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

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JOURNAL OF KESEAHCHES 



NATURAL HISTORY AND GEOLOGY 



COUNTRIES VISITED DURING THE VOYAGE OF 
H. M. S. BEAGLE 

ROUND THE WORLD, 

UNDER THE COMMAND OF CAPT. FITZ ROY, R.N. 

BY CHARLES DARWIN, M.A., F.R.S. 

IN TWO VOLUMES. 

V O L. I. 

N E W - Y O R K : 

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, 

82 CLIFF STREET. 

18 4 6. 



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io^ 






ADVERTISEMENT 

OF THE AMERICAN PUBLISHERS. 



This work contains, in the form of a journal, 
a history of the Voyage of the Beagle, underta- 
ken for scientific objects, and performed at the 
expense and under the direction of the British 
government. In his preface to the English edi- 
tion, Mr. Darwin, the author, states that he ac- 
companied the vessel at the request of her com- 
mander. Captain Fitz Roy, and with the special 
sanction of the Lords of the Admiralty. He 
published, after his return, a voluminous history 
of the expedition, setting forth in detail its sci- 
entific results. In this work he has given, be- 
sides a narrative of the voyage, a sketch of his 
observations in natural history and geology, pre- 
sented in such a manner as to possess most in- 
terest and value for the general reader, referring 
those who look for scientific details to the larger 
publications. In its present form, it seems ad- 
mirably adapted to the purpose of popular in- 
struction and entertainment, and has therefore 
been included in the present series. 

H. &B. 

Neic-York, January, 1846. 



CONTENTS 

OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



CHAPTER I. 



Porto Praya — Ribeira Grande — Atmospheric Dust with Infusorii 
— Habits of a Sea-slug and Cuttle-fish— St. Paul's Rocks, non- 
volcanic — Singular Incrustations — Insects the lirst Colonists of 
Islands — Fernando Noronha— Bahia — Burnished Rocks— Hab- 
its of a Diodon — Pelagic Confervas and Infusoria — Causes ol 
discoloured Sea Page 1 

CHAPTER 11. 

Rio de Janeiro — Excursion North of Cape Frio— Great Evapora- 
tion — Slavery — Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial Planariae — Clouds 
on the Corcovado — Heavy Rain — Musical Frogs— Phosphores- 
cent Insects — Elater, springing Powers of— Blue Haze — Noise 
made by a Butterfly— Entomology— Ants— Wasp killing a Spi- 
der — Parasitical Spider — Artifices of an Epeira— Gregarious 
Spider— Spider with an unsymmetrical Web . . .23 

CHAPTER HI. 

Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and 
Bolas — Partridges — Absence of Trees— Deer — Capybara, or 
River Hog — Tucutuco — Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits — Ty- 
rant Flycatcher— Mocking-bird — Carrion Hawks — Tubes form- 
ed by Lightning — House struck 49 

CHAPTER IV. 

Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by the Indians — Salt Lakes — 
Flamingoes — R. Negro to R. Colorado — Sacred Tree— Patago- 
nian Hare — Indian Families — General Rosas — Proceed to Ba- 
hia Blanca — Sand Dunes — Negro Lieutenant — Bahia Blanca — 
Saline Incrustations— Punta Alta — Zorillo . . 80 

CHAPTER V. 

Bahia Blanca— Geology— Numerous gigantic extinct Quadrupeds 

—Recent Extinction— Longevity of Species — Large Animals 

1* 



VI CONTENTS. 

do not require a luxuriant Vegetation — Southern Africa — Sibe- 
rian Fossils — Two Species of Ostrich — Habits of Oven-bird — 
Armadilloes — Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard — Hybernation of 
Animals — Habits of Sea-Pen — Indian Wars and Massacres — 
Arrow-head — Antiquarian Relic Page 103 

CHAPTER VI. 

Set out for Buenos Ayres— Rio Sauce— Sierra Ventana— Third 
Posta — Driving Horses — Bolas — Partridges and Foxes — Fea- 
tures of the Country— Long-legged Plover — Teru-tero — Hail- 
storm — Natural Enclosures in the Sierra Tapalguen — Flesh of 
Puma— Meat Diet— Guardia del Monte — Etfects of Cattle on 
the Vegetation — Cardoon— Buenos Ayres — Corral where Cat- 
tle are slaughtered 135 



CHAPTER VII. 

Excursion to St. F€ — Thistle-Beds — Habits of the Bizcacha — 
Little Owl— Saline Streams— Level Plams— Mastodon— St. F6 
— Change in Landscape— Geology — Tooth of extinct Horse — 
Relation of the Fossil and recent Quadrupeds of North and 
South America — Eft'ects of a great Drought — Parana — Habits 
of the Jaguar — Scissor-beak — King-fisher, Parrot, and Scissor- 
tail — Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State of Government . 156 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — Value of an Estancia — 
Cattle, how counted — Singular Breed of Oxen — Perforated Peb- 
bles — Shepherd Dogs — Horses broken-in, Gauchos riding — 
Character of Inhabitants— Rio Plata— Flocks of Butterflies — 
Aeronaut Spiders — Phosphorescence of the Sea — Port Desire 
— Guanaco — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia — Fossil 
gigantic Animal — Types of Organization constant — Change in 
the Zoology of America — Causes of Extinction . . 181 

CHAPTER IX. 

Santa Cruz— Expedition up the River— Indians— Immense Streams 
of Basaltic Lava — Fragments not transported by the River — Ex- 
cavation of the Valley— Condor, habits of— Cordillera — Erratic 
Boulders of great size — Indian Relics — Return to the Ship — 
Falkland Islands— W^ild Horses, Cattle, Rabbits— Wolf-like Fox 
— 'Fire made of Bones — Manner of hunting wild Cattle — Geolo- 
gy — Streams of Stones— Scenes of Violence — Penguin— Geese 
— Eggs of Doris — Compound Animals .... 227 



CONTENTS. VU 

CHAPTER X. 

Tierra del Fuego, first arrival — Good Success Bay — An Account 
of the Fuegians on board — Interview with the Savages — Scen- 
ery 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 Page 262 

CHAPTER XI. 

Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Ascent of Mount Tarn — For- 
ests—Edible Fungus — Zoology- Great Sea-weed — Leave Tier- 
ra del Fuego— Climate — Fruit-trees and Productions of the 
southern Coasts — Height of Snow-line on the Cordillera — De- 
scent of Glaciers to the Sea — Icebergs formed — Transportal of 
Boulders — Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands — 
Preservation of frozen Carcasses — Recapitulation . . 297 

CHAPTER Xn. 

Valparaiso — Excursion to the foot of the Andes — Structure of the 
Land — Ascend the Bell of Quillota — Shattered Masses of Green- 
stone— Immense Valleys — Mines — State of Miners — Santiago 
^Hot Baths of Cauquenes — Gold-mines — Grindmg-mills — Per- 
forated Stones— Habits of the Puma — El Turco and Tapacolo 
—Humming-birds 325 



JOURNAL. 



CHAPTER I. 

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

ST. JAGO CAPE DE VERD ISLANDS. 

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 De- 
cember, 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 Tcneriffe, 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 Tene- 
riffe, whilst the lower paits were veiled in fleecy 
clouds. This was the first of many delightful days 
never to be forgotten. On the 16th of January, 
1832, we anchored at Porto Praya, in St. Jago, the 
chief island of the Cape de Verd archipelago. 

The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed 
from the sea, wear-s a desolate aspect. The vol- 
canic fires of a past age, and the scorching heat of 
A 



2 ST. JAGO CAPE DE VERD ISLANDS. 

a tropical sun, have in most places rendered the 
soil unfit for vegetation. The country rises in suc- 
cessive steps of table-land, interspersed with some 
truncate conical hills, and the horizon is bounded 
by an iiTegular 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 walk- 
ed, for the first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut trees, 
can be a judge of anything but his own happiness. 
The island would generally be considered as very 
uninteresting ; but to any one accustomed only to 
an English landscape, the novel aspect of an utter- 
ly sterile land possesses a gi'andeur which more 
vegetation might spoil. A single green leaf can 
scai'celybe discovered over wide tracts of the lava 
plains ; yet flocks of goats, together with a few 
cows, contrive to exist. It rains very seldom, but 
during a short portion of the year heavy toiTents 
fall, and immediately afterwards a light vegetation 
springs out of every crevice. This soon withers ; 
and upon such naturally-formed hay the animals 
live. It had not now rained for an entire year. 
When the island was discovered, the immediate 
neighbourhood of Porto Praya was clothed with 
trees,* the reckless destruction of which has caused 
here, as at St. Helena, and at some of the Canary 
islands, almost entire sterility. The broad, flat- 
bottomed valleys, many of which serve during a 
few days only in the season as watercourses, are 
clothed with thickets of leafless bushes. Few liv- 
ing creatures inhabit these valleys. The common- 
est bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo lagoensis), which 
tamely sits on the branches of the castor-oil plant, 
and thence darts on grasshoppers and lizards. It 

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



UIHEIRA GRANDE. d 

is brightly coloured, but not so beautiful as the 
European species: in its flight, manners, and place 
of habitation, which is generally in the dryest val- 
ley, there is also a wide difference. 

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to 
Ribeira Grande?, a village a few miles eastward of 
Porto Praya. Until we reached the valley of St. 
Martin, the country presented its usual dull brown 
appearance ; but here, a very small rill of water 
produces a most i-efreshing 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 prin- 
cipal place in the island : it now presents a melan- 
choly, but very picturesque appearance. Having 
procured a black Padre for a guide, and a Span- 
iard who had Served in the Peninsular war as an 
interpreter, we visited a collection of buildings, of 
which an ancient church formed the principal part. 
It is here the governors and captain-generals of 
the islands have been buried. Some of the tomb- 
stones recorded dates of the sixteenth century.* 
The heraldic ornaments were the only things in 
this retired place that reminded us of Europe. The 
church or chapel formed one side of a quadrangle, 
in the middle of which a large clump of bananas 
were growing. On another side was a hospital, con- 
taining about a dozen miserable-looking inmates. 

We returned to the Venda to eat our dinners. 
A considerable number of men, women, and chil- 
dren, all as black as jet, collected to watch us. Our 
companions were extremely meny ; and every- 
thing we said or -did was followed by their hearty 

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



4 ST. JAGO CAPE DE VERD ISLANDS. 

laughter. Before leaving the town we visited the 
cathedral. It does not appear so rich as the small- 
er church, but boasts of a little organ, which sent 
forth singularly inharmonious cries. We present- 
ed 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 dif- 
ference. We then returned, as fast as the ponies 
would go, to Porto Praya. 

Another day we rode to the village of St. Do- 
mingo, situated near the centre of the island. On 
a small plain which we crossed, a few stunted aca- 
cias 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 di- 
rection of the branches was exactly N.E. by N., 
and S.W. by S., and these natural vanes must in- 
dicate the prevailing direction of the force of the 
trade-wind. The travelling had made so little im- 
pression on the barren soil, that we here missed our 
track, and took that to Fuentes. This we did not 
find out till we an'ived there ; and we were after- 
wards glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a pretty 
village, with a small stream ; and everything ap- 
peared 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 approach- 
ed. They avoided us, like partridges on a rainy 
day in September, running with their heads cock- 
ed up ; and if pursued, they readily took to the 
wing. 

The scenery of St. Doiningo possesses a beauty 



totally unexpected, from the prevalent gloomy char- 
acter of the rest of the island. The village is sit- 
uated at the bottom of a valley, hounded 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 lit- 
tle 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 twen- 
ty young black girls, dressed in excellent taste ; 
their black skins and snow-white linen being set 
off by coloured turbans and lai'ge shawls. As soon 
as we approached near, they suddenly all turned 
round, and covering the path with their shawls, 
su.ng 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 sharp- 
est outline, on a heavy bank of dark blue clouds. 
Judging fi'om the appearance, and fi'om similar 
cases in England, I supposed that the air was sat- 
urated with moisture. The fact, however, turned 
out quite the contrary. The hygrometer gave a 
difference of 29-6 degrees, between the tempera- 
ture of the air, and the point at which dew was 
precipitated. This difference was nearly double 
that which I had obsen^ed on the previous morn- 
ings. This unusual degi'ee of atmospheric dryness 
was accompanied by continual flashes of lightning. 
Is it not an uncommon case, thus to find a remark- 
able degree of aerial transparency with such a 
state of weather? 

Generally the atmosphere is hazy ; and this is 
caused by the falling of impalpablv fine dust, which 
A 2 



b ST. JAGO CAPE UE VEKU ItiLAADS. 

was found to have slightly injured the astronomical 
instruments. The morning before we anchored at 
Porto Praya, I collected a little jiacket of this 
brown-coloured fine dust, which appeared to have 
been filtered from the wind by the gauze of the 
vane at the mast-head. Mr. Lyell has also given 
me four packets of dust which fell on a vessel a few 
hundred miles northward of these islands. Pro- 
fessor Ehrenberg* finds that this dust consists in 
great part of infusoria with siliceous shields, and 
of the siliceous tissue of plants. In five little pack- 
ets which I sent him, he has ascertained no less 
than sixty-seven different organic forms ! The in- 
fusoria, with the exception of two marine species, 
are all inhabitants of fi-esh-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, how- 
ever, a very singular fact, that, although Professor 
Ehrenberg knows many species of infusoria pecu- 
liar 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 quanti- 
ties as to dirty everything on board, and to hurt 
people's eyes; vessels even have run on shore ow- 
ing to the obscurity of the atmosphere. It has oft- 
en fallen on ships when several hundred, and even 
more than a thousand miles from the coast of Afri- 



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



Ci;oLUGV Ul' I'UKTU I'K.WA. 7 

ca, and at points sixteen liundred 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, mix- 
ed with finer matter. After this fact one need not 
be surprised at the diffusion of the far lighter and 
smaller sporules of cryptogamic plants. 

The geology of this island is the most interesting 
part of its natural history. On entering the har- 
bour, a perfectly horizontal white band in the face 
of the sea cliff may be seen running for some miles 
along the coast, and at the height of about forty- 
five feet above the water. Upon examination, this 
white stratum is found to consist of calcareous mat- 
ter, with numerous shells embedded, most or all of 
which now exist on the neighbouring coast. It 
rests on ancient volcanic rocks, and has been cov- 
ered by a stream of basalt, which must have en- 
tered the sea when the white shelly bed was lying 
at the bottom. It is interesting to trace the changes 
produced by the heat of the overlying lava on the 
friable mass, which in parts has been converted 
into a crystalline limestone, and in other parts into 
a compact spotted stone. Where the lime has 
been caught up by the scoriaceous fragments of the 
lower surface of the stream, it is converted into 
groups of beautifully radiated fibres resembling 
arragonite. The beds of lava rise in successive 
gently-sloping plains, towards the interior, whence 
the deluges of melted stone have originally pro- 
ceeded. Within historical times, no signs of vol- 
canic activity have, I believe, been manifested in 
any part of St. Jago. Even the form of a crater 
can but rarely be discovered on the summits of the 
many red cindery hills ; yet the more recent streains 
can be distinguished on the coast, forming lines of 



8 ST. JAGO CAl'E DK VEKD ISLANDS. 

cliffs of less heiglit, but stretching out in advance 
of those belonging to an older series : the height 
of the cliffs thus affording a rude measure of the age 
of the streams. 

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

I was much interested, on several occasions, by 
watching the habits of an Octopus, or cuttle-fish. 
Although common in the pools of water left by the 
retiring tide, these animals were not easily caught. 
By means of their long ai"ms and suckers, they 
could drag their bodies into very narrow crevices ; 
and when thus fixed, it required great force to re- 
move 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 extraordi- 
nary, chameleon-hke power of changing their col- 
our. They appear to vary their tints according to 
the nature of the ground over which they pass : 



lIAHlTrf OF A CLTTLE-i'liSII. U 

when in deep water, their general sliatle was brown- 
ish purple, but when placed on the land, or in shal- 
low water, this dark tint changed into one of a 
yellowish green. The colour, examined more care- 
fully, was a French grey, with numerous minute 
spots of bright yellow : the former of these varied 
in intensity; the latter entirely disappeared and 
appeared again by turns. These changes were ef- 
fected in such a manner, that clouds, varying in 
tint between a hyacinth red and a chestnut brown,* 
were continually passing over the body. Any j^art, 
being subjected to a slight shock of galvanism, be- 
came almost black : a similar effect, but in a less 
degree, was jaroduced 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 con- 
taining variously coloured fluids.t 

This cuttle-fish displayed its chameleon-like pow- 
er both during the act of swimming and whilst re- 
maining 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 i'or a time motion- 
less, 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 gi-ating noise. At first I could not think 
what it was, but afterwards I found out that it was 
this cuttle-fish, which, though concealed in a hole, 

* So named according to Patrick Symes's nomenclature, 
t See Encyclop. of Anat. and Physiol, article Cephalopoda. 



10 ST. Paul's rucks^, 

thus often led me to its discovery. That it possess- 
es the power of ejecting water there is no doubt, 
and it appeared to me that it could certainly take 
good aim by directing the tube or siphon on the 
under side of its body. From the difficvilty which 
these animals have in carrying their heads, they 
cannot crawl with ease when placed on the ground. 
I observed that one which I kept in the cabin was 
slightly phosphorescent in the dark. 

St. Paul's Rocks. — In crossing the Atlantic we 
hove to, during the morning of February 16th, close 
to the island of St. Paul's. This cluster of rocks is 
situated in 0° 58' north latitude, and 29° 15' west 
longitude. It is 540 miles distant from the coast 
of America, and 350 from the island of Fernando 
Noronha. The highest point is only fifty feet above 
the level of the sea, and the entire circumference 
is under three quarters of a mile. This small point 
I'ises abruptly out of the depths of the ocean. Its 
mineralogical constitution is not simple : in some 
parts the rock is of a cherty, in others of a felspath- 
ic nature, including thin veins of serpentine. It 
is a remarkable fact, that all the many small islands, 
lying far from any continent, in the Pacific, Indian, 
and Atlantic Oceans, with the exception of the Sey- 
chelles and this little point of rock, arc, I believe, 
composed either of coral or of erupted matter. 
The volcanic nature of these oceanic islands is ev- 
idently an extension of that law, and the effect of 
those sam.e causes, whether chemical or mechanical, 
from which it results that a vast majority of the vol- 
canoes now in action stand either near sea-coasts 
or as islands in the midst of the sea. 

The rocks of St. Paul appear from a distance of 
a brilliantly white colour. This is partly owing to 
the dung of a vast multitude of seafowl, and part- 



.SINGL'LAU INCKUriTATlONri. 11 

ly to a coating ot" a hard, glossy substance, with a 
pearly lustre, which is intimately united to the sur- 
face of the rocks. This, when examined with a 
lens, is found to consist of numerous exceedingly 
thin layers, its total thickness being about the tenth 
of an inch. It contains much animal matter, and 
its origin, no doubt, is due to the action of the rain 
or spray on the birds' dung. Below some small 
masses of guano at Ascension, and on the Abrolhos 
Islets, I fovmd certain stalactitic branching liodics, 
formed apparently in the same manner as the thin 
white coating on these rocks. The branching bod- 
ies so closely resembled in general appearance cer- 
tain nuUiporae (a family of hard calcareous sea- 
plants), that in lately looking hastily over my col- 
lection I did not jierceive the difference. The glob- 
ular exti'emities of the branches are of a pearly tex- 
ture, 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 incrusta- 
tion is deposited on the tidal rocks, by the water of 
the sea, resembling certain cryptogamic plants 
(Marchantia^) often seen on damp walls. The sur- 




12 ST. Paul's rocks, 

face 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 gi'ey. I have shown specimens of this in- 
crustation to several geologists, and they all thought 
that they were of volcanic or igneous origin ! In 
its hardness and translucency — in its jioli-h, equal 
to that of the finest oliva-shell — in the bad smell 
given out, and loss of colour under the blowpipe — 
it shows a close similarity with living sea-shells. 
Moreover, in sea-shells, it is known that the parts 
habitually covered and shaded by the mantle of the 
animal are of a paler colour than those fully ex- 
posed to the light, just as is the case with this in- 
crustation. When we remember that lime, either 
as a phosphate or carbonate, enters into the compo- 
sition of the hard parts, such as bones and shells, 
of all living animals, it is an interesting physiolo- 
gical fact* to find substances harder than the enam- 
el of teeth, and coloured surfaces as well polished 
as those of a fresh shell, reformed through inorgan- 
ic 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 spe- 
cies of gannet, and the latter a tern. Both are of 
a tame and stuj)id disposition, and are so unaccus- 
tomed to visitors, that I could have killed any num- 
ber of them with my geological hammer. The 

* Mr. Horner and Sir David Brewster have described (Philo- 
sophical Transactions, 1836, p. 65) a singular " artificial substance 
resembling shell." It is deposited in fine, transparent, highly pol- 
ished, brown-coloured laminae, possessing peculiar optical prop- 
erties, on the inside of a vessel, in which cloth, first prepared with 
glue and then with lime, is made to revolve rapidly in water. It 
is much softer, more transparent, and contains more animal mat- 
ter, than the natural incrustation at Ascension ; but we here again 
see the strong tendency which carbonate of lime and animal mat- 
ter evince to form a solid substance allied to shell. 



INSECTS TIIK FIRST COLONISTS OF ISLANDS. 13 

booby lays her eggs on the bare rock ; but the tern 
makes a very simple nest with seaweed. By the 
side of many of these nests a small flying-fish was 
placed; which, I suppose, had been brought by the 
male bird for its partner. It was amusing to watch 
how quickly a large and active crab (Graspus), 
which inhabits the crevices of the rock, stole the 
fish from the side of the nest, as soon as we had 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 sin- 
gle 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 terres- 
trial fauna : a fly (Olfersia) living on the booby, and 
a tick which must have come here as a parasite on 
the birds ; a small brown moth, belonging to a ge- 
nus that feeds on feathers ; a beetle (Q,uedius), and 
a woodlouse froin beneath the dung ; and lastly, 
numerous spiders, which I suppose prey on these 
small attendants and scavengers of the waterfowl. 
The often-repeated description of the stately palm 
and other noble tropical plants, then birds, and lastly 
man, taking possession of the coral islets as soon as 
formed, in the Pacific, is probably not quite cor- 
rect ; I fear it destroys the poetry of this story, that 
feather and dirt-feeding and parasitic insects and 
spiders should be the first inhabitants of newly- 
formed oceanic land. 

The smallest rock in the tropical seas, by giving 
a foundation for the growth of innumerable kinds 
of seaweed and compound animals, supports like- 
wise 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 tlie fishing-lines. T have heard that a 



14 FERNANDO NORONIIA. 

rock near the Bermudas, lying many miles out at 
sea, and at a considerable depth, was first discov- 
ered by the circumstance of fish having been ob- 
served in the neighbourhood. 

Fernando Noronha, Feh. 20tJi. — As far as I 
was enabled to observe, during the few hours wo 
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 ex- 
ceedingly steep, and on one side overhangs its base. 
The rock is phonolite, and is divided into iiTegular 
columns. On viewing one of these isolated masses, 
at first one is inclined to believe that it has been 
suddenly pushed up in a serai-fluid state. At St. 
Helena, however, 1 ascertained that some pinnacles, 
of a nearly similar figure and constitution, had been 
formed by the injection of melted rock into yield- 
ing strata, which thus had formed the moulds for 
these gigantic obelisks. The whole island is cov- 
ered ^vith wood ; but from the dryness of the cli- 
mate there is no appearance of luxuriance. Half- 
way up the mountain, some great masses of the 
columnar rock, shaded by laurel-like trees, and or- 
namented 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, Feh. 29th. — 
The day has passed delightfully. Delight itself, 
however, is a weak term to express the feelings of 
a naturalist who, for the first time, has wandered by 
himself in a Brazilian forest. The elegance of the 
grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, the 
beauty of the flowers, the glossy green of the foli- 
age, but, above all, the general luxuriance of the 
vegetation, filled me with admiration. A most par- 



TROPICAL RAINS. 15 

adoxical mixture of sound and silence pervades the 
shady parts of the wood. The noise from the in- 
sects is so loud, that it may he heard even in a ves- 
sel anchored several hundred yards from the shore; 
yet within the recesses of the forest a universal si- 
lence appears to reign. To a person fond of nat- 
ural history, such a day as this brings with it a 
deeper pleasure than he can ever hope to experi- 
ence again. After wandering about for some hours, 
I returned to the landing-place; but, before reach- 
ing 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 com- 
mon English rain ; but here, in a couple of min- 
utes, 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 climate, 
the greater part would be absorbed or evaporated 
before it reached the ground. I will not at pres- 
ent attempt to describe the gaudy scenery of this 
noble bay, becavise, in our homeward voyage, we 
called here a second time, and I shall then have oc- 
casion to remark on it. 

Along the whole coast of Brazil, for a length of 
at least 2000 miles, and certainly for a considera- 
ble space inland, wherever solid rock occurs, it be- 
longs to a granitic formation. The circumstance of 
this enormous area being constituted of inaterials 
which most geologists believe to have been crystal- 
lized when heated under pressure, gives rise to 
many curious reflections. Was this effect produced 
beneath the depths of a profound ocean 1 or did a 
covering of strata formerly extend over it, which 
has since been removed 1 Can we believe that any 
power, acting for a time short of infinity, could have 
denuded the granite over so many thousand sauare 
leaeiip?: ? 



16 BAHIA BRAZIL. 

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 cata- 
racts 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 plum- 
bago. The layer is of extreme thinness ; and on 
analysis by Berzelius it was found to consist of the 
oxides of manganese and iron. In the Orinoco it 
occurs on the rocks periodically washed by the 
floods, and in those parts alone where the stream is 
rapid ; or, as the Indians say, " the rocks are black 
where the waters are white." Here the coating is 
of a rich brown instead of a black colour, and seems 
to be composed of ferruginous matter alone. Hand 
specimens fail to give a just idea of these brown 
burnished stones which glitter in the sun's rays. 
They occur only within the limits of the tidal 
waves ; and as the rivulet slowly trickles down, the 
surf must supply the polishing power of the cata- 
racts in the gi'eat rivers. In like manner, the rise 
and fall of the tide probably answer to the period- 
ical inundations; and thus the same effects are pro- 
duced under apparently different but really similar 
circumstances. The origin, however, of these coat- 
ings 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 remain- 
ing the same. 

One day I was amused by watching the habits 
of the Diodon antennatus, which was caught swim- 
ming near the shore. This fish, with its flabby skin, 
is well known to possess the singular power of dis- 
tending 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 quan- 
* Pers. Narr,, vol. v , pt. i., p. 18. 



HABITS UK A DIUDUX. 17 

tity 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 f6rced into the cavity of the 
body, its return being prevented by a muscular con- 
traction 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 be- 
comes far moi'e distended than the upper; and the 
fish, in consequence, floats with its back down- 
wards. Cuvier doubts whether the Diodon in this 
position is able to swim ; but not only can it thus 
move forward in a straight line, bnt it can turn 
round to either side. This latter movement is ef- 
fected solely by the aid of the pectoral fins ; the 
tail being collapsed, and not used. From the body 
being buoyed up with so much air, the branchial 
openings are out of water, but a stream drawn in 
by the mouth constantly flows through them. 

The fish, having remained in this distended state 
for a short time, generally expelled the air and 
water with considerable force from the branchial 
apertures and mouth. It could emit, at will, a 
certain portion of the water; and it appears, there- 
fore, probable that this fluid is taken in partly for 
the sake of regulating its specific gi'avity. 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 ma- 
king a curious noise by the movement of its jaws. 
By the inflation of its body, the paj^illce, with which 
the skin is covered, become erect and pointed. But 
the most curious circumstance is, that it secretes 
from the skin of its bellv, when handled, a most 
B 2 



18 I'ELAUJC CONl'EKVyl': AMJ IiNFUSOUIA. 

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 1 

March ISth. — We sailed from Bahia. A few 
days afterwards, when not far distant from the 
Abrolhos Islets, my attention was called to a red- 
dish-brown appearance in the sea. The whole sur- 
face 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 erythrasum) 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 al- 
most every long voyage some account is given of 
these confervffi. They appear especially common 
in the sea near Australia ; and off Cape Leeuwin 
I found an allied, but smaller and apparently dif- 
ferent species. Captain Cook, in his third voyage, 

* M. Montagne, in Comptes Rendus, &c., Juillet, 18i-4 ; and 
Annal. des Scienc. Nat., Dec, 1844. 



PELAGIC CUM'EKVyK ANU INl'UriuKlA. It) 

remarks, that the sailors gave to this appearance 
the name of sea-sawdust. 

Near KeeUng Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I ob- 
served many little masses of confervas a few inches 
square, consisting of long cylindrical threads of 
excessive thinness, so as to be barely visible to the 
naked eye, mingled with other rather larger bodies, 
finely conical at both ends. 
Two of these are shown 
in the woodcut united to- 
gether. They vary in length from "04 to "06, and 
even to -OS of an inch in length ; and in diameter 
from -006 to -008 of an inch. Near one extremity 
of the cylindrical part, a green septum, formed of 
gi-anular matter, and thickest in the middle, may 
generally be seen. This, I believe, is the bottom 
of a most delicate, colourless sac, composed of a 
pulpy substance, which lines the exterior case, but 
does not extend within the extreme conical points. 
In some specimens, small but perfect spheres of 
brownish granular matter supplied the places of the 
septa ; and I observed the curious process by which 
they were produced. The pulpy matter of the in- 
ternal coating suddenly gi'ouped itself into lines, 
some of which assumed a form radiating from a 
common centre ; it then continued, with an irregu- 
lar and rapid movement, to conti'act 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 gi'anular sphere was 
hastened by any accidental injury. I may add, 
that frequently a pair of these bodies were attach- 
ed to each other, as represented above, cone beside 
cone, at that end where the septum occurs. 

I will here add a few other observations connect- 
ed with the discoloration of the sea from organic 



:;iO DISCOLOURED SEA. 

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 Valpa- 
raiso, when fifty miles from the land, the same ap- 
pearance 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 contract- 
ed in the middle by a ring of vibrating curved 
cilias. It was, however, very difficult to examine 
them with care, for almost the instant motion ceas- 
ed, 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 ani- 
mal 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 naiTow 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 small- 
est 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 Hke that of a river which has flowed 



DISCOLOURED SEA. 21 

through a red clay district; but under the shade 
of the vessel's side it was quite as dark as choco- 
late. The line where the red and blue water join- 
ed was distinctly defined. The weather for some 
days previously had been calm, and the ocean 
abounded, to an unusual degree, with living crea- 
tures,* 

In the sea around Tierra del Fuego, and at no 
great distance from the land, I have seen naiTow 
lines of water of a bright red colour, from the num- 
ber 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 un- 
wieldy seals derive, on some parts of 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 
shij) sailed through three strips of a dark yellowish, 
or mud-like water; these strips were some miles 
long, but only a few yards wide, and they were 
separated from the suiTounding water by a sinuous 
yet distinct margin. The colour was caused by lit- 
tle 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 difter- 
ent shape from the other. I cannot form a conjec- 

* M. Lesson (Voyage de la Coquille, torn, i., p. 255) mentions 
red water off Lima, apparently produced by the same cause. 
Peron, the distinguished naturalist, in the Voyage aux Terres 
Australes, gives no less than twelve references to voyagers who 
have alluded to the discoloured waters of the sea (vol. n., p. 239). 
To the references given by Peron may be added, Humboldt's Pers. 
Xarr., vol, vi,, p. 804 ; Flinders' Voyage, vol. i., p. 92 ; Labillar- 
diere, vol. i., p. 287 ; Ulloa's Voyage ; Voyage of the Astrolabe 
and of the Coquille ; Captain King's Survey of Australia, &c. 



r^-J DIS(;OLOURF.I) SEA. 

ture as to what two kinds of animals these belong- 
ed. Captain Colnett remarks, that this appearance 
is very pommon among the Galapagos Islands, and 
that the direction of the bands indicates that of the 
currents ; in the described case, however, the line 
was caused by the wind. The only other appear- 
ance which I have to notice, is a thin oily coat on 
the water which displays iridescent colours. I saw 
a considerable tract of the ocean thus covered on 
the coast of Brazil; the seamen attributed it to the 
putrefying carcass ofsome 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 ac- 
counts which appear remarkable : first, how do 
the various bodies which form the bands with de- 
fined edges keep together 1 In the case of the 
prawn-like crabs, their movements were as coin- 
stantaneous as in a regiment of soldiers ; but this 
cannot happen from any thing like voluntary action 
with the ovules, or the confei'VEe, nor is it probable 
among the infusoria. Secondly, what causes the 
length and narrowness of the bands 1 The appear- 
ance so much resembles that which may be seen 
in every toiTent, where the stream uncoils into long 
streaks the froth collected in the eddies, that I must 
attribute the effect to a similar action either of the 
currents of the air or sea. Under this supposition 
we must believe that the various organized bodies 
are produced in certain favourable places, and are 
thence removed by the set of either wind or water. 
I confess, however, there is a very great difficulty 
in imagining any one spot to be the birthplace of the 
millions of millions of animalcula and confervee : for 



RIO DE JANEIRO. 23 

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 T understand their hnear 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. 



CHAPTER II. . ■' , / ' 

Rio de Janeiro— Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great Evapora- 
tion— Slavery— Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial PlanarJK — Clouds 
on the Corcovado — Heavy Rain — Musical Frogs — Phosphores- 
cent Insects— Elater, springing powers of— Blue Haze— Noise 
made by a Butterfly — Entomology — Ants — Wasp killing a Spi- 
der — Parasitical Spider — Artifices of an Epeira— Gregarious 
Spider— Spider with an unsymmetrical Web. 

RIO DE .TANEIRO. 

Ajjril itk to July 5th, 1832. — A few days after 
our ai-rival I became acquainted with an English- 
man who was going to visit his estate, situated, 
rather more than a hundred miles from the capital, 
to the northward of Cape Frio. I gladly accepted 
his kind offer of allowing me to accompany him. 

April Sth. — Our party amounted to seven. The 
first stage was 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 be- 
hind 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 exceed- 



24 lUO DP, JAXEIRO. 

ed. We arrived by midday at Itliacaia; this small 
village is situated on a plain, and round the central 
house are the huts of the negi'oes. These, from 
theu' regular form and position, reminded me of 
the drawings of the Hottentot habitations in South- 
ern Africa. As the moon rose early, we deter- 
mined to start the same evening for our sleeping- 
place at the Lagoa Marica. As it was gi'owing 
dark we passed under one of the massive, bare, and 
steep hills of granite which are so common in this 
country. This spot is notorious fi'om having been, 
for a long time, the residence of some runaway 
slaves, Avho, by cultivating a little ground near the 
top, contrived to eke out a subsistence. At length 
they were discovered, and a party of soldiers being 
sent, the Avhole were seized, with the exception of 
one old woman, who, sooner than again be led into 
slavery, dashed herself to pieces from the summit 
of the mountain. In a Roman matron, this Avould 
have been called the noble love of fi-eedom : in a 
poor negress it is mere brutal obstinacy. We con- 
tinued riding for some hours. For the few last 
miles the road was intricate, and it passed through 
a desert waste of marshes and lagoons. The scene 
by the dimmed light of the moon was most deso- 
late. 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 9t7i. — We left our miserable sleeping-place 
before sunrise. The road passed through a nar- 
row 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 



LIVING AT A VENDA. 25 

were loaded with parasitical plants, among which 
the beauty and delicious fragrance of some of the 
orchidea? were most to be admired. As the sun 
rose, the day became extremely hot, and the reflec- 
tion of the light and heat from the white sand was 
very distressing. We dined at Mandetiba; the 
thermometer in the shade being 84^. The beau- 
tiful 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 bouglis interwo- 
ven, and afterwards plastered. They seldom have 
floors, and never glazed windows ; but are gener- 
ally pretty well roofed. Universally the fi'ont part 
is open, forming a kind of verandah, in which tables 
and benches ai'e placed. The bed-rooms join on 
each side, and here the passenger may sleep as 
comfortably as he can, on a wooden platform, cov- 
ered by a thin straw mat. The venda stands in a 
courtyard, where the horses are fed. On first ar- 
riving, it was our custom to unsaddle the horses 
and give them their Indian com ; then, with a low 
bow, to ask the senhor to do us the favour to give 
us something to eat. "Anything you choose, sir," 
was his usual answer. For the few first times, 
vainly 1 thanked Providence for having guided us 
to so good a man. The conversation proceeding, 
the case universally became deplorable. " Any 
fish can you do us the favour of giving ]" " Oh ! 
no, sir." "Any soup]" "No, sir." "Any bread*?" 
"Oh! no, sir !" " Any dried meat]" "Oh! no, 
Bir." If we were lucky, by waiting a couple of 
* V6nda, tlie Portuguese name for an inn. 

c 



26 KIO DE JANEIRO. 

hours, we obtained fowls, rice, and. farlnlia. It not 
unfrequently happened that we were obliged to 
kill, with stones, the poultry for our own supper. 
When, thoroughly exhausted by fatigue and hun- 
ger, we timorously hinted that we should be glad 
of our meal, the pompous, and (though true) most 
unsatlsfactoiy answer was, " It will be ready when 
it Is ready." If we had dared to remonstrate any 
farther, we should have been told to proceed on 
our journey, as being too Impertinent. The hosts 
are most ungracious and disagreeable in their man- 
ners ; their houses and their persons are often 
filthily dirty ; the want of the accommodation of 
forks, knives, and spoons is common ; and I am 
sure no cottage or hovel in England could be found 
in a state so utterly destitute of every comfort. 
At Campos Novos, however, we fared sumptuous- 
ly ; having i-ice and fowls, biscuit, wine, and spirits, 
for dinner ; coffee in the evening, and fish with 
coffee for breakfast. All this, with good food for 
the horses, only cost 2s. 6d. per head. Yet the 
host of this venda, being asked if he knew anything 
of a whip which one of the party had lost, gruffly 
answered, " How should I know 1 why did you not 
take care of it 1 — 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 Limnse in gi'eat 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 nelghbour- 
* Annales des Sciences Naturelles for 1833. 



THE VAMPIRR BAT. 27 

hood of Rio, shells of the marine genera solen and 
mytilus, and fresh water ampullariae, living to- 
gether in brackish water. I also frequently ob- 
served in the lagoon near the Botanic Garden, 
where the water is only a little less, salt than in the 
sea, a species of hydrophilus, very similar to a wa- 
ter-beetle common in the ditches of England : in 
the same lake the only shell belonged to a genus 
generally found in estuaries. 

Leaving the coast for a time, we again entered 
the forest. The trees were very lofty, and remark- 
able, compared with those of Europe, from the 
whiteness of their trunks. I see, by my note-book, 
" wonderful and beautiful, flowering parasites," in- 
variably struck me as the most novel object in these 
grand scenes. Travelling onwai'ds, 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 horse- 
back. I never ceased, during the whole journey, 
to be surprised at the amount of labour which the 
horses were capable of enduring ; they appeared 
also to recover from any injury much sooner than 
those of our English breed. The Vampire bat is 
often the cause of much trouble, by biting the hor- 
ses on their withers. The injury is generally not 
so much owing to the loss of blood, as to the inflam- 
mation which the pressure of the saddle afterwards 
produces. The whole circumstance has lately 
been doubted in England ; I was therefore fortu- 
nate in being present when one (Desmodus d'or- 
bignyi, Wat.) was actually caught on a horse's 
back. We were bivouacking late one evening 
near Coquimbo, in Chile, when my servant, noti' 



28 KIO DE JANEIRO, 

cing that one of the horses was very restive, v^^ent 
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 in- 
flicted was easily distinguished from being slightly 
swollen and bloody. The third day afterwards we 
rode the horse, without any ill effects. 

Aj^ril 13th. — After three days' travelling we ar- 
rived at Socego, the estate of Senhor Manuel Figui- 
reda, a relation of one of our party. The house 
was simple, and, though like a barn in form, was 
well suited to the climate. In the sitting-room 
gilded chairs and sofas were oddly contrasted with 
the whitewashed walls, thatched roof, and windows 
without glass. The house, together with the gran- 
aries, the stables, and workshops for the blacks, 
who had been taught various trades, formed a rude 
kind of quadrangle ; in the centre of which a large 
pile of coffee was drying. These buildings stand 
on a little hill, overlooking the cultivated gi'ound, 
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 gi-eat quantity. Every 
part of this plant is useful : the leaves and stalks 
are eaten by the horses, and the roots are ground 
into a pulp, which, when pressed dry and baked, 
forms the farinha, the principal article of sustenance 
in the Brazils. It is a curious, though well-known 
fact, that the juice of this most nutritious plant is 
highly poisonous. A few years ago a cow died at 
this Fazenda, in consequence of having drunk 
some of it. Senhor Figuireda told me that he had 
planted, the year before, one bag of feijao or beans, 



ARRIVAL AT siOCKGu. 29 

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 sure- 
ly did : for each person is expected to eat of every 
dish. One day, having, as I thought, nicely calcu- 
lated so that nothing should go away untasted, to 
my utter dismay a roast turkey and a pig appeared 
in all their substantial reality. During the meals, 
it was the employment of a man to drive out of the 
room sundry old hounds, and dozens of little black 
childi'en, which crawled in together, at every oppor- 
tunity. As long as the idea of slavery could be 
banished, there was something exceedingly fasci- 
nating 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 stran- 
ger is seen arriving, a large bell is set tolling, and 
generally some small cannon are fired. The event 
is thus announced to the rocks and woods, but to 
nothing else. One morning I walked out an hour 
before daylight to admire the solemn stillness of 
the scene ; at last, the silence was broken by the 
morning hymn, raised on high by the whole body 
of the blacks ; and in this manner their daily work 
is generally begun. On such fazendas as these, I 
have no doubt the slaves pass happy and contented 
lives. On Saturday and Sunday they work for 
themselves, and in this fertile climate the labour of 
two days is sufficient to support a man and his 
family for the whole week. 

April lAth. — Leaving Socego, we rode to an- 
other estate on the Rio Macae, which was the last 
patch of cultivated ground in that direction. The 
C 2 



30 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

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

While staying at this estate, I was very nearly 
being an eyewitness to one of those atrocious acts 
which can only take place in a slave country. Ow- 
ing to a quarrel and a law-suit, the owner was on 
the point of taking all the women and children 
from the male slaves, and selling them separately 
at the public auction at Rio. Interest, and not any 
feeling of compassion, prevented this act. Indeed, 
I do not believe the inhumanity of separating thir- 



Aia'KAKAiXCE UF THE FORES 1'b'. 31 

ty families, who had lived together for many years, 
even occurred to the owner. Yet I will pledge 
myself, that in humanity and good feeling he was 
superior to the common run of men. It may be 
said there exists no limit to the blindness of inter- 
est and selfish habit. I may mention one very tri- 
fling 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 in- 
stantly, with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, 
he dropped his hands. I shall never forget my feel- 
ings 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 slave- 
ry of the most helpless animal. 

April ISt/i. — In returning we spent two days at 
Socego, and I employed them in collecting insects 
in the forest. The greater number of trees, al- 
though so lofty, are not more than three or four 
feet in circumference. There are, of course, a 
few of much greater dimension. Senhor Manuel 
was then making a canoe 70 feet in length from a 
solid trunk, which had originally been 110 feet 
long, and of great thickness. The contrast of 
palm trees, gi-owing amidst the common branch- 
ing kinds, never fails to give the scene an inter- 
tropical character. Here the woods were orna- 
mented 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, 



32 RIO DE JANEIKO. 

themselves covered by other creepers, Avere 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 gi'ound 
beneath, it was attracted by the extreme elegance 
of the leaves of the ferns and mimosas. The latter, 
in some parts, covered the surface with a brush- 
wood only a few inches high. In walking across 
these thick beds of mimosEes, 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 19^A. — Leaving Socego, during the first two 
days, we retraced our steps. It was very weari- 
some work, as the road generally ran across a gla- 
ring hot sandy plain, not far from the coast. I no- 
ticed that each time the horse put its foot on the 
fine silicio.us sand, a gentle chirping noise was pro- 
duced. On the third day we took a different line, 
and passed through the gay little village of Madre 
de Deos. This is one of the principal lines of road 
in Brazil ; yet it was in so bad a state that no wheel 
vehicle, excepting the clumsy bullock-wagon, 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 re- 
pair, 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 



PLANARIiE. 33 

been spilled. On the evening of the 23d we ar- 
rived at Rio, having finished our pleasant little ex- 
cursion. 

During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I re- 
sided in a cottage at Botofogo Bay. It was im- 
possible to wish for anything more delightful than 
thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a coun- 
try. In England any person fond of natural history 
enjoys in his walks a great advantage, by always 
having something to attract his attention ; but in 
these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attrac- 
tions 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 in- 
vertebrate animals. The existence of a division 
of the genus Planaria, which inhabits the dryland, 
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 re- 
tained its vitality. ■.- - - 

Vol. L 3 



34 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

I found no less than twelve different species of 
terrestrial Planarias in different parts of the south- 
ern hemisphere.* Some specimens which I ob- 
tained 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 near- 
ly 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 conse- 
quence, none. In the course of twenty-five days 
from the operation, the more perfect half could not 
have been distinguished from any other specimen. 
The other had increased much in size ; and to- 
wards its posterior end, a clear space was formed 
in the parenchymatous mass, in which a rudiment- 
ary cup-shaped mouth could clearly be distinguish- 
ed ; on the under surface, however, no correspond- 
ing 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 struc- 
ture. Although so well knowai an experiment, it 
was interesting to watch the gi-adual production of 
every essential organ, out of the simple extremity 
of another animal. It is extremely difficult to pre- 
serve these Planarice ; 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 

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



EARLY USE OF THE KNIFE IN BRAZIL. 35 

which might appear. We were accompanied by 
the son of a neighbouring farmer — a good speci- 
men of a wiki BraziHan youth. He was dressed 
in a tattered old shirt and trousers, and had his 
head uncovered : he earned an old-fashioned gun 
and a large knife. The habit of caiTying the 
knife is universal ; and in traversing a thick wood 
it is almost necessary, on account of the creeping 
plants. The ft-equent occurrence of murder may 
be partly attributed to this habit. The Brazilians 
are so dexterous with the knife, that they can 
throw it to some distance with precision, and with 
sufficient force to cause a fatal wound. I have 
seen a number of little boys practising this art as a 
game of play, and from their skill in hitting an up- 
right stick, they promised well for more earnest at- 
tempts. My companion, the day before, had shot 
two large bearded monkeys. These animals have 
prehensile tails, the extremity of which, even after 
death, can support the whole weight of the body. 
One of them thus remained fast to a branch, and it 
was necessary to cut down a large tree to procure 
it. This was soon effected, and down came tree 
and monkey with an awful crash. Our day's 
sport, besides the monkey, was confined to sundry 
siuall green pan-ots 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 scen- 
ery 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 charac- 
teristic of the formation which Humboldt desig- 
nates as gneiss-granite. Nothing can be more 
striking than the effect of these huge rounded 



30 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

masses of naked rock rising out of the most lux- 
uriant 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 veil- 
ed, appeared to rise to a far prouder elevation than 
its real height of 2300 feet. Mr. Daniell has ob- 
sei-ved, 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 dif- 
ferent appearance. In this case the cloud was 
clearly seen to curl over, and rapidly pass by the 
summit, and yet was neither diminished nor in- 
creased in size. The sun was setting, and a gen- 
tle southerly breeze, striking against the southern 
side of the rock, mingled its current with the cold- 
er 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 warm- 
er atmosphere of- the northern sloping bank, they 
were immediately redissolved. . 

