the wonder, and doubt whether all- 
powerful time can grind down mountains — even the gigantic 
Cordillera — into gravel and mud. 

The 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 unexamined. I spent the evening as before, 
talking round the fire with my two companions. The 
Guasos of Chile, who correspond to the Gauchos of the 

1834.] THE GUASOS. 259 

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

nine beautiful little spots, with rivulets and fino (ro<»s. 

Having slept at the same hacienda as before, a. >de 

26o MINING IN CHILE. [chap. xii. 

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, pre- 
senting one mass of peach-blossoms. I saw also, in one or 
two places, the date-palm ; it is a most stately tree ; and I 
should think a group of them in their native Asiatic or 
African deserts must be superb. We passed likewise 
San Felipe, a pretty straggling town like Quillota. The 
valley in this part expands into one of those great bays 
or plains, reaching to the foot of the Cordillera, which 
have been mentioned as forming so curious a part of the 
scenery of Chile. In the evening we reached the mines 
of Jajuel, situated in a ravine at the flank of the great 
chain. I stayed here five days. My host, the super- 
intendent of the mine, was a shrewd but rather ignorant 
Cornish miner. He had married a Spanish woman, and 
did not mean to return home ; but his admiration for the 
mines of Cornwall remained unbounded. Amongst many 
other questions, he asked me, "Now that George Rex is 
dead, how many more of the family of Rexes are yet 
alive ? " This Rex certainly must be a relation of the great 
author Finis, who wrote all books ! 

These mines are of copper, and the ore is all shipped to 
Swansea to be smelted. Hence the mines have an aspect 
singularly quiet, as compared to those in England : here no 
smoke, furnaces, or great steam-engines, disturb the solitude 
of the surrounding mountains. 

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

It is now well known that the Chilian method of mining 
is the cheapest. My host says that the two principal 
improvements introduced by foreigners have been, first, 
reducing by previous roasting the copper pyrites — which, 
being the common ore in Cornwall, the English miners were 
astounded on their arrival to find thrown away as useless ; 
secondly, stamping and washing the scoriae from the old 
furnaces — by which process particles of metal are recovered 
in abundance. I have actually seen mules carrying to the 
coast for transportation to England, a cargo of such cinders. 
But the first case is much the most curious. The Chilian 
miners were so convinced that copper pyrites contained not 

1834.] A MYSTERIOUS LAKE. 261 

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 has 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 intro- 
duced 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 qf 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. feut 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 interest- 
ing 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 pro- 
posed to attempt cutting a channel from it for the sake of 
tho water, but the padre, after a consultation, declared it 

262 ACACIA WOODS. [chap. xii. 

was too dangerous, as all Clille 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 snowdrifts, 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 olack sky showed that a fresh 
snowstorm 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 atmosphere quite clear. The thick and 
uniform covering of newly-fallen snow rendered the view 
of the volcano of Aconcagua and the main chain quite 
glorious. We were now on the road to Santiago, the 
capital of Chile. We crossed the Cerro del Talguen, and 
slept at a little rancho. The host, talking about the state 
of Chile as compared to other countries, was very humble : 
" Some see with two eyes and some with one, but for my 
part I do not think that Chile sees with any." 

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 v/e pushed our horses into a gallop, 
and reached the city before it was dark. 

1 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 

i834.] POOR BRIDGES. 263 

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 ^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 absurdity 
of a bishop having a wife particularly struck them ; they 
scarcely knew whether to be most amused or horror-struck 
at such an enormity. 

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 dillicult 
even to perceive whether the horse is moving onward or 
standing still. In summer, when the snow melts, the 

264 HOT MINERAL SPRINGS. [chap. xii. 

torrents are quite impassable ; their strength and fury is 
then extremely great, as might be plainly seen by the marks 
which they had left. We reached the baths in the evening, 
and stayed there five days, being confined the two last by 
heavy rain. The buildings consist of a square of miserable 
little hovels, each with a single table and bench. They are 
situated in a narrow deep valley just without the central 
Cordillera. It is a quiet, solitary spot, with a good deal 
of wild beauty. 

The mineral springs of Cauquenes burst forth on a line 
of dislocation, crossing a mass of stratified rock, the whole 
of which betrays the action of heat. A considerable quantity 
of gas is continually escaping from the same orifices with 
the water. Though the springs are only a few yards apart, 
they have very different temperatures ; and this appears to 
be the result of an unequal mixture of cold water : for those 
with the lowest 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 ; the temperature 
being suddenly changed from 1 18° to 92°.* It seems probable 
that mineral waters rising deep from the bowels of the 
earth, would always be more deranged by subterranean dis- 
turbances than those nearer the surface. The man who 
had charge of the baths, assured me that in summer the 
water is hotter and more plentiful than in winter. The 
former circumstance, I should have expected, from the less 
mixture, during the dry season, of cold water ; but the latter 
statement appears very strange and contradictory. The 
periodical increase during the summer, when 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 a^ain 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 

* Caiddeugh, in " Philosoph. Transact." or ji!V|& 


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 unattempted, 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, rbr he invariably shot any one who hesi- 
tated to follow him. It was against this man, and other 
wandering Indian tribes, that Rosas waged the war of 

September i^th. — We left the baths of Cauquenes, and 
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 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 gener- 
ally circular, and their thickness from four to six feet, of 

* "Annalrn des Sciences Naturelle«," Miirch 1833. M. Gav, a zealoiij* and 
able natiiraliHt, was then occupied in studying every branch ot natural liistory 
throughout the kingdom of Chue. 

266 HARD CLIMBING. [chap. xii. 

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 pro- 
fusely, 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 for stealing gold is to secrete 
pieces of the ore, and take them out as occasion may offer. 
Whenever the mayor-domo finds a lump thus hidden, its 
full value is stopped out of the wages of all the men ; who 
thus, unless they all combine, are obliged to keep watch over 
each other. 

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground into 
an impalpable powder ; the process of washing removes all 
the lighter particles, and amalgamation finally secures the 
gold dust. The washing, when described, sounds a very 
simple process ; but it is beautiful to see how the exact 
adaptation of the current of water to the specific gravity of 
the gold, so easily separates the powdered matrix from the 
metal. The mud which passes from the mills is collected 
into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is 
cleared out, and thrown into a common heap. A great 
deal of chemical action then commences, salts of various 
kinds effloresce on the surface, and the mass becomes hard. 
After having been left for a year or two, and then rewashed, 
it yields gold ; and this process may be repeated even six 


or seven times ; but the gold each time becomes less in 
quantity, and the intervals required (as the inhabitants say, 
to generate the metal) are longer. There can be no doubt 
that the chemical action, already mentioned, each time 
liberates fresh gold from some combination. The 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 procured thirty dollars' worth of gold. This is an 
exact counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains 
suffer degradation and wear away, and with them the 
metallic veins which they contain. The hardest rock is 
worn into impalpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, 
and both are removed ; but gold, platina, and a few others 
are nearly indestructible, and from their weight, sinking to 
the bottom, are left behind. After whole mountains have 
passed through this grinding-mill, and have been washed 
by the hand of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, 
and man finds it worth his while to complete the task of 

Bad as the above treatment of the miners appears, it is 
gladly accepted of by them ; for the condition of the 
labouring agriculturists is much worse. Their wages are 
lower, and they live almost exclusively on beans. This 
poverty must be chiefly owing to the feudal-like system on 
which the land is tilled : the landowner gives a small plot 
of ground to the labourer, for building on and cultivating, 
and in return has his services (or those of a proxy) for 
every day of his life, without any wages. Until a father 
has a grown-up son, who can by his labour pay the rent, 
there is no one, except on occasional days, to take care of 
his own patch of ground. Hence extreme poverty is very 
common among the labouring classes in this 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 con- 
siderable numbers. They are of a circular flattened form, 
from five to six inches in diameter, with a hole passinj^; 
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 con- 
versation which took place between them. Renous speaks 
Spanish so well, that the old lawyer mistook him for a 
Chilian. Renous, alluding to me, asked him what he 
thought of the King of England sending out a collector to 
their country, to pick up lizards and beetles, and to break 
stones? The old gentleman thought seriously for some 
time, and then said, ** It is not well — hay un gato encerrado 
aqui (there is a cat shut up here). No man is so rich as 
to send out people to pick up such rubbish. I do not like 
it : if one of us were to go and do such things in England, 
do not you think the King of England would very soon 
send us out of his country ? " And this old gentleman, from 
his profession, belongs to the better informed and more 
intelligent classes! Renous himself, two or three years 
before, left in a house at 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 i^th. — 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. 
{20th) We followed this valley till it expanded into a great 
plain, which reaches from the sea to the mountains west 
of Rancagua. We shortly lost all trees and even bushes ; 
so that the inhabitants are nearly as badly 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 
diff'erent elevations, and they are traversed by broad, flat 

* Burchell's "Travels," vol. ii., p. 45. 

1S3.4.] ZOOLOGY OF CHILE. 269 

bottomed valleys ; both of which circumstances, a^ 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 1 felt very unwell, and from that time to 
the end of October did not recover. 

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

September 2^th. — Our course was now directed towards 
Valparaiso, which with great difficulty I reached on the 
27th, and was there confined to my bed till the end of 
October. During this time I was an inmate in Mr. 
Corfield's house, whose kindness to me I do not know how 
to express. 

I will here add a few observations on some of the animals 
and birds of Chile. The Puma, or South American lion, 
is not uncommon. This animal has a wide geographical 
range ; being found from the equatorial forests, throughout 
the deserts of Patagonia, as far south as the damp and cold 
latitudes (53* to 54°) of Tierra del Fuego. I have seen its 
footsteps in the Cordillera of Central Chile, at an elevation 
of at least 10,000 feet. In La Plata the puma preys chiefly 
on deer, ostriches, bizcacha, and other small quadrupeds ; 
it there seldom attacks cattle or horses, and most rarely 
man. In Chile, however, it destroys many young horses 
and cattle, owing probably to the scarcity of other 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 condor- 
wheeling in the air, every now and then descend to partal. 
of the feast, and being angrily driven ;i\vny, rise :i1l inj^^fthn 

270 HUNTING THE PUMA. [chap. xii. 

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 Guacho 
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 discrimi- 
nation. 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 in- 
sensible. 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 
Iweeding season. 

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos {megapodius 
and albicoUis of Kittlitz) are perhaps the most conspicuous. 
The former, called by the Chillenos ** el Turco," is as large 
as a field-fare, to which bird it has some alliance ; but its 
legs are much longer, tail shorter, and beak stronger ; its 
colour is a reddish-brown. The Turco is not uncommon. It 
lives on the ground, sheltered among the thickets which 
are scattered over the dry and sterile hills. With its tail 
erect, and stilt-like legs, it may be seen every now and then 
popping from one bush to another with uncommon quick- 
ness. It really requires little imagination to believe that 
the bird is ashamed of itself, and is aware of its most 
ridiculous figure. On first seeing it, one is tempted to 
exclaim, "A vilely stuffed specimen has escaped from some 
museum, and has come to life again ! " It cannot be made 
to take flight without the greatest trouble, nor does it run, 
but only hops. The various loud cries which it utters when 
concealed amongst the bushes, are as strange as its 
appearance. It is said to build its nest in a deep hole 

[834.] THE TAPACOLO. 271 

leneath the ground. I dissected several specimens ; a 
gizzard, which was very muscular, contained beetles, 
vegetable fibres, and pebbles. From this character, iVom 
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 nidifica- 
tion, it bears a close resemblance to the Turco ; but its 
appearance is not quite so ridiculous. The Tapacolo is 
very crafty : when frightened by any person, it will remain 
motionless at the bottom of a bush, and will then, after 
a little while, try with much address to crawl away on 
the opposite side. It is also an active bird, and continually 
making a noise ; these noises are various and strangely 
odd ; some are like the cooing of doves, others like the 
bubbling of water, and many defy all similes. The 
country people say it changes its cry five times in the 
year — according to some change of season, I suppose.* 

Two species of humming-birds are common ; Trochilus 
forficatus is found over a space of 2500 miles on the west 
coast, from the hot dry country of Lima, to the forests 
of Tierra del Fuego — where it may be seen flitting about 
in snow-storms. In the wooded island of Chiloe, which 
has an extremefy humid climate, this little bird, skipping 
from side to side amidst the dripping foliage, is perhaps 
more abundant than almost any otlier kind. I opened 
the stomachs of several specimens, shot in difTerent parts 
of the continent, and in all remains of insects were as 
numerous as in the stomach of a creeper. When this 

• It is a remarkable fact, that Molina^ though dencribing: in detail all the bird* 
and animala of Chile, never once mention* Ihia genuii. the aperies of which arc 
■o common, and ro remarkable in their habits. Was he at a losa how to 
classify them, and did be consefiiicntly think that silence was the more prudent 
course ? It is one more instance of the frequency of omissions by authors, on 
those very subjects where it might have been least expected. 

272 HUMMING-BIRDS, [chap, xiii 

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 tlie 
genus, it moves from place to place with a rapidity which 
may be compared to that of Syrphus amongst flies, and 
Sphinx amongst moths ; but whilst hovering over a 
flower, it flaps its wings with a very slow and powerful 
movement, totally different from that vibratory one 
common to most of the species, which produces the 
humming noise, I ' never saw any other bird, where the 
force of its wings appeared (as in a butterfly) so powerful 
in proportion to the weight of its body. When hovering 
by a flower, its tail is constantly expanded and shut like 
a fan, the body being kept in a nearly vertical position. 
This action appears to steady and support the bird, 
between the slow movements of its wings. Although 
flying from flower to flower in search of food, its stomach 
generally contained abundant remains of insects, which I 
suspect are much more the object of its search than honey. 
The note of this species, like that of nearly the whole 
family, is extremely shrill. 



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

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 21st 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 difficult 
to get a single glimpse of the Cordillera : durihg 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 a humble, quiet, industrious set of 
men. Although the fertile soil, resulting from the decom- 
position of the volcanic rocks, supports a rank vegetation, 
yet the climate is not favourable to any production which 
requires much sunshine to ripen it. There is very little 
pasture for the larger quadrupeds ; and in 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 impene- 
trable, that the land is nowhere cultivated except near the 
coast and on the adjoining islets. Even where paths exist, 
they are scarcely passable from the soft and swampy state of 
the soil. The mhabitants, 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 suflicient 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 

274 AT CHACAO. [chap. xiii. 

charcoal, with which to buy some trifle, and another carry- 
ing a plank to exchant^e for a bottle of wine. Hence every 
tradesman must als(> be a merchant, and again sell the 
goods which he takes in exchange. 

November 24M. — The yawl and whale-boat were sent 
under the command of Mr.- (now Captain) Sulivan, to 
survey the eastern or inland coast of Chiloe ; and with 
orders to meet the Beagle at the southern extremity of the 
island ; to which point she would proceed by the outside, so 
as thus to 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 
belonging to the boats were pitched for the night. 

The land in this neighbourhood has been extensively 
cleared, and there were many quiet and most picturesque 
nooks in the forest. Chacao was formerly the principal 
port in the island ; but many vessels having been lost, 
owing to the dangerous currents and rocks in the straits, 
the Spanish Government burnt the church, and thus 
arbitrarily compelled the greater number of inhabitants to 
migrate to 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 inhabitants were much astonished at the appearance of 
men-of-war's boats, and hoped and believed it was the fore- 
runner of a Spanish fleet, coming to recover the island from 
the patriot government of Chile. All the men in power, 
however, had been informed of our intended visit, and were 
exceedingly civil. While we were eating our supper the 
governor paid us a visit. He had been a lieutenant-colonel 
in the Spanish service, but now was miserably poor. He 
gave us two sheep, and accepted in return two cotton 
handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets, and a little tobacco. 

1834.] A LAND OF VOLCANOES. 275 

November 2^th. — Torrents of rain : we managed, how- 
ever, 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 26th. — The day rose splendidly clear. The 
volcano of Osorno was spouting out volumes of smoke. 
This most beautiful mountain, formed like a perfect cone, 
and white with snow, stands out in front of the Cordillera. 
Another great volcano, with a saddle-shaped summit, also 
emitted from its immense crater little jets of steam. Subse- 
quently we saw the lofty-peaked Corcovado — well deserving 
the name of "el famoso Corcovado." Thus we beheld, 
from one point of view, three great active volcanoes, each 
about seven thousand feet high. In addition to this, far 
to the south, there were other lofty cones covered with 
snow, which, although not known to be active, must be 
in their origin volcanic. The line of the Andes is not, in 
this neighbourhood, nearly so elevated as in Chile ; neither 
does it appear to form so perfect a barrier between the 
regions of the earth. This great range, although running 
in a straight north and south line, owing to an optical 
deception, always appeared more or less curved ; for the 
lines drawn from each peak to the beholder's eye, necessarily 
converged like the radii of a semicircle, and as it was not 
possible (owing to the clearness of the atmosphere and the 
absence of all intermediate objects) to judge how far distant 
the farthest peaks were off, they appeared to stand in a 
flattish 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. Every- 
thing I have seen, convinces me of the close connection of 
the dllTerent American tribes, who nevertheless speak 
distinct languages. This party could muster but little 
Spanish, and talked to each other in their own tongue. 
It is a pleasant thing to see the aborigines advanced to the 
same degree of civilisation, however low that may be, 
which their white conquerors have attained. More to the 
south we saw many pure Indians : indeed, all the in- 
habitants of some of the islets retain their Indian surnames. 

276 CAUSES OF WANT OF LAND. [chap. xiii. 

In the census of 1832, there were in Chiloe and its depend- 
encies forty-two thousand souls : the greater number of 
these appear to be of mixed blood. Eleven thousand retain 
their Indian surnames, but it is probable that not nearly 
all of these are of a pure breed. Their manner of life is 
the same with that of the other poor inhabitants, and they 
are all Christians ; but it is said that they yet retain some 
strange superstitious ceremonies, and that they pretend to 
hold communication with the devil in certain caves. 
Formerly, every one convicted of this offence was sent to 
the Inquisition at Lima. Many of the inhabitants who are 
not included in the eleven thousand with Indian surnames, 
cannot be distinguished by their appearance from Indians. 
Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is descended from noblemen 
of Spain on both sides ; but by constant intermarriages 
with the natives the present man is an Indian. On the 
other hand, the governor of Quinchao boasts much of his 
purely kept Spanish blood. 

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

1 834.] AT CASTRO. 277 

San Carlos, in lieu of a debt ; and this he sold for 350 
dollars, or about ;^7o sterling. 

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we 
reached the island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is 
the most cultivated part of the Archipelago ; for a broad 
strip of land on the coast of the main island, as well as on 
many of the smaller adjoining ones, is almost completely 
cleared. Some of the 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 ;^iooo 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 

November ^f^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 entirely built of plank, and has a picturesque 
and venerable appearance. The poverty of the place may 
be conceived from the fact, that although containing some 
hundreds of Inhabitants, one of our party was unable any- 
where to purchase either a pound of sugar or an ordinary 
knife. No individual possessed either a watch or a clock ; 
and an old man, who was supposed to have a good idea 
of time, was employed to strike the church bell by guess. 
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 a.«- 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 fiom 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 shehor during the rain. In the morning 1 asked 
a young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how he had 

278 BARTER WITH THE NATIVES, [chap. xiii. 

passed the night. He seemed perfectly content, and 
answered, ** Muy bien, seiior." 

