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AND ON PARTS OF SOUTH AMERICA, visited during the Voyage of 
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MutLER. From the German, with Additions by the Author. Translated by 
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I HAVE stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, and 
in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it was in con- 
sequence of a wish expressed by Captain Fitz Eoy, of having some 
scientific person on board, accompanied by an offer from him of 
giving up part of his own accommodations, that I volunteered my 
services, which received, through the kindness of the hydro- 
grapher, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of the 
Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities which I enjoyed of 
studying the Natural History of the different countries we visited, 
have been wholly due to Captain Fitz Eoy, I hope I may here be 
permitted to repeat my expression of gratitude to him; and to 
add that, during the five years we were together, I received from 
him the most cordial friendship and steady assistance. Both to 
Captain Fitz Eoy and to all the Officers of the Beagle * I shall ever 
feel most thankful for the undeviating kindness with which I was 
treated during our long voyage. 

This volume contains, in the form of a Journal, a history of our 
voyage, and a sketch of those observations in Natural History and 
Geology, which I think will possess some interest for the general 
reader. I have in this edition largely condensed and corrected 
some parts, and have added a little to others, in order to render 
the volume more fitted for popular reading; but I trust that 
naturalists will remember, that they must refer for details to the 
larger publications, which comprise the scientific results of the 
Expedition. The Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle includes an 

* I must take this opportunity of returning my sincere thanks to Mr. 
Bynoc, the surgeon of the Beagle, for his very kind attention to me when 
I was ill at Valparaiso. 


account of the Fossil Mammalia, by Professor Owen ; of the Living 
Mammalia, by Mr. Waterhouse ; of the Birds, by Mr. Gould; of 
the Fish, by the Eev. L. Jenyns ; and of the Eeptiles, by Mr. Bell. 
I have appended to the descriptions of each species an account of 
its habits and range. These works, -which I owe to the high talents 
and disinterested zeal of the above distinguished authors, could 
not have been undertaken, had it not been for the liberality of the 
Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, who, through the 
representation of the Eight Honourable the Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer, have been pleased to grant a sum of one thousand pounds 
towards defraying part of the expenses of publication. 

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

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

Down, Bromley, Kent, 
Jim?, 1845. 



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


Rio de Janeiro Excursion north of Cape Frio 
G reat Evaporation Slavery Botofogo 
Bay Terrestrial Planariaj Clouds on the 
Corcovado Heavy Rain Musical Frogs 
Phosphorescent Insects Elater, springing 
powers of Blue Haze Noise made by a 
Butterfly Entomology Ants Wasp kill- 
ing a Spider Parasitical Spider Artifices 
of an Epeira Gregarious Spider Spider 
with an unsymmetrical Web 18 


Monte Video Maldonado Excursion to R. 
Polanco Lazo and Bolas Partridges Ab- 
sence of Trees Deer Capybara, or River 
Hog Tucutuco Molothrus, cuckoo-like 
habits Tyrant-flycatcher Mocking-bird 
Carrion Hawks Tubes formed by Light- 
ning House struck 37 


Rio Negro Estanctas attacked by thu Indians 
Salt Lakes Flamingoes R.Negro to R. 
Colorado Sacred Tree Patagonian 1 Fare 
fndian Families- General Rosas Proceed 
to Bahia Blanca Sand Dunes Negro Lieu- 
tenant Bahia Blanca Saline Incrustations 
rivnta Alta Zorillo , 59 


Bahia Blanca Geology Numerous gigantic 
extinct Quadrupeds Recent Extinction- 
Longevity of Species Large Animals do not 
require a luxuriant vegetation Southern 
Africa Siberian Fossils Two Species of 
Ostrich Habits of Oven-bird Armadilloes 
Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard Hyber- 
nation of Animals Habits of Sea-Pen 
Indian Wars and Massacres Arrow-head, 
antiquarian Relic 76 


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


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,andScissor-tail Revolution Buenos 
A yres State of Government 1 1 C 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacramento -Value 
of an Estancia Cattle, how counted Sin- 
gular Breed of Oxen Perforated Pebbles 


Shepherd-Dogs Horses broken-iu, < Jauchos 
riding Character of Inhabitants Rio Plata 
Flocks of Butterflies Aeronaut Spiders- 
Phosphorescence of the Sea Port Desire 
Guanaco Port St. Julian Geology of Pata- 
gonia Fossil gigantic Animal Types of i 
Organization constant Change in the Zoo- 
logy of America Causes of Extinction . 1 35 


Santa Cruz Expedition up the River Indians 
Immense Streams of Basaltic Lava Frag- ; 
ments not transported by the Elver Exca- 
vation of the Valley Condor, habits of i 
Cordillera Erratic Boulders of great size j 
Indian Relics Return to the Ship Falk- 
land Islands Wild Horse?, Cattle, Rabbits 
Wolf-like Fox Fire made of Bones 
Manner of hunting AVild Cattle Geology j 
Streams of Stones Scenes of Violence j 
Penguin Geese Eggs of Doris Com- i 

pound Animals 168 


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival Good Success 
Bay An Account of the Fuegians on board 
Interview with the Savages Scenery of j 
the Forests Cape Horn Wigwam Cove- 
Miserable Condition of the Savages Fa- j 
mines 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 Settle- 
ment Equality of Condition amongst the 
Natives .' 191 


Strait of Magellan Port Famine Ascent of 
Mount Tarn Forests Edible Fungus 
Zoology Great Sea-weed Leave Tierra del 
Fuego Climate Fruit-trees and Produc- 
tions of the Southern Coasts Height of 
Snow-line on the Cordillera Descent of 
Glaciers to the Sea Icebergs formed 
Transportal of Boulders Climate and Pro- 
ductions of the Antartic Islands Preserva- 
tion of Frozen Carcasses Recapitulation 220 


Valparaiso Excursion to the Foot of the 
Andes Structure of the Land Ascend the 
IMl of Quillota Shattered Masses of Green- 
stone Immense Valleys Mines State of 
Miners Santiago Hot-baths of Cauquenes 
Gold-mines Grimling-mills Perforated 
Stones Habits of the Puma El Turco and 
Tapacolo Humming-birds 241 


Chiloo General Aspect Boat Excursion 
Native Indians Castro Tame Fox 
\si-en>l Sau Pedro Chonos Archipelago 

Peninsula of Tres Monies- Granitic Itangr 
Boat -wrecked Sailors Low's Harbour 
AVild Potato Formation of Peat Myo- 
potamus, Otter and Mice Cheucau and 
Barking-bird Opetiorhynchus Singular 
Character of Ornithology Petrels 261 


San Carlos, Chiloc Osorno in eruption, con- 
temporaneously with Aconcagua and Cose- 
gn ina Ride to Cncao Impenetrable Forests 
Valdivia Indians Earthquake Con- 
cepcion Great Earthquake Rooks fissured 
Appearance of the former Towns The Sea 
Black and Boiling Direction of the A'ibra- 
tious Stones twisted round Great Wave 
Permanent Elevation of the Land Area of 
Volcanic Phenomena The connection be- 
tween the Elevatory and Eruptive Forces 
Cause of earthquakes Slow Elevation of 
Mountain-chains , 2T9 


Valparaiso Portillo Pass Sagacity of Mules 
Mountain-torrents discovered 
Proofs of the gradual Elevation of the 
Cordillera Effect of Snow on Rocks Geo- 
logical Structure of the two main Ranges 
Their distinct Origin and Upheaval Great 
subsidence Red Snow AVinds Pinnacles 
of Snow Dry and clear Atmosphere Elec- 
tricity Pampas Zoology of the opposite 
Sides of the Andes Locusts Great Bugs 
Mendoza Uspallata Pass Silicified trees 
buried as they grew Incas Bridge Badness 
of the Passes exaggerated Cumbre Casu- 
chas A'alparaiso 300 


i ''M-t-road to Coquimbo Great Loads carried 
by the Miners Coquimbo Earthquake 
Step-formed Terraces Absence of recent De- 
posits Contemporaneousness of theTertiary 
Formations Excursion up the A r alley 
RoadtoGuasco Deserts Valley of Copiapo 
Rain and Earthquakes Hydrophobia 
The Despoblado Indian Ruins Probal lie- 
change of Climate River-bed arched by an 
Earthquake Cold Gales of AVind X"iv^ 
from a Hill Iqtiique Salt Alluvium 
Xitrate of Soda Lima UnhealthyCountry 
Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an 
Earthquake Recent subsidence Elevated 
Shells on San Lorenzo, their decomposition 
Plain with embedded Shells and frag- 
ments of Pottery Antiquity of the Indian 
Race :'.'.':; 


Galapagos Archipelago The whole GroupA'ol- 
canie Number of Craters Leafless Ru-he-* 
Colony at Charles Island James Island 
Salt-lake in Crater Natural History of 
ther Goup Ornithology, curious Finches 



Reptiles Great Tortoises, habits of Marine 

Li /.ard.feeds on Sea-weed Terrest rial Lizard, 
burrowing habits, herbivorous Importance 

of Reptiles in the Archipelago Fish, Shells, 
Insects Botany American Type of Organi- 
zation Differences in the Species or Races on 
different Islands lameness of the Birds 
Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct .... J57 


Pass through the Low Archipelago Tahiti 
Aspect Vegetation on the Mountains 
View of Eimeo Excursion into the Interior 
Profound Ravines Succession of Water- 
falls Number of wild useful Plants 
Temperance of the Inhabitants Their 
moral state Parliament convened New 
Zealand Bay of Islands Hippahs Excur- 
sion to Waimate Missionary Establish- 
ment English Weeds now run wild 
Waiomio Fuoeralof a New Zealand Woman 
Sail for Australia 386 


Sydney Excursion toBathurst Aspectof the 
Woods Party of Natives Gradual extinc- 
tion of the Aborigines Infection generated 
by associated Men in health Blue Moun- 
tains View of the grand gulf-like Valleys 
Their origin and formation Bathurst, 
general civility of the Lower Orders State 
of Society Van Dieinen's Land Hobart 
Town Aborigines all banished Mount 
"Wellington King ^George's Sound Cheer- 
less Aspect of the Country Bald Head, cal- 

careous casts of branches of Trees Party of 
Natives Leave Australia 414 


Keeling Island Singular appearance Scanty 
Flora Transport of Seeds Birds and In- 
sectsEbbing and flowing Springs Fields 
of dead Coral Stones transported in the 
roots of Trees Great Crab Stinging Corals 
Coral-eating Fish Coral Formations- 
Lagoon Islands, or Atolls Depth at which 
reef-building Corals can live Vast Areas 
interspersed with low Coral Islands Sub- 
sidence of their foundations Barrier Reefs 
Fringing Reel's Conversion of Fringing 
Reefs into Barrier Reefs, and into Atolls 
Evidence of changes in Level Breaches in 
Barrier Reefs Maldiva Atolls ; their pecu- 
liar structure Dead and submersed Reefs 
Areas of subsidence and elevation Dis- 
tribution of Volcanoes Subsidence slow, 
and vast in amount 434 


Mauritius, beautiful appearance of Great cra- 
teriform ring of Mountains Hindoos St. 
Helena History of the changes in the 
Vegetation Cause of the extinction of Land- 
shells Ascension Variation in the im- 
ported Rats Volcanic Bombs Beds of Infu- 
soria Bahia Brazil Splendour of Tropical 
Scenery Pernambuco Singular Resf 
Slavery Return to England Retrospect 
on our Voyage 463 


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


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

The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed from the sea, wears a 
desolate aspect. The volcanic fires of a past age, and the scorching 
heat of a tropical sun, have in most places rendered the soil unfit 
for vegetation. The country rises in successive steps of table-land, 
interspersed with some truncate conical hills, and the horizon is 
bounded by an irregular chain of more lofty mountains. The scene, 



as beheld through the hazy atmosphere of this climate, is one of 
great interest ; if, indeed, a person, fresh from sea, and who has 
just walked, for the first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut trees, can be 
a judge of anything but his own happiness. The island would 
generally be considered as very uninteresting; but to any one 
accustomed only to an English landscape, the novel aspect of an 
utterly sterile land possesses a grandeur which more vegetation 
might spoil. A single green leaf can scarcely be discovered over 
wide tracts of the lava plains ; yet flocks of goats, together with a few 
cows, contrive to exist. It rains very seldom, but during a short 
portion of the year heavy torrents fall, and immediately afterwards 
a light vegetation springs out of every crevice. This soon withers ; 
and upon such naturally formed hay the animals live. It had not 
now rained for an entire year. When the island was discovered, 
the immediate neighbourhood of JPorto Praya was clothed with 
trees,* the reckless destruction of which has caused here, as at St. 
Helena, and at some of the Canary islands almost entire sterility. 
The broad, flat-bottomed valleys, many of which serve during a few 
days only in the season as watercourses, are clothed with thickets 
of leafless bushes. Few living creatures inhabit these valleys. The 
commonest bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo lagonesis), which tamely sits 
on the branches of the castor-oil plant, and thence darts on grass- 
hoppers and lizards. It is brightly coloured, but not so beaiitiful 
as the European species : in its flight, manners, and place of habi- 
tation, which is generally in the driest valley, there is also a wide 

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to Eibeira Grande, 
a village a few miles eastward of Porto Praya. Until we reached 
the valley of St. Martin, the country presented its usual dull brown 
appearance ; but here, a very small rill of water produces a most 
refreshing margin of luxuriant vegetation. In the course of an hour 
we arrived at Eibeira Grande, and were surprised at the sight of a 
large ruined fort and cathedral. This little town, before its harbour 
was filled up, was the principal place in the island : it now presents 
a melancholy, but very picturesque appearance. Having procured 
a black Padre for a guide, and a Spaniard who had served in the 
Peninsular war as an interpreter, we visited a collection of buildings, 
of which an ancient church formed the principal part. It is here 

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


the governors and captain-generals of the islands have been buried. 
Some of the tombstones recorded dates of the sixteenth century.* 
The heraldic ornaments were the only things in this retired place 
that reminded ITS of Europe. The church or chapel formed one side 
of a quadrangle, in the middle of which a large clump of bananas 
were growing. On another side was a hospital, containing about a 
dozen miserable-looking inmates. 

We returned to the Venda to eat our dinners. A. considerable 
number of men, women, and children, all as black as jet, collected 
to watch us. Our companions were extremely merry ; and every- 
thing we said or did was followed by their hearty laughter. Before 
leaving the town we visited the cathedral. It does not appear so 
rich as the smaller church, but boasts of a little organ, which sent 
forth singularly inharmonious cries. We presented the black priest 
with a few shillings, and the Spaniard, patting him on the head, said, 
with much candour, he thought his colour made no great difference. 
We then returned, as fast as the ponies would go, to Porto Praya. 

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

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

* The Cape tie 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. 


The scenery of St. Domingo possesses a beauty totally unex- 
pected, from the prevalent gloomy character of the rest of the 
island. The village is situated at the bottom of a valley, bounded 
by lofty and jagged walls of stratified lava. The black rocks 
afford a most striking contrast with the bright green vegetation , 
which follows the banks of a little stream of clear water. It 
happened to be a grand feast-day, and the village was full of 
people. On our return we overtook a party of about twenty 
young black girls, dressed in excellent taste; their black skins and 
snow-white linen being set off by coloured turbans and large 
shawls. As soon as we approached near, they suddenly all turned 
round, and covering the path with their shawls, sung with great 
energy a wild song, beating time with their hands upon their 
legs. We threw them some vintems, which were received with 
screams of laughter, and we left them redoubling the noise of their 

One morning the view was singularly clear ; the distant moun- 
tains being projected with the sharpest outline, on a heavy bank 
of dark blue clouds. Judging from the appearance, and from 
similar cases in England, I supposed that the air was saturated 
with moisture. The fact, however, turned out quite the contrary. 
The hygrometer gave a difference of 29 - 6 degrees, between the 
temperature of the air, and the point at which dew was pre- 
cipitated. This difference was nearly double that which I had 
observed on the previous mornings. This unusual degree of 
atmospheric dryness was accompanied by continual flashes of 
lightning. Is it not an uncommon case, thus to find a 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 impalpably fine dust, which was found to have slightly 
injured the astronomical instruments. The morning before we 
anchored at Porto Praya, I collected a little packet of this brown- 
coloured fine dust, which appeared to have been filtered from the 
wind by the gauze of the vane at the mast-head. Mr. Lyell has 
also given me four packets of dust which fell on a vessel a few 
hundred miles northward of these islands. Professor Ehrenberg* 

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


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

The geology of this island is the most interesting part of its 
natural history. On entering the harbour, a perfectly horizontal 
white band in the face of the sea cliff, may be seen running for some 
miles along the coast, and at the height of about forty-five feet 
above the water. Upon examination, this white stratum is found to 
consist of calcareous matter, with numerous shells embedded, most 
or all of which now exist on the neighbouring coast. It rests on 
ancient volcanic rocks, and has been covered by a stream of basalt, 
which must have entered the sea when the white shelly bed was 
lying at the bottom. It is 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 proceeded. Within historical times, 
no signs of volcanic activity have, I believe, been manifested in any 
part of St. Jago. Even the form of a crater can but rarely be 
discovered on the summits of the many red cindery hills ; yet the 
more recent streams can be distinguished on the coast, forming 
lines of cliffs of less height, but stretching out in advance of those 
belonging to an older series : the height of the cliffs thus affording 
a rude measure of the age of the streams. 

During our stay, I observed the habits of some marine animals. 
A large Aplysia is very common. This sea-slug is about five inches 
long ; and is of a dirty yellowish colour, veined with purple. On 
each side of the lower surface, or foot, there is a broad membrane, 
which appears sometimes to act as a ventilator, in causing a current 
of water to flow over the dorsal branchia) 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- 

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


in intensity ; the latter entirely disappeared and appeared again by 
turns. These changes were effected in such a manner, that clouds, 
varying in tint between a hyacinth red and a chestnut-brown,* were 
continually passing over the body. Any part, being subjected to 
a slight shock of galvanism, became almost JLdack : a similar eftect, 
but in a less degree, was produced by scratching the skin with a 
needle. These clouds, or blushes as they may be called, are said to 
be produced by the alternate expansion and contraction of minute 
vesicles containing variously coloured fluids.f 

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

While looking for marine animals, with my head about two feet 
above the rocky shore, I was more than once saluted by a jet of 
water, accompanied by a slight grating noise. At first I could not 
think what it was, but afterwards I found out that it was this 
cuttle-fish, which, though concealed in a hole, thus often led me to 
its discovery. That it possesses the power of ejecting water there 
is no doubt, and it appeared to me that it could certainly take good 
aim by directing the tube or siphon on the under side of its body. 
From the difficulty which these animals have in carrying their 
heads, they cannot crawl with ease when placed on the ground. I 
observed that one which I kept in the cabin was slightly phospho- 
rescent 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 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 Norouha. The highest point 
is only fifty feet above the level of the sea, and the entire circum- 
ference is under three-quarters of a mile. This small point rises 

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


abruptly out of the deptlis of the ocean. Its mineralogical consti- 
tution is not simple ; in some parts the rock is of a cherty, in others 
of a felspathic nature, including thin veins of serpentine. It is a 
remarkable fact, that all the many small islands, lying far from any 
continent, in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, with the 
exception of the Seychelles and this little point of rock, are, I be- 
lieve, composed either of coral or of erupted matter. The volcanic 
nature of these oceanic islands is evidently an extension of that 
law, and the effect of those same causes, whether chemical or 
mechanical, from which it results that a vast majority of the 
volcanoes now in action stand either near sea-coasts or as islands 
in the midst of the sea. 
The rocks of St. Paul appear from a distance of a brilliantly 

white colour. This is partly owing to the dung of a vast multitude 
of sea-fowl, and partly to a coating of a hard glossy substance with 
a pearly lustre, which is intimately iinited to the surface of the 
rocks. This, when examined with a lens, is found to consist of 
numerous exceedingly thin layers, its total thickness being about 
the tenth of an inch. It contains much animal matter, and its 
origin, no doubt, is due to the action of the rain or spray on the 
birds' dung. Below some small masses of guano at Ascension, and 
on the Abrolhos Islets, I found certain stalactitic branching bodies, 
formed apparently in the same manner as the thin white coating on 
these rocks. The branching bodies so closely resembled in general 
appearance certain nulliporso (a family of hard calcareous sea- 
plants), that in lately looking hastily over my collection I did not 


perceive the difference. The globular extremities of the branches 
are of a pearly texture, like the enamel of teeth, but so hard as 
just to scratch plate-glass. I may here mention, that on a part of 
the coast of Ascension, where there is a vast accumulation of shelly 
sand, an incrustation is deposited on the tidal rocks by the water of 
the sea, resembling, as represented in the woodcut, certain crypto- 
gamic plants (Marchantiaj) often seen on damp walls. The surface 
of the fronds is beautifully glossy ; and those parts formed where 
fully exposed to the light, are of a jet black colour, but those shaded 
under ledges are only grey. I have shown specimens of this in- 
crustation to several geologists, and they all thought that they were 
of volcanic or igneous origin ! In its hardness and translucency 
in its polish, equal to that of the finest oliva-shell in the bad smell 
given out, and loss of colour under the blowpipe it shows a close 
similarity with living sea-shells. Moreover in sea-shells, it is known 
that the parts habitually covered and shaded by the mantle of the 
animal, are of a paler colour than those fully exposed to the light, just 
as is the case with this incrustation. When we remember that lime, 
either as a phosphate or carbonate, enters into the composition of 
the hard parts, such as bones and shells, of all living animals, it is an 
interesting physiological fact * to find substances harder than the 
enamel of teeth, and coloured surfaces as well polished as those 
of a fresh shell, reformed through inorganic means from dead 
organic matter mocking, also, in shape some of the lower vegetable 

We found on St. Paul's only two kinds of birds the booby and 
the noddy. The former is a species of gannet, and the latter a tern. 
Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, and are so unaccustomed 
to visitors, that I could have killed any number of them with my 
geological hammer. The booby lays her eggs on the bare rock ; but 
the tern makes a very simple nest with seaweed. By the side of 
many of these nests a small flying-fish was placed ; which, I sup- 
pose, had been brought by the male bird for its partner. It was 

* Mr. Homer and Sir David Brewster have described (Philosophical 
Transactions, 1836, p. G5) a singular " artificial substance resembling shell." 
It is deposited in fine, transparent, highly polished, brown-coloured laminae, 
possessing peculiar optical properties, on the inside of a vessel, in which 
cloth, first prepared -with glue and then with lime, is made to revolve 
rapidly in water. It is much softer, more transparent, and contains more 
animal matter, than the natural incrustation at Ascension ; but we here 
again see the strong tendency which carbonate of lime and animal matter 
evince to form a solid substance allied to shell. 


amusing to watch how quickly a large aud active crab (Graspus), 
which inhabits the crevices of the rock, stole the fish from the side 
of the nest, as soon as we had disturbed the parent birds. Sir \V. 
Syrnonds, one of the few persons who have landed here, informs roc 
that he saw the crabs dragging even the young birds out of their 
nests, and devouring them. Not a single' plant, not even a lichen, 
grows on this islet ; yet it is inhabited by several insects and spiders. 
The following list completes, I believe, the terrestrial fauna : a fly 
(Olfersia) living on the booby, and a tick which must have come 
here as a parasite on the birds ; a small brown moth, belonging to 
a genus that feeds on feathers ; a beetle (Quedius) and a woodlouse 
from beneath the dung ; and lastly, numerous spiders, which I sup- 
pose prey on these small attendants and scavengers of the water- 
fowl. 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 
correct ; I fear it destroys the poetry of this story, that feather and 
dirt-feeding and parasitic insects and spiders should be the first 
inhabitants of newly formed oceanic land. 

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

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

1832.] BAHIA BRAZIL. 11 

The whole island is covered with wood ; but from the dryuess of 
the climate there is no appearance of luxuriance. Half-way up the 
mountain, some great masses of the columnar rock, shaded by 
laurel-like trees, and ornamented by others covered with fine pink 
flowers but without a single leaf, gave a pleasing effect to the 
nearer parts of the scenery. 

BAHIA, OR SAN SALVADOR. BRAZIL, Feb. 29</i. The day has 
passed delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak term to 
express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has 
wandered by himself in a Brazilian forest. The elegance of the 
grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, the beauty of the 
flowers, the glossy green of the foliage, but above all the general 
luxuriance of the vegetation, filled me with admiration. A most 
paradoxical mixture of sound and silence pervades the shady parts 
of the wood. The noise from the insects is so loud, that it may be 
heard even in a vessel anchored several hundred yards from the 
shore; yet within the recesses of the forest a universal silence 
appears to reign. To a person fond of natural history, such a day 
as this brings with it a deeper pleasure than he can ever hope to 
experience again. After wandering about for some hours, I re- 
turned to the landing-place ; but, before reaching it, I was overtaken 
by a tropical storm. I tried to find shelter under a tree, which was 
so thick that it would never have been penetrated by common 
English rain; but here, in a couple of minutes, a little torrent 
flowed down the trunk. It is to this violence of the rain that we 
must attribute the verdure at the bottom of the thickest woods t 
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 present attempt to describe the gaudy scenery of this 
noble bay, because, in our homeward voyage, we called here a 
second time, and I shall then have occasion to remark on it. 

Along the whole coast of Brazil, for a length of at least 2000 
miles, and certainly for a considerable space inland, wherever 
solid rock occurs, it belongs to a granitic formation. The circum- 
stance of this enormous area being constituted of materials which 
most geologists believe to have been crystallized when heated under 
pressure, gives rise to many curious reflections. Was this effect 
produced beneath the depths of a profound ocean ? or did a cover- 
ing of strata formerly extend over it, which has since been removed? 
Can we believe that any power, acting for a time short of infinity, 


could hare denuded the granite over so many thousand square 
leagues ? 

On a point not far from the city, where a rivulet entered the sea, 
I observed a fact connected with a subject discussed by Humboldt.* 
At the cataracts of the great rivers Orinoco, Nile, and Congo, the 
syenitic rocks are coated by a black substance, appearing as if they 
had been polished with plumbago. The layer is of extreme thin- 
ness ; 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 ferru- 
ginous matter alone. Hand specimens fail to give a just idea of 
these brown burnished stones which glitter in the sun's rays. 
They occur only within the limits of the tidal waves ; and as the 
rivulet slowly trickles down, the surf must supply the polishing 
power of the cataracts in the great rivers. In like manner, the 
rise and fall of the tide probably answer to the periodical inunda- 
tions; and thus the same effects are produced under apparently 
different but really similar circumstances. The origin, however, 
of these coatings of metallic oxides, which seem as if cemented to the 
rocks, is not understood ; and no reason, I believe, can be assigned 
for their thickness remaining the same. 

One day I was amused by watching the habits of the Diodou 
autennatus, which was caught swimming near the shore. This 
fish, with its flabby skin, is well known to possess the singular 
power of distending itself into a nearly spherical form. After 
having been taken out of water for a short time, and then again 
immersed in it, a considerable quantity both of water and air is 
absorbed by the mouth, and perhaps likewise by the branchial 
orifices. This process is effected by two methods: the air is 
swallowed, and is then forced into the cavity of the body, its 
return being prevented by a muscular contraction which is exter- 
nally visible : but the water enters in a gentle stream through 
the mouth, which is kept wide open and motionless; this latter 
action must, therefore, depend on suction. The skin about the 
abdomen is much looser than that on the back; hence, during 
the inflation, the lower surface becomes far more distended than 
* Pers. Narr., vol. v. pt. i. p. 18. 

1832.] HABITS OF A DIODOX. 13 

the upper; and the fish, in consequence, floats with its back 
downwards. Cuvier doubts whether the Diodon in this position 
is able to swim; but not only can it thus move forward in a 
straight line, but it can turn round to either side. This latter 
movement is effected solely by the aid of the pectoral fins; the 
tail being collapsed, and not used. From the body being buoyed 
up with so much air, the branchial openings are out of water, 
but a stream drawn in by the mouth constantly flows through 

The fish, having remained in this distended state for a short 
time, generally expelled the air and water with considerable force 
from the branchial apertures and mouth. It could emit, at will, a 
certain portion of the water; and it appears, therefore, probable 
that this fluid is taken in partly for the sake of regulating its 
specific gravity. This Diodon possessed several means of defence. 
It could give a severe bite, and could eject water from its mouth 
to some distance, at the same time making a curious noise by the 
movement of its jaws. By the inflation of its body, the papilke, 
with which the skin is covered, become erect and pointed. But 
the most curious circumstance is, that it secretes from the skin of 
its belly, when handled, a most beautiful carmine-red fibrous matter, 
which stains ivory and paper in so permanent a manner, that 
the tint is retained with all its brightness to the present day : 
I am quite ignorant of the nature and use of this secretion. I have 
heard from Dr. Allan of Torres, that he has frequently found a 
Diodon, floating alive and distended, in the stomach of the shark 
and that on several occasions he has known it eat its way, not 
only through the coats of the stomach, but through the sides of the 
monster, which has thus been killed. Who would ever have 
imagined that a little soft fish could have destroyed the great and 
savage shark ? 

March 18th. We sailed from Bahia. A few days afterwards, 
when not far distant from the Abrolhos Islets, my attention was 
called to a reddish-brown appearance in the sea. The whole 
surface of the water, as it appeared under a weak lens, seemed as 
if covered by chopped bits of hay, with their ends jagged. These 
are minute cylindrical confervas, in bundles or rafts of from twenty 
to sixty in each. Mr. Berkeley informs me that they are the same 
species (Trichoclcsmiuin erythrteum) with that found over large 


spaces in the Red Sea, and whence its name of Red Sea is derived.* 
Their numbers must be infinite : the ship passed through several 
bands of them, one of which was about ten yards wide, and, judging 
from the mud-like colour of the water, at least two and a half 
miles long. In almost every long voyage some account is given 
of these confervas They appear especially common in the sea near 
Australia; and off Cape Leeuwin I found an allied, but smaller and 
apparently different species. Captain Cook, in his third voyage, 
remarks, that the sailors gave to this appearance the name of 

Near Keeling Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I observed many little 
masses of confervas a few inches square, consisting of long cylin- 
drical threads of excessive thinness, so as to be barely visible to 
the naked eye, mingled with other rather larger bodies, finely 

conical at both ends. Two of these 
are shown in the woodcut united 
together. They vary in length from 
04 to '06, and even to '08 of an inch 

in length ; and in diameter from '006 to '008 of an inch. Near one 
extremity of the cylindrical part, a green septum, formed of granular 
matter, and thickest in the middle, may generally be seen. This, 
I believe, is the bottom of a most delicate, colourless sac, composed 
of a pulpy substance, which lines the exterior case, but does not 
extend within the extreme conical points. In some specimens, 
small but perfect spheres of brownish granular matter supplied the 
places of the septa ; and I observed the curious process by which 
they were produced. The pulpy matter of the internal coating 
suddenly grouped itself into lines, some of which assumed a form 
radiating from a common centre; it then continued, with an 
irregular and rapid movement, to contract itself, so that in the 
course of a second the whole was united into a perfect little sphere, 
which occupied the position of the septum at one end of the now 
quite hollow case. The formation of the granular sphere was 
hastened by any accidental injury. I may add, that frequently a 
pair of these bodies were attached to each other, as represented 
above, cone beside cone, at that end where the septum occurs. 

I will add here a few other observations connected with the 
discoloration of the sea from organic causes. On the coast of 

* M. Montague, in Comptcs Rendus. etc., Jiiillet, 1844 ; and Annal. des 
Scienc. Nat., Dec. 1841 


Chile, a few leagues north of Coucepcion, the Beagle one day 
passed through great bands of muddy water, exactly like that of 
a swollen river ; and again, a degree south of Valparaiso, when fifty 
miles from the land, the same appearance was still more extensive. 
Some of the water placed in a glass was of a pale reddish tint ; and, 
examined under a microscope, was seen to swarm with minute 
auimalcula darting about, and often exploding. Their shape is 
oval, and contracted in the middle by a ring of vibrating curved 
cilife. It was, however, very difficult to examine them with care, 
for almost the instant motion ceased, even while crossing the field 
of vision, their bodies burst. Sometimes both ends burst at once, 
sometimes only one, and a quantity of coarse, brownish, granular 
matter was ejected. The animal an instant before bursting expanded 
to half again its natural size ; and the explosion took place about 
fifteen seconds after the rapid progressive motion had ceased : in 
a few cases it was preceded for a short interval by a rotatory move- 
ment on the longer axis. About two minutes after any number 
were isolated in a drop of water, they thus perished. The animals 
move with the narrow apex forwards, by the aid of their vibratory 
cilire, and generally by rapid starts. They are exceedingly minute, 
and quite invisible to the naked eye, only covering a space equal 
to the square of the thousandth of an inch. Their numbers were 
infinite; for the smallest drop of water which I could remove 
contained very many. In one day we passed through two spaces 
of water thus stained, one of which alone must have extended over 
several square miles. What incalculable numbers of these micro- 
scopical animals! The colour of the water, as seen at some 
distance, was like that of a river which has flowed through a red 
clay district ; but under the shade of the vessel's side it was quite 
as dark as chocolate. The line where the red and blue water 
joined was distinctly defined. The weather for some days 
previously had been calm, and the ocean abounded, to an unusual 
degree, with living creatures.* 

* M. Lesson (Voyage rle la Coquille, torn, i., p. 255) mentions red water 
off Lima, apparently produced by the same caiise. Peron, the dis- 
tinguished naturalist, in the Voyage aux Terres Australes, gives no less 
than twelve references to voyagers who have alluded to the discoloured 
waters of the sea (vol. ii. p. 239). To the references given by Peron may 
be added, Humbolclt's Pers. Narr., vol. vi. p. 804 ; Flinders' Voyage, 
vol. i. p. 92 ; Labillardiere, vol. i. p. 287 ; Ulloa's Voyage ; Voyage of the 
Astrolabe and of the Coquille ; Captain King's Survey of Australia, etc, 


In the sea around Tierra del Fuego, and at no great distance 
from the land, I have seen narrow lines of water of a bright red 
colour, from the number of Crustacea, which somewhat resemble in 
form large prawns. The sealers call them whale-food. Whether 
whales feed on them I do not know ; but terns, cormorants, and 
immense herds of great un wieldly 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 Gala- 
pagos, the ship sailed through three strips of a dark yellowish, or 
mud-like water ; these strips were some miles long, but only a few 
yards wide, and they were separated from the surrounding water 
by a sinuous yet distinct margin. The colour was caused by little 
gelatinous balls, about the fifth of an inch in diameter, in which 
numerous minute spherical ovules were imbedded : they were of 
two distinct kinds, one being of a reddish colour and of a different 
shape from the other. I cannot form a conjecture as to what two 
kinds of animals these belonged. Captain Colnett remarks, that 
this appearance is very common among the Galapagos Islands, and 
that the directions of the bands indicate that of the currents ; in 
the described case, however, the line was caused by the wind. 
The only other appearance which I have to notice, is a thin oily 
coat on the water which displays iridescent colours. I saw a 
considerable tract of the ocean thus covered on the coast of Brazil ; 
the seamen attributed it to the putrefying carcass of some whale, 
which probably was floating at no great distance. I do not here 
mention the minute gelatinous particles, hereafter to be referred 
to, which are frequently dispersed throughout the water, for they 
are not sufficiently abundant to create any change of colour. 

There are two circumstances in the above accounts which appear 
remarkable : first, how do the various bodies which form the bauds 
with defined edges keep together ? In the case of the prawn-like 
crabs, their movements were as co-instantaneous as in a regiment of 
soldiers'; Jbut this cannot happen from anything like voluntary 
action with the ovules, or the confervae, nor is it probable among the 
infusoria. Secondly, what causes the length and narrowness of the 
bands? The appearance so much resembles that which may be 
seen in every torrent, where the stream uncoils into long streaks 
the froth collected in the eddies, that I must attribute the effect to 


a similar action either of the 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 confervse : for whence 
come the germs at such points ? the parent bodies having been 
distributed by the winds and waves over the immense ocean. But 
on no other hypothesis can I understand their linear grouping. 
I may add that Scoresby remarks that green water abounding 
with pelagic animals is invariably found in a certain part of the 
Arctic Sea. 



l!io tie Janeiro Excursion north of Cape Frio Great Evaporation 
Slavery Botofogo Bay Terrestrial Planarise Clouds on the Corcovado 
Heavy Rain Musical Frogs Phosphorescent Insects Elater, spring- 
ing powers of Blue Haze Noise made by a Butterfly Entomology 
Ants Wasp killing a Spider Parasitical Spider Artifices of an 
Epeira Gregarious Spider Spider with an unsymmetrical Web. 


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

April 8th. Our party amounted to seven. The first stage was 
rery interesting. The day was powerfully hot, and as we passed 
through the woods, everything was motionless, excepting the 
large and brilliant butterflies, which lazily fluttered about. The 
view seen when crossing the hills behind Praia Grande was most 
beautiful ; the colours were intense, and the prevailing tint a dark 
blue ; the sky and the calm waters of the bay vied with each other 
in splendour. After passing through sonic cultivated country, we 
entered a forest, which in the grandeur of all its parts could not be 
exceeded. "We arrived by midday at Ithacaia ; this small village 
is situated on a plain, and round the central house are the huts of 
the negroes. These, from their regular form and position, re- 
minded me of the drawings of the Hottentot habitations in Southern 
Africa. As the moon rose early, we determined to start the same 
evening for our sleeping-place at the Lagoa Marica. As it was 
growing dark we passed under one of the massive, bare, and steep 
hills of granite which are so common in this country. This spot is 
notorious from having been, for a long time, the residence of some 

1832.] LIVING AT A VENDA. 19 

runaway slaves, who, 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 whole were seized with the 
exception of one old woman, who, sooner than again be led into 
slavery, dashed herself to pieces from the summit of the mountain. 
In a Komaii matron this would have been called the noble love of 
freedom: 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 
desolate. A few lireflies 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 9<7*. We left our miserable sleeping-place before sunrise. 
The road passed through a narrow sandy plain, lying between the 
sea and the interior salt lagoons. The number of beautiful fishing 
birds, such as egrets and cranes, and the succulent plants assuming 
most fantastical forms, gave to the scene an interest which it woiild 
not otherwise have possessed. The few stunted trees were loaded 
with parasitical plants, among which the beauty and delicious 
fragrance of some of the orchideae were most to be admired. As 
the sun rose, the day became extremely hot, and the reflection 
of the light and heat from the white sand was very distressing. 
We dined at Mandetiba; the thermometer in the shade being 81. 
The beautiful view of the distant wooded hills, reflected in the 
perfectly calm water of an extensive lagoon, quite refreshed us. 
As the venda* here was a very good one, and I have the pleasant, 
but rare remembrance, of an excellent dinner, I will be grateful and 
presently describe it, as the type of its class. These houses are 
often large, and are built of thick upright posts, with boughs 
interwoven, and afterwards plastered. They seldom have floors, 
and never glazed windows ; but are generally pretty well roofed. 
Universally the front part is open, forming a kind of verandah, in 
which tables and benches are placed. The bed-rooms join on each 
side, and here the passenger may sleep as comfortably as he can, on 
a wooden platform, covered by a thin straw mat. The venda stands 
in a courtyard, where the horses are fed. On first arriving, it was 
our custom to unsaddle the horses and give them their Indian 
corn ; then, with a low bow, to ask the senhor to do us the favoiu 
* Veiula, the Portuguese name for an inn. 


to give us something to eat. "Anything you choose, sir," was his 
usual answer. For the few first times, vainly I thanked providence 
for having guided us to so good a man. The conversation pro- 
ceeding, the case universally became deplorable. "Any fish can 
you do us the favour of giving ? " " Oh ! no, sir." " Any soup ? " 
" No, sir." " Any bread ? " " Oh ! 110, sir." " Any dried meat ? '' 
" Oh ! no, sir." If we were lucky, by waiting a couple of hours, 
we obtained fowls, rice, and farinha. It not uufrequently happened, 
that we were obliged to kill, with stones, the poultry for our own 
supper. When, thoroughly exhausted by fatigue and hunger, we 
timorously hinted that we should be glad of our meal, the pompous, 
and (though true) most unsatisfactory answer was, "It will be 
ready when it is ready." If we had dared to remonstrate any 
further, we should have been told to proceed on our journey, as 
being too impertinent. The hosts are most ungracious and dis- 
agreeable in their manners; their houses and their persons are 
often filthily dirty ; the want of the accommodation of forks, knives, 
and spoons is common; and I am sure no cottage or hovel in 
England could be found in a state so utterly destitute of every 
comfort. At Campos Novos, however, we fared sumptiiously ; 
having rice and fowls, biscuit, wine, and spirits, for dinner ; coft'ee 
in the evening, and fish with coffee for breakfast. All this, with 
good food for the horses, only cost 2s. Gd. 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 V 
why did you not take care of it? I suppose the dogs have 
eaten it." 

Leaving Mandetiba, we continued to pass through an intricate 
wilderness of lakes ; in some of which were fresh, in others salt 
water shells. Of the former kind, I found a Limmea in great 
numbers in a lake, into which, the inhabitants assured me that 
the sea enters once a year, and sometimes oftener, and makes the 
water quite salt. I have no doubt many interesting facts, in 
relation to marine and fresh water animals, might be observed in 
this chain of lagoons, which skirt the coast of Brazil. M. Gay * 
has stated that he found in the neighbourhood of Eio, shells of the 
marine genera soleu and mytilus, and fresh water anipullariaj, 
living together in brackish water. I also frequently observed iu 
the lagoon near the Botanic Garden, where the water is only a little 
* Annales cles Sciences Naturelles for 1833. 


less salt than in the sea, a species of hydrophilus, very similar to a 
water-beetle common in the ditches of England : in the same lake 
the only shell belonged to a genus generally found in estuaries. 

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

April 13th. After three days' travelling we arrived at Socego, 
the estate of Senhor Manuel Figuireda, a relation of one of our 
party. The house was simple, and, though like a barn in form, 
was well suited to the climate. In the sitting-room gilded chairs 
and sofas were oddly contrasted with the whitewashed walls, 
thatched roof, and windows without glass. The house, together 
with the granaries, the stables, and 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 ground, 
and surrounded on every side by a wall of dark green luxuriant 
forest. The chief produce of this part of the country is coffee. 
Each tree is supposed to yield annually, on an average, two 
pounds ; but some give as much as eight. Mandioca or cassada is 
likewise cultivated in great quantity. Every part of this plant is 
useful ; the leaves and stalks are eaten by the horses, and the roots 
are ground into a pulp, which, when pressed dry and baked, forms 
the farinha, the principle article of sustenance in the Brazils. It 
is a curious, though well-known fact, that the juice of this most 
nutritious plant is highly poisonous. A few years ago a cow died 
at this Fazenda, in consequence of having drunk some of it. 
Senhor Figuireda told me that he had planted, the year before, one 
bag of feijao or beans, and three of rice; the former of which 
produced eighty, and the latter three hundred and twenty fold. 
The pasturage supports a fine stock of cattle, and the woods are so 
full of game, that a deer had been killed on each of the three 
previous days. This profusion of food showed itself at dinner, 
where, if the tables did not groan, the guests surely did : for each 
pei-son is expected to eat of every dish. One day, having, as I 
thought, nicely calculated so that nothing should go away untested, 
to my utter dismay a roast turkey and a pig appeared in all their 
substantial reality. During the meals, it was the employment of 
a man to drive out of the room sundry old hounds, and dozens of 
little black children, which crawled in together, at every oppor- 
tunity. As long as the idea of slavery could be banished, there 
was something exceedingly fascinating in this simple and patriarchal 
style of living : it was such a perfect retirement and independence 
from the rest of the world. As soon as any stranger is seen 
arriving, a large bell is set tolling, and generally some small cannon 
are fired. The event is thus announced to the rocks and woods, 
but to nothing else. One morning I walked out an hour before 
daylight to admire the solemn stillness of the scene ; at last, the 
silence was broken by the morning hymn, raised on high by the 
whole body of the blacks ; and in this manner their daily work is 
generally begun. On such fazendas as these, I have no doubt the 
slaves pass happy and contented lives. On Saturday and Sunday 
they work for themselves, and in this fertile climate the labour of 
two days is sufficient to support a man and his family for the whole 


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

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

24 1110 DE JANEIRO. [CHAP. n. 

was in a passion, and was going to strike him ; for instantly, with 
a frightened look and half-shut eyes, he dropped his hands. I 
shall never forget my feelings of surprise, disgust, and shame, at 
seeing a great powerful man afraid even to ward off a blow, 
directed, as he thought, at his face. This man had been trained 
to a degradation lower than the slavery of the most helpless 

April 18th. In returning we spent two days at Socego, and 
I employed them in collecting insects in the forest. The greater 
number of trees, although so lofty, are not more than three or four 
feet in circumference. There are, of course, a few of much greater 
dimension. Senhor Manuel was then making a canoe 70 feet in 
length from a solid trunk, which had originally been 110 feet long, 
and of great thickness. The contrast of palm trees, growing amidst 
the common branching kinds, never fails to give the scene an 
intertropical character. Here the woods were ornamented by the 
Cabbage Palm one of the most beautiful of its family. With a 
stem so narrow that it might be clasped with the two hands, it 
waves its elegant head at the height of forty or fifty feet above the 
ground. The woody creepers, themselves covered by other creepers, 
were of great thickness : some which I measured were two feet in 
circumference. Many of the older trees presented a very curious 
appearance from the tresses of a liana hanging from their boughs, 
and resembling bundles of hay. If the eye was turned from the 
world of foliage above, to the ground beneath, it was attracted by 
the extreme elegance of the leaves of the ferns and mimosre. The 
latter, in some parts, covered the surface witli a brushwood only 
a few inches high. In walking across these thick beds of mimosze, 
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 

April 19th. Leaving Socego, during the two first days, wo 
retraced our steps. It was very wearisome work, as the road 
generally ran across a glaring hot sandy plain, not far from the 
coast. I noticed that each time the horse put its foot on the fine 
siliceous sand, a gentle chirping noise was produced. On the third 
day we took a different line, and passed through the gay little 

1832.] PLANARI/E. 25 

village of Maclre de Deos. This is one of the principal lines of road 
in Brazil ; yet it was in so bad a state that no wheeled vehicle, 
excepting the clumsy bullock-waggon, could pass along. In our 
whole journey we did not cross a single bridge built of stone ; and 
thoso made of logs of wood were frequently so much out of repair, 
that it was necessary to go on one side to avoid them. All distances 
are inaccurately known. The road is often marked by crosses, in 
the place of milestones, to signify where human blood has been 
spilled. On the evening of the 23rd wo arrived at Rio, having 
finished our pleasant little excursion. 

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

The few observations which I was enabled to make were almost 
exclusively confined to the invertebrate animals. The existence of 
a division of the genus Planaria, which inhabits the dry land, 
interested me much. These animals are of so simple a structure, 
that Cuvier has arranged them with the intestinal worms, though 
never found within the bodies of other animals. Numerous species 
inhabit both salt and fresh water; but those to which I allude 
were found, even in the drier parts of the forest, beneath logs of 
rotten wood, on which I believe they feed. In general form they 
resemble little slugs, but are very much narrower in proportion, 
and several of the species are beautifully coloured with longitudinal 
stripes. Their structure is very simple : near the middle of the 
under or crawling surface there are two small transverse slits, from 
the anterior one of which a funnel-shaped and highly irritable 
mouth can be protruded. For some time after the rest of the animal 
was completely dead from the effects of salt water or any other 
pause, this organ still retained its vitality. 