The climate, during the months of May and June, 
or the beginning of winter, was delightful. The 
mean temperature, from observations taken at nine 
o'clock, both morning and evening, was only 72°. 
It often rained heavily, but the drying southerly 
winds soon again rendered the walks pleasant. One 
morning, in the course of six hours, 1-6 inches of 
rain fell. As this storm passed over the forests 
which surround the Corcovado, the sound pro- 
duced by the drops pattering on the countless mul- 
titude of leaves was very remarkable ; it could be 
heard at the distance of a quarter of a mile, and 
was like the rushing of a great body of water. 
After the hotter days, it was delicious to sit quietly 



rnOSPHOUESCENT INSECTS. 37 

in the garden and watch the evening pass into 
night. Nature, in these climes, chooses her vocal- 
ists from more humble performers than in Europe. 
A smaU 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 perpen- 
dicular. Various cicadas and crickets, at the same 
time, keep up a ceaseless shrill cry, but which, 
softened by the distance, is not unpleasant. Every 
evening after dark this gi-eat concert commenced ; 
and often have I sat listening to it, until my atten- 
tion has been drawn away by some curious passing 
insect. 

At these times the fireflies are seen flitting about 
from hedge to hedge. On a dark night the light 
can be seen at about two hundred paces distant. 
It is remarkable that in all the different kinds of 
glowworms, shining elaters, and various marine 
animals (such as the crustacea, medusae, nereidte, 
a coralline of the genus Clytia, and Pyi'osoma), 
which I have observed, the light has been of a 
well-marked green colour. All the fireflies which 
I caught here belonged to the Lampyridae (in 
which family the English glowworm is included), 
and the greater number of specimens were of Lam- 
pyris occidentalis.* I found that this insect emit- 
ted the most brilliant flashes when irritated : in 
the intervals, the abdominal rings were obscured. 
The flash was almost coinstantaneous in the two 

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

D 



38 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

rings, but it was just perceptible first in the anterior 
one. The shining matter was fluid and very ad- 
hesive : little spots, where the skin had been torn, 
continued bright with a slight scintillation, whilst 
the uninjured parts were obscured. When the 
insect was decapitated the rings remained uninter- 
ruptedly bright, but not so brilliant as before : local 
irritation with a needle always increased the vivid- 
ness of the light. The rings in one instance retain- 
ed 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 dis- 
play is involuntary. On the muddy and wet grav- 
el-walks I found the larvae of this lampyris in great 
numbers : they resembled in general form the fe- 
male of the English glowworm. These lai-vae 
possessed but feeble luminous powers ; very differ- 
ently from their parents, on the slightest touch they 
feigned death, and ceased to shine ; nor did irrita- 
tion excite any fresh display. I kejDt several of 
them alive for some time : their tails are very sin- 
gular organs, for they act, by a well-fitted conti-i- 
vance, 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 invari- 
ably observed, that every now and then the ex- 
tremity of the tail was ajiplied to the mouth, and a 
drop of fluid exuded on the meat which was then 
in the act of being consumed. The tail, notwith- 
standing so much practice, does not seem to be 
able to find its way to the mouth ; at least the neck 
was always touched first, and apparently as a guide. 
When we were at Bahia, an elater or beetle 
(Pyrophorus luminosus, IHig.) seemed the most 
common luminous insect. The liffht in this case 



BOTANIC GARDEN. 39 

was also rendered more brilliant by iriitation. I 
amused myself one day by observing the springintr 
powei-s 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, move- 
ment being continued, the spine, by the full action 
of the muscles, was bent like a spring ; and. tlio 
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 con- 
sequence, 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 the whole body dui-ing the spring. In the 
descriptions which I have read, sufficient stress 
does not appear to have been laid on the elasticity 
of the spine : so sudden a spring could not be the 
result of simple muscular contraction, without the 
aid of some mechanical contrivance. 

On several occasions I enjoyed some short but 
most pleasant excursions in the neighbouring coun- 
try. One day I went to the Botanic Garden, where 
many plants, well knowm for their great utility, 
might be seen gi'owing. The leaves of the cam- 
phor, pepper, cinnamon, and clove trees were de- 
lightfully aromatic ; and the bread-fruit, the jaca, 
and the mango, vied with each other in the mag- 
nificence of their foliage. The landscape in the 
neighbourhood of Bahia almost takes its character 
from the two latter trees. Befox-e seeing them, I 
* Kirby's Entomology, vol. ii., p. 317. 



40 EIO BE JANEIRO. 

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 Eng- 
land do to the lighter green of the deciduous trees. 
It may be observed, that the houses within the 
tropics are surrounded by the most beautiful forms 
of vegetation, because many of them are at the 
same time most useful to man. Who can doubt 
that these qualities are united in the banana, the 
cocoa-nut, the many kinds of palm, the orange, and 
the bread-fruit tree ] 

During this day I was particularly sti-uck with 
a remark of Humboldt's, who often alludes to " the 
thin vapour which, without changing the transpa- 
rency 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 gi'eater distance all colours were 
blended into a most beautiful haze, of a pale 
French grey, mingled with a little blue. The con- 
dition 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 inten^al, 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 lai'ge lilia- 
ceous plants, which shaded the streamlets of clear 
water. Sitting down on a block of granite, it was 
delightful to watch the various insects and birds as 
they flew past. The humming-bird seems particu- 



CURIOUS FUNGUS. 41 

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 eleva- 
tion the landscape attains its most brilliant tint ; 
and every form, every shade, so completely sur- 
passes 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 
fi-equently 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 ento- 
mologist is aware, is to some of our beetles a de- 
lightful fragrance. So was it here ; for a Strongy- 
lus, attracted by the odour, alighted on the fungus 
as I cari'ied 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 rela- 
tion is often broken : as one instance of this I may 
mention, that the leaves of the cabbages and let- 
tuces, which in England afford food to such a mul- 
titude of slugs and caterpillars, in the gardens near 
Rio are untouched. 

During our stay at Brazil I made a large collec- 
tion of insects. A few general observations on the 
D2 



42 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

comparative importance of the different orders may 
be interesting to the EngUsh 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 butter- 
flies ; for the moths, contrary to what might Imve 
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 frequent- 
ly alights on the trunks of trees. On these occa- 
sions 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 cautious- 
ly 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 ir- 
regular course, they passed within a few yards of 
me ; and I distinctly heard a clicking noise, simi- 
lar to that produced by a toothed wheel passing 
under a spring catch. The noise was continued at 

* Mr. Doubleday has lately described (before the Entomologi- 
cal Society, March 3d, 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 dia- 
phragm or vessel in the interior." I find in Langsdorff' s travels 
(in the years 1803-7, p. 74) it is said, that in the island of St. Cath- 
erine's, on the coast of Brazil, a butterfly, called Februa Hoffman- 
seggi, makes a noise, when flying away, like a rattle. 



ENTOMOLOGY. 43 

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

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the 
Coleoptera. The number of minute and obscure- 
ly-coloured beetles is exceedingly great.* The 
cabinets of Europe can, as yet, boast only of the 
larger species from tropical climates. It is suffi- 
cient to disturb the composure of an entomologist's 
mind, to look forward to the future dimensions of a 
complete catalogue. The carnivorous beetles, or 
Carabidae, appear in extremely few numbers with- 
in the tropics : this is the more remarkable when 
compared to the case of the carnivorous quadru- 
peds, which are so abundant in hot countries. I was 
struck with this observation both on entering Bra- 
zil, and when I saw the many elegant and active 
forms of the Harpalidee re-appearing on the tem- 
perate plains of La Plata. Do the very numerous 
spiders and rapacious Hymenoptera supply the 
place of the carnivorous beetles'? The camon- 
feeders and Brachelytera are very uncommon ; on 
the other hand, the Rhyncophora and Chrysomeli- 
dce, all of which depend on the vegetable world 
for subsistence, are present in astonishing numbers. 
I do not here refer to the number of ditterent spe- 
cies, but to that of the individual insects ; for on 
this itjis that the most striking character in the en- 
tomology of different countries depends. The or- 
ders Orthoptera and Hemiptera are particularly 
numerous ; as likewise is the stinging division of 
* I may mention, as a common instance of one day's (June 23d) 
collecting, when I was not attending particularly to the Coleop- 
tera, that I caught sixty-eight species of that order. Among 
these, there were only two of the Carabidse, four Brachelytra, 
fifteen Rhyncophora, and fourteen of the Chrysomelidae. Thir- 
ty-seven species of Arachnids, which I brought home, will be 
sufficient to prove that I was not paying overmuch attention to 
the generally favoured order of Coleoptera. 



44 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

the Hymenoptera; the bees, perhaps, being ex- 
cepted. A person, on first entermg a tropical for- 
est, is astonished at the labours of the ants : well- 
beaten paths branch off in every direction, on which 
an army of never-failing foragers inay be seen, some 
going forth, and others returning, burdened with 
pieces of green leaf, often larger than their own 
bodies. 

A small dark-coloured ant sometimes migrates 
in countless numbers. One day, at Bahia, my at- 
tention was drawn by observing many spiders, 
cockroaches, and other insects, and some lizards, 
rushing in the gi'eatest 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. 13y this means luany in- 
sects were faii'ly enclosed ; and the efforts which 
the poor little creatures made to extricate them- 
selves 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 
iminediately 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 doubt- 
less 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 consti'uct in tho 
corners of the verandahs clay cells for their larvas, 
are very numerous in the neighbourhood of Hio. 
These cells they stuff full of half-dead spiders and 
caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know 



SPIDERS. 45 

how to Sting to that degree as to leave them par- 
alysed 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 de- 
scribed 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 com- 
menced 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 discov- 
ered ; and the wasp, evidently still afraid of its ad- 
versary's jaws, after much manoeuvring, inflicted 
two stings on the under side of its thorax. At last, 
carefully examining with its antennEe the now mo- 
tionless spider, it proceeded to drag away the 
body. But I stopped both tyrant and prey.f 

The number of spiders, in proportion to other 
insects, is here, compared with England, very much 
larger ; perhaps more so than with any other di- 
vision of the articulate animals. The variety of 

* In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made 
his observations in Georgia ; see Mr. A. White's paper in the 
"Annals of Nat. Hist.," vol. vii., p. 472. Lieut. Hutton has de- 
scribed a sphex with similar habits in India, in the " Journal of 
the Asiatic Society," vol. i., p. 555. 

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



46 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

species among the jumping spiders appears almost 
infinite. The genus, or rather family of Epeira, is 
here characterized by many singular forms ; some 
species have pointed coriaceous shells, others en- 
larged and spiny tibise. Every jiath in the forest 
is barricaded with the strong yellow web of a 
species, belonging to the same division with the 
Epeira clavipes of Fabricius, which was formerly 
said by Sloane to make, in the West Indies, webs 
so strong as to catch birds. A small and pretty 
kind of spider, with very long fore-legs, and which 
appears to belong to an undescribed genus, lives as 
a parasite on almost every one of these webs. I 
suppose it is too insignificant to be noticed by the 
great Epeira, and is therefore allowed to prey on 
the minute insects, which, adhenng 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 tu- 
berculata and conica is extremely cominon, espe- 
cially 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 ribands, which con- 
nect two adjoining rays. When any large insect, 
as a grasshopper or wasp, is caught, the spider, by 
a dexterous movement, makes it revolve very rap- 
idly, and at the same time emitting a band of 
threads from its spinners, soon envelojDS its prey 
in a case like the cocoon of a silkworm. The spi- 
der 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 min- 
ute I opened the mesh, and found a large wasp 



SPIDERS. 47 

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

It is well known that most of the British spiders, 
when a large insect is caught in their webs, en- 
deavour 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 iiTegular 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 spi- 
der soon returned ; and an hour afterwards I was 
much surprised to find it with its jaws buried in the 
orifice, through which the sting is protruded by the 
living wasp. I drove the spider away two or three 
times, but for the next twenty-four hours I always 
found it again sucking at the same place. The 
spider became much distended by the juices of its 
prey, which was many times larger than itself. 



48 RIO DE JANEIRO. 

I may here just mention, that I found, near St. F^ 
Bajada, many large black spiders, with ruby-col- 
oured marks on their backs, having gregarious 
habits. The webs were placed vertically, as is in- 
vai'iably the case with the genus Epeira: they were 
separated from each other by a space of about two 
feet, but were all attached to certain common lines, 
which were of great length, and extended to all 
parts of the community. In this manner the tops 
of some large bvishes 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 can- 
not, 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 soli- 
tary that even the two sexes attack each other, is a 
very singular fact. 

In a lofty valley of the Cordillera, near Mendo- 
za, 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, in- 
stead 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. 213, 



ESTUARY OF THE PLATA. 49 



CHAPTER HI. 

Monte Video— Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and 
Belas — Partridges — Absence of Trees— Deer — Capybara, or 
River Hog — Tucutuco — Molothrus, cuckoo-lilie habits — Ty- 
rant-flycatcher — Mocking-bird — Carrion Hawks — Tubes form- 
ed by Lightning — House struck. 

MALDONADO. 

Juli/ 5t7i, 1832. — In the morning we got under 
way, and stood out of the splendid harbour of Rio 
de Janeiro. In our passage to the Plata, we saw 
nothing particular, excepting on one day a gi-eat 
shoal of porpoises, many hundreds in number. The 
whole sea was in places furrowed by them ; and a 
most extraordinary spectacle was presented, as 
hundreds, proceeding together by jumps, in which 
their whole bodies were exposed, thus cut the wa- 
ter. When the ship was running nine knots an 
hour, these animals could cross and recross the 
bows with the greatest ease, and then dash away 
right ahead. As soon as we entered the estuary 
of the Plata, the weather was very unsettled. One 
dark night we were surrounded by numerous seals 
and penguins, which made such strange noises, that 
the officer on watch reported he could hear the 
cattle bellowing on shore. On a second night we 
witnessed a splendid scene of natural fireworks; 
the mast-head and yard-arm-ends shone with St. 
Elmo's light ; and the form of the vane could al- 
most be traced, as if it had been rubbed with phos- 
phoiiis. The sea was so highly luminous, that the 
tracl^jS of the penguins were marked by a fiery 
wake, and the darkness of the sky was momentari- 
ly illuminated by the most vivid lightning. 
Vol. L— 4 E 



50 MALDONADO. 

When witliin the mouth of the river, I was inter- 
ested by observing how slowly the waters of the 
sea and river mixed. The latter, muddy and dis- 
coloured, 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 2Qtli. — We anchored at Monte Video. The 
Beagle was employed in sui^veying the extreme 
southern and eastern coasts of Ainerica, south of 
the Plata, during the two succeeding years. To 
prevent useless repetitions, I will extract those 
parts of my journal which refer to the same dis- 
tricts, 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 oth- 
er, 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 car- 
penters, 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 turi", on which count- 
less 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 atyave, mark out 



EXCURSION TO RIO POLANCO, 51 

where some wheat or Indian com 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 gTound, 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 walk- 
ing over boundless plains of turf. Moreover, if 
your view is limited to a small space, many objects 
possess beauty. Some of the smaller birds are 
brilliantly coloured ; and the bright green sward, 
browsed short by the cattle, is ornamented by dwarf 
flowers, among which a plant, looking like a 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 ap- 
pear of the most gaudy scarlet ? 

I stayed ten weeks as Maldonado, in which time a 
nearly perfect collection of the animals, birds, and 
reptiles was procured. Before making any obser- 
vations respecting them, I will give an account of 
a little excursion I made as far as the river Polan 
CO, which is about seventy miles distant, in a nor- 
therly 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-hor- 
ses. My companions were well anned 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 



52 MALDONADO. 

country-house ; and tliere I soon found out that I 
possessed two or three articles, especially a pocket 
compass, which created unbounded astonishment. 
In every house I was asked to show the compass, 
and by its aid, together with a map, to point out 
the direction of various places. It excited the 
liveliest admiration that I, a perfect stranger, 
should know the road (for direction and road are 
synonymous in this open country) to places where 
I had never been. At one house a young woman, 
who was ill in bed, sent to entreat me to come and 
show her the compass. If their surprise was great, 
mine was gi'eater, to find such ignorance among 
people who possessed their thousands of cattle, and 
" estancias" of great extent. It can only be ac- 
counted 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 specula- 
tion at the village of Las Minas ; a superior trades- 
man closely cross-questioned me about so singular 
a practice ; and likewise why on board we wore 
our beards ; for he had heard from my guide that 
we did so. He eyed me with much suspicion ; 



LAS MINAS. 53 

perhaps lie had heard, of ablutions in the Moham- 
medan religion, and knowing me to be a heretic, 
probably he came to the conclusion that all here- 
tics were Turks. It is the general custom in this 
country to ask for a night's lodging at the first con- 
venient house. The astonishment at the compass, 
and my other feats in jugglery, was to a certain 
degree advantageous, as with that, and the long 
stories my guides told of my breaking stones, know- 
ing venomous from harmless snakes, collecting in- 
sects, &c., I repaid them for their hospitality. I 
am wi'iting as if I had been among the inhabitants 
of central Africa : Banda Oriental would not be 
flattered by the comparison ; but such were my 
feelings at the time. 

The next day we rode to the village of Las Mi- 
nas. The country was rather more hilly, but oth- 
erwise 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 outskiiting houses rose out of 
the plain like isolated beings, without the accom- 
paniment of gardens or courtyards. This is gen- 
erally the case in the country, and all the houses 
have, in consequence, an uncomfortable aspect. At 
night we stopped at a pulperia, or drinking-shop. 
During the evening a great number of Gauchos 
came in to drink spirits and sinoke cigars : their 
appearance is very striking ; they are generally 
tall and handsome, but with a proud and dissolute 
expression of countenance. They frequently wear 
E2 



64 MALDONADO. 

their moustaches, and. long hlack hair curling down 
their backs. With their brightly-coloured gar- 
ments, great spurs clanking about their heels, and 
knives stuck as daggers (and often so used) at their 
waists, they look a very different race of men from 
what might be expected from their name of Gau- 
chos, or simple countrymen. Their j^oliteness is 
excessive ; they never diink their spirits without 
expecting you to taste it ; but whilst making their 
exceedingly graceful bow, they seem quite as ready, 
if occasion otiered, to cut your throat. 

On the third day we pursued rather an irregular 
course, as I was employed in examining some beds 
of marble. On the fine plains of turf we saw many 
ostriches (Sti'uthio rhea). Some of the flocks con- 
tained as many as twenty or thirty birds. These, 
when standing on any little eminence, and seen 
against the clear sky, presented a very noble ap- 
pearance. I never inet 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, ex- 
panding 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 Fu- 
entes, a rich landed proprietor, but not personally 
known to either of my companions. On approach- 
ing 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 ov^mer is, " Sin 
pecado concebida" — that is, conceived without sin. 
Having entered the house, some general conversa- 
tion 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 



A don'3 establishment. 55 

meals with the family, and a room is assigned him, 
where, with the horsecloths belonging to his recaclo 
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 Grood 
Hope the same hospitality, and very nearly the 
same points of etiquette, ai'e universally observed. 
The difference, however, between the character of 
the Spaniard and that of the Dutch boor is shown, 
by the foi-mer never asking his guest a single ques- 
tion 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 hap- 
pen 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 know- 
ing full well the fatal lazo, they led the horses a 
long and laborious chase. After witnessing the 
rude wealth displayed in the number of cattle, 
men, and horses, Don Juan's miserable house was 
quite curious. The floor consisted of hardened 
mud, and the windows were without glass ; the sit- 
ting-room boasted only of a few of the roughest 
chairs and stools, with a couple of tables. The 
supper, although several strangers were present, 
consisted of two huge piles, one of roast beef, the 
other of boiled, with some pieces of pumpkin: be- 
sides 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 com- 



56 MALDONADO. 

mon vegetables. The evening was spent in smo- 
king, 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 sur- 
cingle, which fastens together the complicated gear 
of the recado, or saddle used in the Pampas ; the 
other is terminated by a small ring of iron or brass, 
by which a noose can be formed. The Gaucho, 
when he is going to use the lazo, keeps a small 
coil in his bridle-hand, and in the other holds the 
running noose, which is made very large, general- 
ly 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 uni- 
ted 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 re- 
volving through the air. The balls no sooner strike 
any object, than, winding round it, they cross each 
other, and become firmly hitched. The size and 
weight of the balls vary, according to the purpose 
for which they are made : when of stone, although 



THROWING THE BOLAS. 57 

not larger than an apple, they are sent with such 
force as sometimes to break the leg even of a horse. 
I have seen the balls made of wood, and as large 
as a turnip, for the sake of catching these animals 
without injuring them. The balls are sometimes 
made of iron, and these can be hurled to the great- 
est 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 leana 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 by the bolas. 
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, T reached the far- 
thest 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 gi-eat num- 
bers 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 nian 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, 



58 MALDONADO. 

made of the stem of an ostrich's feather, fastened 
to the end of a long stick. A boy on a quiet old 
horse v/ill frequently thus catch thirty or forty in a 
day. In Arctic Noith 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 lino 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 inonaing we 
ascended the Sien-a de las Animas. By the aid of 
the rising sun the scenery was almost picturesque. 
To the westward the view extended over an im- 
mense level plain as far as the Mount, at Monte 
Video, and to the eastward, over the mammillated 
country of" Maldonado. On the summit of the 
mountain there were several small heaps of stones, 
which evidently had lain there for many years. My 
companion assured me that they were the work of 
the Indians in the old time. The heaps were sim- 
ilar, but on a much smaller scale, to those so com- 
monly found on the mountains of Wales. The 
desire to signalize any event, on the highest point 
of' the neighbouring land, seeins a universal pas- 
sion with mankind. At the present day, not a sin- 
gle Indian, either civilized or wild, exists in this 
part of the province ; nor am I aware that the for- 
mer inhabitants have left behind them any more 
permanent records than these insignificant piles on 
the summit of the SieiTa de las Animas. 

The general, and almost entire absence of trees 
in Banda Oriental is remarkable. Some of the 
* Hearne's Journey, p. 383. 



CLIMATE AND VEGETATION. 50 

rocky hills are partly covered by tliickets, and on 
the banks of the larger streams, especially to the 
north of Las Minas, willow-trees are not uncom- 
mon. Near the Arroyo Tapes I heard of a v/ood 
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 aftbrd the main 
suj)ply 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 forco 
of the winds, or the kind of drainage. In the na- 
ture of the land, however, around Maldonado, no 
such reason is apparent ; the rocky mountains af- 
ford protected situations, enjoying various kinds of 
soil ♦ streamlets of water are common at the bot- 
toms of nearly every valley ; and the clayey nature 
of the earth seems adapted to retain moisture. It 
has been inferred with much probability, that the 
presence of woodland is generally determined* by 
the annual amount of moisture ; yet in this prov- 
ince abundant and heavy rain falls during the win- 
ter ; and the summer, though dry, is not so in any 
excessive degree.t We see nearly the whole of 
Australia covered by lofty trees, yet that country 
possesses a far more arid climate. Hence we must 
look to some other and unknown cause. 

Confining our view to South America, we should 
certainly be tempted to believe that trees flourished 
only under a very humid climate ; for the limit of 

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

+ Azara says, " Je crois que la quantite annuelle des pluies est, 
dans toutes ces contrees, plus considerable qu'en Espagne." — Vol. 
i., p. 30. 

H 



60 MALDONADO. 

the forest-land follows, in a most remarkable man- 
ner, that of tlie clamp 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 lati- 
tude, where a blue sky and a fine climate prove 
that the atmosphere has been deprived of its moist- 
ure by passing over the mountains, the arid plains 
of Patagonia support a most scanty vegetation. In 
the more northern parts of the continent, within the 
limits of the constant south-eastern trade- wind, the 
eastern side is ornamented by magnificent forests ; 
whilst the western coast, from lat. 4° S. to lat. 32° 
S., may be described as a desert : on this western 
coast, northward of lat. 4° S., where the trade-wind 
loses its regularity, and heavy toiTents of rain fall 
periodically, the shores of the Pacific, so utterly 
desert in Peru, assume near Cape Blanco the char- 
acter of luxuriance so celebrated at Guyaquil and 
Panama, Hence, in the southern and northern 
parts of the continent, the forest and desert lands 
occupy reversed positions with respect to the Cor- 
dillera, and these positions are apparently deter- 
mined by the direction of the prevalent winds. In 
the middle of the continent there is a broad inter- 
mediate band, including central Chile and the prov- 
inces 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 hu- 
mid by rain-bearing winds, has a strongly marked 
exception in the case of the Falkland Islands. 
These islands, situated in the same latitude with 



NATURAL HISTORY. 61 

TieiTa del Fuego, and only between two and three 
hundred miles distant from it, having a nearly 
similar climate, with a geological fonnation almost 
identical, with favourable situations and the same 
kind of peaty soil, yet can boast of few plants de- 
serving even the title of bushes ; whilst in TieiTa 
del Fuego it is impossible to find an acre of land 
not covered by the densest forest. In this case, 
both the direction of the heavy gales of wind and 
of the currents of the sea are favourable to the 
transport of seeds from Tierra del Fuego, as is 
shown by the canoes and trunks of trees drifted 
from that country, and frequently thrown on the 
shores of the Western Falkland. Hence perhaps 
it is that there are many plants in common to the 
two countries : but with respect to the ti'ees of 
TieiTa del Fuego, even attempts made to trans- 
plant them have failed. 

During our stay at Maldonado I collected sev- 
eral 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 Northera 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, 
fi"om one spot, three out of the same herd. Al- 
though so tame and inquisitive, yet when ap- 
proached on horseback they are exceedingly wary. 
In this country nobody goes on foot, and the deer 
knows man as its enemy only when he is mounted 
and armed with the bolas. At Bahia Blanca, a 
recent establishment in Northern Patagonia, I was 
surprised to find how little the deer cared for the 
F 



62 MALDONADO. 

noise of a gun : one day I fired ten times from 
within eighty yards at one animal; and it was much 
more startled at the ball cutting up the gi'ound than 
at the report of the rifle. My powder being ex- 
hausted, 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 an- 
imal 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 caiTied it home : this handkerchief, after being 
well washed, I continually used, and it was of 
course as repeatedly washed; yet every time, for 
a space of one year and seven months, when first 
unfolded, I distinctly perceived the odom*. This 
appears an astonishing instance of the permanence 
of some matter, which nevertheless in its nature 
must be most subtile and volatile. Frequently, 
when passing at the distance of half a mile to lee- 
ward of a herd, I have perceived the whole air 
tainted with the effluvium. I believe the smell 
from the buck is most powerful at the period when 
its horns are perfect, or free from the hairy skin. 
When in this state, the meat is, of course, quite 
uneatable ; but the Gauchos assert, that if buried 
for some time in fresh eaith, 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 

* In South America I collected altogether twenty-seven species 



THE CAPYBARA OR WATER-IIOG. G3 

world, the Hydrochcerus capybara (the water-hog), 
is here also common. One which I shot at Monte 
Video weighed ninety-eight pounds : its length, 
from the end of the snout to the stump-like tail, 
was three feet two inches, and its girth three feet 
eight. These great llodents occasionally frequent 
the islands in the mouth of the Plata, where the 
water is quite salt, but are far more abundant on 
the borders of fresh-water lakes and rivers. Near 
Maldonado three or four generally live together. 
In the daytime they either lie among the aquatic 
plants, or openly feed on the turf plain.* When 
viewed at a distance, from their manner of walk- 
ing and colour they resemble pigs ; but when 
seated on their haunches, and attentively watching 
any object with one eye, they reassume the ap- 
pearance of their congeners, cavies and rabbits. 
Both the fi-ont and side view of their head has 
quite a ludicrous aspect, from the great depth of 
their jaw. These animals, at Blaldonado, were 
very tame ; by cautiously walking, I approached 
within three yards of four old ones. This tame- 
ness may probably be accounted for by the Jaguar 
having been banished for some years, and by the 
Gauche not thinking it worth his while to hunt 
them. As I approached nearer and nearer, they 

of mice ; and thirteen more are known from the works of Azara 
and other authors. Those collected by myself have been named 
and described by Mr. Waterhouse at the meetings of the Zoolo- 
gical Society. I must be allowed to take this opportunity of re- 
turning my cordial thanks to Mr. Waterhouse, and to the other 
gentlemen attached to that Society, for their kind and most liberal 
assistance on all occasions. 

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



64 RIALDONADO. 

frequently made their peculiar noise, which is a 
low abrujDt gi'unt, not having much actual sound, 
but rather arising from the sudden expulsion of 
air : the only noise I know at all like it, is the first 
hoarse bark of a large dog. Having watched the 
four from almost within arm's length (and they 
me) for several minutes, tliey rushed into the 
water at full gallop with the gi-eatest 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 cu- 
rious 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 countiy, 
but is difhcult 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 gi'egarious : the man who procured 
the specimens for me had caught six together, and 
he said this was a common occuiTence. 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 



THE TUCUTUCO. 65 

person, the first time he hears it, is much sur- 
prised ; for it is not easy to tell whence it comes, 
nor is it possible to guess what kind of creature 
utters it. The noise consists in a short, but not 
rough, nasal grunt, which is monotonously repeated 
about four times in quick succession :* the name ', 
Tucutuco is given in imitation of the sound. ' 
Where this animal is abundant, it may be heard at 
all times of the day, and sometimes directly be- 
neath one's feet. When kept in a room, the tucu- 
tucos move both slowly and clumsily, which ap- 
pears 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 angiy or frightened they uttered the tucu- 
tuco. Of those I kept alive, several, even the first 
day, became quite tame, not attempting to bite or 
to run away ; others were a little wilder. 

The man who caught them asserted that very 
many are invariably found blind. A specimen which 
I preserved in spirits v/as 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 ap- 

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

Vol. I~5 F 2 



66 MALDONADO. 

pears sti'ange tliat 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 gradually- 
acquired blindness of the Aspalax, a Gnawer living 
under ground, and of the Proteus, a reptile living 
in dark caverns filled with water ; in both of which 
animals the eye is in an almost rudimentary state, 
and is covered by a tendinous membrane and skin. 
In the common mole the eye is extraordinarily 
small but perfect, though luany anatomists doubt 
whether it is connected with the true ojjtic nerve ; 
its vision must certainly be imperfect, though prob- 
ably useful to the animal when it leaves its bur- 
row. In the tucutuco, wliirh I believe never comes 
to the surface of the gi-ound, the eye is rather larger, 
but often rendered blind and useless, though with- 
out apjDarently causing any inconvenience to the 
aniinal : no doubt Lamarck would have said that 
the tucutuco is now passing into the state of the 
Aspalax and Proteus. 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on 
the undulating grassy plains around Maldonado. 
There are several species of a family allied in 
structure and manners to our Starling : one of 
these (Molothrus niger) is remarkable from its 
habits. Several may often be seen standing to- 
gether on the back of a cow or horse ; and while 
perched on a hedge, pluming themselves in the 
sun, they sometimes attempt to sing, or rather to 
hiss ; the noise being very peculiar, 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 cuc- 
koo, deposits its eggs in other birds' nests. I was 
* Philosoph. Zoolog., torn, i., p. 242, 



HABITS OF THE CUCKOO. G7 

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 per- 
son, found a nest of the sparrow of this country 
(Zonotrichia matutina), with one egg in it larger 
than the others, and of a different colour and shape. 
In North America there is another species of Mo- 
lothrus (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 
ti-ifling peculiarities as standing on the backs of 
cattle ; it differs only in being a little smaller, and 
in its plumage and eggs being of a slightly different 
shade of colour. This close agi'eement in struc- 
ture and habits, in representative species coming 
from opposite quarters of a gi-eat continent, always 
strikes one as interesting, though of common oc- 
currence. 

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 ; name- 
ly, such as " fasten themselves, as it were, on an- 
other 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 Mo- 
lothrus, should agree in this one strange habit of 
their parasitical propagation, whilst opposed to 
each other in almost every other habit : the molo- 
thrus, like our starling, is eminently sociable, and 
lives on the open plains without art or disguise : the 
cuckoo, as every one knows, is a singularly shy 
bird ; it frequents the most retired thickets, and 
feeds on fruit and catei-pillars. In sti'ucture also 
* Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i., p. 217. 



G8 MALDONADO. 

these two genera are witlely removed from each 
other. Many theories, even phrenological theo- 
ries, have been advanced to exjilain the origin of 
the cuckoo laying its eggs in other birds' nests. 
M. Prevost alone, I think, has thrown light by his 
observations* on this puzzle : he finds that the fe- 
male cuckoo, which, according to most observers, 
lays at least fi-om 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 tiine in this country than any other mi- 
gratory bird, she certainly would not have time 
enough for the successive hatchings. Hence we 
can perceive in the fact of the cuckoo pairing sev- 
eral 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-pa- 
rents. I am strongly inclined to believe that this 
view is con-ect, from having been independently 
led (as we shall hereafter see) to an analogous con- 
clusion 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 sev- 
eral eggs in the nests of several other feinales, and 
the male ostrich undertaking all the cares of incu- 
bation, 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 

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



FLY-CATCHERS MOCKING-BIRDS. G9 

is typical of the great American tribe of tyrant-fly- 
catchers. In its structure it closely approaches the 
true shrikes, but in its habits may be compared to 
many birds. I have freqiiently observed it, hunt- 
ing 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 Rapa- 
cious order : its stoop, how^ever, is very inferior in 
force and rapidity to that of a hawk. At other 
times the Saurophagiis 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 un- 
frequently kept either in cages or in courtyards, 
with their wings cut. They soon become tame, 
and are very amusing from their cunning odd man- 
ners, which were desci'ibed to me as being similar 
to those of the common magpie. Their flight is 
undulatory, for the weight of the head and bill ap- 
pear too great for the body. In the evening the 
Saurophagus takes its stand on a bush, often by the 
roadside, and continually repeats without change 
a shrill and rather agreeable cry, which somewhat 
resembles articulate words : the Spaniards say it 
is like the words " Bien te veo" (I see you well), 
and accordingly have given it this name. 

A mocking-bird (jNIimus orpheus), called by the 
inhabitants Calandria, is remarkable, from possess- 
ing 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 



70 MALDONADO. 

its ci-y is harsh and far from harmonious. Near 
Maklonado these birds were tame and bold; they 
constantly attended the country houses in num- 
bers, to pick the meat which was hung ujd 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 close- 
ly allied species, O. Patagonica of d'Orbigny, which 
frequents the valleys clothed with spiny bushes, is 
a wilder bird, and has a slightly different tone of 
voice. It appears to me a curious circumstance, 
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 with- 
out 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 accustom- 
ed only to the birds of Northern Europe. In this 
list may be included four species of the Caracara 
or Polyboi'us, the Turkey buzzard, the Gallinazo, 
and the Condor. The Caracaras are, from their 
structure, placed among the eagles : we shall soon 
see how ill they become so high a rank. In their 
habits they well supply the place of our carrion- 
crows, magpies, and ravens ; a tribe of birds wide- 
ly distributed over the rest of the world, but entire- 
ly absent in South America. To begin with the 
Polyborus Brasiliensis : this is a common bird, and 
has a wide geogi'aphical range ; it is most numerous 
on the grassy savamiahs of La Plata (where it goes 



CARRION HAWKS. 71 

by the name of Can'ancha), and is far from unfre- 
quent throughout the sterile plains of Patagonia. 
In the desert between the rivers Negro and Colo- 
rado, 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 Tien-a 
del Fuego. The CaiTanchas, together with the 
Chimango, constantly attend in numbers the estan- 
cias and slaughtering-houses. If an animal dies 
on the plain, the Gallinazo commences the feast, 
and then the two sjiecies of Polyborus pick the 
bones clean. These birds, although thus common- 
ly 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 Car- 
ranchas frequently assemble in numbers, they are 
not gregarious ; for in desert places they may be 
seen solitaiy, or more commonly by pairs. 

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



72 MALDONADO. 

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 coun- 
tries, which will be recognised by every one who 
has wandered over them. If a party of men go 
out hunting with dogs and horses, they will be ac- 
companied, during the day, by several of these at- 
tendants. After feeding, the uncovered craw pro- 
trudes ; 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 Eng- 
lish rook. It seldom soars ; but I have twice seen 
one at a gi'eat height gliding through the air with 
much ease. It rans (in contradistinction to hop- 
ping), but not quite so quickly as some of its con- 
geners. 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 ; when uttering this cry it elevates its head high- 
er 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 au- 
thority 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 



CARRION HAWKS. 73 

in cliase of large birds, even such as herons. All 
these facts show that it is a bird of very versatile 
habits and considerable ingenuity. 

The Polyborus Chimango is considerably small- 
er 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 Chiloc, 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 oft- 
en be seen within the ribs of a cow or horse, like 
a bird, in a cage. Another species is the Polybo- 
rus Novaj Zelandia3, which is exceedingly common 
in the Falkland Islands. These birds in many re- 
spects resemble in their habits the CaiTanchas. 
They live on the flesh of dead animals and. on ma- 
rine productions ; and on the Ramirez rocks their 
whole sustenance must depend on the sea. They 
are extraordinarily tame and. fearless, and haunt 
the neighbourhood, of houses for offal. If a hunt- 
ing party kills an animal, a number soon collect and 
patiently await, standing on the gi'ound on all sides. 
After eating, their uncovered, craws are largely 
protruded, giving them a disgusting appearance. 
They readily attack wounded birds : a connorant 
in this state having taken to the shore, was imme- 
diately seized on by several, and its death hasten- 
ed by their blows. The Beagle was at the Falk- 
lands only during the summer, but the officers of 
the Adventure, who were there in the winter, men- 
tion 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 togeth- 
er (in this respect resembling the Carranchas) wait 
G 



74 ftlALDONADO. 

at the mouth of a rabbit-hole, and together seize 
on the animal when it comes out. They were con- 
stantly flying on board the vessel when in the har- 
bour ; and it was necessary to keep a good look-out 
to prevent the leather being torn from the rigging, 
and the meat or game from the stem. These birds 
are very mischievous and inquisitive ; they will 
pick up almost anything from the gi'ound ; 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 sui'vey a more 
severe loss, in their stealing a small Kater's com- 
pass in a red morocco leather case, which was 
never recovered. These birds are, moreover, quar- 
relsome and very jaassionate ; tearing up the grass 
with their bills from rage. They are not truly gre- 
garious ; 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, utter- 
ing several harsh cries, one of which is like that 
of the English rook; hence the sealers always call 
them rooks. It is a curious circumstance that, 
when crying out, they throw their heads upwards 
and backwards, after the same manner as the Car- 
rancha. They build in the rocky cliffs of the sea- 
coast, but only on the small adjoining islets, and 
not on the two main islands : this is a singular pre- 
caution in so tame and fearless a bird. The seal- 
ers 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-buz- 
zard (Vultur aura) and the Gallinazo. The for- 
mer is found wherever the country is moderately 
damp, from Cape Horn to North America. Differ- 
ently from the Polyborus Brasiliensis and Chiman- 
go, it has found its way to the Falkland Islands, 



TURKEY-BUZZARD AND GALLINAZO. 75 

The turkey-buzzard Is a solitary bird, or at most 
goes in pairs. It may at once be recognised from 
a long distance by its lofty, soaring, and most ele- 
gant 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 (Cathaites 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 ad- 
ditional migration has happened since the time of 
Azara. The Gi-allinazo generally prefers a humid 
climate, or rather the neighbourhood of fresh wa- 
ter ; hence it is extremely abundant in Brazil and 
La Plata, while it is never found on the desert and 
arid plains of Northern Patagonia, excepting near 
some stream. These birds frequent the whole 
Pampas to the foot of the Cordillera, but I never 
saw or heard of one in Chile : in Peru they are 
preserved as scavengers. These vultures certain- 
ly may be called gregarious, for they seem to have 
pleasure in society, and are not solely brought to- 
gether by the attraction of a common prey. On a 
fine day a flock may often be obsei'\'ed at a great 
height, each bird wheeling rovmd and round with- 
out closing its wings, in the most gi'aceful evolu- 
tions. This is clearly performed for the mere pleas- 
ure of the exercise, or perhaps is connected with 
\heir matrimonial alliances. 



76 MALDONABO. 

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

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

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



TUBES FORMED BY LIGHTNING, 77 

of minute entangled air or perhaps steam bubbles, 
like an assay fused before the blowpipe. The sand 
is entirely, or in gi-eater part, siliceous ; but some 
points are of a black colour, and from their glossy 
surface possess a metallic lustre. The thickness 
of the wall of the tube varies from a thirtieth to a 
twentieth of an inch, and occasionally even equals 
a tenth. On the outside the grains of sand are 
rounded, and have a slightly glazed appearance : I 
could not distinguish any signs of crystallization. 
In a similar manner to that described in the Geo- 
logical Transactions, the tubes are generally com- 
pressed, and have deep longitudinal fuiTows, 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 foui inches. The com2:)ression 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 fi-om the uncompressed fragments, the 
measure or bore of the lightning (if such a teiTn 
may be used) must have been about one inch and 
a quarter. At Paris, M. Hachette and M. Beu- 
dant* 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 fusibili- 
ty, 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 di- 
ameter of -OlO 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 
♦ Annales de Chimie et de Physique, torn, xxxvii., p. 319. 
G2 



78 MALDONADO. 

glass was to form tubes so diminutive, we must 
feel greatly astonished at the force of a shock of 
lightning, which, striking the sand in several places, 
has formed cylinders, in one instance of at least 
thirty feet long, and having an internal bore, where 
not compressed, of full an inch and a half; and 
this in a material so extraordinarily refractory as 
quartz ! 

The tubes, as I have already remarked, enter 
the sand nearly in a vertical direction. One, how- 
ever, which was less regular than the others, devi- 
ated from a right line, at the most considerable 
bend, to the amount of thirty-three degrees. From 
this same tube, two small branches, about a foot 
apart, were sent off; one pointed downwards, and 
the other upwards. This latter case is remarka- 
ble, 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 vei*- 
tical, and traced beneath the surface, there were 
several other groups of fragments, the original sites 
of which without doubt were near. All occurred 
in a level area of shifting sand, sixty yards by 
twenty, situated among some high sand-hillocks, 
and at the distance of about half a mile from a 
chain of hills four or five hundred feet in height. 
The most remarkable circumstance, as it appears 
to me, in this case as 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 occur- 
red in Germany. In the case which I have de- 
scribed, 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 



ELECTRIC PHENOMENA. 79 

lightning, shortly before entering the gi'ound, di- 
vides itself into separate branches. 

The neighbourhood of the Rio Plata seems pe- 
culiarly subject to electric phenomena. In the 
year 1793,* one of the most destructive thunder- 
storms perhaps on record happened at Buenos 
Ayres : thirty-seven jilaces within the city were 
struck by lightning, and nineteen people killed. 
From facts stated in several books of travels, I am 
inclined to suspect that thunder-stonns 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 equilibri- 
um ? 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 aftei^wai'ds: 
the house belonged to Mr. Hood, the consul-gen- 
eral 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 I'un, was black- 
ened. 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 gunjiowder, and the 
fragments had been blown off with force sufficient 
to dent the wall on the opposite side of the room. 
The frame of a looking-glass was blackened, and 
the gilding must have been volatilized, for a smell- 
ing-bottle, which stood on the chimney-piece, was 
coated with bright metallic particles, which ad- 
hex'ed as firmly as if they had been enamelled. 

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



80 ARRIVE AT RIO NEGRO. 



CHAPTER IV. 

Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by the Indians — Salt Lakes — 
Flamingoes — R. Negro to R. Colorado — Sacred Tree — Patago- 
nian Hare — Indian Families — General Rosas — Proceed to Ba- 
hiaBlanca — Sand Dunes — Negro Lieutenant — Bahia Blanca — 
Saline Incrustations — Punta Alta — Zorillo. 

RIO NEGRO TO BAHIA BLANCA. 

July 2it7i, 1833. — The Beagle sailed from Mal- 
donado, and on August tlie 3d slie amved 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 Span- 
ish government, a small colony was established 
here ; and it is still the most southern position (lat. 
41°) on this eastern coast of America, inhabited by 
civilized man. 

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



ESTANCIAS ATTACKED BY THE INDIANS. 81 

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 Negi'O flows. On. 
tlie way we passed the ruins of some fine " estan- 
cias," 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 de- 
scription of what took place. The inhabitants had 
sufficient notice to drive all the cattle and horses 
into the " coiTal"* which surrounded the house, 
and likewise to mount some small cannon. The 
Indians were Araucanians from the south of Chile; 
several hundreds in number, and highly disciplined. 
They first appeared in two bodies on a 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 great- 
est horror the quivering of these chuzos as they 
approached near. When close, the cacique Pin- 
cheira hailed the besieged to give up their arms, 
or he v/ould 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 sui-prise, they found the posts fastened to- 
gether 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 can-ied away 
by their companions ; and at last one of the under 

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



82 RIO NEGRO. -'■'-, 

caciques being wounded, the bugle sounded a re- 
treat. Tliey 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 man- 
aged the gim ; he stopped till the Indians approach- 
ed close, and then raked their line with gi-ape-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 on the river, and many of the houses are ex- 
cavated 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 tlie flat headlands, seen one behind the other 
on the northern boundary of the broad green val- 
ley, forms, by the aid of a bright sun, a view al- 
most picturesque. The number of inhabitants does 
not exceed a few hundreds. These Spanish col- 
onies do not, like our British ones, carry within 
themselves the elements of growth. Many Indians 
of pure blood reside here : the tribe of the Cacique 
Lucanee constantly have their Toldos* on the out- 
skirts of the town. The local government partly 
supplies them with provisions, by giving them all 
the old worn-out horses, and they earn a little by 
making horse-rugs and other articles of riding-gear. 
These Indians are considered civilized ; but what 
their character may have gained by a lesser degree 
of ferocity, is almost counterbalanced by their en- 
tire immorality. Some of the younger men are, 
* Tlie hovels of the Indians are thus called. 