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

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. 
At certain seasons they catch also, in "corrales," or hedges 
under water, many fish which are left on the mud-banks 
as the tide falls. They occasionally possess fowls, sheep, 
goats, pigs, horses, and cattle ; the order in which they 
are here mentioned, expressing their respective numbers. 
I never saw anything more obliging and humble than the 
manners of these people. They generally began with 
stating, that they were poor natives of the place, and not 
Spaniards, and that they were in sad want of tobacco and 
other comforts. At Caylen, the most southern island, the 
sailors bought with a stick of tobacco, of the value ot 
rfiree-halfpence, two fowls, one of which, the Indian stated, 
had skin between its toes, and turned out to be a fine 
duck ; and with some cotton handkerchiefs, worth three 
shillings, three sheep and a large bunch of onions were 
procured. The yawl at this place was anchored some way 
from the shore, and we had fears for her safety from robbers 
during the night. Our pilot, Mr. Douglas, accordingly told 
the constable of the district that we always placed sentinels 
with loaded arms, and not understanding Spanish, if we 


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

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing 
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 scabm)^ 
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 cir- 
cumference ! 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 few 
minutes at a house on the northern end of Laylec, which 
was the extreme point of South American Christendom, 
and a miserable hovel it was. The latitude is 43' 10', which 
is two degrees farther south than the Rio Negro on the 
Atlantic coast. These extreme Christians were very poor, 
and under the plea of their situation, begged for some 
tobacco. As a proof of the poverty of these Indians, I may 
mention that shortly before this, we had met a man, who 
had travelled three days and a half on foot, and had as 
many to return, for the sake of recovering the value of a 
small axe and a few fish. How very diflicult it must be to 
buy the smallest article, when such trouble is taken to 
recover so small a debt ! 

In the evening we reached the island of San Pedro, where 
we found the Beagle at anchor. In doubling the point, two 
of the officers landed to take a round of angles with the 
theodolite. A fox {Cants 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 rocUs. 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 

28o THE ASCENT TO SAN PEDRO, [chap. xiii. 

or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his 
brethren, is now mounted in the museum of the Zoological 

We stayed three days in this harbour, on one of which 
Captain Fitz Roy, with a party, attempted to ascend to the 
summit of San Pedro. The woods here had rather a 
different appearance from those on the northern part of the 
island. The rock, also, being micaceous slate, there was 
no beach, but the steep sides dipped directly beneath the 
water. The general aspect in consequence was more like 
that of Tierra del Fuego than of Chiloe. In vain we tried 
to gain the summit : the forest was so impenetrable, that 
no one who has not beheld it, can imagine so entangled a 
mass of dying and dead trunks. I am sure that often, for 
more than ten minutes together, our feet never touched 
the ground, and we were frequently ten or fifteen feet 
above it, so that the seamen as a joke called out the 
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 
looo 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 lo/'A.^— The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr. 
Sulivan, proceeded on their survey, but 1 remained on board 
the Beagle^ which the next day left San Pedro for the south- 
ward. On the 13th we ran into an opening in the southern 
part of Guayatecas, or the Chonos Archipelago ; and it was 
fortunate we did so, for on the following day a storm, 
worthy of Tierra del Fuego, raged with great fury. White 
massive clouds were piled up against a dark blue sky, and 
across them black ragged sheets of vapour were rapidly 
driven. The successive mountain ranges appeared like dim 
shadows ; and the setting sun cast on the woodland a yellow 
gleam, much like that produced by the flame of spirits of 
wine. The water wa*^ white with the flying spray, and the 

1834.] ALONG THE COAST. 281 

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 \Zth. — We stood out to sea. On the 20th we 
bade farewell to the south, and with a fair wind turned the 
ship's head northward. From Cape Tres Montes we sailed 
pleasantly along the lofty weather-beaten coast, which is 
remarkable for the bold outline of its hills, and the thick 
covering of forest even on the almost precipitous flanks. 
The next day a harbour was discovered, which on this 
dangerous coast might be of great service to a distressed 
vessel. It can easily be recognised by a hill 1600 feet high, 
which is even more perfectly conical than the famous sugar- 
loaf at Rio de Janeiro. The next day, after anchoring, I 
succeeded in reaching the summit of this hill. It was a 
laborious 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 
iindefinite expectation of seeing something very strange, 
jwhich, 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. 

I A strong desire is always felt to ascertain whether an^ 
Ihuman being has previously visited an unfrequented post 

282 A GRASS BED. [chap. xiii. 

A bit of wood with a nail in it, is picked up and studied as 
if it were covered with hieroglyphics. Possessed with this 
feeling, I was much interested by finding, on a wild part 
of the coast, a bed made of grass beneath a ledge of rock. 
Close by it there had been a fire, and the man had used an 
axe. The fire, bed, and situation showed the dexterity of 
an Indian ; but he could scarcely have been an Indian, for 
the race is in this part extinct, owing to the Catholic desire 
of making at one blow Christians and slaves. I had at 
the time some misgivings that the solitary man who had 
made his bed on this wild spot, must have been some poor 
shipwrecked sailor, who, in trying to travel up the coast, 
had here laid himself down for his dreary night. 

December 2%th. — The weather continued very bad, but it 
at last permitted us to proceed with the survey. The time 
hung heavy on our hands, as it always did when we 
were delayed from day to day by successive gales of wind. 
In the evening another harbour was discovered, where we 
anchored. Directly afterwards a man was seen waving his 
shirt, and a boat was sent which brought back two seamen. 
A party of six had run away from an American whaling 
vessel, and had landed a little to the southward in a boat, 
which was shortly afterwards knocked to pieces by the surf. 
They had now been wandering up and down the coast for 
fifteen months, without knowing which way to go, or where 
they were. What a singular piece of good fortune it was 
that this harbour was now discovered I Had it not been 
for this one chance, they might have wandered till they 
had grown old men, and at last have perished on this wild 
coast. Their 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 2400 feet high. The 
scenery was remarkable. The chief part of the range was 
composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of granite, which 
appeared as if they had been coeval with the beginning or 
the world. The granite was capped with mica-slate, and 
this in the lapse of ages had been worn into strange finger 

1835.] HERDS OF SEALS. 283 

shaped poincs. These two formations, thus differing in 
their outlines, agree in being almost destitute of vegetation. 
This barrenness had to our eyes a strange appearance, from 
having been so long accustomed to the sight of an almost 
universal forest of dark green trees. 1 took much delight 
in examining the structure of these mountains. The com- 
plicated and lofty ranges bore a noble aspect of durability 
— equally profitless, however, to man and to all other 
animals. Granite to the geologist is classic ground : from 
its widespread limits, and its beautiful and compact texture, 
few rocks have been more anciently recognised. Granite 
has given rise, perhaps, to more discussion concerning its 
origin than any other formation. We generally see it 
constituting the fundamental rock, and, 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 know- 
ledge 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 
mT torrents wiiich, in the form of cascades, came tumbling 

\er the bold granite mountains into the sea. The fresh 

284 ADV ^NTUROUS FISHKRS. [chap. xiu. 

water attracts the fish, and these bring many terns, gulls, 
and two kinds of cormorant. We saw also a pair of the 
beautiful black-necked swans, and several small sea-otters, 
the fur of which is held in such high estimation. In 
returning, we were again amused by the impetuous manner 
in which the heap of seals, old and young, tumbled into the 
water as the boat passed. They did not remain long under 
water, but rising, followed us with outstretched necks, 
expressing great wonder and curiosity. 

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

The wild potato grows on these islands in great abun- 
dance, 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 

* "Horticultural Transact," vol. v., p. 249. Mr. Caldcleugh sent home two 
hibers, which, being well manured, even the first season produced numerous 


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 

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 con- 
genial climate. In the Strait of Magellan, as I have before 
remarked, the country appears too cold and wet to allow 
of their arriving at perfection ; but in these islands, within 
the forest, the number of species and great abundance of 
mosses, lichens, and small ferns, is quite extraordinary."'^ 
In Tierra del Fuego trees grow only on the hill-sides ; 
every level piece of land being invariably covered by a 
thick bed of peat ; but in Chiloe flat land supports the 
most luxuriant forests. Here, within the Chonos Archi- 
pelago, 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 mageUanicd)^ which 
by their joint decay compose a thick bed of elastic 

In Tierra del Fuego, above the regions of woodland, the 
former of these eminently sociable plants is the chief agent 
in the production of peat. Fresh leaves are always suc- 
ceeding 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, vet holding their place, can be 
observed passing through every stage of decomposition, 
till the whole becomes blended In one confused mass. The 

potatoes and an abundance of leaves. See Humboldt's interesting discussion on 
this plant, which it appears was unknown in Mexico. — in "Polit. Essay on New 
Spain," book iv., chap. ix. 

* Hy sweepinj; with my insect-net, 1 procured from these situations a con- 
siderable number of minute insects, of the family of Staphylinidte, and others 
allied to Pselaphus, and minute Hymenoptera. Hut tlie most characteristic 
r.4pilly in number, both of individuals and species, throughout the mote open 
■itfiru of Chiloe and Chonos, is that of the Telephorid*. 

286 PRODUCTION OF PEAT. [chap. xiii. 

Astella is assisted by a few other plants — here and there 
a small creeping Myrtus {M. num7nularia)^ with a woody 
stem like our cranberry and with a sweet berry — an 
Empetrum {E. rubruin)^ like our heath — a rush {Juncics 
grandiJlorus\ are nearly the only ones that grow on the 
swampy surface. These plants, though possessing a very 
close general resemblance to the English species of the 
same genera, are different. In the more level parts of the 
country, the surface of the peat is broken up into little pools 
of water, which stand at different heights, and appear as 
if artificially excavated. Small streams of water, flowing 
underground, complete the disorganisation of the vegetable 
matter, and consolidate the 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 situa- 
tion checks its growth ; some of the beds are as much as 
twelve feet thick, and the lower part becomes so solid when 
dry, that it will hardly burn. Although every plant lends 
its aid, yet in most parts the Astelia is the most efficient. 
It is rather a singular circumstance, as being so very 
different from what occurs in Europe, that I nowhere saw 
moss forming by its decay any portion of the peat in South 
America. With respect to the northern limit, at which the 
climate allows of that peculiar kind of slow decomposition 
which is necessary for its production, I believe that in Chiloe 
(lat. 41° to 42°), although there is much swampy ground, no 
well characterised peat occurs ; but in the Chonos Islands, 
three degrees farther southward, we have seen that it is 
abundant. On the eastern coast in La Plata (lat. 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, 
exclusively frequents salt water ; which same circumstance 
has been mentioned as sometimes occurring with the great 
rodent, the Capybara. A small sea-otter is very numerous ; 
this animal does not feed exclusively on fish, but, like the 
seals, draws a large supply from a small red crab, which 
swims in shoals near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe 
saw one in Tierra del Fuego eating a cuttle-fish ; and at 
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. hrachiotis) ; 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 suc- 
cession of chances,* or what changes of level must have 
been brought into play, thus to spread these small animals 
throughout this broken archipelago ! 

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds 
occur, which are allied to, and replace, the Turco and 
Tapacolo of Central Chile. One is called by the inhabitants 
** Cheucau" (/*/^ro/»/<9cAo,r rubecula): it frequents the most 
gloomy and retired spots within the damp forests. Some- 
times, although its cry may be heard close at hand, let a 
person watch ever so attentively he will not see the cheucau ; 
at other times, let him stand motionless and the red- 
breasted little bird will approach within a few feet in the 
most familiar manner. It then busily hops about the 
entangled mass of rotting canes and oranches, with its 
little tail cocked upwards. The cheucau is held in super- 
stitious 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 absolute!} 
governed by them. The Chilotans assuredly have chosen 
a most comical little creature for their prophet. An allied 
species, but rather larger, is called bv the natives *' Guid 
guid " {rieroptochos Tamii)^ 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 

• It i»« said that Rome rnpaciouii birds brinfr their prey alive to their nestii. If 
•io, in the course of crntiiries, every now and then, one miffht esc.-ipc from the 
ling birds. Some such agency is necessary, to account tor the dlNtribntiuii of 
' Hinallcr gnawing animals on islands not very near each other. 


yelping somewhere in the forest. Just as with the cheucau, 
a person will sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain 
may endeavour by watching, and with still less chance by 
beating the bushes, to see the bird ; yet at other times the 
guid-guid fearlessly comes near. Its manner of feeding 
and its general habits are very similar to those of the 

On the coast,* a small dusky-coloured bird [Opetiorhynchus 
Patagonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from its 
quiet habits ; it lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a sand- 
piper. Besides these birds only few others inhabit this 
broken land. In my rough notes I describe the strange 
noises, which, although frequently heard within these 
gloomy forests, yet scarcely disturb the general silence. 
The yelping of the guid-guid, and the sudden whew- 
whew of the cheucau, sometimes come from afar off, and 
sometimes from close at hand ; the little black wren of 
Tierra del Fuego occasionally adds its cry ; the creeper 
{Oxyurus) follows the intruder screaming and twittering ; 
the humming-bird may be seen every now and then darting 
from side to side, and emitting, like an insect, its shrill 
chirp ; lastly, from the top of some lofty tree the indistinct 
but plaintive note of the white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher 
{Myiohius) may be noticed. From the great preponderance 
in most countries of certain common genera of birds, such 
as the finches, one feels at first surprised at meeting with 
the peculiar forms above enumerated, as the commonest 
birds in any district. In Central Chile two of them, 
namely, the Oxyurus and Scytalopus, occur, although 
most rarely. When finding, as in this case, animals which 
seem to play so insignificant a part in the great scheme 
of nature, one is apt to wonder why they were created. 
But it should always be recollected, that in some other 
country perhaps they are essential members of society, 
or at some former period may have been so. If America 
south of 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 

* I may mention, as a proof of how great a diiFerence there is between the 
seasons of the wooded and the open parts of this coast, that on September 20th 
in lat 34°, these bird had young ones in the nest, while amon^ 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. 

1835.] THE "BREAK-BONES." 289 

which must inevitably have happened with very many 

These southern seas are frequented by several species 
of Petrels : the largest kind, Procellaria g-igantea, 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 it for hours together 
without seeing on what it feeds. The "break-bones " 
is, however, a rapacious bird, for it was observed by 
some of the officers at Port St. Antonio chasing a diver, 
which tried to escape by diving and flying, but was 
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 
{Ptiffinus cinereus)y which is common to Europe, Cape 
Horn, and the coast of Peru, is of a much smaller size 
than the P. gigantea, but, like it, of a dirty black colour. 
It generally frequents the inland sounds in very large 
flocks : I do not think I ever saw so many birds of any 
other sort together, as I once saw of these behind the island 
of Chiloe. Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular 
line for several hours in one direction. When part of the 
flock settled on the water the surface was blackened, and 
a noise proceeded from them as of human beings talking 
in the distance. 

There are several other species of petrels, but I will 
only mention one other kind, the Pelacanoides Beranii\ 
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 straignt 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, it 
short wings and consequent little power of flight, it 
form of body and shape of tail, the absence of a hind tot- 
to its foot, its habit of diving, and its choice of situation, 
xw.xkr it ;it first doubtful whether its relationship is not 

290 A VOLCANO IN ACTION. [chap. xiv. 

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 and Coseg'uina — Ride to Cucao — Impene- 
trable Forests — Valdivia — Indians — Earthquake — Concep- 
cion — Great earthquake — Rocks fissured — Appearance of 
the former towns — The sea black and boiling — Direction of 
the vibrations — Stones twisted round — Great Wave — Per- 
manent elevation of the land — Area of volcanic phenomena — 
The connection between the elevatory and eruptive forces — 
Cause of earthquakes — Slow elevation of Mountain-chains. 

On January the 15th we sailed from Low's Harbour, 
and three days afterwards anchored a second time in 
the bay of San Carlos In Chiloe. On the night of the 
igth the volcano of Osorno was in action. At midnight 
the sentry observed something like a large star, which 
gradually increased in size till about three o'clock, when 
it presented a very magnificent spectacle. By the aid of a 
glass, dark objects, in constant succession, were seen, 
in the midst of a great glare of red light, to be thrown 
up and to fall down. The light was sufficient to cast 
on the water a long bright reflection. Large masses 
of molten matter seem very commonly to be cast out of 
the craters in this part of the Cordillera. I was assured 
that when the Corcovado is in eruption, great masses 
are projected upwards and are seen to burst in the air, 
assuming many fantastical forms, such as trees : their 
size must be immense, for they can be distinguished 
from the high 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 (2700 miles north of 

1835.] A CURIOUS ROAD. 291 

Aconcagua), accompanied by an earthquake felt over 1000 
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 remarkable ; but it is far 
more remarkable in this case, where the three vents fall 
on the same great mountain-chain, and where the vast 
plains along the entire eastern coast, and the upraised 
recent shells along more than 2000 miles on the western 
coast, show in how equable and connected a manner the 
elevatory forces have acted. 

Captain Fitz Ro}'- 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 9 
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 
<'Hrth. 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 uMidc 
the Chilotan horses. In crossing bad parts, where tl 

292 PRIMEVAL WOODS. [chap. xiv. 

logs had been displaced, they skipped from one to the 
other, almost with the quickness and certaint)"^ 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 in attempting 
to cross the forest. The first who succeeded was an 
Indian, who cut his way through the canes in eight days, 
and reached 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. x\s 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 efi'ect 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 
civilised. Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for the night. 
Our female companion, who was rather good-looking, 
belonged to one of the most respectable families in Castro ; 
she rode, however, astride, and without shoes and 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 

1835.] IN A PERIAGUA. 293 

ni^ht was cloudless ; and while lying in our beds, we 
enjoyed the sight (and it is 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 him- 
self. We proceeded to the south — generally following the 
coast, and passing through several hamlets, each with its 
large barn-like chapel built of wood. At Vilipilli, Don Pedro 
asked the commandant to give us a guide to Cucao. The 
old gentleman offered to come himself ; but for a long time 
nothing would persuade him that two Englishmen really 
wished to go to such an out of the way place as Cucao. 
We were thus accompanied by the two greatest aristocrats 
in the country, as was plainly to be seen in the manner 
of all the poorer Indians towards them. At Chonchi we 
struck across the island, following intricate winding paths, 
sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and some- 
times through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn 
and potato crops. This undulating woody country, partially 
cultivated, reminded me of the wilder parts of England, ancl 
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 inhabi- 
tants 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 
{>iill us over, without deigning to tell them whether they 
would be paid. The pcniagua is a strange rough boat, but 
Ihe crew were still stranger : I doubt if six uglier little men 
'ver got into a boat together. They pulled, however, very 

veil and cheerfully. Tlie stroke-oarsman gabbled Indian, 
and uttered strang(; cries, much after the fashion of h 

294  AT CUCAO. [chap. xiv. 

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 Chiloe. It contains about thirty or 
forty Indian families, who are scattered along four or five 
miles of the shore. They are very much secluded from the 
rest of Chiloe, and have scarcely any sort of commerce, 
except sometimes in a little oil, which they get from seal- 
blubber. They are tolerably dressed in clothes of their own 
manufacture, and they have plenty to eat. They seemed, 
however, discontented, yet humble to a degree which it 
was quite painful to witness. These feelings are, I think, 
chiefly to be attributed to the harsh and authoritative 
manner in which they are treated by their rulers. Our 
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, or indeed 
whether the owners should be paid at all. In the morning, 
being left alone with these poor people, we soon Ingratiated 
ourselves by presents of cigars and mat^. 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 breakfast, we rode a few miles north- 
ward 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, 

1835.] A PRICKLY PLANT. 295 

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 1 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 im- 
practicable. 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 26th, — Re-embarking in the perlagua, we 
returned across the lake, and then mounted our horses. 
The whole of Chiloe took advantage of this week of 
unusually fine weather, to clear the ground by burning. 
In every direction volumes of smoke were curling upwards. 
Although the inhabitants were so assiduous in settmg 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 

296 VALDIVIAN ORCHARDS. [chap. xiv. 

the north, stood out in proud pre-emhience : scarcely 
another peak in the long range showed its snowy summit. 
I hope it will be long before 1 forget this farewell view or 
the magnificent Cordillera fronting Chiloe. 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 commenced. 

February a^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 35c 
feet above the level of the sea : from among these shells, 
large forest-trees were growing. Another ride w^as to 
P. Huechucucuy. I had with me a guide who knew the 
country far too well ; for he would pertinaciously tell me 
endless Indian names for every little point, rivulet, and 
creek. In the same manner as in Tierra del Fuego, the 
Indian language appears singularly well adapted for 
attaching names to the most trivial features of the land. 
I believe every one was glad to say farewell to Chiloe ; yet 
if we could forget the gloom and ceaseless rain of winter, 
Chiloe might pass for a charming island. There is also 
something very attractive in the simplicity and humble 
politeness of the poor inhabitants. 