I found no less than twelve different species of terrestrial 
Planarire in different parts of the southern hemisphere.* Some 

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


specimens which I obtained at Van Dieman's Land, I kept alive 
for nearly two months, feeding them on rotten wood. Having cut 
one of them transversely into two nearly equal parts, in the 
course of a fortnight both had the shape of perfect animals. I 
had, however, so divided the body, that one of the halves contained 
both the inferior orifices, and the other, in consequence, none. In 
the course of twenty-five days from the operation, the more perfect 
half could not have been distinguished from any other specimen. 
The other had increased much in size ; and towards its posterior 
end, a clear space was formed in the parenchymatous mass, in 
which a rudimentary cup-shaped mouth could clearly be dis- 
tinguished ; on the under surface, however, no corresponding slit 
was yet open. If the increased heat of the weather, as we 
approached the equator, had not destroyed all the individuals, 
there can be no doubt that this last step would have completed 
its structure. Although so well-known an experiment, it was 
interesting to watch the gradual production of every essential 
organ, out of the simple extremity of another animal. It is 
extremely difficult to preserve these Planarire; 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 Planarize were found, in 
company with an old Portuguese priest who took me out to hunt 
with him. The sport consisted in turning into the cover a few 
dogs, and then patiently waiting to fire at any animal which might 
appear. We were accompanied by the son of a neighbouring 
farmer a good specimen of a wild Brazilian youth. He was 
dressed in a tattered old shirt and trousers, and had his head 
uncovered: he carried an old-fashioned gun and a large knife. 
The habit of carrying the knife is universal; and in traversing 
a thick wood it is almost necessary, on account of the creeping 
plants. The frequent occurrence of murder may be partly attri- 
buted to this habit. The Brazilians are so dexterous with the 
knife, that they can throw it to some distance with precision, and 
with sufficient force to cause a fatal wound. I have seen a number 
of little boys practising this art as a game of play, and from their 
skill in hitting an upright stick, they promised well for more 
earnest attempts. My companion, the day before, had shot two- 
large bearded monkeys. These animals have prehensile tails, the 


extremity of which, even after death, can support the whole weight 
of the body. One of them thus remained fast to a branch, and it 
was necessary to cut down a large tree to procure it. This was 
soon effected, and down came tree and monkey with an awful 
crash. Our day's sport, besides the monkey, was confined to 
sundry small green parrots and a few toucans. I profited, however, 
by my acquaintance with the Portuguese padre, for on another 
occasion he gave me a fine specimen of the Yagouaroundi cat. 

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

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

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 multitude of leaves 
was very remarkable; it could be heard at the distance of a 


quarter of a mile, and was like the rushing of a great body of 
water. After the hotter days, it was delicious to sit quietly in the 
garden and watch the evening pass into night. Nature, in these 
climes, chooses her vocalists from more humble performers than in 
Europe. A small frog, of the genus Hyla, sits on a blade of grass 
about an inch above the surface of the water, and sends forth a 
pleasing chirp : when several are together they sing in harmony 
on different notes. I had some difficulty in catching a specimen 
of this frog. The genus Hyla has its toes terminated by small 
stickers ; and I found this animal could crawl up a pane of glass, 
when placed absolutely perpendicular. Various cicidse and crickets, 
at the same time, keep up a ceaseless shrill cry, but which, 
softened by the distance, is not unpleasant. Every evening after 
dark this great concert commenced ; and often have I sat listening 
to it, until my attention has been drawn away by some curious 
passing insect. 

At these times the fireflies are seen flitting about from hedge to 
hedge. On a dark night the light can be seen at about two 
hundred paces distant. It is remarkable that in all the different 
kinds of glowworms, shining elaters, and various marine animals 
(such as the Crustacea, medusae, nereida3, a coralline of the genus 
Clytia, and Pyrosoma), which I have observed, the light has been 
of a well-marked green colour. All the fireflies, which I caught 
here, belonged to the Lampyridae (in which family the English 
glowworm is included), and the greater number of specimens were 
of Lampyris occidentalis.* I found that this insect emitted the 
most brilliant flashes when irritated : in the intervals, the abdomi- 
nal rings were obscured. The flash was almost co-instantaneous in 
the two rings, but it was just perceptible first in the anterior one. 
The shining matter was fluid and very adhesive: little spots, 
where the skin had been torn, continued bright with a slight 
scintillation, whilst the uninjured parts were obscured. When 
the insect was decapitated the rings remained uninterruptedly 
bright, but not so brilliant as before : local irritation with a needle 
always increased the vividness of the light. The rings in one 
instance retained their luminous property nearly twenty-four hours 
after the death of the insect. From these facts it would appear 

* 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 


probable, that the animal has only the power of concealing or 
extinguishing the light for short intervals, and that at other times 
the display is involuntary. On the muddy and wet gravel-walks 
I found the larvae of this lampyris in great numbers : they resembled 
in general form the female of the English glowworm. These larva 1 
possessed but feeble luminous powers ; very differently from their 
parents, on the slightest touch they feigned death, and ceased to 
shine ; nor did irritation excite any fresh display. I kept several 
of them alive for some time : their tails are very singular organs, 
for they act, by a well-fitted contrivance, as suckers or organs of 
attachment, and likewise as reservoirs for saliva, or some such 
fluid. I repeatedly fed them on raw meat; and I invariably 
observed, that every now and then the extremity of the tail was 
applied to the mouth, and a drop of fluid exuded on the meat, 
which was then in the act of being consumed. The tail, 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 lunii- 
nosus, Illig.) seemed the most common luminous insect. The light 
in this case was also rendered more brilliant by irritation. I amused 
myself one day by observing the springing powers of this insect, 
which have not, as it appears to me, been properly described.* The 
elater, when placed on its back and preparing to spring, moved its 
head and thorax backwards, so that the pectoral spine was drawn 
out, and rested on the edge of its sheath. The same backward 
movement being continued, the spine, by the full action of the 
muscles, was bent like a spring ; and the insect at this moment 
rested on the extremity of its head and wing-cases. The effort being 
suddenly relaxed, the head and thorax flew up, and in consequence, 
the base of the wing-cases struck the supporting surface with such 
force, that the insect by the reaction was jerked upwards to the 
height of one or two inches. The projecting points of the thorax, 
and the sheath of the spine, served to steady the whole body 
during the spring. In the descriptions which I have read, suf- 
ficient 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 

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


Ou several occasions I enjoyed some short but most pleasant 
excursions in the neighbouring country. One day I went to the 
Botanic Garden, where many plants, well known for their great 
utility, might be seen growing. The leaves of the camphor, pepper, 
cinnamon, and clove trees were delightfully aromatic; and the 
bread-fruit, the jaca, and the mango, vied with each other in the 
magnificence of their foliage. The landscape in the neighbourhood 
of Bahia almost takes its character from the two latter trees. Before 
seeing them, I had no idea that any trees could cast so black a 
shade on the ground. Both of them bear to the evergreen vegeta- 
tation of these climates the same kind of relation which laurels and 
hollies in England do to the lighter green of the deciduous trees. 
It may be observed, that the houses within the tropics arc sur- 
rounded by the most beautiful forms of vegetation, because many 
of them are at the same time most useful to man. Who can doubt 
that these qualities are united in the banana, the cocoa-nut, the 
many kinds of palm, the orange, and the bread-fruit tree ? 

During this day I was particularly struck with a remark of 
Humboldt's, who often alludes to " the thin vapour which, without 
changing the transparency of the air, renders its tints more har- 
monious, 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 per- 
fectly lucid, but at a greater distance all colours were blended into 
a most beautiful haze, of a pale French grey, mingled with a little 
blue. The condition of the atmosphere between the morning and 
about noon, when the effect was most evident, had undergone little 
change, excepting in its dryness. In the interval, the difference be- 
tween 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 aud fragrant ; and 
the drops of dew still glittered on the leaves of the large liliaceous 
plants, which shaded the streamlets of clear water. Sitting down 
on a block of granite, it was delightful to watch the various insects 
and birds as they flew past. The humming-bird seems particularly 
fond of such shady retired spots. Whenever I saw these little 
creatures buzzing round a flower, with their wings vibrating so 
rapidity as to be scarcely visible, I was reminded of the sphinx 
moths: their movements and habits arc indeed in many respects 
Very similar. 

1832.] BUTTERFLIES. 31 

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

During our stay at Brazil I made a large collection of insects. A 
few general observations on the comparative importance of the 
different orders may be interesting to the English entomologist. 
The large and brilliantly coloured Lepidoptera bespeak the zone 
they inhabit, far more plainly than any other race of animals. I 
allude only to the butterflies; for the moths, contrary to what 
might have been expected from the rankness of the vegetation, 
certainly appeared in much fewer numbers than in our own tem- 
perate regions. I was much surprised at the habits of Papilio 
feronia. This butterfly is not uncommon, and generally frequents 
the orange-groves. Although a high flier, yet it very frequently 
alights on the trunks of trees. On these occasions its head is in- 
variably placed downwards; and its wings arc expanded in a 
horizontal plane, instead of being folded vertically, as is commonly 
the case. This is the only butterfly which I have ever seen, that 
uses its legs for running. Not being aware of this fact, the insect, 
more than once, as I cautiously approached with my forceps, 
shuffled on one side just as the instrument was on the point of 


closing, and thus escaped. But a far more singular fact is the 
power which this species possesses of making a noise.* Several 
times when a pair, probably male and female, were chasing each 
other in an irregular course, they passed within a few yards of me ; 
and I distinctly heard a clicking noise, similar to that produced by 
a toothed wheel passing under a spring catch. The noise was con- 
tinued at short intervals, and could be distinguished at about 
twenty yards' distance: I am certain there is no error in the 

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleoptera. The 
number of minute and obscurely coloured beetles is exceedingly 
great.f The cabinets of Europe can, as yet, boast only of the larger 
species from tropical climates. It is sufficient to disturb the com- 
posure of an entomologist's mind, to look forward to the future 
dimensions of a complete catalogue. The carnivorous beetles, or 
Carabidse, appear in extremely few numbers within the tropics : 
this is the more remarkable when compared to the case of the car- 
nivorous quadrupeds, which are so abundant in hot countries. I 
was struck with this observation both on entering Brazil, and when 
I saw the many elegant and active forms of the Harpalidrc re- 
appearing on the temperate plains of La Plata. Do the very 
numerous spiders and rapacious Hymenoptera supply the place of 
the carnivorous beetles? The carrion-feeders and Brachelytera 
are very uncommon; on the other hand, the Khyncophora and 
Chrysomelidee, all of which depend on the vegetable world for sub' 
sistence, are present in astonishing numbers. I do not here refer 
to the number of different species, but to that of the individual 
insects; for on this it is that the most striking character in the 

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

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

1832.] SWARM OF AXTS. I'l] 

entomology of different countries depends. The orders Orthoptera 
and Hemiptera are particularly numerous; as likewise is the 
stinging division of the Hymenoptera ; the bees, perhaps, being 
excepted. A person, on first entering a tropical forest, is astonished 
at the labours of the ants : well-beaten paths branch off in every 
direction, on which an army of never-failing foragers may be seen, 
some going forth, and others returning, burdened with pieces of 
green leaf, often larger than their own bodies. 

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

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of the 
verandahs clay cells for their larva;, are very numerous in the 
neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full of half-dead 
spiders and caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know 
how to sting to that degree as to leave them paralysed but alive, 
until their eggs are hatched; and the larva) feed on the horrid 
mass of powerless, half-killed victims a sight which has been 
described by an enthusiastic naturalist * as curious and pleasing ! 
I was much interested one day by watching a deadly contest be- 

* In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his observa- 
tions in Georgia; see Mr. A. White's paper in the "Annals of Nat. 
Hist.," vol. vii. p. 472. Lieut. Hutton has described a sphex with similar 
habits in India, in the " Journal of the Asiatic Society," vol. i. p. 55"). 


tween a Pepsis and a largo spider of the genus Lycosa. The wasp 
made a sudden dash at its prey, and then flew away : the spider 
was evidently wounded, for, trying to escape, it rolled down a little 
slope, but had still strength sufficient to crawl into a thick tuft of 
grass. The wasp soon returned, and seemed surprised at not 
immediately finding its victim. It then commenced as regular a 
hunt as ever hound did after fox; making short semicircular casts, 
and all the time rapidly vibrating its wings and antenna?. The 
spider, though well concealed, was soon discovered ; and the wasp, 
evidently still afraid of its adversary's jaws, after much manoeuvr- 
ing, inflicted two stings on the under side of its thorax. At last, 
carefully examining with its antennae the now motionless spider, it 
proceeded to drag away the body. But I stopped both tyrant and 

The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, is here 
compared with England very much larger; perhaps more so than 
with any other division of the articulate animals. The variety of 
species among the jumping spiders appears almost infinite. The 
genus, or rather family of Epeira, is here characterized by many 
singular forms ; some species have pointed coriaceous shells, others 
enlarged and spiny tibia;. Every path in the forest is barricaded 
with the strong yellow web of a species, belonging to the same 
division with the Epeira clavipes of Fabricius, which was formerly 
said by Sloane to make, in the West Indies, webs so strong as to 
catch birds. A small and pretty kind of spider, with very long 
fere-legs, and which appears to belong to an undescribed genus, 
lives as a parasite on almost every one of these webs. I suppose it 
is too insignificant to be noticed by the great Epeira, and is there- 
fore allowed to prey on the minute insects, which, adhering to the 
lines, would otherwise be wasted. When frightened, this little 
spider either feigns death by extending its front legs, or suddenly 
drops from the web. A large Epeira of the same division with 
Epeira tuberculata and conica is extremely common, especially in 
dry situations. Its web, which is generally placed among the great 
leaves of the common agave, is sometimes strengthened near the 
centre by a pair or even four zigzag ribbons, which connect two 

* Don Felix Azara (vol. i. p. 175), mentioning a liymenopterous insect, 
probably of the same genus, says he saw it dragging a dead spider 
through tall grass, in a straight line to its nest, which was one hundred 
and sixty-three paces distant. He adds that the wasp, in order to find 
the road, every now and then made " demi-tours d'environ trois palmes." 

1832.] SPIDERS. 35 

adjoining rays. When any large insect, as a grasshopper or wasp, 
is caught, the spider, by a dexterous movement, makes it revolve 
very rapidly, and at the same time emitting a band of threads 
from its spinners, soon envelops its prey in a case like the cocoon 
of a silkworm. The spider now examines the powerless victim, 
and gives the fatal bite on the hinder part of its thorax ; then 
retreating, patiently waits till the poison has taken effect. The 
virulence of this poison may be judged of from the fact that in 
half a minute I opened the mesh, and found a large wasp quite 
lifeless. This Epeira always stands with its head downwards near 
the centre of the web. When disturbed, it acts differently accord- 
ing to circumstances: if there is a thicket below, it suddenly falls 
down; and I have distinctly seen the thread from the spinners 
lengthened by the animal while yet stationary, as preparatory to 
its fall. If the ground is clear beneath, the Epeira seldom falls, 
but moves quickly through a central passage from one to the other 
side. When still further disturbed, it practises a most curious 
manoeuvre: standing in the middle, it violently jerks the web, 
which is attached to clastic twigs, till at last the whole acquires 
such a rapid vibratory movement, that even the outline of the 
spider's body becomes indistinct. 

It is well known that most of the British spiders, when a large 
insect is caught in their webs, endeavour to cut the lines and 
liberate their prey, to save their nets from being entirely spoiled. 
I once, however, saw in a hot-house in Shropshire a largo female 
wasp caught in the irregular web of a quite small spider ; and this 
spider, instead of cutting the web, most perseveringly continued 
to entangle the boiy, 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. 
Tho spider soon returned; and an hour afterwards I was much 
surprised to find it with its jaws buried in the orifice, through 
which the sting is protruded by the living wasp. I drove the 
spider away two or three times, but for the next twenty-four hours 
I always found it again sucking at the same place. The spider 
became much distended by the juices of its prey, which was many 
times larger than itself. 

I may here just mention, that I found, near St. Fe Bajada, 
many large black spiders, with ruby-coloured marks on their 


backs, having gregarious habits. The webs were placed vertically, 
as is invariably the case with the genus Epeira : they were 
separated from each other by a space of about two feet, but were 
all attached to certain common lines, which were of great length, 
and extended to all parts of the community. In this manner the 
tops of some large bushes were encompassed by 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 saire species with mine. I cannot, 
however, recollect seeing a central nest as large as a hat, in which, 
during autumn, when the spiders die, Azara says the eggs are 
deposited. As all the spiders which I saw were of the same size, 
they must have been nearly of the same age. This gregarious 
habit, in so typical a genus as Epeira, among insects, which are so 
bloodthirsty and solitary that even the two sexes attack each other, 
is a very singular fact. 

In a lofty valley of the Cordillera, near Mendoza, I found another 
spider with a singularly-formed web. Strong lines radiated in a 
vertical plane from a common centre, where the insect had its 
station ; but only two of the rays were connected by a symmetrical 
mesh- work ; so that the net, instead of being, as is generally the 
case, circular, consisted of a wedge-shaped segment. All the webs 
were similarly constructed. 

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



Monte Video Maldouudo Excursion to R. Polauco Lazo and Bolus 
Partridges Absence of Trees Deer Capybara, or River Hog Tucu- 
tuco Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits Tyraut-flycatcbev Mocking-bird 
Carrion Hawks Tubes formed by Lightning House struck. 


July 5tk, 183'2. In the morning we got under way, and stood out 
of the splendid harbour of Piio de Janeiro. In our passage to the 
Plata, we saw nothing particular, excepting on one day a great 
shoal of porpoises, many hundreds in number. The whole sea was 
in places furrowed by them ; and a most extraordinary spectacle 
was presented, as hundreds, proceeding together by jumps, in 
which their whole bodies were exposed, thus cut the Water. When 
the ship was running nine knots an hour, these animals could cross 
and recvoss 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 bellow- 
ing on shore. On a second night we witnessed a splendid scene of 
natural fireworks ; the mast-head and yard-arm-ends shone with 
St. Elmo's light ; and the form of the vane could almost be traced, 
as if it had been rubbed with phosphorus. The sea was so highly 
luminous, that the tracks of the penguins were marked by a fiery 
wake, and the darkness of the sky was momentarily illuminated by 
the most vivid lightning. 

When within the mouth of the river, I was interested by observing 
how slowly the waters of the sea and river mixed. The latter, 
muddy and discoloured, from its less specific gravity, floated on 
the surface of the salt water. This was curiously exhibited in the 


wake of the vessel, where a line of blue water was seen mingling 
in little eddies, with the adjoining fluid. 

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

MALDONADO is situated on the northern bank of the Plata, and 
not very far from the mouth of the estuary. It is a most quiet, 
forlorn, little town; built, as is universally the case in these 
countries, with th"e streets running at right angles to each other, 
and having in the middle a large plaza or square, which, from 
its size, renders the scantiness of the population more evident. It 
possesses scarcely any trade ; the exports being confined to a few 
hides and living cattle. The inhabitants are chiefly landowners, 
together with a few shopkeepers and the necessary tradesmen, 
such as blacksmiths and carpenters, who do nearly all the business 
for a circuit of fifty miles round. The town is separated from 
the river by a band of sand-hillocks, about a mile broad : it is 
surrounded, on all other sides, by an open slightly-undulating 
country, covered by one uniform layer of fine green turf, on which 
countless herds of cattle, sheep, and horses graze. There is very 
little land cultivated even close to the town. A few hedges, made 
of cacti and agave, mark out where some wheat or Indian corn has 
been planted. The features of the country are very similar along 
the whole northern bank of the Plata. The only difference is, that 
here the granitic hills are a little bolder. The scenery is very 
uninteresting; there is scarcely a house, an enclosed piece of 
ground, or even a tree, to give it an air of cheerfulness. Yet, after 
being imprisoned for some time in a ship, there is a charm in the 
unconfined feeling of walking over boundless plains of turf. 
Moreover, if your view is limited to a small space, many objects 
possess beauty. Some of the smaller birds are brilliantly coloured ; 
and the bright green sward, browsed short by the cattle, is orna- 
mented by dwarf flowers, among which a plant, looking like the 
daisy, claimed the place of an old friend. What would a florist say 
to whole tracts so thickly covered by the Verbena melindres, as, 
even at a distance, to appear of the most gaudy scarlet ? 

I staid ten weeks at Maldoiiado, in which time a nearly perfect 


collection of the animals, birds, and reptiles, was procured. Before 
making any observations respecting them, I will give an account of 
a little excursion I made as far as the river Polanco, which is about 
seventy miles distant, in a northerly direction. I may mention, as 
a proof how cheap everything is in this country, that I paid 
only two dollars a day, or eight shillings, for two men, together 
with a troop of about a dozen riding-horses. My companions were 
well armed 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 Mo ate Video had been found dead 
on the road, with his throat cut. This happened close to a cross, 
the record of a former murder. 

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

40 MALDOX.VDO. [CHAP. ni. 

He eyed me with much suspicion; perhaps he had heard of ablu- 
tions in the Mahomedan religion, and knowing me to be a heretick, 
probably he came to the conclusion that all hereticks were Turks. 
It is the general custom in this country to ask for a night's lodging 
at the first convenient house. The astonishment at the compass, 
and my other feats of jugglery, was to a certain degree advantage- 
ous, as with that, and the long stories my guides told of my 
breaking stones, knowing venomous from harmless snakes, collect- 
ing insects, etc., I repaid them for their hospitality. I am writing 
as if I had been among the inhabitants of central Africa : Banda 
Oriental would not be flattered by the comparison ; but such were 
my feelings at the time. 

The next day we rode to the village of Las Miiias. The country 
was rather more hilly, but otherwise continued the same; an 
inhabitant of the Pampas no doubt would have considered it as 
truly Alpine. The country is so thinly inhabited, that during the 
whole day we scarcely met a single person. Las Minas is much 
smaller even than Maldonado. It is seated on a little plain, and is 
surrounded by low rouky mountains. It is of the usual symmetri- 
cal form ; and with its whitewashed church standing in the centre, 
had rather a pretty appearance. The outskirting houses rose out 
of the plain like isolated beings, without the accompaniment of 
gardens or courtyards. This is generally the case in the country, 
and all the houses have, in consequence, an uncomfortable aspect. 
At night we stopped at a pulperia, or drinking-shop. During 
the evening a great number of Gauchos came in to drink spirits 
and smoke cigars: their appearance is very striking; they are 
generally tall and handsome, but with a proud and dissolute 
expression of countenance. They frequently wear their moustaches 
and long black hair curling down their backs. With their brightly 
coloured garments, great spurs clanking about their heels, and 
knives stuck as daggers (and often so used) at their waists, they 
look a very different race of men from what might be expected 
from their name of Gauchos, or simple countrymen. Their polite- 
ness is excessive ; they never drink their spirits without expecting 
you to taste it; but whilst making their exceedingly graceful 
bow, they seem quite as ready, if occasion offered, to cut your 

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 (Strutbio rbea). Some of tbe flocks 
contained as many as twenty or thirty birds. These, when standing 
on any little eminence, and seen against the clear sky, presented a 
very noble appearance. I never met with such tame ostriches in 
any other part of the country : it was easy to gallop up within a 
short distance of them; but then, expanding their wings, they made 
all sail right before the wind, and soon left the horse astern. 

At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a rich 
lauded proprietor, but not personally known to either of my com- 
panions. On approaching the house of a stranger, it is usual to 
follow several little points of etiquette : riding up slowly to the door, 
the salutation of Ave Maria is given, and until somebody comes out 
and asks you to alight, it is not customary even to get off your 
horse : the formal answer of the owner is, " sin pecado concebida " 
that is, conceived without sin. Having entered the house, some 
general conversation is kept up for a few minutes, till permission 
is asked to pass the night there. This is granted as a matter of 
course. The stranger then takes his meals with the family, and a 
room is assigned him, where with the horsecloths belonging to his 
recado (or saddle of the Pampas) he makes his bed. It is curious 
how similar circumstances produce such similar results in manners. 
At the Cape of Good Hope the same hospitality, and very nearly the 
same points of etiquette, are universally observed. The difference, 
however, between the character of the Spaniard and that of the 
Dutch boer is shown, by the former never asking his guest a single 
question beyond the strictest rule of politeness, whilst the honest 
Dutchman demands where he has been, where he is going, what is 
his business, and even how many brothers, sisters, or children he 
may happen to have. 

Shortly after our arrival at Don Juan's, one of the large herds 
of cattle was driven in towards the house, and three beasts were 
picked out to be slaughtered for the supply of the establishment. 
These half-wild cattle are very active; and knowing full well the 
fatal lazo, they led the horses a long and laborious chase. After 
witnessing the rude wealth displayed in the number of cattle, men, 
and horses, Don Juan's miserable house was quite curious. The 
floor consisted of hardened mud, and the windows were without 
glass ; the sitting-room boasted only of a few of the roughest chairs 
and stools, with a couple of tables. The supper, although several 
strangers were present, consisted of two huge piles, one of roast 

42 MALDONADO. [CHAP. irt. 

beef, the other of boiled, with some pieces of pumpkin : besides this 
latter there was no other vegetable, arid 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 laud, 
of which nearly every acre would produce corn, and, with a little 
trouble, all the common vegetables. The evening was spent in 
smoking, with a little impromptu singing, accompanied by the 
guitar. The signoritas all sat together in one corner of the room, 
and did not sup with the men. 

So many works have been Avritten about these countries, that it 
is almost superfluous to describe either the lazo or the bolas. The 
lazo consists of a very strong, but thin, well-plaited rope, made 
of raw hide. One end is attached to the broad surcingle, which 
fastens together the complicated gear of the recado, or saddle used 
in the Pampas ; the other is terminated by a small ring of iron or 
brass, by which a noose can be formed. The Gaucho, when he is 
going to use the lazo, keeps a small coil in his bridle-hand, and in 
the other holds the running noose, which is made very large, gene- 
rally having a diameter of about eight feet. This he whirls round 
his head, and by the dexterous movement of his wrist keeps the 
noose open ; then, throwing it, he causes it to fall on any particular 
spot he chooses. The lazo, when not used, is tied up in a small 
coil to the after part of the recado. The bolas, or balls, are of two 
kinds : the simplest, which is chiefly used for catching ostriches, 
consists of two round stones, covered with leather, and tinited by a 
thin plaited thong, about eight feet long. The other kind differs 
only in having three balls united by the thongs to a common centre. 
The Gaucho holds the smallest of the three in his hand, and whirls 
the other two round and round his head; then, taking aim, sends 
them like chain shot revolving through the air. The balls no 
sooner strike any object, than, winding round it, they cross each 
other, and become firmly hitched. The size and weight of the balls 
varies, according to the purpose for which they are made : when of 
stone, although not larger than an apple, they are sent with such 
force as sometimes to break the leg even of a horse. I have seen 
the balls made of wood, and as large as a turnip, for the sake of 
catching these animals without injuring them. The balls are some- 
times made of iron, and these can be hurled to the greatest distance. 
The main difficulty in using either lazo or bolas is to ride so well 
as to be able at full speed, and while suddenly turning about, to 


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

During the two succeeding days, I reached the furthest point 
which I was anxious to examine. The country wore the same 
aspect, till at last the fine green turf became more wearisome than 
a dusty turnpike road. We everywhere saw great numbers of 
partridges (Nothura major). These birds do not go in coveys, nor 
do they conceal themselves like the English kind. It appears a 
very silly bird. A man on horseback by riding rouud and round 
in a circle, or rather in a spire, so as to approach closer each time, 
may knock on the head as many as he pleases. The more common 
method is to catch them with a running noose, or little lazo, made 
of the stem of an ostrich's feather, fastened to the end of a long 
stick. A boy on a quiet old horse will frequently thus catch thirty 
or forty in a day. In Arctic North America * the Indians catch 
the Varying Hare by walking spirally round and round it, when on 
its form : the middle of the day is reckoned the best time, when the 
sun is high, and the shadow of the hunter not very long. 

On our return to Maldonado, we followed rather a different line 
of road. Near Pan cle Azucar, a landmark well known to all those 
who have sailed up the Plata, I stayed a day at the house of a most 
hospitable old Spaniard. Early in the morning we ascended the 
Sierra de las Aninias. By the aid of the rising sun the scenery was 
almost picturesque. To the westward the view extended over an 
immense level plain as far as the Mount, at Monte Video, and to 
the eastward, over the mammillated country of Maldonado. On 
the summit of the mountain there were several small heaps of 
stones, which evidently had lain there for many years. My com- 
panion assured me that they were the work of the Indians in the 
old time. The heaps were similar, but on a much smaller scale, to 
* Heavne's Journey, p. 383. 

44 MALDOXADO. [CUAP. ill. 

those so commonly found on the mountains of Wales. The desire 
to signalize any event, on the highest point of the neighbouring 
laud, seems an universal passion with mankind. At the present 
day, not a single Indian, either civilized or wild, exists in this part 
of the province ; nor am I aware that the former inhabitants have 
left behind them any more permanent records than these insignifi- 
cant piles on the summit of the Sierra de las Animas. 

The general, and almost entire absence of trees in Banda Oriental 
is remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are partly covered by 
thickets, and on the banks of the larger streams, especially to the 
north of Las Miuas, willow-trees are not uncommon. Near the 
Arroyo Tapes I heard of a wood of palms; and one of these trees, 
of considerable size, I saw near the Pan de Azucar, in lat. 35". 
These, and the trees planted by the Spaniards, offer the only excep- 
tions to the general scarcity of wood. Among the introduced kinds 
may be enumerated poplars, olives, peach, and other fruit trees : the 
peaches succeed so well, that they afford the main supply of fire- 
wood to the city of Buenos Ayres. Extremely level countries, such 
as the Pampas, seldom appear favourable to the growth of trees. 
This may possibly be attributed either to the force of the winds, or 
the kind of drainage. In the nature of the land, however, around 
Maldouado, no such reason is apparent ; the rocky mountains afford 
protected situations, enjoying various kinds of soil ; streamlets of 
water are common at the bottoms of nearly every valley; and the 
clayey nature of the earth seems adapted to retain moisture. It 
has been inferred with much probability, that the presence of 
woodland is generally determined * by the annual amount of 
moisture; yet in this province abundant and heavy rain falls 
during the winter; and the summer, though dry, is not so in any 
excessive degree.f We see nearly the whole of Australia covered 
by lofty trees, yet that country possesses a far more arid climate. 
Hence we must look to some other and unknown cause. 

Confining our view to South America, we should certainly be 
tempted to believe that trees flourished only under a very humid 
climate ; for the limit of the forest-land follows, in a most remark- 
able manner, that of the damp winds. In the southern part of the 

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

t Azara says, " Je crois que la quantite annuelle des pluies cst, dans 
toutcs rr-s enntivc*, plus considerable qu'en Espagne." Vol. i. p. 36. 


continent, whore the western gales, charged witli 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 tho eastern side of the Cordillera, 
over the same extent of latitude, where a blue sky and a fine climate 
prove that the atmosphere has been deprived of its moisture by 
passing over the mountains, the arid plains of Patagonia support a 
most scanty vegetation. In the more northern parts of the con- 
tinent, 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 D S., may be described as a 
desert : on this western coast, northward of lat. 4 S., where tho 
trade-wind loses its regularity, and heavy torrents of rain fall 
periodically, tho shores of the Pacific, so utterly desert in Peru, 
assume near Cape Blanco the character of luxuriance so celebrated 
at Guyaquil and Panama. Hence in the southern and northern 
parts of the continent, the forest and desert lands occupy reversed 
positions with respect to the Cordillera, and these positions are 
apparently determined by the direction of the prevalent winds. 
In the middle of the continent there is a broad intermediate band, 
including central Chile and the provinces of La Plata, where the 
rain-bringing winds have not to pass over lofty mountains, and 
where the land is neither a desert nor covered by forests. But 
even the rule, if confined to South America, of trees flourishing 
only in a climate rendered humid by rain-bearing winds, has a 
strongly marked exception in the case of the Falkland Islands. 
These islands, situated in the same latitude with Tierra del Fuego 
and only between two and three hundred miles distant -from it, 
having a nearly similar climate, with a geological formation almost 
identical, with favourable situations and the same kind of peaty 
soil, yet can boast of few plants deserving even the title of bushes; 
whilst in Tierra del Fuego it is impossible to find an acre of land 
not covered by the densest forest. In this case, both the direction 
of the heavy gales of wind and of the currents of the sea are favour- 
able to the transport of seeds from Tierra del Fuego, as is shown 
by the canoes and trunks of trees drifted from that country, and 
frequently thrown on the shores of the Western Falkland. Hence 
perhaps it is, that there are many plants in common to the two 
countries; but with respect to the trees of Tierra del Fuego, even 
attempts made to transplant them have failed. 


During our stay at Maldonaclo I collected several quadrupeds, 
eighty kinds of birds, and many reptiles, including nine species of 
snakes. Of the indigenous mammalia, the only one now left of any 
size, which is common, is the Cervus campestris. This deer is 
exceedingly abundant, often in small herds, throughout the 
countries bordering the Plata and in Northern Patagonia. If a 
person crawling close along the ground, slowly advances towards a 
herd, the deer frequently, out of curiosity, approach to reconnoitre 
him. I have by this means killed, from one spot, three out of the 
same herd. Although so tame and inquisitive, yet when approached 
on horseback, they are exceedingly wary. In this country nobody 
goes on foot, and the deer knows man as its enemy only when he is 
mounted and armed with the bolas. At Bahia Blanca, a recent 
establishment in Northern Patagonia, I was surprised to find how 
little the deer cared for the noise of a gun : one day I fired ten 
times from within eighty yards at one animal ; and it was much 
more startled at the ball cutting up the ground than at the report 
of the rifle. My powder being exhausted, I was obliged to get up 
(to my shame as a sportsman be it spoken, though well able to kill 
birds on the wing) and halloo till the deer ran away. 

The most curious fact with respect to this animal, is the over- 
poweringly strong and offensive odour which proceeds from the 
buck. It is quite indescribable : several times whilst skinning the 
specimen which is now mounted at the Zoological Museum, I was 
almost overcome by nausea. I tied up the skin in a silk pocket- 
handkerchief, and so carried it home: this handkerchief, after 
being well washed, I continually used, and it was of course as 
repeatedly washed ; yet every time, for a space of one year and 
seven montbs, when first unfolded, I distinctly perceived the odour. 
This appears an astonishing instance of the permanence of some 
matter, which nevertheless in its nature nmst be most subtile and 
volatile. Frequently, when passing at the distance of half a mile 
to leeward of a herd, I have perceived the whole air tainted with 
the effluvium. I believe the smell from the buck is most powerful 
at the period when its horns are perfect, or free from the hairy 
skin. When in this state the meat is, of course, quite uneatable ; 
but the Gauchos assert, that if buried for some time in fresh earth, 
the taint is removed. I have somewhere read that the islanders in 
the north of Scotland treat the rank carcasses of the fish-eating 
birds in the same manner. 


The order Rodentia is here very numerous in species : of mice 
alone I obtained no less than eight kinds.* The largest gnawing 
animal in the world, the Hydrochserus capybara (the water-hog), is 
here also common. One which I shot at Monte Video weighed 
ninety-eight pounds : its length, from the end of the snout to the 
stump-like tail, was three feet two inches ; and its girth three feet 
eight. These great Rodents occasionally frequent the islands in 
the mouth of the Plata, where the water is quite salt, but are far 
more abundant on the borders of fresh-water lakes and rivers. 
Near Maldonado three or four generally live together. In the day- 
time they either lie among the aquatic plants, or openly feed on the 
turf plain.f When viewed at a distance, from their manner of 
walking and colour they resemble pigs : but when seated on their 
haunches, and attentively watching any object with one eye, they 
reassume the appearance of their congeners, cavies and rabbits. 
Both the front and side view of their head has quite a ludicrous 
aspect, from the great depth of their jaw. These animals, at 
Maldonado, were very tame ; by cautiously walking, I approached 
within three yards of four old ones. This tameness may probably 
bo accounted for, by the Jaguar having been banished for some 
years, and by the Gaucho not thinking it worth his while to hunt 
them. As I approached nearer and nearer they frequently made 
their peculiar noise, which is a low abrupt grunt, not having much 
actual sound, but rather arising from the sudden expulsion of air : 
the only noise I know at all like it, is the first hoarse bark of a 
large dog. Having watched the four from almost within arm's 
length (and they me) for several minutes, they rushed into the 
water at full gallop with the greatest impetuosity, and emitted at 
the same time their bark. After diving a short distance they came 
again to the surface, but only just showed the upper part of their 

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

t In the stomach and duodenum of a capybara which I opened, I 
found a very large quantity of a thin yellowish fluid, in which scarcely a 
fibre could be distinguished. Mr. Owen informs me that a part of the 
rcsophagus 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 ou which it feeds. 

48 MALDONADO. [fii.\r. HI. 

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 Eio Parana they are 
exceedingly abundant, and afford the ordinary prey to the Jaguar. 
The Tucutuco (Ctenomys Brasiliensis) is a curious small animal, 
which may be briefly described as a Gnawer, with the habits of a 
mole. It is extremely numerous in some parts of the country, but 
is difficult to be procured, and never, I believe, comes out of the 
ground. It throws up at the mouth of its burrows hillocks of earth 
like those of the mole, but smaller. Considerable tracts of country 
are so completely undermined by these animals, that horses in 
passing over, sink above their fetlocks. The tucutucos appear, to 
a certain degree, to be gregarious : the man who procured the 
specimens for me had caught six together, and he said this was a 
common occurrence. They are nocturnal in their habits ; and their 
principal food is the roots of plants, which are the object of their 
extensive and superficial burrows. This animal is universally 
known by a very peculiar noise which it makes when beneath the 
ground. A person, the first time he hears it, is nmch surprised ; 
for it is not easy to tell whence it conies, 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 imita- 
tion of the sound. Where this animal is abundant, it may be heard 
at all times of the day, and sometimes directly beneath one's feet. 
When kept in a room, the tucutucos move both slowly and clumsily, 
which appears owing to the outward action of their hind legs; and 
they are quite incapable, from the socket of the thigh-bone not 
having a certain ligament, of jumping even the smallest vertical 
height. They are very stupid in making any attempt to escape ; 
when angry or frightened they uttered the tucu-tuco. Of those I 
kept alive several, even the first day, became quite tame, not 
attempting to bite or to run away ; others were a little wilder. 

* At the E. 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 Maklonado 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 sometime? remained 
in doubt concerning it. 

1832*3.] THE TUCUTUCO. 49 

The man who caught them asserted that very many are inva- 
riably found blind. A specimen which I preserved in spirits was 
in this state ; Mr. Eeid considers it to be the effect of inflammation 
in the nictitating membrane. When the animal was alive I placed 
my finger within half an inch of its head, and not the slightest 
notice was taken : it made its way, however, about the room nearly 
as well as the others. Considering the strictly subterranean habits 
of the tucutuco, the blindness, though so common, cannot be a very 
serious evil ; yet it appears strange that any animal should possess 
an organ frequently subject to be injured. Lamarck would have 
been delighted with this fact, had he known it, when speculating * 
(probably with more truth than usual with him) on the 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 rudi- 
mentary state, and is covered by a tendinous membrane and skin. 
In the common mole the eye is extraordinarily small but perfect, 
though many anatomists doubt whether it is connected with the 
true optic nerve ; its vision must certainly be imperfect, though 
probably useful to the animal when it leaves its burrow. In the 
tucutuco, which I believe never comes to the surface of the ground, 
the eye is rather larger, but often rendered blind and useless, though 
without apparently causing any inconvenience to the animal ; no 
doubt Lamarck would have said that the tucutuco is now passing 
into the state of the Aspalax and Proteus. 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the undulating 
grassy plains around Maldonado. There are several species of a 
family allied in structure and manners to our Starling: one of 
these (Molothrus niger) is remarkable from its habits. Several 
may often be seen standing together on the back of a cow or horse ; 
and while perched on a hedge, pluming themselves in the sun, they 
sometimes attempt to sing, or rather to hiss; the noise being very 
peculiar, resembling that of bubbles of air passing rapidly from a 
small orifice under water, so as to produce an acute sound. Accord- 
ing to Azara, this bird, like the cuckoo, deposits its eggs in other 
birds' nests. I was several times told by the country people that 
there certainly is some bird having this habit ; and my assistant 
in collecting, who is a very accurate person, found a nest of the 
sparrow of this country (Zouotrichia matutina), with one egg in it 
* Philosoph. Zoolog., torn. i. p. 242. 


50 MALDONADO. tciiAi'. ni. 

larger than the others, and of a different colour and shape. In 
North America there is another species of Molothrus (M. pecoris), 
which has a similar cuckoo-like habit, and which is most closely 
allied in every respect to the species from the Plata, even in such 
trifling peculiarities as standing on the backs of cattle ; it differs 
only in being a little smaller, and in its plumage and eggs being 
of a slightly different shade of colour. This close agreement in 
structure and habits, in representative species coming from opposite 
quarters of a great continent, always strikes one as interesting, 
though of common occurrence. 

Mr. Swainson has well remarked,* that with the exception of the 
Molothrus pecoris, to which must be added the M. niger, the 
citckoos are the only birds which can be called truly parasitical : 
namely, such as " fasten themselves, as it were, on another living 
animal, whose animal heat brings their young into life, whose food 
they live upon, and whose death would cause theirs during the 
period of infancy." It is remarkable that some of the species, but 
not all, both of the Cuckoo and Molothrus should agree in this one 
strange habit of their parasitical propagation, whilst opposed to each 
other in almost every other habit : the molothrus, like our starling, 
is eminently sociable, and lives on the open plains without art or 
disguise : the cuckoo, as every one knows, is a singularly shy bird; 
it frequents the most retired thickets, and feeds on fruit and cater- 
pillars. In structure also these two genera are widely removed 
from each other. Many theories, even phrenological theories, have 
been advanced to explain the origin of the cuckoo laying its eggs 
in other birds' nests. M. Prevost alone, I think, has thrown light 
by his observations f on this puzzle : he finds that the female 
cuckoo, which, according to most observers, lays at least from four 
to six eggs, must pair with the male each time after laying only 
one or two eggs. Now, if the cuckoo was obliged to sit on her own 
eggs, she would either have to sit on all together, and therefore 
leave those first laid so long, that they probably would become 
addled ; or she would have to hatch separately each egg or two 
eggs, as soon as laid : but as the cuckoo stays a shorter time in 
this country than any other migratory bird, she certainly would 
not have time enough for the successive hatchings. Hence we can 
perceive in the fact of the cuckoo pairing several times, and laying 

* Magazine of Zoology ami Botany, vol. i. p. 217. 

t Kead before the Academy of Sciences in Puris. L'luslitut, 1834, p. 418. 


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

I will mention only two other birds, which are very common, 
and render themselves prominent from their habits. The Sauro- 
phagus sulphuratus is typical of the great American tribe of 
tyrant-flycatchers. In its structure it closely approaches the true 
shrikes, but in its habits may be compared to many birds. I have 
frequently observed it, hunting a field, hovering over one spot like 
a hawk, and then proceeding on to another. When seen thus 
suspended in the air, it might very readily at a short distance be 
mistaken for one of the Eapacious order ; its stoop, however, is 
very inferior in force and rapidity to that of a hawk. At other 
times the Saurophagus haunts the neighbourhood of water, and 
there, like a kingfisher, remaining stationary, it catches any small 
fish which may come near the margin. These birds are not un- 
frequently kept either in cages or in courtyards, with their wiugs 
cut. They soon become tame, and are very amusing from their 
cunning odd manners, which were described to me as being similar 
to those of the common magpie. Their flight is uudulatory, for the 
weight of the head and bill appears 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 (Mimus orpheus), called by the inhabitants 
Calandria, is remarkable, from possessing a song far superior to 
that of any other bird in the country : indeed, it is nearly the only 
bird in South America which I have observed to take its stand for 
the purpose of singing. The song may be compared to that of the 
Sedge warbler, but is more powerful ; some harsh notes and some 
very high ones, being mingled with a pleasant warbliug. It is 
heard only during the spring. At other times its cry is harsh and 


far from harmonious. Near Maldouado these birds were tame and 
bold ; they constantly attended the country houses in numbers, to 
pick the meat which was hung up on the posts or walls : if any 
other small bird joined the feast, the Calandria soon chased it away. 
On the wide uninhabited plains of Patagonia another closely allied 
species, 0. Patagouica of d'Orbigny, which frequents the valleys 
clothed with spiny bushes, is a wilder bird, and has a slightly 
different tone of voice. It appears to me a curious circumstance, 
as showing the fine shades of difference in habits, that judging 
from this latter respect alone, when I first saw this second species, 
I thought it was different from the Maldonado kind. Having 
afterwards procured a specimen, and comparing the two without 
particular care, they appeared so very similar, that I changed my 
opinion ; but now Mr. Gould says that they are certainly distinct ; 
a conclusion in conformity with the trifling difference of habit, of 
which, however, he was not aware. 

The number, tameness, and disgusting habits of the carrion- 
feeding hawks of South America make them pre-eminently striking 
to any one accustomed only to the birds of Northern Europe. In 
this list may be included four species of the Caracara or Polyborus, 
the Turkey buzzard, the Gallinazo, and the Condor. The Caracaras 
are, from their structure, placed among the eagles : we shall soon 
see how ill they become so high a rank. In their habits they well 
supply the place of our carrion-crows, magpies, and ravens ; a tribe 
of birds widely distributed over the rest of the world, but entirely 
absent in South America. To begin with the Polyborus Brasiliensis : 
this is a common bird, and has a wide geographical range ; it is 
most numerous on the grassy savannahs of La Plata (where it goes 
by the name of Carrancha), and is far from unfrequent throughout 
the sterile plains of Patagonia. In the desert between the rivers 
Negro and Colorado, numbers constantly attend the line of road to 
devour the carcasses of the exhausted animals which chance to 
perish from fatigue and thirst. Although thus common in these 
dry and open countries, and likewise on the arid shores of the 
Pacific, it is nevertheless found inhabiting the damp impervious 
forests of West Patagonia and Tierra del Fucgo. The Carrauchas, 
together with the Chimango, constantly attend in numbers the 
estaucias and slaughtering-houses. If an animal dies on the plain 
the Gallinazo commences the feast, and then the two species of 
Polyborus pick the bones clean. These birds, although thus com 

1832-3.] OAJIRION HAWKS. 53 

monly 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 bot- 
tom of the curve to strike its larger relative. The Carrancha takes 
little notice, except by bobbing its head. Although the Carranchas 
frequently assemble in numbers, they are not gregarious ; for in 
desert places they may be seen solitary, or more commonly by pairs. 
The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal great 
numbers of eggs. They attempt, also, together with the Chimango, 
to pick off the scabs from the sore backs of horses and mules. The 
poor animal, on the one hand, with its ears down and its back 
arched ; and, on the other, the hovering bird, eyeing at the distance 
of a yard the disgusting morsel, form a picture, which has been 
described by Captain Head with his own peculiar spirit and ac- 
curacy. These false eagles most rarely kill any living bird or 
animal ; and their vulture-like, necrophagous habits are very evi- 
dent to any one who has fallen asleep on the desolate plains of 
Patagonia, for when he wakes, he will see, on each surrounding 
hillock, one of these birds patiently watching him with an evil eye : 
it is a feature in the landscape of these countries, which will be 
recognise! by every one who has wandered over them. If a party 
of men go out hunting with dogs and horses, they will be accom- 
panied, during the day, by several of these attendants. After 
feeding, the uncovered craw protrudes ; at such times, and indeed 
generally, the Carrancha is an inactive, tame, and cowardly bird. 
Its flight is heavy and slow, like that of an English rook. It seldom 
soars ; but I have twice seen one at a great height gliding through 
the air with much ease. It runs (in contradistinction to hopping), 
but not quite so quickly as some of its congeners. At times the 
Carrancha is noisy, but is not generally so : its cry is loud, very 
harsh and peculiar, and may be likened to the sound of the Spanish 
guttural g, followed by a rough double r r ; when uttering this cry 
it elevates its head higher and higher, till at last, with its beak 
wide open, the crown almost touches the lower part of the back. 
This fact, which has been doubted, is quite true; I have seen them 
several times with their heads backwards in a completely inverted 
position. To these observations I may add, on the high authority 
of Azara, that the Carrancha feeds on worms, shells, slugs, grass- 
hoppers, and frogs ; that it destroys young lambs by tearing the um- 

5-1 MALDOXADO. [CHAP. in. 

bilicnl cord ; and that it pursues the Gallinazo, till that bird is com- 
pelled to vomit up the carrion it may have recently gorged. Lastly, 
Azara states that several Carranchas, five or six together, will unite 
in chase of large birds, even such as herons. All these facts show 
that it is a bird of very versatile habits and considerable ingenuity. 
The Polyborus Chimango is considerably smaller than the last 
species. It is truly omnivorous, and will eat even bread ; and I was 
assured that it materially injures the potato-crops in Chiloe, by 
stocking up the roots when first planted. Of all the carrion-feeders 
it is generally the last which leaves the skeleton of a dead animal 
and may often be seen within the ribs of a cow or horse, like a bird 
in a cage. Another species is the Polyborus Nova? Zelandirc, 
which is exceedingly common in the Falkland Islands. These birds 
in many respects resemble in their habits the Carranchas. They 
live on the flesh of dead animals and on marine productions ; and 
on the Eamirez rocks their whole sustenance must depend on the 
sea. They are extraordinarily tame and fearless, and haunt the 
neighbourhood of houses for offal. If a hunting party kills an 
animal, a number soon collect and patiently await, standing on the 
ground on all sides. After eating, their uncovered craws are largely 
protruded, giving them a disgusting appearance. They readily 
attack wounded birds : a cormorant in this state having taken to 
the shore, was immediately seized on by several, and its death 
hastened by their blows. The Beagle was at the Falklands only 
during the summer, but the officers of the Adventure, who were 
there in the winter, mention many extraordinary instances of the 
boldness and rapacity of these birds. They actually pounced on a 
dog that was lying fast asleep close by one of the party ; and the 
sportsmen Imd difficulty in preventing the wounded geese from 
being seized before their eyes. It is said that several together (in 
this respect resembling the Carranchas) wait at the mouth of a 
rabbit-hole, and together seize on the animal when it comes out. 
They were constantly flying on board the vessel when in the 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 
stern. These birds are very mischievous and inquisitive; they will 
pick up almost anything from the ground ; a large black glazed hat 
was carried nearly a mile, as was a pair of the heavy balls used in 
catching cattle. Mr. Usborne experienced during the survey a 
more severe loss, in their stealing a small Eater's compass in a red 


morocco leather case, which was never recovered. These birds arc, 
moreover, quarrelsome and very passionate ; tearing up the grass 
with their bills from rage. They are not truly gregarious ; they do 
not soar, and their flight is heavy and clumsy ; on the ground they 
run extremely fast, very much like pheasants. They are noisy, 
uttering several harsh cries, one of which is like that of the Eng- 
lish rook ; hence the sealers always call them rooks. It is a curious 
circumstance that, when crying out, they throw their heads up- 
wards and backwards, after the same manner as the Carrancha. 
They build in the rocky cliffs of the sea-coast, but only on the small 
adjoining islets, and not on the two main islands : this is a singular 
precaution in so tame and fearless a bird. The sealers say that tho 
flesh of these birds, when cooked, is quite white, and very good 
eating ; but bold must the man be who attempts such a meal. 