SALT-LAKES OR SALINAS, 83 

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 dress- 
ed in very gay, clean clothes, and by being very 
idle. The taste they showed in their dress was 
admirable ; if you could have turned one of these 
young Indians into a statue of bronze, his drapery 
would have been perfectly graceful. 

One day I rode to a large salt-lake, or Salina, 
which is distant fifteen miles from the town. Du- 
ring the winter it consists of a shallow lake of brine, 
which in summer is converted into a field of snow- 
white salt. The laj'er near the margin is from 
four to five inches thick, but towards the centi'e 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 brill- 
iantly-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 hun- 
dred tons in weight, were lying ready for exporta- 
tion. The season for working the salinas forms 
the harvest of Patagones, for on it the prosperity 
of the place depends. Nearly the whole popula- 
tion encamps on the bank of the river, and the peo- 
ple are emjiloyed in drawing out the salt in bullock- 
wagons. This salt is crystallized in great cubes, 
and is remarkably pure : INIr, 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 
singidar fact that it does not sei-ve so well for pre- 
serving meat as sea-salt from the Cape de Verd 
islands ; and a merchant at Buenos Ayres told me 



84 RIO NEGRO. 

tliat he considered it as fifty per cent, less valuable. 
Hence the Cape de Verd salt is constantly import- 
ed, and is mixed with that from these salinas. The 
purity of the Patagonian salt, or absence from it of 
those other saline bodies found in all sea-water, is 
the only assignable cause for this inferiority : a 
conclusion which no one, I think, would have sus- 
pected, but which is supported by the fact lately 
asceitained,* that those salts answer best for pre- 
serving cheese which contain most of the deliques- 
cent chlorides. 

The border of the lake is formed of mud : and 
in this numerous large crystals of gypsum, some of 
which are three inches long, lie embedded ; whilst 
on the surface others of sulphate of soda lie scatter- 
ed 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 confervEe : I attempted to cany home some 
of this green matter, but from an accident failed. 
Parts of the lake seen from a short distance ap- 
peared 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 sur- 
prising 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 liine ! And 
what becomes of these worms when, during the 
long summer, the surface is hardened into a solid 

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



SALT-LAKES OR SALINAS. 85 

layer of salt ? Flamingoes in considerable num- 
bers inhabit this lake, and breed here ; throughout 
Patagonia, in Northern Chile, and at the Galapa- 
gos 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 prob- 
ably feed on infusoria or confervas. Thus we have 
a little living world within itself, adapted to these 
inland lakes of brine. A minute crustaceous ani- 
mal (Cancer salinus) is said* to live in countless 
numbers in the brine-pans at Lymington ; but only 
in those in which the fluid has attained, from evap- 
oration, considerable strength — namely, about a 
quarter of a pound of salt to a pint of water. Well 
may we affirm that eveiy part of the world is hab- 
itable ! Whether lakes of brine, or those subter- 
ranean ones hidden beneath volcanic mountains 
— warm mineral springs — the wide expanse and 
depths of the ocean — the upper regions of the at- 
mosphere, 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 

* Linnaean Trans., vol. xi., p. 205. It is remarkable how all 
the circumstances connected with the salt-lakes in Siberia and 
Patagonia are similar. Siberia, like Patagonia, appears to have 
been recently elevated above the waters of the sea. In both 
countries the salt-lakes occupy shallow depressions in the plains ; 
in both the mud on the borders is black and fetid ; beneath the 
crust of common salt, sulphate of soda or of magnesia occurs, 
imperfectly crystallized ; and in both, the muddy sand is mixed 
with lentils of gypsum. The Siberian salt-lakes are inhabited by 
small crustaceous animals ; and flamingoes (Edin. New Philos. 
Jour., Jan., 1830) likewise frequent them. As these circumstan- 
ces, apparently so trifling, occur in two distant continents, we may- 
feel sure that thev are the necessary results of common causes, — 
See Fallas's Travels, 1793 to 1794, p. 129-134. 

H 



86 RIO NEGRO TO RIO COLORADO. 

established at Baliia Blanca. The distance in a 
straight line to Buenos Ayres is very nearly five 
hundred British miles. The wandering tribes of 
horse Indians, w^hich 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 pur- 
pose of exterminating them. The troops were now 
encamj)ed on the banks of the Colorado, a river 
lying about eighty miles northward of the Rio Ne- 
gro. When General Rosas left Buenos Ayres he 
struck in a direct line across the unexplored plains : 
and as the counti'y 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 jiosta), 
so as to be enabled to keep uj) a comniunication 
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 Will. — Mr. Harris, an Englishman resi- 
ding at Patagones, a guide, and five Gauchos, who 
were proceeding to the army on business, were my 
companions on the journey. The Colorado, as I 
have already said, is nearly eighty miles distant ; 
and as we travelled slowly, we were two days and 
a half on the road. The whole line of country de- 
serves scarcely a better name than that of a desert. 
Water is found only in two small wells : it is called 
fi'esh; but even at this time of the year, during the 
rainy season, it was quite brackish. In the sum- 
mer this must be a distressing passage, for now it 
was sufficiently desolate. The valley of the Rio 
Negro, broad as it is, has merely been excavated 
out of the sandstone plain ; for immediately above 
the bank on which the town stands, a level country 



SACRED TREE. 87 

commences, which is interrupted only by a few 
trifling valleys and dejjrcssions. Everywhere the 
landscape wears the same sterile aspect ; a dry 
gravelly soil supports tufts of brown withered grass, 
iand low scattered bushes, armed with thorns. 

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in 
sight of a famous ti'ec, which the Indians reverence 
as the altar of Walleechu. It is situated on a high 
part of the plain, and hence is a landmark visible 
at a great distance. As soon as a tribe of Indians 
come in sight of it, they offer their adorations by 
loud shouts. The ti-ee itself is low, much branched, 
and thorny : just above the root it has a diameter 
of about three feet. It stands by itself without any 
neighbour, and was indeed the first tree we saw ; 
afterwards we met with a few others of the same 
kind, but they were far from common. Being win- 
ter, the tree had no leaves, but in their place num- 
berless threads, by which the various offerings, such 
as cigars, bread, meat, pieces of cloth, &c. had 
been suspended. Poor Indians, not having any- 
thing better, only pull a thread out of their ponchos, 
and fasten it to the tree. Richer Indians are ac- 
customed to pour spirits and inate into a certain 
hole, and likewise to smoke upwai'ds, thinking thus 
to afford all possible gi-atifieation to Walleechu. 
To complete the scene, the tree was suiTounded 
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 CTaucho 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 



88 RIO NEGRO TO RIO COLORADO. 

tree as the god itself; but it seems far more prob- 
able 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 dis- 
tance ; and a Gaucho told me that he was once 
riding with an Indian a few miles to the north of 
the Rio Colorado, when the Indian commenced 
making the same loud noise, which is usual at the 
first sight of the distant tree ; putting his hand to 
his head, and then pointing in the direction of the 
Sien-a. Upon being asked the reason of this, the 
Indian said, in broken Spanish, " First see the Si- 
erra." About two leagues beyond this curious tree 
we halted for the night ; at this instant an unfor- 
tunate cow was sj^ied 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 mud- 
dy 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 Gau- 
cho life — to be able at any moinent to pull up your 
horse, and say, " Here we will pass the night," 
The death-like stillness of the plain, the dogs keep- 
ing watch, the gipsy group of Gauchos making 
their beds round the fire, have left in my mind a 
strongly-mai'ked 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, oi 
a Guanaco (wild Llama) may be seen ; but the 



THE AGOUTI. Oy 

Agouti (Cavia Patagomca) is the commonest quacl- 
rupetl. This animal here represents our hares. 
It differs, however, from that genus in many essen- 
tial 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 sec two or three hopping quickly 
one after the other in a straight lino across these 
wild plains. They are found as far north as the 
SieiTa 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 voy- 
age in 1670, talks of them as being numerous there. 
What cause can have altered, in a wide, uninhab- 
ited, and rarely- visited countiy, the range of an 
animal like this 1 It appears also fi-om the number 
shot by Captain Wood in one day at Port Desire, 
that they must have been considerably more abun- 
dant there formerly than at present. Where the 
Bizcacha lives and makes its buiTows, the Agouti 
uses them ; but where, as at Bahia Blanca, the 
Bizcacha is not found, the Agouti buiTows 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 buiTows ; for in Banda Oriental, owing 
to the absence of the Bizcacha, it is obliged to hol- 
low 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, resem- 



90 ' RIO COLORADO. 

bled 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 covei'ed 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 ; gener- 
ally 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 cross- 
ing 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 lu- 
dicrous spectacle I never beheld than the hundreds 
and hundreds of heads, all directed one way, with 
pointed ears and distended snorting nostrils, ap- 
pearing 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 expedi- 
tion. This gives them a great facility of movement; 
for the distance to which horses can be driven over 
these plains is quite sui-prising : I have been as- 
sured that an unloaded horse can travel a hundi'ed 
miles a day for many days successively. 

The encampment of General Rosas was close to 
the river. It consisted of a square formed by wag- 
ons, artillery, straw huts, &c. The soldiers were 
nearly all cavalry ; and I should think such a vil- 
lanous, banditti-like army was never before col- 
lected together. The gi-eater number of men were 
of a mixed breed, between Negi'o, Indian, and 
Spaniard. I know not the reason, but men of such 
origin seldom have a good expression of counte- 
nance. I called on the Secretary to show my pass- 
port. He began to cross-question me in the most 



PHYSICAL CHARACTER OF INDIANS. 91 

dignified and mysterious manner. By good luck, I 
had a letter of recommendation from the govern- 
ment of Buenos Ayres* to the commandant of Pat- 
agones. This was taken to General Rosas, who 
sent me a very obliging message ; and the Secre- 
tary returned all smiles and graciousness. We 
took up our residence in the rancho, or hovel, of a 
curious old Spaniard, who had served with Napo- 
leon in the expedition against Russia. 

We stayed two days at the Colorado; I had lit- 
tle to do, for the suiTOunding country was a swamp, 
which in summer (December), when the snow melts 
on the Cordillera, is overflowed by the river. My 
chief amusement was watching the Indian families 
as they came to buy little articles at the rancho 
where we stayed. It was supposed that General 
Rosas had about six hundred Indian allies. The 
men were a tall, fine race, yet it was afterward 
easy to see in the Fuegian savage the same coun- 
tenance 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 in- 
correct. Among the young women, or chinas, some 
deserve to be called even beautiful. Their hair 
was coarse, but bright and black ; and they wore 
it in two plaits hanging down to the waist. They 
had a high colour, and eyes that glistened with 
brilliancy ; their legs, feet, and arms were small 
and elegantly formed ; their ankles, and sometimes 
their waists, were ornamented by broad bracelets 
of blue beads. Nothing could be more interesting 
than some of the family groups. A mother with 

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



92 RIO COLORADO. 

one or two daughters would often come to our ran- 
cho, mounted on the same horse. They ride like 
men, but with their knees tucked up much higher. 
This habit perhaps arises from their being accus- 
tomed, 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 rovmd, in order to make the bolas. 
With this important weapon the Indian catches his 
game, and also his horse, which roams free over 
the plain. In fighting, his first attempt is to throw 
down the horse of his adversary with the bolas, 
and when entangled by the fall to kill him with the 
chuzo. If the balls only catch the neck or body 
of an animal, they are often carried away and lost. 
As the making the stones round is the labour of 
two days, the manufacture of the balls is a very 
common employment. Several of the men and 
women had their faces painted red, but I never 
saw the horizontal bands which are so common 
among the Fuegians. Their chief pride consists 
in having everything made of silver ; I have seen 
a cacique with his spurs, stiiTups, 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 el- 
egance. 

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 



GENERAL ROSAS. \)'3 

it seems probable he will use to its prosperity and 
advancement.* He is said to be the owner of sev^ 
enty-four square leagues of land, and to have about 
three hundred thousand head of cattle. His es- 
tates are admirably managed, and are far more pro- 
ductive of corn than those of others. He first gain- 
ed 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 drink- 
ing, many quarrels arose, which, from the general 
manner of fighting with the knife, often proved fa- 
tal. 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 extreme- 
ly sorry, but that he must go into the stocks, and 
that, till let out, he possessed no power even in his 
own house. After a little time the steward was 
persuaded to open the stocks and to let him out, 
but no sooner was this done, than he turned to the 
steward and said, "You now have broken the laws, 
so you must take my place in the stocks." Such 
actions as these delighted the Gauchos, who all 
possess high notions of their own equality and 
dignity. 

General Rosas is also a perfect horseman — an 
accomplishment of no small consequence in a coun- 
try where an assembled army elected its general 

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



94 RIO COLORADO. 

by the following trial : A ti'oop of unbroken horses 
being driven into a coiTal, 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 cor- 
ral, should be their general. The person who suc- 
ceeded was accordingly elected, and doubtless 
made a general lit for such an army. This extraor- 
dinary feat has also been performed by Rosas. 

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

In conversation he is enthusiastic, sensible, and 
very grave. His gi-avity 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 anec- 
dote : " 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 madman nor sound." The poor flighty 



LOCAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL PECULIARITIES. 95 

gentleman looketl quite dolorous at the very recol- 
lection of the staking. This is a very severe pun- 
ishment : four posts are driven into the ground, 
and the man is extended by his arms and legs hor- 
izontally, and there left to stretch for several hours. 
The idea is evidently taken from the usual method 
of drying hides. My interview passed away with- 
out a smile, and I obtained a passport and order 
for the government post-horses, and these 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 reg- 
ular encampment, we passed by the toldos of the 
Indians. These are round like ovens, and covered 
with hides ; by the inouth of each, a tapering chuzo 
was stuck in the gi'ound. The toldos were divided 
into separate gi'oups, which belonged to the differ- 
ent caciques' tribes, and the groups were again di- 
vided into smaller ones, according to the relation- 
ship of the owners. For several miles we travel- 
led along the valley of the Colorado. The alluvial 
plains on the side appeared fertile, and it is sup- 
posed that they are well adapted to the gi'ovnh 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 thomy bushes were less 
so. These latter in a short space entirely disap- 
peared, and the plains were left without a thicket 
to cover their nakedness. This change in the vege- 
tation marks the commencement of the grand cal- 
careo-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 hundi-ed 



96 RIO COLORADO. 

miles, the face of the country is everywhere com- 
posed, of shingle : the pebbles are chiefly of por- 
phyry, 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 coun- 
try an invaluable supply of fresh water. The great 
advantage arising from depressions and elevations 
of the soil is not often brought home to the mind. 
The two miserable springs in the long passage be- 
tween the Rio Negro and Colorado were caused. 
by trifling inequalities in the plain ; without them 
not a drop of water would have been found. The 
belt of sand-dunes is about eight miles wide ; at 
some former period it probably formed the margin 
of a grand estuary, where the C olorado 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 geogi'aphy 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 Af- 
rica : 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 



A SOUSE IN THE MIRE. 97 

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 at- 
tacked. This would, however, have been of little 
avail if the Indians had come ; but his chief com- 
fort seemed to rest in the thought of selling his life 
dearly. A short time before, a body of Indians had 
travelled past in the night ; if they had been aware 
of the posta, our black friend and his four soldiers 
would assuredly have been slaughtered. I did not 
any where meet a more civil and obliging man than 
this negro ; it was therefore the more painful to 
see that he would not sit down and eat with us. 

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 lai-ge marsh, which extends from 
Bahia Blanca. Here we changed horses, and pass- 
ed thi'ough 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 cliased, offers the best mode 
of escape. We were glad to arrive within the 
walls, when we found all the alarm was about noth- 
ing, for the Indians turned out to be friendly ones, 
who wished to join General Rosas. 

Bahia Blanca scarcely desei'ves the name of a 
village. A few houses and the barracks for the 
troops are enclosed by a deep ditch and fortified 
wall. The settlement is only of recent standing 
(since 182S), antl its growth has been one of trou- 

VOL.I— 7 I 



lHIA blanca. 



ble. The govenament 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 Ne- 
gro from the Indians. Hence the need of the 
fortifications ; hence the few houses and little cul- 
tivated land without the limits of the walls : even 
the cattle are not safe from the attacks of the In- 
dians beyond the boundaries of the plain on which 
the fortress stands. 

The part of the harbour where the Beagle in- 
tended to anchor being distant twenty-five miles, I 
obtained from the Commandant a guide and hor- 
ses, 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, sa- 
line marshes, or bare mud. Some parts were 
clothed by low thickets, and others by those suc- 
culent plants, which luxuriate only where salt 
abounds. Bad as the country was, osti'iches, deer, 
agoutis, and armadilloes were abundant. My guide 
told me, that two months before he had a most nar- 
row 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 
paity 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 re- 
ceived two severe wounds from their chuzos. 
Springing on the saddle, he managed, by a most 
wonderful exertion, just to keep ahead of the long 
spears of his pursuers, who followed him to within 
sight of the fort. From that time there was an 
order that no one should stray far from the settle- 



SUFFERINGS FROM WANT OF WATER. 99 

ment. I did not know of this when I started, and 
■was sui-jnised 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 an'ived, and con- 
sequently set out on our return, but the horses 
soon tiring, we were obliged to bivouac on the 
plain. In the morning we had caught an armadillo, 
which, although a most excellent dish when roasted 
in its shell, did not make a very substantial break- 
fast and dinner for two hungry men. The gi'ound, 
at the place where we stopjjed 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 gi'unt 
beneath my head during half the night. Our hoi-- 
ses were very poor ones, and in the morning they 
were soon exhausted from not having had anything 
to drink, so that we were obliged to walk. About 
noon the dogs killed a kid, which we roasted. I 
ate some of it, but it made me intolerably thirsty. 
This was the more distressing, as the road, from 
some recent rain, was full of little puddles of clear 
water, yet not a drop was drinkable. I had scarce- 
ly been twenty hours without water, and only part 
of the time under a hot sun, yet the thirst rendered 
me very weak. How people survive two or three 
days under such circumstances, I cannot imagine: 
at the same time, I must confess that my guide did 
not suffer at all, and was astonished that one day's 
deprivation should be so troublesome to me. 

I have several times alluded to the surface of the 
ground being incrusted with salt. This phenome- 
non is quite different from that of the salinas, and 
more extraordinary. In many parts of South 
America, wherever the climate is moderately dry, 



100 BAIIIA BLANCA. 

these incrustations occur ; but I have nowhere 
seen them so abundant as near Bahia Blanca. The 
salt here, and. in other parts of Patagonia, consists 
chiefly of sulphate of soda with some common salt. 
As long as the ground remains moist in these sali- 
trales (as the Spaniards improperly call them, mis- 
taking this substance for saltpetre), nothing is to be 
seen but an extensive plain composed of a black, 
muddy soil, su^^porting scattered tufts of succulent 
plants. On returning through one of these tracts, 
after a week's hot weather, one is sui'jii'ised 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 ajapearance 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 ei- 
ther on level tracts elevated only a few feet above 
the level of the sea, or on alluvial land bordering 
rivers. M. Parchappe* found that the saline in- 
crustation on the plain, at the distance of some 
miles from the sea, consisted chiefly of sulphate of 
soda, with only seven per cent, of common salt ; 
whilst nearer to the coast, the common salt increas- 
ed to 37 parts in a hundred. This circumstance 
would tempt one to believe that the sulphate of soda 
is generated in the soil, from the muriate, left on 
the surface during the slow and recent elevation of 
this dry country. The whole phenomenon is well 
worthy the attention of naturalists. Have the suc- 
culent, salt-loving plants, which are well known to 
contain much soda, the power of decomposing the 
muriate 1 Does the black fetid mud, abounding 

* Voyage dans TAni^rique Merid., par M. A. d'Orbigny. Part. 
Hist., torn, i., p, 664. 



AN ADVENTURE. 101 

witli organic matter, yield the sulphur and ultimate- 
ly the sulphuric acid ? 

Two days afterwards I again rode to the har- 
bour : when not far from our destination, my com- 
panion, the same man as before, spied tlu'ee people 
hunting on horseback. He immediately dismount- 
ed, and watching them intently, said, " They don't 
ride like Christians, and nobody can leave the 
fort." The three hunters joined company, and like- 
wise 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 V — 
" Q,uien 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 V His 
head and eye never for a minute ceased scanning 
slowly the distant horizon. I thought his uncom- 
mon 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." Wlien any little inequality concealed us, we 
galloped; but when in sight, continued walking. 
At last we reached a valley, and turning to the 
left, galloped quickly to the foot of a hill ; he gave 
me his horse to hold, made the dogs lie down, and 
then crawled on his hands and knees to reconnoi- 
tre. He remained in this position for some time, 



102 BAIIIA BLANCA. 

and at last, bursting out in laughter, exclaimed, 
" Mugeres !" (women !) He knew them to be the 
wife and sister-in-law of the major's son, hunting 
for ostrich's eggs. I have described this man's 
conduct, because he acted under the full impres- 
sion 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 In- 
dians ; 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 
immerous great mud-banks, which the inhabitants 
call Cangrejales, or crabberies, from the number of 
small crabs. The mud is so soft that it is impossi- 
ble to walk over them, even for the shortest dis- 
tance. Many of the banks have their surfaces 
covered with long rushes, the tops of which alone 
ai-e visible at high water. On one occasion, when 
in a boat, we were so entangled by these shal- 
lows 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 inud-banks like water. 

We passed the night in Punta Alta, and I em- 
|;,loyed myself in searching for fossil bones ; this 
point being a perfect catacomb for monsters of ex- 
tinct races. The evening was perfectly calm and 
clear; the extreme monotony of the view gave it 
an interest even in the midst of mud-banks and 
gulls, sand-hillocks and solitary vultures. In riding 



BAHIA BLANCA. 103 

back in the morning we came aci'oss 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 pole- 
cat, but it is rather larger, and much thicker in pro- 
portion. Conscious of its power, it roams by day 
about the open plain, and fears neither dog nor 
man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its courage 
is instantly checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, 
which brings on violent sickness and running at 
the nose. Whatever is once polluted by it is for- 
ever useless. Azara says the smell can be per- 
ceived at a league distant ; more than once, when 
entering the harbour of Monte Video, the wind be- 
ing offshore, we have perceived the odour on board 
the Beagle. Certain it is, that every animal most 
willingly makes room for the Zorillo. 



CHAPTER V. 

Bahia Blanca — Geology — Numerous gigantic extinct Quadru- 
peds — Recent Extinction — Longevity of Species — Large Ani- 
mals do not require a luxuriant vegetation — Southern Africa — 
Siberian Fossils — Two Species of Ostrich — Habits of Oven- 
bird— Armadilloes — Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard — Hyber- 
nation of Animals — Habits of Sea-Pen — Indian Wars and 
Massacres — Arrow-head, antiquarian Relic. 

BAHIA BLANCA. 

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



104 13A1IIA BLANCA. 

The plain, at the clistance 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 uj^per plain, and from mud, gi'avel, 
and sand thrown up by the sea during the slow el- 
evation of the land, of which elevation we have 
evidence in upraised beds of recent shells, and in 
rounded pebbles of pumice scattered over the coun- 
tiy. At Punta Aha we have a section of one of 
these later-formed little plains, which is highly in- 
teresting fi-om the number and extraordinary char- 
acter of the remains of gigantic land-animals em- 
bedded in it. These have been fully described by 
Professor Owen, in the Zoology of the voyage of 
the Beagle, and are deposited in the College of 
Surgeons. I will here give only a brief outline of 
their nature. 

First, parts of three heads and other bones of 
the Megatherium, the huge dimensions of which 
are expressed by its name. Secondly, the Mega- 
lonyx, a great allied animal. Thirdly, the Sceli- 
dotherium, also an allied animal, of which I obtain- 
ed a nearly perfect skeleton. It must have been 
as large as a rhinoceros : in the structure of its 
head it comes, according to Mr. Owen, nearest to 
the Cape Ant-eater, but in some other respects it 
approaches to the armadilloes. Fourthly, the My- 
lodon Dai'winii, a closely related genus of little in- 
ferior size. Fifthly, another gigantic edental quad- 
ruped. Sixthly, a large animal, with an osseous 
coat in compartments, very like that of an aiTnadil- 
lo. Seventhly, an extinct kind of hoi-se, 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 



EXTINCT aUADRUrEDri. 105 

like a camel, wliicli I shall also refer to again. Last- 
ly, the Toxodon, perhaps one of the strangest an- 
imals ever discovered : in size it equalled an ele- 
phant 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 Pa- 
chydermata: judging from the position of its eyes, 
ears, and. nostrils, it was probably aquatic, like the 
Dugong and Manatee, to which it is also allied. 
How wonderfully are the ditierent 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 in- 
habitants 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 lai-ge size. Among them were the 
teeth of a gnawer, equalling in size and closely re- 
sembling those of the Capybara, whose habits have 
been described ; and therefore, probably, an aquat- 
ic animal. There was also part of the head of a 
Ctenomys ; the species being difterent from the 
Tucutuco, but with a close general resemblance. 
The red earth, like that of the Pampas, in which 
these remains were embedded, contains, according 
to Professor Ehrenbei'g, eight fresh- water and one 
salt-water infusorial animalcule ; therefore, proba- 
bly, it was an estuary deposit. 

The remains at Punta Alta were embedded in 
Btratified gravel and reddish mud, just such as the 



106 BAIIIA BLANCA. 

sea might now wasli up on a shallow bank. They 
were associated with twenty-three species of shells, 
of which thiiteen are recent and four others very 
closely related to recent forms ; whether the re- 
maining ones are extinct or simply unknown, must 
be doubtful, as few collections of shells have been 
made on this coast. As, however, the recent spe- 
cies were embedded in nearly the same propor- 
tional numbers with those now living in the bay, I 
think there can be little doubt that this accumu- 
lation belongs to a very late tertiary period. From 
the bones of the Scelidotherium, including even the 
knee-cap, being intombed in their proper relative 
positions, and from the osseous armour of the great 
armadillo-like animal being so well preserved, to- 
gether with the bones of one of its legs, we may 
feel assured that these remains were fresh and uni- 
ted by their ligaments when deposited in the grav- 
el together with the shells. Hence we have good 
evidence that the above enumerated gigantic quad- 
rupeds, 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 con- 
firmed that remarkable law so often insisted on by 
Mr. Lyell, namely, that the "longevity of the spe- 
cies 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 IMegatherium, Megalonyx, 
Scelidotherium, and Mylodon, is truly wonderful. 
The habits of life of these animals were a complete 
puzzle to naturalists, until Professor Owenf lately 
solved the problem with remarkable ingenuity. 

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

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



EXTINCT QUADRUPEDS. 107 

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 gi-eat, strong- 
curved claws seem so little adapted for locomotion, 
that some eminent naturalists have actually be- 
lieved that, like the sloths, to which they are inti- 
mately related, they subsisted by climbing back 
downwards on trees, and feeding on the leaves. It 
was a bold, not to say preposterous, idea to con- 
ceive even antediluvian trees with branches strong 
enough to bear animals as large as elephants. Pro- 
fessor Owen, with far more probability, believes 
that, instead of climbing on the trees, they pulled 
the branches down to them, and tore up the small- 
er ones by the roots, and so fed on the leaves. 
The colossal breadth and weight of their hinder 
quarters, which can hardly be iinagined without 
having been seen, become, on this view, of obvious 
service, instead of being an incumbrance : their ap- 
parent 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 I'ooted, indeed, must that tree have been 
which could have resisted such force ! The My- 
lodon, moreover, was furnished with a long exten- 
sile 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 around, 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 



108 BAIIIA BLANCA. 

level of higli-water ; and lience the elevation of the 
land has been small (without there has been an in- 
tercalated period of subsidence, of which we have 
no evidence) since the great quadrupeds wandered 
over the surrounding plains ; and the external fea- 
tures of the country must then have been very 
nearly the same as now. What, it may natural- 
ly be asked, was the character of the vegetation at 
that period ; was the country as wretchedly sterile 
as it now is 1 As so many of the co-embedded 
shells are the same with those now living in the 
bay, I was at first inclined to think that the former 
vegetation was probably similar to the existing one ; 
but this would have been an eiToneous inference, 
for some of these same shells live on the luxuriant 
coast of Brazil ; and generally, the character of the 
inhabitants of the sea are useless as guides to judge 
of those on the land. Nevertheless, from the fol- 
lowing considerations, I do not believe that the 
simple fact of many gigantic quadnipeds having 
lived on the plains round Bahia Blanca is any sure 
guide that they formerly were clothed with a luxvi- 
riant vegetation : I have no doubt that the sterile 
countiy a little southward, near the Rio Negro, 
with its scattered thomy trees, would support many 
and large quadrupeds. 

That large animals require a luxuriant vegeta- 
tion, 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 jun- 
gles are associated together in every one's mind. 



FOOD OF LARGE aUADRUPEDS. 109 

If, however, we refer to any work of travels tliroiigli 
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 rendei'ed evident 
by the many engravings which have been publish- 
ed 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 ad- 
venturous party, has lately succeeded in passing 
the Tropic of Capricorn, informs me that, taking 
into consideration the whole of the southern j^art 
of Africa, there can be no doubt of its being a ster- 
ile country. On the southern and south-eastern 
coasts there are some fine forests, but with these ex- 
ceptions, the traveller may pass for days together 
through open plains, covered by a poor and scanty 
vegetation. It is difficult to convey any accurate 
idea of degrees of comparative fertility ; but it may 
be safely said that the amount of vegetation sup- 
ported 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-wagons can ti-avel in any direction, 
excepting near the coast, without more than occa- 
sionally half an hour's delay in cutting down bush- 
es, 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 

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

K 



110 BAHIA BLANCA. 

Dr. Smith, two others, the hippopotamus, the giraffe, 
the bos caffer, as large as a fall-gx-ovvn bull, and 
the elan but little less, two zebras, and the quac- 
cha, two gnus, and several antelopes even larger 
than these latter animals. It may be supposed that 
although the species are numerous, the individuals 
of each kind are few. By the kindness of Dr. 
Smith, I am enabled to show that the case is very 
different. He informs me, that in lat. 24^^, in one 
day's march with the bullock-wagons, he saw, 
without wandering to any gi'eat 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 en- 
cainpment on the previous night, his party actually 
killed at one spot eight hippopotamuses, and saw 
many more. In this same river there were like- 
wise crocodiles. Of course it was a case quite ex- 
traordinary to see so many great animals crowd- 
ed together, but it evidently proves that they must 
exist in great nuinbers. 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 
wagons were not prevented travelling in a nearly 
straight line. 

Besides these largo 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 hy- 
aena, and the multitude of birds of prey, plainly 
speak of the abundance of the smaller quadrupeds : 



FOOD OF LARGE dUADRUPED.?, Ill 

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 ter- 
rific ! I confess it is truly surprising how such a 
number of animals can find support in a country 
producing so little food. The larger quadrupeds 
no doubt roam over wide tracks in search of it ; 
and their food chiefly consists of underwood, which 
probably contains much nutriment in a small bulk. 
Dr. Smith also informs me that the vegetation has 
a rapid growth; no sooner is a part consumed, 
than its place is supplied by a fresh stock. There 
can be no doubt, however, that our ideas respect- 
ing the apparent amount of food necessary for the 
support of large quadrupeds are much exaggerated: 
it should have been remembered that the camel, 
an animal of no mean bulk, has always been con- 
sidered as the emblem of the desert. 

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, 
the vegetation must necessarily be luxuriant, is the 
more remarkable, because the converse is far from 
true. Mr. Biu'chell observed to me that, when en- 
tering Brazil, nothing struck him more forcibly 
than the splendour of the South American vege- 
tation contrasted with that of South Africa, to- 
gether with the absence of all large quadrupeds. 
In his Travels,* he has suggested that the com- 
parison 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, 

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

t The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change was esti- 
mated (being partly weighed) at five tons and a half. The ele- 
phant actress, as 1 was informed, weighed one ton less ; so that 



112 BAIIIA BLANCA. 

elan, certainly three, and probably five species of 
rhinoceros ; and on the American side, two tapirs, 
the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari, capy- 
bara (after which we must choose from the mon- 
keys to comjilete the number), and then place these 
two gi-oujDS alongside each other, it is not easy to 
conceive ranks more disproportionate in size. 
After the above facts, we are compelled to con- 
clude, against anterior probability,* that among the 
maminalia their exists no close relation between 
the hulk of the species, and the quantity of the ve- 
getation, in the countries which they inhabit. 

With regard to the number of large quadrupeds, 
there certainly exists no quarter of the globe which 
will bear comparison with South Africa. After the 
different statements which have been given, the 
extremely desert character of that region will not 
be disputed. In the European division of the 
world, we must look back to the tertiary epochs 
to find a condition of things among the mammalia 
resembling that now existing at the Cape of Good 
Hope. Those tertiary epochs, which we are apt 

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 1200 to 1500 pounds). This will give an 
average (from the above estimates) of 2-7 of a ton for the ten 
largest herbivorous animals of Southern Africa. In South Amer- 
ica, allowing 1200 pounds for the two tapirs together, 550 for the 
guanaco and vicuna, 500 for three deer, 300 for the capybara, pec- 
cari, and a monkey, we shall have an average of 250 pounds, 
which I believe is overstating the result. The ratio will there- 
fore be as CO-IS to 250, or 24 to 1, for the ten largest animals from 
the two continents. 

* If we suppose the case of the discovery of a skeleton of a 
Greenland whale in a fossil state, not a single cetaceous animal 
being known to exist, what naturalist would have ventured con- 
jecture 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 ? 



TERTIARY REMAINS. 113 

to consider as abouRcling to an astonishing degi-ee 
with large animals, because we find the remains of 
many ages accumulated at certain spots, could 
hardly boast of more large quadrupeds than South- 
ern 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 degi'ees beyond the limit where 
the ground at the depth of a few feet remains per- 
petually 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 latitudet (64°) where the mean temperature 
of the air falls below the freezing point, and where 
the earth is so completely frozen that the car- 
cass of an animal embedded in it is perfectly pre- 
served. With these facts we must gi'ant, as far as 
quantity alone of vegetation is concerned, that the 
great quadrupeds of the later tertiary epochs might, 
in most parts of Northern Europe and Asia, have 
lived on the spots whex'e their remains are now 
found. I do not here speak of the liind of vegeta- 
tion necessary for their support ; because, as there 
is evidence of physical changes, and as the animals 

* See Zoological Remarks to Capt. Back's Expedition, by Dr. 
Richardson. He says, " The subsoil north of latitude 56° is per- 
petually 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 vegeta- 
tion, for forests flourish on the surface, at a distance from the 
coast." 

+ See Humboldt, Fragmens Asiatiques, p. 386 ; Barton's Geog- 
raphy of Plants; and Malte Brun. In the latter work it is said 
that the limit of the growth of trees in Siberia may be drawn 
under the parallel of TO^. 

VoL.I— S K 2 



114 BAIIIA BLANCA, 

have become extinct, so may we suppose that the 
species of plants have likewise been changed. 

These remarks, I may be permitted to add, di- 
rectly bear on the case of the Siberian animals 
preserved in ice. The firm conviction of the ne- 
cessity of a vegetation possessing a character of 
tropical luxuriance, to support such large animals, 
and the impossibility of reconciling this with the 
proximity of perpetual congelation, was one chief 
cause of the several theories of sudden revolutions 
of climate, and of overwhelming catastrophes, 
which were invented to account for their entomb- 
ment. I am far from supposing that the climate 
has not changed since the period when those ani- 
mals 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 rhinoceros- 
es might have roamed over the steppes of central 
Siberia (the northern parts probably being under 
water) even in their pi'esent 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 Noithern 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 diy, 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 



IIADITS OF THE OSTIUCM. 115 

horsemen appear in a semicircle, it becomes con- 
founded, 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 os- 
triches readily take to the water. Mr. King in- 
forms 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 fiightened : 
the distance crossed was about two hundred yards. 
When swimming, very little of their bodies appear 
above water ; their necks are extended a little for- 
ward, and then- progi-ess is slow. On two occa- 
sions I saw some ostriches swimming across the 
Santa Cruz river, where its course was about four 
hundred yards wide, and the stream rapid. Cap- 
tain Sturt,* when descending the Murrumbidgee, 
in Australia, saw two emus in the act of swimming. 
The inhabitants of the country readily distin- 
guish, 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 

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

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



116 BAHIA BLANCA. 

found all over the country. They lie either scat- 
tered and single, in which case they are never 
hatched, and are called by the Spaniards huachos; 
or they are collected together into a shallow exca- 
vation, 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 re- 
maining twenty, scattered huachos. The Gauchos 
unanimously affirm, and there is no reason to doubt 
their statement, that the male bird alone hatches 
the eggs, and for some time afterwards accompanies 
the young. The cock when on the nest lies very 
close ; I have myself almost ridden over one. It 
is asserted that at such times they are occasionally 
fierce, and even dangerous, and that they have been 
known to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick 
and leap on him. My informer pointed out to me 
an old man, whom he had seen much terrified by 
one chasing him. I observe in Burchell's travels 
in South Africa, that he remarks, " Having killed 
a male ostrich, and the feathers being dirty, it was 
said by the Hottentots to be a nest bird." I un- 
derstand that the male emu in the Zoological Gar- 
dens 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 otlier, 
to the same nest. I may add, also, that it is be- 
lieved in Africa, that two or more females lay in 
one nest.* Although this habit at first appears 
very strange, I think the cause may be explained 
in a simple manner. The number of eggs in the 
* Burchell's Travels, vol. i., p. 280. 



HABITS OF THE OSTRICH. 117 

nest varies from twenty to forty, and even to fifty ; 
and according to Azara, sometimes to seventy or 
eighty. Now although it is most probable, from 
the number of eggs found in one district being so 
extraordinarily great in proportion to the parent 
birds, and likewise from the state of the ovarium 
of the hen, that she may in the course of the season 
lay a large number, yet the time required must be 
very long. Azara states,* 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 gi'eater oil 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.t I 
have before mentioned the great numbers of huachos 
or deserted eggs, so that in one day's hunting twen- 
ty 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 togeth- 
er, and finding a male ready to undertake the oflfice 
of incubation 1 It is evident that there must at first 
be some degree of association between at least two 

* Azara, vol. iv., p. 173. 

t Lichtenstein, however, asserts (Travels, vol. ii., p. 25) that 
the hens begin sitting when they have laid ten or twelve eggs ; 
and ihat 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 ono cock, who sits only at night. 



118 BAHIA BLANCA. 

females, otherwise the eggs would remain scatter- 
ed 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 pu- 
trid, are generally whole. 

When at the Rio Negro in Northern Patagonia, 
I repeatedly heard the Gauchos talking of a very 
rare bird which they called Avestruz Petise. They 
described it as being less than the common osti'ich 
(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 dowm than those of the com- 
mon ostrich. It is more easily caught by the bolas 
than the other species. The few inhabitants who 
had seen both kinds, affirmed they could distinguish 
them apart from a long distance. The eggs of the 
small species appeared, however, more generally 
known ; and it was remarked, with surprise, that 
they were very little less than those of the Rhea, 
but of a slightly different form, and with a tinge of 
pale blue. This species occurs most rarely on the 
plains bordering the Rio Negro ; but about a de- 
gree and a half further south they are tolerably 
abundant. When at Port Desire, in Patagonia 
(lat. 48°), Mr. Martens shot an ostrich ; and I look- 
ed at it, forgetting at the inoment, in the most unac- 
countable manner, the whole subject of the Petises, 
and thought it was a not full-grown bird of the 
common sort. It was cooked and eaten before my 
memory returned. Fortunately the head, neck, 
legs, wings, many of the larger feathers, and a 
large part of the skin, had been preserved ; and 
from these a veiy nearly perfect specimen has 



THE AVESTRUZ PETIRE. 119 

been put together, and is now exhibited in the mu- 
seum of the Zoological Society. Mr. Gould, in 
describing this new species, has done me the hon- 
our of calling it after my name. 

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of 
Magellan, we found a half Indian, who had lived 
some years with the tribe, but had been born in 
the northern provinces. I asked him if he had ever 
heard of the Avestruz Petise ] He answered by 
saying, " Why there are none others in these south- 
ern countries." He informed me that the number 
of eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably less 
than in that of the other kind, namely, not more 
than fifteen on an average ; but he asserted that 
more than one female deposited them. At Santa 
Cruz we saw several of these birds. They were 
excessively wary : I think they could see a person 
appi-oaching 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 re- 
marked that this bird did not expand its wings, 
when first starting at full speed, after the manner 
of the northem 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 temtory. M. A. d'Or- 
bigny,* when at the Rio Negro, made great exer- 
tions to procure this bird, but never had the good 
fortune to succeed. Dobrizhoffer long ago was 

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



120 BAIIIA BI.ANCA. 

aware of their being two kinds of ostriches ; he 
says : " You must know, moi'eover, that Emus differ 
in size and habits in different tracts of land ; for 
those that inhabit the plains of Buenos Ayi'es 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 rumicivo- 
rus, is here common : in its habits and general ap- 
pearance it nearly equally partakes of the charac- 
ters, 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, whei'e scarcely 
another living creature can exist. Upon being ap- 
proached they squat close, and then are very dif- 
ficult to be distinguished from the ground. When 
feeding they walk rather slowly, with their legs 
wide apart. Tiiey 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 aflfinity 
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 inoment of rising, recall the idea 

* Account of the Abipones, A.D. 1749, vol. i. (English transla- 
tion), p. 314. 



THE OVEN-BIRD. 12l 

of a snipe. The sportsmen of the Beagle unani- 
mously called it the short-billed snipe. To this 
genus, or rather to the family of the Waders, its 
skeleton shows that it is really related. 

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other 
South American birds. Two species of the genus 
Attagis are in almost every respect ptannigans in 
their habits : one lives in Tierra del Fuego, above 
the limits of the forest land ; and the other just 
beneath the snow-line on the Cordillera of Central 
Chile. A bird of another closely allied genus, 
Chionis alba, is an inhabitant of the antarctic re- 
gions ; it feeds on sea- weed and shells on the tidal 
rocks. Although not web-footed, from some unac- 
countable habit it is frequently met with far out 
at sea. This small family of birds is one of those 
which, from its varied relations to other families, 
although at present oftering only difficulties to the 
systematic naturalist, ultimately may assist in re- 
vealing the grand scheme, common to the present 
and past ages, on which organized beings have 
been created. 

The genus Furnarius contains several species, 
all small birds, living on the gi'ound, and inhabiting 
open, dry countries. In sti-ucture 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 Span- 
iards. 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 



122 BAHIA BLANCA. 

is a partition, which reaches nearly to the roof, thus 
forming a passage or antechamber to the true nest. 

Another and smaller species of Furnarius (F. 
cunicularius) resembles the oven-bird in the gen- 
eral 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 nidi- 
fication is quite different. The Casarita builds its 
nest at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical hole, 
which is said to extend horizontally to nearly six 
feet under ground. Several of the country people 
told me, that when boys, they had attempted to dig 
out the nest, but had scarcely ever succeeded in 
getting to the end of the passage. The bird chooses 
any low bank of firm sandy soil by the side of a 
road or sti'eam. 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 mam- 
malia common in this country. Of armadilloes 
three species occur, namely, the Dasypus minutus 
ov picliy, the D. villosus or jyehido, and the aj^ar. 
The first extends ten degrees further south than 
any other kind : a fourth species, the Mulita, does 



ARMADILLOES CURI0U3 S>fAKE. 123 

not come as far south as Baliia Blanca. The four 
species have nearly similar habits ; the peludo^ 
however, is nocturnal, while the others wander by 
day over the open plains, feeding on beetles, larvae, 
roots, and even small snakes. The ajxxr, commonly 
called mataco^ is remarkable by having only three 
m.oveable 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 Eng- 
lish 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, ti'ies to bite one side, and 
the ball slips away. The smooth, hard covering of 
the viataco offers a better defence than the short 
spinesof the hedgehog. The^>'«'7^yprefersavery dry 
soil ; and the sand-dunes near the coast, where for 
many months it can never taste water, is its favour- 
ite resort : it often tries to escape notice by squat- 
ting 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 Crau- 
cho said, while sharpening his knife on the back 
of one, " Son tan mansos" (they are so quiet). 

Of reptiles there are many kinds : one snake (a 
Trigonocephalus, or Cophias), from the size of the 
poison chainiel in its fangs, must be very deadly. 
Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, 
makes this a sub-genus of the rattlesnake, and inter- 
mediate between it and the viper. In confii-mation 
of this opinion, I observed a fact, which appears to 
me very curious and instinctive, as showing how 
every character, even though it may be in some 



124 BAHIA BLANCA. 

degree independent of structure, has a tendency 
to vary by slow degi'ees. 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 imtability, a 
tendency to this habitual movement was evident. 
This Trigonocephalus has, therefore, in some re- 
spects, the structure of a viper, with the habits of a 
rattlesnake ; the noise, however, being produced 
by a simpler device. The expression of this snake's 
face was hideous and fierce : the pujail consisted of 
a vertical slit in a mottled and coppery iris ; the 
jaws were broad at the base, and the nose termi- 
nated in a triangular projection. I do not think I 
ever saw anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, 
some of the vampire bats. I imagine this repul- 
sive aspect originates from the features being placed 
in positions, with respect to each other, somewhat 
proportional to those of the human face ; and thus 
we obtain a scale of hideovisness. 

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only 
one little toad (Phryniscus nigi'icans), 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 vermillion, so as 
to colour the soles of its feet and parts of its stom- 
ach, a good idea of its appearance will be gained. 
If it had been an unnamed species, surely it ought 
to have been called Diabolicus, for it is a fit toad 
to preach in the ear of Eve. Instead of being noc- 



LIZARDS. 125 

turnal in its habits, as other toads are, and Hving 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 moist- 
in-e ; and this probably is absorbed by the skin, for 
it is known that these reptiles possess great pow- 
ers of cutaneous absoi-ption. At Maldonado, I 
found one in a situation nearly as dry as at Bahia 
Blanca, and thinking to give it a great treat, car- 
ried it to a pool of water; not only was the little 
animal unable to swim, but I think, without help, 
it would soon have been drowned. 

(^f lizards there were many kinds, but only one 
(Proctotretus multimaculatus) remarkable from its 
habits. It lives on the bare sand near the sea-coast, 
and from its mottled colour, the brownish scales 
being speckled with white, yellowish red, and dirty 
blue, can hardly be distinguished from the sur- 
rounding surface. When frightened, it attempts 
to avoid discovery by feigning death, with out- 
stretched legs, depressed body, and closed eyes : if 
further molested, it buries itself with gi-eat quick- 
ness in the loose sand. This lizard, from its flat- 
tened body and short legs, cannot run quickly. 