We steered northward along shore, but owing to thick 
weather did not reach Valdivia till the night of the 8th. 
The next morning the boat proceeded to the town, which is 
distant about ten miles. We followed the course of the 
river, occasionally passing a few hovels, and patches of 
ground cleared out of the otherwise unbroken forest ; and 
sometimes meeting a canoe with an Indian family. The 
town is situated on the low banks of the stream, and is 
so completely buried in a wood of apple-trees that the 
streets are merely paths in an orchard. I have never seen 
any country where apple-trees appeared to thrive so well 
as in this damp part of South America ; on the borders of 
the roads there were many young trees evidently self-sown. 
In Chiloe the inhabitants possess a marvellously short 
method of making an orchard. At the lower part of almost 
every branch, small, conical, brown, wrinkled points 
project ; these are always ready to change into roots, as 
may sometimes be seen, where any mud has been accident- 
ally 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 

1835] USEFUL APPLES. 297 

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

February nth. — 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 uncomfort- 
able, 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 
imcleared 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 after- 
noon one of the horses knocked up ; we were then on a 

298 AMONG THE INDIANS. [chap. xiv. 

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 " re- 
ducidos 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 other- 
wise 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 be the wife of a cacique 
is an honour much sought after by the Indian woman. 

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 diff'erent from that of any other 
tribe which I had before seen. Their expression is 

1835.] AMONG THE INDIANS. 299 

generally grave, and even austere, and possesses much 
character : this may pass either for honest bluntness or 
fierce determination. The long black hair, the grave 
and much-lined features, and the dark complexion, called 
to my mind old portraits of James I. On the road we 
met with none of that humble politeness so universal in 
Chiloe. Some gave their **mari-mari" (good-morning) 
with promptness, but the greater number did not seem 
inclined to offer any salute. This 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 him- 
self 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 con- 
cerning 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 Chllotan 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 Nicbla. The 
buildings were in a most ruinous state, and the gun 

300 AN EARTHQUAKE. [chap. xiv. 

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 too ! " The Spaniards must have intended 
to have made this place impregnable. There is now lying 
in the middle of the courtyard a little mountain of mortar, 
which rivals in hardness the rock on which it is placed. 
It was brought from Chile, and cost 7000 dollars. The 
revolution having broken out, prevented its being applied 
to any purpose, and now it remains a monument of the 
fallen greatness of Spain. 

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

February 20th. — This day has been memorable in the 
annals of Valdivia, for the most severe earthquake ex- 
perienced 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 move- 
ment of a vessel In a little cross-ripple, or still more like 
that felt by a person skating over thin ice, which bends 
under the weight of his body. 

A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associa- 
lions ; the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved 


beneath our feet like a thin crust over a fluid ; — one second 
of time has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, 
which hours of reflection would not have produced. In the 
forest, as a breeze moved the trees, I felt only the earth 
tremble, but saw no other effect. Captain Fitz Roy and 
some officers were at the town during the shock, and there 
the scene was more striking ; for although the houses, 
from being built of wood, did not fall, they were violently 
shaken, and the boards creaked and rattled together. The 
people rushed out of doors in the greatest alarm. It is 
these accompaniments that create that perfect horror of 
earthquakes, experienced by all who have thus seen, as 
well as felt, their efi*ects. Within the forest it was a deeply 
interesting, but by no means an awe-exciting phenomenon. 
The tides were very curiously affected. The great shock 
took place at the time of low water ; and an old woman 
who was on the beach told me, that the water flowed very 
quickly, but not in great waves, to high-water mark, ana 
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 

March ^th. — We entered the harbour of Concepcion. 
While the ship was beating up to the anchorage, I landed 
on the island of Quiriquina. The mayor-domo of the estate 
quickly rode down to tell me the terrible news of the great 
earthquake of the 20th : — '* That not a house in Concepcion 
or Talcahuano (the port) was standing ; that seventy 
villages were destroyed ; and that a great wave had almost 
washed away the ruins of 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 conspicuous by the fresh fractures and dis- 
placed soil, must be confined to near the surface, for other- 
wise 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 Concepcion. Both towns presented the most awful 
yet interesting spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who 
had formerly known them, it possibly might have been 
still more impressive ; for the ruins were so mingled 
together, and the whole scene possessed so little the air 
of a habitable place, that it was scarcely possible to imagine 
its former condition. The earthquake commenced at half- 
past eleven o'clock in the forenoon. If it had happened 
in the middle of the night, the greater number of the 
inhabitants (which in this one province amount to many 
thousands) must have perished, instead of less than a 
hundred : as it was, the invariable practice of running out 
of doors at the first trembling of the ground alone saved 
them. In Concepcion each house, or row of houses, stood 
by itself, a heap or line of ruins ; but in Talcahuano, owing 


to the great wave, little more than one layer of bricks, tiles, 
and timber, with here and there part of a wall left standing, 
could be distinguished. From this circumstance Concepcion, 
although not so completely desolated, was a more terrible, 
and, if I may so call it, picturesque sight. The first shock 
was very sudden. The mayor-domo at Quinquina told me, 
that the first notice he received of it, was finding both the 
horse he rode and himself, rolling together on the ground. 
Rising up, he was again thrown down. He also told me 
that some cows which were standing on the steep side of 
the Island were rolled into the sea. The great wave caused 
the destruction of many cattle ; on one low island, near the 
head of the bay, seventy animals were washed off and 
drowned. It is generally thought that this has been the 
worst earthquake ever recorded in Chile ; but as the very 
severe ones occur only after long intervals, this cannot 
easily be known ; nor indeed would a much worse shock 
have made any great difference, for the ruin was now 
complete. Innumerable small tremblings followed the 
great earthquake, and within the first twelve days no less 
than three hundred were counted. 

After viewing Concepcion, I cannot understand how the 
greater number of inhabitants escaped unhurt. The houses 
in many parts fell outwards ; thus forming in the middle 
of the streets little hillocks of brickwork and rubbish. 
Mr. Rouse, the English consul, told us that he was at 
breakfast when the first movement warned him to run out. 
He had scarcely reached the middle of the courtyard, when 
one side of his house came thundering down. He retained 
presence of mind to remember, that if he once got on the 
top of that part which had already fallen, he would be safe. 
Not being able from the motion of the ground to stand, he 
crawled up on his hands and knees ; and no sooner had he 
ascended this little eminence, than the other side of the 
house fell in, the great beams sweeping close in front of his 
head. With liis 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, 
lor thieves prowled about, and at each little trembling of 
the ground, with one hand they beat their breasts and cried 

304 A GIGANTIC WAVE. [chap. xrv. 

" miseiicordia ! " and then with the other hlched what the}- 
could from the runis. The thatched roofs fell over the fires, 
and flames burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew them- 
selves ruined, and few had the means of providing food for 
the day. 

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity 
of any country. If beneath England the now inert subter- 
ranean 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 un- 
able 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 irre- 
sistible 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 ofi^ 
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 
10 their boat riding securely over the swell, if they could 


reach it before it broke. One old woman with a little bov, 
four or five years old, ran into a boat, but there was nobody 
to row it out ; the boat was consequently dashed against 
an anchor and cut in twain ; the old woman was drowned, 
but the child was picked up some hours afterwards cling-ing- 
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 
pai-ents were miserable. It was, however, exceedingly 
interesting to observe, how much more active and cheerful 
all appeared than could have been expected. It was re- 
marked with much truth, that from the destruction being- 
universal, no one individual was humbled more than another, 
or could suspect his friends of coldness — that most grievous 
result of the loss of wealth. Mr. Rouse, and a large party 
whom he kindly took under his protection, lived for the 
first week in a garden beneath some apple-trees. At first 
they were as inerry 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 accourit of the earth- 
quake, 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 everywhere to 
be boiling ; and it "became black, and exhaled a most dis- 
agreeable sulphureous smell." These latter circumstances 
were observed in the Bay of Valparaiso during the earth- 
quake 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 earth- 
quake was caused by some old Indian women, who two 
years ago being offended stopped the volcano of Antuco. 
This silly belief is curious, because it shows that experience 
has taught them to observe, that there exists a relation 
between the suppressed action of the volcanoes, and the 
trembling of the ground. It was necessary to apply the 
witchcraft to the point where their perception of cause and 
effect failed ; and this was the closing of the volcanic vent. 
This belief is the more singular in this particular instance, 
because, according to Captain Fitz Roy, there is reason to 
believe that Antuco was noways alTected. 

3o6 EFFECT ON CONCEPCION. [chap. xiv. 

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 pre- 
sented 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 ex- 
tended 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 nearly 
three times the height of any other part of the coast. 

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to 
their direction, was well exemplified in the case of the 
Cathedral. The side which fronted the N.E. presented a 
grand pile of ruins, in the midst of which door-cases and 
masses of timber stood up, as if floating in a stream. Some 
of the angular blocks of brick-work were of great dimen- 
sions ; 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 build- 
ings. Nevertheless, a poor lame old man, who had been in 
the habit, during trifling shocks, of crawling to a certain 
doorway, was this time crushed to pieces. 

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of 
the appearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite Im- 
possible 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 In- 
habitants 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 Con- 
cepcion, to have been of two kinds : first, at the Instant of 
the shock, the water swells high up on the beach with a 
gentle motion, and then as quietly retreats ; secondly, some 
time afterwards, the whole body of the sea retires from the 
coast, and then returns In waves of overwhelming force. 
The first movement seems to be an immediate consequence 
of the earthquake affecting differently a fluid and a solid, so 
that their respective levels are slightly deranged ; but the 
second case Is a far more important phenomenon. During 
most earthquakes, and especially during those on the 
west coast of America, it is certain that the first great 
movement of the waters has been a retirement. Some 

* M. Arago in " L'In«ti'tut," i8to, p. 337. See also Mi'cr'u "Chile," vol. i., 
p. 39a ; ul«o Lyell'a " Principle* of Gcolog'y," chap, xv., book ii. 


jiuthors have attempted to explain this, by supposing that 
the water retains its level, whilst the land oscillates up- 
wards ; but surel}^ the water close to the land, even on a 
rather steep coast, would partake of the motion of the 
bottom : moreover, as urged by Mr. Lyell, similar move- 
ments 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 pro- 
duced, 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 v/aves, 
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 ofiing ; and as this is of general occurrence, 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 gener- 
ated ; it would also , appear that the wave is larger or 
smaller, according to the extent of shoal water which has 
been agitated together with the bottom on which it rested. 

The most remarkable effect of this earthquake was the 
permanent elevation of the land ; it would probably be far 
more correct to speak of it as the cause. There can be no 
doubt that the land round the Bay of Concepcion was up- 
raised 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 leet above high-water mark : the 
inhabitants had formerly dived at low-water spring-tides 
for these shells. The elevation of this province is par- 
ticularly interesting, from its having been the theatre of 
several other violent earthquakes, and from the vast 
numbers of sea-shells scattered over the land, up to a 
height of certainly 600, and I believe, of 1000 feet. At 
Valparaiso, as I have remarked, similar shells are found 
at the height of 1300 feet : it is hardly possible to doubt 
that this great elevation has been effected by successive 
small uprisings, such as that which accompanied or caused 
the earthquake of this year, and likewise by an insensibly 
slow rise, which is certainly in progress on some parts of 
this coast. 

The island of Juan Fernandez, 360 miles to the N. E., 
was, at the time of the great shock of the 20th, violently 
shaken, so 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 south- 
ward of Concepcion, appears to have been shaken more 
strongly than the intermediate district of Valdivia, where 
the volcano of Villarica was noways affected, whilst in 
the Cordillera in front of Chiloe, two of the volcanoes burst 
forth at the same instant in violent action. These two 
volcanoes, and some neighbouring ones, continued for a 
long time in eruption, and ten months afterwards were 
again influenced by an earthquake at Concepcion. Some 
men, cutting wood near the base of one of these volcanoes, 
did not perceive the shock of the 20th, although the whole 
surrounding province was then trembling ; here we have 
an eruption relieving and taking the place of an earth- 
quake, as would have happened at Concepcion, according 
to the belief of the lower orders, if the volcano of Antuco 
had not been closed by witchcraft. Two years and three- 
quarters afterwards, Valdivia and Chiloe were again shaken, 
more violently than on the 20th, and an island in the 
Chonos Archipelago was permanently elevated more than 
eight feet. It will give a bettor idea of the scale of these 
phenomena, if (as in the case of the glaciers) we suppose 
them to have taken place at corresponding distances in 


Europe : — then would the land from the North Sea to 
the Mediterranean have been violently shaken, and at 
the same instant of time a large tract of the eastern coast 
of England would have been permanently elevated, 
together with some outlying islands — a train of volcanoes 
on the coast of Holland would have burst forth in action, 
and an eruption taken place at the bottom of the sea, 
near the northern extremity of Ireland — and lastly, the 
ancient vents of Auvergne, Cantal, and Mont d'Or would 
each have sent up to the sky a dark column of smoke, and 
have long remained in fierce action. Two years and three- 
quarters afterwards, France, from its centre to the English 
Channel, would have been again desolated by an earthquake, 
and an island permanently upraised in the Mediterranean. 

The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 20th 
was actually erupted, is 720 miles in one line, and 400 miles 
in another line at right angles to the first : hence, in all 
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 con- 
tinents, and those which at successive periods pour forth 
volcanic matter from open orifices, are identical. From 
many reasons, I believe that the frequent quakings of the 
earth on this line of coast are caused by the rending of 
the strata, necessarily consequent on the tension of the 
land when upraised, and their injection by fluidified rock. 
This rending and injection would, if repeated often enough 
(and we know that earthquakes repeatedly afi'ect 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 under- 
going this process. I believe that the solid axis of a 
mountain, difi'ers in its manner of formation from a 
volcanic hill, only in the molten stone having been re- 
peatedly 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 

1835.] OFF TO VALPARAISO. 311 

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 — Grea.t subsidence — Red snow — Winds 
— Pinnacles of snow — Dry and clear atmosphere — Electricity 
— Pampas — Zoology of the opposite sides of the Andes — 
Locusts — Great bugs — Mendoza — Uspallata pass — Silicified 
trees buried as they grew — Incas' Bridge — Badness of the 
passes exaggerated — Cumbre — Casuchas — Valparaiso. 

March Jth, 1835. — We stayed three days at Concepcion, and 
then sailed for Valparaiso. The wind being northerly, we 
only reached the mouth of the harbour of Concepcion before 
it was dark. Being very near the land, and a fog coming 
on, the anchor was dropped. Presently a large American 
whaler appeared close alongside of us ; and we heard the 
Yankee swearing at his men to keep quiet, whilst he 
listened for the breakers. Captain Fitz Roy hailed him, 
in a loud, clear voice, to anchor where he then was. The 
poor man must have thought the voice caine from the shore : 
such a Babel of cries issued at once from the ship — every 
one hallooing out, " Let go the anchor! veer cable ! shorten 
sail!" It was the most laughable thing I ever heard. If 
the ship's crew had been all captains, and no men, there 
could not have been a greater uproar of orders. We after- 
wards found that the mate stuttered : I suppose all hands 
were assisting him in giving his orders. 

For a full account of the volcanic plicnompna which accompanied tl 
iiihqvtake of the 20th, and for the conchisions cleduciblc from them, I mii>i 
rctcr to Volume V. of the Gtological Transactions. 

312 PORTILLO PASS. [chap. xv. 

On the nth we ancliored at Valparaiso, and two days 
afterwards I set out to cross the Cordillera. I proceeded 
to Santiago, where M*- 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 

March iS/A.— We set out for the Portillo pass. Leaving 
Santiago we crossed the wide burnt-up plain on which 
that city stands, and in the afternoon arrived at the Maypu, 
one of the principal rivers in Chile. The valley, at the 
point where it enters the first Cordillera, is bounded on 
each side by lofty barren mountains ; and although not 
broad, it is very fertile. Numerous cottages were sur- 
rounded 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 im- 
passable 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 m}^ admiration at the 
natural politeness of almost every Chileno. In this instance, 
the contrast with the same class of men In most other 
countries was strongly marked. I may mention an anec- 
dote with which I was at the time much pleased : we met 
near Mendoza a little and very fat negress, riding astride 
on a mule. She had a goitre so enormous that It was 
scarcely possible to avoid gazing at her for a moment ; 
but my two companions almost Instantly, by way of 
apology, made the common salute of the country by taking 
off their hats. Where would one of the lower or higher 
classes in Europe, have shown such feeling politeness to 
a poor and miserable object of a degraded race ? 

At night we slept at a cottage. Our manner of travelling 
was delightfully independent. In the Inhabited parts we 
bought a little firewood, hired pasture for the animals, 
and bivouacked in the corner of the same field with them. 

1835.] "MADRINAS." 313 

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 
"madrlna." 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 ot 
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 immedi- 
ately 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 ot 
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 in- 
dicate that art has here outdone nature. Of our ten 
animals, six were intended for riding, and four for carry- 
ing cargoes, each taking turn about. We carried a good 
deal of food in case we should be snowed up, as the season 
was rather late for passing the Portillo. 

March \<^th. — We rode during this day to the last, and 
therefore most elevated house in the valley. The number 
of inhabitants became scanty ; but wherever water could 
be brought on the land, it was very fertile. All the main 
valleys in the Cordillera are characterised by having, on 
both sides, a fringe or terrace of shingle and sand, rudely 
stratified, and generally of considerable thickness. These 
fringes evidently once extended across the valleys, and were 
united ; and the bottoms of the valleys in northern Chilr, 

314 SHINGLE TERRACES. [chap. xv. 

where there are no streams, are thus smoothly filled up. 
On these fringes the roads are generally carried, for their 
surfaces are even, and they rise with a very gentle slope up 
the valleys ; hence, also, they are easily cultivated by 
irrigation. They may be traced up to a height of between 
7000 and 9000 feet, when they become hidden by the 
irregular piles of debt is. At the lower end or mouths of 
the valleys, they are continuously united to those land- 
locked plains (also formed of shingle) at the foot of the 
main Cordillera, which I have described in a former chapter 
as characteristic of the scenery of Chile, and which were 
undoubtedly deposited when the sea penetrated Chile, as it 
now does the more southern coasts. No one fact in the 
geology of South America interested me more than these 
terraces of rudely - stratified shingle. They precisely 
resemble in composition the matter which the torrents in 
each valley would deposit, if they were checked in their 
course by any cause, such as entering a lake or arm of the 
sea ; < but the torrents, instead of depositing matter, are now 
steadily at work wearing away both the solid rock and 
these alluvial deposits, along the whole line of every main 
valley and side valley. It is impossible here to give the 
reasons, but I am convinced that the shingle terraces were 
accumulated during the gradual elevation of the Cordillera, 
by the torrents delivering, at successive levels, their detritus 
on the beach-heads of long narrow arms of the sea, first 
high up the valleys, then lower and lower down as the 
land slowly rose. If this be so, and I cannot doubt it, the 
grand and broken chain of the Cordillera, instead of having 
been 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 frag- 
ments, 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 or stones, 
which, striking against each other, made the one dull 
uniform sound, were all hurrying in one direction. It was 
like thinking on time, where the minute that now glides 
past is irrecoverable. So was it with these stones ; the ocean 
is their eternity, and each note of that wild music told of 
one more step towards their destiny. 

It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by 
a slow process, any effect which is produced by a cause 
repeated so often,, that the multiplier itself conveys an idea, 
not more definite than the savage implies when he points to 
the hairs of his head. As often as I have seen beds of mud, 
sand, and shingle accumulated to the thickness of many 
thousand feet, 1 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 ot 
these torrents, and calling to mind that whole races of 
animals have passed away from the face of the earth, and 
that during this whole period, night and day, these stones 
have gone rattling onwards in their course, I have thought 
to myself, can any mountains, any continent, withstand 
such waste ? 