We have now only to mention the turkey-buzzard (Vultur aura), 
and the Gallinazo. The former is found wherever the country is 
moderately damp, from Cape Horn to North America. Differently 
from thePolyborus Brasiliensis and Chimango, it has found its way 
to the Falkland Islands. The turkey-buzzard is a solitary bird, or 
at most goes in pairs. It may at once be recognised from a long 
distance, by its lofty, soaring, and most elegant flight. It is well 
known to be a true carrion-feeder. On the west coast of Patagonia, 
among the thickly- wooded islets and broken land, it lives exclusively 
on what the sea throws up, and on tho carcasses of dead seals. 
Wherever these animals are congregated on the rocks, there tho 
vultures may be seen. The Gallinazo (Cathartes atratus) has a 
different range from the last species, as it never occurs southward 
of lat. 41. Azara states that there exists a tradition that these 
birds, at the time of the conquest, were not found near Monto 
Video, but that they subsequently followed the inhabitants from 
more northern districts. At the present day they are numerous in 
the valley of the Colorado, which is three hundred miles due south 
of Monte Video. It seems probable that this additional migration 
has happened since the time of Azara. The Gallinazo generally 
prefers a humid climate, or rather the neighbourhood of fresh 
water; hence it is extremely abundant in Brazil and La Plata, 
while it is never found on the desert and arid plains of Northern 
Patagonia, excepting near some stream. These birds frequent the 
whole Pampas to the foot of the Cordillera, but I never saw or 
heard of one in Chile: in Peru they are preserved as scavengers. 


These vultures certainly may be called gregarious, for they seem 
to have pleasure in society, and are not solely brought together by 
the attraction of a common prey. On a fine day a flock may often 
be observed at a great height, each bird wheeling round and round 
without closing its wings, in the most graceful evolutions. This is 
clearly performed for the mere pleasure of the exercise, or perhaps 
is connected with their matrimonial alliances. 

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

In a broad band of sand-hillocks which separate the Laguua 
del Potrero from the shores of the Plata, at the distance of a few 
miles from Maldonado, I found a group of those vitrified, siliceous 
tubes, which are formed by lightning entering loose sand. These 
tub?s resemble in every particular those from Drigg in Cumber- 
land, described in the Geological Transactions.* The sand- 
hillocks of Maldonado, not being protected by vegetation, arc 
constantly changing their position. From this cause the tubes 
projected above the surface, and numerous fragments lying near, 
showed that they had formerly been buried to a greater depth. 
Four sets entered the sand perpendicularly : by working with my 
hands I traced one of them two feet deep ; and some fragments 
which evidently had belonged to the same tube, when added to the 
other part, measured five feet three inches. The diameter of the 
whole tube was nearly equal, and therefore we must suppose that 
originally it extended to a much greater depth. These dimensions 
are however small, compared to those of the tubes from Drigg, one 
of which was traced to a depth of not less than thirty feet. 

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

* 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. 


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 Geological Transactions, the tubes 
are generally compressed, and have deep longitudinal furrows, so 
as closely to resemble a shrivelled vegetable stalk, or the bark of 
the elm or cork tree. Their circumference is about two inches, 
but in some fragments, which are cylindrical and without any 
furrows, it is as much as four inches. The compression from the 
surrounding loose sand, acting while the tube was still softened 
from the effects of the intense heat, has evidently caused the 
creases or furrows. Judging from the uncompressed fragments, 
the measure or bore of the lightning (if such a term may be used) 
must have been about one inch and a quarter. At Paris, M. 
Hachette and M. Beudant * succeeded in making tubes, in most 
respects similar to these fulgurites, by passing very strong shocks 
of galvinism through finely-powdered glass : when salt was added, 
so as to increase its fusibility, the tubes were larger in every 
dimension. They failed both with powdered felspar and quartz. 
One tube, formed with pounded glass, was very nearly an inch 
long, namely, '982, and had an internal diameter of -019 of an inch. 
When we hear that the strongest battery in Paris was used, and 
that its power on a substance of such easy fusibility as glass was 
to form tubes so diminutive, we must feel greatly astonished at 
the force of a shock of lightning, which, striking the sand in 
several places, has formed cylinders, in one instance of at least 
thirty feet long, and having an internal bore, where not compressed, 
of full an inch and a half; and this in a material so extraordi- 
narily refractory as quartz ! 

The tubes, as I have already remarked, enter the sand nearly 
in a vertical direction. One, however, which was less regular 
than the others, deviated from a right line, at the most consider- 
able bend, to the amount of thirty-three degrees. From this same 
tube, two small branches, about a foot apart, were sent off; one 
pointed downwards, and the other upwards. This latter case is 
remarkable, as the electric fluid must have turned back at the 
acute angle of 26, to the line of its main course. Besides the four 
tubes which I found vertical, and traced beneath the surface, thero 
* Annals de Chinrie et de Physique, torn, xxxvii. p. 319. 


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-hil- 
locks, and at the distance of about half a mile from a chain of hills 
four or five hundred feet in height. The most remarkable circum- 
stance, as it appears to me, in this case as well as in that of Drigg, 
and in one described by M. Eibbentrop in Germany, is the number 
of tubes found within such limited spaces. At Drigg, within an 
area of fifteen yards, three were observed, and the same number 
occurred in Germany. In the case which I have described, 
certainly more than four existed within the space of the sixty by 
twenty yards. As it does not appear probable that the tubes are 
produced by successive distinct shocks, we must believe that the 
lightning, shortly before entering the ground, divides itself into 
separate branches. 

The neighbourhood of the Rio Plata seems peculiarly subject 
to electric phenomena. In the year 1793,* one of the most destruc- 
tive thunderstorms perhaps on record happened at Buenos Ayres : 
thirty-seven places within the city were struck by lightning, and 
nineteen people killed. From facts stated in several books of 
travels, I am inclined to suspect that thunderstorms are very 
common near the mouths of great rivers. Is it not possible that 
the mixture of large bodies of fresh and salt water may disturb the 
electrical equilibrium ? Even during our occasional visits to this 
part of South America, we heard of a ship, two churches, and a house 
having been struck. Both the church and the house I saw shortly 
afterwards : the house belonged to Mr. Hood, the consul-general 
at Monte Video. Some of the effects were curious : the paper, for 
nearly a foot on each side of the line where the bell-wires had run, 
was blackened. The metal had been fused, and although the room 
was about fifteen feet high, the globules, dropping on the chairs 
and furniture, had drilled in them a chain of minute holes. A part 
of the wall was shattered as if by gunpowder, and the fragments 
had been blown off with force sufficient to dent the wall on the 
opposite side of the room. The frame of a looking-glass was 
blackened, and the gilding must have been volatilized, for a 
smelling-bottle, which stood on the chimney-piece, was coated 
with bright metallic particles, which adhered as firmly as if they 
had been enamelled. 

* Azara's Voyage, vol. i. p. 3G. 

18;',;!.] ARRIVE AT RIO XF.DRO. 59 


Rio Negro Estancias attacked by tlie Indians Salt Lakes Flamingoes 
R. Negro to R. Colorado Sacred Tree Patagoniau Hare Indian 
Families General Rosas Proceed to Bahia Blanca Sand Dunes 
Negro Lieutenant Bahia Blanca Saline Incrustations Punta Alia 


July 21th, 1833. The Beagle sailed from Maldonado, and on 
August the 3rd she arrived off the mouth of the Rio Negro. This 
is the principal river on the whole line of coast between the Strait 
of Magellan and the Plata. It enters the sea about three hundred 
miles south of the estuary of the Plata. About fifty years ago, 
under the old Spanish government, a small colony was established 
here ; and it is still the most southern position (lat. 41) on this 
eastern coast of America inhabited by civilized man. 

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

The settlement is situated eighteen miles up the river. The 
road follows the foot of the sloping cliff, which forms the northern 
boundary of the great valley, in which the Rio Negro flows. On 

60 TtlO NEGRO. [CHAP. iv. 

the way we passed the ruins of some fine " estancias," which a few 
years since had been destroyed by the Indians. They withstood 
several attacks. A man present at one gave me a very lively 
description of what took place. The inhabitants had sufficient 
notice to drive all the cattle and horses into the " corral " * which 
surrounded the house, and likewise to mount some small cannon. 
The Indians were Araucanians from the south of Chile ; several 
hundreds in number, and highly disciplined. They first appeared 
in two bodies on a neighbouring hill; having there dismounted, 
and taken off their fur mantles, they advanced naked to the charge. 
The only weapon of an Indian is a very long bamboo or chuzo, 
ornamented with ostrich feathers, and pointed by a sharp spear- 
head. My informer seemed to remember with the greatest horror 
the quivering of these chuzos as they approached near. When 
close, the cacique Pincheira hailed the besieged to give up their 
arms, or he would cut all their throats. As this would probably 
have been the result of their entrance under any circumstances, 
the answer was given by a volley of musketry. The Indians, with 
great steadiness, came to the very fence of the corral : but to their 
surprise they found the posts fastened together by iron nails instead 
of leather thongs, and, of course, in vain attempted to cut them 
with their knives. This saved the lives of the Christians : many 
of the wounded Indians were carried away by their companions ; 
and at last, one of the under caciques being wounded, the bugle 
sounded a retreat. They retired to their horses, and seemed to 
hold a council of war. This was an awful pause for the Spaniards, 
as all their ammunition, with the exception of a few cartridges, 
was expended. In an instant the Indians mounted their horses, 
and galloped out of sight. Another attack was still more quickly 
repulsed. A cool Frenchman managed the gun; he stopped till 
the Indians approached close, and then raked their line with grape- 
shot: ho thus laid thirty-nine of them on the ground; and, of 
course, siich a blow immediately routed the whole party. 

The town is indifferently called El Carmen or Patagones. It is 
built on the face of a cliff which fronts the river, and many of the 
houses are excavated even in the sandstone. The river is about 
two or three hundred yards wide, and is deep and rapid. The 
many islands, with their willow-trees, and the flat headlands, seen 

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


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

One day I rode to a large salt-lake, or Salina, which is distant 
fifteen miles from the town. During the winter it consists of a 
shallow lake of brine, which in summer is converted into a h'eld of 
snow-white salt. The layer near the margin is from four to five 
inches thick, but towards the centre its thickness increases. This 
lake was two and a half miles long, and one broad. Others occur 
in the neighbourhood many times larger, and with a floor of salt, 
two and three feet in thickness, even when under water during the 
winter. One of these brilliantly white and level expanses, in the 
midst of the brown and desolate plain, offers an extraordinary 
spectacle. A large quantity of salt is annually drawn from the 
saliua : and great piles, some hundred tons in weight, were lying 
ready for exportation. The season for working the Salinas forms 
the harvest of Patagones; for on it the prosperity of the place 
depends. Nearly the whole population encamps on the bank of the 
river, and the people are employed in drawing out the salt in 
bullock-waggons. This salt is crystallized in great cubes, and is 
remarkably pure : Mr. Trenham Eeeks has kindly analyzed some 
for me, and he finds in it only 0'26 of gypsum and O22 of earthy 
matter. It is a singular fact, that it does not serve so well for 
* The hovels of the Indians are thus called. 

62 KIO NEGRO. [ciur. iv. 

preserving meat as sea-salt from the Cape cle Verd islands ; and a 
merchant at Buenos Ayres told me that he considered it as fifty 
per cent, less valuable. Hence the Cape de Verd salt is constantly 
imported, and is mixed with that from these salinas. The purity 
of the Patagonian salt, or absence from it of those other saline 
bodies found in all sea-water, is the only assignable cause for this 
inferiority: a conclusion which no one, I think, would have 
suspected, but which is supported by the fact lately ascertained,* 
that those salts answer best for preserving cheese which contain 
most of the deliquescent chlorides. 

The border of the lake is formed of mud : and in this numerous 
large crystals of gypsum, some of which are three inches long, lie 
embedded; whilst on the surface others of sulphate of soda lie 
scattered about. The Gauchos call the former the " Padre del sal," 
and the latter the " Madre ; " they state that these progenitive salts 
always occur on the borders of the salinas, when the water begins 
to evaporate. The mud is black, and has a fetid odour. I could 
not at first imagine the cause of this, but I afterwards perceived 
that the froth which the wind drifted on shore was coloured green, 
as if by conferva : I attempted to carry home some of this green 
matter, but from an accident failed. Parts of the lake seen from a 
short distance appeared of a reddish colour, and this perhaps was 
owing to some infusorial anirnalcula. The mud in many places 
was thrown up by numbers of some kind of worm, or annelidous 
animal. How surprising it is that any creatures should be able to 
exist in brine, and that they should be crawling among crystals of 
sulphate of soda and lime! And what becomes of these worms 
when, during the long summer, the surface is hardened into a solid 
layer of salt ? Flamingoes in considerable numbers inhabit this 
lake, and breed here; throughout Patagonia, in Northern Chile, 
and at the Galapagos Islands, I met with these birds wherever 
there were lakes of brine. I saw them here wading about in search 
of food probably for the worms which burrow in the mud ; and 
these latter probably feed on infusoria or conferva. Thus we have 
a little living world within itself, adapted to these inland lakes of 
brine. A minute crustaceous animal (Cancer salinus) is said f to 

* lleport of the Agricult. Chcra. Assoc. in the Agricult. Gazette, 1815. 
p. 93. 

t Linnsean Trans., vol. xi. p. 205. It is remarkable how all the circum- 
stances connected -with the salt-lakes in Siberia and Patagonia arc 
similar. Siberia, like Patagonia, appears to have been recently elevated 

1833.] 11. NEGRO TO R. COLORADO. 63 

live iu countless numbers in the brine-pans at Lyrniiigton : but 
only in those in which the fluid has attained, from evaporation, 
considerable strength namely, about a quarter of a pound of salt 
to a pint of water. Well may we affirm that every part of the 
world is habitable ! Whether lakes of brine, or those subterranean 
ones hidden beneath volcanic mountains warm mineral springs 
the wide expanse and depths of the ocean the upper regions of 
the atmosphere, and even the surface of perpetual snow all 
support organic beings. 

To the northward of the Eio Negro, between it and the inhabited 
country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have only one small 
settlement, recently established at Bahia Blanca. The distance in 
a straight line to Buenos Ayres is very nearly five hundred British 
miles. The wandering tribes of horse Indians, which have always 
occupied the greater part of this country, having of late much 
' harassed the outlying estaneias, the government at Buenos Ayres 
equipped some time since an army under the command of General 
Rosas for the purpose of exterminating them. The troops were 
now encamped on the banks of the Colorado ; a river lying about 
eighty miles northward of the Rio Negro. "When General Rosas 
left Buenos Ayres he struck in a direct line across the unexplored 
plains : and as the country was thus pretty well cleared of Indians, 
he left behind him, at wide intervals, a small party of soldiers with 
a troop of horses (a posta), so as to be enabled to keep up a com- 
munication with the capital. As the Beagle intended to call at 
Bahia Blanca, I determined to proceed there by land ; and ulti- 
mately I extended my plan to travel the whole way by the postas 
to Buenos Ayres. 

August llth. Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at Patagones, 
a guide, and five Gauchos who were proceeding to the army on 
business, were my companions on the journey. The Colorado, as I 

above the waters of the sea. Iu 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 is mixed 
with lentils of gypsum. The Siberian salt-lakes are inhabited by small 
crustaccous animals ; and flamingoes (Edin. New Philos. Jour., Jan. 1830) 
likewise frequent them. As these circumstances, apparently HO trifling, 
occur in two distant continents, we may feel sure that they are the 
necessary results of common causes. f?ec Pallas' 8 Travels, 1793 to 179-1, 
pp. 129-i:ji. 


have already said, is nearly eighty miles distant : and as we travelled 
slowly, we were two days and a half on the road. The whole line 
of country deserves scarcely a better name than that of a desert. 
Water is found only in two small wells; it is called fresh; but even 
at this time of the year, during the rainy season, it was quite 
brackish. In the summer this must be a distressing passage ; for 
now it was sufficiently desolate. The valley of the Eio Negro, 
broad as it is, has merely been excavated out of the sandstone 
plain ; for immediately above the bank on which the town stands, 
a level country commences, which is interrupted only by a few 
trifling valleys and depressions. Everywhere the landscape wears 
the same sterile aspect ; a dry gravelly soil supports tufts of brown 
withered grass, and low scattered bushes, armed with thorns. 

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a, 
famous tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of Walleechu. 
It is situated on a high part of the plain, and hence is a landmark 
visible at a great distance. As soon as a tribe of Indians come in 
sight of it, they offer their adorations by loud shouts. The tree 
itself is low, much branched, and thorny : just above the root it 
has a diameter of about three feet. It stands by itself without any 
neighbour, and was indeed the first tree we saw ; afterwards we 
met with a few others of the same kind, but they were far from 
common. Being winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place 
numberless threads, by which the various offerings, such as cigars, 
bread, meat, pieces of cloth, etc., had been suspended. Poor 
Indians, not having anything better, only pull a thread out of their 
ponchos, and fasten it to the tree. Kicher Indians are accustomed 
to pour spirits and mate into a certain hole, and likewise to smoke 
upwards, thinking thus to afford all possible gratification to Wal- 
leechu. To complete the scene, the tree was surrounded by the 
bleached bones of horses which had been slaughtered as sacrifices. 
All Indians of every age and sex make their offerings ; they then 
think that their horses will not tire, and that they themselves shall 
be prosperous. The Gaucho who told me this, said that in the 
time of peace he had witnessed this scene, and that he and others 
used to wait till the Indians had passed by, for the sake of stealing 
from Walleechu the offerings. 

The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as the god 
itself, but it seems far more probable that they regard it as the 
altar. The only cause which I can imagine for this choice, is its 


being a landmark in a dangerous passage. The Sierra de la 
Ventana is visible at an immense distance ; and a Gaucho told me 
that he was once riding with an Indian a few miles to the north of 
the Eio Colorado, when the Indian commenced making the same 
loud noise, which is usual at the first sight of the distant tree ; 
putting his hand to his head, and then pointing in the direction of 
the Sierra. Upon being asked the reason of this, the Indian said 
in broken Spanish, "First see the Sierra." About two leagues 
beyond this curious tree we halted for the night : at this instant 
an unfortunate cow was spied by the lynx-eyed Gauchos, who set 
off in full chase, and in a few minutes dragged her in with their 
lazos, and slaughtered her. We here had the four necessaries of 
life " en el campo," pasture for the horses, water (only a muddy 
puddle), meat and firewood. The Gauchos were in high spirits at 
finding all these luxuries ; and we soon set to work at the poor 
cow. This was the first night which I passed under the open sky, 
with the gear of the recado for my bed. There is high enjoyment 
in the independence of the Gaucho life to be able at any moment 
to pull up your horse, and say, " Here we will pass the night." 
The death-like stillness of the plain, the dogs keeping watch, the 
gipsy-group of Gauchos making their beds round the fire, have left 
in my mind a strongly-marked picture of this first night, which 
will never be forgotten. 

The next day the country continued similar to that above de- 
scribed. It is inhabited by few birds or animals of any kind. 
Occasionally a deer, or a Guanaco (wild Llama) may be seen ; but 
the Agouti (Cavia Patagonica) is the commonest quadruped. This 
animal here represents our hares. It differs, however, from that 
genus in many essential respects ; for instance, it has only three 
toes behind. It is also nearly twice tho size, weighing from 
twenty to twenty-five pounds. The Agouti is a true friend of tho 
desert ; it is a common feature in the landscape to see two or three 
hopping quickly one after the other in a straight line across these 
wild plains. They are found as far north as the Sierra Tapalguen 
(lat. 87 30'), where the plain rather suddenly becomes greener and 
more humid ; and their southern limit is between Port Desire and 
St. Julian, where there is no change in the nature of the country. 
It is a singular fact, that although the Agouti is not now found as 
far south as Port St. Julian, yet that Captain Wood, in his voyage 
in 1670, talks of them as being numerous there. What cause can 


have altered, ill a wide, uninhabited, and rarely-visited country, 
the range of an animal like this ? It appears also, from the number 
shot by Captain Wood in one day at Port Desire, that they must 
have been considerably more abundant there formerly than at 
present. Where the Bizcacha lives and makes its burrows, the 
Agouti uses them ; but where, as at Bahia Blanca, the Bizcacha is 
not found, the Agouti burrows for itself. The same thing occurs 
with the little owl of the Pampas (Athene cunicularia), which has 
so often been described as standing like a sentinel at the mouth of 
the burrows ; for in Banda Oriental, owing to the absence of the 
Bizcacha, it is obliged to hollow out its own habitation. 

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

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


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

We stayed two days at the Colorado; I had little to do, for the 
.surrounding country was a swamp, which in summer (December), 
when the snow melts on the Cordillera, is overflowed by the river. 
My chief amusement was watching the Indian families as they camo 
to buy little articles at the rancho where wo stayed. It was sup- 
posed that General Rosas had about six hundred Indian allies. The 
men were a tall, fine race, yet it was afterwards easy to see in the 
Fuegian savage the same countenance rendered hideous by cold, 
want of food, and less civilization. Some authors, in defining the 
primary races of mankind, have separated these Indians into two 
classes ; but this is certainly incorrect. Among the young women 
or chinas, some deserve to be called even beautiful. Their hair was 
coarse, but bright and black ; and they wore it in two plaits hanging 
down to the waist. They had a high colour, and eyes that glistened 
with brilliancy; their legs, feet, and arms were small and elegantly 
formed ; their ankles, and sometimes their waists, were ornamented 
by broad bracelets of blue beads. Nothing could be more inter- 
esting than some of the family groups. A mother with one or two 
daughters would often come to our rancho, mounted on the sarno 
horse. They ride like men, but with their knees tucked up much 
higher. This habit, perhaps, arises from their being accustomed, 
when travelling, to ride the loaded horses. The duty of the women 
is to load and unload the horses ; to make the tents for the night ; 
in short to be, like the wives of all savages, useful slaves. The men 
fight, hunt, take care of the horses, and make the riding gear. One 
of their chief indoor occupations is to knock two stones together 
till they become round, in order to make the bolas. With this 
important weapon the Indian catches his game, and also his horse, 

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


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

General Eosas intimated a wish to see me ; a circumstance which 
I was afterwards very glad of. He is a man of an extraordinary 
character, and has a most predominant influence in the country, 
which it seems probable he will use to its prosperity and advance- 
ment.* He is said to be the owner of seventy- four square leagues of 
land, and to have about three hundred thousand head of cattle. His 
estates are admirably managed, and are far more productive of corn 
than those of others. He first gained his celebrity by his laws for 
his own estancias, and by disciplining several hundred men, so as 
to resist with success the attacks of the Indians. There are many 
stories current about the rigid manner in which his laws were 
enforced. One of these was, that no man, on penalty of being put 
into the stocks, should carry his knife on a Sunday : this being the 
principal day for gambling and drinking, many quarrels arose, 
which from the general manner of fighting with the knife often 
proved fatal. One Sunday the Governor came in great form to pay 
the estancia a visit, and General Eosas, in his hurry, walked out 
to receive him with his knife, as usual, stuck in his belt. The 
steward touched his arm, and reminded him of the law; upon 
which turning to the Governor, he said he was extremely sorry, but 
that he must go into the stocks, and that till let out, he possessed 
no power even in his own house. After a little time the steward 
was 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 

* This prophecy has turned out entirely and miserably wrong. 1845. - 

1833.] GENERAL ROSAS. 69 

stocks." Such actions as these delighted the Gauchos, who all 
possess high notions of their own equality and dignity. 

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

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

In conversation he is enthusiastic, sensible, and very grave. 
His gravity is carried to a high pitch: I heard one of his mad 
buffoons (for he keeps two, like the barons of old) relate the fol- 
lowing anecdote : " I wanted very much to hear a certain piece of 
music, so I went to the general two or three times to ask him ; he 
said to me, ' Go about your business, for I am engaged.' I went a 
second time ; he said, ' If you come again I will punish you.' A 
third time I asked, and he laughed. I rushed out of the tent, but 
it was too late ; he ordered two soldiers to catch and stake me. I 
begged by all the saints in heaven he would let me off; but it would 
not do ; when the general laughs he spares neither mad man nor 
sound." The poor flighty gentleman looked quite dolorous, at the 
very recollection of the staking. This is a very severe punishment ; 
four posts are driven into the ground, and the man is extended by 
his arms and legs horizontally, and there left to stretch for several 
hours. The idea is evidently taken from the usual method of 
drying hides. My interview passed away without a smile, and I 
obtained a passport and order for the government post-horses, and 
this he gave me in the most obliging and ready manner. 


lu the morning we started for Bahia Blanca, which we reached 
in two days. Leaving the regular encampment, we passed by the 
toldos of the Indians. These are round like ovens, and covered 
with hides ; by the month of each, a tapering chuzo was stuck in 
the ground. The toldos were divided into separate groups, which 
belonged to the different caciques' tribes, and the groups were again 
divided into smaller ones, according to the relationship of the 
owners. For several miles we travelled along the valley of the 
Colorado. The alluvial plains on the side appeared fertile, and it 
is supposed that they are well adapted to the growth of corn. 
Turning northward from the river, we soon entered on a country, 
differing from the plains south of the river. The land still con- 
tinued dry and sterile : but it supported many different kinds of 
plants, and the grass, though brown and withered, was more abun- 
dant, as the thorny bushes were less so. These latter in a short 
space entirely disappeared, and the plains were left without a 
thicket to cover their nakedness. This change in the vegetation 
marks the commencement of the grand calcareo argillaceous de- 
posit, which forms the wide extent of the Pampas, and covers the 
granitic rocks of Banda Oriental. From the Strait of Magellan to 
the Colorado, a distance of about eight hundred miles, the face of 
the country is everywhere composed of shingle: the pebbles are 
chiefly of porphyry, and probably owe their origin to the rocks of 
the Cordillera. North of the Colorado this bed thins out, and 
the pebbles become exceedingly small, and here the characteristic 
vegetation of Patagonia ceases. 

Having ridden about twenty-five miles, we came to a broad belt 
of sand-dunes, which stretches, as far as the eye can reach, to the 
cast and west, The sand-hillocks resting on the clay, allow small 
pools of water to collect, and thus afford in this dry country an 
invaluable supply of fresh water. The great advantage arising 
from depressions and elevations of the soil, is not often brought 
home to the mind. The two miserable springs in the long passage 
between the Piio Negro and Colorado were caused by trifling 
inequalities in the plain; without them not a drop of water would 
have been found. The belt of sand-dunes is about eight miles 
wide; at some former period, it probably formed the margin of 
a grand estuary, where the Colorado now flows. In this district, 
where absolute proofs of the recent elevation of the laud occur, 
such speculations can hardly bo neglected by any one, although 


merely considering the physical geography of the country. Having 
crossed the sandy tract, we arrived in the evening at one of the 
post-houses ; and, as the fresh horses were grazing at a distance, 
we determined to pass the night there. 

The house was situated at the base of a ridge, between one and 
two hundred feet high a most remarkable feature in this country. 
This posta was commanded by a negro lieutenant, born in Africa : 
to his credit be it said, there was not a ranche between the Colorado 
and Buenos Ayres in nearly such neat order as his. He had a little 
room for strangers, and a small corral for the horses, all made of 
sticks and reeds ; he had also dug a ditch round his house, as a 
defence in case of being attacked. This would, however, have been 
of little avail, if the Indians had come; but his chief comfort 
seemed to rest in the thought of selling his life dearly. A short 
time before, a body of Indians had travelled past in the night; if 
they had been aware of the posta, our black friend and his four 
soldiers would assuredly have been slaughtered. I did not 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 
cat with us. 

In the morning we sent for the horses very early, and started for 
another exhilarating gallop. We passed the Cabeza del Buey, an 
old name given to the head of a large marsh, which extends from 
Bahia Blanca. Here we changed horses, and passed through some 
leagues of swamps and saline marshes. Changing horses for the 
last time, we again began wading through the mud. My animal 
.fell, and I was well soused in black mire a very disagreeable 
accident, when one does not possess a change of clothes. Some 
miles from the fort we met a man, who told us that a great gun 
had been fired, which is a signal that Indians are near. We 
immediately left the road, and followed the edge of a marsh, which 
when chased offers the best mode of escape. "We were glad to 
arrive within the walls, when we found all the alarm was about 
nothing, for the Indians turned out to be friendly ones, who wished 
to join General Rosas. 

Bahia Blanca scarcely deserves the name of a village. A few 
houses and the barracks for the troops are enclosed by a deep 
ditch and fortified wall. The settlement is only of recent standing 
(since 1828) ; and its growth has been one of trouble. The govern- 
ment of Buenos Ayres unjustly occupied it by force, instead ot 


following the wise example of the Spanish Viceroys, who purchased 
the land near the older settlement of the Rio Negro, from the 
Indians. Hence the need of the fortifications; hence the few 
houses and little cultivated land without the limits of the walls ; 
even the cattle are not safe from the attacks of the Indians beyond 
the boundaries of the plain, on which the fortress stands. 

The part of the harbour where the Beagle intended to anchor 
being distant twenty-five miles, I obtained from the Commandant 
a guide and horses, to take me to see whether she had arrived. 
Leaving the plain of green turf, which extended along the course 
of a little brook, we soon entered on a wide level waste consisting 
either of sand, saline marshes, or bare rnud. Some parts were 
clothed by low thickets, and others with those succulent plants, 
which luxuriate only where salt abounds. Bad as the country 
was, ostriches, deer, agoutis, and armadilloes, were abundant. 
My guide told me, that two mouths before he had a most narrow 
escape of his life : he was out hunting with two other men, at no 
great distance from this part of the country, when they were 
suddenly met by a party of Indians, who giving chase, soon over- 
took and killed his two friends. His own horse's legs were also 
caught by the bolas ; but he jumped off, and with his knife cut 
them free : while doing this he was obliged to dodge round his 
horse, and received two severe wounds from their chuzos. Spring- 
ing on the saddle, he managed, by a most wonderful exertion, just 
to keep ahead of the long spears of his pursuers, who followed him 
to within sight of the fort. From that time there was an order 
that no one should stray far from the settlement. I did not know 
of this when I started, and was surprised to observe how earnestly 
my guide watched a deer, which appeared to have been frightened 
from a distant quarter. 

We found the Beagle had not arrived, and consequently set out 
on our return, but the horses soon tiring, we were obliged to bivouac 
on the plain. In the morning we had caught an armadillo, which, 
although a most excellent dish when roasted in its shell, did not 
make a very substantial breakfast and dinner for two hungry men. 
The ground at the place where we stopped for the night, was 
incrusted with a layer of sulphate of soda, and hence, of course, 
was without water. Yet many of the smaller rodents managed to 
exist even here, and the tucutuco was making its odd little grunt 
beneath my head, during half the night. Our horses were very 


poor ones, and in the morning they were soon exhausted from not 
having had anything to drink, so that we were obliged to walk. 
About noon the dogs killed a kid, which we roasted. I ate some 
of it, but it made me intolerably thirsty. This was the more 
distressing as the road, from some recent rain, was full of little 
puddles of clear water, yet not a drop was drinkable. I had 
scarcely been twenty hours without water, and only part of the 
time under a hot sun, yet the thirst rendered me very weak. How 
people survive two or three days under such 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 phenomenon is quite different from that 
of the salinas, and more extraordinary. In many parts of South 
America, wherever the climate is moderately dry, these incrusta- 
tions occur ; but I have nowhere seen them so abundant as near 
Bahia Blanca. The salt here, and in other parts of Patagonia, 
consists chiefly of sulphate of soda with some common salt. As 
long as the ground remains moist in these salitrales (as the 
Spaniards improperly call them, mistaking this substance for 
saltpetre), nothing is to be seen but an extensive plain composed 
of a black, muddy soil, supporting scattered tufts of succulent 
plants. On returning through one of these tracts, after a week's 
hot weather, one is surprised to see square miles of the plain 
white, as if from a slight fall of snow, here and there heaped up 
by the wind into little drifts. This latter appearance is chiefly 
caused by the salts being drawn up, during the slow evaporation 
of the moisture, round blades of dead grass, stumps of wood, and 
pieces of broken earth, instead of being crystallized at the bottoms 
of the puddles of water. The salitrales occur either on level tracts 
elevated only a few feet above the level of the sea, or on alluvial 
land bordering rivers. M. Parchappe * found that the saline 
incrustation on the plain, at the distance of some miles from the 
sea, consisted chiefly of sulphate of soda, with only seven per cent, 
of common salt ; whilst nearer to the coast, the common salt in- 
creased to 37 parts in a hundred. This circumstance would tempt 
one to believe that the sulphate of soda is generated in the soil, 

* Voyage dans 1'Amerique Mcricl par M. A. d'Orbigny. Part. Hist. 
torn. i. p. CG4. 


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

Two days afterwards I again rode to the harbour : when not far 
from our destination, my companion, the same man as before, spied 
three people hunting on horseback. He immediately dismounted, 
and watching them intently, said, " They don't ride like Christians, 
and nobody can leave the fort." The three hunters joined com- 
pany, and likewise dismounted from their horses. At last one 
mounted again and rode over the hill out of sight. My companion 
said, " We must now get on our horses : load your pistol ; " and 
he looked to his own sword. I asked, "Are they Indians?" 
" Quien sabe ? (who knows ?) if there are no more than three, 
it does not signify." It then struck me, that the one man had gone 
over the hill to fetch the rest of his tribe. I suggested this ; but 
all the answer I could extort was, "Quien sabe?" His head and 
eye never for a minute ceased scanning slowly the distant horizon. 
I thought his uncommon coolness too good a joke, and asked him 
why he did not retiirn 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 onr pace. He 
said, " No, not until they do." When any little inequality con- 
cealed 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 ; ho gave me his horse to hold, made the dogs 
lie down, and then crawled on his hands and knees to reconnoitre. 
He remained in this position for some time, and at last, bursting 
out in laughter, exclaimed, " Mugeres ! " (women !) He knew them 
to bo the wife and sister-in-law of the major's son, hunting for 
ostrich's eggs. I have described this man's conduct, because ho 
acted under the full impression that they were Indians. As soon, 
however, as the absurd mistake was found out, he gave me a hun- 
dred reasons why they could not have been Indians ; but all these 

1833.] ZOEILLOS. 75 

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

We passed the night in Punta Alta, and I employed myself in 
searching for fossil bones ; this point being a perfect catacomb for 
monsters of extinct races. The evening was perfectly calm and 
clear ; the extreme monotony of the view gave it an interest even 
in the midst of mud-banks and gulls, sand-hillocks and solitary 
vultures. In riding back in the morning we came across a very 
fresh track of a Puma, but. did not succeed in finding it. We saw 
also a couple of Zorillos, or skunks, odious animals, which are far 
from uncommon. In general appearance the Zorillo resembles a 
polecat, but it is rather larger, and much thicker in proportion . 
Conscious of its power, it roams by day about the open plain, and 
fears neither dog nor man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its 
courage is instantly checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, which 
brings on violent sickness and running at the nose. Whatever is 
once polluted by it, is for ever useless. Azara says the smell can 
be perceived at a league distant ; more than once, when entering 
the harbour of Monte Video, the wind being off shore, we have per- 
ceived the odour on board the Beagle. Certain it is, that every 
animal most willingly makes room for the Zorillo. 

76 BAHIA BLAXCA. [ciiAp. v.. 


Bahia Blanca Geology Numerous gigantic extinct Quadrupeds Recent 
Extinction Longevity of Species Large Animals do not require a 
luxuriant vegetation Southern Africa Siberian Fossils Two Species 
of Ostrich Habits of Oven-bird Armadilloos Venomous Snake, 
Toad, Lizard Hybernatiou of Animals Habits of Sea-PenIndian 
Wars and Massacres Arrow-head, antiquarian Relic. 


THE Beagle arrived here on the 2ith of August, and a week after- 
wards sailed for the Plata. With Captain Fitz Boy's consent I 
was left behind, to travel by land to Buenos Ayres. I will here 
add some observations, which were made during this visit and on 
a previous occasion, when the Beagle was employed in surveying 
the harbour. 

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

First, parts of three heads and other bones of the Megatherium, 
the huge dimensions of which are expressed by its name. Secondly, 
the Megalonyx, a great allied animal. Thirdly, the Scelidotherium, 


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

The remains of these nine great quadrupeds, and many detached 
bones, were found embedded on the beach, within the space of 
about 200 yards square. It is a remarkable circumstance that 
so many different species should be found together ; and it proves 
how numerous in kind the ancient inhabitants of this country must 
have been. At the distance of about thirty miles from Punta Alta, 
in a cliff of red earth, I found several fragments of bones, some of 
large size. Among them were the teeth of a gnawer, equalling in 
size and closely resembling those of the Capybara, whose habits 
have been described ; and therefore, probably, an aquatic animal. 
There was also part of the head of a Ctenomys ; the species being 
different from the Tucutuco, but with a close general resemblance. 
The red earth, like that of the Pampas, in which these remains 
were embedded, contains, according to Professor Ehrenberg, eight 
fresh-water and one salt-water infusorial animalcule; therefore, 
probably, it was an estuary deposit. 

The remains at Punta Alta were embedded in stratified gravel 
and reddish mud, just such as the sea might now wash up on a 
shallow bank. They were associated with twenty-three species of 


shells, of which thirteen are recent and four others very closely 
related to recent forms.* From the bones of the Scelidotherium, 
including even the knee-cap, being intornbed in their proper 
relative positions, and from the osseous armour of the great arma- 
dillo-like animal being so well preserved, together with the bones 
of one of its legs, we may feel assured that these remains were 
fresh and united by their ligaments, when deposited in the gravel 
together with the shells, f Hence we have good evidence that the 
above enumerated gigantic quadrupeds, more different from those 
of the present day than the oldest of the tertiary quadrupeds of 
Europe, lived whilst the sea was peopled with most of its present 
inhabitants; and we have confirmed that remarkable law so often 
insisted on by Mr. Lyell, namely, that the " longevity of the species 
in the mammalia is upon the whole inferior to that of the testacea."t 
The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals, includ- 
ing the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and Mylodon, 
is truly wonderful. The habits of life of these animals were a 
complete puzzle to naturalists, until Professor Owen solved the 
problem with remarkable ingenuity. The teeth indicate, by their 
simple structure, that these Megatheroid animals lived on vegetable 
food, and probably on the leaves and small twigs of trees ; their 
ponderous forms and great strong curved claws seem so little 
adapted for locomotion, that some eminent naturalists have actually 
believed, that, like the sloths, to which they are intimately related, 
they subsisted by climbing back downwards on trees, and feeding 
on the leaves. It was a bold, not to say preposterous, idea to con- 
ceive even antediluvian trees, with branches strong enough to bear 
animals as large as elephants. Professor Owen, with far more 
probability, believes that, instead of climbing on the trees, they 

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

t M. Aug. Bravard has described, in a Spanish work (' Observaciones 
Gcologicas,' 1857), this district, and he believes that the bones of the 
extinct mammals were washed out of the underlying Pampean deposit, 
and subsequently became embedded with the still existing shells ; but I 
am not convinced by his remarks. M. Bravard believes that the whole 
enormous Pampean deposit is a sub-aerial formation, like sand-dunes: 
this seems to me to be an untenable doctrine. 

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

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


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

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only from 
fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high- water; and hence the 
elevation of the laud has been small (without there has been an 
intercalated period of subsidence, of which we have no evidence) 
since the great quadrupeds wandered over the surrounding plains ; 
and the external features of the country must then have been very 
nearly the same as now. What, it may naturally be asked, was the 
character of the vegetation at that period; was the country as 
wretchedly sterile as it now is? As so many of the co-embedded 
shells are the same with those now living in the bay, I was at first 
inclined to think that the former vegetation was probably similar 
to the existing one ; but this would have been an erroneous infer- 
ence, for some of these same shells live on the luxuriant coast of 
Brazil ; and generally, the character of the inhabitants of the sea 
are useless as guides to judge of those on the land. Nevertheless, 
from the following considerations, I do not believe that the simple 
fact of many gigantic quadrupeds having lived on the plains round 
Bahia Blanca, is any sure guide that they formerly were clothed 
with a luxuriant vegetation: I have no doubt that the sterile 
country a little southward, near the Kio Negro, with its scattered 
thorny trees, would support many and large quadrupeds. 

That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has been a 
general assumption which has passed from one work to another ; 


but I do not hesitate to say that it is completely false, and that it 
has vitiated the reasoning of geologists on some points of great 
interest in the ancient history of the world. The prejudice has 
probably been derived from India, and the Indian islands, where 
troops of elephants, noble forests, and impenetrable jungles, are 
associated together in every one's mind. If, however, we refer to 
any work of travels through the southern parts of Africa, we shall 
find allusions in almost every page either to the desert character of 
the country, or to the numbers of large animals inhabiting it. The 
same thing is rendered evident by the many engravings which have 
been published of ^various parts of the interior. When the Beagle 
was at Cape Town, I made an excursion of some days' length into 
the country, which at least was siifficient to render that which I 
had read more fully intelligible. 

Dr. Andrew Smith, who, at the head of his adventurous party, 
has lately succeeded in passing the Tropic of Capricorn, informs 
me that, taking into consideration the whole of the southern part 
of Africa, there can be no doubt of its being a sterile country. On 
the southern and south-eastern coasts there are some fine forests, 
but with these exceptions, the traveller may pass for days together 
through open plains, covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. It 
is difficult to convey any accurate idea of degrees of comparative 
fertility ; but it may be safely said that the amount of vegetation 
supported at any one time * by Great Britain, exceeds, perhaps 
even tenfold, the quantity on an equal area, in the interior parts of 
Southern Africa. The fact that bullock-waggons can travel in any 
direction, excepting near the coast, without more than occasionally 
half an hour's delay in cutting down bushes, gives, perhaps, a more 
definite notion of the scantiness of the vegetation. Now, if we look 
to the animals inhabiting these wide plains, we shall find their 
numbers extraordinarily great, and their bulk immense. We must 
enumerate the elephant, three species of rhinoceros, and probably, 
according to Dr. Smith, two others, the hippopotamus, the giraffe, 
the bos caffer as large as a full-grown bull, and the elan but 
little less, two zebras, and the quaccha, two gnus, and several 
antelopes even larger than these latter animals. It may be sup- 
posed that although the species are numerous, the individuals of 
each kind are few. By the kindness of Dr. Smith, I am enabled to 

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


show that the case is very different. He informs me, that in lat. 
24, in one day's march with the bullock- waggons, lie saw, without 
wandering to any great distance on either side, between one 
hundred and one hundred and fifty rhinoceroses, which belonged 
to three species: the same clay he saw several herds of giraffes, 
amounting together to nearly a hundred ; and that although no 
elephant was observed, yet they arc found in this district. At the 
distance of a little more than one hour's march from their place of 
encampment on the previous night, his party actually killed at one 
spot eight hippopotamuses, and saw many more. In this same 
river there were likewise crocodiles. Of course it was a case quite 
extraordinary, to see so many great animals crowded together, but 
it evidently proves that they must exist in great numbers. Dr. 
Smith describes the country passed through that clay, as "b3inpj 
thinly covered with grass, and bushes about four feet high, and 
still more thinly with mimosa-trees." The waggons were not 
prevented travelling in a nearly straight line. 

Besides these large animals, every one the least acquainted with 
the natural history of the Cape, has read of the herds of antelopes, 
which can be compared only with the flocks of migratory birds. 
The numbers indeed of the lion, panther, and hysena, and the 
multitude of birds of prey, plainly speak of the abundance of tho 
smaller quadrupeds: one evening seven lions were counted at 
the same time prowling round Dr. Smith's encampment. As this 
able naturalist remarked to me, the carnage each day in Southern 
Africa must indeed be terrific ! I confess it is truly surprising 
how such a number of animals can find support in a country pro- 
ducing so little food. The larger quadrupeds no doubt roam over 
wide tracts in search of it ; and their food chiefly consists of under- 
wood, which probably contains much nutriment in a small bulk. 
Dr. Smith also informs me that the vegetation has a rapid growth ; 
no sooner is a part consumed, than its place is supplied by a fresh 
stock. There can be no doubt, however, that our ideas respecting 
the apparent amount of food necessary for the support of largo 
quadrupeds are much exaggerated : it should have been remembered 
that the camel, an animal of no mean bulk, has always been 
considered as the emblem of the desert. 

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, tho vegetation 
must necessarily be luxuriant, is the more remarkable, because the 
converse is far from true. Mr. Burchell observed to me that when 



entering Brazil, nothing struck him more forcibly than the splendour 
of the South American vegetation contrasted with that of South 
Africa, together with the absence of all large quadrupeds. In his 
Travels,* he has suggested that the comparison of the respective 
weights (if there were sufficient data) of an equal number of the 
largest herbivorous quadrupeds of each country would be extremely 
curious. If we take on the one side, the elephant, f hippopotamus, 
giraffe, bos caffer, elan, certainly three, and probably five species of 
rhinoceros ; and on the American side, two tapirs, the guanaco, 
three deer, the vicuna, peccari, capybara (after which we must 
choose from the monkeys to complete the number), and then place 
these two groups alongside each other, it is not easy to conceive 
ranks more disproportionate in size. After the above facts, we are 
compelled to conclude, against anterior probability,^: that among 
the mammalia there exists no close relation between the hulk of the 
species, and the quantity of the vegetation, in the countries which 
they inhabit. 

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

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

t The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change was estimated (being 
partly weighed) at five tons and a half. The elephant actress, as I was in- 
termed, weighed one ton less ; so that we may take five as the average of a 
full-grown elephant. I was told at the Surrey Gardens, that a hippopotamus 
which was sent to England cut up into pieces was estimated at three tons 
and a half; we will call it three. From these premises we may give three 
tons and a half to each of the five rhinoceroses ; perhaps a ton to the giraffe, 
and half to the bos caffer as well as to the elan (a large ox weighs from 1200 
to 1500 pounds). This will give an average (from the above estimates) of 
2-7 of a ton for the ten largest herbivorous animals of Southern Africa. In 
South America, allowing 1200 pounds for the two tapirs together, 550 for 
the guanaco and vicuna, 500 for three deer, 300 for the capybara, peccari, 
and a monkey, we shall have an average of 250 pounds, which I believe is 
overstating the result. The ratio will therefore be as 6048 to 250, or 24 
to 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 conjecture on the possibility of a car- 
cass so gigantic being supported on the minute Crustacea and mollusca 
living in the frozen seas of the extreme North ? 