I will here add a few remarks on the hyberna- 
tion 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 tor- 
pid state. On the 15th a few animals began to ap- 
pear, and by the 18th (three days from the equi- 
nox) everything announced the commencement of 
spring. The plains were ornamented by the flow- 
ers of a pink wood-sorrel, wild peas, cenotherae, 
L 2 



126 BAHIA BLANCA. 

and geraniums ; and the birds began to lay their 
eggs. Numerous Lamelhcorn and Heteromerous 
insects, the latter remarkable for their deeply sculp- 
tured 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 obsei'vations made 
every two hours on board the Beagle, was 51° ; 
and in the middle of the day the thermometer sel- 
dom ranged above 55'^. On the eleven succeed- 
ing days, in which all living things became so ani- 
mated, the mean was 5S°, 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 sail- 
ed, in the twenty-three days included between the 
26th of July and the 19th of August, the mean 
temperature from 276 observations was 5S°-4 ; the 
mean hottest day being 65°*5, and the coldest 46°. 
The lowest point to which the thennometer fell 
was 41°-5, and occasionally in the middle of the 
day it rose to 69° or 70°. Yet with this high tem- 
perature, 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 or- 
ders of animated beings. This shows how nicely 
the stimulus required to arouse hybernating ani- 
mals is governed by the usual climate of the district, 
and not by the absolute heat. It is well known that 
within the tropics, the hybernation, or more prop- 



SEA-I'EN. 127 

erly aestivation, of animals is determined, not by 
the temperature, but by the times of drought. Near 
Rio de J aneiro, I was at first surprised to observe, 
that, a few days after some little depressions had 
been filled with water, they were peopled by nu- 
merous full-grown shells and beetles, which must 
have been lying dormant. Humboldt has related 
the strange accident of a hovel having been erect- 
ed 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 al- 
ternate rows of polypi on each side, and surround- 
ing an elastic stony axis, varying in length from 
eight inches to two feet. The stem at one ex- 
tremity is truncate, but at the other is terminated 
by a vermiform fleshy appendage. The stony axis 
which gives strength to the stem may be traced at 
this extremity into a mere vessel filled with granu- 
lar matter. At low water hundreds of these zon- 
phytes might be seen, projecting like stubble, with 
the truncate end upwards, a few inches above the 
surface of the muddy sand. When touched or 
pulled they suddenly drew themselves in with force, 
so as nearly or quite to disappear. By this action, 
the highly elastic axis must be bent at the lower 
extremity, where it is naturally slightly curved ; 
and I imagine it is by this elasticity alone that the 
zoophyte is enabled to rise again through the mud. 
Each polypus, though closely united to its breth- 
ren, has a distinct mouth, body, and tentacula. Of 
these polypi, in a large specimen, there must be 



128 BAIIIA BLANCA. 

many thousands ; yet we see that they act by one 
movement : they have also one central axis con- 
nected 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 1 It is always inter- 
esting 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 voyaget in 1601, 
narrates that on the sea-sands of the Island of Som- 
brero, in the East Indies, he " found a small twig 
growing up like a young tree, and on offeiung 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 bai'lc 
stripped oif, it becomes a hard stone when dry, 
much like white coral : thus is this worm twice 

* The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of the ex- 
tremity were filled with a yellow pulpy matter, which, examined 
under a microscope, presented an extraordinary appearance. The 
mass consisted of rounded, semi-transparent, irregular grains, ag- 
gregated together into particles of various sizes. All such parti- 
cles, and the separate grains, possessed the power of rapid move- 
ment ; generally revolving around different axes, but sometimes 
progressive. The movement was visible with a very weak power, 
but even with the highest its cause could not be perceived. It 
was very different from the circulation of the fluid in the elastic 
bag, containing the thin extremity of the axis. On other occa- 
sions, when dissecting small marine animals beneath the micro- 
scope, I have seen particles of pulpy matter, some of large size, 
as soon as they were disengaged, commence revolving. I have 
imagined, I know not with how much truth, that this granulo-pul- 
py 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. 



EXPEDITION AGAINST THE INDIANS. 129 

ti-ansformetl 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 be- 
tween the troops of Rosas and the wild Indians. 
One day an account came that a small party, form- 
ing one of the postas on the line to Buenos Ayres, 
had been found all murdered. The next day three 
hundred men arrived from the Colorado, under the 
command of Commandant Miranda. A large por- 
tion of these men were Indians {7/iansos, or tame) 
belonging to the tribe of the Cacique Bemantio. 
They passed the night here, and it was impossible 
to conceive anything more wild and savage than 
the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they 
were intoxicated ; others swallowed the steaming 
blood of the cattle slaughtered for their suppers, 
and then, being sick from drunkenness, they cast it 
up again, and were besmeared with filth and gore. 

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

In the morning they started for the scene of the 
murder, with orders to follow the " rastro," or 
track, even if it led them to Chile. We subse- 
quently heard that the wild Indians had escaped 
into the great Pampas, and fiom 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 load- 
ed with cargoes ; by the iiTegularity of the foot- 
VoL. 1—9 



130 BAHIA BLANCA. " 

Bteps, how far tired; by the manner in which the 
food has been cooked, whether the pursued trav- 
elled 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 Mi- 
randa struck from the west end of the Sierra Ven- 
tana, 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. 
Wliat other troops in the world are so independent 1 
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 expeditioia 
against a tribe of Indians at the small Salinas, who 
had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique. The 
Spaniard who brought the orders for this expedi- 
tion was a very intelligent man. He gave me an 
account of the last engagement at which he was 
present. Some Indians, who had been taken pris- 
oners, gave information of a tiibe 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 In- 
dians are now so terrified that they offer no resist- 
ance in a body ; but each flies, neglecting even his 
wife and children ; but when overtaken, like wild 



MASSACRE OF INDIAN WOMEN. 131 

aiiimals, they fight against any number to the last 
moment. One dying Indian seized with his teeth 
the thumb of his adversary, and alkiwed 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 un- 
questionable fact, that all the women who appear 
above twenty years old are massacred in cold blood ! 
When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhu- 
man, he answered, " Why, what can be done 1 
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 1 
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 messen- 
gers or ambassadors from a large body of Indians, 
imited 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 pre- 
pared : in the morning the ambassadors were to 



132 BAHIA BLANCA. 

have returned to the Cordillera. They were re- 
markably fine men, very fair, above six feet high, 
and all under thirty years of age. The three sur- 
vivors of course possessed very valuable infonna- 
tion, and to extort this they v^ere placed in a line. 
The two first being questioned, answered, " No se" 
(I do not know), and were one after the other shot. 
The third also said " No se ;" adding, " Fire : I am 
a man, and can die !" Not one syllable would 
they breathe to injure the united cause of their 
country ! The conduct of the above-mentioned 
cacique was very difl'erent: 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, there- 
fore, between the Indians, extends from the Cor- 
dillera to the coast of the Atlantic. 

General Rosas's plan is to kill all stragglers, and 
having driven the remainder to a common point, to 
attack them in a body, in the summer, with the as- 
sistance 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 at- 
tack, because the plains are then without water, 
and the Indians can only travel in particular direc- 
tions. 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 trea- 
ty 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 
Bo doing, they themselves are to be exterminated. 



CAPTIVE INDIANS. 133 

The war is waged chiefly against the Indians near 
the Cordillera, for many of the tribes on this east- 
ern side are fighting with Rosas. The general, 
however, like Lord Chesterfield, thinking that his 
friends may in a future day become his enemies, 
always places them in the fc-ont ranks, so that their 
immbers may bo thinned. Since leaving South 
America we have heard that this war of extermi- 
nation completely failed. 

Among the captive girls taken in the same en- 
gagement there were two very pretty ones, who had 
been earned away by the Indians when young, and 
could now only speak the Indian tongue. From 
their account, they must have come from Salta, 
a distance in a straight line of nearly one thou- 
sand miles. This gives one a gi'and idea of the 
immense territory over which the Indians roain ; 
yet, great as it is, I think there will not, in another 
half century, be a wild Indian north of the Rio Ne- 
gro. The warfare is too bloody to last ; the Chris- 
tians 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 vil- 
lages containing two and three thousand inhabi- 
tants. Even in Falconer's time (1750) the Indians 
made inroads as far as Luxan, Areco, and An-e- 
cife, but now thoy are driven beyond the Salado. 
Not only have whole tribes been exterminated, ' 
but the remaining Indians have become more bar- 
barous : instead of living in large villages, and be- 
ing employed in the arts of fishing, as well as of 
the chase, they now wander about the open plains, 
without home or fixed occupation. 

* Purchas's Collection of Voyages. I believe the date was re- 
ally 1537. 

M 



134 BAHIA BLANCA, 

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 im- 
portant station on account of being a pass for hor- 
ses ; 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 In- 
dians, of whom they killed twenty or thirty. The 
cacique escaped in a manner which astonished ev- 
ery 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 ann 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 rnind — the naked, bronze-like figure of the 
old man with his little boy, riding like a Mazeppa 
on the white horse, thus leaving far behind him the 
host of his pursuers ! 

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece 
of flint, which I immediately recognised as having 
been a part of the head of an arrow. He told me 
it was found near the island of Cholechel, and that 
they are frequently picked up there. It was be- 
tween two and three inches long, and therefore 
twice as large as those now used in Tierra del Fu- 
ego : it was made of opake cream-coloured flint, 
but the point and barbs had been intentionally bro- 
ken off. It is well known that no Pampas Indians 



SET OUT FOR BUENOS AYHES. 135 

now nse bows and aiTows. 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. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sierra Ventana — Third 
Posta — Driving Horses — Bolas — Partridges and P'oxes — Fea- 
tures 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 Cat- 
tle are slaughtered. 

BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

September 8th. — I hired a Gaucho to accompa- 
ny me on my ride to Buenos Ayres, though with 
some difficulty, as the father of one man was afraid 
to let him go, and another, who seemed willing, 
was described to me as so fearful, that I was afraid 
to take him, for I was told that even if he saw an 
ostrich at a distance he would mistake it for an 
Indian, and would fly like the wind away. The 
distance to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred 
miles, and nearly the whole way through an unin- 
habited country. We started early in the morn- 
ing ; 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 scat- 

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



13G BAIIIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

tered tufts of withered grass, \vithout a single bush 
or tree to break the monotonous uniformity. The 
weather was fine, but the atmosphere remarkably 
hazy ; I thought the appearance foreboded a gale, 
but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at 
some great distance in the interior, being on fire. 
After a long gallop, having changed horses twice, 
we reached the Ilio Sauce : it is a deep, rapid lit- 
tle 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 hor- 
ses, 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 Falco- 
ner,, 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 mo, 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 conti- 
nent ; and, indeed, if it were the residue of a large 
river, its waters, as in other ascertained cases, would 
be saline. During the winter we must look to the 
springs round the Sierra Ventana as the source of 
its pure and limpid stream. I suspect the plains 
of Patagonia, like those of Australia, are traversed 
by many water-courses, which only perform their 
proper parts at certain periods. Probably this is 
the case with the water which flows into the head 
of Port Desire, and likewise with the Rio Chupat, 
on the banks of which masses of highly cellular 



SIERRA VENTANA. 137 

scorlcc were found by the officers employed in the 
survey. 

As it was early in the afternoon when we ar- 
rived, 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 jBahia 
Blanca ; and Capt. Fitz Roy calculates its height 
to be 3340 feet — an altitude very remarkable on 
this eastern side of the continent. I am not aware 
that any foreigner, previous to my visit, had as- 
cended 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 sil- 
ver, of caves, and of forests, all of which inflamed 
my curiosity, only to disappoint it. The distance 
from the posta was about six leagues, over a level 
plain of the same character as before. The ride 
was, however, interesting, as the mountain began to 
show its true form. When we reached the foot of 
the main ridge, we had much difficvilty in finding 
any water, and we thought we should have been 
obliged to have passed the night without any. At 
last we discovered some by looking close to the 
mountain, for at the distance even of a few hun- 
dred yards the sti-eamlets were buried, and entire- 
ly lost in the friable calcareous stone and loose de- 
tritus. 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 I'ugged and broken, and so en- 
tirely 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 conti'asted by the 
sea-like plain, which not only abuts against its steep 

* I call these thistle-stalks for the want of a more correct 
name. I believe it is a species of Eryngium. 
M2 



138 BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

sides, but likewise separates the parallel ranges. 
The uniformity of the colouring gives an extreme 
quietness to the view ; the whitish grey of the 
quartz rock, and the light brown of the withered 
grass of the plain, being unrelieved by any bright- 
er tint. From custom, one expects to see in the 
neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain, a bro- 
ken 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 obsei-ve how far 
from the parent rock any j^ebbles could be found. 
On the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the set- 
tlement, there were some of quartz, which certain- 
ly 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 ap- 
pearing horizontal, had insensibly sloped up to a 
height of between 800 and 900 feet above the sea. 
In the morning (9th of September) the guide told 
me to ascend the nearest ridge, which he thought 
would lead me to the four peaks that crown the 
summit. The climbing up such rough rocks was 
very fatiguing; the sides were so indented, that 
what was gained in one five minutes was often lost 
in the next. At last, when I reached the ridge, 
my disappointment was extreme in finding a pre- 
cipitous valley as deep as the plain, which cut the 
chain transversely in two, and separated me from 
the four points. This valley is very naiTow, 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 descend- 
ed, and while crossing it, I saw two horses gra- 



SIERRA VENTANA. 139 

zing : I immediately hid myself in the long grass, 
and began to reconnoitre ; but as I could see no 
signs of Indians, I proceeded cautiously on my sec- 
ond ascent. It was late in the day, and this part 
of the mountain, like the other, was steep and rug- 
ged, I was on the top of the second peak by two 
o'clock, but got there with extreme difficulty ; ev- 
ery twenty yards I had the cramp in the upper part 
of both tlughs, 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 gi'eat change in the kind of muscular ac- 
tion, from that of hard riding to that of still harder 
climbing. It is a lesson worth remembering, as in 
some cases it might cause much difficulty. 

I have already said the mountain is composed of 
white quartz rock, and with it a little glossy clay- 
slate is associated. At the height of a few hun- 
dred 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 ce- 
ment, 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 be- 
neath the suiTounding sea. We may believe that 
the jagged and battered fonns of the hard quartz 
yet show the effects of the waves of an open ocean. 

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this as-- 
cent. Even the view was insignificant — a plain 
like the sea, but without its beautiful colour and 



140 BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

defined outline. The scene, however, was novel, 
and a little danger, like salt to meat, gave it a rel- 
ish. 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 In- 
dians are near. I reached the place of our bivou- 
ac by sunset, and drinking much mate, and smo- 
king several cigaritos, soon made up my bed for 
the night. The wind was very strong and cold, 
but I never slept more comfortably. 

September lOth. — In the morning, having fairly 
scudded before the gale, we amved by the middle 
of the day at the Sauce posta. On the road we saw 
gi-eat numbers of deer, and near the mountain a 
guanaco. The plain, which abuts against the Si- 
eiTa, 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. 

SejJtemhcr lltli. — 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 gi'eater 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 



LOVE OF SALT BY THE INDIANS. 141 

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 disper- 
sing in every direction ; and a storm will have the 
same effect. A short time since, an officer left Bu- 
enos 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 to- 
wards us ; when far distant my companions knew 
them to be Indians, by their long hair streaming 
behind their backs. The Indians generally have a 
fillet round their heads, but never any covering; 
and their black hair blowing across their swarthy 
faces, heightens to an uncommon degree the wild- 
ness of their appearance. They turned out to be 
a party of Bernantio's friendly tribe, going to a sa- 
lina for salt. The Indians eat much salt, their 
children sucking it like sugar. This habit is very 
different fi'om that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, 
leading the same kind of life, eat scarcely any: ac- 
cording to Mungo Park,* it is people who live on 
vegetable food that have an unconquerable desire 
for salt. The Indians gave us good-humoured nods 
as they passed at full gallop, driving before them a 
troop of horses, and followed by a train of lanky 
dogs. 

September 12th and 13^"/^. — I stayed at this posta 
two days, waiting for a troop of soldiers, which 
General Rosas had the kindness to send to inform 
me would shortly travel to Buenos Ayres ; and he 
advised me to take the opportunity of the escort. 
In the morning we rode to some neighbouring hills 
to view the country and to examine the geology. 
After dinner the soldiers divided themselves into 
two parties for a trial of skill with the bolas. Two 
* Travels in Africa, p. 233. 



142 BAIIIA BLAXCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

spears were stuck in the gi'ound 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 English- 
men, 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 gi'eat 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 con- 
sisted this evening of my guide and self, the lieu- 
tenant, 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 ininer, the 
colour of mahogany, and another partly a mulatto ; 
but two such mongrels, with such detestable ex- 
pressions, 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 



THE POSTA. 143 

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 backgi-ound, 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 mid- 
dle 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 ; in- 
deed, 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, armadillo'es, «fec., and their 
only fuel was the dry stalks of a small plant, some- 
what resembling an aloe. The sole luxury which 
these men enjoyed was smoking the little paper 
cigars, and sucking mate. I used to think that the 
carrion vultures, man's constant attendants on these 
dreary plains, while seated on the little neighbour- 
ing cliff's, seemed, by their very patience, to say, 
" Ah ! when the Indians come we shall have a 
feast." 



144 BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

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

The plains abound with three kinds of parti'idge,* 
two of which ai-e as large as hen pheasants. Their 
destroyer, a small and pretty fox, was also singu- 
larly 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 them- 
selves. They hS^d. killed a puma, and had found 
an ostrich's nest with twenty-seven eggs in it. 
Each of these is said to equal in weight eleven 
hens' eggs ; so that we obtained from this one nest 
as much food as 297 hens' eggs would have given. 

September Wth. — As the soldiers belonging to the 
next posta meant to return, and we should together 

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



HOSriTALITY. 145 

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 proba- 
bly would be, " We have meat for the dogs in our 
countiy, and therefore do not grudge it to a Chris- 
tian." 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 ti-aveller is bound to ac- 
knowledge is 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 
Taj)alguen. In some parts there were fine damp 
plains, covered with grass, while others had a soft, 
black, and peaty soil. There were also many ex- 
tensive 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 bivonac. 

Septemher Idth. — Rose very early in the morn- 
ing, and shortly after passed the posta where the 
Indians had murdered the five soldiers. The of- 
ficer 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 diffi- 
culty in procuring horses, we stayed there the night. 
As this point was the most exposed on the whole 
line, twenty-one soldiers were stationed here ; at 
sunset they returned from hunting, bringing with 
them seven deer, three ostriches, and many arma- 

VoL. I— 10 N 



146 BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYREri. 

dilloes 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 brill- 
iant conflagrations. This is done partly for the 
sake of puzzling any stray Indians, but chiefly for 
improving the pasture. In grassy plains unoccu- 
pied by the larger ruminating quadrupeds, it seems 
necessary to remove the superfluous vegetation by 
fire, so as to render the new year's gi'owth service- 
able. 

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, 
swaiTuing with wild fowl, among which the black- 
necked swan was conspicuous. 

The kind of plover, which appears as if mount- 
ed on stilts (Himantopus nigricollis), is here com- 
mon in flocks of considerable size. It has been 
wi'ongfully accused of inelegance ; when wading 
about in shallow water, which is its favourite re- 
sort, 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 mo- 
ment 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 pee- 
wits ; its wings, however, are armed with sharp 
spurs, like those on the legs of the common cock. 
As our peewit takes its name from the sound of 
its voice, so does the teru-tero. While riding over 
the grassy plains, one is constantly pursued by 
these birds, which appear to hate mankind, and I 
am sure deserve to be hated for their never-ceasing, 



A VIOLENT IIAIL-STORM. 147 

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 thir nests dogs and other enemies. The eggs 
of this bird are esteemed a great delicacy. 

Scjitemhcr IQtJi. — 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 i-afters being made of about a dozen dry this- 
tle-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 num- 
ber of the wild animals. One of the men had al- 
ready found thirteen deer (Cervus campestris) ly- 
ing dead, and I saw their /res/i 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 run- 
ning 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, 



148 BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

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 Do- 
brizhofter,* who, speaking of a country much to 
the northward, says, hail fell of an enormous size, 
and killed vast numbers of cattle; the Indians hence 
called the place Lalcgraicavalca, meaning " the lit- 
tle 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 in- 
jured the cattle. These hail-stones were flat, and one 
was ten inches in circumference, and another weigh- 
ed two ounces. They ploughed up a gravel-walk 
like musket-balls, and passed through glass-win- 
dows, making round holes, but not cracking them. 
Having finished our dinner of hail-strickeu meat, 
we crossed the Sierra Tapalguen ; a low range of 
hills, a few hundred feet in height, which com- 
mences at Cape Corrientes. The rock in this part 
is jjure 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 sed- 
imentary 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 
* History of the Abipones, vol. ii., p. 6. 



TAPALGUEN. 149 

feet liigli, excepting at one spot, where the en- 
trance lies. Falconer* gives a curious account of 
the Indians driving troops of w^ild 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 
sti'atification. I was told that the rock of the " Cor- 
ral" was white, and would strike fire. 

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

September 11th. — We followed the course of the 
Rio Tapalguen, through a very fertile country, to 
the ninth posta. Tapalguen itself, or the town of 
Tapalguen, if it may be so called, consists of a per- 
fectly level plain, studded over, as far as the eye 
can reach, with the toldos, or oven-shaped huts of 
the Indians. The families of the friendly Indians, 
who were fighting on the side of Rosas, resided 
here. We met and passed many young Indian 
women, riding by two or three together on the 
same horse : they, as well as many of the young 
men, were strikingly handsome, their fine ruddy 
complexions being the picture of health. Besides 
* Falconer's Patagonia, p. 70. 
■ - . N2 



150 BAFIIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

the toldos, there were three ranches ; one inhabited 
by the Commandant, and the two others by Span- 
iards with small shops. 

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had 
now been several days without tasting anything be- 
sides meat : I did not at all dislike this new regimen, 
but I felt as if it would only have agreed with me 
with hard exercise. I have heard that patients in 
England, when desired to confine themselves exclu- 
sively to an animal diet, even with the hope of life 
before their eyes, have hardly been able to endure it. 
Yet the Gi-aucho in the Pampas, for months togeth- 
er, touches nothing but beef. But they eat, I ob- 
serve, a very large proportion of fat, which is of a 
less animalized nature ; and they particularly dis- 
like dry meat, such as that of the Agouti. Di'. 
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 vmmixed 
and even oily fat without nausea :" this appears to 
me a curious physiological fact. It is, perhaps, 
from their meat regimen that the Gauchos, like 
other carnivorous animals, can abstain long from 
food. I was told that at Tandeel, some troops 
voluntai'ily pursued a party of Indians for three 
days without eating or drinking. 

We saw in the shojDS many articles, such as 
horsecloths, belts, and garters, woven by the In- 
dian women. The patterns were very pretty, and 
the colours brilliant ; the workmanship of the gar- 
ters was so good that an English merchant at Bue- 
nos Ayres maintained they must have been manu- 
factured in England, till he found the tassels had 
been fastened by split sinew. 

Septemher ISih. — We had a very long ride this 
* Fauna Boreali-Americana, vol. i., p. 35. 



GUARDIA DEL MONTE. 151 

day. At the twelfth posta, which is seven leagues 
south of the Rio Salado, we came to the first es- 
tancia with cattle and white women. Afterwards 
we had to ride for many miles through a country 
flooded with water above our horses' knees. Ey 
crossing the stiiTups, and riding Arab-like, with 
our legs bent up, wo contrived to keep tolerably 
dry. It was nearly dark when we an-ived 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 foiti-ess. In the morn- 
ing we saw immense herds of cattle, the general 
here having seventy-four square leagues of land. 
Formerly nearly three hundred men were employ- 
ed about this estate, and they defied all the attacks 
of the Indians. 

September I'dth. — 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 gi'een, with beds of clo- 
ver 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 Sa- 
lado. From a coarse herbage we passed on to a 
carpet of fine green verdure. I at first attributed 
this to some change in the nature of the soil, but 
the inhabitants assured me that here, as well as in 
Banda Oriental, where there is as great a differ- 
ence 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 ob- 



152 BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

served 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 2:)lants not occurring in the neigh- 
bourhood, on the borders of any track that leads to 
a newly-constructed hovel. In another part he says, 
" ces chevaux (sauvages) ont la manie de preferer les 
chemins, et le bord des routes pour deposer leurs 
excremens, dont on trouve des monceaux dans ces 
endroits."t Does this not partly explain the cir- 
cumstance 1 We thus have lines of richly-ma- 
nured land serving as channels of communication 
across wide districts. 

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of 
two European plants, now become extraordinarily 
common. The fennel in great profusion covers the 
ditch-banks in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, 
Monte Video, and other towns. But the cardoon 
(Cynara cardunculus)| has a far wider range : it 

* See Mr. Atwater's account of the Prairies, in Silliraan's N. A. 
Journal, vol. i., p. 117. f Azara's Voyage, vol. i., p. 373. 

t M. A. d'Orbigny (vol. i., p 474) says that the cardoon and 
artichoke are both found wild. Dr. Hooker (Botanical Magazine, 
vol. Iv., p. 2862) has described a variety of the Cynara from this 
[)art 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 in- 
telligent 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. 



THE CARDOON. 153 

occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the Cor- 
dillera, across the continent. I saw it in unfre- 
quented spots in Chile, Entre Rios, and Banda 
Oriental. In the latter countiy alone, very many 
(probably several hundred) square miles are covered 
by one mass of these prickly plants, and are im- 
penetrable by man or beast. Over the undulating 
plains, where these great beds occur, nothing else 
can now live. Before their introduction, however, 
the surface must have supported, as in other parts, 
a rank herbage. I doubt whether any case is on 
record of an invasion on so gi'and a scale of one 
plant over the aborigines. As I have already said, 
I nowhere saw the cai'doon south of the Salado ; 
but it is probable that in pro])ortion as that coun- 
try 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 colo- 
nist 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 vege- 
tation, but they have almost banished the guanaco, 
deer, and ostrich. Numberless other changes must 
likewise have taken place; the wild pig in some 
parts probably replaces the peccari ; packs of wild 
dogs may be heard howling on the wooded banks 
of the less frequented streams ; and the common 
cat, altered into a large and fierce animal, inhabits 
rocky hills. As M. d'Orbigny has remarked, the 
increase in numbers of the can-ion-vulture, since the 
introduction of tlie domestic animals, must have 
been infinitely gi'eat ; and we have given reasons 
for believing that thev have extended their south- 



154 BAHIA BLANCA TO BUENOS AYRES. 

em range. No doubt many plants, besides the car- 
doon and fennel, are naturalized ; thus the islands 
near the mouth of the Parana are thickly clothed 
with peach and orange trees, springing from seeds 
carried there by the waters of the river. 

While changing horses at the Guardia several 
people questioned us much about the army: I never 
saw anything like the enthusiasm for Rosas, and 
for the success of the " most just of all wars, be- 
cause 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 omhu-tree. In the evening it rained 
heavily : on arriving at a post-house, we were told 
by the owner that if we had not a regular passport 
we must pass on, for there were so many robbers 
he would trust no one. When he read, however, 
my passport, which began with " El Naturalista 
Don Carlos," his respect and civility were as un- 
bounded as his suspicions had been before. What 
a naturalist might be, neither he nor his country- 
men, I suspect, had any idea; but probably my 
title lost nothing of its value from that cause. 

Scptetnher 20tJi. — 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 t ) 
the house of Mr. Lumb, an English merchant, tj 
whose kindness and hospitality, during my stay in 
the country, I was greatly indebted. 

The city of Buenos Ayres is large,* and, I should 

* It is said to contain 60,000 inhabitants. Monte Video, the 
second town of importance on the banks of the Plata, has 15,0OJ. 



TtlE GREAT CORRAL. 155 

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

The great corral, where the animals are kept 
for slaughter to supply food to this beef-eating 
population, is one of the spectacles best worth 
seeing. The strength of the horse as compared to 
that of the bullock is quite astonishing : a man on 
horseback having thrown his lazo round the horns 
of a beast, can drag it anywhere he chooses. The 
animal ploughing up the ground with outstretched 
legs, in vain efforts to resist the force, generally 
dashes at full speed to one side ; but the horse 
immediately turning to receive the shock, stands 
so firmly that the bullock is almost thrown dovvni, 
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 bul- 
lock's extended neck. In a similar manner, a man 
can hold the wildest horse, if caught with the lazo 
just behind the ears. AVhen the bullock has been 
dragged to the spot where it is to be slaughtered, 
the matador with great caution cuts the hamstrings. 
Then is given the death bellow — a noise more ex- 



156 EXCURSION TO ST. PE. 

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



CHAPTER VII. 

Excursion to St. Fe — Thistle Beds — Habits of the Bizcacha — 
Little Owl — Saline Streams — Level Plains — Mastodon — St. Fe 
— Change in Landscape — Geology — Tooth of Extinct Horse — 
Relation of the Fossil and recent Quadrupeds of North and 
South America — Effects of a great Drought — Parana — Habits 
of the Jaguar — Scissor-beak — Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor- 
tajl — Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State of Government. 

BUENOS AYRES TO ST. FE. 

Septcmher 21th. — In the evening I set out on an 
excursion to St. Fe, which is situated nearly three 
hundred English miles from Buenos Ayres, on the 
banks of the Parana. The roads in the neighbour- 
hood of the city, after the rainy weather, were ex- 
traordinarily 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 tembly jaded: it is a great mistake to sup- 
pose that with improved roads, and an accelerated 
rate of travelling, the sufferings of the animals in- 
crease in the same proportion. We passed a train 
of wagons and a troop of beasts on their road to 
Mendoaa, The distance is about 580 geographi- 
cal miles, and the journey is generally performed 
in fifty days. These wagons are very long, nar- 



THISTLE BEDS. 157 

row, and thatchetl 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 intennediate pair, a point projects at right an- 
gles from the middle of the long one. The whole 
apparatus looked like some implement of war. 

September 28th. — We passed the small town of 
Luxan, where there is a wooden bridge over the 
river — a most unusual convenience in this country. 
We passed also Areco. The plains apjieared level, 
but Avere not so in fact, for in various places the 
horizon was distant. The estancias are here wide 
apart ; for there is little good pasture, owing to the 
land being covered by beds either of an acrid clo- 
ver, or of the great thistle. The latter, well known 
fi'om 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 
gi-eat 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 re- 
ply 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. 
O 



158 EXCURSION TO ST. FE. 

The bizcacha* is well known to form a promi- 
nent feature in the zoology of the Pampas. It is 
found as far south as the Rio Negi'o, 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 spe- 
cies. It is a very curious circumstance in its geo- 
gi-aphical 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 pass- 
ed, and the bizcacha is common in Entre Rios, the 
province between these two great rivers. Near 
Buenos Ayres these animals are exceedingly com- 
mon. 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 ex- 
clusion 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 frequent- 
ed by it, seems probable. In the evening the biz- 
cachas 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 horse-' 
back passing by seems only to present an object 
for their grave contemplation. They run very awk- 
wardly, and when running out of danger, from their 

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



THE BISCACHA. 159 

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, name- 
ly, dragging every hard object to the mouth of its 
burrow : around each group of holes many bones 
of cattle, stones, thistle-stalks, hard lumps of earth, 
dry dung, &c., are collected into an iiTcgular heap, 
which frequently amounts to as much as a wheel- 
baiTOW 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 biz- 
cacha hole on the line of road, as he expected, 
he soon found it.' This habit of picking up what- 
ever may be lying on the ground anywhere near 
its habitation, must cost much trouble. For what 
pui"pose it is done, I am quite unable to form even 
the most remote conjecture : it cannot be for de- 
fence, because the rubbish is chiefly placed above 
the mouth of the burrow, which enters the ground 
at a very small inclination. No doubt there must 
exist some good reason, but the inhabitants of the 
country are quite ignorant of it. The only fact 
which I know analogous to it, is the habit of that 
extraordinary Australian bird, the Calodera macu- 
lata, which makes an elegant vaulted passage of 
twigs for playing in, and which collects near the 
spot land and sea shells, bones, and the feathers 
of birds, especially brightly coloured ones. Mr. 
Gould, who has described these facts, informs me, 
that the natives, when they lose any hard object, 
search the playing passages, and he has known a 
tobacco-pipe thus recovered. 

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has 
been so ofi;en mentioned, on the plains of Buenos 
Ayres exclusively inhabits the holes of the bizcacha, 



160 EXCURSION TO ST. FE. 

but in Banda Oriental it is its own workman. Du- 
ring the open day, but more especially in the even- 
ing, these birds may be seen in every direction 
standing frequently by pairs on the hillock near 
their buiTOws. If disturbed, they either enter the 
hole, or, uttering a shrill, harsh cry, move with a 
remarkably undulatory flight to a short distance, 
and then turning round, steadily gaze at their pur- 
suer. 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 spe- 
cies killed among the islets of the Chonos Ai'chi- 
pelago 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 AiTecife 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. Wlien Captain Head talks of riding fifty 
leagues a day, I do not imagine the distance i,3 
equal to 150 English miles. At all events, the 
thirty-one leagues was only 76 miles in a straight 
line, and in an open country I should think four 
additional miles for turnings would be a sufficient 
allowance. 

2Qth and 30th. — 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 
* Journal of Asiatic Soc, vol. v., p. 363. 



ROZARIO. 161 

crossed the Saladillo, a stream of fine, clear run- 
ning 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 gi'eat lake, if it 
were not for the linear-shaped islets, which alone 
give the idea of running water. The clift's are the 
most picturesque part : sometimes they are abso- 
lutely pei-jiendicular, 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 re- 
flecting how important a means of communication 
and commerce it forms between one nation and an- 
other ; to what a distance it travels ; and from how 
vast a ten'itory it drains the great body of fresh 
water which flows past your feet. 

For many leagues north and south of San Nicolas 
and Rozario, the country is really level. Scarcely 
anything which travellers have written about its 
extreme flatness can be considered as exaggera- 
tion. Yet I could never find a spot w^here, by 
slowly turning round, objects were not seen at 
greater distances in som.e directions than in others ; 
and this manifestly proves inequality in the plain 
At sea, a person's eye being six feet above the sur 
face 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 naiTOW limits ; and this, in my opinion, 
entirely destroys that grandeur which one would 
have imagined that a vast level plain would have 
possessed. 

Octohcr 1st. — "VVe started by moonlight, and ar- 
rived at the Rio Teixero by sunrise. This river is 
Vol. T— 11 O 2 



163 EXCURSION TO ST. FE. 

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. Be- 
sides 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 mo- 
lar 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 ca- 
noe 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 masto- 
don 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, 

Oct. 2d. — We passed through Corunda, which, 
from the luxuriance of its gardens, was one of the 
prettiest villages I saw. From this point to St. Fe 
the road is not very safe. The western side of the 
Parana 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 mi- 
mosas. We passed some houses that had been 
ransacked and since deserted ; we saw also a spec- 
tacle, which my guides viewed with high satisfac- 
tion : it was the skeleton of an Indian, with the 
dried skin hanging on the bones, suspended to the 
branch of a tree. 



ARRIVE AT SE. FE. 163 

In the morning we amved at St. Fe. I was sur- 
prised to observe how great a change of climate a 
ditlerence of only three degrees of latitude be- 
tween 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 I'emarked half a dozen birds which I had 
never seen at Buenos Ayres. Considering that 
there is no natural boundary between the two pla- 
ces, and that the character of the countiy is nearly 
similar, the difference was much greater than I 
should have expected. 

October '3d and Ath. — I was confined for these 
two days to my bed by a headache. A good-na- 
tured 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 1 he will answer, " I 
had a headache the day before yesterday." Many 
of the remedies used by the people of the country 
are ludicrously strange, but too disgusting to be 
mentioned. One of the least nasty is to kill and 
cut open two puppies, and bind them on each side 
of a broken limb. Little hairless dogs are in great 
request to sleep at the feet of invalids. 

St. Fe is a quiet little town, and is kept clean and 
in good order. The governor, Lopez, was a com- 
mon soldier at the time of the revolution, but has 
now been seventeen years in power. This stability 



164 ST. FE. 

of government is owing to his tyrannical habits ; 
for tyranny seems as yet better adapted to these 
countries than republicanism. The governor's fa- 
vourite occupation is hunting Indians : a short time 
since he slaughtered forty-eight, and sold the chil- 
dren at the rate of three or four pounds apiece. 

October 5th. — We crossed the Parana to St. Fe 
Bajada, a town on the opposite shore. The pass- 
age took some hours, as the river here consisted 
of a labyrinth of small streams, separated by low 
wooded islands. I had a letter of introduction to 
an old Catalonian Spaniard, who treated me with 
the most uncommon hospitality. The Bajada is 
the capital of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town con- 
tained 6000 in]iabitants, and the province 30,000 ; 
yet, few as the inhabitants are, no province has 
suffered more from bloody and desperate revolu- 
tions. They boast here of representatives, minis- 
ters, 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 my- 
self 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, pass- 
ing above into an indurated marl, and from that 
into the red clayey earth of the Pampas, with its 
calcareous concretions and the bones of terrestrial 
quadrupeds. This vertical section clearly tells us 
of a large bay of pure salt-water, gradually en- 
croached on, and at last converted into the bed of 
a muddy estuary, into which floating carcasses 



GEOLOGY OF THE PAMPAS. 1G5 

were svvcjit. At Punta Gorda, in Banda Oncntal, 
I found an alternation of the Pamptean 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 quad- 
rupeds ; 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 thei'efore, as he remarks, the water must have 
been brackish. M. A. d'Orbigny found on the 
banks of the Parana, at the height of a hundred 
feet, great beds of an estuary shell, now living a 
hundred 7Tiiles 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 Pam- 
pas 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 eleva- 
tion of the Pampas was within the recent period. 

In the Pampeean deposit at the Bajada I found 
the osseous armour of a gigantic armadillo-like an- 
imal, the inside of which, when the earth was re- 
moved, 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 gi-eatly interested me,* and I took 

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



166 ST, FE. 

scrupulous care in ascertaining that it had been 
embedded contemporaneously with the other re- 
mains ; 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 marvellous fact in the 
history of the Mammalia, that in South America a 
native horse should have lived and disappeared, to 
be succeeded in after ages by the countless herds 
descended from the few introduced with the Span- 
ish colonists ! 

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, 
of the mastodon, possibly of an elephant,* and of 
a hollow-horned ruminant, discovered by MM. 
Lund and Clausen in the caves of Brazil, are high- 
ly interesting facts with respect to the geographi- 
cal disti'ibution of animals. At the present time, 
if we divide America, not by the Isthmus of Pana- 
ma, but by the southern part of Mexicot in lat. 20°, 
where the great table-land presents an obstacle to 

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

t This is the geographical division followed by Lichtenstein, 
Swainson, Erichson, and Richardson. The section from Vera 
Cruz to Acapulco, given by Humboldt in the Polit. Essay on 
Kingdom of N. Spain, will show how immense a barrier the 
Mexican table-land forms. Dr. Richardson, in his admirable Re- 
port on the Zoology of N. America, read before the British Assoc, 
1836 (p. 157), talking of the identification of a Mexican animal 
with the Synetheres prehensilis, says, " We do not know with what 
propriety, but if correct, it is, if not a solitary instance, at least 
very nearly so, of a rodent animal being common to North and 
South America. 



ZOOLOGY OF NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA. 167 

the migration of species, by affecting the climate, 
and by forming, with the exception of some valleys 
and of a fringe of low land on the coast, a broad 
barrier ; we shall then have the two zoological 
provinces of North and South America strongly 
contrasted with each other. Some few species 
alone have passed the barrier, and may be consid- 
ered as wanderers from the south, such as the pu- 
ma, opossum, kinkajou, and peccari. South Amer- 
ica 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 kno'wn to pos- 
sess a single species. Formerly, but within the 
period when most of the now existing shells were 
living. North America possessed, besides hollow- 
homed ruminants, the elephant, mastodon, horse, 
and three genera of Edentata, namely, the Mega- 
therium, 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 oth- 
ers) 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 interest- 
ing it appears : I know of no other instance where 
we can almost mark the period and manner of the 



168 ST. FE. 

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

When America, and especially North America, 
possessed its elephants, mastodons, horse, and hol- 
low-hoi-ned ruminants, it was much more closely 
related in its zoological characters to the temper- 
ate parts of Europe and Asia than it now is. As 
the remains of these genera ai'e found on both sides 
of Behring's Straitsf and on the plains of Siberia, 
we are led to look to the north-western side of 
North America as the former point of communica- 
tion 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 sub- 

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

t See the admirable Appendix by Dr. Bnckland to Beechey's 
Voyage ; also the writings of Chamisso in Kotzebue's Voyage. 



THE GREAT DROUGHT. 109 

merged in the West Indies, into South America, 
where for a time they mingled with the forms char- 
acteristic of that southern continent, and have since 
become extinct. 

"While travelling through the country, I received 
several vivid descriptions of the effects of a late 
great drought; and the account of this may tln-ow 
some light on the cases where vast numbers of ani- 
mals of all kinds have been embedded together. 
The period included between the years 1827 and 
1830 is called the " gran seco," or the gi'eat drought. 
During this time so little rain fell, that the vegeta- 
tion, even to the thistles, failed ; the brooks were 
dried up, and the whole country assumed the ap- 
pearance of a dusty high road. This was esjje- 
cially the case in the northern part of the province 
of Buenos Ayres and the southern part of St. Fe. 
Very gi'eat numbers of birds, wild animals, cattle, 
and horses perished from the want of food and 
water. A man told me that the deei'* used to come 
into his courtyard to the well, which he had been 
obliged to dig to supply his own faixiily 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 proprie- 

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

P 



170 ST. FE. 

tor 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 coun- 
try ; 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 govern- 
ment commission was sent fi'om Buenos Ayres to 
settle the disputes of the owners. Sir Woodbine 
Parish informed me of another and very curious 
source of dispute : the ground being so long dry, 
such quantities of dust were blown about, that in 
this open country the landmarks became oblitera- 
ted, and people could not tell the limits of their 
estates. 

I was informed by an eyewitness that the cattle 
in herds of thousands rushed into the Parana, and, 
being exhausted by hunger, they were unable to 
crawl up the muddy banks, and thus were drowned. 
The arm of the river which runs by San Pedro was 
so full of putrid carcasses, that the master of a ves- 
sel told me that the smell rendered it quite impass- 
able. 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 cav^sed the death of vast 
numbers in particular spots ; for when an animal 
drinks of such water it does not recover. Azara 
describes* the fury of the wild horses on a similar 
occasion, rushing into the marshes, those which ar- 
rived first being overwhelmed and crushed by those 
which followed. He adds, that more than once he 
* Travels, vol. j., p. 374, 



ISLANDS IN THE PARANA. 171 

lias seen the carcasses of upwards of a thousand 
wild horses thus destroyed. I noticed that the 
smaller streams in the Pampas were paved with a 
breccia of bones, but this probably is the effect of 
a gi'adual increase rather than of the destruction 
at any one period. Subsequently to the drought 
of 1827 to '32, a very rainy season followed, which 
caused great floods. Hence it is almost certain 
that some thousands of the skeletons were buried 
by the deposits of die very next year. What 
would be the opinion of a geologist, viewing such 
an enormous collection of bones, of all kinds of ani- 
mals 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 1* 

October \2th. — I had intended to push my ex- 
cursion 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 luoored 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 de- 
cay and renovation. In the memory of the master 
several large ones had disappeared, and others 
again had been formed and protected by vegeta- 
tion. 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 gi-eat 

* These droughts, to a certain degree, seem to be almost peri- 
odical ; I was told the dates of several others, and the intervals 
were about fifteen years. 



172 ST. FE. 

variety of creeping plants, thus forming a thick 
jungle. These thickets afford a retreat for capy- 
baras and jaguars. The fear of the latter animal 
quite destroyed all pleasure in scrainbling 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 
Indies" had been the subject of conversation, so in 
this was " el rastro del tigre." 

The wooded banks of the great rivers appear to 
be the favourite haunts of the jaguar, but south of 
the Plata I was told that they frequented the reeds 
bordering lakes : wherever they are, they seem to 
require water. Their common prey is the capy- 
bara, 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 tlfe deck ; he escaped, however, with 
the loss of the use of one arm. When the floods 
drive these animals from the islands, they are most 
dangerous. I was told that a few years since a 
very large one found its way into a church at St, 
Fe : two padres entering one after the other were 
killed, and a third, who came to see what was the 
matter, escaped with difficulty. The beast was 
destroyed by being shot from a corner of the build- 
ing 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 



HABITS OF THE JAGUAR. 173 

necks. If driven from the carcass, they seldom 
return to it. The Gauchos say that the jaguar, 
Avhen 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 gener- 
ally affirmed of the jackals accompanying, in a sim- 
ilarly officious manner, the East Indian tiger. The 
jaguar is a noisy animal, roaring much by night, 
and especially before bad weather. 

One day, when hunting on the banks of the Uru- 
guay, I was shown certain trees, to which these an- 
imals 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. Tiie 
scars were of different ages. A common method 
of ascertaining whether a jagviar is in the neigh- 
bourhood 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 outsti-etched 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 com- 
mon to the puma, for on the bare hard soil of Pat- 
agonia I have fiequently seen scores so deep that 
no other animal could have made them. The ob- 
ject of this practice is, I believe, to tear off the rag- 
ged 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 
witli bullets. 

Owing to bad weather we remained two days at 
our moorings. Our only amusement was catching 

ip 2 



174 



RIO PARANA. 



fish for our dinner : there were several kinds, and 
all good eating. A fish called the "arinado" (a 
Silurus) is remarkable from a harsh gi'ating noise 
which it makes when caught by hook and line, and 
which can be distinctly heard when the fish is be- 
neath the water. This same fish has the power of 
fiiTtily 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 thennometer 
standing at 79*^. Numbers of fireflies were hover- 
ing about, and the musquitoes were very trouble- 
some. I exposed my hand for five minutes, and it 
was soon black with them ; I do not suppose there 
could have been less than fifty, all busy sucking. 