In this part of the valley, the mountains on each side 
were from 3000 to 6000 or 8000 feet high, with rounded 
outlines and steep bare flanks. The general colour of the 
rock was dullish purple, and the stratification very distinct. 
If the scenery was not beautiful, it was remarkable and 
grand. We met during the day several herds of cattle, 
which men were driving down from the higher valleys in 
the Cordillera. This sign of the approaching winter hurried 
our steps, more than was convenient for geologising. The 
house where we slept was situated at the foot of ;l 
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 countiy are generally 
harder than the surrounding strata : hence, during the 
gradual wear of the hills, they project above the surfat (^ 
of the ground. .Secondly, almost every labourer, especial l\ 
in the northern parts of Chile, understands somethin; 
about the appearance of ores. In the great mining.; 
provinces of Coquimbo and Copiap6, firewood is very 


scarce, and men search for it over every hill and dale ; 
and by this means nearly all the richest mines have there 
been discovered. Chanuncillo, from which silver to the 
value of many hundred thousand pounds has been raised 
in the course of a few years, was discovered by a man who 
threw a stone at his loaded donkey, and thinking that it 
was very heavy, he picked it up, and found it full of pure 
silver : the vein occurred at no great distance, standing up 
like a wedge of metal. The miners, also, taking a crowbar 
with them, often wander on Sundays over the mountains. 
In this south part of Chile, the men who drive cattle into 
the Cordillera, and who frequent every ravine where there 
is a little pasture, are the usual discoverers. 

March 20th. — As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, 
with the exception of a few pretty alpine flowers, became 
exceedingly scanty ; and of quadrupeds, birds or insects, 
scarcely one could be seen. The lofty mountains, their 
summits marked with a few patches of snow, stood well 
separated from each other ; the valleys being filled up with 
an immense thickness of stratified alluvium. The features 
in the scenery of the Andes which struck me most, as 
contrasted with the other mountain chains with which I am 
acquainted, were — the flat fringes sometimes expanding 
into narrow plains on each side of the valleys — the bright 
colours, chiefly red and purple, of the utterly bare and 
precipitous hills of porphyry — the grand and continuous 
wall-like dikes — the plainly-divided strata, which, where 
nearly vertical, formed the picturesque and wild central 
pinnacles, but where less inclined, composed the great 
massive mountains on the outskirts of the range — and 
lastly, the smooth conical piles of fine and bright-coloured 
detritus which sloped up at a high angle from the base of 
the mountains, sometimes to a height of more than 2000 

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 

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

1835.1 VALLE DEL YESO. 317 

earth and iVagnients of stone on the suriace, were perhaps 
less effectually removed by slowly percolating snow-water* 
than by rain, and therefore that the appearance of a quicker 
disintegration of the solid rock under the snow was 
deceptive. Whatever the cause may be, the quantity of 
crumbling stone on the Cordillera is very great. Occasion- 
ally 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 surrounding rocky deserts. The 
valley takes its name of Yeso from a great bed, I should 
think at least 2000 feet thick, of white, and in some parts 
quite pure, gypsum. We slept with a party of men who 
were employed in loading mules with this substance, which 
is used in the manufacture of wine. We set out early in 
the morning (iisi), 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 
jiad been good, with a steady but very gradual ascent, now 
changed into a steep zigzag track up the great range, 
dividing the republics of Chile and Mendoza. 

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

• I have heard it remarked in Shropshire, that the water, when the Severn is 
flooded from long-continued min, is much more turbid than when it proceeds 
from the Know melting on the Welsh mountains. D'Orbijfny (toni. i., p. 184), 
in explaining the cause of the various colours of the rivers ui South Amrrica, 
remarks that those with blue or clear water have their source in the Corilillera, 
where the snow melts. 


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

The other main line, namely, that of the Portillo, is of a 
totally different formation ; it consists chiefly of grand bare 
pinnacles of a red potash-granite, which low down on the 
western flank are covered by a sandstone, converted by the 
former heat into a quartz-rock. On the quartz, there rests 
beds of a conglomerate several thousand feet in thickness, 
which have been upheaved by the red granite, and dip at an 
angle of 45*^ towards the Peuquenes line. I was astonished 
to find that this conglomerate was partly composed of 
pebbles, derived from the rocks, with their fossil shells, of 
the Peuquenes range ; and partly of red potash-granite, like 
that of the Portillo. Hence we must conclude that both 
the Peuquenes and Portillo ranges were partially upheaved 
and exposed to wear and tear, when the conglomerate was 
forming ; but as the beds of the conglomerate have been 
thrown off at an angle of 45° by the red Portillo granite 
(with the underlying sandstone baked by it), we may feel 
sure that the greater part of the injection and upheaval of 
the already partially formed Portillo line took place after 
the accumulation of the conglomerate, and long after the 
elevation of the Peuquenes ridge. So that the Portillo, the 
loftiest line in this part of the Cordillera, is not so old as 
the less lofty line of the Peuquenes. Evidence derived from 
an inclined stream of lava at the eastern base of the 
Portillo, might be adduced to show that it owes part of its 
great height to elevations of a still later date. Looking to 
its earliest origin, the red granite seems to have been in- 
jected 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 astonish- 
ing" amount of denudation, which these great, though 
comparatively with most other ranges recent, mountains 
have suffered. 

Finally, the shells in the Peuquenes or oldest ridge, prove, 
as before remarked, that it has been upraised 14,000 
feet since a secondary period, which in Europe we are 
accustomed to consider as far from ancient ; but since 
these shells lived in a moderately deep sea, it can be shown 
that the area now occupied by the Cordillera, must have 
subsided several thousand feet — in northern Chile as much 
as 6000 feet — so as to have allowed that amount of sub- 
marine strata to have been heaped on the bed on which the 
shells lived. The proof is the same with that by which it 
was shown, that at a much later period since the tertiary 
shells of Patagonia lived, there must have been there a 
subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing 
elevation. Daily it is forced home on the mind of the 
geologist, that nothing, not even the wind that blows, is so 
unstable as the level of the crust of this earth. 

I will make only one other geological remark : although 
the Portillo chain is here higher than the Peuquenes, the 
waters, draining the intermediate valleys, have burst 
through it. The same fact, on a grander scale, has been 
remarked in the eastern and loftiest line of the Bolivian 
Cordillera, through which the rivers pass : analogous facts 
have also been observed in other quarters of the world. On 
the supposition of the 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 Httio 
difficulty in our respiration. The mules would halt every 
fifty yards, and after resting for a few seconds the poor 
willing animals started of their own accord again. TIk- 
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 

3JO A CURE FOR "PUNA." [ciiAr. xv. 

here have puna" ; others that "where there is snow then 
is puna " ; — and this no doubt is true. The onl}'' 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 respira- 
tion 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 half-way up we met a large party with 
seventy loaded mules. It was interesting to hear the wild 
cries of the muleteers, and to watch the long descending 
string of the animals ; they appeared so diminutive, there 
being nothing but the bleak mountains with which they 
could be compared. When near the summit, the wind, as 
generally happens, was impetuous and extremely cold. On 
each side of the ridge we had to pass over broad bands of 
perpetual snow, which were now soon to be covered by a 
fresh layer. When we reached the crest and looked back- 
wards, a glorious view was presented. The atmosphere 
resplendently clear ; the sky an intense blue : the profound 
valleys ; the wild broken forms ; the heaps of ruins, piled 
up during the lapse of ages ; the bright-coloured rocks, 
contrasted with the quiet mountains of snow ; all these 
together produced a scene no one could have Imagined. 
Neither plant nor bird, excepting a few condors wheeling 
around the higher pinnacles, distracted my attention from 
the Inanimate mass. I felt glad that I was alone : it was 
like watching a thunderstorm, or hearing in full orchestra 
a chorus of the Messiah. 

On several patches of the snow I found the Protococcus 
nivalisy or red snow, so well known from the accounts of 
Arctic navigators. My attention was called to It by ob- 
serving footsteps of tile 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 

1835.] IN THE PEUQUENES. 321 

power of the crystals of snow, the groups of these micro- 
scopical plants appeared like coarse particles. The snow 
was coloured only where it had thawed very rapidly, or 
had been accidentally crushed. A little rubbed on paper 
gave it a faint rose tinge mingled with a little brick-red. 
I afterwards scraped some off the paper, and found that it 
consisted of groups of little spheres in colourless cases, 
each the thousandth part of an inch in diameter. 

The wind on the crest of the Peuquenes, as just re- 
marked, is generally impetuous and very cold : it is said* 
to blow steadily from the westward or Pacific side. As 
the observations have been chiefly made in summer, this 
wind must be an upper and return current. The Peak of 
Teneriffe, with a less elevation, and situated in lat. 28°, 
in like manner 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 coasts of Peru should 
blow in so very southerly a direction as it does ; but when 
we reflect that the Cordillera, running in a north and 
south line, intercepts, like a great wall, the entire depth 
of the lower atmospheric current, we can easily see that 
the trade-wind must be drawn northward, following the 
line of mountains, towards the equatorial regions, and 
thus lose part of that easterly movement which it otherwise 
would have gained from the earth's rotation. At Mendoza, 
on the eastern foot of the Andes, the climate is said to be 
subject to long calms, and to frequent though false appear- 
ances of gathering rain-storms : we may imagine that the 
wind, which, coming from the eastward, is thus banked up 
by the line of mountains, would become stagnant and 
irregular in its movements. 

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into a 
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 con- 
sequence 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 1 could, and went 
to sleep. About midnight I observed the sky became 
suddenly clouded : I awakened the arriero to know if 

' Dr. Gillies in Journal oj Natural and Geographical Science, Aug. 1830. 
i hia author givca the heights of the Puasea. 

322 AN OBSTINATE POT. [chap. xv. 

tliere was any danger of bad weather ; but he said that 
without thunder and lightning there was no risk of a heavy 
snowstorm. The peril is imminent, and the difficulty of 
subsequent escape great, to any one overtaken by bad 
weather between the two 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 snowstorms 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 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 conclusion, ** that the cursed pot 
(which was a new one) did not choose to boil potatoes." 

March 22nd. — After eating our potato-less breakfast, 
we travelled across the Intermediate tract to the foot of the 
Portillo range. In the middle of summer cattle are brought 
up here to graze ; but they had now all been removed : 
even the greater number of the guanacos had decamped, 
knowing well that If overtaken here by a snowstorm, 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 occur- 
rence 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 

* This structure in frozen snow was long since observed by Scoresby in the 
iceberg-s near Spitzbergen, and lately, with more care by Colonel jfackson 
{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 


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, wdien the snow 
was continuous, and afterwards the surrounding parts must 
have been removed by the thaw. 

When nearly on ' the crest of the Portillo, we were 
enveloped in a falling cloud of minute frozen spicula. This 
was very unfortunate, as it continued the whole day, and^ 
quite intercepted our vieu^ The pass takes its name of 
Portillo from a narrow cleft or doorway on the highest 
ridge, through which the road passes. From this point on 
a clear day, those vast plains which uninterruptedly extend 
to the Atlantic Ocean can be seen. We descended to the 
upper limit of vegetation, and found good quarters for the 
night under the shelter of some large fragments of rock. 
We met here some passengers who made anxious inquiries 
about the state of the road. Shortly after it was dark the 
clouds suddenly cleared away, and the effect was quite 
magical. The great mountains, bright with the full moon, 
seemed impending over us on all sides, as over a deep crevice : 
one morning very early, I witnessed the same striking effect. 
As soon as the clouds were dispersed it froze severely ; 
but as there was no wind, we slept very comfortably. 

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this 
elevation, owing to the perfect transparency of the atmo- 
sphere, was very remarkable. Travellers having observed 
the difficulty of judging heights and distances amidst lofty 
mountains, have generally attributed it to the absence of 
objects of comparison. It appears to me that it is fully 
as much owing to 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 
r^Mves 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, 

structure secrna to be determined, to th« joint* that traverse nearly all rocks, 
iat wliich arc bcKt aeen in the non-stratified niasNCH. I may ul>8crve, that in the 
ise of the frozen Bnow, the columnar striKture must be owing to a "meta- 
inorphic" action, ond nut to a proccM during deposition. 


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 lacility with which electricity is ex- 
cited. 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 

March 2yd. — 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. 

I was much struck with the marked difference between 
the vegetation of these eastern valleys and those on the 
Chilian side ; yet the climate, as well as the kind of soil, is 
nearly the same, and the difi"erence of longitude very trifling. 
The same remark holds good with the quadrupeds, and in 
a lesser degree with the birds and insects. I may instance 
the mice, of which I obtained thirteen species on the shores 
of the Atlantic, and five on the Pacific, and not one of them 
is identical. We must except all those species, which 
habitually or occasionally frequent elevated mountains ; 
and certain birds, which range as far south as the Strait 
of Magellan. This fact Is In perfect accordance with the 
geological history of the Andes ; for these mountains have 
existed as a great barrier, since the present races of animals 
have appeared ; and therefore, unless we suppose the same 
species to have been created in two different places, we 
ought not to expect any closer similarity between the 
organic beings on the opposite sides of the Andes than on 
the opposite shores of the ocean. In both cases, w^e must 
leave out of th« 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 Patago^iia. 
We here have the agouti, bizcacha, three species of arma- 
dillo, 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 ex- 
amination, absolutely Identical. It had always been to 
me a subject of regret, that we were unavoidably com- 
pelled^ 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 

March 2^th. — Early in the morning I climbed up a 
mountain on one side of the valley, and enjoyed a far ex- 
tended 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 mid-day we descended the valley, and reached 
a hovel, where an officer and three soldiers were posted to 
examine passports. One of these men was a 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 horseback. Some years ago, a 
passenger endeavoured to escape detection by making a 
long circuit over a neighbouring mountain ; but this Indian, 
having by chance crossed his track, followed It for the whole 
day over dry and very stony hills, till at last he came on his 
prey hidden in a gully. We here heard that the silvery 

* Thi.H is merely ;in illiistrntion of the admiiabU; laws, first l.iid down by Mr. 
I -yell, on the gcograpliicnl distribution of animals, as influenced by ^eolo^ 
( lian;-{es. The whole reasoniiijj, ot course, is founded on the assumption ot the 
immutability of species; otherwise the difference in the specirs in the two 
rejfions mignt be cf«i-i''--''l '- -■•;>'tmvI A 'Itirin^j a b-nyth of time. 

326 A WATERLESS REGION. [chap. xv. 

clouds, which we had admired from the bright region 
above, had poured down torrents of rain. The valley from 
this point gra.dually opened, and the hills became mere 
water-worn hillocks compared to the giants behind : it then 
expanded into a gently-sloping plain of shingle, covered 
with low trees and bushes. This talus, although appearing 
narrow, must be nearly ten miles wide before it blends into 
the apparently dead level Pampas. We passed the only 
house in this neighbourhood, the Estancia of Chaquaio ; 
and at sunset we pulled up in the first snug corner, and 
there bivouacked. 

March 25^^. — I was reminded of the Pampas of 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 seven- 
teen 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 farther north. To the 
eastward of this curved line, lies the basin of the com- 
paratively 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 estuarv mud of the 

1835.] A SWARM OF LOCUSTS. 327 

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 mezzo- 
tinto 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 un- 
common pest in this country : already during this season, 
several smaller swarms had come up from the south, where, 
as apparently in all other parts of the world, they are bred 
in the deserts. The poor cottagers in vain attempted by 
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 imper- 
fectly known : it is even doubtful whether, in passing over 
the plains, it is not evaporated and lost. We slept in the 
village of Luxan, which is a small place surrounded by 
gardens, and forms the most southern cultivated district in 
the Province of Mendoza ; it is five leagues south of the 
capital. At night I experienced an attack (for it deserves no 
less a name) of the Benchuca^ a species of Reduvius, the 
great black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to 
feel soft wingk^ss 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 

328 AT MENDOZA. [chap. xv. 

Iqulque (lor they are found in Chile and Peru) was ver};' 
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 lyth. — We rode on to Mendoza. The country was 
beautifully cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbour- 
liood 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 in- 
habitants 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 
Ay res, have just crossed the unvaried Pampas, the gardens 
and orchards must appear delightful. Sir F. Head, 
speaking of the inhabitants, says, "They eat their 
dinners, and it is so very hot, they go to sleep — and could 
they do better?" I quite agree with Sir F. Head: the 
happy doom of the Mendozinos is to eat, sleep, and be 

March 2(^th. — We set out on our return to Chile, by the 
Uspallata pass situated north of Mendoza. We had to 

1835.] VILLA VICENCIO. 329 

cross a long and most sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. 
The soil in parts was absolutely bare, in others covered 
by numberless dwarf cacti, armed with formidable spines, 
and called by the inhabitants "little lions." There were, 
also, a few low bushes. Although the plain is nearly 
three thousand feet above the sea, the sun was very 
powerful ; and the heat, as well as the clouds of im- 
palpable 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 

March 'Tpth. — The solitary hovel which bears the Im- 
posing name of Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by 
every traveller who has crossed the Andes. I stayed here 
and at some neighbouring mines during the two succeeding 
days. The geology of the surrounding country is very 
curious. The Uspallata range is separated from the main 
Cordillera by a long narrow plain or basin, like those so 
often mentioned in Chile, but higher, being 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 Facillc. P'rom this resemblance 1 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 fort 

330 PETRIFIED TREES. [chap. xv. 

converted into coarsely-crystallised white calcareous spar. 
They were abruptly broken off, the upright stumps pro- 
jecting a few feet above the ground. The trunks measured 
from three to five feet in circumference. They stood a 
little way apart from each other, but the whole formed 
one group. Mr. Robert Brown has been kind enough 
to examine the wood : he says it belongs to the fir tribe, 
partaking of the character of the Araucarian family, but 
with some curious points of affinity with the yew. The 
volcanic sandstone in which the trees were embedded, and 
from the lower part of which they must have sprung, 
had accumulated in successive thin layers around their 
trunks ; and the stone yet retained the impression of the 

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 re- 
ceived such thick masses, must have been profoundly deep ; 
but again the subterranean forces exerted themselves, and 
I now beheld the bed of that ocean, forming a chain of 
mountains more than seven thousand feet in height. Nor 
had those antagonist forces been dormant, which are always 
at work wearing down the surface of the land : the great 
piles of strata had been intersected by many wide valleys, 
and the trees, now changed into silex, were exposed pro- 
jecting 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 fossil- 
iferous strata of Europe and America, 

April 1st. — We crossed the Uspallata range, and at night 
slept at the custom-house — the only inhabited spot on the 
plain. Shortly before leaving the mountains, there was a 
very extraordinary view ; red, purple, green, and quite 
white sedimentary rocks, alternating with black lavas, were 
broken up and thrown into all kinds of disorder by masses 
of porphyry of every shade of colour, from dark brown 
to the brightest lilac. It was the first view I ever saw, 
which really resembled those pretty sections which geologists 
make of the inside of the earth. 

The next day we crossed the plain, and followed the 
course of the same great mountain stream which flows 
by Luxan. Here it was a furious torrent, quite impassable, 
and appeared larger than in the low country, as was the 
case with the rivulet of Villa Vicencio. On the evening 
of the succeeding day, we reached the Rio de las Vacas, 
which is considered the worst stream in the Cordillera 
to cross. As all these rivers have a rapid and short 
course, and are formed by the melting of the snow, 
the hour of the day makes a considerable difference in 
their volume. In the evening the stream is muddy and 
full, but about daybreak it becomes clearer and much 
less impetuous. This we found to be the case with the 
Rio Vacas, and in the morning we crossed it with little 

The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared 
with that of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond 
the bare walls of the one grand, flat-bottomed valley, which 
the road follows up to the highest crest. The valley and 
the huge rocky mountains are extremely barren : during 
the two previous nights the poor mules had absolutely 
nothing to eat, for excepting a few low resinous bushes, 
scarcely a plant can be seen. In the course of this day 
we crossed some of the worst passes in the Cordillera, 
but their danger has been much exaggerated. I was told 
that if I attempted to pass on foot, my head would turn 
giddy, and that there was no room to dismount ; but 1 
did not see a place where an^ one might not have walked 
over backwards, or got oflf his mule on either side. One 
of the bad passes, called las Animas (the Souls), I had 

332 PUENTE DEL INCAS. [chap. xv. 

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 dfth. — From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente 
del Incas, half a day's journey. As there was pasture 
for the mules, and geology for me, we bivouacked here 
for the night. When one hears of a natural bridge, one 
pictures to oneself some deep and narrow ravine, across 
\yhich 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 west- 
ward 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 arriera 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 
1 he admiration expressed by some travellers. The extreme 
pleasure, I suspect, is chiefly owin^ to the prospect of a 
good fire and of a good supper, alter escaping from the 
cold regions above ; and I am sure I most heartily 
j)articipated in these feelings. 