Those tertiary epochs, which we are apt to consider as abounding 
to an astonishing degree with large animals, because we find the 
remains of many ages accumulated at certain spots, could hardly 
boast of more large quadrupeds than Southern Africa does at 
present. If we speculate on the condition of the vegetation during 
those epochs, we are at least bound so far to consider existing 
analogies, as not to urge as absolutely necessary a luxuriant vegeta- 
tion, when we see a state of things so totally different at the Cape 
of Good Hope. 

We know * that the extreme regions of North America, many 
degrees beyond the limit where the ground at the depth of a few 
feet remains perpetually congealed, are covered by forests of large 
and tall trees. In a like manner, in Siberia, we have woods of 
birch, fir, aspen, and larch, growing in a latitude f (64) where the 
mean temperature of the air falls below the freezing point, and 
where the earth is so completely frozen, that the carcass of an 
animal embedded in it is perfectly preserved. With these facts wo 
must grant, as far as quantity alone of vegetation is concerned, that 
the great quadrupeds of the later tertiary epochs might, in most 
parts of Northern Europe and Asia, have lived on the spots where 
their remains are now found. I do not here speak of the kind of 
vegetation necessary for their support ; because, as there is 
evidence of physical changes, and as the animals have become 
extinct, so may-we suppose that the species of plants have likewise 
been changed. 

These remarks, I may be permitted to add, directly bear on the 
case of the Siberian animals preserved in ice. The firm conviction 
of the necessity of a vegetation possessing a character of tropical 
luxuriance, to support such large animals, and the impossibility of 
reconciling this with the proximity of perpetual congelation, was 
one chief cause of the several theories of sudden revolutions of 
climate, and of overwhelming catastrophes, which were invented 

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

t See Hnmboldt, Fragmens Asiatiques, p. 38G : Barton's Geography of 
Plants : and Malte Brun. In the latter work it is said that the limit of the 
growth of trees in Siberia may be drawn under the parallel of 70. 


to account for their entombment. I am far from supposing that 
the climate has not changed since the period when those animals 
lived, which now lie buried in the ice. At present I only wish to 
show, that as far as quantity of food alone is concerned, the ancient 
rhinoceroses might have roamed over the steppes of central Siberia 
(the northern parts probably being under water) even in their 
present condition, as well as the living rhinoceroses and elephants 
over the Karros of Southern Africa. 

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the rnoro 
interesting birds which are common on the wild plains of Northern 
Patagonia; and first for the largest, or South American ostrich. 
The ordinary habits of the ostrich are familiar to every one. They 
live on vegetable matter, such as roots and grass ; but at Bahia 
Blanca I have repeatedly seen three or four come down at low 
water to the extensive mud-banks which are then dry, for the sake, 
as the Gauchos say, of feeding on small fish. Although the ostrich 
in its habits is so shy, wary, and solitary, and although so fleet in 
its pace, it is caught without much difficulty by the Indian or 
Gaucho armed with the bolas. "When several horsemen appear in 
a semicircle, it becomes confounded, and does not know which way 
to escape. They generally prefer running against the wind ; yet at 
the first start they expand their wings, and like a vessel make all 
sail. On one fine hot day I saw several ostriches enter a bed of tall 
rushes, where they squatted concealed, till quite closely approached. 
It is not generally known that ostriches readily take to the water. 
Mr. King informs me that at the Bay of San Bias, and at Port 
Valdes in Patagonia, he saw these birds swimming several times 
from island to island. They ran into the water both when driven 
down to a point, and likewise of their own accord when not 
frightened : the distance crossed was about two hundred yards. 
When swimming, very little of their bodies appear above water ; 
their necks are extended a little forward, and their progress is slow. 
On two occasions I saw some ostriches swimming across the Sania 
Cruz river, where its course was about four hundred yards wide, 
and the stream rapid. Captain Sturt,* when descending the Mur- 
rumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus in the act of swimming. 

The inhabitants of the country readily distinguish, even at a 
distance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger and 
* Shirt's Travels, vol. ii. p. 74. 


darker-coloured,* 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 conies, or from how far distant. When we were at 
Bahia Blanca in the months of September and October, the eggs, 
in extraordinary numbers, were found all over the country. They 
lie either scattered and single, in which case they are never hatched, 
and are called by the Spaniards huachos ; or they are collected 
together into a shallow excavation, which forms the nest. Out of 
the four nests which I saw, three contained twenty-two eggs each, 
and the fourth twenty-seven. In one day's hunting on horseback 
sixty-four eggs were found ; forty-four of these were in two nests, 
and the remaining twenty, scattered huachos. The Gauchos 
unanimously affirm, and there is no reason to doubt their statement, 
that the male bird alone hatches the eggs, and for some time after- 
wards 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 understand that the 
male emu in the Zoological Gardens takes charge of the nest : this 
habit, therefore, is common to the family. 

The Gauchos unanimously affirm that several females lay in one 
nest. I have been positively told that four or five hen birds have 
been watched to go in the middle of the day, one after the other, to 
the same nest. I may add, also, that it is believed in Africa, that 
two or more females lay in one nest.f Although this habit at 
first appears very strange, I think the cause may be explained in 
a simple manner. The number of eggs in the nest varies from 
twenty to forty, and even to fifty ; and according to Azara, some- 
times to seventy or eighty. Now, although it is most probable, 
from the number of eggs found in one district being so extra- 

* A Gaucho assured me that he had once seen a snow- white or Albiue 
variety, and that it was a most beautiful bird. 
, f Burchell's Travels, vol. i. p. 280. 


ordinarily 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 greater on 
an average than the number laid by one female in the season, then 
there must be as many nests as females, and each cock bird will 
have its fair share of the labour of incubation; and that during a 
period when the females probably could not sit, from not having 
finished laying.f I have before mentioned the great numbers of 
huachos, or deserted eggs; so that in one day's hunting twenty 
were found in this state. It appears odd that so many should be 
wasted. Does it not arise from the difficulty of several females 
associating together, and finding a male ready to undertake the 
office of incubation ? It is evident that there must at first be some 
degree of association between at least two females ; otherwise the 
eggs would remain scattered over the wide plains, at distances far 
too great to allow of the male collecting them into one nest : some 
authors have believed that the scattered eggs were deposited for 
the young birds to feed on. This can hardly be the case in 
America, because the huachos, although often found addled and 
putrid, arc generally whole. 

"When at the Kio Negro in Northern Patagonia, I repeatedly heard 
the Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which they called Avestruz 
Petise. They described it as being less than the common ostrich 
(which is there abundant), but with a very close general resem- 
blance. They said its colour was dark and mottled, and that its 
legs were shorter, and feathered lower down than those of the 
common ostrich. It is more easily caught by the bolas than the 

* 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 that they con- 
tinue laying, I presume, in another nest. This appears to me very im- 
probable. He asserts that four or five hens associate for incubation with 
one cock, who sits only at night. 


other species. The few inhabitants who had seen both kinds, 
affirmed they could distinguish them apart from a long distance. 
The eggs of tho small species appeared, however, more generally 
known ; and it was remarked, with surprise, that they were very 
little less than those of the Ehea, but of a slightly different form, 
and with a tinge of pale blue. This species occurs most rarely on 
the plains bordering the Eio Negro ; but about a degree and a half 
further south they are tolerably abundant. When at Port Desire, 
in Patagonia (lat. 48), Mr. Martens shot an ostrich ; and I looked 
at it, forgetting at the moment, in the most unaccountable manner, 
the whole subject of the Petiscs, 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 pre- 
served; and from these a very nearly perfect specimen has been 
put together, and is now exhibited in the museum of the Zoological 
Society. Mr. Gould, in describing this new species, has done me 
the honour of calling it after my name. 

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of Magellan, we 
found a half Indian, who had lived some years with the tribe, but 
had been born in the northern provinces. I asked him if he had 
ever heard of the Avestruz Petise ? He answered by saying, " Why, 
there are none others in these southern countries." He informed 
me that the number of eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably 
less than in that of the other kind, namely, not more than fifteen 
on an average; but he asserted that more than one female de- 
posited them. At Santa Cruz we saw several of these birds. They 
were excessively wary : I think they could see a person approaching 
when too far off to be distinguished themselves. In ascending the 
river few were seen ; but in our quiet and rapid descent, many, in 
pairs and by fours or fives, were observed. It was remarked that 
this bird did not expand its wings, when first starting at full speed, 
after the manner of the northern kind. In conclusion I may 
observe, that the Struthio rhea inhabits the country of La Plata 
as far as a little south of the Eio Negro in lat. 41, and that the 
Struthio Darwiuii takes its place in Southern Patagonia ; the part 
about the Eio Negro being neutral territory. M. A. d'Orbigny,* 

* When at the Kio Negro, \ve heard much of the indefatigable labours 
of this naturalist. M. Alcide d'Orbigny, during the years 1825 to 183B, 
traversed several large portions of South America, and has made a collec- 


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

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

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

lion, and is now publishing the results on a scale of magnificence, which 
at once places himself in the list of American travellers second only to 
* Account of the Abiponee, A.D. 17-19, vol. i. (English translation) 

1833.] THE OVEX-TJIBD. 89 

above the limits of the forest land; and the other just beneath the 
siiow-liue on the Cordillera of Central Chile. A bird of another 
closely allied genus, Chionis alba, is an inhabitant of the antarctic 
regions ; it feeds on sea- weed and shells on the tidal rocks. Although 
not web-footed, from some unaccountable habit, it is frequently met 
with far out at sea. This small family of birds is one of those 
which, from its varied relations to other families, although at 
present offering only difficulties to the systematic naturalist, ulti- 
mately may assist in revealing the grand scheme, common to the 
present and past ages, on which organized beings have been created. 

The genus Furnarius contains several species, all small birds, 
living on the ground, and inhabiting open dry countries. In 
structure they cannot be compared to any European form. Or- 
nithologists 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 house- 
maker of the Spaniards. The nest, whence it takes its name, is 
placed in the most exposed situations, as on the top of a post, 
a bare rock, or on a cactus. It is composed of niud and bits of 
straw, raid has strong thick walls : in shape it precisely resembles 
an oven, or depressed beehive. The opening is large and arched, 
and directly in front, within the nest, there is a partition, which 
reaches nearly to the roof, thus forming a passage or antechamber 
to the true nest. 

Another and smaller species of Furnarius (F. cunicularius), 
resembles the oven-bird in the general reddish tint of its plumage, 
in a peculiar shrill reiterated cry, and in an odd manner of running 
by starts. From its affinity, the Spaniards call it Casarita (or 
little housebuilder), although its nidification is quite different. 
The Casarita builds its nest at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical 
hole, which is said to extend horizontally to nearly six feet under 
.ground. Several of the country people told me, that when boys, 
they had attempted to dig out the nest, but had scarcely ever 
succeeded in getting to the end of the passage. The bird chooses 
any low bank of firm, sandy soil by the side of a road or stream. 
Here (at Bahia Blanca) the walls round the houses are built of 
hardened mud ; and I noticed that one, which enclosed a courtyard 
where I lodged, was bored through by round holes in a score of 
places. On asking the owner the cause of this, he bitterly com- 
plained of the little casarita, several of which I afterwards observed 


at work. It is rather curious to find how incapable these birds 
must be of acquiring any notion of thickness, for although they 
were constantly flitting over the low wall, they continued vainly 
to bore through it, thinking it an excellent bank for their nests. 
I do not doubt that each bird, as often as it came to daylight on 
the opposite side, was greatly surprised at the marvellous fact. 

I have already mentioned nearly all the mammalia common in 
this country. Of armadilloes three species occur, namely, the 
Dasypus minutus or pichy, the D. villosus or pelitdo, and the apar. 
The first extends ten degrees further south than any other kind : 
a fourth species, the Mulita, does not come as far south as Bahia 
Blanca. The four species have nearly similar habits ; the peludo, 
however, is nocturnal, while the others wander by day over the 
open plains, feeding on beetles, larvae, roots, and even small snakes. 
The apar, commonly called mataco, is remarkable by having only 
three moveable bands; the rest of its tesselated covering being 
nearly inflexible. It has the power of rolling itself into a perfect 
sphere, like one kind of English woodlouse. In this state it is safe 
from the attack of dogs ; for the dog not being able to take the 
whole in its mouth, tries to bite one side, and the ball slips away. 
The smooth hard covering of the mataco offers a better defence 
than tbe sharp spines of the hedgehog. The pichy prefers a very 
dry soil; and the sand-dunes near the coast, where for many 
months it can never taste water, is its favourite resort : it often 
tries to escape notice, by squatting close to the ground. In the 
course of a day's ride, near Bahia Blanca, several were generally 
met with. The instant one was perceived, it was necessary, in order 
to catch it, almost to tumble off one's horse ; for in soft soil the 
animal burrowed so quickly, that its hinder quarters would almost 
disappear before one could alight. It seems almost a pity to kill 
such nice little animals, for as a Gaucho said, while sharpening 
his knife on the back of one, " Son tan mansos " (they are so quiet). 

Of reptiles there are many kinds: one snake (a Trigonocephalus, 
or Cophias *), from the size of the poison channel in its fangs, must 
be very deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, 
makes this a sub-genus of the rattlesnake, and intermediate 
between it and the viper. In confirmation of this opinion, I 
observed a fact, which appears to me very curious and instructive, 
as showing how every character, even though it may be in some 
* M. Bibron calls it T. crepitans. 


degree independent of structure, has a tendency to vary by slow 
degrees. The extremity of the tail of this snake is terminated by 
a point, which is very slightly enlarged ; and as the animal glides 
along, it constantly vibrates the last inch ; and this part striking 
against the dry grass and brushwood, produces a rattling noise, 
which can be distinctly heard at the distance of six feet. As often 
as the animal was irritated or surprised, its tail was shaken ; and 
the vibrations were extremely rapid. Even as long as the body 
retained its irritability, a tendency to this habitual movement was 
evident. This Trigonocephalus has, therefore, in some respects 
the structure of a viper, with the habits of a rattlesnake: the 
noise, however, being produced by a simpler device. The ex- 
pression of this snake's face was hideous and fierce ; the pupil 
consisted of a vertical slit in a mottled and coppery iris ; the jaws 
were, broad at the base, and the nose terminated in a triangular 
projection. I do not think I ever saw anything more ugly, ex- 
cepting, perhaps, some of the vampire bats. I imagine this repiil- 
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 hideousness. 

Amongst the Eatrachian reptiles, I found only one little toad 
(Phryniscus nigricans), which was most singular from its colour. 
If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in the blackest ink, 
and then, when dry, allowed to crawl over a board, freshly painted 
with the brightest vermilion, so as to colour the soles of its feet 
and parts of its stomach, a good idea of its appearance will be 
gained. If it had been an unnamed species, surely it ought to 
have been called Diabolicus, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear 
of Eve. Instead of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads 
are, and living in damp obscure recesses, it crawls during the heat 
of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains, where not 
a single drop of water can be found. It must necessarily depend 
on the dew for its moisture ; and this probably is absorbed by the 
skin, for it is known, that these reptiles possess great powers of 
cutaneous absorption. At Maldonado, I found one in a situation 
nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and thinking to give it a great 
treat, carried it to a pool of water ; not only was the little animal 
Tinable to swim, but, I think without help it would soon have 
been drowned. 

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


multimaculatus) remarkable from its habits. It lives ou the bare 
sand near the sea coast, and from its mottled colour, the brownish 
scales being speckled with white, yellowish red, and dirty blue, 
can hardly be distinguished from the surrounding surface. When 
frightened, it attempts to avoid discovery by feigning death, with 
outstretched legs, depressed body, and closed eyes: if further 
molested, it buries itself with great quickness in the loose sand. 
This lizard, from its flattened body and short legs, cannot run 

I will here add a few remarks on the hibernation of animals 
in this part of South America. When we first arrived at Bahia 
Blanca, September 7th, 1832, we thought nature had granted 
scarcely a living creature to this sandy and dry country. By 
digging, however, in the ground, several insects, large spiders, 
and lizards were found in a half-torpid state. On the 15th, a few 
animals began to appear, and by the 18th (three days from the 
equinox), everything announced the commencement of spring. 
The plains were ornamented by the flowers of a pink wood-sorrel, 
wild peas, cenotherse, and geraniums ; and the birds began to lay 
their eggs. Numerous Lainellicorn and Heteromerous insects, the 
latter remarkable for their deeply sculptured bodies, were slowly 
crawling about; while the lizard tribe, the constant inhabitants 
of a sandy soil, darted about in every direction. During the first 
eleven days, whilst nature was dormant, the mean temperature 
taken from observations made every two hours on board the 
Beagle, was 51 ; and in the middle of the day the thermometer 
seldom ranged above 55. On the eleven succeeding days, in 
which all living things became 'so animated, the mean was 58, 
and the range in the middle of the day between 60 and 70. Here, 
then, an increase of seven degrees in mean temperature, but a 
greater one of extreme heat, was sufficient to awake the functions 
of life. At Monte Video, from which we had just before sailed, in 
the twenty-three days included between the 26th of July and the 
19th of August, the mean temperature from 276 observations was 
58'4; the mean hottest day being 65'5, and the coldest 46. The 
lowest point to which the thermometer fell was 41 0> 5, and occa- 
sionally in the middle of the day it rose to 69 or 70. Yet with 
this high temperature, almost every beetle, several genera of 
spiders, snails, and land-shells, toads and lizards were all lying- 
torpid beneath stones. But we have seen that at Bahia Blanca, 

1833.] SEA-PEN. 93 

which is four degrees southward, and therefore with a climate only 
a very little colder, this same temperature with a rather less ex- 
treme heat, was sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings. 
This shows how nicely the stimulus required to arouse hybernating 
animals is governed by the usual climate of the district, and not 
by the absolute heat. It is well known that within the tropics, 
the hybernation, or more properly aestivation, of animals is deter- 
mined not by the temperature, but by the times of drought. Near 
Eio de Janeiro, I was at first surprised to observe, that, a few days 
after some little depressions had been filled with water, they were 
peopled by numerous full-grown shells and beetles, which must 
have been lying dormant. Humboldt has related the strange 
accident of a hovel having been erected over a spot where a young 
crocodile lay buried in the hardened mud. He adds, "The Indians 
often find enormous boas, which they call Uji, or water serpents, 
in the same lethargic state. To reanimate them, they must bo 
irritated or wetted with water." 

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I believe 
Virgularia Patagonica), a kind of sea-pen. It consists of a thin, 
straight, fleshy stem, with alternate rows of polypi on each side, 
and surrounding an elastic stony axis, varying in length from eight 
inches to two feet. The stem at one extremity is truncate, but at 
the other is terminated by a vermiform fleshy appendage. The 
stony axis which gives strength to the stem may be traced at this 
extremity into a mere vessel filled with granular matter. At low 
water hundreds of these zoophytes might be seen, projecting like 
stubble, with the truncate end upwards, a few inches above tho 
surface of the muddy sand. When touched or pulled they suddenly 
drew themselves in with force, so as nearly or quite to disappear. 
By this action, the highly elastic axis must be bent at the lower 
extremity, where it is naturally slightly curved; and I imagine it 
is by this elasticity alone that the zoophyte is enabled to rise again 
through the mud. Each polypus, though closely united to its 
brethren, has a distinct mouth, body, and tentacula. Of these 
polypi, in a large specimen, there must be many thousands ; yet we 
see that they act by one movement: they have also one central 
axis connected with a system of obscure circulation, and the ova 
are produced in an organ distinct from the separate individuals.* 

* The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of the extremity, 
were filled with a yellow pulpy matter, which, examined under a micro- 


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

During my stay at Bahia Blanca, "while waiting for the Beagle, 
the place was in a constant state of excitement, from rumours of 
wars and victories, between the troops of Rosas and the wild 
Indians. One day an account came that a small party forming one 
of the postas on the line to Buenos Ayres, had been found all 
murdered. The next day three hundred men arrived from the 
Colorado, under the command of Commandant Miranda. A large 
portion of these men were Indians (mansos, or tame), belonging to 
the tribe of the Cacique Bernantio. They passed the night here ; 
and it was impossible to conceive anything more wild and savage 

scope, presented an extraordinary appearance. The mass consisted of 
rounded, semi-transparent, irregular grains, aggregated together into par- 
ticles of various sizes. All such particles, and the separate grains, 
possessed the power of rapid movement; generally revolving around 
different axes, but sometimes progressive. The movement was visible 
with a very weak power, but even with the highest its cause could not be 
perceived. It was very different from the circulation of the fluid in the 
elastic bag, containing the thin extremity of the axis. On other occasions, 
when dissecting small marine animals beneath the microscope, I have 
seen particles of pulpy matter, some of large size, as soon as they were 
disengaged, commence revolving. I have imagined, I know not with 
how much truth, that this granulo-pulpy matter was in process of being 
converted into ova. Certainly in this zoophyte such appeared to be the 
* Kerr's Collection of Voyages, vol. viii. p. 119. 


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 drunken- 
ness, they cast it up again, and were besmeared with filth and 

Nam sitmil expletus dapibus, vinoque sepultus 
Cervictsn inflexain posuit, jacuitque per antrtim 
Immensus, saniera crucians, ac frusta cruenta 
Per sonmura commixta mem. 

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, with 
orders to follow the " rastro," or track, even if it led them to Chile. 
We subsequently heard that the wild Indians had escaped into 
the great Pampas, and from some cause the track had been missed. 
One glance at the rastro tells these people a whole history. Sup- 
posing they examine the track of a thousand horses, they will soon 
guess the number of mounted ones by seeing how many have 
cantered; by the depth of the other impressions, whether any 
horses were loaded with cargoes ; by the irregularity of the foot- 
steps, how far tired ; by the manner in which the food has been 
cooked, whether the pursued travelled in haste; by the general 
appearance, how long it has been since they passed. They con- 
sider a rastro of ten days or a fortnight, quite recent enough to be 
hunted out. We also heard that Miranda struck from the west 
end of the Sierra Ventana, in a direct line to the island of Chole- 
chel, situated seventy leagues up the Eio Negro. This is a 
distance of between two and three hundred miles, through a 
country completely unknown. What other troops in the world 
are so independent ? With the sun for their guide, mare's flesh 
for food, their saddle-cloths for beds, as long as there is a little 
water, these men would penetrate to the end of the world. 

A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these banditti-like 
soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of Indians at the 
small Salinas, who had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique. The 
Spaniard who brought the orders for this expedition was a very 
intelligent man. He gave me an account of the last engagement 
at which he was present. Some Indians, who had been taken 
prisoners, gave information of a tribe living north of the Colorado. 
Two hundred soldiers were sent; and they first discovered the 
Indians by a cloud of dust from their horses' feet, as they chanced 
to be travelling. The country was mountainous and wild, and it 


must have been far in tho interior, for the Cordillera were in 
sight. The Indians, men, women, and children, were about one 
hundred and ten in number, and they were nearly all taken or 
killed, for the soldiers sabre every man. The Indians are now so 
terrified that they offer no resistance in a body, but each flies, 
neglecting even his wife and children; but when overtaken, like 
wild animals, they fight against any number to the last moment. 
One dying Indian seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, 
and allowed his own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish 
his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping a 
knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer said, when 
lie 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 ray sabre to the ground, and then got off 
my horse, and cut his throat with my knife." This is a dark 
picture ; but how much more shocking is the unquestionable fact, 
that all the women who appear above twenty years old are 
massacred in cold blood ! When I exclaimed that this appeared 
rather inhuman, he answered, " Why, what can be done ? they 
1 treed so!" 

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

In the battle four men ran away together. They were pursued, 
one was killed, and the other three were taken alive. They turned 
out to be messengers or ambassadors from a large body of Indians, 
united in the common cause of defence, near the Cordillera. Tho 
tribe to which they had been sent was on the point of holding a 
grand council ; the feast of mare's flesh was ready, and the dance 
prepared : in the morning the ambassadors were to have returned 
to the Cordillera. They were remarkably fine men, very fair, 
above six feet high, and all under thirty years of age. The three 
survivors of course possessed very valuable information; and to 
extort this they were placed in a line. Tho two first being 
questioned, answered, " No se " (I do not know), and were one 


after the other shot. The third also said " No se ; " adding, " Fire, 
I am a man, and can die ! " Not one syllable would they breathe 
to injure the united cause of their country ! The conduct of the 
above-mentioned cacique was very different ; he saved his life by 
betraying the intended plan of warfare, and the point of union in 
the Andes. It was believed that there were already six or 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 communica- 
tion, therefore, between the Indians, extends from the Cordillera to 
the coast of the Atlantic. 

General Eosas's plan is to kill all stragglers, and having driven 
the remainder to a common point, to attack them in a body, in the 
summer, with the assistance of the Chilenos. This operation is to 
be repeated for three successive years. I imagine the summer is 
chosen as the time for the main attack, because the plains are then 
without water, and the Indians can only travel in particular direc- 
tions. The escape of the Indians to the south of the Eio Negro, 
where in such a vast unknown country they would be safe, is pre- 
vented by a treaty with the Tehuelches to this effect ; that Eosas 
pays them so nmch to slaughter every Indian who passes to the 
south of the river, but if they fail in so doing, they themselves are 
to be extirminated. The war is waged chiefly against the Indians 
near the Cordillera ; for many of the tribes on this eastern side are 
fighting with Kosas. The general, however, like Lord Chesterfield, 
thinking that his friends may in a future day become his enemies, 
always places them in the front ranks, so that their numbers may 
be thinned. Since leaving South America we have heard that this 
war of extermination completely failed. 

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, there 
were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been carried away by 
the Indians when young, and could now only speak the Indian 
tongue. From their account they must have come from Salta, a 
distance in a straight line of nearly one thousand miles. This 
gives one a grand idea of the immense territory over which the 
Indians roam : yet, great as it is, I think there will not, in another 
half-century, be a wild Indian northward of the Eio Negro. The 
warfare is too bloody to last ; the Christians killing every Indian, 
and the Indians doing the same by the Christians. It is melan- 



choly to trace liow the Indians have given way before the Spanish 
invaders. Schirdel* says that in 1535, when Buenos Ayres was 
founded, there were villages containing two and three thousand in- 
habitants. Even in Falconer's time (1750) the Indians made inroads 
as far as Luxan, Areco, and Arrecife, but now they are driven 
beyond the Salado. Not only have whole tribes been exterminated, 
but the remaining Indians have become more barbarous : instead 
of living in large villages, and being employed in the arts of fishing, 
as well as of the chase, they now wander about the open plains, 
without home or fixed occupation. 

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

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint, which I 
immediately recognised as having been a part of the head of an 
arrow. He told me it was found near the island of Cholechel, and 
that they are frequently picked up there. It was between two and 
three inches long, and therefore twice as large as those now used in 
Tierra del Fuego : it was made of opaque cream-coloured flint, but 
the point and barbs had been intentionally broken off. It is well 
known that no Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I believe 
a small tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted ; but they are 
* Purchas's Collection of Voyages. I believe the date was really 1537. 



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 intro- 
duction of the horse into South America. 

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



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


September 8th. I hired a Gaucho to accompany me on my ride 
to Buenos Ayres, though with some difficulty, as the father of one 
man was afraid to let him go, and another, who seemed willing, was 
described to me as so fearful, that I was afraid to take him, for I 
was told that even if he saw an ostrich at a distance, he would 
mistake it for an Indian, and would fly like the wind away. The 
distance to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred miles, and nearly 
the whole way through an uninhabited country. We started early 
in the morning ; ascending a few hundred feet from the basin of 
green turf on which Bahia Blanca stands, we entered on a wide 
desolate plain. It consists of a crumbling argillaceo-calcareous 
rock, which, from the dry nature of the climate, supports only 
scattered tufts of withered grass, without a single bush or tree to 
break the monotonous uniformity. The weather was fine, but the 
atmosphere remarkably hazy ; I thought the appearance foreboded 
a gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at some distance in the interior, being on fire. After a long gallop, 
having changed horses twice, we reached the Eio Sauce : it is a 
deep, rapid, little stream, not above twenty-five feet wide. The 
second posta on the road to Buenos Ayres stands on its banks ; a 
little above there is a ford for horses, where the water does not 
reach to the horses' belly ; but from that point, in its course to the 

1833.] SIEKKA VENTANA. 101 

sea, it is quite impasscible, and hence makes a most useful barrier 
against the Indians. 

Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose 
information is generally so very correct, figures it as a consider- 
able river, rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With respect to 
its source, I do not doubt that this is the case ; for the Gauchos 
assured me, that in the middle of the dry summer, this stream, 
at the same time with the Colorado, has periodical floods ; which 
can only originate in the snow melting on the Andes. It is ex- 
tremely improbable that a stream so small as the Sauce then was, 
should traverse the entire width of the continent ; and indeed, if it 
were the residue of a large river, its waters, as in other ascertained 
cases, would be saline. During the winter we must look to the 
springs round the Sierra Ventana as the source of its pure and 
limpid stream. I suspect the plains of Patagonia, like those 
of Australia, are traversed by many water-courses, which only 
perform their proper parts at certain periods. Probably this is 
the case with the water which flows into the head of Port Desire, 
and likewise with the Rio Chupat, on the banks of which masses 
of highly cellular scoriae were found by the officers employed in 
the survey. 

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we took fresh 
horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for the Sierra de la 
Ventana. This mountain is visible from the anchorage at Bahia 
Blanca ; and Capt. Fitz Eoy 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 silver, of caves, and of forests, all of which inflamed 
my curiosity, only to disappoint it. The distance from the posta was 
about six leagues, over a level plain of the same character as 
before. The ride was, however, interesting, as the mountain 
began to show its true form. When we reached the foot of the 
main ridge, we had much difficulty in finding any water, and we 
thought we should have been obliged to have passed the night 
without any. At last we discovered some by looking close to the 
mountain, for at the distance even of a few hundred yards, the 
streamlets were buried and entirely lost in the friable calcareous 
stone and loose detritus. I do not think Nature ever made a 


more solitary, desolate pile of rock ; it well deserves its name of 
Hurtado, or separated. The mountain is steep, extremely rugged, 
and broken, and so entirely destitute of trees, and even bushes, 
that we actually could not make a skewer to stretch out our meat 
over the fire of thistle-stalks.* The strange aspect of this mountain 
is contrasted by the sea-like plain, which not only abuts against 
its steep sides, but likewise separates the parallel ranges. The 
uniformity of the colouring gives an extreme quietness to the 
v j ew ; the whitish grey of the quartz rock, and the light brown 
of the withered grass of the plain, being unrelieved by any brighter 
tint. From custom, one expects to see in the neighbourhood of 
a lofty and bold mountain, a broken country strewed over with 
huge fragments. Here nature shows that the last movement 
before the bed of the sea is changed into dry land may sometimes 
be one of tranquillity. Under these circumstances I was curious 
to observe how far from the parent rock any pebbles could bo 
found. On the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the settlement, 
there were some of quartz, which certainly must have come from 
this source : the distance is forty-five miles. 

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the saddle- 
cloths under which we slept, was in the morning frozen. The 
plain, though appearing horizontal, had insensibly sloped up to a 
height of between 800 and 900 feet above the sea. In the morning 
(9th of September) the guide told me to ascend the nearest ridge, 
which he thought would lead me to the four peaks that crown the 
summit. The climbing up such rough rocks was very fatiguing ; 
the sides were so indented, that what was gained in one five 
minutes was often lost in the next. At last, when I reached the 
ridge, my disappointment was extreme in finding a precipitous 
valley as deep as the plain, which cut the chain transversely in 
two, and separated me from the four points. This valley is very 
narrow, but flat-bottomed, and it forms a fine horse-pass for the 
Indians, as it connects the plains on the northern and southern 
sides of the range. Having descended, and while crossing it, I saw 
two horses grazing : I immediately hid myself in the long grass, 
and began to reconnoitre ; but as I could see no signs of Indians I 
proceeded cautiously on my second ascent. It was late in the day, 
and this part of the mountain, like the other, was steep and rugged. 

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

1833.] SIERRA VENTANA. 103 

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

I have already said the mountain is composed of white quartz 
rock, and with it a little glossy clay-slate is associated. At the 
height of a few hundred feet above the plain, patches of conglo- 
merate adhered in several places to the solid rock. They re- 
sembled in hardness, and in the nature of the cement, the masses 
which may be seen daily forming on some coasts. I do not doubt 
these pebbles were in a similar manner aggregated, at a period 
when the great calcareous formation was depositing beneath tbe 
surrounding sea. We may believe that the jagged and battered 
forms of the hard quartz yet show the effects of the waves of an 
open ocean. 

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even the 
view was insignificant ; a plain like the sea, but without its beau- 
tiful colour and defined outline. The scene, however, was novel, 
and a little danger, like salt to meat, gave it a relish. That the 
danger was very little was certain, for my two companions made a 
good fire a thing which is never done when it is suspected that 
Indians are near. I reached the place of our bivouac by sunset, 
and drinking much mate, and smoking several cigaritos, soon 
made up my bed for the night. The wind was very strong and 
cold, but I never slept more comfortably. 

September 10th. In the morning, having fairly scudded before 
the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the Sauce posta. 
On the road we saw great numbers of deer, and near the mountain 
a guanaco. The plain, which abuts against the Sierra, is traversed 
by some curious gullies, of which one was about twenty feet wide, 
and at least thirty deep; wo were obliged in consequence to 
make a considerable circuit before we could find a pass. We 


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

September llth. Proceeded to the third posta in company with 
the lieutenant who commanded it. The distance is called fifteen 
leagues; but it is only guess-work, and is generally overstated. 
The road was uninteresting, over a dry grassy plain ; and on our 
left hand at a greater or less distance there were some low hills ; a 
continuation of which we crossed close to the posta. Before our 
arrival we met a large herd of cattle and horses, giiarded by fifteen 
soldiers ; but we were told many had been lost. It is very diffi- 
cult to drive animals across the plains ; for if in the night a puma, 
or even a fox, approaches, nothing can prevent the horses dispers- 
ing in every direction ; and a storm will have the same effect. A 
short time since, an officer left Buenos Ayres with five hundred 
horses, and when he arrived at the army he had under twenty. 

Soon afterwards we perceived by the cloud of dust, that a party 
of horsemen were coming towards us ; when far distant my com- 
panions knew them to be Indians, by their long hair streaming 
behind their backs. The Indians generally have a fillet round 
their heads, but never any covering ; and their black hair blowing 
across their swarthy faces, heightens to an uncommon degree the 
wildness of their appearance. They turned out to be a party of 
Bernantio's friendly tribe, going to a salina for salt. The Indians 
eat much salt, their children sucking it like sugar. This habit is 
very different from that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the 
same kind of life, eat scarcely any ; according to Mungo Park,* it 
is people who live on vegetable food who have an unconquerable 
desire for salt. The Indians gave us good-humoured nods as they 
passed at full gallop, driving before them a troop of horses, and 
followed by a train of lanky dogs. 

September \1tli and 13th. I staid at this posta two days, waiting 

for a troop of soldiers, which General Kosas had the kindness to 

send to inform me, would shortly travel to Buenos Ayres ; and he 

advised me to take the opportunity of the escort. In the morning 

* Travels in Africa, p. 233. 


we rode to some neighbouring hills to view the country, and to 
examine the geology. After dinner the soldiers divided themselves 
into two parties for a trial of skill with the bolas. Two spears 
were stuck in the ground thirty-five yards apart, but they were 
struck and entangled only once in four or five times. The balls 
can be thrown fifty or sixty yards, but with little certainty. This, 
however, does not apply to a man on horseback; for when the 
speed of the horse is added to the force of the arm, it is said, that 
they can be whirled with effect to the distance of eighty yards. As 
a proof of their force, I may mention, that at the Falkland Islands, 
when the Spaniards murdered some of their own countrymen and 
all the Englishmen, a young friendly Spaniard was running away, 
when a great tall man, by name Luciano, came at full gallop after 
him, shouting to him to stop, and saying that he only wanted to 
speak to him. Just as the Spaniard was on the point of reaching 
the boat, Luciano threw the balls : they struck him on the legs 
with such a jerk, as to throw him down and to render him for 
some time insensible. The man, after Luciano had had his talk, 
was allowed to escape. He told us that his legs were marked by 
great weals, where the thong had wound round, as if he had been 
flogged with a whip. In the middle of the day two men arrived, 
who brought a parcel from the next posta to be forwarded to the 
general: so that besides these two, our party consisted this evening 
of my guide and self, the lieutenant, and his four soldiers. The 
latter were strange beings ; the first a fine young negro ; the second 
half Indian and negro ; and the two others nondescripts ; namely, 
an old Chilian miner, the colour of mahogany, and another partly 
a mulatto ; but two such mongrels, with such detestable expres- 
sions, I never saw before. At night, when they were sitting round 
the fire, and playing at cards, I retired to view such a Salvator 
Ilosa scene. They were seated under a low cliff, so that I could 
look down upon them ; around the party were lying dogs, arms, 
remnants of deer and ostriches ; and their long spears were stuck 
in the turf. Further in the dark background, their horses were 
tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness of the 
desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking, a soldier, 
leaving the fire, would place his head close to the ground, and thus 
slowly scan the horizon. Even if the noisy teru-tero uttered its 
scream, there would be a pause in the conversation, and every 
head, for a moment, a little inclined. 


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

The little hovel, built of thistle-stalks, in which they slept, 
neither kept out the wind nor rain ; indeed in the latter case the 
only effect the roof had, was to condense it into larger drops. 
They had nothing to eat excepting what they could catch, such as 
ostriches, deer, armadilloes, etc., and their only fuel was the dry 
stalks of a small plant, somewhat resembling an aloe. The sole 
luxury which these men enjoyed was smoking the little paper 
cigars, and sucking mate. I used to think that the carrion vultures, 
man's constant attendants on these dreary plains, while seated on 
the little neighbouring cliffs seemed by their very patience to say, 
" Ah ! when the Indians come we shall have a feast." 

In the morning we all sallied forth to hunt, and although we had 
not much success, there were some animated chases. Soon after 
starting the party separated, and so arranged their plans, that at a 
certain time of the day (in guessing which they show much skill) 
they should all meet from different points of the compass on a plain 
piece of ground, and thus drive together the wild animals. One 
day I went out hunting at Bahia Blanca, but the men there merelj 
rode in a crescent, each being about a quarter of a mile apart froi 
the other. A fine male ostrich being turned by the headmost 
riders, tried to escape on one side. The Gauchos pursued at 
reckless pace, twisting their horses about with the most admirable 
command, and each man whirling the balls round his head. At 
length the foremost threw them, revolving through the air : in an 
instant the ostrich rolled over and over, its legs fairly lashed 
together by the thong. 

The plains abound with three kinds of partridge,* two of which 
are as large as hen pheasants. Their destroyer, a small and pretty 
fox, was also singularly numerous ; in the course of the day we 

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

1833.] HOSPITALITY. 107 

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 hunt- 
ing by themselves. They had killed a puma, and had found an 
ostrich's nest with twenty-seven eggs in it. Each of these is said 
to equal in weight eleven hen's eggs ; so that we obtained from this 
one nest as much food as 297 hen's eggs would have given. 

September 14</t. As the soldiers belonging to the next posta 
meant to return, and we should together make a party of five, and 
all armed, I determined not to wait for the expected troops. My 
host, the lieutenant, pressed me much to stop. As he had been 
very obliging not only providing me with food, but lending me 
his private horses I wanted to make him some remuneration. I 
asked my guide whether I might do so, but he told me certainly 
not ; that the only answer I should receive, probably would be, 
" We have meat for the dogs in our country, and therefore do not 
grudge it to a Christian." It must not be supposed that the rank 
of lieutenant in such an army would at all prevent the acceptance 
of payment : it was only the high sense of hospitality, which every 
traveller is bound to acknowledge as nearly universal throughout 
these provinces. After galloping some leagues, we came to a low 
swampy country, which extends for nearly eighty miles northward, 
as far as the Sierra Tapalguen. In some parts there were fine 
damp plains, covered with grass, while others had a soft, black, 
and peaty soil. There were also many extensive 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 

September 15th. Rose very early in the morning, and shortly 
after passed the posta where the Indians had murdered the five 
soldiers. The officer had eighteen chuzo wounds in his body. By 
the middle of the day, after a hard gallop, we reached the fifth 
posta : on account of some difficulty in procuring horses we stayed 
there the night. As this point was the most exposed on the whole 
line, twenty-one soldiers were stationed here; at sunset they 
returned from hunting, bringing with them seven deer, three 
ostriches, and many armadilloes and partridges. When riding 
through the country, it is a common practice to set fire to the plain ; 
and hence at night, as on this occasion, the horizon was illuminated 


in several places by brilliant conflagrations. This is done partly 
for the sake of puzzling any stray Indians, b'ut chiefly for improv- 
ing the pasture. In grassy plains unoccupied by the larger 
ruminating quadrupeds, it seems necessary to remove the super- 
fluous vegetation by fire, so as to render the new year's growth 

The rancho at this place did not boast even of a roof, but merely 
consisted of a ring of thistle-stalks, to break the force of the wind. 
It was situated on the borders of an extensive but shallow lake, 
swarming with wild fowl, among which the black-necked swan 
was conspictious. 

The kind of plover, which appears as if mounted on stilts, 
(Himantopus nigricollis) is here common in flocks of considerable 
size. It has been wrongfully accused of inelegance ; when wading 
about in shallow water, which is its favourite resort, its gait is far 
from awkward. These birds in a flock utter a noise, that singularly 
resembles the cry of a pack of small dogs in full chase : waking in 
the night, I have more than once been for a moment startled at the 
distant sound. The teru-tero (Vanellus cayanus) is another bird, 
which often disturbs the stillness of the night. In appearance and 
habits it resembles in many respects our peewits ; its wings, how- 
ever, 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, 
unvaried, harsh screams. To the sportsman they are most annoy- 
ing, 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 breed- 
ing season, they attempt, like our peewits, by feigning to be 
wounded, to draw away from their nests dogs and other enemies. 
The eggs of this bird are esteemed a great delicacy. 

September l&th. To the seventh posta at the foot of the Sierra 
Tapalguen. The country was quite level, with a coarse herbage 
and a soft peaty soil. The hovel was here remarkably neat, the 
posts and rafters being made of about a dozen dry thistle-stalks 
bound together with throngs 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 

1833.] A VIOLENT HAIL-STOftM. 109 

not had partly ocular proof of it ; namely, that, during the previous 
night, hail as large as small apples, and extremely hard, had fallen 
with such violence, as to kill the greater number of the wild animals. 
One of the men had already found thirteen deer (Cervus campestris) 
lying dead, and I saw their fresh hides ; another of the party, a few 
minutes after my arrival, brought in seven more. Now I well 
know, that one man without dogs could hardly have killed seven 
deer in a week. The men believed they had seen about fifteen 
dead striches (part of one of which we had for dinner) ; and they 
said that several were running about evidently blind in one eye. 
Numbers of smaller birds, as ducks, hawks, and partridges, were 
killed. I saw one of the latter with a black mark on its back, as 
if it had been struck with a paving-stone. A fence of thistle-stalks 
round the hovel was nearly broken down, and my informer, putting 
his head out to see what was the matter, received a severe cut, and 
now wore a bandage. The storm was said to have been of limited 
extent: we certainly saw from our last night's bivouac a dense 
clofKl 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 sup- 
ported by the Jesuit Drobrizhoffer,* who, speaking of a country 
much to the northward, says, hail fell of an enormous size and 
killed vast numbers of cattle : tfie Indians hence called the place 
Lalegraicavalca, meaning " the little white things." Dr. Malcolmson, 
also, informs me that he witnessed in 1831 in India, a hail-storm, 
which killed numbers of large birds and much injured the cattle. 
These hail-stones were flat, and one was ten inches in circumference, 
and another weighed two ounces. They ploughed up a gravel-walk 
like musket-balls, and passed through glass-windows, making round 
holes, but not cracking them. 

Having finished our dinner of hail- stricken meat, we crossed the 
Sierra Tapalguen ; a low range of hills, a few hundred feet in 
height, which commences at Cape Corrientes. The rock in this 
part is pure quartz ; further eastward I understand it is granitic. 
The hills are of a remarkable form ; they consist of flat patches of 
table-land, surrounded by low perpendicular cliffs, like the outliers 
of a sedimentary deposit. The hill which I ascended was very 
small, not above a couple of hundred yards in diameter ; but I saw 
* History of the Abipones, vol. ii. p. 6. 


others larger. One which goes by the name of the " Corral," is said 
to be two or three miles in diameter, and encompassed by perpen- 
dicular cliffs, between thirty and forty feet high, excepting at one 
spot, where the entrance lies. Falconer * give a curious account of 
the Indians driving troops of wild horses into it, and then by 
guarding the entrance, keeping them secure. I have never heard 
of any other instance of table-land in a formation of quartz, and 
which, in the hill I examined, had neither cleavage nor stratifica- 
tion. I was told that the rock of the " Corral " was white, and 
would strike fire. 

We did not reach the posta on the Bio Tapalguen till after it was 
dark. At supper, from something which was said, I was suddenly 
struck with horror at thinking that I was eating one of the favourite 
dishes of the country, namely, a half-formed calf, long before its 
proper time of birth. It turned out to be Puma ; the meat is very 
white, and remarkably like veal in taste. Dr. Shaw was laughed 
at for stating that " the flesh of the lion is in great esteem, haying 
no small affinity with veal, both in colour, taste, and flavdnr." 
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 17th. We followed the course of the Rio Tapalguen, 
through a very fertile country, to the ninth posta. Tapalguen, it- 
self, or the town of Tapalguen, if ft may be so called, consists of a 
perfectly level plain, studded over, as far as the eye can reach, with 
the toldos or oven-shaped huts of the Indians. The families of tlio 
friendly Indians, who were fighting on the side of Rosas, residcc 
here. We met and passed many young Indian women, riding 
two or three together on the same horse : they, as well as many 
the young men, were strikingly handsome, their fine ruddy cor 
plexions being the picture of health. Besides the toldos, there wei 
three ranchos ; one inhabited by the Commandant, and the two 
others by Spaniards with small shops. 

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been several 
days without tasting anything besides meat : I did not at all 
dislike this new regimen ; but I felt as if it would only have agreed 
with me with hard exercise. I have heard that patients in England, 
when desired to confine themselves exclusively to an animal diet, 
even with the hope of life before their eyes, have hardly been able 
* Falconer's Patagonia, p. 70. 

1833.] MEAT DIET. Ill 

to endure it. Yet the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together, 
touches nothing but beef. But they eat, I observe, a very large 
proportion of fat, which is of a less animalized nature ; and they 
particularly dislike dry meat, such as that of the Agouti. Dr. 
Kichardson,* also, has remarked, " that when people have fed for a 
long time solely upon lean animal food, the desire for fat becomes 
so insatiable, that they can consume a large quantity of unmixed 
and even oily fat without nausea : " this appears to me a curious 
physiological fact. It is, perhaps, from their meat regimen that the 
Gauchos, like other carnivorous animals, can abstain long from food. 
I was told that at Tandeel, some troops voluntarily pursued a party 
of Indians for three days, without eating or drinking. 

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

September ISth. We had a very long ride this day. At the 
twelfth posta, which is seven leagues south of the Rio Salado, we 
came to the first estancia with cattle and white women. Afterwards 
we had to ride for many miles through a country flooded with 
water above our horses' knees. By crossing the stirrups, and riding 
Arab-like with our legs bent up, we contrived to keep tolerably 
dry. It was nearly dark when we arrived at the Salado; the 
stream was deep, and about forty yards wide ; in summer, however, 
its bed becomes almost dry, and the little remaining water nearly 
as salt as that of the sea. We slept at one of the great estancias 
of General Eosas. It was fortified, and of such an extent, that 
arriving in the dark I thought it was a town and fortress. In the 
morning we saw immense herds of cattle, the general here having 
seventy-four square leagues of land. Formerly nearly three hun- 
dred men were employed about this estate, and they defied all the 
attacks of the Indians. 