October \bth. — We got under way and passed 
Punta Gorda, where there is a colony of tame In- 
dians from the province of Missiones. We sailed 
rapidly down the cuiTent, but before sunset, fi-om 
a silly fear of bad weather, we brought-to in a nar- 
row ai-m of the river. I took the boat and rowed 
some distance up this creek. It was very naiTow, 
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 ia 




THE SCISSOR-BEAK. 175 

flattened laterally, that is, in a plane at right an- 
gles to that of a spoonbill oi" 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, gener- 
ally in small flocks, flying rapidly backwards and 
forwards close to the surface of the lake. They 
kept their bills wide open, and the lower mandible 
half buried in the water. Thus skimming the sur- 
face, 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 
naiTow wake on the mirror-like surface, [n their 
flight they frequently twist about with extreme 
quickness, and dexterously manage with their pro- 
jecting 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 back- 
wards and forwards close before me. Occasionally 
when leaving the surface of the water their flight 
was wild, iri'egular, and rapid : they then uttered 
loud, hai'sh cries. When these birds are fishing, 
the advantage of the long primary feathers of their 
wings, in keeping them dry, is very evident. 
When thus employed, their forms resemble the 
symbol by which many artists represent marine 
birds. Their tails are much used in steering their 
irregular course. 

These birds are common far inland along the 
course of the Rio Parana ; it is said that they remain 
here during the whole year, and breed in the marsh- 
es. During the day they rest in flocks on the 
grassy plains, at some distance from the water. 



176 ■ RIO PARANA. 

Being at anclior, 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 coirtinued 
for a long time to skim the surface, flying in its 
wild and iiTegular manner up and down the nar- 
row canal, now dark with the gi'owing 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 gi'assy 
plains near the Parana ; and every evening they 
took flight seaward. From these facts, I suspect 
that the Rhynchops generally fishes by night, at 
which time many of the lower animals come most 
abundantly to the surface. M. Lesson states that 
he has seen these birds opening the shells of the 
mactrae buried in the sand-banks on the coast of 
Chile : from their weak bills, with the lower man- 
dible 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 obsei-ved only 
three other birds whose habits are worth mention- 
ing. One is a small king-fisher (Ceryle Ameri- 
cana) ; it has a longer tail than the European spe- 
cies, 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 aiTow, is weak and 
undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. It ut- 
ters a low note, like the clicking together of two 
small stones. A small gi'een parrot (Conurus mu- 
rinus), with a grey breast, appears to prefer the tall 
trees on the islands to any other situation for its 
building-place. A number of nests are placed so 
close together as to form one great mass of sticks. 



UIO I'AKANA. 177 

These parrots always live in flocks, and commit 
great ravages on tlie corn-fields. I v\'as 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 scissoi--tail, is very common near 
Buenos Ayres : it commonly sits on a branch of 
the ombu-tvee, 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 carica- 
ture-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 hori- 
zontal or lateral, and sometimes in a vertical direc- 
tion, just like a pair of scissors. 

October lQt]i. — Some leagues below Rozario, the 
western shore of tlie Parana is bounded by per- 
pendicular cliffs, which extend in a long line to 
below San Nicolas ; hence it more resembles a 
sea-coast than that of a fresh- water ri\er. 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 chan- 
nels 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 "liombre 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 yeai's in this 
country. He professed a great liking to the Eng- 
VoL. 1—12 



178 RIO PARANA, 

lish, but stoutly maintained that the battle of Tra- 
falgar was merely won by the Spanish captains 
having been all bought over; and that the only 
really gallant action on either side was perfoz'med 
by the Spanish admiral. It struck me as rather 
characteristic, that this man should prefer his coun- 
trymen being thought the worst of traitors, rather 
than unskilful or cowardly. 

IStJi cuid 19th. — We continued slowly to sail 
down the noble stream : the current helped us but 
little. We met, during our descent, very few ves- 
sels. 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 navi- 
gate from a temperate country, as suiiirisingly 
abundant in certain productions as destitute of oth- 
ers, to another possessing a tropical climate, and a 
soil which, according to the best of judges, M. Bon- 
pland, is perhaps unequalled in fertility in any part 
of the world. How different would have been the 
aspect of this river if English colonists had, by good 
fortune, first sailed up the Plata ! What noble 
towns would now have occupied its shores ! Till 
the death of Francia, the Dictator of Paraguay, 
these two countries must remain distinct, as if 
placed on opposite sides of the globe. And when 
the old bloody-minded tyrant is gone to his long 
account, Paraguay will be torn by revolutions, vi- 
olent in proportion to the previous unnatural calm. 
That country will have to learn, like eveiy other 
South American state, that a republic cannot suc- 
ceed till it contains a certain body of men imbued 
with the principles of justice and honour. 

October 20th. — Being arrived at the mouth of the 
Parana, and as I was very anxious to reach Buenos 
Ayres, I went on shore at Las Conchas, with the 
intention of riding there. Upon landing, I found, 



REVOLUTION AT BUENOS AYRE3. 179 

to my great surprise, that I was, to a certain degi-cc, 
a prisoner. A violent revolution having broken 
out, all the ports were laid under an embargo. I 
could nut return to my vessel, and as for going by 
land to the city, it was out of the question. After 
a long conversation with the commandant, I ob- 
tained permission to go the next day to Genei-al 
Rulor, who commanded a division of the rebels on 
this side the capital. In the morning I rode to 
the encampment. The general, officers, and sol- 
diers all appeared, and I believe really were, gi'eat 
villains. The general, the very evening before he 
left the city, voluntarily went to the Governor, and 
with his hand to his heart, pledged his word of 
honour that he at least would remain faithful to the 
last. The general told me that the city was in a 
state of close blockade, and that all he could do was 
to give me a passport to the commander-in-chief 
of the rebels at Quilmes. We had therefore to 
take a gi-eat sweep round the city, and it was with 
much difficulty that we procured horses. My re- 
ception at the encampment was quite civil, but I 
was told it was impossible that I could be allowed 
to enter the city. I was very anxious about this, as 
I anticipated the Beagle's departure from the Rio 
Plata earlier than it took place. Having mention- 
ed, however, General Rosas's obliging kindness to 
me when at the Colorado, magic itself could not 
have altered circumstances quicker than did this 
conversation. I was instantly told that though 
they could not give me a passport, if I chose to 
leave my guide and horses I might pass their sen- 
tinels. I was too glad to accept of this, and an of- 
ficer 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 grave- 



180 REVOLUTION AT BUENOS AVRES. 

ly looking at an old passport : and at length I was 
not a little pleased to find myself within the city. 
This revolution was supported by scarcely any 
pretext of grievances : but in a state which, in the 
course of nine months (from February to October, 
1820), underwent fifteen changes in its government 
— each governor, according to the constitution, be- 
ing elected for three years — it would be very un- 
reasonable to ask for pretexts. In this case, a par- 
ty of men — who, being attached to Rosas, were 
disgusted with the governor Balcarce — to the num- 
ber 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 jilans 
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 militaiy, 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 



BANDA ORIENTAL. 181 

king, the people in this, as in other repuhlics, 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. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — Value of an Estancia — 
Cattle, how counted — Singular Breed of Oxen — Perforated Peb- 
bles — Shepherd Dogs — Horses broken-in, Gauchos riding — 
Character of Inhabitants — Kio Plata— Flocks of Butterflies- 
Aeronaut Spiders — Phosphorescence of the Sea — Port Desire 
— Gnanaco — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia — Fossil 
gigantic Animal — Types of Organization constant — Change in 
the Zoology of America — Causes of Extinction. 

BANDA ORIENTAL AND PATAGONIA. 

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 con- 
stant apprehensions from robbers within. The sen- 
tinels 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 veiy long and tedious one. 
The Plata looks like a noble estuary on the map, 
but is, in truth, a poor affair. A wide expanse of 
muddy water has neither grandeur nor beauty. At 
one time of the day, the two shores, both of which 
are extremely low, could just be distinguished from 
the deck. On arriving at Monte Video, I found that 
the Beagle would not sail for some time, so I pre- 
pared for a short excursion in this part of Banda 
Oriental. Everything which I have said about the 



182 BANDA ORIENTAL. 

country near Maldonado is applicable to M. Video; 
but the land, with the one exception of the Green 
Mount, 450 feet high, from which it takes its name, 
is far more level. Very little of the undulating 
grassy plain is enclosed ; but near the town tliere 
are a few hedge-banks, covered with agaves, cacti, 
and fennel. 

Novanhcr lifh. — We left Monte Video in the af- 
ternoon. I intended to proceed to Colonia del Sa- 
cramiento, situated on the northern bank of the 
Plata and oj^posite to Buenos Ayres, and thence, 
following up the Uruguay, to the village of Merce- 
des on the Rio Negi'o (one of the many rivers of 
this name in South America), and from this point 
to return direct to Monte Video. We slept at the 
house of my guide at Canelones. In the morning 
we rose early, in the hopes of being able to ride 
a good distance ; but it was a vain attempt, for all 
the rivers were flooded. We passed in boats the 
streams of Canelones, St. Lucia, and San Jose, and 
thus lost much time. On a former excursion I 
crossed the Lucia near its mouth, and I was sur- 
prised to observe how easily our horses, although 
not used to swim, passed over a width of at least 
six hundred yards. On mentioning this at Monte 
Video, I was told that a vessel containing some 
mountebanks and their hoi'ses, being wrecked in 
the Plata, one horse swam seven miles to the shoi'e. 
In the course of the day I was amused by the dex- 
terity with which a Gaucho forced a restive horse 
to swim a river. He stripped off his clothes, and 
jumping on its back, rode into the water till it was 
out of its depth ; then slipping off over the cnip- 
per, he caught hold of the tail, and as often as the 
horse turned round, the man frightened it back by 
splashing water in its face. As soon as the horse 
touched the bottom on the other side, the man pull- 



BANDA ORIENTAL. 183 

ed 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 femed 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 let- 
ter-carrier an-ived. He was a day after his time, 
owing to the Rio Rozario being flooded. It would 
not, however, be of much consequence ; for, al- 
though he had passed through some of the princi- 
pal towns in Banda Oriental, his luggage consisted 
of two letters ! The view from the house was pleas- 
ing; 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 amval. I recollect I then thought it 
singularly level ; but now, after galloping over the 
Pampas, my only surprise is, what could have in- 
duced me ever to have called it level. The coun- 
try is a series of undulations, in themselves perhaps 
not absolutely gi-eat, but, as compared to the plains 
of St. Fe, real mountains. From these inequalities 
there is an abundance of small rivulets, and the turf 
is green and luxuriant. 

November 11th. — We crossed the Rozario, which 
was deep and rapid, and passing the village of 
Colla, arrived at midday at Colonia del Sacra- 
miento. The distance is twenty leagues, through 
a country covered with fine grass, but poorly stock- 
ed with cattle or inhabitants. I was invited to 



184 BANDA ORIENTAL. 

sleep at Colonia, and to accompany on the follow- 
ing 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 suftered much in the 
Brazilian war. It is very ancient ; and the irregu- 
lai'ity of the streets, and the surrounding groves of 
old orange and peach trees, gave it a pretty ap- 
pearance. 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 Bra- 
zilian war — a war most injurious to this countiy, 
not so much in its immediate effects, as in being 
the origin of a multitude of generals and all other 
grades of ofl[icers. More generals are numbered 
(but not paid) in the United Provinces of La Pla- 
ta 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 disturb- 
ance and to overturn a government which as yet 
has never rested on any stable foundation. I no- 
ticed, however, both here and in other places, a 
very genei'al interest in the ensuing election for 
the President ; and this ajapears a good sign for 
the prosjierity of this little country. The inhabi- 
tants 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, 



AN EXTENSIVE ESTANCIA. 185 

their names :" with tliis they seemed to think every 
reasonable man ought to be satisfied, 

IQtJi. — 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 lialf, and was situated in what is 
called a rincon ; that is, one side was fronted by 
the Plata, and the two others guarded by impass- 
able 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 lour 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 cor- 
rals, and a peach orchard. For all this he had 
been offered d£2000, and he only wanted <£500 ad- 
ditional, 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 opera- 
tion would be thought difficult, where there are ten 
or fifteen thousand head together. It is managed 
on the principle that the cattle invariably divide 
themselves into little troops of from forty to one 
hundred. Each troop is recognised by a few pe- 
culiarly marked animals, and its number is known : 
so that, one being lost out of ten thousand, it is per- 
ceived by its absence from one of the tropillas. 
During a stormy night the cattle all mingle to- 
gether, but the next morning the ti'opillas separate 
as before, so that each animal must know its fellow 
out of ten thousand others. 

On two occasions I met with in this province 
some oxen of a very curious breed, called nata or 
Q2 



186 BANDA ORIENTAL. 

niata. They appear externally to hold neai-ly the 
same relation to other cattle which bull or pug 
dogs do to other dogs. Their forehead is very 
short and broad, with the nasal end turned up, and 
the upper lip much drawn back; their lower jaws 
project beyond the upper, and have a correspond- 
ing 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 caiTy 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 up-turned nostrils give them 
the most ludicrous, self-confident air of defiance 
imaginable. 

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

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

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



NIATA CATTLE. 187 

characterizes, as I am informed by Dr. Falconer, 
that great extinct ruminant of India, the Sivatheri- 
um. 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 : ac- 
cording to Seiior Muniz, there is the clearest evi- 
dence, contrary to the common belief of agricultu- 
rists in analogous cases, that the niata cow when 
crossed with a common bull, transmits her peculi- 
arities more strongly than the niata bull when cross- 
ed with a connnon cow. When the pasture is tol- 
erably long, the niata cattle feed with the tongue 
and palate as well as common cattle ; but during 
the great droughts, when so many animals perish, 
the niata breed is under a great disadvantage, and 
would be exterminated if not attended to ; for the 
common cattle, like horses, are able just to keep 
alive by browsing with their lips on twigs of trees 
and reeds ; this the niatas cannot so well do, as 
their lips do not join, and hence they are found to 
perish before the common cattle. This strikes me 
as a good illustration of how little we are able to 
judge from the ordinary habits of life, on what cir- 
cumstances, occurring only at long intervals, the 
rarity or extinction of a species may be detennined. 
November Vdtli. — Passing the valley of Las Va- 
cas, 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 



188 BANDA ORIENTAL. 

noble volume of water. From the clearness and 
rapidity of the stream, its appearance was far su- 
perior to that of its neighbour the Parana. On the 
opposite coast, several branches from the latter riv- 
er 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 to- 
wards Mercedes on the Rio Negro. At night we 
asked permission to sleep at an estancia at which 
we happened to an'ive. It was a very large es- 
tate, being ten leagues square, and the owner is 
one of the gi'eatest landowners in the country. His 
nephew had charge of it, and with him there was 
a captain in the army, who the other day ran away 
from Buenos Ayres. Considering their station, 
their conversation was rather amusing. They ex- 
pressed, as was usual, unbounded astonishment at 
the globe being round, and could scarcely credit 
that a hole would, if deep enough, come out on the 
other side. They had, however, heard of a coun- 
try where there were six months light and six of 
darkness, and where the inhabitants were very tall 
and thin ! They were curious about the price and 
condition of horses and cattle in England, Upon 
finding out we did not catch our animals with the 
lazo, they cried out, " Ah, then, you use nothing 
but the bolas :" the idea of an enclosed country was 
quite new to them. The captain at last said, he 
had one question to ask me, which he should be 
very much obliged if I would answer with all truth. 
I trembled to think how deeply scientific it would 
be : it was, " Whether the ladies of Buenos Ayres 
were not the handsomest in the world V I re- 
plied, like a renegade, " Charmingly so." He add- 
ed, " I have one other question : Do ladies in any 
other part of the world wear such large combs V 



THE PAMPAS THISTLE. 189 

I solemnly assured liim that they did not. They 
were absolutely delighted. The captain exclaim- 
ed, " Look there ! a man who has seen half the 
world says it is the case ; we always thought so, 
but now we know it." My excellent judgment in 
combs and beauty procured me a most hospitable 
reception ; the captain forced me to take his bed, 
and he would sleep on his recado. 

2lst. — Started at sunrise, and rode slowly du- 
ring the whole day. The geological nature of this 
part of the pi'ovince was different from the rest, 
and closely resembled that of the Pampas. In 
consequence, there were immense beds of the this- 
tle, as well as of the cardoon : the whole country, 
indeed, may be called one great bed of these plants. 
The two sorts grow separately, each plant in com- 
pany 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 en- 
tirely, 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 dis- 
tricts 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 ar- 
rived at our journey's end, we slept at a misera- 
ble little hovel inhabited by the poorest people. 
The extreme though rather formal courtesy of our 
host and hostess, considering their gi-ade of life, 
was quite delightful. 

November 22d. — Arrived at an estancia on the 



190 BANDA ORIENTAL. 

Berquelo belonging to a very hospitable English- 
man, 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 
Negi'o. Nearly the whole country was covered 
with good though coarse grass, which was as high 
as a horse's belly ; yet there were square leagues 
without a single head of cattle. The province of 
Banda Oriental, if well stocked, would support an 
astonishing number of animals ; at present the an- 
nual export of hides from Monte Video amounts 
to three hundred thousand ; and the home con- 
sumjDtion, from waste, is very considerable. An 
estanciero told me that he often had to send large 
herds of cattle a long journey to a salting estab- 
lishment, and that the tired beasts were frequently 
obliged'to be killed and skinned ; but that he could 
never persuade the Gauchos to eat of them, and 
every evening a fresh beast was slaughtered for 
their suppers ! The view of the Rio Negro from 
the Sierra was more picturesque than any other 
which I saw in this province. The river, broad, 
deep, and rapid, wound at the foot of a rocky pre- 
cipitous cliff: a belt of wood followed its course, 
and the horizon terminated in the distant undula- 
tions of the turf plain. 

When in this neighbourhood, I several times 
heard of the Sierra de las Cuentas : a hill distant 
many miles to the northward. The name signifies 
hill of beads. I was assured that vast numbers of 
little round stones, of various colours, each with a 
small cylindrical hole, are fdund 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 



SIIEPIIERD-DOGS, 191 

to understand from this story, but upon mention- 
ing it at the Cape of Good Hope to Dr. Andrew 
Smith, he tokl 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 at- 
trition, 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 cir- 
cumstances 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 ths estancia, I was amused 
with what I saw and heard of the shepherd-dogs 
of the country.* Wlien 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 pup- 
py, while very young, fi'om the bitch, and in accus- 
toming it to its future companions. A 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, 

* M. A. d'Orbigny has given nearly a similar account of these 
dogs, torn, i., p. 175. 



192 HANDA ORIENTAL. 

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 ad- 
vances 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 stran- 
ger. The minute, however, the latter has reached 
the flock, he turns round and begins to bark, and 
then all the house-dogs take very quickly to their 
heels. In a similar manner, a whole pack of the hun- 
gry 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 feel- 
ing of respect or fear for those that are fulfilling 
their instinct of association ; for we can under- 
stand on no principle the wild dogs being driven 
away by the single one with its flock, except that 
they consider, from soime confused notion, that the 
one thus associated gains power, as if in company 
with its own kind. F. Cuvier has observed, that 
all animals that readily enter into domestication, 
consider man as a member of their own society, 



BREAKING-IN WILD HORSES. 193 

and thus fulfil their instinct of association. In the 
above case the shephertl-dog ranks the sheep as its 
fellow-brethren, and thus gains confidence ; and 
the wild dogs, though knowing that the individual 
sheep are not dogs, but are good to eat, yet partly 
consent to this view when seeing them in a flock 
with a shepherd-dog at their head. 

One evening a " domidor" (a subduer of horses) 
came for the purpose of breaking-in some colts. I 
will describe the preparatory steps, for I believe 
they have not been mentioned by other travellers. 
A troop of wild young horses is driven into the 
coiTal, 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 Gau- 
cho, 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, fas- 
tened 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 out- 
side the corral. If a second man is present (other- 
VoT,. 1—1.3 R 



194 BANDA ORIENTAL. 

wise the trouble is much greater), he holds the ani- 
mal's head, whilst the first puts on the horsecloths 
and saddle, and girths the whole together. During 
this operation, the horse, from dread and astonish- 
ment 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 sad- 
dling 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 stiiTup, 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 bind- 
ing the front legs, and the beast is free. Some 
" domidors" pull the knot while the animal is ly- 
ing on the ground, and, standing over the saddle, 
allow him to rise beneath them. The hoi'se, wild 
with dread, gives a few most violent bounds, and 
then starts off at full gallop : when quite exhaust- 
ed, the man, by patience, brings him back to the 
coiTal, whei'e, reeking hot and scarcely alive, the 
poor beast is let free. Those animals which will 
not gallop away, but obstinately throw themselves 
on the ground, are by far the most troublesome. 
This process is tremendously severe, but in two 
or three trials the horse is tamed. It is not, how- 
ever, for some weeks that the animal is ridden with 
the iron bit and solid ring, for it must learn to as- 
sociate the will of its rider with the feel of the rein, 
before the most powerful bridle can be of any ser- 
vice. 

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 scarce- 
ly known. One day, riding in the Pampas with a 
very respectable " Estanciero," my horse, being 
tired, lagged behind. The man often shouted to 



RIDING OP THE GAUCIIOS. 195 

me to spur him. AVhen I remonstrated that it was 
a pity, for the horse was quite exhausted, he cned 
out, " Why not 1 never mind — spur him — it is m?/ 
horse." I had then some difficuky 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 sur- 
prise, "Ah, Don Carlos, que cosa!" It was clear 
that such an idea liad never before entered his 
head. 

The Gauchos are well known to be perfect ri- 
dei's. The idea of being thrown, let the horse do 
what it likes, never enters their head. Their cri- 
terion 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 veiy stubborn horse, which three 
times successively reared so high as to fall back- 
wards with great violence. The man judged with 
uncommon coolness the proper moment for slipping 
off, not an instant before or after the right time ; 
and as soon as the horse got up, the man jumped on 
his back, and at last they started at a gallop. The 
Gaucho never appears to exert any muscular force. 
I was one day watching a good rider, as we were 
galloping along at a rapid pace, and thought to my- 
self, " Surely, if the horse starts, you appear so care- 
less 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 



196 BANDA ORIENTAL. 

mouth of the horse than in La Plata, and this is 
evidently a consequence of the more intricate na- 
ture of the country. In Chile a horse is not con- 
sidered perfectly broken till he can be brought up 
standing, in the midst of his full speed, on any par- 
ticular spot — for instance, on a cloak thrown on the 
ground : or, again, he will charge a wall, and rear- 
ing, scrape the surface with his hoofs. I have seen 
an animal bounding with spirit, yet merely reined 
by a fore-finger and thumb, taken at full gallop 
across a courtyard, and then made to wheel round 
the post of a 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 oj^posite direc- 
tion. 

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 sti-ain, if not well broken, will not readily 
turn like the pivot of a wheel. In consequence, 
many men have been killed ; for if the lazo once 
takes a twist round a man's body, it will instantly, 
from the power of the two opposed animals, al- 
most 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 bi'ing into play the full action of 
the hind-quarters. In Chile I was told an ancc- 



MARES riLAUGHTERKD EUR THEIR HIDES. 197 

dote, which I believe was true ; and it offers a 
good illustration of the use of a well-broken ani- 
mal. A respectable man riding one day met two 
others, one of whom was mounted on a horse 
which he knew to have been stolen from himself. 
He challenged them ; they answered him by draw- 
ing 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 
broiight up his horse to a dead check. The pur- 
suers were obliged to shoot on one side and ahead. 
Then instantly dashing on, right behind them, he 
buried his knife in the back of one, wounded the 
other, recovered his horse from the dying robber, 
and rode home. For these feats of horsemanship 
two things are necessary : a most severe bit, like 
the Mameluke, the power of which, though seldom 
used, the horse knows full well ; and large blunt 
spurs, that can be applied either as a mere touch, 
or as an instrument of extreme pain. I conceive 
that with English spurs, the slightest touch of which 
pricks the skin, it would be impossible to break in 
a horse after the South American fashion. 

At an estancia near Las Vacas, large numbers 
of mares are weekly slaughtered for the sake of 
their hides, although worth only five paper dollars, 
or about half a crown apiece. It seems at first 
strange that it can answer to kill mares for such a 
trifle ; but as it is thought ridiculous in this country 
ever to break in or ride a mare, they are of no 
value except for breeding. The only thing for 
which I ever saw mares used was to tread out 
wheat fi-om 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 tho 
R2 



198 BAi\DA ORIEiNTAL. 

distance of twelve yards from the moutli of the cor- 
ral, 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, fast- 
en her front legs together, drive her out, throw her 
down, kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying 
(which latter is a tedious job) ; and he engaged 
that he would perform this whole operation on 
twenty-two animals in one day ; or he would kill 
and take the skin off fifty in the same time. This 
would have been a prodigious task, for it is consid- 
ered a good day's work to skin and stake the hides 
of fifteen or sixteen animals, 

November 2Qth. — I set out on my i-etum in a di- 
rect line for Monte Video. Having heard of some gi- 
ant's bones at a neighbouring farm-house on the Sar- 
andis, a small stream entering the Rio Negro, I rode 
there, accompanied by iny host, and purchased for 
the value of eighteen pence the head of the Toxo- 
don.* When found it was quite perfect ; but the 
boys knocked out some of the teeth with stones, and 
then set up the head as a mark to throw at. By a 
most fortunate chance I found a perfect tooth, which 
exactly fitted one of the sockets in this skull, em- 
bedded by itself on the banks of the Rio Tercero, 
at the distance of about 180 miles from this place. 
I found remains of this extraordinary animal at 
two other places, so that it must formerly have been 
common. I found here, also, some large portions 
of the armour of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, 
and part of the great head of a Mylodon. The 
bones of this head are so fresh, that they contain, 
according to the analysis by Mr. T. Reeks, seven 

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



FOSSIL, KEMAli\ri. 199 

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 es- 
tuary deposit which forms the Pampas and covers 
the granitic rocks of Banda Oriental must be ex- 
traordinarily 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 marvel- 
lous property of certain rivei's, which had the pow- 
er of changing small bones into large ; or, as some 
maintained, the bones themselves gi-ew. 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 em- 
bedded. We may conclude that the whole area 
of the Pampas is one wide sepulchre of these ex- 
tinct gigantic quadrupeds. 

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



Durinaf the last six months I have had 



oppor- 



200 DANDA ORIENTAL. 

tunity of seeing a little of the character of the in- 
habitants 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 jaarty tries to 
mark the face of his adversary by slashing his nose 
or eyes, as is often attested by deep and hon-id- 
looking scars. Robberies are a natural conse- 
quence of universal gambling, much drinking, and 
extreme indolence. At Mercedes I asked two men 
why they did not work. One gravely said the days 
were too long; the other, that he was too poor. 
The number of horses and the profusion of food 
are the destruction of all industry. Moreover, there 
are so many feast-days ; and again, nothing can 
succeed without it be begun when the moon is on 
the increase ; so that half the moon is lost from 
these two causes. 

Police and justice are quite inefiicient. 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 govern- 
ment, and not against the people. A traveller has 
no protection besides his fire-arms ; and the con- 
stant habit of caiTying them is the main check to 
more freauent robbeiies. 



STATE OF SOCIETY. 201 

Tho character of the higher and more educated 
classes who reside in the towns, partakes, but per- 
haps in a lesser degi'ee, of the good parts of tho 
Gaucho, but is, I fear, stained by many vices of 
which he is free. Sensuality, mockery of all reli- 
gion, and the gi-ossest corruption, are far from un- 
common. Nearly every public officer can be bribed. 
The head man in the post-office sold forged gov- 
ernment franks. The governor and prime minis- 
ter openly combined to plunder the state. Justice, 
where gold came into jjlay, was hardly expected 
by any one. I knew an Englishman, who went to 
the Chief-justice (he told me, that not then under- 
standing 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 ai'rest before a cer- 
tain 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 tlie 
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 of- 
ficers, the people yet hope that a democratic form 
of government can succeed ! 

On first entering society in these countries, two 
or three featui'es strike one as particularly remark- 
able. 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 ma,jor at Bahia Blanca gained 
his livelihood by making paper cigars, and he 
wished to accompany me, as guide or servant, to 
Buenos Ayres. but his father objected on the score 



202 mo PLATA. 

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 gen- 
tlemen by profession appears to an Englishman 
something strange. 

When speaking of these countries, the manner 
in which they have been brought up by their un- 
natural 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 especial- 
ly, as I am bound to add, to every one professing 
the humblest pretensions to science, should be rec- 
ollected with gTatitude by those who have visited 
Spanish South America. 

Decemher 6t7i. — 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 oi" 



FLOCKS UF BUTTKKFLIKS. 203 

flocks of countless myriads, extended as far as the 
eye could range. Even by the aid of a telescope 
it was not possible to see a space free from butter- 
flies. The seamen cried out " it was snowing but- 
tei-flies," and such, in fact, was the appearance. 
More species than one were present, but the main 
part belonged to a kind very similar to, but not 
identical with, the common English Colias edusa. 
Some moths and hymenoptera accompanied the 
butterflies ; and a fine beetle (Calosoma) flew on 
board. Other instances are known of this beetle 
having been caught far out at sea ; and this is the 
more remarkable, as the greater number of the 
Carabida3 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 volunta- 
rily 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, Va- 
nessa 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 pe- 
lagic animals. Upon drawing it up, to my surprise 
I found a considerable number of beetles in it, and 
although in the open sea, they did not appear much 
injured by the salt water. I lost some of the spe- 
cimens, but those which I preserved belonged to 
the genera Colymbetes, Hydroporus, Hydrobius 
(two species), Notaphus, Cynucus, Adimonia, and 
Scarabceus. At first I thought that these insects 
* Lyeli's Principles of Geology, vol. iii., p. 63. 



204 RIO PLATA. 

had been blown from the shore ; but upon reflect- 
ing that out of the eight species four were aquatic, 
and two others partly so in their habits, it appeai'- 
ed to me most probable that they were floated into 
the sea by a small stream which drains a lake near 
Cape Con-ientes. On any supposition, it is an in- 
teresting circumstance to find live insects swim- 
ming 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 obsei-ved it, as did more 
lately Captain King in the Adventure. The cause 
probably is due to the want of shelter, both of trees 
and hills, so that an insect on the wing, with an off"- 
shore breeze, would be very apt to be blown out to 
sea. The most remarkable instance I have known 
of an insect being caught far from the land, was 
that of a large grasshopper (Acrydium), which 
flew on board when the Beagle was to windward 
of the Cape de Verd Islands, and when the near- 
est point of land, not directly opposed to the trade- 
wind, was Cape Blanco on the coast of Africa, 370 
miles distant.* 

On several occasions, when the Beagle has been 
within the mouth of the Plata, the rigging has been 
coated with the web of the Gossamer Spider. One 
day (November 1st, 1832) I paid particular atten- 
tion 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 

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



AERONAUT SPIDERS. 205 

coloiu', were attaclied to the webs. There must 
have been, I should suppose, some thousands on the 
ship. The httle spider, when first coming in con- 
tact with the rigging, was always seated on a sin- 
gle thread, and not on the flocculent mass. This 
latter seems merely to be produced by the entan- 
glement of the single threads. The spiders were 
all of one species, but of both sexes, together with 
young ones. These latter were distinguished by 
their smaller size and more dusky colour. I will 
not give the description of this spider, but merely 
state that it does not appear to me to be included 
in any of Latreille's genera. The little aeronaut, 
as soon as it arrived on board, was very active, run- 
ning about, sometimes letting itself fall, and then 
reascending the same thread ; sometimes employ- 
ing itself in making a small and very iiTegular 
mesh in the corners between the ropes. It could 
run with facility on the surface of water. When 
disturbed, it lifted up its front legs in the attitude 
of attention. On its first arrival it appeared very 
thirsty, and with exserted maxillae drank eagerly 
of drops of water; this same circumstance has been 
observed by Strack : may it not be in consequence 
of the little insect having passed throvigh a dry and 
rarefied atmosphere ] Its stock of web seemed in- 
exhaustible. While watching some that were sus- 
pended by a single thread, I several times obsei-v- 
ed that the slightest breath of air bore them away 
out of sight, in a horizontal line. On another oc- 
casion (25th), under similar circumstances, I repeat- 
edly observed the same kind of small spider, either 
when placed or having crawled on some little em- 
inence, elevate its abdomen, send forth a thread, 
and then sail away horizontally, but with a rapid- 
ity which was quite unaccountable. I thought I 
could perceive that the spider, before performing 



206 RIO PLATA. 

the above preparatory steps, connected its legs to- 
gether with the most delicate threads, but I am 
not sure whether this observation was correct. 

One day, at St. Fe, I had a better opportunity 
of observing some similar facts. A spider which 
was about three tenths of an inch in length, and 
which in its general appearance resembled a Citi- 
grade (therefore quite different from the gossamer), 
while standing on the summit of a post, darted 
forth four or five threads from its spinners. These, 
glittering in the sunshine, might be compared to 
diverging rays of light ; they were not, however, 
straight, but in undulations like films of silk blown 
by the wind. They were more than a yard in 
length, and diverged in an ascending direction 
from the orifices. The spider then suddenly let 
go its hold of the post, and was quickly borne out 
of sight. The day was hot and apparently quite 
calm ; yet, under such circumstances, the atmo- 
sphere can never be so tranquil as not to affect a 
vane so delicate as the thread of a spider's web. 
If during a warm day we look either at the shadow 
of any object cast on a bank, or over a level plain 
at a distant landmark, the effect of an ascending 
current of heated air is almost always evident: such 
upward currents, it has been remarked, are also 
shown by the ascent of soap-bubbles, which will 
not rise in an in-doors room. 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 



CRUSTACEA. 207 

the lines, renders it probable that the habit of sail- 
ing 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 difierent passages south of the Pla- 
ta, I often towed astern a net made of bunting, 
and thus caught many curious animals. Of Crus- 
tacea there were inany strange and undescribed 
genera. One, which in some respects is allied to 
the Notopods (or those crabs which have their pos- 
terior 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 termi- 
nating in a simple claw, ends in thi'ee bristle-like 
appendages of dissimilar lengths — the longest 
equalling that of the entire leg. These claws are 
very thin, and are serrated with the finest teeth, 
directed backwards : their curved extremities are 
flattened, and on this part five most minute cups 
are placed, which seem to act in the same manner 
as the suckers on the arms of the cuttle-fish. As 
the animal lives in the open sea, and probably 
wants a place of rest, I suppose this beautiful and 
most anomalous structure is adapted to take hold 
of floating marine animals. 

In deep water, far from the land, the number of 
living creatures is extremely small : south of the 
latitude 35°, I never succeeded in catching any- 
thing besides some beroe, and a few species of 
minute entomostracous Crustacea. In shoaler wa- 

* Mr. Blackwall, in his Researches in Zoology, has many ex- 
cellent observations on the habits of spiders. 



208 ATLANTIC OCEAN. 

ter, at the distance of a few miles from the coast, 
very many kinds of Crustacea and some other an- 
imals are numerous, but only during the night. 
Between latitudes 56° and 57° south of Cape Horn, 
the net was put astern several times ; it never, 
however, brought up anything besides a few of 
two extremely minute species of Entomostraca. 
Yet whales and seals, petrels and albatross, are 
exceedingly abundant throughout this part of the 
ocean. It has always been a mystery to me on what 
the albatross, which lives far from the shore, can 
subsist ; I presume that, like the condor, it is able to 
fast long ; and that one good feast on the carcass of a 
puti-id whale lasts for a long time. The central and 
intertropical parts of the Atlantic swarm with Pte- 
ropoda, Crustacea, and Radiata, and with their de- 
vourers the flying-fish, and again with their devoui'- 
ers the bonitos and albicores ; I presume that the 
numerous lower pelagic animals feed on the Infu- 
soria, 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 1 

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 bil- 
lows 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 sel- 
dom phosphorescent ; and off Cape Horn I do not 



PHOSPHORESCENCE OF THE SEA. 209 

recollect more than once having seen it so, and 
then it was far from being brilliant. This circum- 
stance probably has a close connexion with the 
scarcity of organic beings in that part of the ocean. 
After the elaborate paper* by Ehrenberg on the 
phosphorescence of the sea, it is almost 6upei"fluous 
on my part to make any observations on the sub- 
ject. I may, however, add, that the same torn and 
irregular particles of gelatinous matter, described by 
Ehrenberg, seem, in the southern as well as in the 
northern heinisphere, 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 scarce- 
ly 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 du- 
ring one night, I allowed it to become partially dry, 
and having occasion twelve hours aftenvards to 
employ it again, I found the whole sui-face spark- 
led as brightly as when first taken out of the water. 
It does not appear probable, in this case, that the 
paiticles could have remained so long alive. On 
one occasion, having kept a jelly-fish of the genus 
Dianaea till it was dead, the water in which it was 
placed became luminous. When the waves scin- 
tillate with bright green sparks, I believe it is gen- 
erally 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 lumi- 

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

Vol. I—n S 2 



210 I'HOSPIIOIlErfCENCE OF THE SEA. 

nous 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 of water, passed 
over without disturbing these patches ; therefore 
we inust suppose that some animals were congre- 
gated together at a gi-eater 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 exj^ected 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 fre- 
quency and rapidity of the flashes. I have already 
remarked that tlie phenomenon is very much more 
common in warm than in cold countries ; and I 
have sometimes imagined that a disturbed electrical 
condition of the atmosphere was most favourable 
to its production. Certainly I think the sea is most 
luminous after a few days of more calm weather 
than ordinary, during which time it has swarmed 
with various animals. Observing that the water 
charged with gelatinous particles is in an impure 
state, and that the luminous appearance in all com- 
mon cases is produced by the agitation of the fluid 
in contact with the atmosphere, I am inclined to 
consider that the phosphorescence is the result of 
the decomposition of the organic particles, by which 
process (one is tempted almost to call it a kind of 
respiration'^ the ocean becomes puiified. 



PORT DESIRE SPANISH SETTLEMENT. 211 

December 23d. — We anived at Poil Desire, sit- 
uated in lat 47°, on the coast of Patagonia. The 
creek runs for about twenty miles inland, with an 
irregular width. The Beagle anchored a few miles 
within the entrance, in front of the ruins of an old 
Spanish settlement. 

The same evening I went on shore. The first 
landing in any new country is very interesting, and 
especially when, as in this case, the whole aspect 
bears the stamp of a marked and individual chai'- 
acter. 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 com- 
posed of well-rounded shingle mixed with a whi- 
tish earth. Here and there scattered tufts of browTi 
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 ob- 
scured. When standing in the middle of one of 
these desert plains and looking towards the interior, 
the view is generally bounded by the escaqsment 
of another plain, rather higher, but equally level 
and desolate ; and in every other direction the ho- 
lizon is indistinct from the trembling mirage which 
seems to rise from the heated surface. 

In such a- country the fate of the Spanish settle- 
ment was soon decided ; the dryness of the climate 
during the gi'eater part of the year, and the occa- 
sional 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 at- 
tempts to colonize this side of America south of 
41° have been miserable. Port Famine expresses 
by its name the lingering and extreme sufferings 



212 PORT DESIRE. 

of several Imnclrecl wretched people, of whom one 
alone survived to relate thsir misfortunes. At St. 
Joseph's Bay, on the coast of Patagonia, a small 
settlement was made ; but during one Sunday the 
Indians made an attack and massacred the whole 
party, excepting two men, who remained captives 
during many years. At the Rio Negro I conversed 
with one of these men, now in extreme old age. 

The zoology of Patagonia is as limited as its 
Flora.* On the arid j)lains 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 grasshop- 
pers, cicadae, small lizards, and even scorpions.! 
At one time of the year these birds go in flocks, at 
another in pairs ; their cry is very loud and singu- 
lar, like the neighing of the guanaco. 

The guanaco, or wild llama, is the characteristic 
quadruped of the plains of Patagonia ; it is the 
South American 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 

* I found here a species of cactus, described by Professor Hen- 
slow under the name of Opimtia Darwinii (Magazine of Zoology 
and Botany, vol. i., p. 466), which was remarkable by the irrita- 
bility of the stamens, when I inserted either a piece of stick or 
the end of my finger in the flower. The segments of the peri- 
anth 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), ill the same 
high latitude as here, namely, in both cases, in 47°. 

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



HABITS OF THE GUANACO. 213 

half a dozen to thirty in each ; but on the banlcs of 
the St. Cruz we saw one herd which must have con- 
tained at least five hundred. 

They are generally wild and extremely wary. 
Mr. Stokes told me that he one day saw through 
a glass a herd of these animals which evidently 
had been frightened, and were running away at 
full speed, although their distance was so great 
that he could not distinguish them with his naked 
eye. The sportsman frequently receives the first 
notice of their presence by hearing from a long dis- 
tance their peculiar shrill, neighing note of alarm. 
If he then looks attentively, he will probably see 
the herd standing in a line on the side of some dis- 
tant hill. On approaching nearer, a few more 
squeals are given, and off they set at an apparently 
slow, but really quick canter, along some narrow 
beaten track to a neighbouring hill. If, however, 
by chance he abruptly meets a single animal, or 
several together, they will generally stand motion- 
less and intently gaze at him ; then perhaps move 
on a few yards, turn round, and look again. What 
is the cause of this difference in their shyness 1 
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 cer- 
tain ; 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 re- 
connoitre him. It was an artifice that was repeated- 
ly practised by our sportsmen with success, and it 
had, moreover, the advantage of allowing several 
shots to be fired, which were all taken as parts of 
the pei-formance. 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 man- 



214 PORT DESIRE. 

ner, apparently in defiance of 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 as- 
serted 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 horse- 
back, they soon become bewildered, and know not 
which way to run. This greatly facilitates the In- 
dian method of hunting, for they are thus easily 
driven to a central point, and are encompassed. 

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



HABITS OF THE GUANACO. 215 

regulai'ity of cavalry, and had returned back in as 
straight a Une as they had advanced. The guana- 
cos 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 lavourite spots for 
lying down to die. On the banks of the St. Cruz, 
in certain circumscribed spaces, which were gener- 
ally 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 partic- 
ularly 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, be- 
fore 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 wound- 
ed guanacos at the St. Cruz invariably walked to- 
wards the river. At St. Jago, in the Cape de Verd 
islands, I remember having seen in a ravine a re- 
tired comer 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 tri- 
fling circumstances, because in certain cases they 
might explain the occurrence of a number of un- 
injured 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. 



21G PATAGONIA. 

One day the yawl was sent under the command 
ofMr. Chaffers with three days' provisions to sur- 
vey the upper part of the harbour. In the morn- 
ing we searched for some watering-jjlaces men- 
tioned 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 soft- 
ness of these materials it was worn into many gul- 
leys. There was not a tree, and, excepting the 
guanaco, which stood on the hill-top a watchful 
sentinel over its herd, scarcely an animal or a bird. 
All was stillness and desolation. Yet in passing 
over these scenes, without one bright object near, 
an ill-defined but strong sense of pleasure is vivid- 
ly 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, 
Mr. Chaffers took the dingey and went up two or 
three miles further, where she also grounded, but in 
a fresh-water river. The water was muddy, and 
though the stream was most insignificant in size, it 
would be difficult to account for its origin, except 
from the melting snow on the Cordillera. At the 
* Shelley, Lines on Mt. Blano. 



INDIAN GRAVE. 217 

Bpot where we bivoviacked, we were surrounded 
by bold clifts, 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 gi-ave, on the hard 
rock, there was a layer of earth about a foot deep, 
which must have been brought up from the plain 
below. Above it a pavement of flat stones was 
placed, on which others were piled, so as to fill up 
the space between the ledge and the two great 
blocks. To complete the grave, the Indians had 
contrived to detach from the ledge a huge frag- 
ment, and to throw it over the pile so as to rest on 
the two blocks. We undermined the grave on 
both sides, but could not find any relics, or even 
bones. The latter probably had decayed long since 
(in which case the gi-ave must have been of ex- 
treme antiquity), for I found in another place some 
smaller heaps, beneath which a very {"ew cnimbling 
fragments could yet be distinguished as having be- 
longed to a man. Falconer states, that where an 
Indian dies he is buried, but that subsequently his 
bones are carefully taken up and carried, let the 
distance be ever so great, to be deposited near the 
sea-coast. This custom, I think, may be accounted 
for by recollecting, that before the introduction of 
horses, these Indians must have led nearly the same 
life as the Fuegians now do, and therefore gener- 
ally have resided in the neighbourhood of the sea. 
The common prejudice of lying where one's an- 
T 



218 PORT ST. JULIAN. 

cestors 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 countiy 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 ex- 
hausted. 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 atmo- 
sphere ; 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, du- 
ring our whole visit, a single drop of fresh water, 
yet some must exist ; for by an odd chance I found 
on the surface of the salt water, near the head of 
the bay, a Colymbetes not quite dead, which must 
have lived in some not far distant pool. Three 
other insects (a Cincindela, like hybrida, a Cymin- 
dis, and a Harpalus, which all live on muddy flats 
occasionally overflowed by the sea), and one other 
found dead on the plain, complete the list of the 
beetles. A good-sized fly (Tabanus) was extreme- 
ly numerous, and tormented us by its painful bite. 
The common horsefly, which is so troublesome in 
the shady lanes of England, belongs to this same 
genus. We here have the puzzle that so frequent- 



GEOLOGY OF PATAGONIA. 219 

ly 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. Dif- 
ferently from Europe, where the tertiary forma- 
tions appear to have accumulated in bays, here 
along hundreds of miles of coast we have one great 
deposit, including many tertiary shells, all appa- 
rently extinct. The most common shell is a mass- 
ive, gigantic oyster, sometimes even a foot in diam- 
eter. These beds are covered by others of a pe- 
culiar soft white stone, including much gypsum, 
and resembling chalk, but really of a pumiceous 
nature. It is highly remarkable, from being com- 
posed, to at least one tenth part of its bulk, of In- 
fusoria : Professor Ehrenberg has already ascer- 
tained in it thirty oceanic forms. This bed ex- 
tends for 500 miles along the coast, and probably 
for a considerably greater distance. At Port St. 
Julian its thickness is more than 800 feet ! These 
white beds are everywhere capped by a mass of 
gravel, forming probably one of the largest beds 
of shingle in the world : it certainly extends from 
near the Rio Colorado to between 600 and 700 
nautical miles southward ; at Santa Cruz (a river 
a little south of St. Julian) it reaches to the foot of 
the Cordillera ; half way up the river, its thickness 
is more than 200 feet ; it probably everywhere ex- 
tends to this great chain, whence the well-rounded 
pebbles of porphyry have been derived : we may 
consider its average breadth as 200 miles, and its 
average thickness as about 50 feet. If this gi-eat 
bed of pebbles, without including the mud neces- 
sarily derived from their attrition, was piled into a 



220 GEOLOGY OF PATAGONIA, 

mound, it would form a great mountain chain ! 
When we consider tliat all these pebbles, countless 
as the gi'ains of sand in the desert, have been de- 
rived 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 slow- 
ly rolled, rounded, and far transported, the mind 
is stupified in thinking over the long, absolutely 
necessary lapse of years. Yet all this gravel has 
been transported, and probably rounded, subse- 
quently 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 clifts or escarp- 
ments, which separate the different plains as they 
rise like steps one behind the other. The eleva- 
tory 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 corre- 
sponding heights at far distant points. The lowest 
plain is 90 feet high ; and the highest, which I as- 
cended 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 St. Cruz slopes up to a 



GEOLOGY OF PATAGONIA. 221 

height of 3000 feet at the foot of the Cordillera. 
I have said that within the period of existing sea- 
shells Patagonia has been upraised 300 to 400 feet : 
I may add, that within the period when icebergs 
transported boulders over the upper plain of Santa 
Cruz, the elevation has been at least 1500 feet. 
Nor has Patagonia been aftected only by upward 
movements : the extinct tertiary shells from Port 
St. Julian and Santa Cruz cannot have lived, ac- 
cording to Professor E. Forbes, in a gi-eater depth 
of water than from 40 to 250 feet ; but they are 
now covered with sea-deposited strata ft'om 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 ac- 
cumulation of the superincumbent sti'ata. What a 
history of geological changes does the simply-con- 
sti'ucted coast of Patagonia reveal ! 