April ^th.AVc left the valley of the Aconcagua, by which 
we had descended, and reached in the evening a cottage 
near the Villa de .St. Rosa. The fertility of the plain was 
delightful ; the autumn being advanced, the leaves of many 
of the fruit-trees were falling ; and of the labourers — some 

334 OFF TO COQUIMBO. [chap. xvi. 

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 deposits — Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary 
formations — Excursion up the valley — Road to Guasco — 
Deserts — Valley of Copiap6 — 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 2'jth. — 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 Copiap6 I sold them again for 
twenty - three. We travelled in the same independent 
manner as before, cooking our own meals, and sleeping 
in the open air. As we rode towards the Vino del Mar, 
I took a farewell view of Valparaiso, and admired its 
picturesque appearance. For geological purposes I made 
a dStour from the hi gh road to the foot of the Bell of 

i83S.] A BARREN LAND. 335 

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^th. — In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at 
the foot of the Bell mountain. The inhabitants were free- 
holders, which is not very usual in Chile. They supported 
themselves on the produce of a garden and a little field, 
but were very poor. Capital is 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 12th, which detained me a 
prisoner at the Baths of Cauquenes. The interval was 
seven and a half months ; but the rain this )^ear in Chile 
was rather later than usual. The distant Andes were now 
covered by a thick mass of snow ; and were a glorious 

May 2nd. — The road continued to follow the coast at no 
great distance from the sea. The few trees and bushes 
which are common in central Chile decreased rapidly in 
numbers, and were replaced by a tall plant, something like 
a yucca in appearance. The surface of the country, on a 
small scale, was singularly broken and irregular ; abrupt 
little peaks of rock rising out of small plains or basins. 
The indented coast and the bottom of the neighbouring 
sea, studded with breakers, would, if converted into dry 
land, present similar forms ; and such a conversion 
without doubt has taken place in the part over which we 

May yd. — Quilimari to Conchalee. The country becann 
more and more barren. In the valleys there was scarcel\ 
sufilcient water for any irrigation ; and the intermedial 
land was quite bare, not supporting even goats. In thr 
sparing, after the winter showers, a thin pasture rapidh 
springs up, and cattle are tiien driven down from tli 
Cordillera to graze for a short time. It is curious ( 
observe how the seeds of the grass and other plants seem 

336 IMPROVIDENCE OF MINERS, [chap. xvi. 

to accommodate themselves, as If by an acquired habit, 
to the quantity of rain which falls on different parts of this 
coast. One shower far northward at Copiapo produces as 
j^reat 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 north- 
ward, 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 

May Ofth. — Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of 
any kind, we turned inward 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 b}'^ bare rocky moun- 
tains. 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 Horncs, 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 extrava- 
gance 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 

1835-1 A STRANGE FUNERAL. 337 

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 geologise. The country was 
so thinly inhabited, and the track so obscure, that we often 
had difficulty in finding our way. On the 12th I stayed 
at some mines. The ore in this case was not considered 
particularly good, but from being abundant it was supposed 
the mine would sell for about thirty or forty thousand 
dollars (that is, 6000 or 8000 pounds sterling) ; yet it had 
been bought by one of the English Associations for an 
ounce of gold (^3, 8^.). The ore is yellow pyrites, which, 
as I have already remarked, before the arrival of the 
English, was not supposed. to contain a particle of copper. 
On a scale of profits nearly as great as in the above in- 
stance, piles of cinders, abounding with minute globules 
of metallic copper, were purchased; yet, with these advan- 
tages, the mining associations, as is well known, contrived 
to lose immense sums of money. The folly of the greater 
number of the commissioners and shareholders amounted 
to infatuation ; — a thousand pounds per annum given in 
some cases to entertain the Chilian authorities ; libraries 
of well-bound geological books : miners brought out for 
particular metals, as tin, which are not found in Chile ; 
contracts to supply the miners with milk, in parts where 
there are no cows ; machinery, where it could not possibly 
be used, and a hundred similar arrangements, bore witness 
to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to 
the natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the samt- 
capital well employed in these mines would have yielded 
an immense return : a confid(;ntial man of business, a 
practical miner and arisayer, would have been all that 
was required. 

338 LOADS CARRIED BY MINERS, [chap. xvi. 

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 con- 
siderable exertion on my part, when standing directly over 
it, to lift it from the ground. The load was considered 
under weight when found to be 197 pounds. The apire had 
carried this up eighty perpendicular yards — part of the way 
by a steep passage, but the greater part up notched poles, 
placed in a zigzag line up the shaft. According to the 
general regulation, the apire is not allowed to halt for 
breath, except the mine is six hundred feet deep. The 
average load is considered as rather more than 200 pounds, 
and 1 have been assured that one of 300 pounds (twenty-two 
stone and a half) by way of a trial has been brought up from 
the deepest mine ! At this time the apires were bringing 
up the usual load twelve times in the day ; that is, 2400 
pounds from eighty yards deep ; and they were employed 
in the intervals in breaking and picking ore. 

These men, excepting from accidents, are healthy, and 
appear cheerful. Their bodies are not very muscular. They 
rarely eat meat once a week, and never oftener, and then 
only the hard dry charqui. Although with a knowledge 
that the labour was voluntary, it was nevertheless quite 
revolting to see the state in which they reached the mouth 
of the mine ; their bodies bent forward, leaning with their 
arms on the steps, their legs bowed, their muscles quivering, 
the perspiration streaming from their faces over their 
breasts, their nostrils distended, the corners of their mouth 
forcibly drawn back, and the expulsion of their breath 
most laborious. Each time they draw their breath, they 
utter an articulate cry of ** ay-ay," which ends in a sound 
rising from deep in the chest, but shrill like the note of a 
fife. After staggering to the pile of ore, they emptied the 
**carpacho"; in two or three seconds recovering their 
breath, they wiped the sweat from their brows, ar^d 
apparently quite fresh descended the mine again at a quick 
pice. This appears to me a wonderful instance of the 
amount of labour which habit, for it can be nothing else, 
will enable a man to endure. 

In the evening, talking with the mayor-domo of these 
mines about the number of foreigners now scattered over 
the whole country, he told me that, though quite a young 


man, he remembers when he was a boy at school at 
Coquimbo, a holiday being given to see the captain of an 
English ship, who was brought to the city to speak to the 
governor. He believes that nothing would have induced 
any boy in the school, himself included, to have gone close 
to the Englishman ; so deeply had they been impressed 
with an idea of the heresy, contamination, and evil to be 
derived from contact with such a person. To this day they 
relate the atrocious actions of the buccaneers ; 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 i^th. — We reached Coquimbo, where we stayed a 
few days. The town is remarkable for nothing but its 
extreme quietness. It is said to contain from 6000 to 8000 
inhabitants. On the morning of the 17th it rained lightly, 
the first time this year, for about five hours. The farmers, 
who plant corn near the sea coast where the atmosphere is 
more humid, taking advantage of this shower, would break 
up the ground ; after a second they would put the seed in ; 
and if a third shower should fall, they would reap a good 
harvest in the spring. It was interesting to watch the 
effect of this trifling amount of moisture. Twelve hours 
afterwards the ground appeared as dry as ever ; yet after 
an interval of ten days, all the hills were faintly tinged with 
green patches ; the grass being sparingly scattered in hair- 
like fibres a full inch in length. Before this shower every 
part of the surface was bare as on a highroad. 

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 thi.s 

340 A CURIOUS COINCIDENCE, [chap. xvi. 

person had lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and he 
himself had only just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso, 
in 1822. He mentioned a curious coincidence which then 
happened : he was playing at cards, when a German, one 
of the party, got up and said he would never sit in a room 
in these countries with the door shut, as, owing to his 
having done so, he had nearly lost his life at Copiapo. 
Accordingly he opened the door ; and no sooner had he done 
this, than he cried out, " Here it comes again!" and the 
famous shock commenced. The whole party escaped. The 
danger in an earthquake is not from the time lost in opening 
a door, but from the chance of its becoming jammed by the 
movement of the walls. 

It is impossible to be much surprised at the fear which 
natives and old residents, though some of them known to be 
men of great command of mind, so generally experience 
during earthquakes. I think, however, this excess of 
panic may be partly attributed to a want of habit in 
governing their fear, as it is not a feeling they are ashamed 
of.' Indeed, the natives do not like to see a person 
indifferent. I heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in 
the open air during a smart shock, knowing that there was 
no danger, did not rise. The natives cried out indignantly, 
' ' Look at those heretics, they will not even get out of their 
beds ! " 

I spent some days in examining the step-formed terraces 
of shingle, first noticed by Captain B. Hall, and believed 
by Mr. Lyell to have been formed by the sea during the 
gradual rising of the land. This certainly is the true 
explanation, for I found numerous shells of existing species 
on these terraces. Five narrow, gently sloping, fringe-like 
terraces rise one behind the other, and where best developed 
are formed of shingle : they front the bay, and sweep up 
both sides of the valley. At Guasco, north of Coquimbo, 
the phenomenon is displayed on a much grander scale, so 
as to strike with surprise even some of the inhabitants. 
The terraces are there much broader, and may be called 
plains ; in some parts there are six of them, but g'enerally 
only five ; they run up the valley for thirty-seven miles from 
the coast. These step-formed terraces or fringes closely 
resemble those in the valley of 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 cpntinent. 

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 north- 
ward on the road to Guasco. This fact appears to me 
highly remarkable ; for the explanation generally given by 
geologists, of the absence in any district of stratified 
fossiliferous deposits of a given period, namely, that the 
surface then existed as dry land, is not here applicable ; for 
we know from the shells strewed on the surface and 
embedded in loose sand or mould, that the land for 
thousands of miles along both coasts has lately been sub- 
merged. The explanation, no doubt, must be sought in 
the met 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 obviousl}'^ 
impossible that strata of any great thickness can accumulate. 
To show the vast power of the wearing action of sea-beaches, 
we need only appeal to the great cliffs along the present 
coast of Patagonia, and to the escarpments or ancient sea- 
cliffs at different levels, one above another, on that same 
line of coast. 

The old underlying tertiary formation, at Coquimbo 
appears to be of about the same age with several deposits 
on the coast of Chile (of which that of Navedad is the 
principal one), and with the great formation of Patagonia. 
Both at Navedad and 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 reoent 


period, nor of any period intermediate between it and the 
ancient tertiary epoch, have been preserved on either side of the 
continent, yet that at this ancient tertiary epoch, sedimentary 
matter containing fossil remains should have been deposited 
and preserved at different points in north and south lines, 
over a space of i loo miles on the shores of the Pacific, and 
of at least 1350 miles on the shores of the Atlantic, and in 
an east and west line of 700 miles across the widest part of 
the continent ? I believe the explanation is not difficult, 
and that it is perhaps applicable to nearly analogous facts 
observed in other quarters of the world. Considering the 
enormous power of denudation which the sea possesses, as 
shown by numberless facts, it is not probable that a sedi- 
mentary 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, unless 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, unless 
the bottom sank down to receive the successive layers. 
This seems to have actually taken place at about the same 
period in southern Patagonia and Chile, though these 
places are a thousand miles apart. Hence, if prolonged 
movements of approximately contemporaneous subsidence 
are generally widely extensive, as I am strongly inclined 
to believe from my examination of the Coral 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, circumstances 
would have been favourable to the formation of fossiliferous 
deposits of wide extent and of considerable thickness ; and 
such deposits, consequently, would have a good chance of 
resisting the wear and tear of successive beach-lines, and 
of lasting to a future epoch. 

May 2ist. — I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards 
to the silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of 
Coqulmbo. 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 

1835.] PROFITS ON MINING. 343 

not be fully appreciated in England, namely, the absence of 
fleas ! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them ; but 
they will not live here at the height of only three or four 
thousand feet : it can scarcely be the trifling diminution of 
temperature, but some other cause which destroys these 
troublesome insects at this place. The mines are now in 
a bad state,' though they formerly yielded about 2000 pounds 
in weight of silver a year. It has been said that ** a person 
with a copper-mine will gain ; with silver, he may gain ; 
but with gold, he is sure to lose." This is not true : all 
the large Chilian fortunes have been made by mines of the 
more precious metals. A short time since an English 
physician returned to England from 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. Th* ore when brought out of the mine is broken 
into pieces, and the useless stone thrown on one side. A 
couple of the miners who were thus employed, pitched, as 
if by accident, two fragments away at the same moment, 
and then cried out for a joke, "Let us see which rolls 
farthest." The owner, who was standing by, bet a cigar 
with his friend on the race. The miner by this means 
watched the very point amongst the rubbish where the stone 
lay. In the evening he picked It up and carried it to his 
master, showing him a rich mass of silver-ore, and saying, 
"This was the stone on which you won a cigar by its 
rolling so far." 

May 2yd. — We descended into the fertile valley of 
Coquimbo, and followed it till we reached an Hacienda be- 
longing to a relation of Don Jose, where we stayed the 
next day. I then rode one day's journey farther, to see 
what were declared to be some petrified shells and beans, 
which latter turned out to be small quartz pebbles. We 
passed through several small villages ; and the valley was 
beautifully cultivated, and the whole scenery very grand 
We were here near the main Cordillera, and the surround- 
ing 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 

344 OFF TO GUASCO. [chap. xvi. 

and grapes of this district are famous for their excellence, 
and are cultivated to a great extent. This valley is, per- 
haps, the most productive one north of Quillota : I believe 
it contains, including Coquimbo, 25,000 inhabitants. The 
next day I returned to the Hacienda, and thence, together 
with Don Jose, to Coquimbo. 

June 2nd. — We set out for the valley of Guasco, follow- 
ing 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 half-way to Guasco ; 
we had, therefore, in the first part of our journey a 
most faint tinge of green, which soon faded quite away. 
Even where brightest, it was scarcely sufficient to remind 
one of the fresh turf and budding flowers of the spring 
of other countries. While travelling through these deserts 
one feels like a prisoner shut up in a gloomy court, 
who longs to see something green and to smell a moist 

June 'Tyfd. — 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 
damp with dew, the Guasos believe that they are bred 
from It. I have observed In other places that 
extremely dry and sterile districts, where the soil is 
calcareous, are extraordinarily favourable to land-shells. 
At Carizal there were a few cottages, some brackish 
water, and a trace of cultivation : but It was with 
difficulty that we purchased a little corn and straw for 
our horses. 

Ju7ie ^tk.— Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride 
over desert plains, tenanted by large herds of guanaco. 
We crossed also the valley of Chaneral ; which, although 
the most fertile one between Guasco and Coquimbo, is 

1835.] LACK OF RAIN. 345 

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, superintendhig 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 ot 
the extreme scarcity of firewood, and from the Chilian 
method of reduction being so unskilful, to ship the ore 
for Swansea, The next day we crossed some mountains 
to Freyrina, in the valley of Guasco. During each 
day's ride farther northward, the vegetation became 
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 
whitewashed houses. Again, ten leagues farther up 
Ballenar is situated ; and above this Guasco Alto, a horti- 
cultural 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 
»f equally good fortune, whit I), ;< fortnight afti^rward 

346 A LONG RIDE. [chap. xvi. 

were realised. 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 govern- 
ment, 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 examination ; and in the soil seeds lie dormant 
ready to spring up during the first rainy winter. In Peru 
real deserts occur over wide tracts of country. In the 
evening we arrived at a valley, in which the bed of the 
streamlet was damp : following it up, we came to tolerably 
good water. During the night, the stream, from not 
being evaporated and absorbed so quickly, flows a league 
lower down than during the day. Sticks were plentiful 
for firewood, so that it was a good place of bivouac for 
us ; but for the poor animals there was not a mouthful 
to eat. 

June nth. — We rode without stopping for twelve hours, 
till we reached an old smelting-furnace, where there was 
water and firewood ; but our horses again had nothing to 
eat, being shut up in an old courtyard. The line of road 
was hilly, and the distant views interesting from the varied 
colours of the bare mountains. It was almost a pity to 


see the sun shining- constantly over so useless a country ; 
such splendid weather ought to have brightened fields and 
pretty gardens. The next day we reached the valley of 
Copiapo. I was heartily glad of it ; for the whole journey 
was a continued source of anxiety ; it was most disagree- 
able 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 

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 happen(id 
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 foi- 
some time afterwards find a little pasture on the moun- 
tains. 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 i^s produce is sufilcient only for three 
months in the year ; the rest of the supply being drawn from 
Valpaniiso and the south. Beforn 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 of green in 
a desert, runs in a very southerly direction ; so that it is of 
considerable length to its source in the Cordillera. The 
valleys of Guasco and 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 a testimony to the kindness with which travellers 
are received in almost every part of South America. The 
next day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of 
Jolquera into the central Cordillera. On the second night 
the weather seemed to foretell a storm of snow or rain, and 
whilst lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an 

The 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 
dififtcultforanypersonwho 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 coincidences 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, 

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


when mentioning to some people at Copiap6 that there had 
been a sharp shock at Coquimbo : they immediately cried 
out, " How fortunate ! there will be plenty of pasture there 
this year. " To their minds an earthquake foretold rain, as 
surely as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it did 
so happen that on the very day of the earthquake that 
shower of rain fell which I have described as in ten days' 
time producing a thin sprinkling of grass. At other times, 
rain has followed earthquakes, at the period of the year 
when it is a far greater prodigy than the earthquake itself : 
this happened after the shock of November, 1822, and again 
in 1829, at Valparaiso ; also after that of September, 1833, 
at Tacna. A person must be somewhat habituated to the 
climate of these countries, to perceive the extreme 
improbability of rain falling at such seasons, except as a 
consequence of some law quite unconnected with the 
ordinary course of the weather. In the cases of great 
volcanic eruptions, as that of Coseguina, where torrents of 
rain fell at a time of the year most unusual for it, and 
"almost unprecedented in Central America," it is not 
difficult to understand that the volumes of vapour and 
clouds of ashes might have disturbed the atmospheric 
equilibrium. Humboldt extends this view to the case of 
'earthquakes unaccompanied by eruptions ; but I can hardly 
conceive it possible, that the small quantity of aeriform fluids 
which then escape from the fissured ground, can produce 
such remarkable effects. There appears much probability 
in the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that when the 
barometer is low, and when rain might naturally be ex- 
pected 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, aftier 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 
K'traced our steps to the house of Don Benito, whore I 
stayed two days collecting fossil shells and wood. Great 
prostrate siliciried trunks of trees, embedded in a con- 
glomerate, were extraordinarily numerous. I measured one 

350 HYDROPHOBIA. [chap. xvi. 

which was fifteen feet in circumference : how surprising it is 
that every atom of the woody matter in this great cylinder 
should have been removed and replaced by silex so perfectly, 
that each vessel and pore is preserved ! These trees 
flourished at about the period of our lower chalk ; they all 
belonged to the fir-tribe. It was amusing to hear the 
inhabitants discussing the nature of the fossil shells which 
I collected, almost in the same terms as were used a 
century ago in Europe — namely, whether or not they had 
been thus "born by nature." My geological examination 
of the country generally created a good deal of surprise 
amongst the Chilenos : it was long before they could be 
convinced that I was not hunting for mines. This was 
sometimes troublesome. I found the most ready way of 
explaining my employment was to ask them how it was 
that they themselves were not curious concerning earth- 
quakes and volcanoes ? — why some springs were hot and 
others cold ? — why there were mountains in Chile, and not 
a hill in La Plata ? These bare questions at once satisfied 
and silenced the greater number ; some, however (like a 
few in England who are a century behindhand), thought 
that all such inquiries were useless and impious ; and 
that it was 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 known in 
South America in 1803 : this statement is corroborated by 
Azara and Ulloa having never heard of It in their time. 
Dr. Unanue says that It broke out in Central America, and 
slowly travelled southward. It reached Arequipa in 1807 ; 
and It Is said that some men there, who had not been bitten, 
were affected, as were some negroes, who had eaten a 
bullock which had died of hydrophobia. At lea forty-two 
people thus miserably perished. The disease came on 
betw^een 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 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 dwelhngs 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 witli 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 
'nys' journey within the Cordillera; and pasturage for 

 " Observa. (lohri; el climu dc Lima," p. 67 ; Azara's " Travels." vol. ?., 
I>. 381 ; Ulloa's " Voyage," vol. ii., p. Ai; Hurchcll's " Travrju," vol. ii., p. 524 : 
vVebjitcr'jt *' DcHcriplion of the Azores," p. i2<j; Voyage A lisle de France par 
uii Ofhcicr flu Kui, tumc i., p. a48; "Description of St. Helena," p. 113. 