September 12th. Passed the Guardia del Monte. This is a nice 
scattered little town, with many gardens, full of peach and quince 
trees. The plain here looked like that around Buenos Ayres ; the 
turf being short and bright green, with beds of clover and thistles, 
and with bizcacha holes. I was very much struck with the marked 
* Fauna Boreali-Americana, vol. i. p. 35. 


change in the aspect of the country after having crossed the Salado. 
From a coarse herbage we passed on to a carpet of fine green 
verdure. I at first attributed this to some change in the nature of 
the soil, but the inhabitants assured me that here, as well as in 
Banda Oriental, where there is as great a difference between the 
country around Monte Video and the thinly-inhabited savannahs 
of Colonia, the whole was to be attributed to the manuring and 
"razing of the cattle. Exactly the same fact has been observed in 
the prairies * of North America, where coarse grass, between five 
and six feet high, when grazed by cattle, changes into common 
pasture land. I am not botanist enough to say whether the change 
here is owing to the introduction of new species, to the altered 
growth of the same, or to a difference in their proportional numbers. 
Azara has also observed with astonishment this change : he is like- 
wise much perplexed by the immediate appearance of plants not 
occurring in the neighbourhood, on the borders of any track that 
leads to a newly-constructed hovel. In another part he says,f 
" ces chevaux (sauvages) ont la manie de preferer les chemins, et le 
bord des routes pour deposer leurs excremens, dont on trouve des 
monceaux dans ces endroits." Does this not partly explain the cir- 
cumstance ? "VVe thus have lines of richly manured land serving 
as channels of communication across wide districts. 

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two European 
plants, now become extraordinarily common. The fennel in great 
profusion covers the ditch-banks in the neighbourhood of Buenos 
Ayres, Monte Video, and other towns. But the cardoon (Cynara 
cardunculus) has a far wider range : J it occurs in these latitudes 
on both sides of the Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it in 

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

t Azara's Voyage, vol. i. p. 373. 

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

1833.] THE CARDOON. 113 

unfrequented spots in Chile, Eutre Bios, and Banda Oriental. In 
the latter country alone, very many (probably several hundred) 
square miles are covered by one mass of these prickly plants, and 
are impenetrable by man or beast. Over the undulating plains, 
where these great beds occur, nothing else can now live. Before 
their introduction, however, the surface must have supported, as 
in other parts, a rank herbage. I doubt whether any case is on 
record of an invasion on so grand a scale of one plant over the 
aborigines. As I have already said, I nowhere saw the cardoon 
south of the Salado ; but it is probable that in proportion as that 
country becomes inhabited, the cardoon will extend its limits. The 
case is different with the giant thistle (with variegated leaves) of 
the Pampas, for I met with it in the valley of the Sauce. Accord- 
ing to the principles so well laid down by Mr. Lyell, few countries 
have undergone more remarkable changes, since the year 1535, 
when the first colonist of La Plata landed with seventy-two horses. 
The countless herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, not only have 
altered the whole aspect of the vegetation, but they have almost 
banished the guanaco, deer, and ostrich. Numberless other changes 
must likewise have taken place ; the wild pig in some parts prob- 
ably 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 num- 
bers of the carrion-vulture, since the introduction of the domestic 
animals, must have been infinitely great ; and we have given reasons 
for believing that they have extended their southern range. No 
doubt many plants, besides the cardoon and fennel, are naturalized ; 
thus the islands near the mouth of the Parana, are thickly clothed 
with peach and orange trees, springing from seeds carried there by 
the waters of the river. 

While changing horses at the Guardia several people questioned 
us much about the army, I never saw anything like the enthu- 
siasm for Rosas, and for the success of the " most just of all wars, 
because against barbarians." This expression, it must be con- 
fessed, is very natural, for till lately, neither man, woman, nor 
horse, was safe from the attacks of the Indians. We had a long day's 
ride over the same rich green plain, abounding with various flocks, 
and with here and there a solitary estancia, and its one ombu tree. 
In the evening it rained heavily : on arriving at a post-house we 



were told by the owner that if we had not a regular passport we 
must pass on, for there were so many robbers he would trust no 
one. When he read, however, my passport, which began with 
"El Naturalista Don Carlos/' his respect and civility were as 
unbounded as his suspicions had been before. What a naturalist 
might be, neither he nor his countrymen, I suspect, had any idea; 
but probably my title lost nothing of its value from that cause. 

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

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

The great corral, where the animals are kept for slaughter to 
supply food to this beef-eating population, is one of the spectacles 
best worth seeing. The strength of the horse as compared to that 
of the bullock is quite astonishing: a man on horseback having 
thrown his lazo round the horns of a beast, can drag it anywhere 
he chooses. The animal ploughing up the ground with outstretched 
legs, in vain efforts to resist the force, generally dashes at full speed 
to one side; but the horse immediately turning to receive the 
shock, stands so firmly that the bullock is almost thrown down, 
and it is surprising that their necks are not broken. The struggle 
is not, however, one of fair strength ; the horse's girth being matched 
against the bullock's extended neck. In a similar manner a man 

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

1833.] THE GREAT CORRAL. 115 

can hold the wildest horse, if caught with the lazo, just behind 
the ears. When the bullock has been dragged to the spot where 
it is to be slaughtered, the matador with great caution cuts the 
hamstrings. Then is given the death bellow; a noise more ex- 
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 horrible and 
revolting : the ground is almost made of bones ; and the horses and 
riders are drenched with gore. 



Excursion to St. Fe Thistle Beds Habits of the Bizcacha Little Owl 
Saline Streams Level Plains Mastodon St. Fe Change in Land- 
scape Geology Tooth of extinct Horse Kelation of the Fossil and 

recent Quadrupeds of North and South America Effects of a great 
Drought Parana Habits of the Jaguar Scissor-beak Kingfisher, 
Parrot, and Scissor-tail ^Revolution Buenos Ayres State of Govern- 


September 27^. In the evening I set out on an excursion to St. 
Fe, which is situated nearly three hundred English miles from 
Buenos Ayres, on the banks of the Parana. The roads in the 
neighbourhood of the city, after the rainy -weather, were extra- 
ordinarily bad. I should never have thought it possible for a 
bullock waggon to have crawled along: as it was, they scarcely 
went at the rate of a mile an hour, and a man was kept ahead, to 
survey the best line for making the attempt. The bullocks were 
terribly jaded : it is a great mistake to suppose that with improved 
roads, and an accelerated rate of travelling, the sufferings of the 
animals increase in the same proportion. We passed a train of 
waggons and a troop of beasts on their road to Mendoza. The 
distance is about 580 geographical miles, and the journey is 
generally performed in fifty days. These waggons are very long, 
narrow, and thatched with reeds; they have only two wheels, the 
diameter of which in some cases is as much as ten feet. Each is 
drawn by six bullocks, which are urged on by a goad at least 
twenty feet long: this is suspended from within the roof; for the 
wheel bullocks a smaller one is kept; and for the intermediate 
pair, a point projects at right angles from the middle of the long 
one. The whole apparatus looked like some implement of war. 

September 28th. We passed the small town of Luxan, where 
there is a wooden bridge over the river a most unusual conve- 

1833.] THE BIZCACHA. 117 

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

The bizcacha * is well known to form a prominent feature in the 
zoology of the Pampas. It is found as far south as the Eio Negro, 
in lat. 41, but not beyond. It cannot, like the agouti, subsist on 
the gravelly and desert plains of Patagonia, but prefers a clayey 
or sandy soil, which produces a different and more abundant vege- 
tation. Near Mendoza, at the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs in 
close neighbourhood with the allied alpine species. It is a very 
curious circumstance in its geographical distribution, that it has 
never been seen, fortunately for the inhabitants of Banda Oriental, 
to the eastward of the river Uruguay : yet in this province there 
are plains which appear admirably adapted to its habits. The 
Uruguay has formed an insuperable obstacle to its migration: 
although the broader barrier of the Parana has been passed, and 
the bizcacha is common in Entre Eios, the province between these 
two great rivers. Near Buenos Ayres these animals are exceedingly 
common. Their most favourite resort appears to be those parts of 

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

118 PAMPAS. LCHAP. vn. 

the plain which during one-half of the year are covered with giant 
thistles, to the exclusion of other plants. The Gauchos affirm that 
it lives on roots; which, from the great strength of its gnawing 
teeth, and the kind of places frequented by it, seems probable. In 
the evening the bizcachas come out in numbers, and quietly sit at 
the mouths of their burrows on their haunches. At such times 
they are very tame, and a man on horseback passing by seems 
only to present an object for their grave contemplation. They 
run very awkwardly, and when running out of danger, from their 
elevated tails and short front legs, much resemble great rats. 
Their flesh, when cooked, is very white and good, but it is seldom 

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

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has been so often 
mentioned, on the plains of Buenos Ayres exclusively inhabits the 
holes of the bizcacha ; but in Banda Oriental it is its own workman. 
During the open day, but more especially in the evening, these 

1833.] SALINE STREAMS. 119 

birds may be seen in every direction standing frequently by pairs 
on the hillock near their burrows. If disturbed they cither enter 
the hole, or, uttering a shrill harsh cry, move with a remarkably 
undulatory flight to a short distance, and then turning round, 
steadily gaze at their pursuer. Occasionally in the evening they 
may be heard hooting. I found in the stomachs of two -which 
I opened the remains of mice, and I one day saw a small snake 
killed and carried away. It is said that snakes are their common 
prey during the daytime. I may here mention, as showing on 
what various kinds of food owls subsist, that a species killed 
among the islets of the Chonos Archipelago, had its stomach full 
of good-sized crabs. In India* there is a fishing genus of owls, 
which likewise catches crabs. 

In the evening we crossed the Eio Arrecife on a simple raft 
made of barrels lashed together, and slept at the post-house on 
the other side. I this day paid horse-hire for thirty-one leagues ; 
and although the sun was glaring hot I was but little fatigued. 
When Captain Head talks of riding fifty leagues a day, I do not 
imagine the distance is equal to 150 English miles. At all events, 
the thirty-one leagues was only 76 miles in a straight line, and in 
an open country I should think four additional miles for turnings 
would be a sufficient allowance. 

2Q(h and oOth. We continued to ride over plains of the same 
character. At San Nicholas I first saw the noble river of the 
Parana. At the foot of the cliff on which the town stands, some 
large vessels were at anchor. Before arriving at Rozario, we 
crossed the Saladillo, a stream of fine clear running water, but 
too saline to drink. Eozario is a large town built on a dead level 
plain, which forms a cliff about sixty feet high over the Parana. 
The river here is very broad, with many islands, which are low 
and wooded, as is also the opposite shore. The view would 
resemble that of a great lake, if it were not for the linear-shaped 
islets, which alone give the idea of running water. The cliffs arc 
the most picturesque part; sometimes they are absolutely perpen- 
diciilar, and of a red colour; at other times in large broken masses, 
covered with cacti and mimosa-trees. The real grandeur, however, 
of an immense river like this, is derived from reflecting how im- 
portant a means of communication and commerce it forms between 
one nation and another ; to what a distance it travels ; and from 
* Journal of Asiatic Soc., vol. v. p. 3G3. 

120 RIO TEECERO. [CHAP. vn. 

how vast a territory it drains the great body of fresh water which 
flows past your feet. 

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

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

October 2nd. We passed through Corunda, which, from the 
hixuriance of its gardens, was one of the prettiest villages I saw. 
From this point to St. Fe the road is not very safe. The western 
side of the Parana northward, ceases to be inhabited ; and hence 
the Indians sometimes come down thus far, and wayLay travellers. 
The nature of the country also favours this, for instead of a grassy 
plain, there is an open woodland, composed of low prickly mimosas. 
We passed some houses that had been ransacked and since deserted ; 

1833.] ST. Ffi. 121 

we saw also a spectacle, which my guides viewed with high satis- 
faction ; it was tho skeleton of an Indian with the dried skin 
hanging on the bones, suspended to the branch of a tree. 

In the morning we arrived at St. Fe. I was surprised to observe 
how great a change of climate a difference of only three degrees of 
latitude between this place and Buenos Ayres had caused. This 
was evident from the dress and complexion of the men from the 
increased size of the onabu-trees the number of new cacti and 
other plants and especially from the birds. In the course of an 
hour I remarked half-a-dozen birds, which I had never seen at 
Buenos Ayres. Considering that there is no natural boundary 
between the two places, and that the character of the country is 
nearly similar, the difference was much greater than I should have 

October 3rd and 4th. I was confined for these two days to my 
bed by a headache. A good-natured old woman, who attended me, 
wished me to try many odd remedies. A common practice is, to 
bind an orange-leaf or a bit of black plaster to each temple : and a 
still more general plan is, to split a beau 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 tho matter ? he will answer, " I had a 
headache the day before yesterday." Many of the remedies used by 
the people of the country are ludicrously strange, but too disgust- 
ing to be mentioned. One of the least nasty is to kill and cut open 
two puppies and bind them on each side of a broken limb. Little 
hairless dogs are in great request to sleep at the feet of invalids. 

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

October 5th. We crossed the Parana to St. Fe Bajada, a town on 
the opposite shore. The passage took some hours, as the river here 
consisted of a labyrinth of small streams, separated by low wooded 
islands. I had a letter of introduction to an old Catalonian 

122 ST. F. [CHAP. vn. 

Spaniard, who treated me with the most uncommon hospitality. 
The Bajada is the capital of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town con- 
tained 6000 inhabitants, and the province 30,000 ; yet, few as the 
inhabitants are, no province has suffered more from bloody and 
desperate revolutions. They boast here of representatives, 
ministers, a standing army, and governors : so it is no wonder that 
they have their revolutions. At some future day this must be one 
of the richest countries of La Plata. The soil is varied and pro- 
ductive ; and its almost insular form gives it two grand lines of 
communication by the rivers Parana and Uruguay. 

I was delayed here five days, and employed myself in examining 
the geology of the surrounding country, which was very interesting. 
We here see at the bottom of the cliffs, beds containing sharks' 
teeth and sea-shells of extinct species, passing above into an 
indurated marl, and from that into the red clayey earth of the 
Pampas, with its calcareous concretions and the bones of terrestrial 
quadrupeds. This vertical section clearly tells us of a large bay of 
pure salt-water, gradually encroached on, and at last converted 
into the bed of a muddy estuary, into which floating carcasses were 
swept. At Punta Gorda, in Banda Oriental, I found an alternation 
of the Pamprean 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 con- 
sidering the Pampaean formation to be an estuary deposit were, its 
general appearance, its position at the mouth of the existing great 
river the Plata, and the presence of so many bones of terrestrial 
quadrupeds : but now Professor Ehrenberg has had the kindness 
to examine for me a little of the red earth, taken from low down in 
the deposit, close to the skeletons of the mastodon, and he finds in 
it many infusoria, partly salt-water and partly fresh-water forms, 
with the latter rather preponderating; and therefore, as he 
remarks, the water must have been brackish. M. A. d'Orbigny 
found on the banks of the Parana, at the height of a hundred feet, 
great beds of an estuary shell, now living a hundred miles lower 
down nearer the sea; and I found similar shells at a less height on 
the banks of the Uruguay : this shows that just before the Pampas 
was slowly elevated into dry land, the water covering it was 
brackish. Below Buenos Ayres there are upraised beds of sea- 


shells of existing species, which also proves that the period of 
elevation of the Pampas was within the recent period. 

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

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the masto- 
don, possibly of an elephant,f and of a hollow-horned ruminant, 
discovered by MM. Lund and Clausen in the caves of Brazil, are 
highly interesting facts with respect to the geographical distribu- 
tion of animals. At the present time, if we divide America, not 
by the Isthmus of Panama, but by the southern part of Mexico % 
in lat. 20, where the great table-land presents an obstacle to the 
migration of species, by affecting the climate, and by forming, 

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

t Cuvicr. Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 158. 

t This is the geographical division followed by Liclitenstein, Swainson, 
Erichson, and Richardson. The section from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, 
given by Humboldt in the Polit. Essay on Kingdom of N. Spain will show 
how immense a barrier the Mexican table-land forms. Dr. Richardson, in 
his admirable Report on the Zoology of N. America read before the Brit. 
Assoc. 1836 (p. 157), talking of the identification of a Mexican animal 
with the Synctheres prehensilis, says, "We do not know with what pro- 
priety, 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." 

124 ST. F. [CHAP. vir. 

with the exception of some valleys and of a fringe of low land on 
the coast, a broad barrier ; we shall then have the two zoological 
provinces of North and South America strongly contrasted with 
each other. Some few species alone have passed the barrier, and 
may be considered as wanderers from the south, such as the 
puma, opossum, kinkajou, and peccari. South America is charac- 
terized 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 pecu- 
liar gnawers, and by four genera (the ox, sheep, goat, and antelope) 
of hollow-horned ruminants, of which great division South America 
is not known to possess a single species. Formerly, but within the 
period when most of the now existing shells were living, North 
America possessed, besides hollow-horned ruminants, the elephant, 
mastodon, horse, and three genera of Edentata, namely, the 
Megatherium, Megalonyx, and Mylodon. Within nearly this same 
period (as proved by the shells at Bahia Blanca) South America 
possessed, as we have just seen, a mastodon, horse, hollow-horned 
ruminant, and the same three genera (as well as several others) of 
the Edentata. Hence it is evident that North and South America, 
in having within a late geological period these several genera in 
common, were much more closely related in the character of their 
terrestrial inhabitants than they now are. The more I reflect on 
this case, the more interesting it appears: I know of no other 
instance where we can almost mark the period and manner of the 
splitting up of one great region into two well-characterized zoolo- 
gical provinces. The geologist, who is fully impressed with the 
vast oscillations of level which have affected the earth's crust 
within late periods, will not fear to speculate on the recent eleva- 
tion of the Mexican platform, or, more probably, on the recent 
submergence of land in the "West Indian Archipelago, as the cause 
of the present zoological separation of North and South America. 
The South American character of the West Indian mammals * 

* 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 doubt- 
ful. M. Gervais states that Ihe Didelphis crancrivora is found there. It 
is certain that the AVest Indies possess some mammifers peculiar to them- 
selves. A. tooth of a mastodon has been brought from Bahama : Ediii. 
New Phil. Journ., 1826, p. 395. 


seems to indicate that this archipelago -was formerly united to the 
southern continent, and that it has subsequently been an area of 

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

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

* See the admirable Appendix by Dr. Bucldand to Beechey's Voyage ; 
also tho writings of Ckamisso in Kotzebue's Voyage. 

t In Captain Owen's Surveying Voyage (vol. ii. p. 274) there is a 
curious account of the effects of a drought on the elephants, at Benguela 
(west coast of Africa). " A number of these animals had some time since 
entered the town, in a body, to possess themselves of the wells, not being 
able to procure any water in the country. The inhabitants mustered, 
when a desperate conflict ensued, which terminated in the ultimate discom- 

126 ST. F. [CHAP. vii. 

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

I was informed by an eye-witness that the cattle in herds of 
thousands rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted by hunger 
they were unable to crawl up the muddy banks, and thus were 
drowned. The arm of the river which runs by San Pedro was 
so full of putrid carcasses, that the master of a vessel told me 
that the smell rendered it quite impassable. Without doubt 
several hundred thousand animals thus perished in the river: 
their bodies when putrid were seen floating down the stream; 
and many in all probability were deposited in the estuary of the 
Plata. All the small rivers became highly saline, and this caused 
the death of vast numbers in particular spots ; for when an anims 
drinks of such water it does not recover. Azara describes * the 
fury of the wild horses on a similar occasion, rushing into the 
marshes, those which arrived first being overwhelmed and crushec 
by those which followed. He adds that more than once he has 
seen the carcasses of upwards of a thousand wild horses thus 
destroyed. I noticed that the smaller streams in the Pampas were 
paved with a breccia of bones, but this probably is the effect of a 

fiture of the invaders, but not until they had killed one man, and wounded 
several others." The town is said to have a population of nearly three 
thousand ! Dr. Malcolmson informs me that, during a great drought in 
India, the wild animals entered the tents of some troops at Ellore, and 
that a hare drank out of a vessel held by the adjutant of the regiment. 
* Travels, vol. i. p. 374. 


gradual increase, rather than of the destruction at any one period. 
Subsequently to the drought of 1827 to 1832, a very rainy season 
followed, which caused great floods. Hence it is almost certain 
that some thousands of the skeletons were buried by the deposits 
of the very next year. What would be the opinion of a geologist, 
viewing such an enormous collection of bones, of all kinds of 
animals and of all ages, thus embedded in one thick earthy mass ? 
Would he not attribute it to a flood having swept over the surface 
of the land, rather than to the common order of things ? * 

October 13ith. I had intended to push my excursion further, 
but not being quite well, I was compelled to return by a balandra, 
or one-masted vessel of about a hundred tons' burden, which was 
bound to Buenos Ayres. As the weather was not fair, we moored 
early in the day to a branch of a tree on one of the islands. The 
Porana is full of islands, which undergo a constant round of decay 
and renovation. In the memory of the master several large ones 
had disappeared, and others again had been formed and protected 
by vegetation. They are composed of muddy sand, without even 
the smallest pebble, and were then about four feet above the level 
of the river ; but during the periodical floods they are inundated. 
They all present one character ; numerous willows and a few other 
trees are bound together by a great variety of creeping plants, thus 
forming a thick jungle. These thickets afford a retreat for capy- 
baras and jaguars. The fear of the latter animal quite destroyed 
all pleasure in scrambling through the woods. This evening I had 
not proceeded a hundred yards, before finding indubitable signs of 
the recent presence of the tiger, I was obliged to come back. On 
every island there were tracks; and as on the former excursion 
" el rastro de los Indios " had been the subject of conversation, so 
in this was " el rastro del tigre." 

The wooded banks of the great rivers appear to be the favourite 
haunts of the jaguar ; but south of the Plata, I was told that they 
frequented the reeds bordering lakes : wherever they are, they seem 
to require water. Their common prey is the capybara, so that it 
is generally said, where capybaras are numerous there is little 
danger from the jaguar. Falconer states that near the southern 
side of the mouth of the Plata there are many jaguars, and that 

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


they chiefly live on fish; this account I have heard repeated. 
On the Parana they have killed many wood- cutters, and have 
even entered vessels at night. There is a man now living in the 
Bajada, who, coming up from below when it was dark, was seized 
on the deck ; he escaped, however, with the loss of the use of one 
arm. When the floods drive these animals from the islands, they 
are most dangerous. I was told that a few years since a very large 
one found its way into a church at St. Fe : two padres entering 
one after the other were killed, and a third, who came to see what 
was the matter, escaped with difficulty. The beast was destroyed 
by being shot from a corner of the building which was unroofed. 
They commit also at these times great ravages among cattle and 
horses. It is said that they kill their prey by breaking their 
necks. If driven from the carcass, they seldom return to it. The 
Gauchos say that the jaguar, when wandering about at night, is 
much tormented by the foxes yelping as they follow him. This is 
a curious coincidence with the fact which is generally affirmed of 
the jackals accompanying, in a similarly officious manner, the 
East Indian tiger. The jaguar is a noisy animal, roaring much by 
night, and especially before bad weather. 

One day, when hunting on the banks of the Uruguay, I was 
shown certain trees, to which these animals constantly recur for 
the purpose, as it is said, of sharpening their claws. I saw three 
well-known trees ; in front, the bark was worn smooth, as if by the 
breast of the animal, and on each side there were deep scratches, 
or rather grooves, extending in an oblique line, nearly a yard in 
length. The scars were of different ages. A common method of 
ascertaining whether a jaguar is in the neighbourhood is to 
examine these trees. I imagine this habit of the jaguar is exactly 
similar to one which may any day be seen in the common cat, as 
with outstretched legs and exserted claws it scrapes the leg of a 
chair; and I have heard of young fruit-trees in an orchard in 
England having been thus much injured. Some such habit must 
also be common to the puma, for on the bare hard soil of Patagonia 
I have frequently seen scores so deep that no other animal could 
have made them. The object of this practice is, I believe, to tear off 
the ragged points of their claws, and not, as the Gauchos think, to 
sharpen them. The jaguar is killed, without much difficulty, by 
the aid of dogs baying and driving him up a tree, where he is 
despatched with bullets. 

1833.] THE SCISSOR-BEAK. 129 

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

October 15th. We got under way and passed Punta Gorda, 
where there is a colony of tame Indians from the province of 
Missioues. We sailed rapidly down the current, but before sunset, 
from a silly fear of bad weather, we brought- to in a narrow arm of 
the river. I took the boat and rowed some distance up this creek. 
It was very narrow, winding, and deep ; on each side a wall thirty 
or forty feet high, formed by trees intwiued with creepers, gave to 
the canal a singularly gloomy appearance. I here saw a very 
extraordinary bird, called the Scissor-beak (Rhynchops nigra). It 
has short legs, web feet, extremely long-pointed wings, and is of 
about the size of a tern. The beak is flattened laterally, that is, in 

a plane at right angles to that of a spoonbill or duck. It is as flat 
and elastic as an ivory paper-cutter, and the lower mandible, 
differently from every other bird, is an inch and a half longer than 
the upper. In a lake near Maldonado, from which the water had 
been nearly drained, and which, in consequence, swarmed with 
small fry, I saw several of these birds, generally in small ^flocks, 
flying rapidly backwards and forwards close to the surface of the 
lake. They kept their bills wide open, and the lower mandible half 


130 RIO PARANA. [CHAP. vil. 

buried in the water. Thus skimming the surface, they ploughed 
it in their course : the water was quite smooth, and it formed a 
most curious, spectacle to behold a flock, each bird leaving its 
narrow wake on the mirror-like surface. In their flight they 
frequently twist about with extreme quickness, and dexterously 
manage with their projecting lower mandible to plough up small 
fish, which are secured by the upper and shorter half of their 
scissor-like bills. This fact I repeatedly saw, as, like swallows, 
they continued to fly ^backwards and forwards close before me. 
Occasionally when leaving the surface of the water their flight was 
wild, irregular, and rapid ; they then uttered loud harsh cries. 
When these birds are fishing, the advantage of the long primary 
feathers of their wings, in keeping them dry, is very evident, 
When thus employed, their forms resemble the symbol by which 
many artists represent marine birds. Their tails are much used in 
steering their irregular course. 

These birds are common far inland along the course of the Eio 
Parana; it is said that they remain here during the whole year, 
and breed in the marshes. During the day they rest in flocks on 
the grassy plains, at some distance from the water. Being at 
anchor, as I have said, in one of the deep creeks between the 
islands of the Parana, as the evening drew to a close, one of these 
scissor-beaks suddenly appeared. The water was quite still, and 
many little fish were rising. The bird continued for a long time to 
skim the surface, flying in its wild and^irregular manner up and 
down the narrow canal, now dark with the growing night and the 
shadows of the overhanging trees. At Monte Video, I observed 
that some large flocks during the day remained on the mud-banks 
at the head of the harbour, in the same manner as on the grassy 
plains near the Parana; and every evening they took flight seaward. 
From these facts I suspect that the Khynchops 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 mactrte buried in the sand-banks on 
the coast of Chile : from their weak bills, with the lower mandible 
so much projecting, their short legs and long wings, it is very 
improbable that this can be a general habit. 

In our course down '.the Parana, I observed only three other 
birds, whose habits are worth mentioning. One is a small king- 
fisher (Ceryle Americana) ; it has a longer tail than the European 

1833. THE SCISSOR-TAIL. 131 

species, and hence does not sit in so stiff and upright a position. 
Its flight also, instead of being direct and rapid, like the course of 
an arrow, is weak and undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. 
It utters a low note, like the clicking together of two small stones. 
A small green parrot (Conurus murinus), with a grey breast, 
appears to prefer the tall trees on the islands to any other situation 
for its building-place. A number of nests aro placed so close 
together as to form one great mass of sticks. These parrots always 
live in flocks, and commit great ravages on the corn-fields. I was 
told that near Colonia 2500 were killed in the course of one year. A 
bird with a forked tail, terminated by two long feathers (Tyrannus 
savana), and named by the Spaniards scissor-tail, is very common 
near Buenos Ayres : it commonly sits on a branch of the omlu tree, 
near a house, and thence takes a short flight in pursuit of insects, 
and returns to the same spot. When on the wing it presents in 
its manner of flight and general appearance a caricature-likeness of 
the common swallow. It has the power of turning very shortly in 
the air, and in so doing opens and shuts its tail, sometimes in a 
horizontal or lateral and sometimes in a vertical direction, just like 
a pair of scissors. 

October IQth. Some leagues below Rozario, the western shore of 
the Parana is bounded by perpendicular cliffs, which extend in a 
long line to below San Nicolas ; hence it more resembles a sea-coast 
than that of a fresh-water river. It is a great drawback to the 
scenery of the Parana, that, from the soft nature of its banks, the 
water is very muddy. The Uruguay, flowing through a granitic 
country, is much clearer ; and where the two channels unite at the 
head of the Plata, the waters may for a long distance be dis- 
tinguished by their black and red colours. In the evening, the 
wind being not quite fair, as usual we immediately moored, and 
the next day, as it blew rather freshly, though with a favouring 
current, the master was much too indolent to think of starting. 
At Bajada, he was described to me as "hombre muyaflicto" a 
man always miserable to get on ; but certainly he bore all delays 
with admirable resignation. He was an old Spaniard, and had 
been many years in this country. He professed a great liking to 
the English, but stoutly maintained that the battle of Trafalgar 
was merely won by the Spanish captains having been all bought 
Over; and that the only really gallant action on either side was 
performed by the Spanish admiral. It struck me as rather 

132 RIO PARANA. [CHAP. vn. 

characteristic, that this man should prefer his countrymen being 
thought the worst of traitors, rather than unskilful or cowardly. 

18th and 19th. We continued slowly to sail down the noble 
stream: the current helped us but little. We met, during our 
descent, very few vessels. One of the best gifts of nature, in so 
grand a channel of communication, seems here wilfully thrown 
awa y_ a river in which ships might navigate from a temperate 
country, as surprisingly abundant in certain productions as 
destitute of others, to another possessing a tropical climate, and a 
soil which, according to the best of judges, M. Bonpland, is perhaps 
unequalled in fertility in any part of the world. How different 
would have been the aspect of this river if English colonists had by 
good fortune first sailed up the Plata ! What noble towns would 
now have occupied its shores! Till the death of Francia, the 
Dictator of Paraguay, these two countries must remain distinct, 
as if placed on opposite sides of the globe. And when the old 
bloody-minded tyrant is gone to his long account, Paraguay will 
be torn by revolutions, violent in proportion to the previous un- 
natural calm. That country will have to learn, like every other 
South American state, that a republic cannot succeed till it con- 
tains a certain body of men imbued with the principles of justice 
and honour. 

October 20#i. Being arrived at the mouth of the Parana, and as 
I was very anxious to reach Buenos Ayrcs, I went on shore at Las 
Conchas, with the intention of riding there. Upon landing, I found 
to my great surprise that I was to a certain degree a prisoner. A 
violent revolution having broken out, all the ports were laid under 
an embargo. I could not return to my vessel, and as for going by 
1 and to the city, it was out of the question. After a long conversa- 
tion with the commandant, I obtained permission to go the next 
day to General Bolor, who commanded a division of the rebels on 
this side the capital. In the morning I rode to the encampment. 
The general, officers, and soldiers, all appeared, and I believe 
really were, great villains. The general, the very evening before he 
left the city, voluntarily went to the Governor, and with his hand 
to lu's heart, pledged his word of honour that he at least would 
remain faithful to the last. The general told me that the city was 
in a state of close blockade, and that all he could do was to give 
me a passport to the commander-in-chief of the rebels at Quilmes. 
We had therefore to take a great sweep round the city, and it was 


with much difficulty that we procured horses. My reception at 
the encampment was quite civil, but I was told it was impossible 
that I could be allowed to enter the city. I was very anxious 
about this, as I anticipated the Beagle's departure from the Eio 
Plata earlier than it took place. Having mentioned, however, 
General Eosas's obliging kindness to me when at the Colorado, 
magic itself could not have altered circumstances quicker than did 
this conversation. I was instantly told that though they could not 
give me a passport, if I chose to leave my guide and horses, I might 
pass their sentinels. I was too glad to accept of this, and an officer 
was sent with me to give directions that I should not be stopped 
at the bridge. The road for the space of a league was quite 
deserted. I met one party of soldiers, who were satisfied by gravely 
looking at an old passport : and at length I was not a little pleased 
to find myself within the city. 

This revolution was supported by scarcely any pretext of griev- 
ances : but in a state which, in the course of nine months (from 
February to October, 1820), underwent fifteen changes in its 
government each governor, according to the constitution, being 
elected for three years it would be very unreasonable to ask for 
pretexts. In this case, a party of men who, being attached to 
Rosas, were disgusted with the governor Balcarco to the number 
of seventy left the city, and with the cry of Eosas 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 Eosas could not have known of this rising ; 
but it appears to be quite consonant with the plans of his party. 
A year ago he was elected governor, but he refused it, unless the 
Sal a 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 pro- 
tracted till it was possible to hear from Eosas. A note arrived a 
few days after I left Buenos Ayres, which stated that the General 
disapproved of peace having been broken, but that he thought the 
outside party had justice on their side. On the bare reception of 
this, the Governor, ministers, and part of the military, to the 
number of some hundreds, fled from the city. The rebels entered, 
elected a new governor, and were paid for their services to the 


number of 5500 men. From these proceedings, it was clear that 
Eosas ultimately would become the dictator : to the term king, the 
people in this, as in other republics, have a particular dislike. 
Since leaving South America, we have heard that Eosas has been 
elected, with powers and for a time altogether opposed to the 
constitutional principles of the republic. 



Excursion to Coloniu del Sacramiento Value of au Estaucia Cattle, 
how counted Singular Breed of Oxen Perforated Pebbles Shepherd 
Dogs PJorses brokeu-iu, Gauchos riding Character of Inhabitants 
Rio Plata Flocks of Butterflies Aeronaut Spiders Phosphorescence 
of the Sea Port Desire Guanaco Port St. Julian Geology of Pata- 
gonia Fossil gigantic Animal Types of Organization constant 
Change in the Zoology of America Causes of Extinction. 


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

Our passage was a very long and tedious one. The Plata looks 
like a noble estuary on the map ; but is in truth a poor affair. A 
wide expanse of muddy water has neither grandeur nor beauty. At 
one time of the day, the two shores, both of which are extremely 
low, could just be distinguished from the deck. On arriving at 
Monte Video I found that the Beagle would not sail for some time, 
so I prepared for a short excursion in this part of Banda Oriental. 
Everything which I have said about the country near Maldonado 
is applicable to Monte Video ; but the land, with the one exception 
of the Green Mount 450 feet high, from which it takes its name, is 
far more level. Very little of the undulating grassy plain is 
enclosed ; but near the town there are a few hedge-banks, covered 
with agaves, cacti, and fennel. 

November l&h. We left Monte Video in the afternoon. I 
intended to proceed to Colonia del Sacramiento, situated on the 
northern bank of the Plata and opposite to Buenos Ayres, and 


thence, following up the Uruguay, to the village of Mercedes on 
the Rio Negro (one of the many rivers of this name in South 
America), and from this point to return direct to Monte Video. 
We slept at the house of my guide at Canelones. In the morning 
we rose early, in the hopes of being able to ride a good distance ; 
but it was a vain attempt, for all the rivers were flooded. We 
passed in boats the streams of Canelones, St. Lucia, and San Jose, 
and thus lost much time. On a former excursion I crossed the 
Lucia near its mouth, and I was surprised to observe how easily 
our horses, although not used to swim, passed over a width of at 
least six hundred yards. On mentioning this at Monte Yideo, I 
was told that a vessel containing some mountebanks and their 
horses, being wrecked in the Plata, one horse swam seven miles to 
the shore. In the course of the day I was amused by the dexterity 
with which a Gaucho forced a restive horse to swim a river. He 
stripped off his clothes, and jumping on its back, rode into the 
water till it was out of its depth ; then slipping off over the crupper, 
he caught hold of the tail, and as often as the horse turned round, 
the man frightened it back by splashing water in its face. As soon 
as the horse touched the bottom on the other side, the man pulled 
himself on, and was firmly seated, bridle in hand, before the horso 
gained the bank. A naked man on a naked horse is a fine spectacle ; 
I had no idea how well the two animals suited each other. The 
tail of a horse is a very useful appendage ; I have passed a river in 
a boat with four people in it, which was ferried across in the same 
way as the Gaucho. If a man and horse have to cross a broad 
river, the best plan is for the man to catch hold of the pommel or 
mane, and help himself with the other arm. 

AVc slept and stayed the following day at the post of Cufre. In 
the evening the postman or letter-carrier arrived. He was a day 
after his time, owing to the Bio Eozario being flooded. It would 
not, however, be of much consequence ; for, although he had passed 
through some of the principal towns in Banda Oriental, his luggage 
consisted of two letters ! The view from the house was pleasing ; 
an undulating green surface, with distant glimpses of the Plata. I 
find that I look at this province with very different eyes from what 
I did upon my first arrival. I recollect I then thought; it singu- 
larly level ; but now, after galloping over the Pampas, my only 
surprise is, what could have induced me ever to call it level. The 
country is a series of undulations, in themselves perhaps not abso- 


lately groat, 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 17th. We crossed the Eozario, which was deep and 
rapid, and passing the village of Colla, arrived at midday at Colonia 
del Sacramiento. The distance is twenty leagues, through a country 
covered with fine grass, but poorly stocked with cattle or inhabi- 
tants. I was invited to sleep at Colonia, and to accompany on the 
following day a gentleman to his estancia, where there were some 
limestone rocks. The town is built on a stony promontory some- 
thing in the same manner as at Monte Video. It is strongly fortified, 
but both fortifications and town suffered much in the Brazilian war. 
It is very ancient ; and the irregularity of the streets, and the sur- 
rounding groves of old orange and peach trees, gave it a pretty 
appearance. The church is a curious ruin; it was used as a 
poAvder-magazine, and was struck by lightning in one of the ten 
thousand thunder-storms of the Rio Plata. Two-thirds of the 
building were blown away to the very foundation ; and the rest 
stands a shattered and curious monument of the united powers of 
lightning and gunpowder. In the evening I wandered about the 
half-demolished walls of the town. It was the chief seat of the 
Brazilian war; a war most injurious to this country, not so 
much in its immediate effects, as in being the origin of a multitude 
of generals and all other grades of officers. More generals are 
numbered (but not paid) in the United Provinces of La Plata than 
in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. These gentlemen have 
learned to like power, and do not object to a little skirmishing. 
Hence there are many always on the watch to create disturbance 
and to overturn a government which as yet has never rested on any 
stable foundation. I noticed, however, both here and in othci* 
places, a very general interest in the ensuing election for the Presi- 
dent ; and this appears a good sign for the prosperity of this little 
country. The inhabitants do not require much education in their 
representatives ; I heard some men discussing the merits of those 
for Colonia ; and it was said that, " although they were not men of 
business, they could all sign their names : " with this they seemed 
to think every reasonable man ought to be satisfied. 

18^. Eode with my host to his estancia, at the Arroyo de San 
Juan. In the evening we took a ride round the estate : it contained 
two square leagues and a half, and was situated in what is called a 


rincon; that is, one side was fronted by the Plata, and the two 
others guarded by impassable brooks. There was au excellent port 
for little vessels, and an abundance of small wood, which is valuable 
as supplying fuel to Buenos Ayres. I was curious to know the 
value of so complete an estancia. Of cattle there were 3000, and it 
would well support three or four times that number ; of mares 800, 
together with 150 broken-in horses, and 600 sheep. There was 
plenty of water and limestone, a rough house, excellent corrals, 
and a peach orchard. For all this he had been offered 2000, and 
he only wanted 500 additional, and probably would sell it for 
less. The chief trouble with an estancia is driving the cattle twice 
a week to a central spot, in order to make them tame, and to count 
them. This latter operation would be thought difficult, where 
there are ten or fifteen thousand head together. It is managed on 
the principle that the cattle invariably divide themselves into little 
troops of from forty to one hundred. Each troop is recognized by 
a few peculiarly marked animals, and its number is known : so that, 
one being lost out of ten thousand, it is perceived by its absence 
from one of the tropillas. During a stormy night the cattle all 
mingle together; but the next morning the tropillas separate as 
before ; so that each animal must know its fellow out of ten thousand 

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

Since my return, I have procured a skeleton head, through the 
kindness of my friend Captain Sulivan, E.N., which is now deposited 
in the College of Surgeons.* Don F. Muniz, of Luxan, has kindly 

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


collected for me all the information which he could respecting this 
breed. From his account it seems that about eighty or ninety 
years ago, they were rare and kept as curiosities at Buenos Ayres. 
The breed is universally believed to have originated amongst the 
Indians southward of the Plata ; and that it was with them the 
commonest kind. Even to this day, those reared in the provinces 
near the Plata show their less civilized origin, in being fiercer 
than common cattle, and in the cow easily deserting her first calf, 
if visited too often or molested. It is a singular fact that an almost 
similar structure to the abnormal * one of the niata breed, cha- 
racterizes, as I am informed by Dr. Falconer, that great extinct 
ruminant of India, the Sivatherium. The breed is very true ; and 
a niata bull and cow invariably produce niata calves. A niata bull 
with a common cow, or the reverse cross, produces offspring having 
an intermediate character, but with the niata characters strongly 
displayed : according to Seiior Muniz, there is the clearest evidence, 
contrary to the common belief of agriculturists in analogous cases, 
that the niata cow when crossed with a common bull transmits her 
peculiarities more strongly than the niata bull when crossed with a 
common cow. When the pasture is tolerably long, the niata cattle 
feed with the tongue and palate as^well as common cattle; but 
during the great droughts, when so many animals perish, the niata 
breed is under a great disadvantage, and would be exterminated if 
not attended to; for the common cattle, like horses, are able just 
to keep alive, by browsing with their lips on twigs of trees and 
reeds ; this the niatas cannot jso well do, as their lips do not join, 
and hence they are found to perish before the common cattle. 
This strikes me as a good illustration of how little we are able to 
judge from the ordinary habits of life, on what circumstances, 
occurring only at long intervals, the rarity or extinction of a 
species may be determined. 

November 19^. Passing the valley of Las Vacas, we slept at a 
house of a North American, who worked a lime-kiln on the Arroyo 
de las Vivoras. In the morning we rode to a projecting headland 
on the banks of the river, called Punta Gorda. On the way we 
tried to find a jaguar. There were plenty of fresh tracks, and wo 

* A nearly similar abnormal, but I do not know whether hereditary, 
structure has been observed in the carp, and likewise in the crocodile of 
the Ganges : Histoirc'des Anomalies, par M. Isid. Geoffrey St. Hilairc, 
torn. 1. p. 244. 


visited the trees, on which they arc said to sharpen their claws ; 
but we did not succeed in disturbing one. From this point the 
Eio Uruguay presented to our view a noble volume of water. From 
the clearness and rapidity of the stream, its appearance was far 
superior to that of its neighbour the Parana. On the opposite 
coast, several branches from the latter river entered the Uruguay. 
As the sun was shining, the two colours of the waters could be 
seen quite distinct. 

In the evening we proceeded on our road towards Mercedes on the 
Eio Negro. At night we asked permission to sleep at an estancia 
at which we happened to arrive. It was a very large estate, being 
ten leagues square, and the owner is one of the greatest landowners 
in the country. His nephew had charge of it, and with him there 
was a captain in the army, who the other day ran away from 
Buenos Ayres. Considering their station, their conversation was 
rather amusing. They expressed, as was usual, unbounded aston- 
ishment at the globe being round, and could scarcely credit that n 
hole would, if deep enough, come out on the other side. They 
had, however, heard of a country where there were six months of 
light and six of darkness, and where the inhabitants were very 
tall and thin ! They were curious about the price and condition 
of horses and cattle in England. Upon finding out we did not 
catch our animals with the lazo, they cried out, " Ah, then, you 
use nothing but the bolas : " the idea of an enclosed country was 
quite new to them. The captain at last said, he had one question 
to ask me, which he should be very much obliged if I would answer 
with all truth. I trembled to think how deeply scientific it would 
be: it was, "Whether the ladies of Buenos Ayres were not the 
handsomest in the world." I replied, like a renegade, "Charm- 
ingly so." He added, " I have one other question : Do ladies in any 
other part of the world wear such large combs?" I solemnly 
assured him that they did not. They were absolutely delighted. 
The captain exclaimed, "Look there! a man who has seen half the 
world says it is the case ; we always thought so, but now we know 
it." My excellent judgment in combs and beauty procured me a 
most hospitable reception ; the captain forced me to take his bed, 
and he would sleep on his recado. 

21s. Started at sunrise, and rode slowly during the whole day. 
The geological nature of this part of the province was different 
from the rest, and closely resembled that of the Pampas. In con- 


sequence, there were immense beds of the thistle, as well as of the 
cardoon : the whole country, indeed, may be called one great bed of 
these plants. The two sorts grow separate, each plant in company 
with its own kind. The cardoon is as high as a horse's back, but 
the Pampas thistle is often higher than the crown of the rider's 
head. To leave the road for a yard is out of the question ; and the 
road itself is partly, and in some cases entirely closed. Pasture, of 
course there is none ; if cattle or horses once enter the bed, they are 
for the time completely lost. Hence it is very hazardous to attempt 
to drive cattle at this season of the year ; for when jaded enough to 
face the thistles, they rush among them, and are seen no more. In 
these districts there are very few estancias, and these few are situ- 
ated in the neighbourhood of damp valleys, where fortunately 
neither of these overwhelming plants can exist. As night canie on 
before we arrived at our journey's end, we slept at a miserable little 
hovel inhabited by the poorest people. The extreme though rather 
formal courtesy of our host and hostess, considering their grade of 
life, was quite delightful. 

Novemler 22nd. Arrived at an estancia on the Berquelo be- 
longing to a very hospitable Englishman, to whom I had a letter 
of introduction from my friend Mr. Luinb. I stayed here three 
days. One morning I rode with my host to the Sierra del Pedro 
Flaco, about twenty miles up the Eio Negro. Nearly the whole 
country was covered with good though coarse grass, which was as 
high as a horse's belly ; yet there were square leagues without a 
single head of cattle. The province of Banda Oriental, if well 
stocked, would support an astonishing number of animals ; at pre- 
sent the annual export of hides from Monte Video amounts to three 
hundred thousand ; and the home consumption, from waste, is very 
considerable. An " estanciero " told me that he often had to send 
large herds of cattle a long journey to a salting establishment, and 
that the tired beasts were frequently obliged to be killed and 
skinned ; but that he could never persuade the Gauchos to eat of 
them, and every evening a fresh beast was slaughtered for their 
suppers! The view of the Eio 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 undulations of the turf-plain. 

When in this neighbourhood, I several times heard of the Sierra 


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

While staying at this estancia, I was amused with what I saw 
and heard of the shepherd-dogs of the country.* When riding, it 
is a common thing to meet a large ^flock of sheep guarded by one 
or two dogs, at the distance of some miles from any house or man. 
I often wondered how so firm a friendship had been established. 
The method of education consists in separating the puppy, while 
very young, from the bitch, and in accustoming it to its future com- 
panions. An ewe is held three or four times a day for the little 
thing to suck, and a nest of wool is made for it in the sheep-pen ; 
at no time is it allowed to associate with other dogs, or with the 
children of the family. The puppy is, moreover, generally cas- 
trated ; so that, when grown up, it can scarcely have any feelings 
in common with the rest of its kind. From this education it has 
no wish to leave the flock, and just as another dog will defend its 
master, man, so will these the sheep. It is amusing to observe, 
when approaching a flock, how the dog immediately advances 

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


barking, and tho sheep all close in his rear, as if round the oldest 
ram. These dogs are also easily taught to bring home the flock, at 
a certain hour in the evening. Their most troublesome fault, when 
young, is their desire of playing with the sheep ; for in their sport 
they sometimes gallop their poor subjects most unmercifully. 

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some meat, 
and as soon as it is given him, he skulks away as if ashamed of 
himself. On these occasions the house-dogs are very tyrannical, 
and the least of them will attack and pursue the stranger. The 
minute, however, the latter has reached the flock, he turns round 
and begins to bark, and then all the house-dogs take very quickly 
to their heels. In a similar manner a whole pack of the Imngry 
wild dogs will scarcely ever (and I was told by some never) venture 
to attack a flock guarded by even one of these faithful shepherds. 
The whole account appears to me a curious instance of the pliability 
of the affections in the dog; and yet, whether wild or however 
educated, he has a feeling of respect or fear for those that are 
fulfilling their instinct of association. For we can understand on 
no principle the wild dogs being driven away by the single one 
with its flock, except that they consider, from some confused 
notion, that the one thus associated gains power, as if in company 
with its own kind. F. Cuvier has observed, that all animals that 
readily enter into domestication, consider man as a member of their 
own society, and thus fulfil their instinct of association. In the 
above case the shepherd-dog ranks the sheep as its fellow-brethren, 
and thus gains confidence; and the wild dogs, though knowing 
that the individual sheep are not dogs, but are good to eat, yet 
partly consent to this view when seeing them in a flock with a 
shepherd-dog at their head. 