At Port St. Julian,* in some red mud capping 
the gravel on the 90-feet plain, I found half the 
skeleton of the Macrauchenia Patachonica, a re- 
markable quadruped, full as large as a camel. It 
belongs to the same division of the Pachydermata 
with the rhinoceros, tapir, and pala30therium ; but 
in the structure of the bones of its long neck it 
shows a clear relation to the camel, or rather to the 
guanaco and llama. From recent sea-shells being 
found on two of the higher step-formed plains, 
which must have been modelled and upraised be- 
fore the mud was deposited in which the Macrau- 
chenia 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 

* I have lately heard that Capt. Sulivan, R.N., has found nu- 
merous fossil bones, embedded in regular strata, on the banks of 
the Rio Gallegos, in lat. 51° 4'. Some of the bones are large ; 
others are small, and appear to have belonged to an armadillo. 
This IS a most interesting and important discovery. 
T 2 



222 TYPES OF ORGANIZATION CONSTANT. 

how a large quadruped could so lately have sub- 
sisted, in lat. 49° 15', on these wretched gravel 
plains, with their stunted vegetation ; but the rela- 
tionship of the Macrauchenia to the guanaco, now 
an inhabitant of the most sterile parts, partly ex- 
plains this difficulty. 

The relationship, though distant, between the 
Macrauchenia and the Guanaco, between the Tox- 
odon and the Capybara — the closer relationship 
between the many extinct Edentata and the living 
sloths, ant-eaters, and armadilloes, now so eminent- 
ly characteristic of South American zoology — and 
the still closer relationship between the fossil and 
living species of Ctenomys and Hydrocheerus, are 
most interesting facts. This relationship is shown 
wonderfully — as wonderfully as between the fossil 
and extinct Marsupial animals of Australia — by the 
great collection lately brought to Em-ope 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 tlie provinces in which 
the caves occur ; and the extinct species are much 
more numerous than those now living : there are 
fossil ant-eaters, armadilloes, tapirs, peccaries, gua- 
nacos, opossums, and numerous South American 
gnawers and monkeys, and other animals. This 
wonderful relationship in the same continent be- 
tween 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 disappear- 
ance from it, than any other class of facts. 

It is impossible to reflect on the changed state of 
the American continent without the deepest aston- 
ishment. Formerly it must have swarmed with 
gi'eat monsters : now we find mere pigmies, com- 
pared with the antecedent allied races. If Buffon 



CAUSES OF EXTINCTION. 223 

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 powei-, 
rather than that it had never possessed great vigour. 
The greater number, if not all, of these extinct 
quadrupeds lived at a late period, and were the 
contemporaries of most of the existing sea-shells. 
Since they lived, no very gi-eat 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 be- 
lief of some great catastrophe ; but thus to destroy 
animals, both large and small, in Southern Patago- 
nia, 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 examina- 
tion, moreover, of the geology of La Plata and Pata- 
gonia, leads to the belief that all the features of 
the land result from slow and gradual changes. It 
appears from the character of the fossils in Europe, 
Asia, Australia, and in North and South America, 
that those conditions which favour the life of the 
larger quadrupeds were lately co-extensive with 
the world : what those conditions were, no one has 
yet even conjectured. It could hardly have been 
a change of temperature, which at about the same 
time destroyed the inhabitants of tropical, temper- 
ate, and arctic latitudes on both sides of the globe. 
In North America, we positively know from Mr. 
Lyell that the large quadrupeds lived subsequent- 
ly to that period when boulders were brought into 
latitudes at which icebergs now never an-ive : 
firom conclusive but indirect reasons we may feel 
sure, that in the southern hemisphere the Macrau- 
chenia also lived long subsequently to the ice- 
transporting boulder-period. Did man, after his 



224 CAUSES OF EXTINCTION. 

first inroad into South America, destroy, as has 
been suggested, the unwieldy Megatherium and 
the other Edentata 1 We must at least look to 
some other cause for the destruction of the little 
tucutuco at Bahia Blanca, and of the many fossil 
mice and other small quadrupeds in Brazil. No 
one will imagine that a drought, even far severer 
than those which cause such losses in the provinces 
of La Plata, could destroy every individual of 
every species from Southern Patagonia to Behring's 
Straits. What shall we say of the extinction of the 
horse 1 Did those plains fail of pasture, which 
have since been overrun by thousands and hun- 
dreds of thousands of the descendants of the stock 
introduced by the Spaniards 1 Have the subse- 
quently 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 proto- 
tyj^es 1 Certainly no fact in the long history of the 
world is so startling as the wide and repeated ex- 
terminations of its inhabitants. 

Nevertheless, if we consider the subject under 
another point of view, it will appear less pei-plex- 
ing. We do not steadily bear in inind how pro- 
foundly ignorant we are of the conditions of exist- 
ence of every animal ; nor do we always remem- 
ber 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 av- 
erage, remains constant, yet the tendency in every 
animal to increase by propagation is geometrical ; 
and its surprising eft'ects have nowhere been more 
astonishingly showi'i than in the case of the Euro- 
pean animals run wild during the last few centu- 
ries in America. Every animal in a state of na- 



CAUSES UF EXTiNCTIuX. 225 

ture regularly breeds ; yet in a species long estab- 
lished, any great inci'ease in numbers is obviously 
impossible, and must be checked by some means. 
We are, nevertheless, seldom able with certainty 
to tell, in any given species, at what period of life, 
or at what period of the year, or whether only at 
long intervals, the check falls ; or, again, what is 
the precise nature of the check. Hence probably 
it is that we feel so little surprise at one, of two 
species closely allied in habits, being rare and the 
other abundant in the same district ; or, again, that 
one should be abundant in one district, and anoth- 
er, filling the same place in the economy of nature, 
should be abundant in a neighbouring district, dif- 
fering very little in its conditions. If asked how 
this is, one immediately replies that it is determin- 
ed by some slight difference in climate, food, or the 
number of enemies ; yet how rai'ely, if ever, we 
can point out the precise cause and manner of ac- 
tion of the check ! We are therefore driven to 
the conclusion that causes generally quite inap- 
preciable by us determine whether a given spe- 
cies shall be abundant or scanty in numbers. 

In the cases where we can trace the extinction 
of a species through man, either wholly or in one 
limited district, we know that it becomes rarer and 
rarer, and is then lost : it would be difficult to point 
out any just distinction* betv/een a species destroy- 
ed 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 remark- 
ed 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, spe- 

* See the excellent remarks on this subject by Mr Lyell, in his 
Principles of Geology. 
Vol, I — 15 



226 CAUSES OF EXTIXCTION. 

cies first become rare and then extinct — if the too 
rapid increase of every species, even the most fa- 
voured, 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 
disti'ict, why should we feel such great astonish- 
ment at the rarity being caiTied a step further to 
extinction ? An action going on on eveiy side of 
us, and yet barely appreciable, might surely be car- 
ried a little further without exciting our observa- 
tion. Who would feel any great surprise at hear- 
ing that the jMegalonyx was fonnerly rare com- 
pared with the Megatherium, or that one of the 
fossil monkeys was few in number compared -with 
one of the now living monkeys ? and yet in this 
comparative rarity we should have the plainest ev- 
idence of less favourable conditions for their exist- 
ence. To admit that species generally become rare 
before they become extinct — to feel uo sui"prise at 
the comparative rarity of one species with another, 
and yet to call in some extraordinary agent and 
to mai-vel gi-eatly when a species ceases to exist, 
appears to me much the same as to admit that sick- 
ness 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. ■ , 



EXPLORING THE SANTA CRUZ. 227 



CHAPTER IX. 

Santa Cruz— Expedition up the Kiver— Indians— Immense Streams 
of Basaltic Lava— Fragments not transported by the Kiver — Ex- 
cavation of the Valley— Condor, habits of— Cordillera— Erratic 
Boulders of great size — Indian Relics — Return to the Ship — 
Falkland Islands— Wild Horses, Cattle, Rabbits— Wolf-like Fox 
— Fire made of Bones — Manner of hunting wild Cattle — Geolo- 
gy — Streams of Stones— Scenes of Violence — Penguin— Geese 
— Eggs of Doris— Compound Animals. 

SANTA CRUZ, PATAGONIA, AND THE FALKLAND 

ISLANDS. 

April loth, 1834. — The Beagle ahcliored within 
the mouth of the Santa Cruz. This river is situ- 
ated 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 pro- 
visions, 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 18th three whale-boats start- 
ed, carrying three weeks' provisions ; and the par- 
ty 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 in- 
fluence. 

The river here assumed a size and appearance 
which, even at the highest point we ultimately 
reached, was scarcely diminished. It was gener- 
ally from three to four hundred yards broad, and 
in the middle about seventeen feet deep. The 
rapidity of the cuiTont, which in its whole course 
runs at the rate of from four to six knots an hour, 



H..^.- ■-'^-rC.— -^---^^-— ^- 



228 SANTA CRUZ, PATAGONIA. 

is, perhaps, its most remarkable feature. The wa- 
ter 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 peb- 
bles, like those which compose the beach and the 
surrounding plains. It runs in a winding course 
through a valley, which extends in a direct line 
westward. This valley varies from five to ten 
miles in breadth ; it is bounded by step-formed 
terraces, which rise in most parts, one above the 
other, to the height of five hundred feet, and have 
on the opposite sides a remarkable correspondence, 
April 19th. — Against so strong a current it was, 
of course, quite impossible to row or sail : conse- 
quently 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 fa- 
cilitating the work of all, and as all had a share in 
it, I will describe the system. The party, inclu- 
ding 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 in- 
dependent 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 ujj 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. 



EXPLORING THE SANTA CRUZ. 229 

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

Ajiril 20th. — We passed the islands and set to 
work. Our regular day's march, although it was 
hard enough, carried us on an average only ten 
miles in a straight line, and perhaps fifteen or twen- 
ty 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 wc knew that Indians 
Avere in the neighbourhood. On the next morning 
(:^lst) tracks of a party of horse, and marks left by 
the trailing of the chuzos, or long spears, were ob- 
served on the ground. It was generally thought 
that the Indians had reconnoitred us dui'ing the 
night. Shortly afterwards we came to a spot where, 
from the fresh footsteps of men, children, and hor- 
ses, it was evident that the party had crossed the 
I'iver. 

April 22d. — The country remained the same, 
and was extremely uninteresting. The complete 
similarity of the productions throughout Patagonia 
is one of its most striking characters. The level 
plains of arid shingle support the same stunted and 
dwarf plants ; and in the valleys the same thorn- 
bearing bushes grow. 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 water- 
fowl is very scanty, for there is nothing to support 
life in the stream of this baiTen river. 

Patagonia, poor as she is in some respects, can, 



230 SANTA CRIJZ, PATAGONIA. 

however, boast of a gi-eater stock of small rodents* 
than perhaps any other country in the world. Sev- 
eral species of mice are externally characterized 
by large thin ears and a very fine fur. These lit- 
tle animals swarm amongst the thickets in the val- 
leys, 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 en- 
tire support from these small animals. The gua- 
naco is also in his pro23er 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 alinost everywhere on the banks of the 
river; and the remains of several guanacos, with 
their necks dislocated and bones broken, shoAved 
how they had met their death. 

April 2ith. — Like the navigators of old when 
approaching an unknown land, we examined and 
watched for the most trivial sign of a change. The 
drifted trunk of a tree, or a boulder of primitive 
rock, was hailed with joy, as if we had seen a forest 
growing on the flanks of the Cordillera. The top, 
however, of a heavy bank of clouds, which remain- 
ed 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 themselves, instead of the masses of 
vapour condensed by their icy summits. 

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



EXPLOraNG THE SANTA CRUZ. 231 

April 26t7i. — We this day met with a marked 
change in the geological structure of the plains. 
From the first starting I had carefully examined 
the gravel in the river, and for the two last days 
had noticed the presence of a few small pebbles 
of a very cellular basalt. These gradually in- 
ci'eased in number and in size, but none were as 
large as a man's head. Tliis morning, however, 
pebbles of the same rock, but more compact, sud- 
denly 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 encumber- 
ed with these basaltic masses. Above that limit im- 
mense fragments of primitive rocks, derived from 
the surrounding bouldcr-forraation, were equally 
numerous. None of the fragments of any consid- 
erable 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 reach- 
es occur in any part, this example is a most stri- 
king one, of the inefficiency of rivers in transport- 
ing even moderately-sized fragments. 

The basalt is only lava, which has flowed be- 
neath the sea; but the eruptions must have been 
on the grandest scale. At the point where we first 
met this formation it was 120 feet in thickness; 
following up the river course, the surface imper- 
ceptibly rose and the mass became thicker, so that 
at forty miles above the first station it was 320 feet 
thick. What the thickness may be close to the 
Cordillera I have no means of knowing, but the 
platform there attains a height of about three thou- 
sand feet above the level of the sea : we must 



232 SANTA CRUZ, PATAGONIA. 

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 op- 
posite sides of the valley, it was evident that the 
strata once were united. What power, then, has 
removed along a whole lino of country, a solid mass 
of very hard rock, which had an average thickness 
of nearly three hundred feet, and a breadth vary- 
ing from rather less than two miles to four miles 1 
The river, though it has so little power in trans- 
porting even inconsiderable fragments, yet in the 
lapse of ages might produce by its gradual erosion 
an effect, of which it is difficult to judge the 
amount. But in this case, independently of the 
insignificance of such an agency, good reasons can 
be assigned for believing that this valley was foi'- 
merly occupied by an arm of the sea. It is need- 
less in this work to detail the arguments leading to 
this conclusion, derived from the form and the na- 
ture 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 1 Geologists 
formerly would have brought into play the violent 
action of some overwhelming debacle; but in this 
case such a supposition would have been quite in- 
admissible, because the same step-like plains, with 
existing sea-shells lying on their surface, which 
front the long line of the Patagonian coast, sweep 



EXPLORING THE SANTA CRUZ. 233 

up on each side of the valley of Santa Cruz. No 
possible action of any flood could thus have mod- 
elled the land, either within the valley or along 
the open coast; and by the formation of such step- 
like plains or terraces the valley itself has beca 
hollowed out. Although we know that there are 
tides, which run within the NaiTows 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 
suif, must have required to have corroded so vast 
an area and thickness of solid basaltic lava. Nev- 
ertheless, we must believe that the sti'ata 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 small- 
er 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 my- 
self transported back again to the barren valleys 
of the island of St. Jago. Among the basaltic cliffs 
I found some plants which I had seen nowhere 
else, but others I recognised as being wanderers 
from Tierra del Fuego. These porous rocks serve 
as a resei-voir for the scanty rain water; and con- 
sequently, on the line where the igneous and sedi- 
mentary 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 gi'een herbage. 

April 21 til. — The bed of the river became rather 
narrower, and hence the stream more rapid. It 
V 2 



234 SANTA CRUZ, PATAGONIA. 

here ran at the rate of six knots an hour. From 
this cause, and from the many great angular frao-- 
ments, 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 de- 
gi'ees N. of the equator. The steep cliff near the 
mouth of the Rio Negro is its northern limit on the 
Patagonian coast ; and they have there wandered 
about four hundred miles from the great central 
line of their habitation in the Andes. Further 
south, among the bold precipices at the head of 
Port Desire, the condor is not uncommon ; yet 
only a few stragglers occasionally visit the sea- 
coast. A line of cliff near the mouth of the Santa 
Cruz is frequented by these birds, and about eighty 
miles up the river, where the sides of the valley 
are formed by steep basaltic precipices, the condor 
reappears. From these facts, it seems that the 
condors require perpendicular cliffs. In Chile, 
they haunt, during the greater part of the year, the 
lower country near the shores of the Pacific, and 
at night several roost together in one ti'ee ; 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 can- 
not fly for an entire year ; and long after they are 



THE COXDOR. 235 

able, they continue to roost by nif^ht, and hunt hj 
clay 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 grega- 
rious bird. In this part of the countiy they live al- 
together on the guanacos which have died a natural 
death, or, as more commonly happens, have been 
killed by the pumas. I believe, from what I saw 
in Patagonia, that they do not on ordinary occa- 
sions extend their daily excursions to any great 
distance from their regular sleeping-places. 

The condors inay oftentimes be seen at a great 
height, soaring over a certain spot in the most 
graceful circles. On some occasions I am sure that 
they do this only for pleasure, but on others, the 
Chilcno countryman tells you that they are watch- 
ing 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 num- 
bers. Two methods are used : one is to place a 



2Jb SANTA CRUZ, PATAGONIA. 

carcass on a level piece of ground, within an en- 
closure of sticks, with an opening, and when the 
condors are goi-ged, to gallop up on horseback to 
the entrance, and thus enclose them ; for when this 
bird has not space to run, it cannot give its body- 
sufficient momentum to rise from the ground. The 
second method is to mark the trees in which, fre- 
quently to the number of five or six together, they 
roost, and then at night to climb uj^ and noose them. 
They are such heavy sleepers, as I have myself 
witnessed, that this is not a difficult task. At Valpa- 
raiso, I have seen a living condor sold for sixpence, 
but the common price is eight or ten shillings. 
One which I saw brought in had been tied with 
rope, and was much injured ; yet the moment the 
line was cut by which its bill was secured, although 
surrounded by people, it began ravenously to tear 
a piece of can-ion. 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 as- 
sert that the condor will live, and retain its vigour, 
between five and six weeks without eating : I can- 
not answer for the truth of this, but it is a cruel ex- 
periment, which very likely has been tried. 

When an animal is killed in the country, it is well 
known that the condors, like other carrion-vultures, 
soon gain intelligence of it, and congregate in an 
inexplicable manner. In most cases it must not 
be overlooked that the birds have discovered their 
prey, and have picked the skeleton clean, before the 
flesh is in the least degree tainted. Remembering 
the experiments of M. Audubon on the little smell- 
ing powers of carrion-hawks, I tried in the above- 

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



CARRION-VULTURES. 237 

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 what- 
ever was taken. I then threw it on the ground, 
within one yard of an old male bird ; he looked at 
it for a moment with attention, but then regarded 
it no more. With a stick I pushed it closer and 
closer, until at last he touched it with his beak ; the 
paper was then instantly torn off with fury, and at 
the same moment every bird in the long row be- 
gan struggling and flapping its wings. Under the 
same circumstances, it would have been quite im- 
possible to have deceived a dog. The evidence in 
favour of and against the acute smelling powers 
of carrion-vultures is singularly balanced. Profess- 
or Owen has demonstrated that the olfactory nerves 
of the turkey-buzzard (Cathartes aura) are highly 
developed ; and on the evening when Mr. Owen's 
paper was read at the Zoological Society, it was 
mentioned by a gentleman that he had seen the 
carrion-hawks in the West Indies on two occasions 
collect on the roof of a house when a corpse had 
become offensive from not having been buried : in 
this case, the intelligence could hardly have been 
acquired by sight. On the other hand, besides the 
experiments of Audubon and that one by myself, 
Mr. Bachman has tried in the United States many 
varied plans, showing that neither the turkey-buz- 
zard (the species dissected by Professor Owen) nor 
the gallinazo find their food by smell. He covered 
portions of highly oftensive offal with a thin canvass 
cloth, and strewed pieces of meat on it ; these the 
carrion-vultures ate up, and then remained quietly 
standing, with their beaks within the eighth of an 



238 SANTA CRUZ, PATAGONIA. 

inch of the putrid mass, without discovering it. A 
small rent was made in the canvass, and the ofFal 
was immediately discovered ; the canvass was re- 
placed 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. 
Bachmam* 

Often, when lying down to rest on the open plains, 
on looking upwards, I have seen carrion-hawks sail- 
ing through the air at a great height. Where the 
country is level, I do not believe a space of the heav- 
ens, 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 be- 
tween 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 1 When an animal is killed 
by the sportsman in a lonely valley, may he not all 
the while be watched from above by the shai-p- 
sighted bird 1 And will not the manner of its de- 
scent proclaim throughout the disti'ict 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. Ex- 
cept when rising from the ground, I do not recol- 
lect 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, descend- 
ing and ascending witliout giving a single flap. As 
they glided close over my head, I intently watched 
* Loudon's Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. vii. 



CARRION-VULTURES. 239 

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 vibra- 
tory movement, would have appeared as if blended 
together; but they were seen distinct against the 
blue sky. The head and neck were moved fre- 
quently, and apparently with force ; and the extend- 
ed wings seemed to form the fulcrum on which the 
movements of the neck, body, and tail acted. If 
the bird wished to descend, the wings were for a 
moment collapsed ; and when again exjaanded with 
an altered inclination, the momentum gained by 
the rapid descent seemed to urge the bird upwards 
wdth the even and steady movement of a paper kite. 
In the case of any bird soaring, its motion must be 
sufficiently rapid, so that the action of the inclined 
surface of its body on the atmosphere may counter- 
balance its gravity. The force to keep up the mo- 
mentum of a body moving in a horizontal plane in 
the air (in which there is so little friction) cannot 
be great, and this force is all that is wanted. The 
movement of the neck and body of the condor, we 
must suppose, is sufficient for this. However this 
may be, it is ti-uly wonderful and beautiful to see 
so great a bird, hour after hour, without any ap- 
parent exertion, wheeling and gliding over mount- 
ain and river. 

Ajnil 29th. — From some high land we hailed with 
joy the white summits of the Cordillera, as they 
were seen occasionally peeping through their dusky 
envelope of clouds. During the few succeeding 
days we continued to get on slowly, for we found 
the river course very tortuous, and strewed with 
immense fragments of various ancient slaty rocks, 
and of granite. The plain bordering the valley 
had here attained an elevation of about 1100 feet 



240 SANTA CRUZ, PATAGONIA. 

above the river, and its character was much altered. 
The well-rounded pebbles of porphyry were min- 
gled with many immense angular fragments of 
basalt and of primary rocks. The first of these er- 
ratic boulders which I noticed were sixty-seven 
miles distant from the nearest mountain ; another 
which I measured was five yards square, and pro- 
jected five feet above the gravel. Its edges wei'e 
so angular, and its size so great, that I at first mis- 
took 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 gi- 
gantic 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 appear- 
ed to have been lying long on the ground. Be- 
tween the place where the Indians had so lately 
crossed the river and this neighbourhood, though 
so maihy miles apai't, the country appears to be 
quite unfrequented. At first, considering the abun- 
dance of the guanacos, I was surprised at this ; but 
it is explained by the stony nature of the plains, 
which would soon disable an unshod horse from 
taking part in the chase. Nevertheless, in two 
places in this very central region I found small 
heaps of stones, which I do not think could have 
been accidentally thrown together. They were 
placed on points projecting over the edge of the 
highest lava cliff, and they resembled, but on a 
small scale, those near Port Desire. 



DESCENT OF THE SANTA CIIUZ. 241 

May Ath. — Captain Fitz Roy deteiinined to take 
the boats no higher. The river had a winding 
course, and was very rapid ; and the appearance 
of" the country offered no temptation to proceed 
any further. Everywhere we met with the same 
productions, and the same dreary landscape. We 
were now one hundred and forty iniles distant 
from the Atlantic, and about sixty from the near- 
est 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 Cordil- 
lera. 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. 

5th. — Before sunrise we commenced our de- 
scent. We shot down the stream with great ra- 
pidity, 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 
Sth 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 ter- 
tiary formation of Patagonia. 

On March 1st, 1833, and again on March l&th^ 
1834, the Beagle anchored in Berkeley Sound, in 
East Falkland Island. This archipelago is situ- 
VoL. 1—16 X 



242 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

ated in nearly the same latitude with the mouth of 
the Strait of Magellan ; it covers a space of one 
hundred and twenty by sixty geogi-aphical miles, 
and is a little more than half the size of Ireland. 
After the possession of these miserable islands had 
been contested by France, Spain, and England, 
they were left uninhabited. The government of 
Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private individ- 
ual, 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, un- 
supported 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 througli 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, how- 
ever, less sunshine and less frost, but more wind 
and rain.* 

l<6th. — I will now describe a short excursion 
which I made round a part of this island. In the 
* From accounts published since our voyage, and more espe- 
cially 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 cli- 
mate in summer is so fine and dry as it has lately been repre- 



HUNTING WILD CATTLE. 243 

myrning I started with six horses and two Gau- 
chos : the latter were capital men for the purpose, 
and well accustomed to living on their own re- 
sources. The weather was very boisterous and 
cold, with heavy hail-storms. We got on, howev- 
er, pretty well, but, except the geology, nothing 
eould be less interesting than our day's ride. The 
country is uniformly the same undulating moor- 
land ; 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 val- 
leys here and there might be seen a small flock of 
wild geese, and everywhere the gi'ound was so 
soft that the snipe were able to feed. Besides 
these two birds there were few others. There is 
one main range of hills, nearly two thousand feet 
in height, and composed of quartz rock, the rug- 
ged and barren crests of which gave us some 
trouble to cross. On the south side we came to 
the best country for wild cattle ; we met, however, 
no great number, for they had been lately much 
harassed. 

In the evening we came across a small herd. 
One of my companions, St. Jago by name, soon 
separated a fat cow ; he threw the bolas, and it 
struck her legs, but failed in becoming entangled. 
Then dropping his hat to mark the spot where the 
balls were left, while at full gallop he uncoiled his 
lazo, and after a most severe chase again came up 
to the cow, and caught her round the horns. The 
other Gaucho had gone on ahead with the spare 
horses, so that St. Jago had some difficulty in kill- 
ing 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 ti'ained, 
would canter up, and with his chest give her a vi- 



244 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

olent push. But when on level ground it does not 
appear an easy job for one man to kill a beast mad 
with terror. Nor would it be so, if the horse, when 
left to itself without its rider, did not soon learn, 
for its own safety, to keep the lazo tight ; so that, 
if the cow or ox moves forward, the horse moves 
just as quickly forward; otherwise it stands mo- 
tionless, leaning on one side. This horse, howev- 
er, was a young one, and would not stand still, but 
gave in to the cow as she struggled. It was admi- 
rable to see with what dexterity St. Jago dodged 
behind the beast, till at last he contrived to give 
the fatal touch to the main tendon of the hind leg ; 
after which, without much difficulty, he drove his 
knife into the head of the spinal marrow, and the 
cow dropped as if struck by lightning. He cut off 
pieces of flesh with the skin to it, but without any 
bones, sufficient for our expedition. We then rode 
on to our sleeping-place, and had for supper " carne 
con cuero," or meat roasted with the skin on it. 
This is as superior to common beef as venison is to 
mutton. A large circular piece taken from the 
back is roasted on the embers, with the hide down- 
wards, and in the form of a saucer, so that none of 
the gravy is lost. If any worthy alderman had 
supped with us that evening, " came con cuero," 
without doubt, would soon have been celebrated in 
London. 

During the night it rained, and the next day 
(17th) was very stormy, with much hail and snow. 
We rode across the island to the neck of land which 
joins the Rincon del Tore (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 largo proportion of bulls. These 
wander about single, or two and three together, 
and are very savage. I never saw such magnifi- 



CATCHING A DULL. 245 

cent beasts ; tliey equalled in the size of their huge 
heads and necks the Grecian marble sculptures. 
Capt. Sulivan informs me that the hide of an avei-- 
age-sized bull weighs forty-seven pounds, whereas 
a hide of this weight, less thoroughly dried, is con- 
sidered as a very heavy one at Monte Video. The 
young bulls generally run away for a short dis- 
tance ; 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 fail- 
ing, were obliged to make a large circuit. The 
Gauchos, in revenge, determined to emasculate him, 
and render him for the future harmless. It was 
very interesting to see how art completely mastei'- 
ed 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 pow- 
erless 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 disen- 
gage it again without killing the beast ; noi", I ap- 
prehend, would it be so if the man was by himself. 
By the aid, however, of a second person throwing 
his lazo so as to catch both hind legs, it is quickly 
managed : for the animal, as long as its hind legs 
are kept outstretched, is quite helpless, and the 
first man can with his hands loosen his lazo from 
the horns, and then quietly mount his horse ; but 
the moment the second man, by backing ever so 
little, relaxes the strain, the lazo slips off the legs 
of the struggling beast, which then rises free, shakes 
himself, and vainly rushes at his antagonist. 

During our whole ride we saw only one troop 
of wild horses. These animals, as well as the cat- 
tle, were introduced by the French in 1764, since 
X2 



246 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

which time both have greatly increased. It is a 
curious fact that the hoi'ses have never left the 
eastern end of the island, although there is no nat- 
ural boundary to prevent them from roaming, and 
that part of the island is not more tempting than 
the rest. The Gauchos whom I asked, though as- 
serting this to be the case, were unable to account 
for it, except from the strong attachment which 
horses have to any locality to which they are accus- 
tomed. Considering that the island does not ap- 
pear 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 
supei-vene, is inevitable ; but why has the increase 
of the horse been checked sooner than that of the 
cattle 1 Capt. Sulivan has taken much pains for 
me in this inquiry. The Gauchos employed here 
attribute it chiefly to the stallions constantly roam- 
ing from place to place, and compelling the mares 
to accompany them, whether or not the young foals 
are able to fdllow. One Gaucho told Capt. Suli- 
van that he had watched a stallion for a whole hour, 
violently kicking and biting a mare till he forced 
her to leave her foal to its fate. Capt. Sulivan can 
60 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-grey. All the 
horses bred here, both tame and wild, are rather 
small-sized, though generally in good condition ; 
and they have lost so much strength that they are 



WILD CATTLE. 247 

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 in- 
creased in size ; and they are much more numer- 
ous than the horses. Capt. Sulivan informs me 
that they vary much less in the general form of 
their bodies and in the shape of their horns than 
English cattle. In colour they differ much ; and 
it is a remai-kable circumstance, that in different 
parts of this one small island different colours pre- 
dominate. Round Mount Usborne, at a height of 
from 1000 to 1500 feet above the sea, about half 
of some of the herds are mouse or lead-coloured, 
a tint which is not cominon in other parts of the 
island. Near Port Pleasant dark brown prevails, 
whereas south of Choiseul Sound (which almost di- 
vides 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 ob- 
ser\'ed. Capt. Sulivan remarks, that the difference 
in prevailing colours was so obvious, that, in look- 
ing for the herds near Port Pleasant, they appear- 
ed from a long distance like black spots, whilst 
south of Choiseul Sound they appeared like white 
spots on the hill-sides. Capt. Sulivan thinks that 
the herds do not mingle ; and it is a singular fact 
that the mouse-coloured cattle, though living on the 
high land, calve about a month earlier in the sea- 
son than the other coloured beasts on the lower 
land. It is interesting thus to find the once domes- 
ticated cattle breaking into three colours, of which 
some one colour would in all probability ultimate- 



248 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

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

The rabbit is another animal which has been in- 
troduced, 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 colo- 
nies had not been carried there. I should not 
have supposed that these animals, natives of nor- 
thern 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 fii'st few pair, more- 
over, had here to contend against pre-existing en- 
emies, in the fox and some largo hawks. The 
French naturalists have considered the black vari- 
ety a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellanic 
cus.* 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 laugh- 
ed at the idea of the black kind being different from 
the grey, and they said that at all events it had not 
extended its range any further than the grey kind; 
that the two were never found separate; and that 
they readily bred together, and produced piebald 

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



WOLF-LIKE FOX. 249 

offspring. Of" the latter I now possess a specimen, 
and it is marked about the head differently from 
the French specific description. This circum- 
stance 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 proba- 
bly distinct ! 

The only quadruped native to the island* is a 
large wolf-like fox (Canis antarcticus), which is 
common to both East and West Falkland. I have 
no doubt it is a peculiar species, and confined to 
this archipelago ; because many sealers, Gauchos, 
and Indians, who have visited these islands, all main- 
tain that no such animal is found in any part of 
South America. INIolina, from a similarity in hab- 
its, thought that this was the same with his " cul- 
peu;"t but I have seen both, and they are quite 
distinct. These wolves ai-e well known, from 
Byron's account of their tameness and curiosity, 
which the sailors, who ran into the water to avoid 
tfiem, mistook for fierceness. To this day their 
manners remain the same. They have been ob- 
served to enter a tent, and actually pull some meat 
from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. The 
Gauchos also have frequently in the evening killed 
them, by holding out a piece of meat in one hand, 
and in the other a knife ready to stick them. As 
far as I am aware, there is no other instance in any 
part of the world of so small a mass of broken 
land, distant from a continent, possessing so large 
an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to itself. Their 

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

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



250 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

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. Sal- 
vador Bay and Berkeley Sound. Within a very 
few years after these islands shall have become reg- 
ularly settled, in all probability this fox will be 
classed with the dodo, as an animal which has per- 
ished from the face of the earth. 

At night (17th) we slept on the neck of land at 
the head of Choiseul Sound, which forms the south- 
west peninsula. The valley was pretty well shel- 
tered 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 bul- 
lock 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. 

ISth. — It rained during nearly the whole da.y. 
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 oc- 
casion 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 ti'ees on these islands, 
although Tierra del Fuego is covered by one large 
forest. The largest bush in the island (belonging 
to the family of Compositas) 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 buraing while fresh and 
green. It was very surprising to see the Gauchos, 
in the midst of rain and everything soaking wet, 



HUNTING WILD CATTLE. 251 

with nothing more than a tinder-box and piece of 
rag, immediately make a fire. They sought be- 
neath the tufts of grass and bushes for a few dry 
twigs, and these they rubbed into fibres ; then sur- 
rounding them with coarser twigs, something like 
a bird's nest, they put the rag with its spark of fire 
in the middle and covered it up. The nest being, 
then held up to the wind, by degrees it smoked 
more and more, and at last burst out in flames. I 
do not think any other method would have had a 
chance of succeeding with such damp materials. 

19th. — Each moniing, from not having ridden for 
some time previously, I was very stiff. I was sur- 
prised 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 con- 
sequence, 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 gi-ound, 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 be- 
ing 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 entan- 
gled, are left for some days, till they become a lit- 
tle 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 



252 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

on purpose. From their pre\'ious treatment, being 
too much teiTified to leave the herd, they are easily- 
driven, if their strength last out, to the settlement. 
The weather continued so very bad, that we de- 
termined to make a push and try to reach the ves- 
sel 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 discomfozts, 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 u-s very wet and 
cold. Even the iron-framed Gauchos professed 
themselves glad when they reached the settlement, 
after our little excursion. 

The geological structure of these islands is in 
most respects simple. The lower country consists 
of clay-slate and sandstone, containing fossils, very 
closely related to, but not identical with, those 
found in the Silurian formations of Europe; the 
hills are formed of white granular quartz rock. 
The strata of the latter are frequently arched with 
perfect symmetry, and the appearance of some of 
the masses is in consequence most singular. Per- 
nety* has devoted several pages to the description 
of a Hill of Ruins, the successive strata of which 
he has justly compared to the seats of an amphi- 
theatre. The quartz rock must have been quite 
pasty when it underv/ent such remarkable flexures 
without being shattered into fragments. As the 
* Pernety, Voyage aux Isles Malouines, p. 526. 



STREAMS OF STONES. 253 

quartz insensibly passes into the sandstone, it seems 
probable that the former owes its origin to the 
sandstone having been heated to such a degree 
that it became viscid, and upon cooling crystallized. 
While in the soft state it must have been pushed 
up through the overlying beds. 

In many parts of the island the bottoms of the 
valleys are covered in an extraordinary manner by 
myriads of gi-eat loose angular fragments of the 
quartz rock, forming "streams of stones." These 
have been mentioned with surprise by every voy- 
ager since the time of Pernety. The blocks are 
not water-worn, their angles being only a little 
blunted ; they vary in size from one or two feet in 
diameter to ten, or even more than twenty times 
as much. They are not thrown together into ir- 
regular 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 prob- 
ably 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 uninter- 
rupted band half a mile wide, by jumping from one 
pointed stone to another. So large were the frag- 
ments, 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 



254 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

of ten degi-ees with the horizon ; but in some of 
the level, broad-bottomed valleys, the inclination 
is only just sufficient to be clearly perceived. On 
so rugged a surface there was no means of meas- 
uring the angle ; but, to give a common illustra- 
tion, 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 frag- 
ments 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 
mins of some vast and ancient cathedral. In en- 
deavouring to describe these scenes of violence, 
one is tempted to pass from one simile to another. 
We may imagine that streams of white lava had 
flowed from many parts of the mountains into the 
lower country, and that when solidified they had 
been rent by some enormous convulsion into myr- 
iads of fragments. The expression " streams of 
stones," which immediately occurred to every one, 
conveys the same idea. These scenes are on the 
spot rendered more striking by the contrast of the 
low, rounded forms of the neighbouring hills. 

I was interested by finding on the highest peak 
of one range (about 700 feet above the sea) a great 
arched fragment, lying on its convex side, or back 
downwards. Must we believe that it was fairly 
pitched up in the air, and thus turned 1 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 na- 
ture 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 



STREAMS OF STONES. 255 

was subsequent to the land having been raised 
above the waters of the sea. In a transverse sec- 
tion within these valleys the bottom is neai'ly 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 ncai^est slopes, and that since, by a vibratory 
movement of overwhelming force,* the fragments 
have been levelled into one continuous sheet. If, 
during the earthquaket which in 1835 overthrew 
Concepciou, 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 1 I have 
seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, the evident 
marks where stupendous mountains have been 
broken into pieces like so much thin crust, and the 
strata thrown on their vertical edges ; but never 
did any scene like these " streams of stones" so 
forcibly convey to my mind the idea of a convul- 
sion, of which in historical records we might in 
vain seek for any counterpart : yet the progress 
of knowledge will probably some day give a sim- 
ple explanation of this phenomenon, as it already 
has of the so long thought inexplicable transportal 
of the erratic boulders which are strewed over the 
plains of Europe. 

* " Nous n'avons pas ete moins saisis d'etonnenient k la vue de 
I'innombrable qiiantite de pierres de toutes grandeurs, boulever- 
sees les unes sur les autres, et cependant rangdes, comma si elles 
avoient ete amoncelees negligemment pour remplir des ravins. 
On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les eft'ets prodigieux de la nature." 
— Pernety, p. 52G. 

t An iiihabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of judging, 
assured me that, during the several years he had resided on these 
islands, he had never felt the shghtest shock o''"n earthquake. 



256 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

I have little to remark on the zoology of these 
islands. I have before described the carrion-vul- 
ture, or Polyborus. There are some other hawks, 
owls, and a few small land-birds. The water-fowl 
are particularly numerous, and they must formerly, 
from the accounts of the old navigators, have been 
much more so. One day I observed a cormorant 
playing with a fish which it had caught. Eight 
times successively the bird let its prey go, then 
dived after it, and although in deep water, brought 
it each time to the surface. In the Zoological 
Gardens I have seen the otter treat a fish in the 
same manner, much as a cat does a mouse : I do 
not know of any other instance where Dame Nature 
appears so wilfully cruel. Another day, having 
placed myself between a penguin (Aptenodytes 
demersa) and the water, I was much amused by 
watching its habits. It was a brave bird ; and till 
reaching the sea, it regularly fought and drove me 
backwards. Nothing less than heavy blows would 
have stopped him ; every inch he gained he firmly 
kept, standing close before me erect and deter- 
mined. 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 thejackass 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 undis- 
turbed, 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 tussucks 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 fish- 
ing, it comes^ to the surface for the purpose of 



HABITS OF SOME BIRDS. 257 

breathing with such a spring, and dives again so 
instantaneously, that I defy any one at first sight to 
be sure that it was not a fish leaping for sport. 

Two kinds of geese frequent the Falklands. 
The upland species (Anas Magellanica) is common, 
in pairs and in small flocks, throughout the island. 
They do not migrate, but build on the small out- 
lying islets. This is supposed to be from fear of 
the foxes : and it is pei'haps 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 Tieri'a del Fuego, 
the snow-white gander, invariably accompanied by 
his darker consort, and standing close by each other 
on some distant rocky point, is a common feature 
in the landscape. 

In these islands agreatloggerheaded duck or goose 
(Anas brachyptera), which sometimes weighs twen- 
ty-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 man- 
ner is something like that by which the common 
house-duck escapes when pui'sued by a dog ; but I 
am nearly sui"e that the steamer moves its wings 
alternately, instead of both together, as in other 
birds. These clumsy, loggerheaded ducks make 
such a noise and splashing, that the effect is ex- 
ceedingly curious. 

Vol. 1—17 Y 



258 FALKLAND IcLANDcJ. 

Thus we find in South America three birds 
which use their wings for other pui-poses 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 Deinomis, possess only rudimentary represent- 
atives 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 scarcely been able to fracture it 
with my geological hammer ; and all our sports- 
men soon discovered how tenacious these birds 
were of life. When in the evening pluming them- 
selves in a flock, they make the same odd mixture 
of sounds which bullfrogs do within the tropics. 

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as at the Falkland 
Islands, I made many observations on the lower 
marine animals,* but they are of little general in- 
terest. I will mention only one class of facts, re- 
lating to certain zoophytes in the more highly or- 
ganized division of that class. Several genera 
(Flustra, Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, and others) 

* I was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large white 
Doris (this sea-slug was three and a half inches long), how extra- 
ordinarily numerous they were. From two to five eggs (each 
three thousandths of an inch in diameter) were contamed in a 
spherical little case. These were arranged two deep in transverse 
rows forming a riband. The riband 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 riband, 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 individual species depend on its powers of propagation. 



ZOOPHYTES, 259 

agree in having singular moveable organs (like 
those of Flustra avicularia, found in the European 
seas) attached to their cells. The organ, in the 
greater number of cases, very closely resembles 
the head of a vulture ; but the lower mandible can 
be opened much wider 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 triangu- 
lar hood, with a beautifully-fitted trapdoor, 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 
Avas removed by a needle from any of the cells, 
these organs did not appear in the least affected. 
When one of the vulture-like heads was cut off 
from a cell, the lower mandible retained its power 
of opening and closing. Perhaps the most singular 
part of their structure is, that when there were 
more than two rows of cells on a branch, the cen- 
ti'al cells were furnished with these appendages, 
of only one fourth the size of the outside ones. 
Their movements varied according to the species ; 
but in some I never saw the least motion ; while 
others, with the lower mandible generally wide 
open, oscillated backwards and forwards at the 
rate of about five seconds each turn ; others moved 
rapidly and by starts. When touched with a nee- 
dle, the beak generally seized the point so firmly 
that die whole branch might be shaken. 

These bodies have no relation whatever with 
the production of the eggs or gemmules, as they 



260 FALKLAND ISLANDS. 

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 ap- 
pear 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 homy 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 loaf or flower-buds. 

In another elegant little coralline (Crisia'?), each 
cell was furnished with a long -toothed bristle, 
which had the power of moving quickly. Each of 
these bristles and each of the vulture-like heads 
generally moved quite independently of the others, 
but soinetimes all on both sides of a branch, some- 
times only those on one side, moved together coin- 
stantaneously ; sometimes each moved in regular or- 
der one after another. In these actions we appa- 
rently behold as perfect a transmission of will in the 
zoophyte, though composed of thousands of distinct 
polyj)i, 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 differ- 
ent nature, in a zoophyte closely allied to Clytia, 
and therefore very simply organized. Having kept 
a large tuft of it in a basin of salt-water, when it 
was dark I found that as often as I rubbed any 
part of a branch, the whole became strongly phos- 
phorescent with a green light : I do not think I 
ever saw any object more beautifully so. But the 
remarkable circumstance was, that the flashes of 



COMPOUND ANIMALS. 261, 

light always proceeded up the branches, from the 
base towards the extremities. 

The examination of these compound animals was 
always very interesting to me. What can be more 
remarkable than to see a plant-like body producing 
an egg, capable* of swimming about, and of choos- 
ing a proper place to adhere to, which then sprouts 
into branches, each crowded with innumerable dis- 
tinct animals, often of complicated organizations 1 
The branches, moreover, as we have just seen, 
sometimes possess organs capable of movement and 
independent of the polypi. Surprising as this uniun 
of separate individuals in a common stock must al- 
ways 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 dis- 
tinct individual, whereas the individuality of a leaf- 
bud is not easily realized ; so that the union of 
separate individuals in a common body is more 
sti-iking 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 dis- 
tinct creatures by bisecting a single one with a knife, 
or where Nature herself performs the task of bisec- 
tion. We niay 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 pi'opa- 
gated 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 prop- 
agated by buds all partake of a common duration 
of life ; and it is familiar to every one, what sin- 
gular and numerous peculiarities are transmitted 
Y J? 



262 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

with certainty by buds, layers, and grafts, which by 
seminal proi^agation never or only casually reap- 
pear. 



CHAPTER X. * 

Tierra del Fuego, first arrival — Good Success Bay — An Account 
of the Fuegians on board — Interview with the Savages — Scen- 
ery of the Forests — Cape Horn — Wig^vam 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. 

TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

December 11th, 1832. — Having now finished with 
Patagonia and the Falkland Islands, I will describe 
our first arrival in TieiTa 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, in- 
hospitable Staten-land was visible amidst the clouds. 
In the afternoon we anchored in the bay of Good 
Success. Wliile 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 
ovei'hanging the sea ; and as we passed by, they 
sprang up, and waving their tattered cloaks, sent 
forth a loud and sonorous shout. The savages fol- 
lowed the ship, and just before dark we saw their 
fire, and again heard their wild cry. The harbour 
consists of a fine piece of water, half surrounded 
by low, rounded mountains of clay-slate, which are 
covered to the water's edge by one dense gloomy 
forest. A single glance at the landscape was suf- 
ficient to show me how widely different it was from 



INTERVIEW WITH THE NATIVES. 2G3 

aiiything I had ever beheld. At night it blew a 
gale of mnd, and heavy squalls from the mountaias 
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 com- 
municate \vith the Fuegians. When we came 
within hail, one of the four natives who were pres- 
ent advanced to receive us, and began to shout 
most vehemently, wishing to direct us where to 
land. When we were on shore the party looked 
rather alarmed, but continued talking and making 
gestures with great rapidity. It was, Avithout ex- 
ception, 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 do- 
mesticated animal, inasmuch as in man there is a 
greater power of improvement. The chief spokes- 
man 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 dif- 
ferent race from the stunted, miserable wretches 
farther westward ; and they seem closely allied to 
the famous Patagonians of the Strait of Magellan. 
Their only gannent consists of a mantle made of 
guanaco skin, with the wool outside : this they wear 
just thrown over their shoulders, leaving their per- 
sons as often exposed as covered. Their skin is 
of a dirty, coppeiy 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 bi'oad transverse bars ; one, painted bright 
red, reached from ear to ear, and included the up- 
per lip ; the other, white like chalk, extended above 



2G4 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

and pai'allel to the first, so that even his eyelids 
were thus coloured. The other two men were or- 
namented 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 ex- 
pression of their countenances distrustful, surprised, 
and startled. After we had presented them wdth 
some scarlet cloth, which they immediately tied 
round their necks, they became good friends. This 
was shovel! 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 re- 
peated 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 com- 
pared it to a man clearing his throat, but certainly 
no European ever cleared his throat with so many 
hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds. 

They are excellent mimics : as often as we cough- 
ed or yawned, or made any odd motion, they im- 
mediately imitated us. Some of our party began 
to squint and look awry ; but one of the young Fu- 
egians (whose whole face was painted black, ex- 
cepting a white band across his eyes) succeeded in 
making far more hideous giimaces. They could 
repeat with perfect coiTectness each word in any 
sentence we addressed them, and they remember- 
ed 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 



POWERS OF MIMICRY OF THE NATIVES. 20') 

instance, co-ulJ follow an American Indian tlirongh 
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 Caf- 
fres : the Austi'alians, likewise, have long been no- 
torious for being able to imitate and describe the 
gait of any man, so that he may be recognised. 
How can this faculty be explained 1 Is it a conse- 
quence of the more practised habits of perception 
and keener senses, common to all men in a savage 
state, as compared with those long civilized 1 

When a song was sti'uck 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 ask- 
ed, had no objection to a little waltzing. Little 
accustomed to Europeans as they appeared to be, 
yet they knew and dreaded our fire-arms ; nothing 
wovild tempt them to take a gun in their hands. 
They begged for knives, calling them by the Span- 
ish 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 fonner voyage of the 
Adventure and Beagle in 1826 to 1830, Captain 
Fitz Roy seized on a party of natives as hostages 
for the loss of a boat, which had been stolen, to the 
great jeopardy of a party employed on the survey ; 
and some of these natives, as well as a child whom 
he bought for a pearl button, he took with him to 
England, determining to educate them and instruct 
them in religion at his own expense. To settle 
these natives in their own country was one chief 
inducement to Captain Fitz Rov to undertake our 
Z 



266 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

present voyage ; and before the Admiralty had re- 
solved to send out this expedition, Captain Fitz 
Roy had generovisly 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 smallpox, a 
boy and a little girl, were onginally 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-gi-own, 
short, thick, powerful man : his disposition was re- 
served, taciturn, morose, and when excited, violent- 
ly passionate ; his affections were very strong to- 
wards a few friends on board ; his intellect good. 
Jemmy Button was a universal favourite, but like- 
wise passionate ; the expression of his face at once 
showed his nice disposition. He was meiTy, 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 patiiotic 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 de- 
clared that there was no Devil in his land. Jem- 
my was short, thick, and fat, but vain of his per- 
sonal appearance ; he used always to wear gloves; 
his hair was neatly cut, and he was distressed if his 
well-polished shoes were dirtied. He was fond of 
admiring himself in a looking-glass ; and a merry- 



NATIVES ON BOARI>. 267 

facetl little Indian boy from the Rio Negro, whom 
wo had for some months on board, soon perceived 
this, and used to mock him : Jemmy, who was al- 
ways rather jealous of the attention paid to this lit- 
tle 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 doubt- 
less 23artaken of the same character, with the mis- 
erable, 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 any- 
thing, especially languages. This she showed in 
picking up some Portuguese and Spanish when 
left on shore for only a short time at Rio de Janei- 
ro and Monte Video, and in her knowledge of Eng- 
lish. York Minster was veiy jealous of any atten- 
tion 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 under- 
stand a good deal of English, it was singulai'ly dif- 
ficult to obtain much information from them con- 
cerning the habits of their countrymen : this was 
paitly owing to their apparent difficulty in under- 
standing the simplest alternative. Every one ac- 
customed to very young children knows how sel- 
dom one can get an answer even to so simple a 
question as whether a thing is black or white ; the 
idea of black or white seems alternately to fill their 
minds. So it was with these Fuegians, and hence 
it was generally impossible to find out, by cross- 
questioning, whether one had rightly understood 
anything which they had asserted. Their sight 
was remarkably acute : it is well knowni that sail- 
ors, from long practice, can make out a distant 



268 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

object much better than a landsman; but both 
York and Jemmy were much superior to any sail- 
or 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 quaiTel with the offi- 
cer 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 ad- 
dressed a long harangue to Jemmy, which, it seems, 
was to invite him to stay with them ; but Jemmy 
understood very little of their language, and was, 
moreover, thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen. 
When York Minster afterwards came on shore, 
they noticed him in the same way, and told him he 
ought to shave ; yet he had not twenty dwarf hairs 
on his face, whilst we all wore our untrimmed 
beards. They examined the colour of his skin, 
and compared it with ours. One of our arms being 
bared, they expressed the liveliest surpi'ise and 
admiration at its whiteness, just in the same way 
in which I have seen the ourang-outang do at the 
Zoological Gardens. We thought that they mis- 
took two or three of the officers, who were rath- 
er shorter and fairer, though adorned with large 
beards, for ladies of our party. The tallest amongst 
the Fuegians was evidently much pleased at his 
height being noticed. When placed back to back 
with the tallest of the boat's crew, he tried his best 
to edge on higher ground, and to stand on tip- 
toe. He opened his mouth to show his teeth, and 
turned his face for a side view ; and all this was 



SCENKRY OF THE MuUNTAIiV:?. 269 

done with such alacrity, that I dare say he thought 
himself the handsomest man in TieiTa del Fuego. 
After our first feeling of grave astonishment was 
over, nothing could be' more ludicrous than the odd 
mixture of surprise and imitation which these sav- 
ages 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 1000 and 1500 feet, and are succeeded by 
a band of peat, with minute alpine plants ; and this, 
again, is succeeded by the line of perpetual snow, 
which, according to Captain King, in the Strait of 
Magellan descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet. 
To find an acre of level land in any pait 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 putre- 
fying vegetable matter, which, from being soaked 
with water, yields to the foot. 

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way 
throughthe wood, I followed the course of a mount- 
ain torrent. At first, from the waterfalls and num- 
ber of dead trees, I could hardly crawl along ; but 
the bed of the stream soon became a little more 
open, from the floods having swept the sides. I 
continued slowly to advance for an hour along the 
broken and rocky banks, and was amply repaid by 
Z 2 



270 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

the grandeur of the scene. The gloomy depth of 
the ravine well accorded with the universal signs 
of violence^ On every side were lying iiTegular 
masses of rock and torn-ujj trees ; other trees, 
though still erect, were decayed to the heart and 
ready to fall. The entangled mass of the thriving 
and the fallen reminded me of the forests within the 
tropics — yet there was a difference ; for in these 
still solitudes, Death, instead of Life, seemed the 
predominant spirit. I followed the watercourse 
till I came to a spot where a gi-eat slip had cleared 
a straight space down the mountain side. By this 
road I ascended to a considerable elevation, and 
obtained a good view of the surrounding woods. 
The trees all belong to one kind, the Fagus betu- 
loides ; for the number of the other species of Fa- 
gus and of the Winter's Bark is quite inconsider- 
able. This beech keeps its leaves throughout the 
year ; but its foliage is of a peculiar brownish-green 
colour, with a tinge of yellow. As the whole land- 
scape is thus coloured, it has a sombre, dull ap- 
pearance ; nor is it often enlivened by the rays of 
the sun. 

Dccemher 2Qth. — One side of the harbour is 
formed by a hill about 1500 feet high, which Cap- 
tain 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 moimtain to collect alpine plants ; 
for flowers of any kind in the lower parts are few 
in number. We followed the same watercourse as 
on the previous day, till it dwindled away, and we 
were then compelled to crawl blindly among the 



SCENERY OF THE MOUNTAINS. 271 

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 line gi'een turf, 
but which, to our vexation, turned out to be a com- 
pact mass of little beech-trees about four or live 
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 wei'e lying on it. As the day was not far 
advanced, I determined to walk there and collect 
plants along the road. It would have been very 
hard work, had it not been for a well-beaten and 
straight path made by the guanacos ; for these an- 
imals, like sheep, always follow the same line. 
When we rtiached the hill, we found it the highest 
in the immediate neighbourhood, and the waters 
flowed to the sea in opposite directions. We ob- 
tained a wide view over the surrounding country : 
to the north a swampy moorland extended, but to 
the south wc had a scene of savage magnificence, 
well becoming Tierra del Fuego. There was a 
degree of mysterious gi-andeur 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 Ma- 
gellan, looking due southward from Port Famine, 
the distant channels between the mountains ap- 
peared, fi-om their gloominess, to lead beyond the 
confines of this world. 

Dcccvibcr 2lsf. — The Beagle got under way; 



272 TIEKKA DEL FUEGO. 

and on the succeeding day, favoured to an uncom- 
mon degi'ee 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 an- 
chored 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 2oth. — Close by the cove, a pointed 
hill, called Kater's Peak, rises to the height of 1700 
feet. The surrounding islands all consist of coni- 
cal masses of greenstone, associated sometimes 
wdth less regular hills of baked and altered clay- 
slate. This part of Tierra del Fuego may be con- 
sidered 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 in- 
habitants, 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 



WRETCHED STATE OF THE NATIVES. 273 

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 in- 
variably grow on them. Among these may be 
enumerated the wild celery and scurvy-grass, two 
very serviceable plants, the use of which has not 
been discovered by the natives. 

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

While going one day on shore near Wollaston 
Island, we pulled alongside a canoe with six Fue- 
gians. These were the most abject and miserable 
creatures I anyv/here beheld. On the east coast 
the natives, as we have seen, have guanaco cloaks, 
and on the west they possess seal-skins. Amongst 

Vol.. I—IS 



274 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

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, accord- 
ing as the wind blowa, it is shifted from side to 
side. But these Fuegians in the canoe were quite 
naked, and even one full-grown woman was abso- 
lutely so. It was raining heavily, and the fresh 
water, together with the spray, trickled down her 
body. In another harbour, not far distant, a woman, 
who was suckling a recently-born child, came one 
day alongside the vessel, and remained there out 
of mere curiosity, whilst the sleet fell and thawed 
on her naked bosom, and on the skin of her naked 
baby ! These poor wretches were stunted in their 
growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white 
paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair en- 
tangled, their voices discordant, and their gestures 
violent. Viewing such men, one can hardly make 
one's self believe that they are fellow-creatures 
and inhabitants of the same world. It is a com- 
mon 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 cai'cass of a putrid 
whale discovered, it is a feast ; and such miserable 
food is assisted by a few tasteless berries and fungi. 



FAMINE AMONG THE INDIANS. 275 

They often sufter from famine: I heard Mr. 
Low, a sealmg-master, intimately acquainted with 
the natives of this country, give a curious account 
of the state of a party of one hundred and fifty na- 
tives 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 whale's blubbei", with a hole in the 
middle, through which they put their heads, like 
the Gauchos do through their ponchos or cloaks. 
As soon as the blubber was brought into a wigwam, 
an old man cut off' thin slices, and muttering over 
them, broiled them for a minute, and distributed 
them to the famished party, who during this time 
preserved a profound silence. Mr. Low believes 
that whenever a whale is cast on shore, the natives 
bury large pieces of it in the sand, as a resource 
in time of famine ; and a native boy, whom he had 
on board, once found a stock thus buried. The 
different tribes, when at war, are cannibals. From 
the concurrent, but quite independent evidence of 
the boy taken by Mr. Low, and of Jemmy Button, 
it is certainly true, that, when pressed in winter by 
hunger, they kill and devour their old women be- 
fore they kill their dogs : the boy, being asked by 
Mr. Low why they did this, answered, " Doggies 
catch otters, old women no." This boy described 
the manner in which they are killed by being held 
over smoke and thus choked; he imitated their 
screams as a joke, and described the parts of their 
bodies which are considered best to eat. Horrid 



276 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

as sucli 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. 
The}^ 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 fiiends. We have no reason to believe 
that they perform any sort of religious worship ; 
though perhaps the muttering of the old man be- 
fore he distributed the puti-id blubber to his fam- 
ished 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, thougli not, as I have said, in 
the devil : I do not think that our Fuegians were 
much more suj^erstitious 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 Fue- 
gians on board. The nearest approach to a reli- 
gious 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 Vv'as evidently a retributive pun- 
ishment 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 



RELIGION OF THE FUEGIANS. 277 

leathers blown by the wind. His brother said 
(York imitating his manner), "What thatl" and 
crawling onwards, he peeped over the clift", and 
saw " wild man" picking his birds ; he crawled a 
little nearer, and then hurled down a great stone 
and killed him. York declaimed for a long time 
afterwards storms raged, and much rain and snow 
fell. As far as we could make out, he seemed to 
consider the elements themselves as the avenging 
agents : it is evident in this case how naturally, in 
a race a little more advanced in culture, the ele- 
ments would become personified. What the " bad 
wild men" were has always appeared to me most 
mysterious : from what Y^ork 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 in- 
sane. 

The different tribes have no government or chief; 
yet each is suiTounded 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. Theiv country is a broken mass of 
wild rocks, lofty hills, and useless forests ; and these 
are viewed through mists and endless stonns. 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 wi'etched 
canoes. They cannot know the feeling of having a 
];ome, and still less that of domestic affection ; for 
the husband is to the wife a brutal master to a la- 
borious slave. Was a more horrid deed ever per- 
A A 



278 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

petrated 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 com- 
pare, for judgment to decide upon ] to knock a 
limpet from the rock does not require even cunning, 
that lowest power of the mind. Their skill in some 
respects may be compared to the instinct of ani- 
mals, for it is not improved by experience : the 
canoe, their most ingenious work, poor as it is, has 
remained the same, as we know from Drake, for 
the last two hundred and fifty years. 

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, Whence 
have they come? W^hat could have tempted, or 
what change compelled a tribe of men to leave the 
fine regions of the north, to travel down the Cor- 
dillera 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 suflftcient share 
of happiness, of whatever kind it may be, to render 
life worth having. Nature, by making habit omnip- 
otent, and its effects hereditary, has fitted the Fue- 
gian to the climate and the productions of his mis- 
erable 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 



A VIOLENT GALE. 279 

get westward to land York and Fuegia in their 
own country. When at sea, we had a constant 
succession of gales, and the current was against us : 
we drifted to 57° 23' south. On the 11th of Jan- 
uary, 1833, by caiTying a press of sail, we fetched 
within a few miles of the gi'eat rugged mountain 
of York Minster (so called by Captain Cook, and 
the origin of the name of the elder Fuegian), when 
a violent squall compelled us to shorten sail and 
stand out to sea. The surf was breaking fearfully 
on the coast, and the spray was carried over a cliff 
estimated at 200 feet in height. On the 12th the 
gale was very heavy, and we did not know exactly 
where we were : it was a most unpleasant sound 
to hear constantly repeated, " Keep a good lookout 
to leeward." On the 13th the storm raged with its 
full fury : our horizon was narrowly limited by the 
sheets of spray borne by the wind. The sea looked 
ominous, like a dreary waving plain with patches 
of drifted snow : whilst the ship laboured heavily, 
the albatross glided with its expanded wings right 
up the wind. At noon a gi-eat sea broke over us, 
and filled one of the whale-boats, which was obliged 
to be instantly cut away. The poor Beagle trem- 
bled at the shock, and for a few minutes would 
not obey her helm ; but soon, like a good ship that 
she was, she righted and came up to the wind again. 
Had another sea followed the first, our fate would 
have been decided soon, and forever. 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 i^an in behind False Cape Horn, 
and dropped our anchor in forty-seven fathoms, fire 
flashing from the windlass as the chain rushed 



280 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

round it. How delightful was that still night, after 
having been so long involved in the din of the war- 
ring elements ! 

January loth, 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 car- 
ry them there through the Beagle Channel. This 
channel, which was discovered by Captain Fitz 
Roy during the last voyage, is a most remarkable 
feature in the geography of this, or, indeed, of any 
other country : it may be compared to the valley 
of Lochness in Scotland, with its chain of lakes 
and friths. It is about one hundred and twenty 
miles long, with an average breadth, not subject to 
any very great variation, of about two miles ; and 
is throughout the gi'eater 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 mid- 
dle is joined at right angles on the south side by an 
irregular channel, which has been called Ponsonby 
Sound. This is the residence of Jemmy Button's 
tribe and family. 

19th. — Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a 
paity of twenty-eight, started under the command 
of Captain Fitz Roy. In the afternoon we enter- 
ed the eastern inouth of the channel, and shortly 
afterwai'ds 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 wa- 
ter of the little harbour, with the branches of the 
ti'ees 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 



BEHAVIOUR OI' THE FUECIANS. 281 

picture of quiet retirement. The next day (20th) 
we smoothly glided onwards in our little fleet, and 
came to a more inhabited distiict. Few, if any of 
these natives, could ever have seen a white man ; 
certainly nothing could exceed their astonishment 
at the apparition of the four boats. Fires were 
lighted on every point (hence the name of Tien-a 
del Fuego, or the land of Are), both to attract our 
attention, and to spread far and wide the news. 
Some of the men ran for miles along the shore. I 
shall never forget how wild and savage one group 
appeared : suddenly four or five men came to the 
edge of an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely 
naked, and their long hair streamed about their 
faces ; they held rugged staffs in their hands, and, 
springing from the ground, they waved their anns 
round their heads, and sent forth the most hideous 
yells. 

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fu- 
egians. At first they were not inclined to be friend- 
ly ; 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 pres- 
ents, 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 thor- 
oughly ashamed of his countrymen, and declared 
his own tribe were quite different, in which he was 
wofully mistakeii. It was as easy to please as it 
was difficult to satisfy these savages. Young and 
old, men and children, never ceased repeating the 
word " yammerschooner," which means "give me." 
After pointing to almost every object, one after the 
other, even to the buttons on our coats, and saying 
A A 2 



282 TIEilKA DEL FUEGO. 

their favourite word in as many intonations as pos- 
sible, they would then use it in a neuter sense, 
and vacantly repeat " yammerschooner." After 
yammerschooncring 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 un- 
inhabited cove, and at last were obliged to bivouac 
not far from a party of natives. They were very 
inoffensive as long as they were few in numbers, 
but in the morning (21st), being joined by others, 
they showed symptoms of hostility, and we thought 
that we should have come to a skirmish. A Euro- 
pean labours under great disadvantages when treat- 
ing with savages like these, who have not the least 
idea of the power of fire-arms. In the very act of 
levelling his musket he appears to the savage far 
inferior to a man arined 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 flour- 
ished a cutlass near them, at which they only laugh- 
ed ; 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 
a while, and gabbled to his companions, but he 
never seemed to think of running away. We can 
hardly put oui'selves in the position of these sav- 
ages, and understand their actions. In the case of 



HOSTILE TUIBE;^. 283 

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, per- 
haps, be to him an idea totally inconceivable. More- 
over, the extreme force of a bullet, that penetrates 
a hard substance without tearing it, may convince 
the savage that it has no force at all. Certainly I 
believe that many savages of the lowest grade, such 
as these of Tierra del Fuego, have seen objects 
struck, and even small animals killed by the mus- 
ket, without being in the least aware how deadly 
an instrument it is. 

22d. — After having passed an unmolested night, 
in what would appear to be neutral territory be- 
tween Jemmy's tribe and the people whom we saw 
yesterday, we sailed pleasantly along. I do not 
know anything which shows more clearly the hos- 
tile 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 un- 
willing 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 in- 
roads on the natives of this part of tlie country. It 
was most curious to watch him when thus talking, 
and see his eyes gleaming and his whole face as- 
sume a new and wild expression. As we proceed- 
ed along the Beagle Channel, the scenery assumed 
a peculiar and very magnificent character ; but the 
effect was much lessened from the lowness of the 



284 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

point of view in a boat, and from looking along the 
valley, and thus losing all the beauty of a succes- 
sion of ridges. The mountains were here about 
three thousand feet high, and terminated in sharp 
and jagged points. They rose in one unbroken 
sweep from the water's edge, and were covered to 
the height of fourteen or fifteen hundred feet by 
the dusky-coloured forest. It was most curious to 
observe, as far as the eye could range, how level 
and truly horizontal the line on the mountain side 
was at which trees ceased to grow : it precisely 
resembled the high- water mark of drift-weed on a 
sea-beach. 

At night we slept close to the junction of Pon- 
sonby 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 sui*prise, to be 
streaming with pei'spiration at undergoing such a 
roasting. They seemed, however, very well pleas- 
ed, and all joined in the chorus of the seamen's 
songs ; but the manner in which they were invari- 
ably a little behindhand was quite ludicrous. 

During the night the news had spread, and ear- 
ly in the morning (23d) a fresh party arrived, be- 
longing to the Tekenika, or Jemmy's tribe. Sev- 
eral of them had run so fast that their noses were 
bleeding, and their mouths fi'othed from the rapid- 
ity with which they talked ; and with their naked 
bodies all bedaubed with black, white,* and red, 

* This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little 
specific gravity. Professor Ehrenberg has examined it. He states 
(Konig Akad. der Wissen : Berlin, Feb., 1845) that it is composed 
of infusoria, including fourteen polygastrica and four phytolitha- 
ria. He says that they are all inhabitants of fresh water. This is 



SETTLEMENT AT VVOOLLYA. 285 

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. Cap- 
tain Fitz Roy originally intended, as before stated, 
to have taken York INIinster and Fuegia to their o^vn 
tribe on the west coast ; but as they expressed a 
wish to remain here, and as the spot was singular- 
ly favourable, Captain Fitz Roy determined to 
settle here the whole party, including Matthews 
the missionary. Five days were sj)ent in building 
for them three large wigwams, in landing their 
goods, in digging two gardens, and sowing seeds, 

a beautiful example of the results obtainable through Professor 
Ehrenberg's microscopic researches ; for Jemmy Button told me 
that it is always collected at the bottoms of mountain brooks. It 
is, moreover, a strikmg fact in the geographical distribution of 
the infusoria, which are well known to have very wide ranges, 
that all the species in this substance, although brought from the 
extreme southern point of Tierra del Fuego, are old, known forms. 



286 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

The next morning after our arrival (the 24th) 
the Fuegians began to pour in, and Jemmy's moth- 
er and brothers arrived. Jemmy recognised the 
stentorian voice of one of his brothers at a prodi- 
gious 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 imme- 
diately went to look after her canoe. We heard, 
however, through York, that the mother had been 
inconsolable for the loss of Jemmy, and had search- 
ed 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 be- 
ing with so small a stock of language, for his Eng- 
lish was very imperfect. It was laughable, but 
almost pitiable, to hear him sjjeak to his wild 
brother in English, and then ask him in Spanish 
(" no sabe ?") whether he did not vmderstand 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 every- 
thing 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 at- 
tention to anything else, not even to our boats. 
Of all the things which York saw during his ab- 
sence from his country, nothing seems more to have 
astonished him than an ostrich near Maldonado : 



SETTLEMENT AT WOOLLYA. 287 

breathless with astonishment, he came running 
to Mr. Bynoe, with whom ho was out walking, 
" Oh, Mr. Bynoe, oh, bird all same horse !" Much 
as our white skins surprised the natives, by Mr. 
Low's account a negro cook to a sealing vessel did 
so more eifectually ; and the poor fellow was so 
mobbed and shouted at, that he would never go on 
shore again. Everything went on so quietly, that 
some of the officers and myself took long walks in 
the surrounding hills and woods. Suddenly, how- 
ever, on the 27th, every woman and child disap- 
peared. 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 frighten- 
ed 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 sleep- 
ing Fuegian, plainly showed, as it was said, that 
he should like to cut up and eat our man. Caji- 
tain Fitzroy, to avoid the chance of an encounter, 
which would have been fatal to so many of the 
Fuegians, thought it advisable for us to sleep at a 
cove a few miles distant. Matthews, with his usual 
quiet fortitude (remai'kable 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 de- 
lighted to find all quiet, and the men employed in 
their canoes spearing fish. Captain Fitz Roy de- 
termined to send the yawl and one whaleboat back 
to the ship, and to proceed with the two other 
boats, one under his o^vn command (in which he 
most kindly allowed me to accompany him), and 



288 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

one under Mr. Hammond, to survey the western 
parts of the Beagle Channel, and afterwards to re- 
turn and visit the settlement. The day, to our as- 
tonishment, 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 circum- 
stance 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, slow- 
ly swimming one after the other, within less than 
a stone's throw of the shore, over which the beech- 
tree extended its branches. 

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

It was my watch till one o'clock. There is some- 
thing vei-y solemn in these scenes. At no time 
does the consciousness in what a remote corner of 
the world you are then standing come so strongly 
before the mind. Everything tends to this effect ; 
the stillness of the night is interrupted only by the 
heavy breathing of the seamen beneath the tents, 
and sometimes by the cry of a night-bird. The oc- 

* 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 reverherated like a distant broadside, 



GLACIERS ENTERING THE SEA. 289 

casional barking of a dog, heard in the distance, re- 
minds one that it is the land of the savage. 

January 29th. — Early in the morning we aiTived 
at the point where the Beagle Channel divides into 
two arms, and we entered the northern one. The 
scenery hero becomes even grander than before. 
The lofty mountains on the north side compose the 
granitic axis, or backbone of the country, and bold- 
ly rise to a height of between thi'ee and four thou- 
sand 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 ex- 
panse of snow. The fragments which had fallen 
from the glacier into the water were floating away, 
and the channel, with its icebergs, pi'esented, for the 
space of a mile, a miniature likeness of the Polar 
Sea. The boats being hauled on shore at our din- 
neV-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 imme- 
diately we saw the smooth outline of a wave trav- 
elling towards us. The men ran down as quickly 
as they could to the boats, for the ch'ance 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 

Vol. 1—19 B b 



290 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

been left without provisions or fire-arms. I had 
previously observed that some large fragments of 
rock on the beach had been lately displaced ; but 
until seeing this wave, I did not understand the 
cause. One side of the creek w^as formed by a 
spur of mica-slate ; the head by a cliff of ice about 
forty feet high ; and the other side by a promon- 
tory fifty feet high, built up of huge rouncfed frag- 
ments of granite and mica-slate, out of v^rhich old 
trees vv^ere growing. This promontory was evi- 
dently a moraine, heaped up at a period when the 
glacier had greater dimensions. 

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

February 6th. — We an-ived at Woollya. Mat- 
thews 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 reg- 
ular system of plunder commenced ; fresh parties 
of the natives kept an'iving : York and Jemmy lost 
many things, and Matthews almost everything which 



FUEGIANS. 291' 

had not been concealed under gi'ound. Every arti- 
cle seemed to have been torn up and divided by the 
natives. Matthews described the watch he was obli- 
ged 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 ask- 
ed 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. An- 
other party showed by signs that they wished to 
strip him naked and pluck all the hairs out of his 
face and body. I think we arrived just in time to 
save his life. Jemmy's relatives had been so vain 
and foolish, that they had showed to strangers their 
plunder, and their manner of obtaining it. It was 
quite melancholy leaving the three Fuegians with 
their savage countrymen ; but it was a gi-eat com- 
fort 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 Jem- 
my looked rather disconsolate, and would then, I 
have little doubt, have been glad to have returned 
with us. His own brother had stolen many things 
from him; and as he remarked, "what fashion call 
that]" he abused his countrymen, "all bad men, no 
sabe (know) nothing," and, though I never heard 
him swear before, " d — d fools." Our three Fu- 
egians, though they had been oidy three years with 
civilized men, would, I am sure, have been glad to 
have retained their new habits ; but this was obvi- 
ously impossible. I fear it is more than doubtful 
whether their visit will have been of any use to 
them. 

In the evening, with Matthews on board, we 



292 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

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

On the last day of Febinjary in the succeeding 
year (1834), the Beagle anchored in a beautiful lit- 
tle cove at the eastern entrance of the Beagle Chan- 
nel. Captain Fitz Roy determined on the bold, 
and, as it proved, successful attempt to beat against 
the westei-ly winds by the same route which we 
had followed in the boats to the settlement at Wool- 
lya. We did not see many natives until we were 
near Ponsonby Sound, where we were followed by 
ten or twelve canoes. The natives did not at all 
understand the reason of our tacking, and, instead 
of meeting us at each tack, vainly strove to follow 
us in our zigzag course. I was amused at finding 
what a difference the circumstance of being quite 
superior in force made, in the interest of beholding 
these savages. While in the boats I got to hate 
the very sound of their voices, so much trouble did 
they give us. The first and last word was " yam- 
merschooner." AVlien, entering some quiet little 
cove, we have looked round and thought to pass a 
quiet night, the odious word " yammerschooner" 
has shi-illy sounded from some gloomy nook, and 
then the little signal-smoke has curled uj) 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 



FtlEGIANS. 298 

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 moreFuegians the merrier; and very 
merry work it was. Both parties laughing,- won- 
dering, gajiing at each other ; we pitying them for 
giving us good fish and crabs for rags, &c. ; they 
grasping at the chance of finding people so foolish 
as to exchange such splendid ornaments for a good 
supper. It was most amusing to sec the undis- 
guised smile of satisfaction with which one young 
woman, with her face painted black, tied several 
bits of scarlet cloth round her head with rushes. 
Her husband, who enjoyed the very universal priv- 
ilege in this country of possessing two wives, evi- 
dently became jealous of all the attention paid to 
his young wife, and, after a consultation with his 
naked beauties, was paddled away by them. 

Some of the Fuegians plainly showed that they 
had a fair notion of barter. I gave one man a 
large nail (a most valuable present) without ma- 
king 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 in- 
variably 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 scai'let cloth or blue beads, 
the absence of women, our care in washing our- 
selves — excited their admiration far more than any 
B B 2 



S94 TIERRA DEL PUEGO. 

grand or complicated object, such as our ship. 
Bougainville has well remarked concerning these 
people, that they treat the " chef-d'oeuvres de I'in- 
dustrie humaine, corame ils traitent les loix de la 
nature at ses phenomenes." 

On the 5th of March we anchored in the cove 
at Woollya, but we saw not a soul there. We 
were alarmed at this, for the natives in Ponsonby 
Sound showed by gestures that there had been 
fighting ; and we afterwards heard that the dreaded 
Oens men had made a descent. Soon a canoe, 
with a little flag flying, was seen approaching, 
with one of the men in it washing the paint off" his 
face. This man was poor Jemmy, now a thin, 
haggard savage, with long, disordered hair, and 
naked, except a bit of a blanket round his waist. 
We did not I'ecognise him till he was close to us ; 
for he was ashamed of himself, and turned his back 
to the ship. We had left him plump, fat, clean, 
and well dressed ; I never saw so complete and 
grievous a change. As soon, however, as he was 
clothed, and the first flurry was over, things wore 
a good appearance. He dined with Captain Fitz 
Roy, and ate his dinner as tidily as formerly. He 
told us he had " too much" (meaning enough) to 
eat, that he was not cold, that his relations were 
very good people, and that he did not wish to go 
back to England : in the evening we found out the 
cause of this great change in Jemmy's feelings, in 
the arrival of his young and nice-looking wife. 
With his usual good feeling, he brought two beau- 
tiful otter-skins for two of his best friends, and some 
spear-heads and an-ows 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 



FAREWELL VISIT TO WOOLLYA. 295 

some English : an old man spontaneously an- 
nounced " Jemmy Button's wife." Jemmy bad lost 
all his property. He told us that York Minster 
had built a large canoe, and with his wife Fuegia,* 
had several months since gone to his own country, 
and had taken farewell by an act of consummate 
villany : he persuaded Jemmy and his mother to 
come with him, and then on the way deserted them 
by night, stealing every article of their property. 

Jemmy went to sleep on shore, and in the morn- 
ing 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. Ev- 
ery 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 hajipy as, perhaps happier than, 
if he had never left his own country. Every one 
inust sincerely hope that Captain Fitz Roy's noble 
hope may be fulhlled, of being rewarded for the 
many generous sacrifices which he made for these 
Fuegians by some shipwi'ecked sailor being pro- 
tected by the descendants of Jemmy Button and 
his tribe ! When Jemmy reached the shore, he 
lighted a signal fire, and the smoke curled up, bid- 
ding us a last and long farewell, as the ship stood 
on her course into the open sea. 

The perfect equality among the individuals com- 
posing the Fuegian tribes must for a long time re- 
tard their civilization. As we see those animals, 

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



296 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

whose instinct compels them to Hve in society and 
obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so 
is it with the races of mankind. Whether we look 
at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civil- 
ized always have the most artificial governments. 
For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, 
when first discov^ered, were governed by heredi- 
tary kings, had arrived at a far higher grade than 
another branch of the same people, the New Zea- 
landers, who, although benefited by being com- 
pelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were 
republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra 
del Fuego, until some chief shall arise ^vith power 
sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as 
the domesticated animals, it seems scarcely possi- 
ble 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 ai'ise till there is property of some sort 
by which he might manifest his superiority and in- 
crease his power. 

I believe, in this extreme part of South Ameri- 
ca, man exists in a lower state of improvement than 
in any part of the world. The South Sea Island- 
ers of the two races inhabiting the Pacific are 
comparatively civilized. The Esquimaux, in his 
subtei'ranean hut, enjoys some of the comforts of 
life, and in his canoe, when fully equipped, man- 
ifests much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern 
Africa, prowling about in search of roots, and liv- 
ing concealed on the wild and arid plains, are suf- 
ficiently wretched. The Australian, in the simpli- 
city 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, 



STRAIT OF MAGELLAN. 297 

of tracking animals, and of hunting. Although the 
Australian may be superior in acquirements, it by- 
no means follows that he is likewise sujoerior 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. 



CHAPTER XI. 

Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Ascent of Mount Tarn — For 
ests — Edible Fungus — Zoology— Great Sea-weed — Leave Tier- 
ra del Fuego— Climate — Fruit-trees and Productions of the 
southern Coasts — Height of Snow-line on the Cordillera — De- 
scent of Glaciers to the Sea — Icebergs formed — Transportal of 
Boulders — Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands — 
Preservation of frozen Carcasses — Recapitulation. 

STRAIT OF MAGELLAN. CLIMATE OF THE SOUTH- 
ERN COASTS. 

In the end of May, 1834, we entered for the 
second time the eastern mouth of the Strait of Ma- 
gellan. The country on both sides of this part of 
tlie Strait consists of nearly level plains, like those 
of Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little within the 
second naiTOws, may be considered as the point 
where the land begins to assume the marked fea- 
tures 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 
impeiTious forests, which are drenched with the 



298 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

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 at- 
mospheric currents,* although rapid, turbulent, 
and unconfined by any apparent limits, yet seem 
to follow, like a river in its bed, a regularly deter- 
mined course. 

During our previous visit (in January), we had 
an interview at Cape Gregory with the famous so- 
called gigantic Patagonians, who gave us a cordial 
reception. Their height appears greater than it 
really is, from their large guanaco mantles, their 
long flowing hair, and general figure : on an aver- 
age, 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 wei'e 
much painted with red and black, and one man 
was ringed and dotted with white like a Fuegian. 
Capt. Fitz Roy offered to take any three of them 
on board, and all seemed determined to be of the 
three. It was long before we could clear the boat ; 
at last we got on board with our three giants, who 
dined with the Captain, and behaved quite like 
gentlemen, helping themselves with knives, forks, 
and spoons : nothing was so much relished as su- 
gar. This tribe has had so much communication 
with sealers and whalers, that most of the men can 
* The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry. January 
29th, being at anchor under Cape Gregory : a very hard gale from 
W. by S., clear sky with few cumuli; temperature 57°, dew- 
point 36°, difference 21°. On January 15th, at Port St. Julian: 
in the morning light winds with much rain, followed by a very 
heavy squall with rain ; settled into heavy gale with large cumu- 
li ; cleared up, blowing very strong from S.S.W. Temperature 
60O, dew-point 42°, difference 18°. 



STRAIT OF MAGELLAN. 299 

speak a little English and Spanish ; and they are 
half civilized, and proportionally demoralized. 

The next morning a large party went on shore 
to barter for skins and ostrich feathers ; fire-arms 
being refused, tobacco was in greatest request, far 
more so than axes or tools. The whole population 
of the toldos, men, women, and children, were ar- 
ranged 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 un- 
suspecting : 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, 750 miles to the north. 
They are well stocked with horses, each man hav- 
ing, according to Mr. Low, six or seven, and all the 
women, and even children, their one own horse. 
Li the time of Sarmiento (1580), these Indians had 
bows and aiTows, 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 15S0, only forty-three years 
afterwards, we hear of them at the Strait of Magel- 
lan ! 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. 

Jzinc 1st. — We anchored in the fine bay of Port 
* Rengger, Natur. der Saeugethiere von Paraguay. S. 334. 



300 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

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 in- 
distinctly through a drizzling, hazy atmosphere. 
We were, however, lucky in getting two tine days. 
On one of these, Mount Sarmiento, a distant mount- 
ain 6800 feet high, presented a very noble spectacle. 
I was frequently surprised, in the scenery of Tier- 
ra 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, name- 
ly, that the whole mass, from the summit to the 
water's edge, is generally in full view. I remem- 
ber 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 Pon- 
sonby Sound across several successive ridges ; 
and it was curious to observe in the latter case, as 
each fresh ridge afforded fresh means of judging 
of the distance, how the mountain rose in height. 

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



PORT FAMINE. 301" 

During our stay at Port Famine, the Fuegians 
twice came and plagued us. As there were many 
instruments, clothes, and men on shore, it was 
thought necessary to frighten them away. The 
first time a few great guns wei'e fired when they 
were far distant. It was most ludicrous to watch 
through a glass the Indians, as often as the shot 
struck the water, take up stones, and, as a bold 
defiance, throw them towards the ship, though 
about a mile and a half distant ! A boat was then 
sent •with orders to fire a few musket-shots wide 
of them. The Fuegians hid themselves behind 
the trees, and for every discharge of the muskets 
they fired their arrows ; all, however, fell short of 
the boat, and the ofiicer, 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 Fuegi- 
ans were here very troublesome, and, to frighten 
them, a rocket was fired at night over their wig- 
wams : it answered effectually, and one of the offi- 
cers told me that the clamour first raised, and the 
barking of the dogs, was quite ludicrous in contrast 
with the profound silence which in a minute or two 
afterwards prevailed. The next moniing not a sin- 
gle Fuegian was in the neighbourhood. 

Wlien the Beagle was here, in the month of 
Febi'uary, I started one moi'ning 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, 
imluckily, 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 
C c 



302 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

was the wood, that it was necessary to have con- 
stant recourse to the compass ; for every landmark, 
though in a mountainous country, was completely 
shut out. In the deep ravines, the death-like scene 
of desolation exceeded all description; outside it 
was blowing a gale, but in these hollows not even 
a breath of wind stiiTed the leaves of the tallest 
trees. So gloomy, cold, and wet was every part, 
that not even the fungi, mosses, or ferns could 
flourish. In the valleys it was scarcely possible to 
crawl along, they were so completely bamcaded 
by great mouldering trunks, which had fallen down 
in every direction. When passing over these nat- 
ural 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 staitled by finding a mass of decayed mat- 
ter ready to fall at the slightest touch. We at last 
found ourselves among the stunted trees, and then 
soon reached the bare ridge, which conducted us 
to the summit. Here was a view characteristic of 
Tierra del Fuego ; iiTegular 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 evergi'een forests,* in which two 

* Captain Fitz Roy informs me that in April (our October) the 
leaves of those trees which grow near the base of the mountains 
change colour, l)ut not those on the more elevated parts. I remem- 
ber having read some observations, showing that in England the 
leaves fall earlier in a warm and fine autumn, than in a late and 



THE FUNGUS. 303 

or tbree 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 forma- 
tion occurs, is most favourable to the gi'owth of 
trees ; on the outer coast the poorer granitic soil, 
and a situation more exposed to the violent winds, 
do not allow of their attaining any great size. 
Near Port Famine I have seen more large trees 
than anywhere else : I measured a Winter's Bark 
which was four feet six inches in girth, and sever- 
al of the beech were as much as thirteen feet. Cap- 
tain King also mentions a beech which was seven 
feet in diameter seventeen feet above the roots. 

There is one vegetable production deserving no- 
tice fi-om its importance as an article of food to the 
Fuegians. It is a globular bright-yellow fungus, 
which gi'ows in vast num- 
bers on the beech -trees. 
When young, it is elastic 
and turgid, with a smooth 
surface ; but when mature, 
it shrinks, becomes tough- 
er, and has its entire sur- 
face deeply pitted or honey- 
combed, as represented in 
the accompanying woodcut. 
This fungus belongs to a new and curious genus ;* 

cold one. The change in the colour being here retarded in the 
more elevated, and therefore colder sitnations, must be owing to 
the same general law of vegetation. The trees of Tierra del Fu- 
ego during no part of the year entirely shed their leaves. 

* Described from my specimens, and notes by the Rev. J. M. 
Berkeley, in the Linnean Transactions (vol. xix., p. 37), undex the 




304 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

I found a second species on another species of 
beech in Chile; and Di*. Hooker informs me, that just 
lately a third species has been discovered on a third 
species of beech in Van Diemen's Land. How 
singular is this relationship between parasitical fun- 
gi and the trees on which they grow in distant parts 
of the world ! In TieiTa del Fuego, the fungus, in 
its tough and mature state, is collected in large quan- 
tities by the women and children, and is eaten un- 
cooked. 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 besides 
this fungvis. In New Zealand, before the introduc- 
tion of the potato, the roots of the fern were large- 
ly consumed; at the present time, I believe, Tier- 
ra del Fuego is the only country in the world where 
a cryptogamic plant aftbrds 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 cte- 
nomys allied to or identical with the tucutuco, two 
foxes (Canis Magellanicus and C. Azarae), a sea- 
otter, the guanaco, and a deer. Most of these ani- 
mals 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 tu- 
cutuco and Reithrodon to pass over. The coiTe- 

name of Cyttaria Darwinii : the Chilian species is the C. Berte 
roii. This genus is allied to Bulgaria. 



ZOOLOGY ORNITHOLOGY. 305 

spondence of the clifts is far from proving any junc- 
tion, because such clifts generally are formed by 
the intersection of sloping deposits, which, before 
the elevation of the land, had been accumulated 
near the then existing shores. It is, however, a re- 
markable coincidence, that in the two large islands- 
cut off by the Beagle Channel from the rest of Ti- 
erra 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 crys- 
talline 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 littlo more than half 
a mile wide, I have the word of Jemmy Button for 
saying that neither of these animals are found. 

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds : 
occasionally the plaintive note of a white-tufted 
tyrant flycatcher (Myiobius albiceps) may be heard, 
concealed near the summit of the most lofty trees ; 
and more rarely the loud, strange cry of a black 
woodpecker, with a fine scarlet crest on its head. 
A little, dusky-coloured wren (Scytalopus Magel- 
lanicus) hops in a skulking manner among the en- 
tangled mass of the fallen and decaying trunks. 
But the creeper (Oxyurus tupinieri) is the com- 
monest 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 appeal's 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 froni tree to tree, within a few feet of the 
intruder's face. It is far from wishing for the 
modest concealment of the true creeper (Certhia 

Vol. 1—20 C c 2 



306 TIF.RRA DEL FUEGO. 

familiaris) ; nor does it, like that bird, run up the 
trunks of trees, but industriously, after the manner 
of a willow- wren, hops about, and searches for in- 
sects on every twig and bi-anch. In the more open 
parts, three or four species of finches, a thrush, a 
starling (or Icterus), two Opetiorhynchi, and sev- 
eral hawks and owls occur. 

The absence of any species whatever in the 
whole class of Reptiles is a marked feature in the 
zoology of this country, as well as in that of the 
Falkland Islands. I do not ground this statement 
merely on my own observation, but I heard it from 
the Spanish inhabitants of the latter ]ilace, and 
from Jemmy Button with regard to Tierra del 
Fuego. On the banks of the Santa Cruz, in 50° 
south, I saw a fi-og ; 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 luimbers : it was 
long before I could believe that a country as large 
as Scotland, covered with vegetable productions 
and with a variety of stations, could be so unpro- 
ductive. The few which I found were alpine spe- 
cies (Harpalidaj and Heteromidas) living under 
stones. The vegetable-feeding Chrysomelidas, so 
eminently characteristic of the Tropics, are here 
almost entirely absent ;* I saw very few flies, but- 

* I believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single speci- 
men of a Melasoma. Mr. Waterhouse informs me, that of the 
Harpalidse there are eight or nine species — the forms of the greater 
number being very peculiar ; of Heteromera, four or five species ; 
of Rhyncophora, six or seven ; and of the following families one 



GREAT SEA-WEED. 307' 

tei-flies, or bees, and no crickets or Orthoptera. In 
the pools of water I found but few aquatic beetles, 
and not any fresh-water shells : Succinea at first 
appears an exception ; but here it must be called 
a terrestrial shell, for it lives on the damp herbage 
far from water. Land-shells could be procured 
only in the same alpine situations with the beetles. 
I have already contrasted the climate, as well as 
the general appearance of Tierra del Fuego, with 
that of Patagonia, and the difference is strongly 
exemplified in the entomology. I do not believe 
they have one specTies 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 num- 
beiv 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 chan- 
nels.* I believe, during the voyages of the Ad- 
ventui'e and Beagle, not one rock near the surface 
was discovered which was not buoyed by this float- 
species in each : Staphylinidae, ElateridEe, Cebrionidae, Melolon- 
thiiiae. 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 care- 
fully described by Mr. Waterhouse in the Annals of Nat. Hist. 