^52 THE DESPOBLADO. [chap. xvi. 

animals is a shilling a day : all this for South America is 
wonderfully exorbitant. 

June 26th. — I hired a guide and eight mules to take me 
into the Cordillera by a different line from my last excursion. 
As the country was utterly desert, we took a cargo and a 
half of barley mixed with chopped straw. About two leagues 
above the town, a broad valley called the ," Despoblado," 
or uninhabited, branches off from that one by which we had 
arrived. Although a valley of the grandest dimensions, 
and leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is com- 
pletely 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 retirement of the 
ocean, instead of during the ebbing and flowing of the 
tides.. If a shower of rain falls on the mud-bank, when 
left dry, it deepens the already-formed shallow lines of 
excavation ; and so it is with the rain of successive centuries 
on the bank of rock and soil, which we call a continent. 

We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side 
ravine with a small well, called " Agua amarga. '' The 
water deserved its name, for besides being saline it was 

1835.] INDIAN RUINS. 353 

most offensively putrid and bitter ; so that we could not 
force ourselves to drink either tea or mate. I suppose the 
distance from the river of Copiap6 to this spot was at 
least twenty-five or thirty English miles ; in the whole 
space there was not a single drop of water, the country 
deserving the name of desert in the strictest sense. Yet 
about half-way we passed some old Indian ruins near 
Punta Gorda : I noticed also in front of some of the valleys, 
which branch off from the Despoblado, two piles of stones 
placed a little way apart, and directed so as to point up 
the mouths of these small valleys. My companions knew 
nothing about them, and only answered my queries by 
their imperturbable " Quien sabe ? " 

I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera : 
the most perfect, which I saw, were the Ruinas de Tambillos, 
in the Uspallata Pass. Small square rooms were there 
huddled together in separate groups : some of the doorways 
were yet standing ; they were formed by a cross slab of 
stone only about three feet high. Ulloa has remarked on 
the lowness of the doors in the ancient Peruvian dwellings. 
These houses, when perfect, must have been capable of 
containing a considerable number of persons. Tradition 
says that they were used as halting places for the Incas, 
when they crossed the mountains. Traces of Indian habi- 
tations 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 situ- 
ated 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 specu- 
late 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, instru- 
ments of precious metals, and heads of Indian corn, are 
not unfrcquently discovered : an arrow-head made of 
agate, and of precisely the same form with those now 
used in Tierra del Fuego, was given mc. 1 am aware that 
M the Peruvian Indians now frequently inhabit most lofty 

354 INDIAN RUINS. [chap. xvi. 

and bleak situations ; but at Copiapo I was assured by 
men who had spent their lives in travelling through the 
Andes that there were very many {inuchisimas) buildings 
at heights so great as almost to border on the perpetual 
snow, and in parts where there exist no passes, and where 
the land produces absolutely nothing, and what is still 
more extraordinary, where there is no water. Nevertheless 
it is the opinion of the people of the country (although they 
are much puzzled by the circumstance), that, from the 
appearance of the houses, the Indians must have used them 
as places of residence. In this valley at Punta Gorda, the 
remains consisted of seven or eight square little rooms, 
which were of a similar form with those at Tambillos, but 
built chiefly of mud, which the present inhabitants cannot, 
either here or, according to Ulloa, in Peru, imitate in 
durability. They were situated in the most conspicuous 
and defenceless position, at the bottom of the flat broad 
valley. There was no water nearer than three or four 
leagues, and that only in very small quantity, and bad : 
the soil was absolutely sterile ; I looked in vain even for 
a lichen adhering to the rocks. At the present day, with 
the advantage of beasts of burden, a mine, unless it were 
very rich, could scarcely be worked here with profit. Yet 
the Indians formerly chose it as a place of residence ! 
If at the present time two or three showers of rain were 
to fall annually, instead of one, as now is the case, during 
as many years, a small rill of water would probably be 
formed in this great valley ; and then, by irrigation (which 
was formerly so well understood by the Indians), the soil 
would easily be rendered sufficiently productive to support 
a few families. 

I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent 
of South America has been elevated near the coast at least 
from 400 to 500, and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, 
since the epoch of existing shells ; and farther inland the 
rise possibly may have been greater. As the peculiarly arid 
character of tlie climate is evidently a consequence of the 
height of the Coniillera, 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 
cllmae. On this notion of a change of climate since the 
buildings were inhabited, the ruins must be of extreme 
antiquity, but I do not think their preservation under the 


Chilian climate any great difficulty. We must also admit 
on this notion (and this perhaps is a greater difficulty), that 
man has inhabited South America for an immensely long 
period, inasmuch as any change of climate effected by the 
elevation of the land must have been extremely gradual. 
At Valparaiso, within the last 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 Indo-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 
countr}'. 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 move- 
ments. I may here mention, that the Peruvians actually 
carried their irrigating streams in tunnels through hills 
of solid rock. Mr. Gill told me, he had been employed 
professionally to examine one ; he found the passage low, 
narrow, crooked, and not of uniform breadth, but of very 
considerable length. Is it not most wonderful that men 
should have attempted such operations, without the use 
of iron or gunpowder? Mr. Gill also mentioned to me 
a most interesting, and, as far as I am aware, quite 
unparalleled case, of a subterranean disturbance having 
changed the drainage of a country. Travelling from 
Casma to Huaraz (not very far distant from Lima), he 
found a plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient 
I ultivation, but now quite barren. Near it was the dry 
( ourse of a considerable river, whence the water for 

* Temple, in his travels throuRh Upper Peru, or Bolivia, in going from Potosi 
to Oruro, says, " I mw many Indian villages or dwclUnjfs in ruins, up even to 
the very tops of the moimtaiiis, attesting a former population where now all is 
desolate." lie makes similar remarks in another place ; but I cannot tell 
whether this desolation has been caused by a want of population, or by an 
altered condition of the land. 

356 THE VICUNA. [chap. xvi. 

irrigation had formerly been conducted. There was 
nothing in the appearance of the watercourse to indicate 
that the river had not tiowed 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, 
wh ch 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 fertilising 
stream, and become a desert. 

June 2-jth. — We set out early in the morning, and by 
mid-day reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a 
liny 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 2%th, — 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 
5mall rodents, which, as long as there is the least vege- 
tation, subsist in considerable numbers in very desert places. 
In Patagonia, even on the borders of the salinas, where a 
drop of fresh water can never be found, excepting dew, 
these little animals swarm. Next to lizards, mice appear 
to be able to support existence on the smallest and driest 

1835.] A CURIOUS STORM. 357 

portions of the earth — even on Islets In the midst of great 

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 benunibed. 

In the Cordillera farther southward, people lose their 
lives from snow-storms ; here, it sometimes happens from 
another cause. My guide, when a boy of fourteen years 
old, was passing the Cordillera with a party in the month 
of May ; and while in the central parts, a furious gale 
of wind arose, so that the men could hardly cling on their 
mules, and stones were flying along the ground. The day 
was cloudless, and not a speck of snow fell, but the 
temperature was low. It is probable that the thermometer 
would not have stood very many degrees below the freezing- 
point, but the effect on their bodies, ill protected by clothing, 
must have been in proportion to the rapidity of the current 
oi' cold air. The gale lasted for more than a day ; the men 
l)Cgan 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, 
iving by the side of his mule near the road, with the bridle 

ill in his hand. Two other men in the parly lost their 
iingers and toes ; and out of two hundred mules and thirty 
( ows, only fourteen mules escaped alive. Many years ago 
the whole of a large party are supposed to have perisJKHl 

358 EL BRAMADOR. [chap. xti. 

from a similar cause, but their bodies to this day have 
never been discovered. The union of a cloudless sky, low 
temperature, and a furious gale of wind, must be, I should 
think, in all parts of the world, an unusual occurrence. 

June 2<^th. — We gladly travelled down the valley to our 
former night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua 
amarga. On July ist we reached the valley of Copiapo. 
The smell of the fresh clover was quite delightful, after the 
scentless air of the dry sterile Despoblado. Whilst staj'- 
ing in the town I heard an account from several of the 
inhabitants, of a hill in the neighbourhood which they 
called " El Bramador," — the roarer or bellower. I did not 
at the time pay sufficient attention to the account ; but, as 
far as I understood, the hill was covered by sand, and the 
noise was produced only when people, by ascending it, put 
the sand in motion. The same circumstances are described 
in detail on the authority of Seetzen and Ehrenberg,* 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 circum- 
stance which I several times noticed on the coast of 

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at 
the Port, distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is 
very little land cultivated down the valley ; its wide expanse 
supports a wretched wiry grass, which even the donkeys 
can hardly eat. This poorness of the vegetation is owing 
to the quantity of saline matter with which the soil Is 
impregnated. The Port consists of an assemblage of 
miserable little hovels, situated at the foot of a sterile plain. 
At present, as the river contains water enough to reach the 
sea, the inhabitants enjoy the advantage of having fresh 
water within a mile and a half. On the beach there were 
large piles of merchandise, and the little place had an air 
of activity. In the evening I gave my adios, with a hearty 
good-will, to my companion Mariano Gonzales, with whom 

* Edinhurgh Philosophical Journal, Jan. 1830, p. 74 ; and April 1830, p. 25S. 
Also "Daubeny on Volcanoes," p. 438; and Be?igal Journal, vol. vii. p. 324. 

1835.] AT igUIQUE. ^59 

I had ridden so many leagues in Chile. The next morning 
the Beagle sailed for Iquique. 

July 12th. — We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat. 
20° 12', on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a 
thousand inhabitants, and stands on a little plain of sand at 
the foot of a great wall of rock, 2000 feet in height, here form- 
ing 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 
Doats 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. In like 
manner firewood, and of course every article of food, is 
imported. Very few animals can be maintained in such a 
place : on the ensuing morning I hired with difficulty, at 
the price of four pounds sterling, two mules and a guide to 
take me to the nitrate of soda works. These are at present 
the support of Iquique. This salt was first exported in 
1830 : in one year an amount in value of one hundred 
thousand pounds sterling was sent to France and England. 
It is principally used as a manure and in the manufacture 
of nitric acid : owing to its deliquescent property it will 
not serve for gunpowder. Formerly there were two exceed- 
ingly rich silver-mines in this neighbourhood, but their 
produce is now very small. 

Our arrival in the offing caused some little apprehensioii 
Peru was in a state of anarchy ; and each party haviii- 
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, consequently confessed, and the plate 
was recovered. The convicts were sent to Arequipa, which, 

36o A REAL DESERT. [chap. xvi. 

though the capital of this province, is two hundred leagues 
distant; the j^^overnment there thought it a pit}^ to punish 
such useful workmen, who could make all sorts of furniture ; 
and accordingly liberated them. Things being in this 
state, the churches were again broken open, but this time 
the plate was not recovered. Tiie 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 shoot- 
ing them. At last the authorities interfered, and peace was 

July i^th. — 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. Except- 
ing the Vultur aura^ which preys on the carcasses, I saw 
neitlier bird, quadruped, reptile, nor insect. On the coast- 
mountains, at the height of about two thousand 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 belc ngs 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. Farther inland, 
during the whole ride of fourteen leagues, I saw only one 
other vegetable production, and that was a most minute 
yellow lichen, growing on the )>ones of the dead mules. 
This w^as 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 
Gopiap6. The appearance of the country was remarkable, 
from being covered by a thick crust of common salt, and of 
a stratified saliferous alluvium, which seems to have been 
deposited as the land slowly rose above the level of the sea. 

1835.] A SALT PLAIN. ' 361 

The salt is white, very hard, and compact : it occurs in 
water-worn nodules projecting from the agglutinated sand, 
and is associated with much gypsum. The appearance of 
this superficial mass very closely resembled that of a country 
after snow, before the last dirty patches are thawed. The 
existence of this crust of a soluble substance over the 
whole face of the country shows how extraordinarily dry 
the climate must have been for a long period. 

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the 
saltpetre mines. The country is here as unproductive as 
near the coast ; but water, having rather a bitter and 
brackish taste, can be procured by digging wells. The 
well at this house was thirty-six yards deep : as scarcely 
any rain falls, it is evident the water is not thus derived ; 
indeed if it were, it could not fail to be as salt as brine, for 
the whole surrounding country is incrusted with various 
saline substances. We must therefore conclude that it per- 
colates 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 itN 
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 tlie saline stratum. The 
surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific. 

July \^th. — We anchored in the Bay of Callao, tli 
aport of Lima, the capital of Peru. We stayed heitt 
\- weeks, but from the troubled stale of public affairs, I 
tvv very little of the country. During our whole visit the 
imate was far from being so delightful as it is generally 
presented. A dull heavy bank of clouds constantly hung 
or the land, so that during the first sixteen days I had 
Illy one view of the Cordillera behind Lima. These 
mountains, seen in stages, one above the other, through 

362 CAUSE OF MIASMA. [chap. xvi. 

openings in the clouds, had a very grand appearance. It 
is ahiiost become a proverb, that rain never falls in the 
lower part of Peru. Yet this can hardly be considered 
correct ; for during almost every day of our visit there 
was a thick drizzling mist, which was sufficient to make 
the streets muddy and one's clothes damp ; this the people 
are pleased to call Peruvian dew. That much rain does not 
fall is very certain, for the houses are covered only with flat 
roofs made of hardened mud ; and on the mole ship-loads of 
wheat were piled up, being thus left for weeks together 
without any shelter. 

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru ; In 
summer, however, it is said that the climate is much 
pleasanteF. In all seasons, both inhabitants and foreigners 
suffer from severe attacks of ague. This disease is common 
on the whole coast of Peru, but is unknown in the interior. 
Ihi 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 cir- 
cumstanced, 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, 

1835.] ANARCHY IN PERU. 363 

and periodically subject to the same process of vegetation, 
is perfectly healthy. Humboldt has observed that, "under 
the torrid zone, the smallest marshes are the most dangerous, 
being surrounded, as at Vera Cruz and Carthagena, with an 
arid and sandy soil, which raises the temperature of the 
ambient air."* On the coast of Peru, however, the 
temperature is not hot to any excessive degree ; and 
perhaps in consequence, the intermittent fevers are not 
of the most malignant order. In all unhealthy countries 
the greatest risk is run by sleeping on shore. Is this owing 
to the state of the body during sleep, or to a greater abund- 
ance 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 t 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 visit, there were four chiefs in arms 
contending for supremacy in the government : if one suc- 
ceeded 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 1000 feet in height, cluring this season of the year (winter), 

* "Political Essay on' the Kingflom of New Snain," vol. iv. p. 199. 

t A similar ititcrcsting case is rcconicfl in the Afadras Medical Quarterly 
Jountal, 1830. P- 340* t^f- FcrgUBon, in his admirable Paper (see t)th vol. of 
" Edinburgh RoyalTrariBactions "), shows clearly that the poison is Kcntrated in 
the drying process ; and hence that dry hot countries are often the most 

364 APPEARANCE OF CALLAO. [chap. xvi. 

comes within the lower limit of the clouds ; and in con- 
sequence, 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 Ainmicaes. This 
indicates a very much greater degree of humidity, than at 
a corresponding height at Iquique. Proceeding northwai'd 
of Lima, the climate becomes damper, till on the banks of 
the Guayaquil, nearly under the equator, we find the most 
luxuriant forests. The change, however, from the sterile 
coast of Peru to that fertile land is described as taking 
place rather abruptly in the latitude of Cape Blanco, two 
degrees south of Guayaquil. 

Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants, 
both here and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of 
mixture, between European, Negro, and Indian blood. 
They appear a depraved, drunken set of people. The 
atmosphere is loaded with foul smells, and that peculiar 
one, which may be perceived in almost every town within 
the tropics, was here very strong. The fortress, which 
withstood Lord Cochrane's long siege, has an imposing 
appearance. But the President, during our stay, sold the 
brass guns, and proceeded to dismantle parts of it. The 
reason assigned was that he had not an officer to whom he 
could trust so important a charge. He himself had good 
reasons for thinking so, as he had obtained the president- 
ship 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 shot. 

Lima stands on a plain in a valley, formed during the 
gradual retreat of the sea. It is seven miles from Callao, 
and is elevated 500 feet above it ; but from the slope being 
very gradual, the road appears absolutely level ; so that 
when at Lima it is difficult to believe one has ascended 
even one hundred feet : Humboldt has remarked on this 
singularly deceptive case. Steep, barren hills rise like 
islands from the plain, which is divided, by straight mud- 
walls, into large green fields. In these scarcely a tree 
grows excepting a few willows, and an occasional clump 
of bananas and of oranges. The city of Lima Is now In a 
wretched state of decay : the streets are nearly unpaved ; 
and heaps of filth are piled up In all directions, where the 
black gallinazos, tame as poultry, pick up bits of carrion. 

t835.] ruins at lima. 365 

The houses have generally an upper storey, 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 
iiYimediate 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, irrigat- 
ing 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 earthen- 
ware, woollen clothes, utensils of elegant forms cut out of 
the hardest rocks, tools of copper, ornaments of precious 
stones, palaces, and hydraulic works, are considered, it is 
impossible not to respect the considerable advance made by 
them in the arts of civilisation. The burial mounds, called 
Huacas, are really stupendous ; although in some places 
they appear to be natural hills 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 vVave. The destruction must have 
been more complete even than at Talcahuano. Quantities 
of shingle almost conceal the foundations of the walls, and 
vast masses of brickwork appear to have been whirled about 
like pebbles by the retiring waves. It has been stated that 
the land subsided during this memorable shock : I could 
not discover any proof of this ; yet it seems far from Im- 
probable, 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 com- 
parison 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 

366 SHELL TERRACES. [chap. xvi. 

is not opposed to the belief, of a small sinking of the ground 
having subsequently taken place. The side ot 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 lime (both probably left by the 
evaporation of the spray, as the land slowly rose), together 
with sulphate of soda and muriate of lime. They rest on 
fragments of the underlying sandstone, and are covered by 
a few inches thick of detritus. The shells, higher up on 
this terrace, could be traced scaling off in flakes, and falling 
into an impalpable powder ; and on an upper terrace, at the 
height of 170 feet, and likewise at some considerably higher 
points, I found a layer of saline powder of exactly similar 
appearance, and lying in the same relative position. I have 
no doubt that this upper layer originally existed as a bed of 
shells, like that on the eighty-five-feet ledge ; but it does 
not now contain even a trace of organic structure. The 
powder has been analysed for me by Mr. T. Reeks ; it 
consists of sulphates and muriates both of lime and soda, 
with very little carbonate of lime. It is known that common 
salt and carbonate of lime left in a mass for some time 
together, partly decompose each other ; though this does 
not happen with small quantities in solution. As the half- 
decomposed shells In the lower parts are associated with 
much common salt, together with some of the saline 
substances 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-iive feet, e7nhedded amidst the shells and 
much sea-drifted rubbish, some bits of cotton thread, 
plaited rush, and the head of a stalk of Indian corn ; I 
compared these relics with similar ones taken out of the 
Huacas, or old Peruvian tombs, and found them identical in 
appearance. On the mainland in front of San Lorenzo, 
near Bellavista, there is an extensive and level plain about 
a hundred feet high, of which the lower part is formed of 
alternating layers of sand and impure clay, together with 
some gravel, and the surface, to the depth of from three to 
six feet, of a reddish loam, containing a few scattered sea- 
shells and numerous small fragments of coarse red earthen- 
ware, 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, there- 
fore, most probable that at a period when the land stood at 
a lower level, there was a plain very similar to that now 
surrounding Callao, which being protected by a shingle 
beach, is raised but very little above the level of the sea. 
On this plain, with its underlying red-clay beds, I imagine 
that the Indians manufactured their earthen vessels ; and 
that, during some violent earthquake, the sea broke over 
the beach, and converted the plain into a temporary lake, 
as happened round Callao in 1713 and 1746. The water 
would then have deposited mud, containing fragments of 
pottery from the kilns, more abundant at some spots than 
at others, and shells from the sea. This bed with fossil 
earthenware, stands at about the same height with the 
shells on the lower terrace of San Lorenzo, in which the 
cotton-thread and other relics were embedded. Hence we 
may safely conclude, that within the Indo-human period 
tliere 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 ofthe Indo-human race 

368 GALAPAGOS ARCHIPELAGO, [chap. xvii. 

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 about the same 
number of feet lower, the Macrauchenia was a living beast ; 
but as the Patagonian coast is some way distant from the 
Cordillera, the rising there may have been slower than here. 
At Bahia Blanca, the elevation has been only a few feet 
since the numerous gigantic quadrupeds were there en- 
tombed ; 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 ot 
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 Archipelago — 
Fish, shells, insects — Botany — American type of org-anisa- 
tion — Differences in the species or races on different islands 
— Tameness of the birds — Fear of man, an acquired instinct. 