One evening a " domidor " (a subduer of horses) came for the 
purpose of breaking-in some colts. I will describe the preparatory 
steps, for I believe they have not been mentioned by other travellers. 
A troop of wild young horses is driven into the corral, or large 
enclosure of stakes, and the door is shut. We will suppose that 
one man alone has to catch and mount a horse, which as yet had 
never felt bridle or saddle. I conceive, except by a Gaucho, such 
a feat would be utterly 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 Gauclio, holding the lazo tight, makes a circle, so as to 
catch one of the hind legs, just beneath the fetlock, and draws it 
close to the two front legs : he then hitches the lazo, so that the 
three are bound together. Then sitting on the horse's neck, he 
fixes a strong bridle, without a bit, to the lower jaw : this he does 
by passing a narrow thong through the eye-holes at the end of the 
reins, and several times round both jaw and tongue. The two 
front legs are now tied closely together with a strong leathern 
thong, fastened by a slip-knot. The lazo, which bound the three 
together, being then loosed, the horse rises with difficulty. The 
Gaucho now holding fast the bridle fixed to the lower jaw, leads 
the horse outside the corral. If a second man is present (other- 
wise the trouble is much greater) he holds the animal's head, whilst 
the first puts on the horsecloths and saddle, and girths the whole 
together. During this operation, the horse, from dread and asto- 
nishment at thus being bound round the waist, throws himself 
over and over again on the ground, and, till beaten, is unwilling to 
rise. At last, when the saddling is finished, the poor animal can 
hardly breathe from fear, and is white with foam and sweat. The 
man now prepares to mount by pressing heavily on the stirrup, so 
that the horse may not lose its balance ; and at the moment that 
he throws his leg over the animal's back, he pulls the slip-knot 
binding the front legs, and the beast is free. Some " domidors " 
pull the knot while the animal is lying on the ground, and, stand- 
ing over the saddle, allow him to rise beneath them. The horse, 
wild with dread, gives a few most violent bounds, and then starts 
off at full gallop : when quite exhausted, the man, by patience, 
brings him back to the corral, where, reeking hot and scarcely alive, 
the poor beast is let free. Those animals which will not gallop 
away, but obstinately throw themselves on the ground, are by far 
the most troublesome. This process is tremendously severe, but 
in two or three trials the horse is tamed. It is not, however, for 
some weeks that the animal is ridden with the iron bit and 
solid ring, for it must learn to associate the will of its rider with 
the feel of the rein, before the most powerful bridle can be of any 

Animals are so abundant in these countries, that humanity and 
self-interest are not closely united ; therefore I fear it is that the 
former is here scarcely known. One day, riding in the Pampas 
with a very respectable " estanciero," my horse, being tired, lagged 


behind. The man often shouted to me to spur him. When I 
remonstrated that it was a pity, for the horse was quite exhausted, 
he cried out, " Why not ? never mind spur him it is my horse." 
I had then some difficulty in making him comprehend that it was 
for the horse's sake, and not on his account, that I did not choose 
to use my spurs. He exclaimed, with a look of great surprise, "Ah, 
Don Carlos, quo cosa ! " It was clear that such an idea had never 
before entered his head. 

The Gauchos are well known to be perfect riders. The idea of 
being thrown, let the horse do what it likes, never enters their head. 
Their criterion of a good rider is, a man who can manage an un- 
tamed colt, or who, if his horse falls, alights on his own feet, or can 
perform other such exploits. I have heard of a man betting that 
he would throw his horse down twenty times, and that nineteen 
times he would not fall himself. I recollect seeing a Gaucho riding 
a very stubborn horse, which three times successively reared BO 
high as to fall backwards with great violence. The man judged 
with uncommon coolness the proper moment for slipping off, not 
an instant before or after the right time ; and as soon as the horse 
got up, the man jumped on his back, and at last they started at a 
gallop. The Gaucho never appears to exert any muscular force. I 
was one day watching a good rider, as we were galloping along at 
a rapid pace, and thought to myself, " Surely if the horse starts, you 
appear so careless on your seat, you must fall." At this moment, 
a male ostrich sprang from its nest right beneath the horse's nose : 
the young colt bounded on one side like a stag ; but as for the man, 
all that could be said was, that he started and took fright with his 

In Chile and Peru more pains are taken with the mouth of tho 
horse than in La Plata, and this is evidently a consequence of the 
more intricate nature of the country. In Chile a horse is not con- 
sidered perfectly broken, till he can be brought up standing, in tho 
midst of his full speed, on any particular spot, for instance, on a 
cloak thrown on the ground : or, again, he will charge a wall, and 
rearing, scrape the surface with his hoofs. I have seen an animal 
bounding with spirit, yet merely reined by a fore-finger and thumb, 
taken at full gallop across a 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, 

146 15ANDA ORIENTAL. [<;iiAr. vm. 

with the other arm outstretched in a like manner, he wheeled round, 
with astonishing force, in an opposite direction. 

Such a horse is well broken; and although this at first may 
appear useless, it is far otherwise. It is only carrying that which 
is daily necessary into perfection. When a bullock is checked and 
caught by the lazo, it will sometimes gallop round and round in a 
circle, and the horse being alarmed at the great strain, if not well 
broken, will not readily turn like the pivot of a wheel. It con- 
sequence many men have been killed ; for if the lazo once takes 
a twist round a man's body, it will instantly, from the power of the 
two opposed animals, almost cut him in twain. On the same 
principle the races are managed ; the course is only two or three 
hundred yards long, the wish being to have horses that can make 
a rapid dash. The racehorses are trained not only to stand with 
their hoofs touching a line, but to draw all four feet together, so as 
at the first spring to bring into play the full action of the hind- 
quarters. In Chile I was told an anecdote, which I believe was 
true; and it offers a good illustration of the use of a well-broken 
animal. A respectable man riding one day met two others, one of 
whom was mounted on a horse, \vhich he knew to have been stolen 
from himself. He challenged them ; they answered him by drawing 
their sabres and giving chase. The man, on his good and fleet 
beast, kept just ahead: as he passed a thick biish he wheeled 
round it, and brought up his horse to a dead check. The pursuers 
were obliged to shoot on one side and ahead. Then instantly 
dashing on, right behind them, ho 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 largo 
blunt spurs, that can be applied either as a mere touch, or as an 
instrument of extreme pain. I conceive that with English spurs, 
the slightest touch of which pricks the skin, it would be impossible 
to break in a horse after the South American fashion. 

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


for which I ever saw mares used; was to tread out wheat from tho 
car ; for which purpose they were driven round a circular enclosure, 
where the wheat-sheaves were strewed. The man employed for 
slaughtering the mares happened to be celebrated for his dexterity 
with the lazo. Standing at the distance of twelve yards from the 
mouth of the corral, he has laid a wager that he would catch by 
the legs every animal, without missing one, as it rushed past him. 
There was another man who said he would enter the corral on foot, 
catch a mare, fasten her front legs together, drive her out, throw 
her down, kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying (which latter is 
a tedious job ; and he engaged that he would perform this wholo 
operation on twenty-two animals in one day. Or he would kill 
and take the skin off fifty in the same time. This would have been 
a prodigious task, for it is considered a good clays' work to skin 
and stake the hides of fifteen or sixteen animals. 

November 26th. I set out on my return in a direct line for Monte 
Video. Having heard of some giant's bones at a neighbouring 
farm-house on the Sarandis, a small stream entering the Eio Negro, 
I rode there accompanied by my host, and purchased for the value 
of eighteen pence the head of the Toxodon.* When found it was 
quite perfect ; but the boys knocked out some of the teeth with 
stones, and then set up the head as a mark to throw at. By a most 
fortunate chance I found a perfect tooth, which exactly fitted one 
of the sockets in this skull, embedded by itself on the banks of the 
Eio 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. Eeeks, seven per cent, of animal matter ; and when placed 
in a spirit-lamp, they burn with a small flame. The number of 
the remains embedded in the grand estuary deposit which forms 
the Pampas and covers the granitic rocks of Banda Oriental, must 
be extraordinarily great. I believe a straight line drawn in any 
direction throiigh the Pampas would cut through some skeleton 

* I must express iny obligation to Mr. Keaue, at whoso house I was 
staying on the Berquelo, and to Mr. Lumb at Buenos Ayres, for without 
their assistance these valuable remains would never have reached 


or bones. Besides those which I found during my short excursions, 
I heard of many others, and the origin of such names as "the 
stream of the animal," "the hill of the giant," is obvious. At 
other times I heard of the marvellous property of certain rivers, 
which had the power of changing small bones into large; or, 
as some maintained, the bones themselves grew. As far as I am 
aware, not one of these animals perished, as was formerly supposed, 
in the marshes or muddy river-beds of the present land, but their 
bones have been exposed by the streams intersecting the subaqueous 
deposit in which they were originally embedded. We may con- 
clude that the whole area of the Pampas is one wide sepulchre of 
these extinct gigantic quadrupeds. 

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

During the last six months I have had an opportunity of seeing 
a little of the character of the inhabitants of these provinces. The 
Gauchos, or countrymen, are very superior to those who reside in 
the towns. The Gaucho is invariably most obliging, polite, and 
hospitable : I did not meet with even one instance of rudeness or 
inhospitality. He is modest, both respecting himself and country, 
but at the same time a spirited, bold fellow. On the other hand, 
many robberies are committed, and there is much bloodshed : the 
habit of constantly wearing the knife is the chief cause of the 
latter. It is lamentable to hear how many lives are lost in trifling 
quarrels. In fighting, each party tries to mark the face of his 
adversary by slashing his noise or eyes ; as is often attested by deep 
and horrid-looking scars. Eobberies are a natural consequence of 
universal gambling, much drinking, and extreme indolence. At 
Mercedes I asked two men why they did not work. One gravely 
said the days were too long ; the other that he was too poor. The 
number of horses and the profusion of food are the destruction of 
all industry. Moreover, there are so many feast-days ; and again, 


nothing can succeed without it be begun when the moon is on the 
increase ; so that half the month is lost from these two causes. 

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

The character of the higher and more educated classes who 
reside in the towns, partakes, but perhaps in a lesser degree, of the 
good parts of the Gaucho, but is, I fear, stained by many vices of 
which he is free. Sensuality, mockery of all religion, and the 
grossest corruption, are far from uncommon. Nearly every public 
officer can be bribed. The head man in the post-office sold forged 
government franks. The governor and prime minister openly 
combined to plunder the state. Justice, where gold came into 
play, was hardly expected by any one. I knew an Englishman, 
who went to the Chief Justice (he told me, that not then 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 arrest 
before a certain time a man who has cheated me. I know it is 
against the law, bxit my lawyer (naming him) recommended me to 
take this step." The Chief Justice smiled acquiescence, thanked 
him, and the man before night was safe in prison. With this 
entire want of principle in many of the leading men, with the 
country full of ill-paid turbulent officers, the people yet hope that 
a democratic form of government can succeed ! 

On first entering society in these countries, two or three features 
strike one as particularly remarkable. The polite and dignified 
manners pervading every rank of life, the excellent taste displayed 
by the women in their dresses, and the equality amongst all ranks. 
At the Rio Colorado some men who kept the humblest shops used 
to dine with General Rosas. A son of a major at Bahia Blanca 
gained his livelihood by making paper cigars, and he wished to 
accompany me, as guide or servant, to Buenos Ayres, but his 
father objected on the score of the danger alone. Many officers in 

150 RIO PLATA. [CHAP. vnr. 

the army can neither read nor write, yet all meet in society as 
equals. In Eutre llios, the Sala consisted of only six repre- 
sentives. One of them kept a common shop, and evidently was 
not degraded by the office. All this is what would be expected in 
a new country; nevertheless the absence of gentlemen by pro- 
fession appears to an Englishman something strange. 

When speaking of these countries, the manner in which they 
have been brought up by their unnatural parent, Spain, should 
alway 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 biit that the extreme liberalism 
of these countries must ultimately lead to good results. The very 
general toleration of foreign religions, the regard paid to the 
means of education, the freedom of the press, the facilities offered 
to all foreigners, and especially, as I am bound to add, to every one 
professing the humblest pretensions to science, should be re- 
collected with gratitude by those who have visited Spanish South 

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

Several times when the ship has been some miles off the mouth 
of the Plata, and at other times when off the shores of Northern 
Patagonia, we have been surrounded by insects. One evening, 
when we were about ten miles from the Bay of San Bias, vast 
numbers of butterflies, in bands or flocks of countless myriads, 
extended as far as the eye could range. Even by the aid of a 
telescope it was not possible to see a space free from butterflies. 
The seamen cried out " it was snowing butterflies," and such in 
fact was the appearance. More species than one were present, 
but the main part belonged to a kind very similar to, but not 
identical with, the common English Colias edusa. Some moths 
and hymenoptera accompanied the butterflies; and a fine beetle 
(Calosoma) flew on board. Other instances are known of this 
beetle having been caught far out at sea; and this is the more 
remarkable, as the greater number of the Carabidte seldom or 
never take wing. The day had been fine and calm, and the one 
previous to it equally so, with light and variable airs. Hence 


we cannot suppose that the insects were blown off the land, but 
we must conclude that they voluntarily took flight. The great 
bands of the Colias seem at first to afford an instance like those 
on record of the migrations of another butterfly, Vanessa cardui ; * 
but the presence of other insects makes the case distinct, and even 
less intelligible. Before sunset a strong breeze sprung up from 
the north, and this must have caused tens of thousands of the 
butterflies and other insects to have perished. 

On another occasion, when seventeen miles off Cape Corrientes, 
I had a net overboard to catch pelagic animals. Upon drawing 
it up, to my surprise I found a considerable number of beetles 
in it, and although in the open sea, they did not appear much 
injured by the salt water. I lost some of the specimens, but those 
which I preserved belonged to the genera Colymbetes, Hydroporus, 
Hydrobius (two species), Notaplms, Cynucus, Adimonia, and Sca- 
rabseus. At first I thought that these insects had been blown 
from the shore ; but upon reflecting that out of the eight species 
four were aquatic, and two others partly so in their habits, it 
appeared to me most probable that they were floated into the sea 
by a small stream which drains a lake near Cape Corrientes. On 
any supposition it is an interesting circumstance to find live insects 
swimming in the open ocean seventeen miles from the nearest 
point of land. There are several accounts of insects having been 
blown off the Patagouian shore. Captain Cook observed it, as did 
more lately Captain King in the Adventure. The cause probably 
is due to the want of shelter, both of trees and hills, so that an 
insect on the wing, with an off-shore breeze, would be very apt to 
be blown out to sea. The most remarkable instance I have known 
of an insect being caught far from the land, was that of a large 
grasshopper (Acrydium), which flew on board, when the Beagle 
was to windward of the Cape de Verd Islands, and when the nearest 
point of land, not directly opposed to the trade-wind, was Cape 
Blanco on the coast of Africa, 370 miles distant.t 

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 par- 

* Lycll's Principles of Geology, vol. iii. p. 63. 

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

152 RIO PLATA. [CHAP. vin. 

ticular attention to this subject. The weather had been fine and 
clear, and in the morning the air was full of patches of the floccu- 
lent web, as on an autumnal day in England. The ship was sixty 
miles distant from the land, in the direction of a steady though 
light breeze. Vast numbers of a small spider, about one-tenth of 
an inch in length, and of a dusky red colour, were attached to the 
webs. There must have been, I should suppose, some thousands 
on the ship. The little spider, when first coming in contact with 
the rigging, was always seated on a single thread, and not on the 
flocculent mass. This latter seems merely to be produced by the 
entanglement of the single threads. The spiders were all of one 
species, but of both sexes, together with young ones. These latter 
were distinguished by their smaller size and more dusky colour. 
I will not give the description of this spider, but merely state that 
it does not appear to me to be included in any of Latreille's genera. 
The little aeronaut as soon as it arrived on board was very active, 
running about, sometimes letting itself fall, and then reascending 
the same thread; sometimes employing itself in making a small 
and very irregular mesh in the corners between the ropes. It 
could run with facility on the surface of water. When disturbed 
it lifted up its front legs, in the attitude of attention. On its first 
arrival it appeared very thirsty, and with exserted maxillee drank 
eagerly of drops of water; this same circumstance has been ob- 
served by Strack : may it not be in consequence of the little insect 
having passed through a dry and rarefied atmosphere ? Its stock 
of web seemed inexhaustible. While watching some that were 
suspended by a single thread, I several times observed that the 
slightest breath of air bore them away out of sight, in a horizontal 
line. On another occasion (25th) under similar circumstances, I 
repeatedly observed the same kind of small spider, either when 
placed or having crawled on some little eminence, elevate its 
abdomen, send forth a thread, and then sail away horizontally, but 
with a rapidity which was quite iinaccountable. I thought I could 
perceive that the spider, before performing the above preparatory 
steps, connected its legs together with the most delicate threads, 
but I am not sure whether this observation was correct. 

One day, at St. Fe, I had a better opportunity of observing some 
similar facts. A spider which was about three-tenths of an inch 
in length, and which in its general appearance resembled a 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 ap- 
parently 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 diificulty 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 ex- 
plained, I believe by Mr. Murray, by their similar electrical con- 
dition. The circumstance of spiders of the same species, but of 
different sexes and ages, being found on several occasions at the 
distance of many leagues from the land, attached in vast numbers 
to the lines, renders it probable that the habit of sailing through 
the air is as characteristic of this tribe, as that of diving is of the 
Argyroneta. We may then reject Latreille's supposition, that the 
gossamer owes its origin indifferently to the young of several 
genera of spiders : although, as we have seen, the young of other 
spiders do possess the power of performing aerial voyages.* 

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

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


thiii, 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 : soiith of the latitude 35, I never succeeded in 
catching anything besides some beroe, and a few species of minute 
eutomostracous Crustacea. In shoaler water, at the distance of 
a few miles from the coast, very many kinds of Crustacea and some 
other animals are numerous, but only during the night. Between 
latitudes 56 and 57 south of Cape Horn, the net was put astern 
several times; it never, however, brought up anything besides a 
few of two extremely minute species of Entomostraca. Yet whales 
and seals, petrels and albatross, are exceedingly abundant through- 
out this part of the ocean. It has always been a mystery to me 
on what the albatross, which lives far from the shore, can subsist; 
I presume that, like the condor, it is able to fast long ; and that 
one good feast on the carcass of a putrid whale lasts for a long 
time. The central and intertropical parts of the Atlantic swarm 
with Pteropoda, Crustacea, and Radiata, and with their devourers 
the flying-fish, and again with their devourers the bonitos and 
albicores; I presume that the numerous lower pelagic animals 
feed on the Infusoria, which are now known, from the researches 
of Ehrenberg, to abound in the open ocean : but on what, in the 
clear blue water, do these Infusoria subsist ? 

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

As we proceed further southward the sea is seldom phospho- 
rescent; and off Cape Horn I do not recollect more than once 
having seen it so, and then it was far from being brilliant. This 


circumstance probably has a close connection with the scarcity of 
organic beings in that part of the ocean. After the elaborate 
paper,* by Ehrenberg, on the phosphorescence of the sea, it is 
almost superfluous on my part to make any observations on the 
subject. I may however add, that the same torn and irregular 
particles of gelatinous matter, described -by Ehrenberg, seem in 
the southern as well as in the northern hemisphere, to be the 
common cause of this phenomenon. The particles were so minute 
as easily to pass through fine gauze; yet many were distinctly 
visible by the naked eye. The water when placed in a tumbler 
and agitated, gave out sparks, but a small portion in a watch-glass 
scarcely ever was luminous. Ehrenberg states that these particles 
all retain a certain degree of irritability. My observations, some 
of which were made directly after taking up the water, gave a 
different result. I may also mention, that having used the net 
during one night, I allowed it to become partially dry, and having 
occasion twelve hours afterwards to employ it again, I found the 
whole surface sparkled as brightly as when first taken out of the 
water. It does not appear probable in this case, that the particles 
could have remained so long alive. On one occasion having kept 
a jelly-fish of the genus Diansea till it was dead, the water in which 
it was placed became luminous. When the waves scintillate with 
bright green sparks, I believe it is generally owing to minute 
Crustacea. But there can be no doubt that very many other 
pelagic animals, when alive, are phosphorescent. 

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

Near Fernando Noronha the sea gave out light in flashes. The 
appearance was very similar to that which might be expected from 

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


a large fish moving rapidly through a luminous fluid. To this 
cause the sailors attributed it ; at the time, however, I entertained 
some doubts, on account of the frequency and rapidity of the 
flashes. I have already remarked that the phenomenon is very 
much more common in warm than in cold countries ; and I have 
sometimes imagined that a disturbed electrical condition of the 
atmosphere was most favourable to its production. Certainly I 
think the sea is most luminous after a few days of more calm 
weather than ordinary, during which time it has swarmed with 
various animals. Observing that the water charged with gela- 
tinous particles is in an impure state, and that the luminous 
appearance in all common cases is produced by the agitation of the 
fluid in contact with the atmosphere, I am inclined to consider 
that the phosphorescence is the result of the decomposition of the 
organic particles, by which process (one is tempted almost to call 
it a kind of respiration) the ocean becomes purified. 

December 23rrf. We arrived at Port Desire, situated in lat. 47, 
on the coast of Patagonia. The creek runs for about twenty miles 
inland, with an irregular width. The Beagle anchored a few miles 
within the entrance, in front of the ruins of an old Spanish 

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

In such a country the fate of the Spanish settlement was soon 
decided ; the dryness of the climate during the greater part of the 
year, and the occasional hostile attacks of the wandering Indians, 


compelled the colonists to desert their half-finished buildings. 
The style, however, in which they were commenced shows the 
strong and liberal hand of Spain in the old time. The result of all 
the attempts to colonize this side of America south of 41, have 
been miserable. Port Famine expresses by its name the lingering 
and extreme sufferings of several hundred wretched people, of 
whom one alone survived to relate their misfortunes. At St. 
Joseph's Bay, on the coast of Patagonia, a small settlement was 
made; but during one Sunday the Indians made an attack and 
massacred the whole party, excepting two men, who remained 
captives during many years. At the Rio Negro I conversed with 
one of these men, now in extreme old age. 

The zoology of Patagonia is as limited as its flora.* On the 
arid plains a few black beetles (Heteromera) might be seen slowly 
crawling about, and bccasionally a lizard darted from side to side. 
Of birds we have three carrion hawks, and in the valleys a few 
finches and insect-feeders. An ibis (Theristicus melanops a 
species said to be found in central Africa) is not uncommon on the 
most desert parts : in their stomachs I found grasshoppers, cicadfe, 
small lizards, and even scorpions.f At one time of the year these 
birds go in flocks, at another in pairs ; their cry is very loud and 
singular, like the neighing of the guanaco. 

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

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes told 

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

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


me, that lie one day saw through a glass a herd of these animals 
which evidently had been frightened, and were running away at 
full speed, although their distance was so great that he could not 
distinguish them with his naked eye. The sportsman frequently 
receives the first notice of their presence, by hearing from a long 
distance their peculiar shrill neighing note of alarm. If he then 
looks attentively, he will probably see the herd standing in a line 
on the side of some distant hill. On approaching nearer, a few 
more squeals are given, and off they set at an apparently slow, but 
really quick canter, along some narrow beaten track to a neighbour- 
ing hill. If, however, by chance he abruptly meets a single 
animal, or several together, they will generally stand motionless 
and intently gaze at him ; then perhaps move on a few yards, turn 
round, and look again. What is the cause of this difference in 
their shyness ? Do they mistake a man in the distance for their 
chief enemy the puma ? Or does curiosity overcome their timidity ? 
That they are curious is certain ; for if a person lies on the ground, 
and plays strange antics, such as throwing up his feet in the air, 
they will almost always approach by degrees to reconnoitre him. 
It was an artifice that was repeatedly practised by our sportsmen 
with success, and it had moreover the advantage of allowing 
several shots to be fired, which were all taken as parts of the 
performance. On the mountains of Tierra del Fuego, I have more 
than once seen a guanaco, on being approached, not only neigh 
and squeal, but prance and leap about in the most ridiculous 
manner, apparently in defiance as a challenge. These animals are 
very easily domesticated, and I have seen some thus kept in 
northern Patagonia near a house, though not under any restraint. 
They are in this state very bold, and readily attack a man by 
striking him from behind with both knees. It is asserted that the 
motive for these attacks is jealousy on account of their females. 
The wild guanacos, however, have no idea of defence ; even a single 
dog will secure one of these large animals, till the huntsman can 
come up. In many of their habits they are like sheep in a flock. 
Thus when they see men approaching in several directions on 
horseback, they soon become bewildered, and know not which way 
to run. This greatly facilitates the Indian method of hunting, for 
they are thus easily driven to a central point, and are encom- 

The guanacos readily take to the water : several times at Port 


Valdes they were seen swimming from island to island. Byron, in 
Ms voyage, says he saw them drinking salt water. Some of our 
officers likewise saw a herd apparently drinking the briny fluid 
from a salina near Cape Blanco. I imagine in several parts of the 
country, if they do not drink salt water, they drink none at all. In 
the middle of the clay they frequently roll in the dust, in saucer- 
shaped hollows. The males fight together; two one day passed 
quite close to me, squealing and trying to bite each other; and 
several were shot with their hides deeply scored. Herds sometimes 
appear to set out on exploring parties : at Bahia Blanca, where, 
within thirty miles of the coast, these animals are extremely unfre- 
quent, I one day saw the tracks of thirty or forty, which had come 
in a direct line to a muddy salt-water creek. They then must have 
perceived that they were approaching the sea, for they had wheeled 
with the regularity of cavalry, and had returned back in as straight 
a line as they had advanced. The guanacos have one singular 
habit, which is to me quite inexplicable ; namely, that on successive 
days they drop their diing in the same defined heap. I saw one of 
these heaps which was eight feet in diameter, and was composed of 
a large quantity. This habit, according to M. A. d'Orbigny, is 
common to all the species of the genus ; it is very useful to the 
Peruvian Indians, who use the dung for fuel, and are thus saved 
the trouble of collecting it. 

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

1(30 PATAGONIA. [CHAP. via. 

occurrence of a number of uninjured bones in a cave, or buried 
under alluvial accumulations ; and likewise the cause why certain 
animals are more commonly embedded than others in sedimentary 


One day the yawl was sent under the command of Mr. Chaffers 
with three days' provisions to survey the upper part of the harbour. 
In the morning we searched for some watering-places mentioned in 
an old Spanish chart. We found one creek, at the head of which 
there was a trickling rill (the first we had seen) of brackish water. 
Here the tide compelled us to wait several hours ; and in the in- 
terval I walked some miles into the interior. The plain as usual 
consisted of gravel, mingled witli soil resembling chalk in appear- 
ance, but very different from it in nature. From the softness of 
these materials it was worn into many gulleys. There was not a 
tree, and, excepting the guanaco, which stood on the hill-top a 
watchful sentinel over its herd, scarcely an animal or a bird. All 
was stillness and desolation. Yet in passing over these scenes, 
without one bright object near, an ill-defined but strong sense of 
pleasure is vividly excited. One asked how many ages the plain 
had thus lasted, and how many more it was doomed thus to 

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

The second day after our return to the anchorage, a party of 
officers and myself went to ransack an old Indian grave, which I 
had found on the summit of a neighbouring hill. Two immense, 
* Shelley, Lines on M. Blanc. 

1834.] INDIAN GRAVE. 161 

stone.-?, each probably weighing at least a couple of tons, had been 
placed in front of a ledge of rock about six feet high. At the 
bottom of the grave on the hard rock there was a layer of earth 
about a foot deep, which must have been brought up from the 
plain below. Above it a pavement of flat stones was placed, on 
which others were piled, so as to fill up the space between the ledgo 
and the two great blocks. To complete the grave, the Indians had 
contrived to detach from the ledge a huge fragment, and to throw 
it over the pile so as to rest on the two blocks. We undermined 
the grave on both sides, but could not find any relics, or even 
bones. The latter probably had decayed long since (in which case 
the grave must have been of extreme antiquity), for I found in 
another place some smaller heaps, beneath which a very few crum- 
bling fragments could yet be distinguished as having belonged to a 
man. Falconer states, that where an Indian dies he is buried, but 
that subsequently his bones are carefully taken up and carried, let 
the distance be ever so great, to be deposited near the sea-coast. 
This custom, I think, may be accounted for by recollecting, that 
before the introduction of horses, these Indians must have led 
nearly the same life as the Fuegians now do, and therefore gene- 
rally have resided in the neighbourhood of the sea. The common 
prejudice of lying where one's ancestors have lain, would make the 
now roaming Indians bring the less perishable part of their dead 
to their ancient burial-ground on the coast. 

January $th, 1834. Before it was dark the Beagle anchored in 
the fine spacious harbour of Port St. Julian, situated about one 
hundred and ten miles to the south of Port Desire. We remained 
here eight days. The country is nearly similar to that of Port 
Desire, but perhaps rather more sterile. One day a party accom- 
panied Captain Fitz Eoy on a long walk round the head of the 
harbour. We were eleven hours without tasting any water, and 
some of the party were quite exhausted. From the summit of a 
hill (since well named Thirsty Hill) a fine lake was spied, and two 
of the party proceeded with concerted signals to show whether it 
was fresh water. What was our disappointment to find a snow- 
white expanse of salt, crystallized in great cubes ! We attributed 
our extreme thirst to the dryness of the atmosphere ; but whatever 
the cause might be, we ^yere exceedingly glad late in the evening 
to get back to the boats. Although we could nowhere find, during 
our whole visit, a single drop of fresh water, yet some must exist ; 


1(52 POUT ST. JULIAN. [CHAP. vin. 

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 Cincin- 
dela, like lujbrida, a Cyruindis, and a Harpalus, which all live on 
muddy flats occasionally overflowed by the sea), and one other 
found dead on the plain, complete the list of the beetles. A good- 
sized fly (Tabanus) was extremely numerous, and tormented us by 
its painful bite. The common horsefly, which is so troublesome in 
the shady lanes of England, belongs to this same genus. We here 
have the puzzle that so frequently occurs in the case of musquitoes 
on the blood of what animals do these insects commonly feed ? 
The guanaco is nearly the only warm-blooded quadruped, and it is 
found in quite inconsiderable numbers compared with the multitude 
of flies. 

The geology of Patagonia is interesting. Differently from Europe, 
where the tertiary formations appear to have accumulated in bays, 
here along hundreds of miles of coast we have one great deposit, 
including many tertiary shells, all apparently extinct. The most 
common shell is a massive gigantic oyster, sometimes even a foot 
in diameter. These beds are covered by others of a peculiar soft 
white stone, including much gypsum, and resembling chalk, but 
really of a pumiceous nature. It is highly remarkable, from being 
composed, to at least one-tenth part of its bulk, of Infusoria : Pro- 
fessor Ehrenberg has already ascertained in it thirty oceanic forms. 
This bed extends for 500 miles along the coast, and probably for a 
considerably greater distance. At Port St. J ulian 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 Bio Colorado to 
between 600 and 700 nautical miles southward ; at Santa Cruz (a 
river a little south of St. Julian), it reaches to the foot of the 
Cordillera ; half way up the river, its thickness is more than 200 
feet ; it probably everywhere extends to this great chain, whence 
the well-rounded pebbles of porphyry have been derived : we may 
consider its average breath as 200 miles, and its average thickness 
as about 50 feet. If this great bed of pebbles, without including 
the mud necessarily derived from their attrition, was piled into a 
mound, it would form a great mountain chain ! When we consider 
that all these pebbles, countless as the grains of sand in the desert^ 


have been derived from the slow falling of masses of rock on the 
old coast-lines and banks of rivers ; and that these fragments have 
been dashed into smaller pieces, and that each of them has since 
been slowly rolled, rounded, and far transported, the mind is 
stupified in thinking over the long, absolutely necessary, lapse of 
years. Yet all this gravel has been transported, and probably 
rounded, subsequently to the deposition of the white beds, and 
long subsequently to the underlying beds with the tertiary 

Everything in this southern continent has been effected on a 
grand scale : the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del Fuego, a 
distance of 1200 miles, has been raised in mass (and in Patagonia 
to a height of between 300 and 400 feet), within the period of the 
now existing sea-shells. The old and weathered shells left on the 
surface of the upraised plain still partially retain their colours. 
The uprising movement has been interrupted by at least eight long 
periods of rest, during which the sea ate deeply back into the land, 
forming at successive levels the long lines of cliffs or escarpments, 
which separate the different plains as they rise like steps one 
behind the other. The elevatory movement, and the eating-back 
power of the sea during the periods of rest, Lave been equable over 
long lines of coast ; for I was astonished to find that the step-like 
plains stand at nearly corresponding heights at far distant points. 
The lowest plain is 90 feet high ; and the highest, which 1 ascended 
near the coast, is 950 feet ; and of this, only relics are left in the 
form of flat gravel-capped hills. The upper plain of Santa Cruz 
slopes up to a height of 3000 feet at the foot of the Cordillera. I 
have said that within the period of 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 affected only by upward movements: the extinct tertiary 
shells from Port St. Julian and Santa Cruz cannot have lived, 
according to Professor E. Forbes, in a greater depth of water than 
from 40 to 250 feet ; but they are now covered with sea-deposited 
strata from 800 to 1000 feet in thickness : hence the bed of the sea, 
on which these shells once lived, must have sunk downwards 
several hundred feet, to allow of the accumulation of the super- 
incumbent strata. What a history of geological changes does the 
simply-constructed coast of Patagonia reveal ! 


At Port St. Julian,* in some red mud capping the gravel on the 
90-feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macraucheuia Pata- 
ehonica, a remarkable quadruped, full as large as a camel. It 
belongs to the same division of the Pachydermata with the rhino- 
cerous, tapir, and palseotherium ; but in the structure of the bones 
of its long neck it shows a clear relation to the camel, or rather to 
the guanaco and llama. From recent sea-shells being found on 
two of the higher step-formed plains, which must have been 
modelled and upraised before the mud was deposited in which the 
Macrauchenia was intombed, it is certain that this curious quad- 
ruped lived long after the sea was inhabited by its present shells. 
I was at first much surprised how a large quadruped could so 
lately have subsisted, in lat. 49 15', on these wretched gravel 
plains with their stunted vegetation ; but the relationship of the 
Macrauchenia to the Guanaco, now an inhabitant of the most sterile 
parts, partly explains this difficulty. 

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

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


It is impossible to reflect oil the changed state of the American 
continent without the deepest astonishment. Formerly it must 
have swarmed with great monsters: now we find mere pigmies, 
compared with the antecedent, allied races. If Buffon had known 
of the gigantic sloth and armadillo-like animals, and of the lost 
Pachydermata, he might have said with a greater semblance of 
truth that the creative force in America had lost its power, rather 
than that it had never possessed great vigour. The greater 
number, if not all, of these extinct quadrupeds lived at a late 
period, and were the contemporaries of most of the existing sea- 
shells. Since they lived, no very great change in the form of the 
land can have taken place. What, then, has exterminated so many 
species and whole genera ? The mind at first is irresistibly hurried 
into the belief of some great catastrophe; but thus to destroy 
animals, both large and small, in Southern Patagonia, in Brazil, on 
the Cordillera of Peru, in North America up to Behring's Straits, 
AVC must shake the entire framework of the globe. An examina- 
tion, moreover, of the geology of La Plata and Patagonia, leads to 
the belief that all the features of the land result from slow and 
gradual changes. It appears from the character of the fossils in 
Europe, Asia, Australia, and in North and South America, that 
those conditions which favour the life of the larger quadrupeds 
were lately co-extensive with the world : what those conditions 
were, no one has yet even conjectured. It could hardly have been 
a change of temperature, which at about the same time destroyed 
the inhabitants of tropical, temperate, and arctic latitudes on both 
sides of the globe. In North America we positively know from 
Mr. Lyell, that the large quadrupeds lived subsequently to that 
period, when boulders were brought into latitudes at which icebergs 
now never arrive : from conclusive but indirect reasons we may 
feel sure, that in the southern hemisphere the Macrauchenia, also, 
lived long subsequently to the ice-transporting boulder-period. 
Did man, after his first inroad into South America, destroy, as has 
been suggested, the unwieldly Megatherium and the other Eden- 
tata ? We must at least look to some other cause for the destruc- 
tion of the little tucutuco at Bahia Blanca, and of the many fossil 
mice and other small quadrupeds in Brazil. No one will imagine 
that a drought, even far severer than those which cause such 
losses in the provinces of La Plata, could destroy every individual 
of every species from Southern Patagonia to Behring's Straits. 


What shall we say of the extinction of the horse? Did those 
plains fail of pasture, which have since been overrun by thousands 
and hundreds of thousands of the descendants of the stock intro- 
duced by the Spaniards? Have the subsequently introduced 
species consumed the food of the great ""antecedent races ? Can we 
believe that the Capybara has taken the food of the Toxodon, the 
Guanaco of the Macrauchenia, the existing small Edentata of their 
numerous gigantic prototypes? Certainly, no fact in the long 
history of the world is so startling as the wide and repeated 
exterminations of its inhabitants. 

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

In the cases where we can trace the extinction of a species 
through man, either wholly or in one limited district, we know 


that it becomes rarer and rarer, and is then lost: it would be 
difficult to point out any just distinction * between a species 
destroyed by man or by the increase of its natural enemies. The 
evidence of rarity preceding extinction, is more striking in the 
successive tertiary strata, as remarked by several able observers ; 
it has often been found that a shell very common in a tertiary 
stratum is now most rare, and has even long been thought to be 
extinct. If then, as appears probable, species first become rare 
and then extinct if the too rapid increase of every species, even 
the most favoured, is steadily checked, as we must admit, though 
how and when it is hard to say and if we see, without the smallest 
surprise, though unable to assign the precise reason, one species 
abundant and another closely allied species rare in the same dis- 
trict why should we feel such great astonishment at the rarity 
being carried a step further to extinction ? An action going on, 
on every side of us, and yet barely appreciable, might surely be 
carried a little further, without exciting our observation. Who 
would feel any great surprise at hearing that the Megalonyx was 
formerly rare compared with the Megatherium, or that one of the 
fossil monkeys was few in number compared with one of the now 
living monkeys? and yet in this comparative rarity, we should 
have the plainest evidence of less favourable conditions for their 
existence. To admit that species generally become rare before 
they become extinct to feel no surprise at the comparative rarity 
of one species with another, and yet to call in some extraordinary 
agent and to marvel greatly when a species ceases to exist, appears 
to me much the same as to admit that sickness in the individual 
is the prelude to death to feel no surprise at sickness but when 
the sick man dies to wonder, and to believe that he died through 

* See the excellent remarks ou this subject by Mr. Lyell, in his Prin- 
ciples of Geology. 

](38 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [CHAP. ix. 


Santa Cruz Expedition up the River Indians Immense Streams of 
Basaltic Lava Fragments not transported by the River Excavation 
of the Valley Condor, Habits of Cordillera Erratic Boulders of great 
size Indian Eelics Return to the Ship Falkland Islands Wild 
Horses, Cattle, Rabbits Wolf-like Fox Fire made of Bones Manner 
of hunting Wild Cattle Geology Streams of Stones Scenes of Vio- 
lencc Penguin Geese Eggs of Doris Compound Animals. 


April 13th, 1834. The Beagle anchored within the mouth of the 
Santa Cruz. This river is situated about sixty miles south of Port 
St. Julian. During the last voyage Captain Stokes proceeded 
thirty miles up it, but then, from the want of provisions, was 
obliged to return. Excepting what was discovered at that time, 
scarcely anything was known about this large river. Captain Fitz 
Roy now determined to follow its course as far as time would allow. 
On the 18th three whale-boats started, carrying three weeks' pro- 
visions ; and the party consisted of twenty-five souls a force which 
would have been sufficient to have defied a host of Indians. With 
a strong flood-tide and a fine day we made a good run, soon drank 
some of the fresh water, and were at night nearly above the tidal 

The river here assumed a size and appearance which, even at 
the highest point we ultimately reached, was scarcely diminished. 
It was generally from three to four hundred yards broad, and in 
the middle about seventeen feet deep. The rapidity of the current, 
which in its whole course runs at the rate of from four to six knots 
an hour, is perhaps its most remarkable feature. The water is of 
a fine blue colour, but with a slight milky tinge, and not so trans- 
parent as at first sight would have been expected. It flows over 
a bed of pebbles, like those which compose the beach and the 

1834.] INDIANS. 169 

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 corre- 

April 19^. Against so strong a current it was, of course, quite 
impossible to row or sail: consequently the three boats were 
fastened together head and stern, two hands left in each, and the 
rest came on shore to track. As the general arrangements made 
by Captain Fitz Eoy were very good for facilitating the work of 
all, and as all had a share in it, I will describe the system. The 
party, including every one, was divided into two spells, each of 
which hauled at the tracking line alternately for an hour and a 
half. The officers of each boat lived with, ate the same food, and 
slept in the same tent with their crew, so that each boat was quite 
independent of the others. After sunset the first level spot where 
any bushes were growing, was chosen for our night's lodging. 
Each of the crew took it in turns to be cook. Immediately the 
boat was hauled up, the cook made his fire; two others pitched 
the tent ; the coxswain handed the things out of the boat ; the rest 
carried them up to the tents and collected firewood. By this order, 
in half an hour everything was ready for the night. A watch of 
two men and an officer was always kept, whose duty it was to look 
after the boats, keep up the fire, and guard against Indians. Each 
in the party had his one hour every night. 

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

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

170 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [CHAI>. is. 

wards we came to a spot where, from the fresh footsteps of men, 
children, and horses, it was evident that the party had crossed the 


April Z2nd. The country remained the same, and was extremely 
uninteresting. The complete similarity of the productions through- 
out 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. Every- 
where we see the same birds and insects. Even the very banks of 
the river and of the clear streamlets which entered it, were scarcely 
enlivened by a brighter tint of green. The curse of sterility is on 
the land, and the water flowing over a bed of pebbles partakes of 
the same curse. Hence the number of waterfowl is very scanty ; 
for there is nothing to support life in the stream of this barren 

Patagonia, poor as she is in some respects, can however boast of 
a greater stock of small rodents * than perhaps any other country 
in the world. Several species of mice are externally characterized 
by large thin ears and a very fine fur. These little animals swarm 
amongst the thickets in the valleys, where they cannot for months 
together taste a drop of water excepting the dew. They all seem 
to be cannibals ; for no sooner was a mouse caught in one of my 
traps than it was devoured by others. A small and delicately 
shaped fox, which is likewise very abundant, probably derives its 
entire support from these small animals. The guanaco is also in 
his proper district ; herds of fifty or a hundred were common ; and, 
as I have stated, we saw one which must have contained at least 
five hundred. The puma, with the condor and other carrion- 
hawks in its train, follows and preys upon these animals. The 
footsteps of the puma were to be seen almost everywhere on the 
banks of the rivers ; and the remains of several guanacos, with 
their necks disclocated and bones broken, showed how they had 
their death. 

April 24^. 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 

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

1834.] BASALTIC LAVA. 171 

primitive rock, was hailed with joy, as if we had seen a forest 
growing on the flanks of the Cordillera. The top, however, of a 
heavy bank of clouds, which remained almost constantly in ono 
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. 

April 26/i. We this day met with a marked change in the 
geological structure of the plains. From the first starting I had 
carefully examined the gravel in the river, and for the two last 
days had noticed the presence of a few small pebbles of a very 
cellular basalt. These gradually increased in number and in size, 
but none were as large as a man's head. This morning, however, 
pebbles of the same rock, but more compact, suddenly became 
abundant, and in the course of half an hour Ave saw, at the 
distance of five or six miles, the angular edge of a great basaltic 
platform. When we arrived at its base we found the stream 
bubbling among the fallen blocks. For the next twenty-eight 
miles the river-course was encumbered with these basaltic masses. 
Above that limit immense fragments of primitive rocks, derived 
from the surrounding boulder-formation, were equally numerous. 
None of the fragments of any considerable size had been washed 
more than three or four miles down the river below their parent- 
source : considering the singular rapidity of the great body of 
water in the Santa Cruz, and that no still reaches occur in any 
part, this example is a most striking one, of the inefficiency of 
rivers in transporting even moderately-sized fragments. 

The basalt is only lava, which has flowed beneath the sea ; but 
the eruptions must have been on the grandest scale. At the 
point where we first met this formation it was 120 feet in thick- 
ness ; following up the river course, the surface imperceptibly rose 
and the mass became thicker, so that at forty miles above the first 
station it was 320 feet thick. What the thickness may be close to 
the Cordillera, I have no means of knowing, but the platform there 
attains a height of about three thousand feet above the level of the 
sea : we must therefore look to the mountains of that great chain 
for its source ; and worthy of such a source are streams that have 
flowed over the gently inclined bed of the sea to a distance of one 
hundred miles. At the first glance of the basaltic cliffs on the 
opposite sides of the valley, it was evident that the strata once were 


united. What power, then, has removed along a whole line of 
country, a solid mass of very hard rock, which had an average 
thickness of nearly three hundred feet, and a breadth varying from 
rather less than two miles to four miles ? The river, though it has 
so little power in transporting even inconsiderable fragments, yet 
in the lapse of ages might produce by its gradual erosion an effect, 
of which it is difficult to judge the amount. But in this case, 
independently of the insignificance of such an agency, good reasons 
can be assigned for believing that this valley was formerly occupied 
by an arm of the sea. It is needless in this work to detail the 
arguments leading to this conclusion, derived from the form and 
the nature of the step-formed terraces on both sides of the valley, 
from the manner in which the bottom of the valley near the 
Andes expands into a great estuary-like plain with sand-hil- 
locks on it, and from the occurrence of a few sea-shells lying iu 
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 bo 
asked, how has the solid basalt been moved ? Geologists formerly 
would have brought into play, the violent action of some over- 
whelming debacle ; but in this case such a supposition would have 
been quite inadmissible ; because, the same step-like plains with 
existing sea-shells lying on their surface, which front the long line 
of the Patagonian coast, sweep up on each side of the valley of 
Santa Cruz. No possible action of any flood could thus have 
modelled the land, either within the valley or along the open 
coast ; and by the formation of such step-like plains or terraces 
the valley itself had been hollowed out. Although we know that 
there are tides, which run within the Narrows of the Strait of 
Magellan at the rate of eight knots an hour, yet we must confess 
that it makes the head almost giddy to reflect on the number of 
years, century after century, which the tides, unaided by a heavy 
surf, must have required to have corroded so vast an area anc 
thickness of solid basaltic lava. Nevertheless, we must believe 
that the strata undermined by the waters of this ancient strait, 
were broken up into huge fragments, and these lying scattered on 
the beach, were reduced first to smaller blocks, then to pebbles 
and lastly to the most impalpable mud, which the tides drifted far 
into the Eastern or Western Ocean. 
With .the change in the geological structure of the plains the 

1834] THE CONDOR. 173 

character of the landscape likewise altered. While rambling up 
some of the narrow and rocky defiles, I conld almost have fancied 
myself transported back again to the barren valleys of the island 
of St. Jago. Among the basaltic cliffs, I found some plants which 
I had seen nowhere else, but others I recognised as being wanderers 
from Tierra del Fuego. These porous rocks serve as a reservoir 
for the scanty rain-water ; and consequently on the line where the 
igneous and sedimentary formations unite, some small springs 
(most rare occurrences in Patagonia) burst forth ; and they could 
be distinguished at a distance by the circumscribed patches of 
bright green herbage. 