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



308 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

ing weed. The good service it thus affords to ves- 
sels navigating near this stormy land is evident ; 
and it certainly has saved many a one from being 
"wrecked. I know few things more surprising than 
to see this plant gi-owing and flourishing amidst 
those great breakers of the Western Ocean, which 
no mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can long 
resist. The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and 
seldom has a diameter of so much as an inch. A 
few taken together are sufficiently strong to support 
the weight of the large loose stones to which, in 
the inland channels, they grovf 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 perpen- 
dicular direction, but makes a very acute angle 
with the bottom, and much of it afterward spreads 
many fathoms on the siu-face 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 Cap- 
tain 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 
not of great breadth, make excellent natural float- 
ing breakwaters. It is quite curious to see, in an 
exposed harbour, how soon the waves from the 

* Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, vol. i., p. 3C3. It ap- 
pears that sea-weed grows extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson 
found (Wilson's Voyage round Scotland, vol. ii., p. 228) that a rock 
uncovered only at spring-tides, which had been chiselled smooth 
in November, on the following May, that is, within six months 
afterwards, was thickly covered with Fucus digitatus two feet, 
and F. esculentus six feet in length. 



GREAT SEA-WEED. 309 

open sea, as tliey travel through the straggling 
stems, sink in height, and pass into smooth watci". 
The number of living creatures of all Orders, 
whoso existence intimately depends on the kelp, 
is wonderful. A gi'eat volume might be written 
describing the inhabitants of one of these beds of 
sea-weed. Almost all the leaves, excepting those 
that float, on the surface, are so thickly incrusted 
with corallines as to be of a white colour. We 
find exquisitely delicate structures, some inhabited 
by simple hydra-like poh^ji, others by more or- 
ganized kinds, and beautiful compound Ascidia3. 
On the leaves, also, various patelliform 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 Holuthuria?, 
Planarice, and crawling nereidous animals of a mul- 
titude of forms, all fall out together. Often as I 
recurred to a branch of the kelp, I never failed to 
discover animals of new and curious stractures. 
In Chiloe, where the kelp does not tlmve very 
well, the numerovis shells, corallines, and Crustacea 
are absent ; but thei'e yet remain a few of the 
Flustracea^, and some compound Ascidia3 ; the lat- 
ter, however, are of different species from those in 
Tierra del Fuego : we here see the fucus possess- 
ing 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 ter- 
restrial 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 



310 TIERRA DEL FUEGO. 

food or shelter ; with their destruction the many 
cormorants and other fishing birds, the otters, seals, 
and porpoises, would soon perish also ; and lastly, 
the Fuegian savage, the miserable lord of this 
miserable land, would redouble his cannibal feast, 
decrease in numbers, and perhaps cease to exist. 

June Sth. — 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 dis- 
covered. 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 out- 
lines, marked on a lurid sky, were seen at different 
distances and heights. In the midst of such scen- 
ery 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 wig- 
wam, 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 waning with each other, yet combined against 
man — here reigned in absolute sovereignty. 

June 9th. — In the morning we were delighted 
by seeing the veil of mist gradually rise from Sar- 
miento, and display it to our view. This mountain, 
which is one of the highest in Tierra del Fuego, 



A DESOLATE COAST. 311 

has an altitude of G800 feet. Its base, for about 
an eighth of its total height, is clothed by dusky 
woods, and above this a held 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 de- 
scended in a winding course from the upper great 
expanse of snow to the sea-coast: they may be 
likened to great frozen Niagaras ; and perhaps 
these cataracts of blue ice are full as beautiful as 
the moving ones of water. By night we reached 
the western part of the channel, but the water was 
so deep that no anchorage could be found. We 
were, in consequence, obliged to stand off and on in 
this narrow arm of the sea during a pitch-dark 
night of fourteen hours long. 

June iWi, — In the morning we made the best of 
our way into the open Pacific. The western coast 
generally consists of low, rounded, qviite baiTen 
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 E. and W. Furies ; and a little far- 
ther northward there are so many breakers that the 
sea is called the Milky Way. One sight of such a 
coast irs enough to make a landsman dream for a week 
about shipwrecks, peril, and death ; and with this 
sight we bade farewell forever to Tieri-a del Fuego. 



312 CLIMATE AND PRODUCTIONS OF 

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

On the Climate and Productions of Tierra del 
Fuego and of the Southwest Coast. — The follow- 
ing table gives the mean temperature of Tierra del 
Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and, for comparison, 
that of Dublin : 

Latitude. 

Tierra del Fuego . 53° 38' S. 
Falkland Islands . 51o 30' S. 
Dublin 530 21' N. 

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 Norv\'ay, 
is as high as 57°-8, and this place is actually 13° 
nearer the pole than Port Famine !* Inhospitable 
as this climate appears to our feelings, evergreen 
trees flourish luxuriantly under it. Humming- 
birds may be seen sucking the flowers, and paiTots 
feeding on the seeds of the Winter's Bark, in lat. 

* With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the results are deduced 
from the observations by Capt. King (Geographical Journal, 1830), 
and those taken on board the Beagle. For the Falkland Islands, 
I am indebted to Capt. Sulivan for the mean of the mean tem- 
perature (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 
fiom Barton. 



Summer 


Wmter 


Mean of Su 


Temp. 


Temp. 


merandWinl 


50° 


33O.O8' 


41°-54' 


51° 








50°- 54' 


390-2' 


490-37' 



TIERRA DEL FUEGO AND THE WEST COAST. 313 

55° S. I have already remarked to what a degree 
the sea swarms with living creatures ; and the shells 
(such as the Patellce, Fissurella?, Chitons, and Bar- 
nacles), according to Mr. G. B. Sowerby, are of a 
much larger size, and of a more vigorovis growth, 
than the analogous species in the northern hemi- 
sphere. A large Vohita is abundant in Southern 
Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. At 
Bahia Blanca, in lat. 39° S.,the most abundant shells 
were three species of Oliva (one of large size), one 
or two Volutas, and a Terebra. Now these are 
amongst the best characterized 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 ge- 
ologist were to find in lat. 39°, on the coast of Por- 
tugal, a bed containing numerous shells belonging 
to three species of Oliva, to a Voluta, and Terebra, 
he would probably assert that the climate at the 
period of their existence must have been troj^ical ; 
but, judging from South America, such an infer- 
ence might be eiToneous. 

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 furtlier northward, I may mention that 
in Chiloe (corresponding in latitude with the nor- 
thern parts of Spain) the peach seldom produces 
fruit, whilst strawberries and apples thrive to per- 
fection. Even the crops of barley and wheat* are 
often brought into the houses to be dried and ri- 
pened. At Valdivia (in the same latitude of 40°, 



314 CLIMATE AND PRODUCTIONS. 

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 Val- 
divia, 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 unfa- 
vourable to our fruits, yet the native forests, from 
lat. 45° to 38°, almost rival in luxuriance those of 
the glowing intertropical regions. Stately trees of 
many kinds, with smooth and highly -coloured 
barks, are loaded by parasitical monocotyledonous 
plants ; large and elegant ferns are numerous, and 
arborescent grasses entwine the trees into one en- 
tangled 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°. 

An equable climate, evidently due to the large 
ai'ea of sea compared with the land, seems to ex- 
tend over the greater part of the southern hemi- 
sphere ; and as a consequence, the vegetation par- 
takes of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns 
thrive luxuriantly in Van Diemen's Land (lat. 45°), 
and I measured one trunk no less than six feet in 
circumference. An arborescent fern was found by 
Forster in New-Zealand in 46°, where orchideous 
plants are parasitical on the trees. In the Auck- 
land Islands, ferns, according to Dr. Dieftenbach,* 
have trunks so thick and high that they may be 

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



HEIGHT OF THE SNOW-LINE. 315 

almost called tree-ferns ; and in these islands, and 
even as far south as lat. 55'^ in the Macquarrie Isl- 
ands, parrots abound. 

On, the Height of the Snoui-Une, and on the De- 
scent of the Glaciers, i?i South A^nenca. — For the 
detailed authorities for the following table I must 
refer to the former edition : 

Latitude. "f'f'ow"lme.' Observer. 

Equatorial reg-ion . mean result 15,748 Humboldt. 

Bolivia, lat. 160 to l&o s. . . 17,000 Pentland. 

Central Chile, lat .330 S. . . 14,500 to 15,000 Gillies, and the Author. 

Chiloe, lat. 410 to 430 S. . . 6,000 j Officers of the Beagle, 

' ' \ and the Author. 

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

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems 
chiefly to be determined by the exti-eme heat of 
the summer rather than by the mean temperature 
of the year, we ought not to be surprised at its de- 
scent 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 Cor- 
dillera behind Chiloe (with its highest points I'an- 
ging from only 5600 to 7500 feet) and in central 
Chile* (a distance of only 9° of latitude), is truly 
wonderful The land from the southward of Chi- 
loe to near Concepcion (lat. 37°), is hidden by one 
dense forest dripping with moisture. The sky is 
cloudy, and we have seen how badly the fruits of 
Southern Europe succeed. In central Chile, on 
the other hand, a little northward of Concepcion, 

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



316 DESCENT OF GLACIERS. 

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 per- 
petual snow undergoes the above remarkable flex- 
ure 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 con- 
ceive, mainly depend (subject, of course, to a prop- 
er supply of snow in the upper region) on the low- 
ness of the line of pei-petual snow on steep mount- 
ains 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 seacoast. 
Almost every ami of the sea which penetrates to 
the interior higher chain, not only in TieiTa del 
Fuego, but on the coast for 650 miles northwards, 
is terminated by " tremendous and astonishing gla- 
ciers," as described by one of the officers on the 
survey. Great masses of ice frequently fall from 
these icy cliffs, and the crash reverberates like the 
broadside of a man-of-war through the lonely chan- 
nels. These falls, as noticed in the last chapter, 
produce gi'eat waves, which break on the adjoining 
coasts. It is known that earthquakes fi-equently 
cause masses of earth to fall from sea-cliffs : how 

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



FLOATING ICEBERGS. 317 

terrific, then, would bo the effect of a severe shock 
(and such occur here*) on a body like a glacier, 
already in motion, and traversed by fissures ! I 
can readily believe that the water would be fairly 
beaten back out of the deepest channel, and then 
returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl 
about huge masses of rock like so much chaff". In 
Eyre's Sound, in the latitude of Paris, there are 
immense glaciers, and yet the loftiest neighbouring 
mountain is only 6200 feet high. In this sound, 
about fifty icebergs were seen at one time floating 
outwards, and one of them must have been at least 
1G8 feet in total height. Some of the icebergs 
were loaded with blocks, of no inconsiderable size, 
of granite and other rocks, diff"erent from the clay- 
slate of the suiioundmg moimtain^. The glacier 

46° 40'. 




* Bulkeley's and Cuminins's Faithful Narrative of the Loss of 
the Wager. The earthquake happened August 25, 1741, 
D D 2 



318 ERRATIC BOULDERS. 

furthest from the Pole, surveyed during the voy- 
ages of the Adventure and Beagle, is in lat. 46° 
50', in the Gulf of Penas. It is 15 miles long, and 
in one part 7 broad, and descends to the seacoast. 
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 22d of the month correspond- 
ing 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 seacoast 
within 7^° of latitude, or 450 miles, of a harbour, 
where three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a 
Terebra are the commonest shells, within less than 
9° from where palms grow, within 4^° of a region 
where the jaguar and puma range over the plains, 
less than 2^° from arborescent grasses, and (looking 
to the westward in the same hemisphere) less than 
2° from orchideous parasites, and within a single 
degree of tree-fems ! 

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 ice- 
bergs being charged with fragments of rock ex- 
plains the origin and position of the gigantic boul- 
ders of eastern Tierra del Fuego, on the high plain 
of Santa Cruz, and on the island of Chiloe. In 
* Agiieros, Desc. Hist, de Chiloe, p. 227. 



ERRATIC BOULDERS. 319 

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 unstratifled formation of 
mud and sand, containing rounded and angular 
fragments of all sizes, which has originated* in the 
repeated ploughing up of the sea-bottom by the 
stranding of icebergs, and by the matter transport- 
ed on them. Few geologists now doubt that those 
eri-atic boulders which lie near lofty mountains 
have been pushed forward by the glaciers them- 
selves, and that those distant from mountains, and 
embedded in subaqueous deposits, have been con- 
veyed thither either on icebergs, or frozen in coast- 
ice. The connection between the transportal of 
boulders and the presence of ice in some form, is 
strikingly shown by their geographical distribution 
over the earth. In South America they are not 
found further than 48° of latitude, measured from 
the southern pole ; in North America it appears 
that the limit of their transportal extends to 53|° 
from the northern pole ; but in Europe to not more 
than 40*^ degrees of latitude, measured from the 
same point. On the other hand, in the intertropi- 
cal parts of America, Asia, and Africa, they have 
never been observed ; nor at the Cape of Good 
Hope, nor in Australia.t 

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic 
Islands. — Considering the rankness of the vegeta- 
tion in Tierra del Fuego, and on the coast north- 
ward of it, the condition of the islands south and 

* Geological Transactions, vol. vi., p. 415. 

t I have given details (the first, I believe, published) on this 
subject in the first edition, and in the Appendix to it. I have 
there shown that the apparent exceptions to the absence of er- 
ratic boulders in certain hot countries are due to erroneous ob- 
servations : several statements there given I have since founcl 
confirmed by various authors. 



320 CLIMATE AND PRODUCTIONS OF 

south-west of America is truly surprising. Sand- 
wich Land, in the latitude of the north part of 
Scotland, was found by Cook, during the hottest 
month of the year, " covered many fathoms thick 
with everlasting snow;" and there seems to be 
scarcely any vegetation. Georgia, an island 96 
miles long and 10 bi'oad, in the latitude of York- 
shire, " in the very height of summer is in a man- 
ner wholly covered with frozen snow." Tt can 
boast only of moss, some tufts of grass, and wild 
burnet : it has only one land-bird [Anthus corren- 
dera), 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 lich- 
ens, moss, and a little grass ; and Lieut. Kendall* 
found the bay, in which he was at anchor, begin- 
ning to freeze at a period corresponding with our 
8th of September. The soil here consists of ice 
and volcanic ashes interstratified ; and at a little 
depth beneath the surface it must remain perpetu- 
ally congealed, for Lieut. Kendall found the body 
of a foreign sailor, which had long been buried, 
with the flesh and all the features' perfectly pre- 
served. It is a singular fact, that on the two great 
continents in the northern hemisphere (but not in 
the broken land of Europe between them) we have 
the zone of perpetually frozen under-soil in a low 
latitude — namely, in 56° in North America at the 
depth of three feet,t 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 con- 
tinents the winter is rendered excessively cold by 

* Geographical Journal, 1830, p. C5, 66. 
t Eichardson's Append, to Back's Exped., and Humboldt's 
Fragm. Asiat., torn, ii., p. 386. 



THE ANTARCTIC ISLANDS. 321 

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 oth- 
er 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 pro- 
tection from intense cold, would approach much 
nearer to this zone of perpetual congelation under 
the equable climate of the southern hemisphere 
than under the extreme climate of the northern 
continents. 

The case of the sailor's body perfectly preserved 
in the icy soil of the South Shetland Islands (lat. 
62° to 63° S.), in a rather lower latitude than that 
(lat. 64° N.) under which Pallas found the frozen 
rhinoceros in Siberia, is very interesting. Although 
it is a fallacy, as I have endeavoured to show in a 
former chapter, to suppose that the larger quadru- 
peds require a luxuriant vegetation for their sup- 
port, 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 support- 
ed. The perfect preservation of the carcasses of 
the Siberian elephants and rhinoceroses is certain- 
ly one of the most wonderful facts in geology ; but 
independently of the imagined difficulty of supply- 
ing them with food from the adjoining countries, 
the whole case is not, I think, so perplexing as it 
has generally been considered. The plains of Si- 
beria, like those of the Pampas, appear to have 

Vol. 1—21 



322 PRESERVATION OF BKEEETuXri. 

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 shal- 
low parts near an arctic coast would have only 
their skeletons preserved : now in the extreme 
northern parts of Siberia bones are infinitely nu- 
merous, 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 shal- 
low 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 corrupt- 
ing it- 

Recapitulation. — I will recapitulate the principal 
facts with regard to the climate, ice-action, and 

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

t Cuvier (Ossemens Fossiles, torn, i., p. 151), from Billings's 
Voyage. ' . 



IIECAI'ITULATIUN. 323 

organic productions of the southern hemisphere, 
transposing the places in imagination to Europe, 
with which we are so much better acquainted. 
Then, near Lisbon, the commonest sea-shells, 
namely, three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and Ter- 
ebra, 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 Orchi- 
dea3 would thrive amidst the thick woods. Even 
as far north as central Denmark, humming-birds 
would be seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and 
parrots feeding amidst the evergreen woods ; and 
in the sea there we should have a Voluta, and all 
the shells of large size and vigorous growth. Nev- 
ertheless, on some islands only 360 miles northward 
of our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a carcass bu- 
ried in the soil (or if washed into a shallovr sea, 
and covered up with mud) would bo preserved 
perpetually frozen. If some bold navigator at- 
tempted 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 covei'ed with everlasting 
snow," and would have each bay terminated by ice- 
cliffs, whence great masses would be yearly de- 
tached : 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 



324 RECAPITULATION. 

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 cathe- 
drals, and occasionally loaded with no " inconsid- 
erable blocks of rock," would be stranded on the 
outlying islets ; at intervals violent earthquakes 
would shoot prodigious masses of ice into the wa- 
ters '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 seacoast, 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 given some facts 
on the transportal of erratic boulders and icebergs in the Antarc- 
tic Ocean. This subject has lately been treated excellently by 
Mr. Hayes, in the Boston Journal (vol. iv., p. 426). The author 
does not appear aware of a case published by me (Geographical 
Journal, vol. ix., p. 528), of a gigantic boulder embedded in an ice- 
berg 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 pol- 
ishing rocks, like glaciers. This is now a very commonly re- 
ceived opinion ; and I cannot, still, avoid the suspicion that it is 
applicable even to such cases as that of the Jura. Dr. Richardson 
has assured me that the icebergs of North America push before 
them pebbles and sand, and leave the submarine rocky flats quite 
bare : it is hardly possible to doubt that such ledges must be pol- 
ished and scored in the direction of the set of the prevailing cur- 
rents. Since writing that Appendix, I have seen in North Wales 
(London Phil. Mag., vol. xxi., p. 180) the adjoining action of gla- 
ciers and of floating icebergs. 



323 



CHAPTER XII. 

Valparaiso — Excursion to tlie foot of the Andes — Structure of the 
Land — Ascend the Bell ofQuillota — Shattered Masses of Green- 
stone— Immense Valleys — Mines— State of Miners — Santiago 
— Hot Baths of Cauquenes — Gold-mines — Grinding-mills— Per- 
forated Stones— Habits of the Puma — El Turco and Tapacolo 
— Humming-birds. 

CEJfTRAL CHILE. 

July 23J. — The Beagle anchored late at night in 
the bay of Valparaiso, the chief seaport of Chile. 
When morning came, eveiything appeared delight- 
ful. After Tierra del Fuego, the climate felt quite 
delicious — the atmosphere so dry, and the heavens 
so clear and blue, with the sun shining brightly, 
that all nature seemed sparkling with life. The 
view from the anchorage is very pretty. The town 
is built at the very foot of a range of hills, about 
1600 feet high, and rather steep. From its posi- 
tion, 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 pro- 
tected by a very scanty vegetation, are worn into 
numberless little gulleys, which expose a singularly 
bright red soil. From this cause, and from the low, 
whitewashed houses with tile roofs, the view re- 
minded 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 peixeived. The volcano of 
Aconcagua is particularly magnificent. This huge 
and irregularly conical mass has an elevation great- 
er than that of Chimborazo ; for, from measure- 
E E 



326 CENTRAL CHILE. 

ments made by the officers in the Beagle, its height 
is no less than 23,000 feet. The Cordillera, how- 
ever, viewed from this point, owe the greater part 
of their beauty to the atmosphere through which 
they are seen. When the sun was setting in the 
Pacific, it was admirable to watch how clearly 
their rugged outlines could be distinguished, yet 
how varied and how delicate were the shades of 
their colour. 

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. 
Richard Corfield, an old schoolfellow and friend, 
to whose hospitality and kindness I was greatly in- 
debted, 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 vegetation, in conse- 
quence, 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 stee2') parts 
of the hills. When we reflect that, at the distance 
of 350 miles to the south, this side of the Andes is 
completely hidden by one impenetrable forest, the 
contrast is very remarkable. 1 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 brush- 
ing through them, became scented. I did notr 
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 op- 
posite are the sensations when viewing black 



THE VALLEY OF QUILLOTA. 327 

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 gayety and happy life. 

August 1-ith. — I set out on a riding excursion, 
for the purpose of geologizing the basal parts of 
the Andes, which alone, at this time of the year, are 
not shut up by the winter snow. Our first day's 
ride was northward along the sea-coast. After 
dark we reached the Hacienda of Quintero, the 
estate which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. 
My object in coming here was to see the great beds 
of shells, which stand some yards above the level 
of the sea, and are burned for lime. The proofs 
of the elevation of this whole line of coast are un- 
equivocal : 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 vege- 
table mould. I was nnich surprised to find, under 
the microscope, that this vegetable mould is really 
marine mud, full of minute particles of organic 
bodies. 

loth. — We returned towards the valley of Quil- 
lota. The country was exceedingly pleasant ; just 
such as poets would call pastoral : gi'een open 
lawns, separated by srnall 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 countiy near Valpaj-aiso, would never have 
imagined that there had been s.uch pictui'esque 
spots in Chile. As soon as we reached the brow 
of the Sien-a, the vallev of Quillota was immedi- 



328 CENTRAL CHILE. 

ately under our feet. The prospect was one of 
remarkable aitificial 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 ve- 
getable. On each side huge bare mountains rise, 
and this, from the contrast, renders the patchwork 
valley the more pleasing. "Whoever called " Val- 
paraiso" 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 Mountain. 

Chile, as may be seen in the maps, is a narrow 
strip of land between the C ordillera and the Pacific; 
and this strip is itself traversed by several movmt- 
ain lines, which in this part run parallel to the 
great range. Between these outer lines and the 
main Cordillera, a succession of level basins, gen- 
erally opening into each other by nan'ow passages, 
extend far to the southward : in these the principal 
towns are situated, as San Felipe, Santiago, fean 
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 
TieiTa del Fuego and the western coast. Chile 
must formerly have resembled the latter countiy in 
the configuration of its land and water. The re- 
semblance was occasionally shown strikingly when 
a level fog-bank covered, as with a mantle, all the 
lower parts of the country : the white vapour curl- 
ing into the ravines, beautifully represented little 
coves and bays ; and here and there a solitary hil- 
lock peeping up, showed that it had formerly stood 
there as an islet. The contrast of these flat valleys 
and basins with the iiTegular moimtains gave the 



BELL MOUNTArN. 329 

scenery a character which to me was new and 
very interestmg. 

From the natural slope to seaward of these 
plains, they are very easily irrio-ated, and, in conse- 
quence, singularly fertile. Without this process 
the land would produce scarcely anything, for du- 
ring 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, man- 
age to find sufficient pasture. Once every year 
there is a grand " rodeo," when all the cattle are 
driven down, counted, and inarked, and a certain 
number separated to be fattened in the imgated 
fields. Wheat is extensively cultivated, and a 
good deal of Indian corn : a kind of bean is, how- 
ever, the staple article of food for the common 
labourers. The orchards produce an overflowing 
abundance of peaclres, figs, and grapes. With all 
these advantages, the inhabitants of the country 
ought to be much more prosperous than they are. 

IQth. — The mayor-domo of the Hacienda was 
good enough to give me a guide and fresh horses ; 
and in the morning we set out to ascend the Cam- 
pana, or Bell Mountain, which is 6400 feet high. 
The paths were very bad, but both the geology 
and scenery amply repaid the trouble. AVe reach- 
ed, by the evening, a spring called the Agua del 
Guanao, which is situated at a gi-eat height. This 
must be an old name, for it is very many years 
since a guanaco drank its waters. IDuring the as- 
cent I noticed that nothing but bushes gi'ew 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 
E e2 



330 CENTRAL CHILE. 

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, 
Avhen the trunk is lying on the ground, the crown 
of leaves is lopped off. The sap then immediately 
begins to flow from the upper end, and continues 
so doing for some months : it is, however, necessary 
that a thin slice should be shaved off from that end 
every morning, so as to expose a fresh surface. A 
good tree will give ninety gallons, and all this 
must have been contained in the vessels of the ap- 
parently 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 neces- 
sary 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, in- 
stead of checked, by the force of gravity. The sap 
is concentrated by boiling, and is then called trea- 
cle, which it very much resembles in taste. 

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and 
prepared to pass the night. The evening was fine, 
and the atmosphere so clear, that the masts of the 
vessels at anchor in the bay of Valparaiso, although 
no less than twenty-six geographical miles distant, 
could be distinguished clearly as little black streaks. 
A ship doubling the point under sail appeared as 
fi bright white speck. Anson expresses much sur- 



THE BELL OF aUILLOTA. 331 

prise, 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 ti'ansparency of the air. 

The setting of the sun was glorious ; the valleys 
being- black, whilst the snowy peaks of the Andes 
yet' retained a ruby tint. When it was dark, we 
made a fire beneath a little arbour of bamboos, 
fried our charqui (or dried slips of beef), took our 
mate, and were quite comfortable. There is an 
inexpressible charm in thus living in the open air. 
The evening was calm and still ; the shrill noise of 
the mountain bizcacha, and the faint cry of a goat- 
sucker, were occasionally to be heard. Besides 
these, few birds, or even insects, frequent these 
di-y, parched mountains. 

Augiist 11th. — In the morning we climbed up 
the rough mass of greenstone which crowns the 
summit. This rock, as frequently happens, was 
much shattei'ed and broken into huge angular frag- 
ments. I observed, however, one remarkable cir- 
cumstance, namely, that many of the surfaces pre- 
sented every degTee of freshness — some appearing 
as if broken the day before, whilst on others lich- 
ens had either just become, or had long gi-own, at- 
tached. 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 INIount Wel- 
lington, in Van Diemen's Land, where earthquakes 
do not occur, and there I saw the summit of the 
mountain similarly composed and similarly shat- 
tered, but all the blocks appeared as if they had 
been hurled into their present position thousand 
of years ago. 

We spent the day on the summit, and I never 



332 CENTRAL CHILE. 

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 val- 
ley of Quillota directly intersecting them. Who 
can avoid wondering at the force which has up- 
heaved 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 1 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 giind 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. 

Alinost 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 unexam- 
ined. I spent the evening as before, talking round 
the fire with my two companions. The Guasos 
of Chile, who correspond to the Gauchos of the 
Pampas, are, however, a v^ery different set of 



THE GUASO. 336 

beings. Chile is the more civilized of the two 
countries, and the inhabitants, in consequence, 
have lost much individual character. Gradations 
in rank are much more strongly marked : the Guaso 
does not by any means consider every man his 
equal ; and I was quite surjirised to find that my 
companions did not like to eat at the same time 
with myself. This feeling of inequality is a neces- 
sary 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 cat- 
tle-breeding countries eastward of the Andes. A 
traveller does not here meet that unbounded hos- 
pitality 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, al- 
though 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, al- 
though employed much in the same manner, are 
different in their habits and attire ; and the pecu- 
liarities 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 la- 
bourer in the fields. The former lives entirely on 
animal food, the latter almost Avholly on vegeta- 
ble. 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 leggins. 
The poncho, however, is common to both. The 



334 CENTRAL CHILE. 

chief pride of the Guaso Hes 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 I'Sith. — AVe descended the mountain, and 
passed some beautiful little spots, with rivulets 
and fine trees. Having slept at the same hacienda 
as before, we rode during the two succeeding days 
up the valley, and passed through Quillota, which 
is more like a collection of nursery-gardens than a 
town. The orchards were beautiful, presenting 
one mass of peach-blossoms. I saw, also, in one 
or two places, the date-palm : it is a most stately 
tree ; and I should think a group of them in their 
native Asiatic or African deserts must be superb. 
We passed likewise San Felipe, a pretty straggling 
town like Quillota. The valley in this part ex- 
pands into one of those great bays or plains, reach- 
ing to the foot of the Cordillera, which have been 
mentioned as forming so curious a part of the 
scenery of Chile. In the evening we reached the 
mines of Jajuel, situated in a ravine at the flank 
of the great chain. I stayed here five days. My 
host, the superintendent of the mine, was a shrewd 
but rather ignorant Cornish miner. He had mar- 
ried a Spanish woman, and did not mean to return 
home ; but his admiration for the mines of Corn- 
wall 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 



iMI.VES IN CHILE. 335 

relation of the great author Fiuis, 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 Span- 
ish 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 : sec- 
ondly, stamping and washing the scoriae from the 
old furnaces, by which process particles of metal 
are recovered in abundance. I have actually seen 
mules carrying to the coast, for transportation to 
England, a cargo of such cinders. But the first 
case is much the most curious. The Chilian miners 
were so convinced that copper pyrites contained 
not a particle of copper, that they laughed at the 
Englishmen for their ignorance, who laughed in 
turn, and bought their richest veins for a few dol- 
lars. It is very odd that, in a country where mining 
had been extensively cai'ried on for many years, so 
simple a process as gently roasting the ore to expel 
the sulphur previous to smelting it had never been 
discovered. A few improvements have likewise 
been introduced in some of the simple machinery ; 



iidO CENTRAL CHILE. 

but even to the present day, water is removed from 
some mines by men canying it up the shaft in 
leathern bags ! 

The labouring men work very hard. They have 
little time allowed for their meals, and during sum- 
mer and winter they begin when it is light, and 
leave off at dark. They are paid one pound ster- 
ling a month, and their food is given them : this, 
for breakfast, consists of sixteen hgs and two small 
loaves of bread ; for dinner, boiled beans ; for sup- 
per, broken roasted wheat grain. They scarcely 
ever taste meat, as, with the twelve pounds per 
annum, they have to clothe themselves and support 
their families. The miners who work in the mine 
itself have twenty-five shillings per month, and are 
allowed a little charqui. But these men come 
down from their bleak habitations only once in 
every fortnight or three weeks. 

During my stay here I thoroughly enjoyed 
scrambling about these huge mountains. The ge- 
ology, as might have been expected, was very in- 
teresting. The shattered and baked rocks, trav- 
ersed by innumerable dikes of gi'eenstone, showed 
what commotions had formerly taken place. The 
scenezy was much the same as that near the Bell 
of Q.uillota — dry, baiTen mountains, dotted at in- 
tervals by bushes with a scanty foliage. The cac- 
tuses, or, rather, opuntias, were here very numerous. 
I measured one of a spherical figure, which, inclu- 
ding the spines, was six feet and four inches in 
circumference. The height of the common cylin- 
drical branching kind is from twelve to fifteen feet, 
and the girth (with spines) of the branches between 
three and four feet. 

A heavy fall of snow on the mountains prevent- 
ed me, during the last two days, from making some 
interesting excursions. I attempted to reach a lake 



MOUNTAIX SCENKRY. 337 

which the inhabitants, from some unaccountable 
reason, beHeve to be an ai-m of the sea. During a 
very dry season, it was proposed to attempt cutting 
a channel from it for the sake of the water, but the 
padre, after a consultation, declared it was too 
dangerous, as all Chile would be inundated, if, as 
generally supposed, the lake was connected with 
the Pacific. We ascended to a great height, but, 
becoming involved in the snow-drifts, failed in 
reaching this wonderful lake, and had some diffi- 
culty 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 jnove by jumping. The black sky 
showed that a fresh snow-storm was gathering, and 
we therefore were not a little glad when we es- 
caped. 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 26t/i. — We left Jajuel and again cr( 
the basin of S. Felipe. The day was truly Chi- 
lian : 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 21th. — After crossing many low hills we 
descended into the small, land-locked plain of Gui- 
tron. 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 

Vol.. 1—23 F F 



338 " CENTRAL CHILE. 

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 froin 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, abut- 
ting 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 lev- 
el road we pushed our horses into a gallop, and 
reached the city before it was dark. 

I stayed a week in Santiago, and enjoyed myself 
very much. In the morning I rode to various pla- 
ces on the plain, and in the evening dined with 
several of the English merchants, whose hospitality 
at this place is well known. A never-failing source 
of pleasure was to ascend the little hillock of rock 
(St. Lucia) which projects in the middle of the city. 
The scenery certainly is most striking, and, as I 
have said, very peculiar. I am informed that this 
same character is common to the cities on the great 
Mexican platform. Of the town I have nothing to 
say in detail : it is not so fine or so large as Buenos 
Ayres, but is built after the same model. I arrived 
here by a circuit to the north ; so I resolved to re- 
turn to Valparaiso by a rather longer excursion to 
the south of the direct road. 

8eptemher bth. — 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 



HOT SPIUXCS OF CAUaUENES. 339 

the curvature of the suspending ropes, is made of 
bundles of sticks placed close together. It was 
full of holes, and oscillated rather fearfully, even 
with the weight of a man leading his horse. In 
the evening we reached a comfortable farm-house, 
Avhere there were several very pretty seiioritas. 
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 V I assured them I 
was a sort of Christian ; but they would not hear of 
it, appealing to my own words, " Do not your pad- 
res, your very bishops, marry]" The absurdity 
of a bishop having a wife particularly struck them : 
they scarcely kncvv' whether to be most amused or 
horror-struck at such an enormity. 

6tJi. — 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 
.susj)ension bridges, in the less frequented parts, 
are generally taken down during the winter when 
the rivers are low. Sucli was the case in this val- 
ley, 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 diffi- 
cult even to perceive whether the horse is moving 
onward or standing still. In summer, when the 
snow melts, the torrents are quite impassable ; their 
strength and fury is then extremely great, as might 
be plainly seen by the marks which they had left. 
We reached the baths in the evening, and stayed 



— vC-^ 



340 CENTRAL CHILE. 

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 val- 
ley just without the central Cordillera. It is a qui- 
et, 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 es- 
caping 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 118° to 
92'^.* It seems probable that mineral waters rising 
deep from the bowels of the earth would always 
be more deranged by subterranean disturbances 
than those nearer the sui'face. 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 
* Caldclengh, in Philosopb. Transnct. for 1836. 



•* ^■^::k*-^'-' 



STATE OF .SUCIETY. 341 

lived on the spot for several years, ought to be well 
acquainted with, the circumstance, which, if trut-, 
certainly is very curious ; for we must suppose that 
the snow-water, being conducted through porous 
strata to the regions of heat, is again thrown up to 
the surface by the line of dislocated and injected 
rocks at Cauquenes ; and the regularity of the phe- 
nomenon would seem to indicate that in this dis- 
trict heated rock occurred at a depth not very great. 

One day I x'ode up the valley to the farthest in- 
habited spot. Shortly above that point the Cacha- 
pual divides into two deep, tremendous ravines, 
which penetrate directly into the great range. I 
scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably more 
tlian six thousand feet high. Here, as indeed ev- 
erywhere else, scenes of the higliest interest pre- 
sented 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 1 
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 ])lace none of the forces sent after 
him could ever discover. From this point he used 
to sally forth, and crossing the Cordillera by passes 
hitherto unattempted, he ravaged the farm-houses 
and drove the cattle to his secret rendezvous. Pin- 
cheira was a capital horseman, and he made all 
around him equally good, for he invariably shot any 
one who hesitated to follow him. It was against 
this man and other wandering Indian tribes that 
Rosas waged the war of extermination. 

Scpte7)iber I2th. — We left the baths of Cau- 
quenes, and, rejoining the main road, slept at the 
Rio Claro. From this place we rode to the town 
of S. Fernando. Before arriving there, the last 
F F 2 



342 CENTRAL CHILE. 

land-locked basin had expanded into a great plain, 
which extended so far to the south, that the snowy- 
summits of the more distant Andes were seen as if 
above the horizon of the sea. S. Fernando is for- 
ty leagues from Santiago, and it was my farthest 
point southward, for we here turned at right an- 
gles towards the coast. We slept at the gold-mines 
of Yaquil, which are worked by Mr. Nixon, an 
American gentleman, to whose kindness I was 
much indebted during the four days I stayed at his 
house. The next morning we rode to the mines, 
which are situated at the distance of some leagues, 
near the summit of a lofty hill. On the way we 
had a glimpse of the lake Tagua-tagua, celebrated 
for its floating islands, which have been described 
by M. Gay.* They are composed of the stalks of 
various dead plants intertwined together, and on 
the surface of which other living ones take root. 
Their form is generally circular, and their thick- 
ness from four to six feet, of which the greater part 
is immersed in the water. As the wind blows, they 
pass from one side of the lake to the other, and 
often carry cattle and horses as passengers. 

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by 
the pale appearance of many of the men, and in- 
quired 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 ti'unks of trees, placed in a zigzag line 
up the shaft. Even beardless young men, eighteen 
and twenty years old, with little muscular devel- 
opment of their bodies (they are quite naked ex- 
cepting drawers), ascend with this great load from 

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



GOLD-MINEri OF V.AaUIL. 343 

nearly the same depth. A strong man, who is not 
accustomed to this labour, perspires most profuse- 
ly 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 tlieir masters, finding that they cannot 
work so hard upon this, treat them like horses, and 
make them eat the beans. Their pay is here 
rather more than at the mines of Jajuel, being 
from 24 to 28 shillings per month. They leave 
the mine only once in three weeks, when they 
stay with their families for two days. One of the 
rules in this mine sounds very harsh, but answers 
pretty well for the master. The only method of 
stealing gold is to secrete pieces of the ore, and 
take them out as occasion may offer. Whenever 
the major-domo finds a lump thus hidden, its full 
value is stopped out of the wages of all the men ; 
who thus, without they all combine, are obliged to 
keep watch over each other. 

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground 
into an impalpable powder ; the process of wash- 
ing removes all the lighter particles, and amalga- 
mation finally secures the gold-dust. The wash- 
ing, 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 raatiix 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 throwii into a 
common heap. A great deal of chemical action 
then commences, salts of various kinds effloresce 
on the sui-face, and the mass becomes hard. After 
having been left for a year or two, and then re- 
washed, it yields gold ; and this process may be 
repeated even six or seven times ; but the gold 



344 CENTRAL CHILE. 

each time becomes less in quantity, and the intei'- 
vals required (as the inhabitants say, to generate 
the metal) are longer. There can be no doubt that 
the chemical action, already mentioned, each time 
liberates fresh gold from some combination. The 
discovery of a method to effect this before the first 
gi'inding, 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 inetallic veins which 
they contain. The hardest rock is worn into im- 
palpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and 
both are removed ; but gold, platina, and a few 
others are nearly indestructible, and from their 
weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. 
After whole mountains have passed through this 
grinding-mill, and have been washed by the hand 
of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, and 
man finds it worth his while to complete the task 
of separation. 

Bad as the above treatment of the miners ap- 
pears, it is gladly accepted of by them ; for the 
condition of the labouring agriculturists is much 
worse. Their wages are lower, and they live al- 
most 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 cul- 
tivating, and in return has his services (or those of 
a proxy) for every day of his life, without any 



INDIAN KliLIC. 345 

wages. Until a father has a grown-up son, who 
can by his labour pay the rent, there is no one, ex- 
cept on occasional clays, 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 neighbour- 
hood, and I was shown one of the 2:)erforated stones, 
which Molina mentions as being found in many 
places in considerable numbers. They are of a 
circular flattened form, from five to six inches in 
diameter, with a hole passing quite through the 
centre. It has generally been supposed that they 
were used as heads to clubs, although their form 
does not appear at all well adapted for that pur- 
pose. Burchell* states that some of the tribes in 
Southern Africa dig up roots, by the aid of a stick 
pointed at one end, the force and weight of which 
is increased by a round stone with a hole in it, into 
which the other end is firmly wedged. It appears 
probable that the Indians of Chile formerly used 
some such rude agricultural instrument. 

One day, a German collector in natural history, 
of the name of Renous, called, and nearly at the 
same time an old Spanish lawyer. I was amused 
at being told the conversation which took place 
between them. Renous sjoeaks 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 se- 
riously for some time, and then said, " It is not 
well — hmj UH gato encerrado aqul (there is a cat 
shut up here). No man is so rich as to send out 
people to pick up such rubbish. I do not like it : 
if one of us were to go and do such things in Eng- 
* Burchell's Travels, vol. li., p. 45. 



346 CENTRAL CHILE. 

land, do not you think the King of England would 
very soon send us out of his country V And this 
old gentleman, from his profession, belongs to the 
better-informed and more intelligent classes ! Re- 
nous himself, two or three years before, left in a 
house at S. Fernando some caterpillars, under 
charge of a girl to feed, that they might turn into 
buttei-flies. This was rumoured through the town, 
and at last the Padres and Governor consulted to- 
gether, and agi-eed it must be some heresy. Ac- 
cordingly, when Renous retunied, he was arrested. 

Sej}(e//ibcr 19th. — We left Yaquil, and followed 
the flat valley, formed like that of Quillota, in which 
the Rio Tinderidica flows. Even at these few miles 
south of Santiago the climate is much damper : in 
consequence, there were fine 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 Ran- 
cagua. We shortly lost all trees and even bushes, 
so that the inhabitants are nearly as badly off" for 
firewood as those in Pampas. Never having heard 
of these plains, I was much sui-prised at meeting 
with such scenery in Chile. The plains belong to 
more than one series of different elevations, and 
they are traversed by broad, flat-bottomed valleys ; 
both of which circumstances, as in Patagonia, be- 
speak 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 for- 
merly been consecrated. During the day I felt very 
imwell, and from that time till the end of October 
did not recover. 

Sej)tember 22d. — We continued to pass over 
g een plains without a tree. The next day we ar- 



THE I'UAIA. 347 

rived 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 fi'om the tertiary 
formation some marine .shells. 

2^th.. — Our course was now directed towards 
Valpfu-aiso, 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 imcommon. 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. 1 have 
seen its footprints 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, bizca- 
cha, and other small quadrupeds ; it there seldom 
attacks cattle or horses, and most rarely man. In 
Chile, however, it destroys many young horses and 
cattle, owing, probably, to the scarcity of other 
quadrupeds : I heard likewise of two men and a 
woman who had been thus killed. It is asserted 
that the puma always kills its prey by springing on 
the shoulders, and then drawing back the head with 
one of its paws until the vertebra? break : I have 
seen in Patagonia the skeletons of guanacos with 
their necks thus dislocated. 

The puma, alter eating its fill, covers the carcass 
^rith many large bushes, and lies do^%ni to watch it. 
This habit is often the cause of its being discover- 
ed, for the condors, wheeling in the air, every now 



348 CENTRAL CHILE. 

and then descend to partake of the feast, and be- 
ing angrily driven away, rise altogether on the 
wing. The Chileno Guaso then knows there is a 
lion watching his prey; the word is given, and men 
and dogs huny to the chase. Sir F. Head says 
that a Gaucho in the Pampas, upon merely seeing 
some condors wheeling in the air, cried, "A lion !" 
I could never myself meet with any one Avho pre- 
tended to such powers of discrimination. It is as- 
serted, that if a puma has once been betrayed by 
thus watching the carcass, and has then been hunt- 
ed, 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 entan- 
gled with the bolas, then lazoed, and dragged along 
the gi-ound till rendered insensible. At Tandeel 
(south of the Plata) I was told that within three 
months one hundred were thus destroyed. In Chile 
they are generally driven up bushes or trees, and 
are then either shot or baited to death by dogs. 
The dogs employed in this chase belong to a par- 
ticular breed, called Leoneros : they are weal\, 
slight animals, like long-legged temers, but are 
bom with a particular instinct for this sport. The 
puma is described as being very crafty : when pur- 
sued, it often returns on its former track, and then 
suddenly making a spring on one side, waits there 
till the dogs have passed by. It is a very silent an- 
imal, uttering no cry even when wounded, and only 
rarely during the breeding season. 

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos 
(megapodius and albicollis of Kittlitz) are perhaps 
the most conspicuous. The former, called by the 
Chilenos " el Turco," is as large as a fieldfare, to 
which bird it has some alliance ; but its legs are 
much longer, tail shorter, and beak stronger : its 
colour is a reddish brown. The Turco is not un- 



BIRDS. 349 

commoti. It lives on the gi'ound, 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 popjjing fi-om 
one bush to another with uncommon quickness. It 
really requires little imagination to believe that the 
bird is ashamed of itself, and is aware of its most 
ridiculous figure. On first seeing it, one is tempt- 
ed to exclaim, " A vilely stuffed specimen has es- 
caped 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 con- 
cealed amongst the bushes are as strange as its ap- 
pearance. It is said to build its nest in a deep hole 
beneath the ground. I dissected several specimens : 
the gizzard, which was very muscular, contained 
beetles, vegetable fibres, and pebbles. From this 
character, from the length of its legs, scratching 
feet, membranous covering to the nostrils, short 
and arched %\'ings, this bird seems in a certain de- 
gree 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 desei-ve 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 scatter- 
ed 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, un^'villingness 
to take flight, and nidification, it bears a close re- 
semblance to the Turco ; but its appearance is not 
quite so ridiculous. The Tapacolo is ver\- craftv : 
Gg 



350 CENXaAL CHILE. 

when frightened by any person, it will remain mo- 
tionless at the bottom of a bush, and will then, af- 
ter 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 sti'angely odd ; some are likft the 
cooing of doves, others like the bubbling of water, 
and many defy all similes. The counti-y people 
say it changes its cry five times in the year — ac- 
cording to some change of season, J 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 ex- 
tremely humid climate, this little bird, skipping 
from side to side amid the dripping foliage, is per- 
haps more abundant than almost any other kind. 
I opened the stomachs of several specimens, shot 
in different parts of the continent, and in all re- 
mains of insects were as numerous as in the stom- 
ach of a creeper. When this species migrates in 
the summer southward, it is replaced by the an'i- 
val 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 singvilar. Like 
others of the genus, it moves from place to place 
with a rapidity which may be compared to that of 
Syrphus amongst flies, and Sphinx amongst moths; 

* It is a remarkable fact, that Molina, though describing in de- 
tail all the birds and animals in Chile, never once mentions this 
genus, the species of which are so common, and so remarkable 
in their habits. Was he at a loss how to classify them, and did 
he consequently think that silence was the more prudent course ? 
It is one more instance of the frequency of omissions by authors 
on those very subjects where it might have been least expected. 



HUMMING-niRDS. 351 

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 hov- 
ering by a flower, its tail is constantly expanded 
and shut like a fan, the body being kept in a near- 
ly vertical position. This action appears to steady 
and support the biixl between the slow movements 
of its wings. Although flying from flower to flow- 
er in search of food, its stomach generally contain- 
ed 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. 



END OF VOL. I.