September ic^th. — This archipelago consists of ten principal 
islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They are 
situated under the Equator, and between five and six 
hundred miles westward of the coast of America. They are 
all formed of volcanic rocks ; a few fragments of granite 
curiously glazed and altered by the heat, can hardly be con- 
sidered as an exception. Some of the craters, surmounting 
tlie larger islands, are of immense size, and they rise to a 


height of between three and four thousand feet. Their 
flanks are studded by innumerable smaller orifices. I 
scarcely hesitate to affirm that there must be in the whole 
archipelago at least two thousand craters. These consist 
either of lava and scoriae, or of finely-stratified, sandstone- 
like tuff. Most of the latter are beautifully symmetrical ; 
they owe their origin to eruptions of volcanic mud without 
any lava : it is a remarkable circumstance that every one of 
the twenty-eight tuff-craters which were examined, had 
their southern sides either much lower than the other sides, 
or quite broken down and removed. As all these craters 
apparently have been formed when standing in the sea, and 
as the waves from the trade wind and the swell from the 
open Pacific here unite their forces on the southern coasts 
of all the islands, this singular uniformity in the broken 
state of the craters, composed of the soft and yielding tuff, 
is easily explained. 

Considering that these islands are placed directly under 
the Equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot ; 
this seems chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature 
of the surrounding water, brought here by the great 
southern Polar current. Excepting during one short season, 
very little rain falls, and even then it is irregular ; but the 
clouds generally hang low. Hence, whilst the lower parts 
of the islands are very sterile, the upper parts, at a height 
of a thousand feet and upwards, possess a damp climate 
and a tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is especially the 
case on the windward sides of the islands, which first receive 
and condense the moisture from the atmosphere. 

In the morning {i^th) 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 
[)ossible, I succ(U'ded in getting very few ; and such 
wretched-looking little weeds would have bettor become 
an arctic than an equatorial Flora. The brushwood 

370 A CYCLOPEAN SCENE. [chap. xvii. 

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 Euphorbiacece : an acacia and a great 
odd- looking cactus are the only trees which afford any 
shade. After the season of heavy rains, the islands are 
said to appear for a short time partially green. The 
volcanic island of Fernando Noronha, placed in many 
respects under nearly similar conditions, is the only other 
country where I have seen a vegetation at all like this of 
the Galapagos Islands. 

The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored 
in several bays. One night I slept on shore on a part of 
the island, where black truncated cones were extraordinarily 
numerous : from one small eminence I counted sixty of 
them, all surmounted by craters more or less perfect. The 
greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae 
or slags, cemented together ; and their height above the 
plain of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred 
feet : none had been very lately active. The entire surface 
of this part of the island seems to have been permeated, 
like a sieve, by the subterranean vapours : here and there 
the lava, whilst soft, has been blown into great bubbles ; 
and in other parts, the tops of caverns similarly formed 
have fallen in, leaving circular pits with steep sides. From 
the regular form of the many craters, they gave to the 
country an artificial appearance, which vividly reminded 
me of those parts of Staffordshire, where the great iron- 
foundries are most numerous. The day was glowing hot, 
and the scrambling over the rough surface and through 
the intricate thickets, was very fatiguing ; but I was well 
repaid by the strange Cyclopean scene. As I was walking 
along I met two large tortoises, each of which must have 
weighed at least two hundred pounds : one was eating a 
piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared at me and 
slowly stalked away ; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew 
in its head. These huge reptiles, surrounded by the black 
lava, the leafless shrubs, and large cacti, seemed to m}^ 
fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull- 
coloured birds cared no more for me than they did for the 
great tortoises. 

September 2yd. — The Beagle proceeded to Charles 
Island. This archipelago has long been frequented, first 

1835.] AT CHARLES ISLAND. 371 

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. In the first 
part of the road we passed through leafless thickets, as in 
Chatham Island. Higher up, the woods gradually became 
greener ; and as soon as we crossed the ridge of the island, 
we were cooled by a fine southerly breeze, and our sight 
refreshed by a green and thriving vegetation. In this 
upper region coarse grasses and ferns abound ; but there 
are no tree-ferns : I saw nowhere any member of the 
Palm family, which is the more singular, as 360 miles 
northward, Cocos Island takes its name from the number 
of cocoa-nuts. The houses are irregularly scattered over 
a flat space of ground, which is cultivated with sweet 
potatoes and bananas. It will not easily be imagined 
how pleasant the sight of black mud was to us, after 
having been so long accustomed to the parched soil of 
Peru and northern Chile. The inhabitants, although 
complaining of poverty, obtain, without much trouble, the 
means of subsistence. In the woods there are many wild 
pigs and goats ; but the staple article of animal food is 
supplied by the tortoises. Their numbers have of course 
been greatly reduced in this island, but the people yet 
count on two days' hunting giving them food for the 
rest of the week. It is said that formerly single 
vessels have taken away as many as seven hundred, 
and that the ship's company of a frigate some years 
since brought down in one day two hundred tortoises to 
the beach. 

September 2(^th. — We doubled the south-west extremity of 
Albemarle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed 
between it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with 
immense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed 
either over the rims of the great caldrons, like pitch over the 
rim of a pot in which it has been boiled, or have burst forth 
from smaller orifices on the flanks ; in their descent they 
have spread over miles of the sea-coast. On both of these 
islands, eruptions are known to have taken place ; and in 
Albemarle, we s.r.v .1 ^n.:.Il i.( of smoke curling from the 

37^ ALBEMARLE ISLAND. [chap. xvii. 

summit of one of the great craters. In the evening we 
anchored at 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 2000 feet, a hovel had 
been built in which two men lived who were employed in 
catching tortoises, whilst the others were fishing on the 
coast. I paid this party two visits, and slept there one 
night. As in the other islands, the lower region was 
covered by nearly leafless bushes, but the trees were here of 
a larger growth than elsewhere, several being two feet and 
some even two feet nine inches in diameter. The upper 
region being kept damp by the clouds, supports a green 
and flourishing vegetation. So damp was the ground, 
that there were large beds of a coarse cyperus, in which 
great numbers of a very small water-rail lived and bred. 
While staying in this upper region we lived entirely upon 
tortoise-meat : the breastplate roasted (as the Gauchos do 
came con cuero), with the flesh on it, is very good ; and the 
young tortoises make excellent soup ; but otherwise the 
meat to my taste is indifferent. 

1835.] AT A SALINA. 373 

One day we accompanied a party of the Spaniards in 
their whale-boat to a saHna, or lake from which sal^ is 
procured. After landing, we had a very rough walk over 
a rugged field of recent lava, which has almost surrounded 
a tuff-crater, at the bottom of which the salt lake lies. 
The water is only three or four inches deep, and rests on 
a layer of beautifully crystallised, white salt. The lake 
is quite circular, and is fringed with a border of bright 
green succulent plants ; the almost precipitous walls of 
the crater are clothed with wood, so that the scene was 
altogether both picturesque and curious. A few years 
since, the sailors belonging to a sealing-vessel murdered 
their captain in this quiet spot ; and we saw his skull lying 
among the bushes. 

During the greater part of our stay of a week, the sky 
was cloudless, and if the trade-wind failed for an hour, 
the heat became very oppressive. On two days, the 
thermometer within the tent stood for some hours at 93° ; 
but in the open air, in the wind and sun, at only 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 deserves attention. Most of the organic produc- 
tions 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 
.uchipelago 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 numb<i 
of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range 
Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and lliQ 
hounciaries 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 
j)ace and time, we seem to be brought somewhat n»ai In 

374 FAUNA OF THE GALAPAGOS, [chap. xvri. 

that great fact — that mystery of mysteries— the first appear- 
ancp of new beings on this earth. 

Of terrestrial mammals, there is only one which must be 
considered as indigenous, namely, a mouse {Mus Gala- 
pagoensis), and this is confined, as far as I could ascertain, 
to Chatham Island, the most easterly island of the group. 
It belongs, as I am informed by Mr. Waterhouse, to a 
division of the family of mice characteristic of America. 
At James Island, there is a rat sufficiently distinct from the 
common kind to have been named and described by Mr. 
Waterhouse ; but as it belongs to the old-world division of 
the family, and as this island has been frequented by ships 
for the last hundred and fifty years, I can hardly doubt that 
this rat is merely a variety, produced by the new and 
peculiar climate, food, and soil, to which it has been 
subjected. Although no one has a right to speculate with- 
out distinct facts, yet even with respect to the Chatham 
Island mouse, it should be borne in mind, that it may 
possibly be an American species imported here ; for I have 
seen, in a most unfrequented part of the Pampas, a native 
mouse living in the roof of a newly-built hovel, and therefore 
its transportation in a vessel is not improbable : analogous 
facts have been observed by Dr. Richardson in North 

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 oryzi- 
vorus), 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 Polyhori : and with these latter birds it 
agrees most closely in every habit and even tone of voice. 
Secondly, there are two owls, representing the short-eared 
and white barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly, a wren, three 
tyrant fly-catchers (two of them species of Pyrocephalus, 
one or both of which would be ranked by some ornithologists 
as only varieties), and a dove — all analogous to, but distinct 
from, American species. Fourthly, a swallow, which 
though differing from the Pivgne purpurea of both Americas, 
only in being rather duller coloured, smaller, and slenderer, 
is considered by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, 
there are three species of mocking-thrush — a form highly 
characteristic of America. The remaining land-birds form 


a most singular group 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 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 chafiinch, and (if Mr. Gould 
is right in including his sub-group, Cetthidea, in the main 
group), even to that of a warbler. 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, inti' 
mately related group of birds, one might really fancy that 
from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one 
species had been taken and modified for different ends. 
Jn a like manner it might be fancied that a bird, origin- 
ally 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. Con- 
sidering 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 
rjrders 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 insect* of this archipelagc. 

376 REPTILES.. [chap. xvii. 

Two of the waders are rather smaller than the same 
species brout^ht 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 {Pryocephalus), 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 brilliantl}' 
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 gaudy colouring of the intertropical productions, 
is not related either to the heat or light of those zones, but 
to some other cause, perhaps to the conditions of existence 
being generally favourable to life. 

We will now turn to the order of reptiles, which g'ives the 
most striking character to the zoology of these islands. The 
species are not numerous, but the numbers of individuals of 
each species are extraordinarily great. There is one small 
lizard belonging to a South American genus, and two species 
(and probably more) of the AmblyrhyncJiiis—^. genus con- 
fined to the Galapagos Islands. There is one snake which 
is numerous ; it is identical, as 1 am informed by M. Bibron, 
with the Psainmophis Temviinchii from Chile. Of sea-turtle 
I believe there is more than one species ; and of tortoises 
there are, as w^e shall presently show, two or three species 

1 835- J THE TORTOISE. 377 

or races. Of toads and frogs there are none: I was sur- 
prised at this, considering- how well suited for them the 
temperate and damp upper woods appeared to be. It re- 
called 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 1 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 t!ie 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 
nig-ra, formerly called Indica), which has been so frequently 
alluded to. These animals are found, I believe, on all the 
islands of the Archipelago ; certainly on the greater number. 
They frequent in preference the high damp parts, but they 
likewise live in the lower and arid districts. I have already 
shown, from the numbers which have been caught in a 
single day, how very numerous they must be. Some grow 
to an immense size : Mr. Lawson, an Englishman, and 
vice-governor of the colony, told us that he had seen 
several so large, that it required six or eight men to lift 
them from the ground ; and that some liad 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 

* "Voyage aux Quatre lies d'Afrkiuc." With respect to the Sandwich 
lands. »ce Tyernian and Bennett's "Journal," vol. i. p. 414. For Mauntiu.s 
'• "Voyage par un Officier," etc., part i. p. 170. There arc no fro^s in the 
inary Islands (Webb ct Berthelot. "Hist Nat. des lies Canaries "). i saw 
■lie at .St. Jago in the Cape dc Vercis. There are none .nt St. Helena. 

378 THE TORTOISE. [chap. xvii. 

those islands where there is no water, or in the lower and 
arid parts of the others, feed chiefly on the succulent cactus. 
Those which frequent the higher and damp regions, eat the 
leaves of various trees, a kind of berry (called guayavita) 
which is acid and austere, and likewise a pale green fila- 
mentous lichen {Usnera plicatd), that hangs in tresses from 
the boughs of the trees. 

The tortoise is very fond of water, drinking large 
quantities, and wallowing in the mud. The larger islands 
alone possess springs, and these are always situated towards 
the central parts, and at a considerable height. The tortoises, 
therefore, which frequent the lower districts, when thirsty, are 
obliged to travel from a long distance. Hence broad and 
well-beaten paths branch off in every direction from the wells 
down to the sea-coast ; and the Spaniards by following them 
up, first discovered the watering-places. When I landed at 
Chatham Island, I could not imagine what animal travelled 
so methodically along well-chosen tracks. Near the springs 
it was a curious spectacle to behold many of these huge 
creatures, one set eagerly travelling onwards with out- 
stretched necks, and another set returning, after having 
dnmk 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 dis- 
tended 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 would be expected. The inhabitants, 
from observing marked individuals, consider that they 
travel a distance of about eight miles in two or three days. 
One large tortoise, which I watched, walked at the rate of 
sixty yards in ten minutes, that is, 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 were at this time (October) laying 
their eggs. The female, where the soil is sandy, deposits 
them together, and covers them up with sand ; but where 
the ground is rocky she drops them indiscriminately in any 
hole : Mr. Bynoe found seven placed in a fissure. The egg 
is white and spherical ; one which I measured was seven 
inches and three-eighths in circumference, and therefore 
larger than a hen's egg. The young tortoises, as soon 
as they are hatched, fall a prey in great numbers to the 
carrion-feeding buzzard. The old ones seem generally to 
jdie from accidents, as from falling down precipices : at 
east 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 1 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 
g'ot on their backs, and then giving a few raps on the hinder 
()art of their shells, they would rise up and walk away ; but 
i found it very difficult to keep my balance. The flesh of 

lis animal is largely employed, both fresh and salted; and 

beautifully clear oil is prepared from the fat. When a 
Mitoise 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 i( is not, the animal is liberated; 

380 AN AQUATIC LIZARD. [chap. xvii. 

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 

There can be little doubt that this tortoise is an aboriginal 
ii/'inhabitant of the Galapagos ; for it is found on all, or nearly 
'^all, the islands, even on some of the smaller ones where 
there is no water ; had it been an imported species this 
would hardly have been the case in a group which has been 
so little frequented. Moreover, the old buccaneers found 
this tortoise in greater numbers even than at present : 
Wood and Rogers also, in 1708, say that it is the opinion of 
the Spaniards that it is found nowhere else in this quarter 
of the world. It is now widely distributed ; but it may be 
questioned whether It is in any other place an aboriginal. 
The bones of a tortoise at Mauritius, associated with those 
of the extinct Dodo, have generally been considered as 
belonging to this tortoise ; if this had been so, undoubtedly 
It must have been there indigenous ; but M. Bibron Informs 
me that he believes that it was distinct, as the species now 
living there certainly is. 

The Amblyrhynchus, a remarkable genus of lizards, is 
confined to this archipelago : there are two species resem- 
bling 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 
cominon 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 ope weighed twenty pounds : on the 
Island of Albemarle they seem to grow to a larger 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 witli perfect ease and quickness, by a 
serpentine movement of its body and flattened tail — the legs 
being motionless and closely collapsed on its sides. A 
seaman on board sank one with a heavy vi^elght attached 
to it, thinking thus to kill It directly ; but when, an hour 
afterwards, he drew up the line it was quite active. Their 
limbs and strong claws are admirably adapted for crawling 
over the rugged and fissured masses of lava which every- 
where form the coast. In such situations, a group of six 
or seven of these hideous reptiles may oftentimes be seen on 
the black rocks, a few feet above the surf, basking in the 
sun with outstretched legs. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them largely 
distended with minced seaweed {Ulvce), which grows in thin 
follaceous 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 ot 
a tortoise. The Intestines were large, as In other herb- 
ivorous 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 1 could Into 
a deep pool left by the retiring tide, but it invariably 
r-rurned in a direct line to the spot where I stood. It 
im near the bottom, with a very graceful and rapid 
..lovcment, and occasionally aided Itself over the unev("n 
ground with Its feet. As soon as it arrived near the edge, 
but still being under water, it tried to conceal itself in 
t he tufts of seaweed, or it entered some crevice. As soon a 

382 A LAND LIZARD. [chap. xvii. 

It thought the danger was past, It crawled out on the dry 
rocks, and shuffled away as fast as it could, I several 
times caught this same lizard, by driving It dov^n to a 
point, and though possessed of such perfect povi^ers of 
diving and swimming, nothing would induce it to enter 
the water ; and as often as I threw It In, it returned in the 
manner above described. Perhaps this singular piece of 
apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance 
that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore, whereas 
at sea it must often fall a prey to the numerous sharks. 
Hence, probably, urged by a fixed and hereditary instinct 
that the shore Is its place of safety, whatever the emergency 
may be, It there takes refuge. 

During our visit (in October) I saw extremely few small 
individuals of this species, and none I should think under 
a year old. From this circumstance It seems probable that 
the breeding season had not then commenced. I asked 
several of the inhabitants if they knew where it laid its 
eggs ; they said that they knew nothing of its propagation, 
although well acquainted with the eggs of the land-kind — a 
fact, considering how very common this lizard is, not a little 

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, Barrlngton, 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 James Island we could not for some time 
find a spot free from their burrows on which to pitch our 
single tent. Like their brothers, the sea-kind, they are ugly 
animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish- 
red colour above ; from their low facial angle they have a 
singularly stupid appearance. They are, perhaps, of a 
rather less size than the marine species ; but several of 
them weighed between ten and fifteen pounds. In their 


movements they are lazy and half-torpid. When not 
frightenjed, they slowly crawl along with their tails and 
bellies dragging on the ground. They often stop and 
doze for a minute or two, with closed eyes, and hind 
legs spread out on the parched soil. 

They inhabit burrows, which they sometimes make 
between fragments of lava, but more generally on level 
patches of the soft sandstone-like tuff. The holes do not 
appear to be very deep, and they entered the ground at a 
small angle ; so that when walking over those 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 themselves on their front legs, nod their heads 
vertically, with a quick movement, and try to look very 
fierce; but in reality they are not at all so; if one just 
stamps on the ground, down go their tails, and off they 
shuffle as quickly as they can. I have frequently observed 
small fly-eating lizards, when watching anything, nod their 
heads in precisely the same manner ; but I do not at all 
know for what purpose. If this Amhlyrhynchiis is held and 
plagued with a stick, it will bite it very severely; but I 
rnught many by the tail, and they never tried to bite mr. 
I f 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 

384 FOOD OF THE LAND LIZARD, [chap. xyii. 

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 
ii,\[ 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 

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 soai 
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 Ambfyrhynchus agree, as I have 
already stated, in their general structure, and in many of 
their habits. Neither have that rapid movement so character- 
istic 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-characterised 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 
Jives 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 Amhlyrhynchus 
— 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 re- 
places the herbivorus mammalia in so extraordinary a 
manner. The geologist on hearing this will probably 
refer back in his mind to the Secondary epochs, when 
lizards, some herbivorous, some carnivorous, and of 
dimensions comparable only with our existing whales, 
swarmed on the land and in the sea. It is, therefore, 
worthy of his observation, that this archipelago, instead 
of possessing a humid climate and rank vegetation, cannot 
be considered otherwise than extremely arid, and, for an 
equatorial region, remarkably temperate. 