April 27th. The bed of the river became rather narrower, and 
hence the stream more rapid. It here ran at the rate of six knots 
an hour. From this cause, and from the many great angular 
fragments, tracking the boats became both dangerous and 

This day I shot a condor. It measured from tip to tip of the 
wings, eight and a half feet, and from beak to tail, four feet. This 
bird is known to have a wide geographical range, being found on 
the west coast of South America, from the Strait of Magellan along 
the Cordillera as far as eight degrees north of the equator. The 
steep cliff near the mouth of the Eio 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 conder is not uncommon ; yet only a few stragglers 
occasionally visit the sea-coast. A line of cliff near the month 
of the Santa Cruz is frequented by these birds, and about eighty 
miles up the river, where the sides of the valley are formed by 
steep basaltic precipices, the condor reappears. From these facts, 
it seems that the condors require perpendicular cliffs. In Chile, 
they haunt, during the greater part of the year, the lower country 
near the shores of the Pacific, and at night several roost together 
in one tree; but in the early part of summer, they retire to the 
most inaccessible parts of the inner Cordillera, there to breed in 

With respect to their propagation, I was told by the country 
people in Chile, that the condor makes no sort of nest, but in the 
months of November and December lays two large white eggs on a 


shelf of bare rock. It is said that the young condors cannot fly for 
an entire year; and long after they are able, they continue to roost 
by night, and hunt by day with their parents. The old birds 
generally live in pairs ; but among the inland basaltic cliffs of the 
Santa Cruz, I found a spot, where scores must usually haunt. On 
coming suddenly to the brow of the precipice, it was a grand 
spectacle to see between twenty and thirty of these great birds 
start heavily from their resting-place, and wheel away in majestic 
circles. From the quantity of dung on the rocks, they must long 
have frequented this cliff for roosting and breeding. Having gorged 
themselves with carrion on the plains below, they retire to these 
favourite ledges to digest their food. From these facts, the condor, 
like the gallinazo, must to a certain degree be considered as a gre- 
garious bird. In this part of the country they live altogether on 
the guanacos which have died a natural death, or, as more com- 
monly happens, have been killed by the pumas. I believe, from 
what I saw in Patagonia, that they do not on ordinary occasions 
extend their daily excursions to any great distance from their 
regular sleeping-places. 

The condors may oftentimes be seen at a great height, soaring- 
over a certain spot in the most graceful circles. On some occasions 
I am sure that they do this only for pleasure, but on others, the 
Chileno countryman tells you that they are watching a dying 
animal, or the puma devouring its prey. If the condors glide 
down, and then suddenly all rise together, the Chileno knows that 
it is the puma which, watching the carcass, has sprung out to drive 
away the robbers. Besides feeding on carrion, the condors fre- 
quently attack young goats and lambs ; and the shepherd-dogs are 
trained, whenever they pass over, to run out, and looking upwards 
to bark violently. The Chilenos destroy and catch numbers. Two 
methods are used ; one is to place a carcass 'on a level piece of 
ground within an enclosure of sticks with an opening, and when 
the condors are gorged, to gallop up on horseback to the entrance, 
and thus enclose them : for when this bird has not space to run, it 
cannot give its body sufficient momentum to rise from the ground. 
The second method is to mark the trees in which, frequently to 
the number of five or six together, they roost, and then at night to 
climb up and noose them. They are such heavy sleepers, as I have 
myself witnessed, that this is not a difficult task. At Valparaiso, 
I have seen a living condor sold for sixpence, but the common price 

1834.] THE CONDOR. 175 

is eight or ten shillings. One which I saw brought in, had been 
tied with rope, and was much injured ; yet, the moment the lino 
was cut by which its bill was secured, although surrounded by 
people, it began ravenously to tear a piece of carrion. In a garden 
at the same place, between twenty and thirty were kept alive. 
They were fed only once a week, but they appeared in pretty good 
health.* The Chileno countrymen assert that the condor will live, 
and retain its vigour, between five and six weeks without eating : 
I cannot answer for the truth of this, but it is a cruel experiment, 
which very likely has been tried. 

When an animal is killed in the country, it is well known that 
the condors, like other carrion-vultures, soon gain intelligence of 
it, and congregate in an inexplicable manner. In most cases it 
must not be overlooked, that the birds have discovered their prey, 
and have picked the skeleton clean, before the flesh is in the least 
degree tainted. Eemembering the experiments of M. Audubon, on 
the little smelling powers of carrion-hawks, I tried in the above- 
mentioned garden the following experiment : the condors were tied, 
each by a rope, in a long row at the bottom of a wall ; and having 
folded up a piece of meat in white paper, I walked backwards and 
forwards, carrying it in my hand at the distance of about three 
yards from them, but no notice whatever was taken. I then threw 
it on the ground, within one yard of an old male bird ; he looked 
at it for a moment with attention, but then regarded it no more. 
With a stick I pushed it closer and closer, until at last he touched 
it with his beak ; the paper was then instantly torn off with fury, 
and at the same moment, every bird in the long row began 
struggling and flapping its wings. Under the same circumstances, 
it would have been quite impossible to have deceived a dog. The 
evidence in favour of and against the acute smelling powers of 
carrion-vultures is singularly balanced. Professor Owen has 
demonstrated that the olfactory nerves of the turkey-buzzard 
(Cathartes aura) are highly developed ; and on the evening when 
Mr. Owen's paper was read at the Zoological Society, it was men- 
tioned 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 

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

17(3 S. CRUZ, PATAGONIA. [CHAP. ix. 

this case, the intelligence could hardly have been acquired by 
sight. On the other hand, besides the experiments of Audobon 
and that one by myself, Mr. Bachman has tried in the United States 
many varied plans, showing that neither the turkey-buzzard (the 
species dissected by Professor Owen) nor the gallinazo find their 
food by smell. He covered portions of highly offensive offal with 
a thin canvas cloth, and strewed pieces of meat on it : these the 
carrion-vultures ate up, and then remained quietly standing, with 
their beaks within the eighth of an inch of the putrid mass, without 
discovering it. A small rent was made in the canvas, and the 
offal was immediately discovered; the canvas was replaced by a 
fresh piece, and meat again put on it, and was again devoured by 
the vultures without their discovering the hidden mass on which 
they were trampling. These facts are attested by the signatures 
of six gentlemen, besides that of Mr. Bachman.* 

Often when lying down to rest on the open plains, on looking 
upwards, I have seen carrion-hawks sailing through the air at a 
great height. Where the country is level I do not believe a space 
of the heavens, of more than fifteen degrees above the horizon, is 
commonly viewed with any attention by a person either walking or 
on horseback. If such be the case, and the vulture is on the wing 
at a height of between three and four thousand feet, before it could 
come within the range of vision, its distance in a straight line from 
the beholder's eye, would be rather more than two British miles. 
Might it not thus readily be overlooked? When an animal is 
killed by the sportsman in a lonely valley, may he not all the while 
be watched from above by the sharp-sighted bird ? And will not 
the manner of its descent proclaim throughout the district to the 
whole family of carrion-feeders, that their prey is at hand ? 

When the condors are wheeling in a flock round and round any 
spot, their flight is beautiful. Except when rising from the ground, 
I do not recollect ever having seen one of these birds flap its wings. 
Near Lima, I watched several for nearly half an hour, without once 
taking off my eyes : they moved in large curves, sweeping in circles, 
descending and ascending without giving a single flap. As they 
glided close over my head, I intently watched from an oblique 
position, the outlines of the separate and great terminal feathers of 
each wing ; and these separate feathers, if there had been the least 
vibratory movement, would have appeared as if blended together ; 
* London's Magazine of Xat. Hist., vol. vii. 

1834.] CORDILLERA. 1 77 

but they were scon distinct against the blue sky. The head and 
neck were moved frequently, and apparently with force ; and the 
extended wings seemed to form the fulcrum on which the move- 
ments of the neck, body, and tail acted. If the bird wished to 
descend, the wings were for a moment collapsed; and when again 
expanded with an altered inclination, the momentum gained by the 
rapid descent seemed to urge the bird upwards with the even and 
steady movement of a paper kite. In the case of any bird soaring, 
its motion must be sufficiently rapid, so that the action of the 
inclined surface of its body on the atmosphere may counterbalance 
its gravity. The force to keep up the momentum of a body moving 
in a horizontal plane in the air (in which there is so little friction) 
cannot be great, and this force is all that is wanted. The move- 
ment of the neck and body of the condor, we must suppose, is 
sufficient for this. However this may be, it is truly wonderful and 
beautiful to see so great a bird, hour after hour, without any 
apparent exertion, wheeling and gliding over mountain and river. 

J.ju-il 29^. From some high laud we hailed with joy the white 
summits of the Cordillera, as they wore seen occasionally peeping 
through their dusky envelope of clouds. During the few suc- 
ceeding 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 above 
the river, and its character was much altered. The well-rounded 
pebbles of porphyry were mingled with many immense angular 
fragments of basalt and of primary rocks. The first of these erratic 
boulders which I noticed, was sixty-seven miles distant from the 
nearest mountain ; another which I measured was five yards square, 
and projected five feet above the gravel. Its edges were so angular, 
and its size so great, that I at first mistook it for a rock in situ, and 
took out my compass to observe the direction of its cleavage. 
The plain here was not quite so level as that nearer the coast, but 
yet it betrayed no signs of any great violence. Under these cir- 
cumstances it is, I believe, quite impossible to explain the transportal 
of these gigantic masses of rock so many miles from their parent- 
source, on any theory except by that of floating icebergs. 

During the two last days we met with signs of horses, and with 
several small articles which had belonged to the Indians^such as 


parts of a mantle and a bunch of ostrich feathers but they ap- 
peared to have been lying long on the ground. Between the place 
where the Indians had so lately crossed the river and this neigh- 
bourhood, though so many miles apart, the country appears to be 
quite unfrequented. At first, considering the abundance of the 
guanacos, I was surprised at this; but it is explained by the stony 
nature of the plains, which would soon disable an unshod horse 
from taking part in the chase. Nevertheless, in two places in this 
very central region, I found small heaps of stones, which I do not 
think could have been accidentally thrown together. They were 
placed on points, projecting over the edge of the highest lava cliff, 
and they resembled, but on a small scale, those near Port Desire. 

Miy 4:th. Captain Fitz Eoy determined to take the boats no 
higher. The river had a winding course, and was very rapid ; and 
the appearance of the country offered no temptation to proceed 
any further. Everywhere we met with the same productions, and 
the same dreary landscape. We were now one hundred and forty 
miles distant from the Atlantic, and about sixty from the nearest 
arm of the Pacific. The valley in this upper part expanded into a 
Avide basin, bounded on the north and south by the basaltic plat- 
forms, and fronted by the long range of the snow-clad Cordillera. 
But we viewed these grand mountains with regret, for we were 
obliged to imagine their nature and'productions, instead of stand- 
ing, 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 descent. We shot down 
the stream with great rapidity, generally at the rate of ten knots 
an hour. In this one day we effected what had cost us five-and-a- 
half hard days' labour in ascending. On the 8tb, we reached the 
Beagle after our twenty-one days' expedition. Every one, excepting 
myself, had cause to be dissatisfied ; but to me the ascent afforded 
a most interesting section of the great tertiary formation of 

On March 1st, 1833, and again on March I6>h, 1834, the Beagle 


anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island. This archi- 
pelago is situated in nearly the same latitude with the mouth of 
the Strait of Magellan; it covers a space of one hundred and 
twenty by sixty geographical miles, and is a little more than half 
the size of Ireland. After the possession of these miserable islands 
had been contested by France, Spain, and England, they were left 
uninhabited. The government of Buenos Ayres then sold them to 
a private individual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done 
before, for a penal settlement. England claimed her right and 
seized them. The Englishman who was left in charge of the flag 
was consequently murdered. A British officer was next sent, 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- 
laud, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere covered 
by a peaty soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous brown colour. 
Here and there a peak or ridge of grey quartz rock breaks through 
the smooth surface. Every one has heard of the climate of these 
regions ; it may be compared to that which is experienced at the 
height of between one and two thousand feet, on the mountains of 
North Wales ; having however less sunshine and less frost, but 
more wind and rain.* 

IQth. I will now describe a short excursion which I made round 
a part of this island. In the morning I started with six horses 
and two Gauchos : the latter were capital men for the purpose, and 
well accustomed to living on their own resources. The weather 
was very boisterous and cold, with heavy hail-stornis. We got on, 
however, pretty well, but, except the geology, nothing could be 
less interesting than our day's ride. The country is uniformly the 
same undulating moorland; the surface being covered by light 
brown withered grass and a few very small shrubs, all springing 
out of an elastic peaty soil. In the valleys here and there might 
l>e seen a small flock of wild geese, and everywhere the ground was 

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


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

In the evening we came across a small herd. One of my com- 
panions, 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, 
Avhile at full gallop, he uncoiled his lazo, and after a most severe 
chase, again came up to the cow, and caught her round the horns. 
The other Gaucho had gone on ahead with the spare horses, so that 
St. Jago had some difficulty in killing the furious beast. He 
managed to get her on a level piece of ground, by taking advantage 
of her as often as she rushed at him; and when she would not 
move, my horse, from having been trained, would canter up, and 
with his chest give her a violent push. But when on level ground 
it does not appear an easy job for one man to kill a beast mad with 
terror. Nor would it be so, if the horse, when left to itself without 
its rider, did not soon learn, for its own safety, to keep the lazo 
tight ; so that, if the cow or ox moves forward, the horse moves 
just as quickly forward ; otherwise, it stands motionless leaning on 
one side. This horse, however,*Vas a young one, and would not 
stand still, but gave in to the cow as she struggled. It was admir- 
able to see with what dexterity St. Jago dodged behind the beast, 
till at last he contrived to give the fatal touch to the main tendon 
of the hind leg ; after which, without much difficulty, he drove his 
knife into the head of the spinal marrow, and the cow dropped as 
if struck by lightning. He cut off pieces of flesh with the skin to 
it, but without any bones, sufficient for our expedition. We then 
rode on to our sleeping-place, and had for supper ' carne con cuero,' 
or meat roasted with the skin on it. This is as superior to common 
beef as venison is to mutton. A large circular piece taken from 
the back is roasted on the embers with the hide downwards and in 
the form of a saucer, so that none of the gravy is lost. If any 
worthy alderman had sapped with us that evening, ' carne con 
cuero/ without doubt, would soon "have been celebrated in London. 

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


stormy, with much hail and snow. AVo rode across the island to 
the neck of land which joins the Eincon del Toro (the great 
peninsula at the S.W. extremity) to the rest of the island. From 
the great number of cows which have been killed, there is a large 
proportion of bulls. These wander about single, or two and three 
together, and are very savage. I never saw such magnificent 
boasts; they equalled in the size of their huge heads and necks 
the Grecian marble sculptures. Capt. Sulivan informs me that the 
hide of an average-sized bull weighs forty-seven pounds, whereas a 
hide of this weight, less thoroughly dried, is considered as a very 
heavy one at Monte Video. The young bulls generally run away 
for a short distance ; but the old ones do not stir a step, except to 
rush at man and horse ; and many horses have been thus killed. 
An old bull crossed a boggy stream, and took his stand on the 
opposite side to us ; we in vain tried to drive him away, and fail- 
ing, were obliged to make a large circuit. The Gauchos in revengo 
determined to emasculate him and render him for the future harm- 
less. It was very interesting to see how art completely mastered 
force. One lazo was thrown over his horns as he rushed at tho 
horse, and another round his hind legs : in a minute the monster 
was stretched powerless on the g found. After the lazo has once 
been drawn tightly round the horns of a furious animal, it does not 
at first appear an easy thing to disengage it again without killing 
the beast ; nor, I apprehend, would it be so if the man was by him- 
self. By the aid, however, of a second person throwing his lazo so 
as to catch both hind legs, it is quickly managed : for the animal, 
as long as its hind legs are kept outstretched, is quite helpless, and 
the first man can with his hands loosen his lazo from the horns, 
and then quietly mount his horse; but the moment the second 
man, by backing ever so little, relaxes the strain, the lazo slips off 
the legs of the struggling beast, which then rises free, shakes 
himself, and vainly rushes at his antagonist. 

During our whole ride we saw only one troop of wild horses. 
These animals, as well as the cattle, were introduced by the French 
in 176i, since which time both have greatly increased. It is a 
curious fact, that the horses have never left the eastern end of the 
island, although there is no natural boundary to prevent them 
from roaming, and that part of the island is not more tempting 
than the rest. The Gauchos whom I asked, though asserting this 
to be the case, were unable to account for it, except from the strong 


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

The cattle, instead of having degenerated like the horses, seem, 
as before remarked, to have increased in size ; and they are much 
more numerous than the horses. Capt. Sulivan informs me that 
they vary much less in the general form of their bodies and in the 
shape of their horns than English cattle. In colour they differ 
much ; and it is a remarkable circumstance, that in different parts 
of this one small island, different colours predominate. Bound 
Mount Usborne, at a height of from 1000 to 1500 feet above the 
sea, about half of some of the herds are mouse or lead-coloured, 
a tint which is not common in other parts of the island. Near Port 
Pleasant dark brown prevails, whereas south of Choiseul Sound 
(which almost divides the island into two parts), white beasts with 
black heads and feet are the most common : in all parts black, and 

. ix.] WILD RABBITS. 183 

some spotted animals may be observed. Capt. Sulivan remarks, 
that the difference in the prevailing colours was so obvious, that in 
looking for the herds near Port Pleasant, they appeared from a long 
distance like black spots, whilst south of Choiseul Sound they 
appeared like white spots on the hill-sides. Capt. Sulivan thinks 
that the herds do not mingle ; and it is a singular fact, that the 
mouse-coloured cattle, though living on the high land, calve about 
a month earlier in the season than the other coloured beasts on the 
lower land. It is interesting thus to find the once domesticated 
cattle breaking into three colours, of which some one colour would 
in all probability ultimately prevail over the others, if the herds 
were left undisturbed for the next several centuries. 

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced, and 
has succeeded very well ; so that they abound over large parts of 
the island. Yet, like the horses, they are confined within certain 
limits; for they have not crossed the central chain of^iills, nor 
would they have extended even so far as its base, if, as the Gauchos 
informed me, small colonies had not been carried there. I should 
not have supposed that these animals, natives of northern Africa, 
could have existed in a climate so humid as this, and which enjoys 
so little sunshine that even wheat ripens only occasionally. It is 
asserted that in Sweden, which any one would have thought a more 
favourable climate, the rabbit cannot live out of doors. The first 
few pair, moreover, had here to contend against pre-existing enemies, 
in the fox and some large hawks. The French naturalists have 
considered the black variety a distinct species, and called it Lepus 
Magellanicus.* They imagined that Magellan, when talking of an 
animal under the Hame of " conejos " in the Strait of Magellan, 
referred to this species ; but he was alluding to a small cavy, which 
to this day is tlms called by the Spaniards. The Gauchos laughed 
at the idea of the black kind being different from the grey, and 
they said that at all events it had not extended its range any further 
than the grey kind ; that the two were never found separate ; and 
that they readily bred together, and produced piebald offspring. 

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


Of the latter I now possess a specimen, and it is marked about the 
head differently from the French specific description. This cir- 
cumstance shows how cautious naturalists should be in making 
species ; for even Cuvier, on looking at the skull of one of these 
rabbits, thought it was probably distinct ! 

The only quadruped native to the island * is a large wolf-like fox 
(Canis antarcticus), which is common to both East and West Falk- 
land. I have no doubt it is a peculiar species, and confined to this 
archipelago; because many sealers, Gauchos, and Indians, who 
have visited these islands, all maintain that no such animal is 
found in any part of South America. Molina, from a similarity in 
habits, thought that this was the same with his "culpeu;"f but 
I have seen both, and they ara quite distinct. These wolves are 
well known, from Byron's account of their tameness and curiosity, 
which the sailors, who ran into the water to avoid them, mistook 
for fierceness. To this day their manners remain the same. They 
have been observed to enter a tent, and actually pull some meat 
from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. The Gauchos also 
have frequently in the evening killed them, by holding out a piece 
of meat in one hand, and in the other a knife ready to stick them. 
As far as I am aware, there is no other instance in any part of the 
world, of so small a mass of broken land, distant from a continent, 
possessing so large an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to itself. 
Their numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already banished 
from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of the neck 
of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkeley Sound. Within 
a very few years after these islands shall have become regularly 
settled, in all probability this fox will be classed with the dodo, as 
an animal which has perished from the face of the earth. 

At night (17th) we slept on the neck of land at the head of 
Choiseul Sound, which forms the south-west peninsula. The 
valley was pretty well sheltered from the cold wind; but there 
was very little brushwood for fuel. The Gauchos, however, soon 
found what, to my great surprise, made nearly as hot a fire as 
coals ; this was the skeleton of a bullock lately killed, from which 

* 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 settlors. The common hog lias also run wild on one islet : all are of a 
black colour : the hoars are very fierce, and have great tusks. 

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


the flesh Lad been picked by tbc 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. 

18th. It rained during nearly the whole day. At night we 
managed, however, with our saddle-cloths to keep ourselves pretty 
well dry and warm; but the ground on which we slept was on each 
occasion nearly in the state of a bog, and there was not a dry spot 
to sit down on after our day's ride. I have in another part stated 
how singular it is that there should be absolutely no trees on these 
islands, although Tierra del Fuego is covered by one large forest. 
The largest bush in the island (belonging to the family of Com- 
positse) is scarcely so tall as our gorse. The best fuel is afforded 
by a green little bush about the size of common heath, which has 
the useful property of burning while fresh and green. It was very 
surprising to see the Gauchos, in the midst of rain and everything 
soaking wet, with nothing more than a tinder-box and piece of rag, 
immediately make a fire. They sought beneath the tufts of grass 
and bushes for a few dry twigs, and these they rubbed into fibres ; 
then surrounding them with coarser twigs, something like a birds' 
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, aud 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 morning, from not having ridden for some time 
previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to hear the Gauchos, 
who have from infancy almost lived on horseback, say that, under 
similar circumstances, they always suffer. St. Jago told me, that 
having been confined for three months by illness, he went oiit 
hunting wild cattle, and in conseqitence, for the next two days, his 
thighs were so stiff that he was obliged to lie in bed. This shows 
that the Gauchos, although they do not appear to do so, yet 
really must exert much muscular effort in riding. The hunting 
wild cattle, in a country so difficult to pass as this is on account 
of the swampy ground, must be very hard work. The Gauchos 
say they often pass at full speed over ground which would be 
impassable at a slower pace ; in the same manner as a man is able 
to skate over thin ice. When hunting, the party endeavours to 
get as close as possible to the herd without being discovered. Each 


man carries four or five pair of the bolas; these he throws one after 
the other at as many cattle, which, when once entangled, are left 
for some days, till they become a little exhausted by hunger and 
struggling. They are then let free and driven towards a small 
herd of tame animals, which have been brought to the spot on 
purpose. From their previous treatment, being too much terrified 
to leave the herd, they are easily driven, if their strength last out, 
to the settlement. 

The weather continued so very bad that we determined to make 
a push, and try to reach the vessel before night. From, the 
quantity of rain which had fallen, the surface of the whole country 
was swampy. I suppose my horse fell at least a dozen times, and 
sometimes the whole six horses were floundering in the mud 
together. All the little streams are bordered by soft peat, which 
makes it very difficult for the horses to leap them without falling. 
To complete our discomforts we were obliged to cross the head of 
a creek of the sea, in which the water was as high as our horses' 
backs; and the little waves, owing to the violence of the wind, 
broke over us, and made us very wet and cold. Even the iron- 
framed Gauchos professed themselves glad when they reached the 
settlement, after our little excursion. 

The geological structure of these islands is in most respects 
simple. The lower country consists of clay-slate and sandstone, 
containing fossils, very closely related to, but not identical with, 
those found in the Silurian formations of Europe ; the hills are 
formed of white granular quartz rock. The strata of the latter 
are frequently arched with perfect symmetry, and the appearance 
of some of the masses is in consequence most singular. Pernety * 
has devoted several pages to the description of a Hill of Kuins, the 
successive strata of which he has justly compared to the seats of an 
amphitheatre. The quartz rock must have been quite pasty when 
it underwent such remarkable flexures without being shattered 
into fragments. As the quartz insensibly passes into the sand- 
stone, 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 
* Pernety, Voyage aux Isles Malouiuc?, p. 52G. 

i-iiAi\ ix.] STREAMS OF STONES. 187 

covered in an extraordinary manner by myriads of great loose 
angular fragments of the quartz rock, forming " streams of stones." 
These have been mentioned with surprise by every voyager since 
the time of Pernety. The blocks are not waterworn, their angles 
being only a little blunted ; they vary in size from one or two feet 
in diameter to ten, or even more than twenty times as much. 
They are not thrown together into irregular piles, but are spread 
out into level sheets or great streams. It is not possible to 
ascertain their thickness, but the water of small streamlets can be 
heard trickling through the stones many feet below the surface. 
The actual depth is probably great, because the crevices between 
the lower fragments must long ago have been filled up with sand. 
The width of these sheets of stones varies from a few hundred feet 
to a mile ; but the peaty soil daily encroaches on the borders, and 
even forms islets wherever a few fragments happen to lie close 
together. In a valley south of Berkeley Sound, which some of our 
party called the " great valley of fragments," it was necessary to 
cross an uninterrupted band half a mile wide, by jumping from 
one pointed stone to another. So large were the fragments, that 
being overtaken by a shower of rain, I readily found shelter 
beneath one of them. 

Their little inclination is the most remarkable circumstance in 
these '" streams of stones." On the hill-sides I have seen them 
sloping at an angle of ten degrees with the horizon ; but in some 
of the level, broad-bottomed valleys, the inclination is only just 
sufficient to be clearly perceived. On so rugged a surface there 
waa no means of measuring the angle; but to give a common 
illustration, I may say that the slope would not have checked the 
speed of an English mail-coach. In some places, a continuous 
stream of these fragments followed up the course of a valley, and 
even extended to the very crest of the hill. On these crests huge 
masses, exceeding in dimensions any small building, seemed to 
stand arrested in their headlong course : there, also, the curved 
strata of the archways lay piled on each other, like the ruins of 
some vast and ancient cathedral. In endeavouring to describe 
these scenes of violence one is tempted to pass from one simile to 
another. We may imagine that streams of white lava had flowed 
from many parts of the mountains into the lower country, and that 
when solidified they had been rent by some enormous convulsion 
into myriads of fragments. The expression "streams of stones," 


which immediately occurred to every one, conveys the same idea. 
These scenes are on the spot rendered more striking by the contrast 
of the low rounded forms of the neighbouring hills. 

I was interested by finding on the highest peak of one range 
(about 700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment, lying on its 
convex side, or back downwards. Must we believe that it was 
fairly pitched up in the air, and thus turned? Or, with more 
probability, that there existed formerly a part of the same range 
more elevated than the point on -which this monument of a great 
convulsion of nature now lies. As the fragments in the valleys are 
neither rounded nor the crevices filled up with sand, we must infer 
that the period of violence was subsequent to the land having been 
raised above the waters of the sea. In a transverse section within 
these valleys, the bottom is nearly level, or rises biit very little 
towards either side. Hence the fragments appear to have 
travelled from the head of the valley ; but in reality it seems more 
probable that they have been hurled down from the nearest slopes ; 
and that since, by a vibratory movement of overwhelming force,* 
the fragments have been levelled into one continuous sheet. If 
during the earthquake f which in 1835 overthrew Concepcion, in 
Chile, it was thought wonderful that small bodies should havo 
been pitched a few inches from the ground, what must we say to 
a movement which has caused fragments many tons in weight, to 
move onwards like so much sand on a vibrating board, and find 
their level? I have seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, the 
evident marks where stupendous mountains have been broken into 
pieces like so nmch thin crust, and the strata thrown on their 
vertical edges; but never did any scene, like these "streams of 
stones," so forcibly convey to my mind the idea of a convulsion, of 
which in historical records we might in vain seek for any counter- 
part : yet the progress of knowledge will probably some day give 
a simple explanation of this phenomenon, as it already has of the 
so long-thought inexplicable transportal of the erratic boulders, 
which are strewed over the plains of Europe. 

* " Nous n'avons pas etc moins saisis d'e'tonnement a la vile cle 1'innora- 
brable quantite cle pierrcs do toutes grandeurs, bouleverse'es les unes sur 
les autres, et Dependant rauge'es, comme si ellcs avoient etc araoncele'cs 
ne'gligemnient pour remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer 
les eft'ets prodigieux de la nature." Pernety, p. 526. 

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


I have little to remark on the zoology of these islands. I have 
before described the carrion-vulture or Polyborus. There are some 
other hawks, owls, and a few small land-birds. The water-fowl 
are particularly numerous, and they must formerly, from the 
accounts of the old navigators, have been much more so. One 
day I observed a cormorant playing with a fish which it had 
caught. Eight times 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 bravo bird ; and till reaching 
the sea, it regularly fought and drove me backwards. Nothing 
less than heavy blows would have stopped him ; every inch he 
gained he firmly kept, standing close before me erect and 
determined. When thus opposed he continually rolled his head 
from side to side, in a very odd manner, as if the power of distinct 
vision lay only in the anterior and basal part of each eye. This 
bird is commonly called the jackass penguin, from its habit, while 
on shore, of throwing its head backwards, and making a loud 
strange noise, very like the braying of an ass; but while at sea, 
and undisturbed, its note is very deep and solemn, and is often 
heard in the night-time. In diving, its little wings are used as 
fins ; but on the land, as front legs. When crawling, it may be 
said on four legs, through the tussocks or on the side of a grassy 
cliff, it moves so very quickly that it might easily be mistaken for 
a quadruped. When at sea and fishing, it comes to the surface for 
the purpose of breathing with such a spring, and dives again so 
instantaneously, that I defy any one at first sight to be sure that it 
was not a fish leaping for sport. 

Two kinds of geese frequent the Falklands. The upland species 
(Anas Magellauica) is common, in pairs and in small flocks, 
throughout the island. They do not migrate, but build on the 
small outlying islets. This is supposed to be from fear of the 
foxes : and it is perhaps from the same cause that these birds, 
though very tame by day, are shy and wild in the dusk of the 
evening. They live entirely on vegetable matter. The rock-goose 
so called from living exclusively on the sea-beach (Anas antarctica), 


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

In these islands a great loggerheaded duck or goose (Anas 
brachyptera), which sometimes weighs twenty-two pounds, is 
very abundant. These birds were in former days called, from 
their extraordinary manner of paddling and splashing upon the 
water, race-horses; but now they are named, much more appro- 
priately, steamers. Their wings are too small and weak to allow 
of flight, but by their aid, partly swimming and partly flapping 
the surface of the water, they move very quickly. The manner 
is something like that by which the common house-duck escapes 
when pursued by a dog ; but I am nearly sure that the steamer 
moves its wings alternately, instead of both together, as in other 
birds. These clumsy, loggerheaded ducks make such a noise and 
splashing, that the effect is exceedingly curious. 

Thus we find in South America three birds which use their 
wings for other purposes besides flight; the penguin as fins, the 
steamer as paddles, and the ostrich as sails : and the Apteryz of 
New Zealand, as well as its gigantic extinct prototype the 
Deinornis, possess only rudimentary representatives of wings. 
The steamer is able to dive only to a very short distance. It feeds 
entirely on shell-fish from the kelp and tidal rocks : hence the beak 
and head, for the purpose of breaking them, are surprisingly heavy 
and strong : the head is so strong that I have scarcely been able to 
fracture it with my geological hammer ; and all our sportsmen soon 
discovered how tenacious these birds were of life. When in the 
evening pluming themselves in a flock, they make the same odd 
mixture of sounds which bull-frogs do within the tropics. 

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as at the Falkland Islands, I made 
many observations on the lower marine animals,* but they are of 

* I was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large white Doris 
(this sea-slug was three and a half inches long), how extraordinarily 
numerous they were. From t\vo to five eggs (each three-thousandths of 
an inch in diameter) were contained in a spherical little case. These 
were arranged two deep in transverse rows forming a ribbon. The ribbon 
adhered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I found, 
measured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By 
counting how many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the row, 

CHAP, ix.] ZOOPHYTES. 191 

little general interest. I will mention only one class of facts, 
relating to certain zoophytes in the more highly organized division 
of that class. Several genera (Flustra, Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, 
and others) agree in 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 triangular hood, 
with a beautifully-fitted trap-door, which evidently answered to 
the lower mandible. In the greater number of species, each cell 
was provided with one head, but in others each cell had two. 

The young cells at the end of the branches of these corallines 
contain quite immature polypi, yet the vulture-heads attached to 
them, though small, are in every respect perfect. When the 
polypus was removed by a needle from any of the cells, these 
organs did not appear in the least affected. When one of the 
vulture-like heads was cut off from the cell, the lower mandible 
retained its power of opening and closing. Perhaps the most 
singular part of their structure is, that when there were more than 
two rows of cells on a branch, the central cells were furnished with 
these appendages, of only one-fourth the size of the outside ones. 
Their movements varied according to the species ; but in some I 
never saw the least motion ; while others, with the lower mandible 
generally wide open, oscillated backwards and forwards at the rate 
of about five seconds each turn ; others moved rapidly and by starts. 
When touched with a needle, the beak generally seized the point so 
firmly, that the whole branch might be shaken. 

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production of 
the eggs or gemmules, as they are formed before the young polypi 
appear in the cells at the end of the growing branches ; as they 
move independently of the polypi, and do not appear to be in any 
way connected with them ; and as they differ in size on the outer 

and how many rows in an equal length of the ribbon, on the most moderate 
computation there were six hundred thousand eggs. Yet this Doris was 
certainly not very common : although I was often searching under the 
stones, I saw only seven individuals. No fallacy is more common with 
naturalists, than that the numbers of an individual species depend on its 
powers of propagation. 


and inner rows of cells, I have little doubt, that in their functions, 
they are related rather to the horny axis of the branches than to 
the polypi in the cells. The fleshy appendage at the lower 
extremity of the sea-pen (described at Bahia Blanca) also forms 
part of the zoophyte, as a whole, in the same manner as the roots 
of a tree form part of the whole tree, and not of the individual leaf 
or flower-buds. 

In another elegant little coralline (Crisia?), each cell was fur- 
nished with a long-toothed bristle, which had the power of moving 
quickly. Each of these bristles and each of the vulture-like heads 
generally moved quite independently of the others, but sometimes 
all on both sides of a branch, sometimes only those on one side, 
moved together coinstantaneously ; sometimes each moved in 
regular order one after another. In these actions we apparently 
behold as perfect a transmission of will in the zoophyte, though 
composed of thousands of distinct polypi, as in any single animal. 
The case, indeed, is not different from that of the sea-pens, which, 
when touched, drew themselves into the sand on the coast of Bahia 
Blanca. I will state one other instance of uniform action, though 
of a very different nature, in a zoophyte closely allied to Clytia, 
and therefore very simply organized. Having kept a large tuft of 
it in a basin of salt-water, when it was dark I found that as often 
as I rubbed any part of a branch, the whole became strongly 
phosphorescent with a green light : I do not think I ever saw any 
object more beautifully so. But the remarkable circumstance was, 
that the flashes of light always proceeded up the branches, from 
the base towards the extremities. 

The examination of these compound animals was always very 
interesting to me. What can be more remarkable than to see a 
plant-like body producing an egg, capable of swimming about and 
of choosing a proper place to adhere to, which then sprouts into 
branches, each crowded with innumerable distinct animals, often 
of complicated organizations? The branches, moreover, as we 
have just seen, sometimes possess organs capable of movement and 
independent of the polypi. Surprising as this union of separate 
individuals in a common stock must always appear, every tree 
displays the same fact, for buds must be considered as individual 
plants. It is, however, natural to consider a polypus, furnished 
with a mouth, intestines, and other organs, as a distinct individual, 
whereas the individuality of a leaf-bud is not easily realised ; so 


that the union of separate individuals in a common body is more 
striking in a coralline than in a tree. Our conception of a com- 
pound animal, where in some respects the individuality of each is 
not completed, may be aided, by reflecting on the production of 
two distinct Creatures by bisecting a single one with a knife, or 
where Nature herself performs the task of bisection. We may 
consider the polypi in a zoophyte, or the buds in a tree, as cases 
where the division of the individual has not been completely effected. 
Certainly in the case of trees, and judging from analogy in that of 
corallines, the individuals propagated by buds seem more intimately 
related to each other, than eggs or seeds are to their parents. It 
seems now pretty well established that plants propagated by buds 
all partake of a common duration of life ; and it is familiar to every 
one, what singular and numerous peculiarities are transmitted with 
certainty, by buds, layers, and grafts, which by seminal propagation 
never or only casually reappear. 



Tievra del Fuego, fiist arrival Good Success Bay An Account of the 
Fucgiaus on board Interview with the Savages Scenery of the Forests 
Cape Horn Wigwam Cove Miserable Condition of the Savages 
Famines Cannibals Matricide Religions Feelings Great Gale 
Beagle Channel Ponsonby Sound Build Wigwams and settle the 
Fuegians Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel Glaciers Return to 
the Ship Second Visit in the Ship to the Settlement Equality of 
Condition amongst the Natives-. 


December TTth, 1832. Having now finished with Patagonia and 
the Falkland Islands, I will describe our first arrival in Tierra 
del Fuego. A little after noon we doubled Cape St. Diego, and 
entered the famous strait of Le Maire. We kept close to the 
Fuegian shore, but the outline of the rugged, inhospitable Staten- 
land was visible amidst the clouds. In the afternoon we anchored 
in the Bay of Good Success. While entering we were saluted in a 
manner becoming the inhabitants of this savage land. A group of 
Fuegians partly concealed by the entangled forest, were perched 
on a wild point overhanging the sea ; and as we passed by, they 
sprang up and waving their tattered cloaks sent forth a loud and 
sonorous shout. The savages followed the ship, and just before 
dark we saw their fire, and again heard their wild cry. The 
harbour consists of a fine piece of water half surrounded by low 
rounded mountains of clay-slate, which are covered to the water's 
edge by one dense gloomy forest. A single glance at the landscape 
was sufficient to show me how widely different it was from anything 
I had ever beheld. At night it blew a gale of wind, and heavy 
squalls from the mountains swept past us. It would have been 
a bad time out at sea, and we, as well as others, may call this Good 
Success Bay. 
In the morning the Captain sent a party to communicate with 


the Fuegians. When we came within hail, one of the four natives 
who were present advanced to receive us, and began to shout most 
vehemently, wishing to direct us where to land. When we were on 
shore the party looked rather alarmed, but continued talking and 
making gestures with great rapidity. It was without exception 
the most curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld : I could 
not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and 
civilized man : it is greater than between a wild and domesticated 
animal, inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improve- 
ment. The chief spokesman was old, and appeared to be the head 
of the family ; the three others were powerful young men, about 
six feet high. The women and children had been sent away. 
These Fuegians are a very different race from the stunted, miserable 
wretches farther westward; and they seem closely allied to the 
famous Patagonians of the Strait of Magellan. Their only garment 
consists of a mantle made of guanaco skin, with the wool outside : 
this they wear just thrown over their shoulders, leaving their 
persons as often exposed as covered. Their skin is of a dirty 
coppery red colour. 

The old man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head, 
which partly confined his black, coarse, and entangled hair. His 
face was crossed by two broad transverse bars ; one, painted bright 
red, reached from ear to car and included the upper lip ; the other, 
white like chalk, extended above and parallel to the first, so that 
even his eyelids were thus coloured. The other two men were 
ornamented by streaks of black powder, made of charcoal. The 
party altogether closely resembled the devils which come on the 
stage in plays like Der Freischutz. 

Their very attitudes were abject, and the expression of their 
countenances distrustful, surprised, and startled. After we had 
presented them with some scarlet cloth, which they immediately 
tied round their necks, they became good friends. This was shown 
by the old man patting our breasts, and making a chuckling kind 
of noise, as people do when feeding chickens. I walked \\ith the 
old man, and this demonstration of friendship was repeated several 
times; it was concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me on 
the breast and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom 
for me to return the compliment, which being done, he seemed 
highly pleased. The language of these people, according to our 
notions, scarcely deserves to be called articulate. Captain Cook has 


compared it to a man clearing Ins throat, but certainly no European 
ever cleared his throat with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking 

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

When a song was struck up by our party, I thought the Fuegians 
would have fallen down with astonishment. With equal surprise 
they viewed our dancing ; but one of the young men, when asked, 
had no objection to a little waltzing. Little accustomed to Euro- 
peans as they appeared to be, yet they knew and dreaded our fire- 
arms; nothing would tempt them to take a gun in their hands. 
They begged for knives, calling them by the Spanish word "cuchilla." 
They explained also what they wanted, by acting as if they had a 
piece of blubber in their mouth, and then pretending to cut instead 
of tear it. 

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


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


languages, ^his she showed in picking tip some Portuguese and 
Spanish, Avhen left on shore for only a short time at Rio de Janeiro 
and Monte Video, and in her knowledge of English. York Minster 
was very jealous of any attention paid to her ; for it was clear he 
determined to marry her as soon as they were settled on shore. 

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

It was interesting to watch the conduct of the savages, when 
we landed, towards Jemmy Button : they immediately perceived 
the difference between him and ourselves, and held much con- 
versation one with another on the subject. The old man addressed 
a long harangue to Jemmy, which it seems was to invite him to 
stay with them. But Jemmy understood very little of their lan- 
guage, and was, moreover, thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen. 
When York Minster afterwards cance 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 live- 
liest surprise and admiration at its whiteness, just in the same way 
in which I have seen the ourang-outang do at the Zoological Gar- 
dens. We thought that they mistook two or three of the officers, 
who were rather shorter and fairer, though adorned with large 


beards, for the ladies of our party. The tallest amongst the Fucgians 
was evidently much pleased at his height being noticed. When 
placed back to back with the tallest of the boat's crew, he tried his 
best to edge on higher ground, and to stand on tiptoe. He opened 
his mouth to show his teeth, and turned his face for a side view; 
and all this was done with such alacrity, that I dare say he thought 
himself the handsomest man in Tierra del Fuego. After our first 
feeling of grave astonishment was over, nothing could be more 
ludicrous than the odd mixture of surprise and imitation which 
these savages every moment exhibited. 

The next day I attempted to penetrate gome 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 part of the country is most rare. I 
recollect only one little flat piece near Port Famine, and another of 
rather larger extent near Goeree Road. In both places, and 
everywhere else, the surface is covered by a thick bed of swampy 
peat. Even within the forest, the ground is concealed by a nmss 
of slowly putrefying vegetable matter, which, from being soaked 
with water, yields to the foot. 

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way through the wood, 
I followed the course of a mountain torrent. At first, from the 
waterfalls and number of dead trees, I could hardly crawl along ; 
but the bed of the stream soon became a little more open, from 
the floods having swept the sides. I continued slowly to advance 
for an hour along the broken and rocky banks, and was amply 
repaid by the grandeur of the scene. The gloomy depth of the 
ravine well accorded with the universal signs of violence. On 
every side were lying irregular masses of rock and torn-up trees ; 
other trees, though still erect, were decayed to the heart and ready 
to fall. The entangled mass of the thriving and the fallen reminded 
me of the forests within the tropics yet there was a difference : 


for in these still solitudes, Death, instead of Life, seemed the pre- 
dominant spirit. I followed the watercourse till I came to a spot, 
where a great slip had cleared a straight space down the mountain 
side. By this road I ascended to a considerable elevation, and 
obtained a good view of the surrounding woods. The trees all 
belong to one kind, the Fagus betuloides ; for the number of the 
other species of Fagus and of the Winter's Bark, is quite incon- 
siderable. This beech keeps its leaves throughout the year ; but 
its foliage is of a peculiar brownish-green colour, with a tinge of 
yellow. As the whole landscape is thus coloured, it has a sombre, 
dull appearance ; nor is it often enlivened by the rays of the sun. 

December ZQtk. One side of the harbour is formed by a hill about 
1500 feet high, which Captain Fitz Koy 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 moun- 
tain to collect alpine plants ; for flowers of any kind in the lower 
parts are few in number. We followed the same watercourse as on 
the previous day, till it dwindled away, and we were then compelled 
to crawl blindly among the trees. These, from the effects of the 
elevation and of the impetuous winds, were low, thick, and crooked. 
At length we reached that which from a distance appeared like a 
carpet of fine green turf, but which, to our vexation, turned out to 
be a compact mass of little beech-trees about four or five feet high. 
They were as thick together. as box in the border of a garden, and 
we were obliged to struggle over the flat but treacherous surface. 
After a little more trouble we gained the peat, and then the baro 
slate rock. 

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

CHAP, x.] CAPE HORN. 201 

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

December 1\st. The Beagle got under way : and on the succeed- 
ing day, favoured to an uncommon degree by a fine easterly breeze, 
we closed in with the Barnevelts, and running past Cape Deceit 
with its stony peaks, about three o'clock doubled the weather- 
beaten Cape Horn. The evening was calm and bright, and we 
enjoyed a fine view of the surrounding isles. Cape Horn, how- 
ever, demanded his tribute, and before night sent us a gale of 
wind directly in our teeth. We stood out to sea, and on the 
second day again made the land, when we saw on our weather-bow 
this notorious promontory in its proper form veiled in a mist, 
and its dim outline surrounded by a storm of wind and water. 
Great black clouds were rolling across the heavens, and squalls of 
rain, with hail, swept by us with such extreme violence, that the 
Captain determined to run into Wigwam Cove. This is a snug 
little harbour, not far from Cape Horn ; and here, at Christmas- 
eve, we anchored in smooth water. The only thing which reminded 
us of the gale outside, was every now and then a puff from the 
mountains, which made the ship surge at her anchors. 

December 25<A. Close by the Cove, a pointed hill, called Kater's 
Peak, rises to the height of 1700 feet. The surrounding islands all 
consist of conical masses of greenstone, associated sometimes with 
less regular hills of baked and altered clay-slate. This part of Tierra 
del Fuego may be considered as the extremity of the submerged chain 
of mountains already alluded to. The cove takes its name of " Wig- 
wam " 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 evident from, the piles of old shells, which must 
often amount to many tons in weight. These heaps can be distin- 
guished at a long distance by the bright green colour of certain 


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

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

While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, we pulled 
alongside a canoe with six Fuegiaus. These were the most abject 
and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld. On the cast coast the 
natives, as we have seen, have guanaco cloaks, and on the west they 
possess seal-skins. Amongst these central tribes the men generally 
have an otter-skin, or some small scrap about as large as a pocket- 
handkerchief, which is barely sufficient to cover their backs as low 
down as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and 
according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side. But 
these Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even one full- 
grown woman was absolutely so. It was raining heavily, and the 
fresh water, together with the spray, trickled down her body. In 
another harbour not far distant, a woman, who was suckling a 
recently-born child, came one day alongside the vessel, and remained 
there out of mere curiosity, whilst the sleet fell and thawed on her 
naked bosom, and on the skin of her naked baby ! These poor 
wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed 
with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, 
their voices discordant, and their gestures violent. Viewing such 


men, one can hardly make one's self believe that they are fellow- 
creatures, and inhabitants of the same world. It is a common 
subject of conjecture what pleasure in life some of the lower animals 
can enjoy : how much more reasonably the same question may be 
asked with respect to these barbarians ! A t night, five or six human 
beings, naked and scarcely protected from the wind and rain of 
this tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet ground coiled up like 
animals. Whenever it is low water, winter or summer, night or 
day, they must rise to pick shell-fish from the rocks; and the 
women either dive to collect sea-eggs, or sit patiently in their 
canoes, and with a baited hair-line without any hook, jerk out 
little fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid 
whale discovered, it is a feast ; and such miserable food is assisted 
by a few tasteless berries and fungi. 