To finish with the zoology : the fifteen kinds of sea- 
fish which I procured here are all new species ; they belong 
to twelve genera, all widely distributed, with the exception 
of Prionotus, of which the four previously known species 
live on the eastern side of America. Of land-shells I 
collected sixteen kinds (and two marked varieties), of 
which, with the exception of one Helix found at Tahiti, 
all are peculiar to this archipelago ; a single fresh-water 
shell [Paludina) is common to Tahiti and Van Diemen's 
Land. Mr. Gumming, before our voyage, procured here 
ninety species of sea-shells, and this does not include 
several species not yet specifically examined, of Trochus, 
TurbOf Monodonta and Nassa. He has been kind enough 
to give me the following interesting results : of the ninety 
shells, no less than forty-seven are unknown elsewhere t/ 
.1 wonderful fact, considering how widely distributed 
-i-shells generally are. Of the forty-three shells found 
in other parts of the world, twenty -five inhabit th* 
western coast of America, and of these eight are dis 
tinguishable as varieties : the remaining eighteen 
(including one variety) were found by Mr. Gumming 
in the Low archipelago, and some of them also at tin- 
Philippines. The tact of shells from islands in the central 
• trfs (^'^ til'- l';ir ific occurring here, deserves, notico 

386 DISTRIBUTION OF SHELLS, [chap. xvii. 

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 Cancellaria, 
genera common on the west coast, but not found (as 
I am informed by Mr. Gumming) 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. Gumming 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 conch- 
ological sea-provinces, quite distinct, though surprisingly 
near each other, being separated by long north and 
south spaces either of land or of open sea. 

I took great pains in collecting the insects, but, excepting 
Tierra del Fuego, I never saw in this respect so poor a 
country. Even in the upper and damp region I pro- 
cured very few, excepting some minute Diptera and 
Hymenoptera, mostly of common mundane forms. As 
before remarked, the insects, for a tropical region, are 
of very small size and dull colours. Of beetles I collected 
twenty-five species (excluding a Dermestes and Corynetes, 
imported wherever a ship touches) ; of these, two belong 
to the HarpalidcB, two to the HydrophilidcE, 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 

* Ann. and Mag. of Natural History, vol. xvi. p. 19, 

1835.] FLORA OF THE GROUP. 387 

of this archipelago, and to whom I am indebted for the 
above details, informs me that there are several new 
genera ; and that of the genera not new, one or two are 
American, and the rest of mundane distribution. With the 
exception of a wood-feeding Apate^ and of one or probably 
two water-beetles from the American continent, all the 
species appear to be new. 

The botany of this group is fully as interesting as the 
zoology. Dr. J. Hooker will soon publish in the " Linnean 
Transactions " a full account of the Flora, and I am much 
indebted to him for the following details. Of flowering 
plants there are, as far as at present is known, 185 species, 
and 40 cryptogamic species, making together 225 ; of this 
number I was fortunate enough to bring home 193. Of 
the flowering plants, 100 are new species, and are probably 
confined to this archipelago. Dr. Hooker conceives that, 
of the plants not so confined, at least 10 species found near 
the cultivated ground at Charles Island, have been imported. 
It is, I think, surprising that more American species have 
not been introduced naturally, considering that the distance 
is only between 500 and 600 miles from the continent ; and 
that (according to Collnett, p. 58) driftwood, 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 Ccnnpositce ^ of 
which 20 are peculiar to this archipelago ; these belong to 
twelve genera, and of these genera no less than ten are 
confined to the archipelago ! Dr. Hooker informs me that 
the Flora has an undoubted Western American character ; 
nor can he detect it in any affinity with that of the Pacific. 
If, therefore, we except the eighteenth marine, the one 
fresh-water, and one land-shell, which have apparently 
( ome here as colonists from the central islands of the 
Pacific, .and likewise the one distinct Pacific species of the 
( lalapageian groups of finches, we see that this archipelago, 
though standing in the Pacific ocean, is zoologicall\ 
part of America. 

If this character were owinjf 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 difl'erent manner — why 
were they created on American types of organisation ? It 
is probable that the islands of the Cape de Verd group 
resemble, In all their physical conditions, far more closely 
the Galapagos Islands than these latter physically resemble 
the coast of America ; yet the aboriginal inhabitants of the 
two groups are totally unlike ; those of the Cape de Verd 
Islands bearing the impress of Africa, as the inhabitants 
of the Galapagos Archipelago are stamped with that of 

I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable 
feature in the natural hlstor}' 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 partlall}' 
mingled together the collections from two of the islands. 
I never dreamed that Islands, about fifty or sixty miles 
apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of 
precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite, similar 
climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been 
differently tenanted ; but we shall soon see that this Is the 
case. It Is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner to discover 
what Is most interesting In any locality, than they are 


hurried from it ; but I ought, perhaps, to be thankful that 
I obtained sufficient materials to establish this most 
remarkable fact in the distribution of organic beings. 

The inhabitants, as I have said, state that they can 
distinguish the tortoises from the different islands ; and 
that they differ not only in size, but in other characters. 
Captain Porter has described* those from Charles and from 
the nearest island to it, namely. Hood Island, as having 
their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish 
saddle, whilst the tortoises from James Island are rounder, 
blacker, and have a better taste when cooked. M. Bibron, 
moreover, informs me that he has seen what he considers 
two distinct species of tortoise from the Galapagos, but he 
does not know from which islands. The specimens that 
I brought from three islands were young ones ; and prob- 
ably 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. parvuhcs ; and all from 
James and Chatham Islands (between which two other 
islands are situated, as connecting links) belonged to l\f. 
melanotis. These two latter species are closely allied, and 
would by some ornithologists be considered as only well- 
marked races or varieties ; but the Mimus trifasciatus is 
very distinct. Unfortunately most of the specimens of the 
finch tribe were mingled together ; but I have strong 
reasons to suspect that some of the species of the sub-group 
Geospiza are confined to separate islands. If the dilterent 
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 gradu- 
ated series in the size of their beaks. Two species of tli' 
sub-group Cactornis and two of Camarhymhus, wei- 

* "Voyage In the U.S. %\\\^ Essex^" vul. i. p. aij. 

390 DISTRIBUTION OF PLANTS. [chap, xvii: 

procured in the archipelago ; and of the numerous specimens 
of these two sub-groups shot by four collectors at James 
Island, all were found to belong to one species of each ; 
whereas the numerous specimens shot either on Chatham 
or Charles Island (for the two sets were mingled together) 
all belonged to the two other species ; hence we may feel 
almost sure that these islands possess their representative 
species of these two sub-groups. In land-shells this law 
of distribution does not appear to hold good. In my very 
small collection of insects, Mr. Waterhouse remarks, that 
of those which were ticketed with their locality, not one 
was common to any two of the islands. 

If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal 
plants of the different islands wonderfully different. I give 
all the following results on the high authority of my friend 
Dr. J. Hooker. I may premise that I indiscriminately 
collected everything in flower on the different islands, and 
fortunately kept my collections separate. Too much 
confidence, however, must not be placed in the proportional 
results, as the small collections brought home by some 
other naturalists, though in some respects confirming the 
results, plainly show that much remains to be done in the 
botany of this group ; the LeguminoscB^ moreover, have as 
yet been only approximately worked out : 



No. of 
found in 
other parts 
of the 

No. ot 


No. of Species 

confined to the 



No. of 

to the 

to the 



but found on 

more than the 

one Island. 

James. . 


















Charles . 



(or 29, it the 
probably im- 
ported plants 
be subtracted) 




Hence we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James 
Island, of the thirty-eight Galapageian plants, or those 
found in no other part of the world, thirty are exclusively 


confined to this one island ; and in Albemarle Island, of the 
twenty-six aboriginal Galapageian plants, twenty-two are 
confined to this one island, that is, only four are at present 
known to grow in the other islands of the archipelago ; and 
so on, as shown in the above table, with the plants from 
Chatham and Charles Islands. This fact will, perhaps, be 
rendered even more striking, by giving a few illustrations : 
— thus, Scalesia, a remarkable arborescent genus of the 
CompositcB, 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 CompositcB 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 difi'erent 
islands have their proper species of the mundane genus of 
tortoise, and of the widely distributed American genus of 
the mocking-thrush, as well as of two of the Galapageian 
sub-groups of finches, and almost certainly of the Gala- 
pageian genus A mblyrhynchus. 

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would 
not be nearly so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had 
a mocking-thrush, and a second island some other quite 
distinct genus ; — if one island had its genus of lizard, and a 
second island another distinct genus, or none whatever ; — 
or if the different islands were inhabited, not by repre- 
sentative 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 intermediate 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. 1 must repeat, that neither the nature of the 
soil, nor height of the land, nor the climate, nor the general 
character of the associated beings, and therefore their action 
one on another, can differ much in the different islands. 
If there be any sensible difference in their climates, it must 
be between the windward group (namely Charles and 
Chatham Islands), and that to leeward ; but there seems 
to be no corresponding difference in the productions of 
these two halves of the archipelago. 

The only light which I can throw on this remarkable 
difference in the inhabitants of the different islands, is, 
that very strong currents of the sea running in a westerly 
and W.N.W. direction must separate, as far as transported 
by the sea is concerned, the southern islands from the 
northern ones ; and between these northern islands a strong 
N.W. current was observed, which must effectually separate 
James and Albemarle Islands. As the archipelago is free 
to a most remarkable degree from gales of wind, neither 
the birds, insects, nor lighter seeds, would be blown from 
island to island. And lastly, the profound depth of the 
ocean between the islands, and their apparently recent 
(in a geological sense) volcanic origin, render it highly 
unlikely that they were ever united : and this, probably, 
is a far more important consideration than any other, 
with respect to the geographical distribution of their 
inhabitants. Reviewing the facts here given, one is 
astonished at the amount of creative force, if such an 
expression may be used, displayed on these small, barren, 

1835.] TAMENESS OF BIRDS. 393 

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. 
Cowley (in the year 1684) says that the "Turtle-doves 
were so tame, that they would often alight upon our hats 
and arms, so as that we could take them alive : they not 
fearing man, until such time as some of. our company did 
fire at them, whereby they were rendered more shy." 
Dampier also, in the same year, says that a man in a 
morning's walk might kill six or seven dozen of these 
doves. At present, although certainly very tame, they 
do not alight on people's arms, nor do they suffer them- 
selves 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 buccaneers and whalers ; and the sailors wandering 
through the woods in search of tortoises, always take 
cruel delight in knocking down thi; little birds. 

These 'birds, although now still more persecuted, do not 
ifUly become wild: in Charles, which had then 
n colonised about six years, 1 saw a boy silting by 

394 TAMENESS OF BIRDS. [chap/xvii. 

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 
Amhlyrhynchus, 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 Polyhorus^ 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 sportsman may sometimes kill more 
of the upland geese in one day than he can carry home ; 
whereas in Tierra del Fuego, it is nearly as difficult to 
kill one, as it is in England to shoot the common wild 

In the time of Pernety (1763), all the birds there appear 
to have been much tamer than at present : he states that 
the Opetiorhynchus would almost perch on his finger ; 
and that with a wand he killed ten in half an hour. At 
that period the birds must have been about as tame 
as they now are at the Galapagos. They appear to have 
learnt caution more slowly at these latter islands than 
at the Falklands, where they have had proportionate means 
of experience ; for besides frequent visits from vessels, 
those Islands have been at intervals colonised during the 
entire period. Even formerly, when all the birds were so 
tame, it was impossible by Pernety's account to kill the 

1835.] TAMENESS OF BIRDS. 395 

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 
£t 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 him^ 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. 

* '* Linnean Transactions," vol. xii. p. 406. The most anomalous fact on this 
subject which I have met with is the wildness ot the small birds in the Arctic 
parts of North America (as described by Richardson, " Fauna Bor.," vol. ii. 
p. 332), where they are said never to be persecuted. This case is the more 
strangle, because it is asserted that some of the same species in their winter* 
quarters in the United .States are tame. There is much, as Dr. Richardson 
well remarks, utterly inexplicable connected with the different degrees ot 
shyness and care with which birds conceal their nests. How strange it is 
that the English wood-pigeon, generally so wild a bird, should very frequently 
rear its young in shrubberies close to houses I 




Pass through the Low Archipelag-o — Tahiti — Aspect — Vegeta- 
tion on the Mountains — View of Eimeo — Excursion into 
the Interior — Profound Ravines — Succession of Waterfalls 
— Number of wild useful Plants— Temperance of the 
Inhabitants — Their moral state — Parliament convened — 
New Zealand — Bay of Islands — Hippahs — Excursion to 
Waimate — Missionary Establishment — English Weeds now 
run Wild — Waiomio— Funeral of a New Zealand Woman — 
Sail for Australia. 

October 20th. — The survey of the Galapagos Archipelago 
being concluded, we steered towards Tahiti and commenced 
our long passage of 3200 miles. In the course of a few 
days we sailed out of the gloomy and clouded ocean 
district which extends during the winter far from the 
coast of South America. We then enjoyed bright and 
clear weather, while running pleasantly along at the rate 
of 150 or 160 miles a day before the steady trade wind. 
The temperature in this more central part of the Pacific is 
higher than near the American shore. The 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 over- 
whelmed by the all-powerful and never-tiring waves of that 
great sea, miscalled the Pacific. 

November i^fh. — 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 

i835.] AT TAHITI. 397 

attractive. The luxuriant vegetation of the lower part 
could not yet be seen, and as the clouds rolled past, the 
wildest and most precipitous peaks showed themselves 
towards the centre of the island. As soon as we anchored 
in Matavai Bay, we were surrounded by canoes. This was 
our Sunday, but the Monday of Tahiti ; if the case had 
been reversed, we should not have received a single visit; 
for the injunction not to launch a canoe on the Sabbath is 
rigidly obeyed. After dinner we landed to enjoy all the 
delights produced by the first impressions of a new 
country, and that country the charming Tahiti. A crowd 
of men, women, and children, was collected on the memor- 
able Point Venus, ready to receive us with laughing, merry 
faces. They marshalled us towards the house of Mr. 
Wilson, the missionary of the district, who met us on the 
road, and gave us a very friendly reception. After sitting 
a short time in his house, we separated to walk about, but 
returned there in the evening. 

The land capable of cultivation is scarcely in any part 
more than a fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round 
the base of themountains, and protected from the waves of 
the sea by a coral reef, which encircles the entire line of 
coast. Within the reef there is an expanse of smooth 
water, like that of a lake, where the canoes of the natives 
can ply with safety and where ships anchor. The low land 
which comes down to the beach of coral-sand is covered by 
the most beautiful productions of the intertropical regions. 
In the midst of bananas, orange, cocoa-nut, and bread- 
fruit trees, spots are cleared where yams, sweet potatoes, 
the sugar-cane, and pine-apples, are cultivated. Even the 
brushwood is an imported fruit-tree, namely, the guava, 
which from its abundance has become as noxious as a 
weed. In Brazil 1 have often admired the varied beauties 
of the bananas, palms, and orange-trees contrasted to- 
gether ; and here we also have the bread-fruit, conspicuous 
trom 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 admiration. The little winding 
paths, cool from the surrouiuliiu;- shade, led to the scallcred 

ill Aa*-rii1 / 


houses ; the owners of which everywhere gave us a cheerful/ 
and most hospitable reception. 

I was pleased with nothing so much as with the inhabi- 
tants. 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 the}^ are 
advancing in civilisation. The common people, when 
working, keep the upper part of their bodies quite 
naked ; and it is then that the Tahitians are seen to 
advantage. They are very tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, 
and well-proportioned. It has been remarked that it re- 
quires little habit to make a dark skin more pleasing and 
natural to the eye of an European than his own colour. A 
white man bathing by the side of a Tahitian was like a 
plant bleached by the gardener's art compared with a fine 
dark green one growing vigorously in the open fields. 
Most of the men are tattooed, and the ornaments follow 
the curvature of the body so gracefully, that they have a 
very elegant effect. One common pattern, varying in its 
details, is somewhat like the crown of a palm-tree. It 
springs from the central line of the back, and gracefully 
curls round both sides. The simile may be a fanciful one, 
but I thought the body of a man thus ornamented was like 
the trunk of a noble tree embraced by a delicate 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 suc- 
ceeded 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 w^^omen 

i835.] A PRETTY SCENE. 399 

appear to be in greater want of some becoming costume 
even than the men. 

Nearly all the natives understand a little English — that 
is, they know the names of common things ; and by the 
aid of this, together with signs, a lame sort of conversation 
could be carried on. In returning in the evening to the 
boat we stopped to witness a very pretty scene. Numbers 
of children were playing on the beach, and had lighted 
bonfires, which illumined the placid sea and surrounding 
trees ; others, in circles, were singing Tahitian verses. 
We seated ourselves on the sand, and joined their party. 
The songs were impromptu, and I believe related to our 
arrival : one little girl sang a line, which the rest took up 
in parts, forming a very pretty chorus. The whole scene 
made us unequivocally aware that we were seated on the 
shores of an island in the far-famed South Sea. 

November lyth. — This day is reckoned in the log-book 
as Tuesday the 17th, instead of Monday the i6th, owing 
to our, so far, successful chase of the sun. Before break- 
fast the ship was hemmed in by a flotilla of canoes ; and 
when the natives were allowed to come on board I suppose 
there could not have been less than two hundred. It was 
the opinion of every one that it would have been difficult 
to have picked out an equal number from any other nation, 
who would have given so little trouble. Everybody brought 
something for sale : shells were the main article of trade. 
The Tahitians now fully understand the value of money, 
and prefer it to old clothes or other articles. The various 
coins, however, of English and Spanish denomination 
puzzle them, and they never seemed to think the small 
silver quite secure until changed into dollars. Some of the 
chiefs have accumulated considerable sums of money. 
One chief, not long since, offered 800 dollars (about ;£^i6o 
sterling) for a small vessel ; and frequently they purchase 
whale - boats and horses at the rate of from 50 to 100 

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 

400 A STRIKING VIEW. fcHAP. xviff 

ridge between two of the deep ravines. The vegetation 
was singular, consisting almost exclusively of small dwar/ 
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 com- 
parative 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 productions which characterise a 
continent, cannot be expected to occur in an island. 

From the highest point which I attained, there was a 
good view of the distant island of Eimeo, dependent on 
the same 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 gateway, is completely encircled by a reef. At this 
distance, a narrow but well-defined brilliantly white line 
was alone visible, where the waves first encountered the 
wall of coral. The mountains rose abruptly out of the 
glassy expanse of the lagoon, included within this narrow 
white line, outside which the heaving waters of the ocean 
were dark-coloured. The view was striking : it may aptly 
be compared to a framed engraving, where the frame 
represents the breakers, the marginal paper the smooth 
lagoon, and the drawing the island itself. When in the 
evening I descended from the 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 any- 
thing more delicious than the milk of a young cocoa-nut. 
Pine-apples are here so abundant that the people eat them in 
the same wasteful manner as we migiit 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 tlie Tahitian 
who had paid me so adroit an attention, that I wanted 
him and another man to accompany me on a short 
excursion to the mountains. 

November iSth. — In the morning I came on shore early, 
bring^^ing witli 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. 1 told 
my guides to provide themselves with food and clothing ; 
but they said that there was plenty of food in the mountains, 
and for clothing, that their skins were sufficient. Our 
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 7000 feet. The whole island is so moun- 
tainous that the only way to penetrate into the interior 
is to follow up the valleys. Our roaji, 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 rank vege^^ation sprung from 
every projecting ledge. These precipices must have been 
some thousand feet high ; and the whole formed a 
mountain gorge far 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 
1 of rock, beneath a facade of colunmar 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 ; Jind where the water 
 was deep and in eddies, they dived, and like otters, with 
their eyes open followed -the fish into hoks and corners, 
id thus caught them. 

402 A DANGEROUS CLIMB. [chap, xviit. 

The Tahltians 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 Pomare 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, lili