They often suffer from famine: I heard Mr. Low, a sealing- 
master intimately acquainted with the natives of this country, give 
a curious account of the state of a party of one hundred and fifty 
natives on the west coast, who were very thin and in great distress. 
A succession of gales prevented the women from getting shell-fish 
on the rocks, and they could not go out in their canoes to catch 
seal. A small party of these men one morning set out, and the 
other Indians explained to him, that they were going a four days' 
journey for food : on their return, Low went to meet them, and he 
found them excessively tired, each man carrying a great square piece 
of putrid whale's-blubber with a hole in the middle, through which 
they put their heads, like the Gauchos do through their ponchos 
or cloaks. As soon as the blubber was brought into a wigwam, an 
old man cut off thin slices, and muttering over them, broiled them 
for a minute, and distributed them to the famished party, who 
during this time preserved a profound silence. Mr. Low believes 
that whenever a whale is cast on shore, the natives bury large 
pieces of it in the sand, as a resource in time of famine ; and a 
native boy, whom he had on board, once found a stock thus buried. 
The different tribes when at war are cannibals. From the con- 
current, but quite independent evidence of the boy taken by Mr. 
Low, and of Jemmy Button, it is certainly true, that when pressed 
in winter by hunger, they kill and devour their old women before 
they kill their dogs : the boy, being asked by Mr. Low why they 
did this, answered, " Doggies catch otters, old women no." This 
boy described the manner in which they are killed by being held 


over smoke and thus choked ; he imitated their screams as a joke, 
and described the parts of their bodies which are considered best 
to eat. Horrid as sudi 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 are 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 

Captain Fitz Roy could never ascertain that the Fuegians have 
any distinct belief in a future life. They sometimes bury their 
dead in caves, and sometimes in the mountain forests ; we do not 
know what ceremonies they perform. Jemmy Button would not 
eat land-birds, because "eat dead men:" they are unwilling even 
to mention their dead friends. We have no reason to believe 
that they perform any sort of religious worship ; though perhaps 
the muttering of the 'old man before he distributed the putrid 
blubber to his famished party, may be of this nature. Each family 
or tribe has a wizard or conjuring doctor, whose office we could 
never clearly ascertain. Jemmy believed in dreams, though not, as 
I have said, in the devil : I do not think that our Fuegians were 
much more superstitious than some of the sailors; for an old 
quartermaster firmly believed that the successive heavy gales, 
which we encountered off Cape Horn, were caused by our having 
the Fuegians on board. The nearest approach to a religious feeding 
which I heard of, was shown by York Minster, who, when Mr. 
Bynoe shot some very young ducklings as specimens, declared in the 
most solemn manner, " Oh, Mr. Bynoe, much rain, snow, blow 
much." This was evidently a retributive punishment for wasting 
human food. In a wild and excited manner he also related, that 
his brother, one day whilst returning to pick up some dead birds 
which he had left on the coast, observed some feathers blown by 
the wind. His brother said (York imitating his manner), " What 
that? "and crawling onwards, he peeped over the cliff, and saw 
" wild man " picking his birds ; he crawled a little nearer, and then 
hurled down a great stone and killed him. York declared for a 
long time afterwards storms raged, and much rain and snow fell. 
As far as we could make out, lie seemed to consider the elements 
themselves as the avenging agents : it is evident in this case, how 
naturally, in a race a little more advanced in culture, the elements 
would become personified. " What the " bad wild men " were, has 


always appeared to me most mysterious : from what York said, 
when we found the place like the form of a hare, where a single man 
had slept the night before, I should have thought that they were 
thieves who had been driven from their tribes; but other obscure 
speeches made me doubt this; I have sometimes imagined that the 
most probable explanation was that they were insane. 

The different tribes have no government or chief; yet each is 
surrounded by other hostile tribes, speaking different dialects, and 
separated from each other only by a deserted border or neutral terri- 
tory : the cause of their warfare appears to be the means of subsist- 
ence. Their country is a broken mass of wild rocks, lofty hills, and 
useless forests: and these are viewed through mists and endless 
storms. The habitable land is reduced to the stones on the beach ; in 
search of food they are compelled unceasingly to wander from spot to 
spot, and so steep is the coast, that they can only move about in their 
wretched canoes. They cannot know the feeling of having a home, 
and still less that of domestic affection ; for the husband is to the 
wife a brutal master to a laborious slave. Was a more horrid 
deed ever perpetrated, than that witnessed on the west coast by 
Byron, who saw a wretched mother pick up her bleeding dying 
infant-boy, whom her husband had mercilessly dashed on the stones 
for dropping a basket of sea-eggs! How little can the higher 
powers of the mind be brought into play : what is there for imagi- 
nation to picture, for reason to compare, for judgment to decide 
upon ? to knock a limpet from the rock does not require even 
cunning, that lowest power of the mind. Their skill in some re- 
spects may be compared to the instinct of animals ; for it is not 
improved by experience : the canoe, their most ingenious work, 
poor as it is, has remained the same, as we know from Drake, for 
the last two hundred and fifty years. 

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have they 
come ? What could have tempted, or what change compelled a 
tribe of men, to leave the fine regions of the north, to travel down 
the Cordillera or backbone 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 Fucgians decrease in number ; 
therefore we must suppose that they enjoy a sufficient share of 


happiness, of whatever kind it may be, to render life worth having. 
Nature by making habit omnipotent, and its effects hereditary, has 
fitted the Fuegian to the climate and the productions of his miserable 

After having been detained six days in Wigwam Cove by very 
bad weather, we put to sea on the 30th of December. Captain 
Fitz Eoy wished to get westward to land York and Fuegia in their 
own country. When at sea we had a constant succession of gales, 
and the current was against us : we drifted to 57 23' south. On 
the llth of January, 1833, by carrying a press of sail, we fetched 
within a few miles of the great rugged mountain of York Minster 
(so called by Captain Cook, and the origin of the name of the elder 
Fuegian), when a violent squall compelled us to shorten sail and 
stand out to sea. The surf was breaking fearfully on the coast, 
and the spray was carried over a cliff estimated at 200 feet in 
height. On the 12th the gale was very heavy, and we did not 
know exactly where we were : it was a most unpleasant sound to 
hear constantly repeated, " keep a good look-out to leeward." On 
the 13th the storm raged with its full fury : our horizon was narrowly 
limited by the sheets of spray borne by 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 ex- 
panded wings right up the wind. At noon a great sea broke over 
us, and filled one of the whale-boats, which was obliged to be 
instantly cut away. The poor Beagle trembled at the shock, and 
for a few minutes would not o^oey 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 de- 
cided soon, and for ever. We had now been twenty-four days 
trying in vain ta get westward ; the men were worn out with 
fatigue, and they had not had for many nights or days a dry thing 
to put on. Captain Fitz Roy gave up the attempt to get westward 
by the outside coast. In the evening we ran in behind False Capo 
Horn, and dropped our anchor in forty-seven fathoms, fire flashing 
from the windlass as the chain rushed round it. How delightful 
was that still night, after having been so long involved in the din 
of the warring elements ! 

January 15th, 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 
cany them there through, the Beagle Channel. This channel, 
which was discovered by Captain Fitz Eoy during the last voyage, 
is a most remarkable feature in the geography of this, or indeed 
of any other country : it may be compared to the valley of Loch- 
ness in Scotland, with its chain of lakes and friths. It is about 
one hundred arid twenty miles long, with an average breadth, not 
subject to any very great variation, of about two miles ; and is 
throughout the greater part so perfectly straight, that the view, 
bounded on each side by a line of mountains, gradually becomes 
indistinct in the long distance. It crosses the southern part of 
Tierra del Fuego in an east and west line, and in the middle is 
joined at right angles on the south side by an irregular channel, 
which has been called Ponsonby Sound. This is the residence of 
Jemmy Button's tribe and family. 

\th. Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a party of twenty- 
eight, started under the command of Captain Fitz lioy. . In the 
afternoon we entered the eastern mouth of the channel, and shortly 
afterwards found a snug little cove concealed by some surrounding 
islets. Here we pitched our tents and lighted our fires. Nothing 
could look more comfortable than this scene. The glassy water of 
the little harbour, with the branches of the trees hanging over the 
rocky beach, the boats at anchor, the tents supported by the crossed 
oars, and the smoke curling up the wooded valley, formed a picture 
of quiet retirement. The next day (20th) we smoothly glided 
onwards in our little fleet, and came to a more inhabited district. 
Few if any of these natives could ever have seen a white man ; 
certainly nothing could exceed their astonishment at the apparition 
of the four boats. Fires were lighted on every point (hence the 
name of Tierra del Fuego, or the land of fire), both to attract our 
attention and to spread far and wide the news. Some of the men 
ran for miles along the shore. I shall never forget how wild and 
savage one group appeared : suddenly four or five men came to 
the edge of an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely naked, 
and their long hair streamed about their faces; they held rugged 
staffs in their hands, and, springing from the ground, they waved 
their arms round their heads, and sent forth the most hideous 

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. At first 
they were not inclined to be friendly ; for until the Captain pulled 


in a-head of the other boats, they kept their slings in their hands. 
We soon, however, delighted them by trifling presents, such as 
tying red tape round their heads. They liked our biscuit : but 
one of the savages touched with his finger some of the meat pre- 
served in tin cases which I was eating, and feeling it soft and cold, 
showed as much disgust at it, as I should have done at putrid 
blubber. Jemmy was thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen, and 
declared his own tribe were quite different, in which lie was wofully 
mistaken. It was as easy to please as it was difficult to satisfy 
these savages. Young and old, men and children, never ceased 
repeating the word " yammerschooner," which means "give me." 
After pointing to almost every object, one after the other, even to 
the buttons on our coats, and saying their favourite word in as 
many intonations as possible, they would then use it in a neuter 
sense, and vacantly repeat "yammerschooner." After yammer- 
schoonering 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 

At night we endeavoured in vain to find an uninhabited cove ; 
and at last were obliged to bivouac not far from a party of natives. 
They were very inoffensive as long as they were few in numbers, 
but in the morning (21st) being joined by others they showed 
symptoms of hostility, and we thought that we should have come 
to a skirmish. An European labours under great disadvantages 
when treating with savages like these, who have not the least idea 
of the power of fire-arms. In the very act of levelling his musket 
he appears to the savage far inferior to a man armed with a bow 
and arrow, a spear, or even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them 
our superiority except by striking a fatal blow. Like wild beasts, 
they do not appear to compare numbers; for each individual, if 
attacked, instead of retiring, will endeavour to dash your brains 
out with a stone, as certainly as a tiger under similar circumstances 
would tear you. Captain Fitz Roy on one occasion being very 
anxious, from good reasons, to frighten away a small party, first 
flourished a cutlass near them, at which they only laughed; he then 
twice fired his pistol close to a native. The man both times looked 
astounded, and carefully but quickly rubbed his head; he then 
stared awhile, and gabbled to his companions, but he never seemed 
to think of running away. We can hardly put ourselves in the 


position of these savages, and understand their actions. In the 
case of this Fuegian, the possibility of such a sound as the report 
of a guu close to his ear could never have entered his mind. He 
perhaps literally did not far a second know whether it was a sound 
or a blow, and therefore very naturally rubbed his head. In a 
similar manner, when a savage sees a mark struck by a bullet, it 
may be some time before he is able at all to understand how it is 
effected ; for the fact of a body being invisible from its velocity 
would perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. Moreover, 
the extreme force of a bullet, that penetrates a hard substance 
without tearing it, may convince the savage that it has no force at 
all. Certainly I believe that many savages of the lowest grade, 
such as these of Tierra del Fuego, have seen objects struck, and 
even small animals killed by the musket, without being in the least 
aware how deadly an instrument it is. 

22nc?. After having passed an unmolested night, in what would 
appear to be neutral territory between Jemmy's tribe and the 
people whom we saw yesterday, we sailed pleasantly along. I do 
not know anything which shows more clearly the hostile state of 
the different tribes, than these -wide border or neutral tracts. 
Although Jemmy Button well knew the force of our party, he was, 
at first, unwilling to land amidst the hostile tribe nearest to his 
own. He often told us how the savage Oens men " when the leaf 
red," crossed the mountains from the eastern coast of Tierra del 
Fuego, and made inroads on the natives of this part of the country. 
It was most curious to watch him when thus talking, and see his 
eyes gleaming and his whole face assume a new and wild expression. 
As we proceeded along the Beagle Channel, the scenery assumed 
a peculiar and very magnificent character ; but the effect was much 
lessened from the lowness of the point of view in a boat, and from 
looking along the valley, and thus losing all the beauty of a 
succession of ridges. The mountains were here about three thousand 
feet high, and terminated in sharp and jagged points. They rose 
in one unbroken sweep from the water's edge, and were covered to 
the height of fourteen or fifteen hundred feet by the dusky-coloured 
forest. It was most curious to observe, as far as the eye could 
range, how level and truly horizontal the lineoa the mountain side 
was, at which trees ceased to grow : it precisely resembled the high- 
water mark of drift-weed on a sea-beach. 

At night we slept close to the junction of Ponsonby Sound with 


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

During the night the news had spread, and early in the morn- 
ing (23rd) a fresh party arrived, belonging to the Tekenika, or 
Jemmy's tribe. Several of them had run so fast that their noses 
were bleeding, and their mouths frothed from the rapidity with 
which they talked; and with their naked bodies all dedaubed with 
black, white,* and red, they looked like so many demoniacs who 
had been fighting. We then proceeded (accompanied by twelve 
canoes, each holding four or five people) down Ponsonby Sound to 
the spot where poor Jemmy expected to find his mother and 
relatives. He had already heard that his father was dead ; but 
tw 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 

* This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little specific 
gravity : Professor Ehrenberg has examined it : he states (Konig Akad. 
der Wissun : Berlin, Feb. 1845) that it is composed of infusoria, including 
fourteen polyuaslrica. and four phytolitliaria. He pays that they are all 
inhabitants of fresh-water; this is a beautiful example of the results 
obtainable through Professor Ehrenberg' s microscopic researches; for 
Jemmy Button told me that it is always collected at the bottoms of moun- 
tain-brooks. It is, moreover, a striking fact in the geographical distribu- 
tion of the infusoriii, 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 Fucgo, are old, known forms. 


elsewhere) cither by peat or by forest-trees. Captain Fitz Roy 
originally intended, as before stated, to have taken York Minster 
and Fuegia to their own tribe on the west coast; but as they 
expressed a wish to remain here, and as the spot was singularly 
favourable, Captain Fitz Roy determined to settle here the whole 
party, including Matthews, the missionary. Five days were spent 
in building for them three large wigwams, in landing their goods, 
in digging two gardens, and sowing seeds. 

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

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


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

On our return in the morning (23th) we were delighted to find 
all quiet, and the men employed in their canoes spearing fish. 
Captain Fitz Eoy determined to send the yawl and one whale-boat 
back to the ship; and to proceed with the two other boats, one 
under his own command (in which he most kindly allowed me to 
accompany him), and one under Mr. Hammond, to survey the 
western parts of the Beagle Channel, and afterwards to return and 
visit the settlement. The day to our astonishment was over- 
poweringly hot, so that our skins were; scorched : with this beauti- 
ful weather, the view in the middle of the Beagle Channel was 
very remarkable. Looking towards either hand, no object inter- 
cepted the vanishing points of this long canal between the moun- 
tains. The circumstance of its being an arm of the sea was 
rendered very evident by several huge whales * spouting in 
different directions. On one occasion I saw two of these monsters, 
probably male and female, slowly swimming one after the other, 

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


within less than a stone's throw of the shore, over which the 
beech-tree extended its branches. 

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

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

January 29//i. Early in the morning we arrived at the point 
where the Beagle Channel divides into two arms; and we entered 
the northern one. The scenery here becomes even grander than 
before. The lofty mountains on the north side compose the 
granitic axis, or backbone of the country, and boldly rise to a 
height of between three and four thousand feet, with one peak 
above six thousand feet. They are covered by a wide mantle of 
perpetual snow, and numerous cascades pour their waters, through 
the woods, into the narrow channel below. In many part-, 
magnificent glaciers extend from the mountain side to the water's 
edge. It is scarcely possible to imagine anything more beautiful 
than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and especially as 
contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow. 
The fragments which had fallen from the glacier into the water 
were floating away, and the channel with its icebergs presented, 
for the space of a mile, a miniature likeness of the Polar Sea. 
The boats being hauled on shore at our dinner-hour, we were 
admiring from the distance of half a mile a perpendicular cliff of 
ice, and were wishing that some more fragments would fall. At 
last, down came a mass with a roaring noise, and immediately we 
saw the smooth outline of a wave travelling towards us. The 
men ran down as quickly as they could to the boats ; for the 
chance of their being dashed to pieces was evident. One of the 


seamen just caught hold of the bows, as the curling breaker 
reached it : he was knocked over and over, but not hurt ; and the 
boats, though thrice lifted on high and let fall again, received no 
damage. This was most fortunate for us, for we were a hundred 
miles distant from the ship, and we should have been left without 
provisions or fire-arms. I had previously observed that some largo 
fragments of rock on the beach had been lately displaced; but 
until seeing this wave, I did not understand the cause. One side 
of the creek was formed by a spur of mica-slate ; the head by a 
cliff of ice about forty feet high ; and the other side by a promontory 
fifty feet high, built up of huge rounded fragments of granite and 
mica- slate, out of which old trees were growing. This promontory 
was evidently a moraine, heaped up at a period when the glacier 
had greater dimensions. 

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

February 6th. We arrived at Woollya. Matthews gave so bad 
an account of the conduct of the Fuegians, that Captain Fitz Eoy 
determined to take him back to the Beagle; and ultimately he was 
left at New Zealand, where his brother was a missionary. From 
the time of our leaving, a regular system of plunder commenced ; 
fresh parties of the natives kept arriving : York and Jemmy lost 
many things, and Matthews almost everything which had not been 
concealed underground. Every article seemed to have been torn 
up and divided by the natives. Matthews described the watch he 
was obliged always to kec p as most harassing ; night and day he was 
surrounded by the natives, who tried to tire him out by making an 
incessant noise close to his head. One day an old man, whom 
Matthews asked to leave his wigwam, immediately returned with 
a large stone in his hand : another day a whole party came armed 

CHAP, x.] FUEGIANS. . 215 

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

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

On the last day of February in the succeeding year (1834), the 
Beagle anchored in a benutiful little cove at the eastern entrance 
of the Beagle Channel. Captain Fitz Eoy determined on the bold, 
and as it proved successful, attempt to beat against the westerly 
winds by the same route, which we had followed in the boats to the 
settlement at Woollya. We did not see many natives until we were 
near Ponsonby Sound, where we were followed by ten or twelve 
canoes. The natives did not at all understand the reason of our 
lacking, and, instead of meeting us at each tack, vainly strove to 
follow us in our zigzag course. I was amused at finding what a 


difference the circumstance of being quite superior in force made, 
in the interest of beholding these savages. While in the boats I got 
to hate the very sound of their voices, so much trouble did they 
give us. The first and last word was " yammerschooner." When, 
entering some quiet little cove, we have looked round and thought 
to pass a quiet night, the odious word "yammerschooner" has 
shrilly sounded from some gloomy nook, and then the little signal- 
smoke has curled up to spread the news far and wide. On leaving 
some place we have said to each other, " Thank Heaven, we have 
at last fairly left these wretches!" when one more faint hallo from 
an all-powerful voice, heard at a prodigious distance, would reach 
our ears, and clearly could we distinguish " yammerschooner." 
But now, the more Fuegiaus the merrier ; and very merry work it 
was. Both parties laughing, wondering, gaping at each other ; we 
pitying them, for giving us good fish and crabs for rags, etc. ; they 
grasping at the chance of finding people so foolish as to exchange 
such splendid ornaments for a good supper. It was most amusing 
to see the undisguised smile of satisfaction with which one young 
woman with her face painted black, tied several bits of scarlet cloth 
round her head with rushes. Her husband, who enjoyed the very 
universal privilege in this country of possessing two wives, 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 making any signs for a return ; but he immediately picked 
out two fish, and handed them up on the point of his spear. If 
any present was designed for one canoe, and it fell near another, 
it was invariably given to the right owner. The Fuegian boy, 
whom Mr. Low had on board, showed, by going into the most 
violent passion, that he quite understood the reproach of being 
called a liar, which in truth he was. We were this time, as on all 
former occasions, much surprised at the little notice, or rather none 
whatever, which was taken of many things, the use of which must 
have been evident to the natives. Simple circumstances such as 
the beauty of scarlet cloth or blue beads, the absence of women, 
our care in washing ourselves, excited their admiration far more 
than any grand or complicated object, such as our ship. Bougain- 
ville has well remarked concerning these people, that they treat 


the " cliefs-d'oeuvre de 1'industrie humaine, comme ils traitcnt les 
loix de la nature et ses phenomenes." 

On the 5th of March, we anchored in the cove at Woollya, but 
we saw not a soul there. We were alarmed at this, for the natives 
in Ponsonby Sound showed by gestures, that there had been 
fighting ; and we afterwards heard that the dreaded Oens men had 
made a descent. Soon a canoe, with a little flag flying, was seen 
approaching, with one of the men in it washing the paint off his 
face. This man was poor Jemmy, now a thin, haggard savage, 
with long disordered hair, and naked, except a bit of a blanket 
round his waist. We did not recognize him till he was close to us, 
for he was ashamed of himself, and turned his back to the ship. 
We had left him plump, fat, clean, and well-dressed; I never saw 
so complete and grievous a change. As soon however as he was 
clothed, and the first flurry was over, things wore a good appear- 
ance. He dined with Captain Fitz Roy, and ate his dinner as 
tidily as formerly. He told us he had ' too much ' (meaning 
enough) to eat, that he was not cold, that his relations were very 
good people, and that hs 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-lookiug wife. With 
his usual good feeling, he brought two beautiful otter-skins for two 
of his best friends, and some spear-heads and arrows made with 
his own hands for the Captain. He said he had built a canoe for 
himself, and he boasted that he could talk a little of his own lan- 
guage ! But it is a most singular fact, that he appears to have 
taught all his iribe some English : an old man spontaneously an- 
nounced ' Jemmy Button's wife,' Jemmy had lost all his property. 
He told us that York Minster had built a large canoe, and with 
his wife Fuegia,* had several months since gone to his own country, 
and had taken farewell by an act of consummate villainy; he 
persuaded Jemmy and his mother to come with him, and then 
on the way deserted them by night, stealing every article of their 

Jemmy went to sleep on shore, and in the morning returned, 

* Captain Sullivan, who, since his voyage in the Beagle, has been em- 
ployed on the survey of the Falkland Islands, heard from a sealer iu (1842?), 
that when in the western part of the Strait of Magellan, he was astonished 
Ly a native woman coming on board, who could talk some English. AViih- 
out doubt this was Fuegia Basket. She lived (I fear the term probably a double interpretation) gome days on board. 


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

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

I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in 
a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. 
The South Sea Islanders, of the two races inhabiting the Pacific, 
are comparatively civilized. The Esquimaux, in his subterranean 
hut,' enjoys some of the comforts of life, and in his canoe, when 
fully equipped, manifests much skill. Some of the tribes of 


Southern Africa, prowling about in search of roots, and living 
concealed on the wild and arid plains, are sufficiently wretched. 
The Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest 
the Fuegian : he can, however, boast of his boomerang, his spear 
and throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, of tracking 
animals, and of hunting. Although the Australian may be su- 
perior in acquirements, it by no means follows that he is likewise 
superior in mental capacity: indeed, from what I saw of tho 
Fuegians when on board, and from what I have read of the 
Australians, I should think tho case was exactly the reverse. 



Strait of Magellan Port Famine Ascent of Mount Tarn Forests 
Edible Fungus Zoology Groat Sea-weed Leave Tierra del Fuego 
Climate Fruit-trees and Productions of the Southern Coasts Height 
of Snow-line on the Cordillera Descent of Glaciers to the Sea Icebergs 
formed Transportal of Boulders Climate and Productions of the 
Antarctic Islands Preservation of Frozen Carcasses Recapitulation. 


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

* 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 loth, at Port St. Julian: in the morning, light winds 
with much rain, followed by a very heavy squall with rain, settled into 
h(-avy gale with large cumuli, cleared up, blowing very strong from 
S.S.W. Temperature 60, dew-paint 42, difference 18. 


although rapid, turbulent, and unconfined by any apparent limits, 
yet seem to follow, like a river in its bed, a regularly determined 

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 average, their height is 
about six feet, with some men taller and only a few shorter; and 
the women are also tall; altogether they are certainly the tallest 
race which we anywhere saw. In features they strikingly resemble 
the moi'3 northern Indians whom I saw with Rosas, but they have 
a wilder and more formidable appearance : their faces were much 
painted with red and black, and one man was ringed and dotted 
with white like a Fuegian. Capt. Fitz Roy offered to take any 
three of them on board, and all seemed determined to be of the 
three. It was long before we could clear the boat; at last we got 
on board with our three giants, who dined with the Captain, and 
behaved quite like gentlemen, helping themselves with knives, 
forks, and spoons : nothing was so much relished as sugar. This 
tribe has had so much communication with sealers and whalers, 
that most of the men can speak a little English and Spanish ; and 
they are half 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 arranged 
on a bank. It was an amusing scene, and it was impossible not to 
like the so-called giants, they were so thoroughly good-humoured 
and unsuspecting : they asked us to come again. They seem to 
like to have Europeans to live with them ; and old Maria, an im- 
portant woman in the tribe, once begged Mr. Low to leave any one 
of his sailors with them. They spend the greater part of the year 
here ; but in summer they hunt along the foot of the Cordillera : 
sometimes they travel as far as the Rio Negro, 750 miles to the 
north. They are well stocked with horses, each man having, 
according to Mr. Low, six or seven, and all the women, and even 
children, their one own horse. In the time of Sarmiento (1580), 
these Indians had bows and arrows, now long since disused ; they 
then also possessed some horses. This is a very curious fact, 


showing the extraordinarily rapid multiplication of horses in South 
America. The horse was first landed at Buenos Ayres in 1537, 
and the colony being then for a time deserted, the horse ran wild ; * 
in 1580, only forty-three years afterwards, we hear of them at the 
Strait of Magellan! Mr. Low informs me, that a neighbouring 
tribe of foot-Indians is now changing into horse-Indians : the tribe 
at Gregory Bay giving them their worn-out horses, and sending in 
winter a few of their best skilled men to hunt for them. 

June 1st. We anchored in the fine bay of Port Famine. It was 
now the beginning of winter, and I never saw a more cheerless 
prospect ; the dusky woods, piebald with snow, could be only seen 
indistinctly through a drizzling hazy atmosphere. We were, 
however, lucky in getting two fine days. On one of these, Mount 
Sarmiento, a distant mountain 6800 feet high, presented a very 
noble spectacle. I was frequently surprised, in the scenery of 
Tierra del Fuego, at the little apparent elevation of mountains 
really lofty. I suspect it is owing to a cause which would not at 
first be imagined, namely, that the whole mass, from the summit 
to the water's edge, is generally in full view. I remember having 
seen a mountain, first from the Beagle Channel, where the whole 
sweep from the summit to the base was full in view, and then from 
Ponsonby Sound across several successive ridges ; and it was 
curious to observe in the latter case, as each fresh ridge afforded 
fresh means of judging of the distance, how the mountain rose in 

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

During our stay at Port Famine, the Fuegians twice came and 
* Rengger, Natur. de Saeugetliiere von Paraguay. S. 334. 


]>lagucd us. As there Avere many instruments, clothes, and men 
on shore, it was thought necessary to frighten them away. The 
first time a few great guns were fired, when they were far distant. 
It was most ludicrous to watch through a glass the Indians, as 
often as the shot struck the water, take up stones, and, as a bold 
defiance, throw them towards the ship, though about a mile and 
a half distant! A boat was then sent with orders to fire a few 
muskets-shots wide of them. The Fuegians hid themselves behind 
the trees, and for every discharge of the muskets they fired their 
arrows; all, however, fell short of the boat, and the officer as he 
pointed at them laughed. This made the Fuegians frantic with 
passion, and they shook their mantles in vain rage. At List, 
seeing the balls cut and strike the trees, they ran away, and we 
were left in peace and quietness. During the former voyage the 
Fuegians were here very troublesome, and to frighten them a 
rocket was fired at night over their wigwams ; it answered effec- 
tually, and one of the officers told me that the clamour first raised, 
and the barking of the dogs, was quite ludicrous in contrast with 
the profound silence which in a minute or two afterwards prevailed. 
The next morning not a single Fuegian was in the neighbourhood. 
When the Beagle was here in the month of February, I started 
one morning at four o'clock to ascend Mount Tarn, which is 2GOO 
feet high, and is the most elevated point in this immediate district. 
We went in a boat to the foot of the mountain (but unluckily not 
to the best part), and then began our ascent. The forest com- 
mences at the line of high-water mark, and during the first two 
hours I gave over all hopes of reaching the summit. So thick was 
the wood, that it was necessary to have constant recourse to the 
compass ; for every landmark, though in a mountainous country, 
was completely shut out. In the deep ravines, the death-like 
scene of desolation exceeded all description ; outside it was blowing 
a gale, but in these hollows, not even a breath of wind stirred the 
leaves of the tallest trees. So gloomy, cold, and wet was every 
part, that not even the fungi, mosses, or ferns could flourish. In 
the valleys it was scarcely possible to crawl along, they were so 
completely barricaded by great mouldering trunks, which had 
fallen down in every direction. When passing over these natural 
bridges, one's course was often arrested by sinking knee deep 
into the rotten wood; at other times, when attempting to lean 
against a firm tree, one was startled by finding a mass of decayed 


matter ready to fall at the slightest touch. "We at last found 
ourselves among the stunted trees, and then soon reached the bare 
ridge, which conducted us to the summit. Here was a view 
characteristic of Tierra del Fuego; irregular chains of hills, 
mottled with patches of snow, deep yellowish-green valleys, and 
arms of the sea intersecting the land in many directions. The 
strong wind was piercingly cold, and the atmosphere rather hazy, 
so that we did not stay long on the top of the mountain. Our 
descent was not quite so laborious as our ascent; for the weight of 
the body forced a passage, and all the slips and falls were in the 
right direction. 

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of the 
evergreen forests,* in which two or three specits of trees grow, 
to the exclusion of all others. Above the forest land, there are 
many dwarf alpine plants, which all spring from the mass of peat, 
and help to compose it: these plants are very remarkable from 
their close alliance with the species growing on the mountains of 
Europe, though so many thousand miles distant. The central 
part of Tierra del Fuego, where the clay-slate formation occurs, is 
most favourable to the growth of trees ; on the outer coast the 
poorer granitic soil, and a situation more exposed to the violent 
winds, do not allow of their attaining any great size. Near Port 
Famine I have seen more large trees than anywhere else : I 
measured a Winter's Bark which was four feet six inches in girth, 
and several of the beech were as much as thirteen feet. Captain 
King also mentions a beech which was seven feet in diameter 
seventeen feet above the roots. 

There is one vegetable production deserving notice from its 
importance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It is a globular, 
bright-yellow fungus, which grows in vast numbers on the beech- 
trees. When young it is elastic and turgid, with a smooth surface ; 
but when mature it shrinks, becomes tougher, and has its entire 

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

1834.] ZOOLOGY. 225 

surface deeply pitted or honey-combed, as represented in tho 
accompanying wood-cut. This fungus belongs to a new and 
curious genus ; * I found a second 
species on another species of beech in 
Chile ; and Dr. Hooker informs me, that 
just lately a third species has been dis- 
covered on a third species of beech in 
Van Diemen's Land. How singular is 
this relationship between parasitical 
fungi and the trees on which they grow, 
in distant parts of the world ! In Tierra 
del Fuego the fungus in its tough and 
mature state is collected in large quantities by the women and 
children, and is eaten uncooked. It has a mucilaginous, slightly 
sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of a mushroom. With the 
exception of a few berries, chiefly of a dwarf arbutus, the natives 
cat no vegetable food besides this fungus. In New Zealand, before 
the introduction of the potato, the roots of the fern were largely 
consumed ; at the present time, I believe, Tierra del Fuego is the 
only country in the world where a cryptogamic plant affords a 
staple article of food. 

. The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been 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 (Ecithrodon chinchilloides), two true mice, a ctenomys 
allied to or identical with the tucutuco, two foxes (Cam's Magel- 
lanicus and C. AzaraV), a sea-otter, the guanaco, and a deer. Most 
of these animals inhabit only the drier eastern parts of the country ; 
and the deer has never been seen south of the Strait of Magellan. 
Observing the general correspondence of the cliffs of soft sandstone, 
mud, and shingle, on the opposite sides of the Strait, and on some 
intervening islands, one is strongly tempted to believe that the 
land was once joined, and thus allowed animals so delicate and 
helpless as the tucutuco and Reithrodon to pass over. The corre- 
spondence of the cliffs is far from proving any junction ; because 
such cliffs generally are formed by the intersection of sloping 

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


deposits, which, before the elevation of the land, had been accu- 
mulated near the then existing shores. It is, however, a remark- 
able coincidence, that in the two large islands cut off by the 
Beagle Channel from the rest of Tit-mi del Fuego, one has cliffs 
composed of matter that may be called stratified alluvium, which 
front similar ones on the opposite side of the channel, while the 
other is exclusively bordered by old crystalline rocks: in the 
former, called Navarin Island, both foxes and guanacos occur; but 
in the latter, Hoste Island, although similar in every respect, and 
only separated by a channel a little more than half a mile wide, 
I have the word of Jemmy Button for saying that neither of these 
animals are found. 

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds : occasionally the 
plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius albi- 
ceps) may be heard, concealed near the summit of the most lofty 
trees ; and more rarely the loud strange cry of a black wookpecker, 
with a fine scarlet crest on its head. A little, dusky-coloured wren 
(Scytalopus Magellanicus) hops in a skulking manner among the 
entangled mass of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the creeper 
(Oxyurus tupinieri) is the commonest bird in the country. 
Throughout the beech forests, high up and low down, in the 
most gloomy, wet, and impenetrable ravines, it may be met with. 
This little bird no doubt appears more numerous than it really is, 
from its habit of following with seeming curiosity any person who 
enters these silent woods : continually uttering a harsh twitter, it 
flutters from tree to tree, within a few feet of the intruder's face. 
It is far from wishing for the modest concealment of the true creeper 
(Certhia familiaris) ; nor does it, like that bird, run up the trunks of 
trees; but industriously, after the manner of a willow-wren, hops 
about, and searches for insects on every twig and branch. In the 
more open parts, three or four species of finches, a thrush, a starling 
(or Icterus), two Opetiorhynchi, and several hawks and owls occur. 
The absence or any species whatever in the whole class of Eep- 
tiles, is a marked feature in the zoology of this country, as well as 
in that of the Falkland Islands. I do not ground this statement 
merely on my own observation, but I heard it from the Spanish 
inhabitants of the latter place, and from Jemmy Button with 
regard to Tierra del Fuego. On the banks of the Santa Cruz, in 
50 south, I saw a frog ; and it is not improbable that these 
animals, as well as lizards, may be found as far south as the Strait 

ls:!l.l GREAT SEA- WEED. 227 

of Magellan, where the country retains the character of Patagonia; 
Imt within the damp and cold limit of Tierra del Fuego not one 
occurs. That the climate would not have suited some of the 
orders, such as lizards, might have been foreseen; but with 
respect to frogs, this was not so obvious. 

Beetles occur in very small numbers : it was long before I could 
believe that a country as large as Scotland, covered with vegetable 
productions and with a variety of stations, could be so unproductive. 
The few which I found were alpine species (Harpalidse and Hete- 
romida?) living under stones. The vegetable-feeding Chrysomelida), 
so eminently characteristic of the Tropics, are hero almost entirely 
absent ; * I saw very few flics, butterflies, or bees, and no crickets or 
Orthoptera. In the pools of water I found but a few aquatic beetles, 
and not any fresh-water shells: Succinea at first appears an excep- 
tion ; but here it must be called a terrestrial shell, for it lives 
on the damp herbage far from water. Land-shells could be pro- 
cured 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. 1 do not believe they 
have one species in common; certainly the general character of 
the insects is widely different. 

If we turn from the land to the sea, we shall find the latter as 
abundantly stocked with living creatures as the former is poorly 
so. In all parts of the world a rocky and partially protected 
shore perhaps supports, in a given space, a greater number of 
individual animals than any other station. There is one marine 
production which, from its importance, is worthy of a particular 
history. It is the kelp, or Macrocystis pyrifcra. This plant grows 
on every rock from low-water mark to a great depth, both on the 
outer coast and within the channels.! I believe, during tho 

* I believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single specimen of a 
Melasoma. Mr. "VVaterhouse informs me, that of the Harpalidse there are 
eight or nine species the forms of the greater number being very pecu- 
liar; of Heteromera, four or five species; of Rhyncophora, six or seven ; 
and of the following families one species in each : Staphylinidse, Elate- 
ridze, Cebrionidse, Melolonthidce. The species in the otiier 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 Colcoptera have been 
carefully described by Mr. Waterhouse in the Annals of Nat. Hist. 

f Its geographical range is remarkably wide ; it is found from the 
extreme southern islets near Cape Horn, as far north ou the eastern coast 


voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, not one rock near the surface 
was discovered which was not buoyed by this floating weed. The 
good service it thus affords to vessels navigating near this stormy 
land is evident ; and it certainly has saved many a one from being 
wrecked. I know few things more surprising than to see this 
plant growing and flourishing amidst those great breakers of the 
western ocean, which no mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can 
long resist. The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and seldom 
lias a diameter of so much as an inch. A few taken together are 
sufficiently strong to support the weight of the large loose stones, 
to which in the inland channels they grow attached ; and yet some 
of these stones were so heavy that when drawn to the surface, they 
could scarcely be lifted into a boat by one person. Captain Cook, 
in his second voyage, says, that this plant at Kerguelen Land rises 
from a greater depth than twenty-four fathoms ; '' and as it does 
not grow in a perpendicular direction, but makes a very acute 
angle with the bottom, and much of it afterwards spreads many 
fathoms on the surface of the sea, I am well warranted to say that 
some of it grows to the length of sixty fathoms and upwards." I 
do not suppose the stem of any other plant attains so great a length 
as three hundred and sixty feet, as stated by Captain Cook. Captain 
Fitz Eoy, moreover, found it growing * up from the greater depth 
of forty-five fathoms. The beds of this sea-weed, even when of 
not great breadth, make excellent natural floating breakwaters. It 
is quite curious to see, in an exposed harbour, how soon the waves 
from the open sea, as they travel through the straggling stems, sink 
in height, and pass into smooth water. 

The number of living creatures of all Orders, whose existence 
intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful. A great volume 
might be written, describing the inhabitants of one of these beds 

(according to information given me by Mr. Stokes) at lat. 43, but 
on the western coast, as Dr. Hooker tells me, it extends to the R. 8au 
Francisco in California, and perhaps even to Kamtschatka. We thus have 
an immense range in latitude; and as Cook, who must Lave been well 
acquainted with the species, found it at Kerguelen Land, no less than 140 
in longitude. 

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

1834] GREAT SEA-WEED. 2:>9 

of sea-weed. Almost all the leaves, excepting those that float on 
the surface, are so thickly incrusted with corallines as to be of a 
white colour. We find exquisitely delicate structures, some in- 
habited by simple hydra-like polypi, others by more organized 
kinds, and beautiful compound Ascidise. 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 Iloluthuria?, Planarite, and crawling nereidous 
animals of a multitude of forms, all fall out together. Often as 
I recurred to a branch of the kelp, I never failed to discover 
animals of new and curious structures. In Chiloe, where the kelp 
does not thrive very well, the numerous shells, corallines, and 
Crustacea are absent; but there yet remain a few of the Flus- 
traceac, and some compound Ascidirc ; the latter, however, are of 
different species from those in Tierra del Fuego: we here see 
the fucus possessing a wider range than the animals which use it 
as an abode. I can only compare these great aquatic forests of 
the southern hemisphere with the terrestrial ones in the inter- 
tropical regions. Yet if in any coiintry a forest was destroyed, I 
do not believe nearly so many species of animals would perish as 
would here, from the destruction of the kelp. Amidst the leaves 
of this plant numerous species of fish live, which nowhere else 
could find food or shelter ; with their destruction the many cor- 
morants 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 8th. We weighed anchor early in the morning and left 
Port Famine. Captain Fitz Roy determined to leave the Strait 
of Magellan by the Magdalen Channel, which had not long been 
discovered. Our course lay due south, down that gloomy passage 
which I have before alluded to as appearing to lead to another 
and worse world. The wind was fair, but the atmosphere was 
very thick ; so that we missed much curious scenery. The dark 
ragged clouds were rapidly driven over the mountains, from their 
summits nearly down to their bases. The glimpses which wo 
caught through the dusky mass were highly interesting; jagged 
points, cones of snow, blue glaciers, strong outlines, marked on a 

230 MOUNT SARMIENTO. tciui-. xi. 

lurid sky, were seen at different distances and heights. In the 
midst of such scenery we anchored at Cape Tarn, close to Mount 
Sarrniento, which was then hidden in the clouds. At the base of 
the lofty and almost perpendicular sides of our little cove there 
was one deserted wigwam, and it alone reminded us that man 
sometimes wandered into these desolate regions. But it would be 
difficult to imagine a scene where he seemed to have fewer claims 
or less authority. The inanimate works of nature rock, ice, snow, 
wind, and water all warring with each other, yet combined against 
man here reigned in absolute sovereignty. 

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

June IQth. In the morning we made the best of our way into 
the open Pacific. The western coast generally consists of low, 
rounded, quite barren hills of granite and greenstone. Sir J. Xar- 
borough called one part South Desolation, because it is "so 
desolate a land to behold : " and well indeed might he say so. 
Outside the main islands, there are numberless scattered rocks on 
which the long swell of the open ocean incessantly rages. We 
passed out between the East and West Furies ; and a little farther 
northward there are so many breakers that the sea is called the 
Milky Way. One sight of such a coast is enough to make a lands- 


man dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril, and death ; aud 
with this sight we bade farewell for ever to Tierra del Fuego. 

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

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

Summer Winter Mean of Summer 
Latitude. TCUII) Temp a nd Winter. 

Tierra del Fuego . , 53 38' S. 50 33-08 41-54 

Falkland Islands . . 51 30 S. 51 

Dublin .... 53 21 N. 59-54 39'2 49'37 

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is colder 
in winter, and no less than 9^ less hot in summer, than Dublin. 
According to Von Buch, the mean temperature of July (not the 
hottest mouth in the year) at Saltenfiord in Norway, is as high as 
57'8, and this place is actually 13 nearer the pole than Port 
Famine ! * Inhospitable as this climate appears to our feelings, 
evergreen trees flourish luxuriantly under it. Humming-birds 
may be seen sucking the flowers, and parrots feeding on the seeds 
of the Winter's Bark, in lat. 55 S. I have already remarked to 
what a degree the sea swarms with living creatures; and the shells 
(such as the Patella?, Fissurells), Chitons, and Barnacles), according 
to Mr. G. B. Sowerby, are of a much larger size, and of a more 
vigorous growth, than the analogous species in the northern 
hemisphere. A large Voluta is abundant in southern Tierra del 
Fuego and the Falkland Islands. At Bahia Blanca, in lat. 39 S., 

* With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the results are deduced from the 
observations by Capt. King (C4eographical Journal, 1830), and those taken 
on board the Beagle. For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Capt. 
8ulivan for the mean of the mean temperature (reduced from careful ob- 
servation at midnight, 8 A.M., noon, and 8 P.M.) of the three hottest months, 
vi/. December, January, and February. The temperature of Dublin is 
taken from ttarton. 


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 geologist 
were to find in Jat. 39 on the coast of Portugal a bed containing 
numerous shells belonging to three species of Oliva, to a Yoluta 
and Terebra, he would probably assert that the climate at the 
period of their existence must have been tropical ; but, judging 
from South America, such an inference might be erroneous. 

The equable, humid, and windy climate of Tierra del Fuego 
extends, with only a small increase of heat, for many degrees along 
the west coast of the continent. The forests, for 600 miles north- 
ward of Cape Horn, have a very similar aspect. As a proof of the 
equable climate, even for 300 or 400 miles still further northward, 
I may mention that in Chiloe (corresponding in latitude with the 
northern parts of Spain) the peach seldom produces fruit, whilst 
strawberries and apples thrive to perfection. Even the crops of 
barley and wheat * are often brought into tfie, houses to be dried 
and ripened. At Yaldivia (in the same latitude of 40, with 
Madrid) grapes and figs ripen, but are not common ; olives seldom 
ripen even partially, and oranges not at all. These fruits, in 
corresponding latitudes in Europe, are well known to succeed 
to perfection; and even in this continent, at the Eio Negro, 
under nearly the same parallel with Yaldivia, sweet potatoes 
(convolvulus) are cultivated; and grapes, figs, olives, oranges, 
water and musk melons, produce abundant fruit. Although the 
humid and equable climate of Chiloe, and of the coast northward 
and southward of it, is so unfavourable to our fruits, yet the native 
forests, from lat. 45 to 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 mono- 
cotyledonous plants; large and elegant ferns are numerous, and 
arborescent grasses entwine the trees into one entangled mass to 
the height of thirty or forty feet above the ground. Palm-trees 
grow in lat. 37 ; an arborescent grass, very like a bamboo, in 40 ; 
and another closely allied kind, of great length, but not erect, 
flourishes even as far south as 45 S. 

An equable climate, evidently due to the large area of sea coin- 
* Agiicros, Descrip. Hibt. th> la Piov. tic Chiloe. 1791, p. 94. 

1834.] HEIGHT OF SNOW-LINK. 233 

pared with the laud, seems to extend over the greater part of the 
southern hemisphere ; and, as a consequence, the vegetation partakes 
of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns thrive luxuriantly in Van 
Diemen's Land (lat. 45), and I measured one trunk no less than 
six feet in circumference. An arborescent fern was found by 
Forster in New Zealand in 46, where orchideous plants are para- 
sitical on the trees. In the Auckland Islands, ferns, according to 
Dr. Dieffenbach,* have trunks so thick and high that they may be 
almost called tree-ferns ; and in these islands, and even as far south 
as lat. 55 in the Macquarrie Islands, parrots abound. 

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

^u<le. SKAS* Ob 

Equatorial region ; mean result 15,748 Humboldt. 

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

Central Chile, lat. 33 S. . . 14,500 to 15,000 Gillies, and the Author. 

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

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

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

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

t On the Cordillera of central Chile, I believe the snow-line varies 
exceedingly in height in different summers. I was assured that during 
one very dry and long summer, all the snow disappeared from Aconcagua, 
although it attains the prodigious height of 2:5,000 feet. It is probable 
that much of the snow at these great heights is evaporated rather than 


summer months, and southern European fruits succeed admirably ; 
and even the sugar-cane has been cultivated. * Xo doubt the plane 
of perpetual snow undergoes the above remarkable flexure of 9000 
feet, unparalleled in other parts of the world, not far from the 
latitude of Concepcion, where the laud ceases to be covered with 
forest-trees ; for trees in South America indicate a rainy climate, 
and rain a clouded sky and little heat in summer. 

The descent of glaciers to the sea must, I conceive, mainly 
depend (subject, of course, to a proper supply of snow in the upper 
region) on the lowness of the line of perpetual snow on steep 
mountains near the coast. As the snow-line is so low in Tierra 
del Fuego, we might have expected that many of the glaciers 
would have reached the sea. Nevertheless, I was astonished when 
I first saw a range, only from 3000 to 1000 feet in height, in the 
latitude of Cumberland, with every valley filled with streams of ice 
descending to the sea-coast. Almost every arm of the sea, which 
penetrates to the interior higher chain, not only in Tierra del Fuego, 
but on the coast for 650 miles northwards, is terminated by " tre- 
mendous and astonishing glaciers," as described by one of the 
officers on the survey. Great masses of ice frequently fall from 
these icy cliffs, and the crash reverberates like the broadside of a 
man-of-war through the lonely channels. These falls, as noticed 
in the last chapter, produce great waves which break on the 
adjoining coasts. It is known that earthquakes frequently cause 
masses of earth to fall from sea-cliffs : how terrific, then, would be 
the effect of a severe shock (and such occur heref) on a body like a 
glacier, already in motion, and traversed by fissures ! I can readily 
believe that the water would be fairly beaten back out of the 
deepest channel, and then, returning with an overwhelming force, 
would whirl about huge masses of rock like so much chaff. In 
Eyre's Sound, in the latitude of Paris, there are immense glaciers, 
and yet the loftiest neighbouring mountain is only 6200 feet high. 
In this Sound, about fifty icebergs were seen at one time floating 
outwards, and one of them must have been at least 168 feet in total 
height. Some of the icebergs were loaded with blocks of no 

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

t Bulkdey's and Cummin's Faithful Narrative of the Los* of the Wager, 
flic earthquake happened August 2r>, 1741. 




inconsiderable size, of granite and other rocks, different from the 
clay-slate of the surrounding mountains. The glacier furthest 


from the pole, surveyed during the voyages of the Adventure and 
Beagle, is in lat. 46 50', in the Gulf of Penas. It is 15 miles long, 
and in one part 7 broad, and descends to the sea-coast. Btit even 
a few miles northward of this glacier, in the Laguna de San Rafael, 
some Spanish missionaries * encountered " many icebergs, some 
great, some small, and others middle-sized," in a narrow arm of the 
sea, on the 22nd of the month corresponding with our June, and in 
a latitude corresponding with that of the Lake of Geneva ! 

In Europe, the most southern glacier which comes down to the 
sea is met with, according to Von Buch, on the coast of Norway, in 
lat. 67. Now, this is more than 20 of latitude, or 1230 miles, 
nearer the pole than the Laguna de San Eafael. The position of 
the glaciers at this place and in the Gulf of Penas may be put 
even in a more striking point of view, for they descend to the sea- 
coast within 7J 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-i from arborescent grasses, and (looking to the westward in the 
* Ajriieros. Dose. Hist. <lc Cln'lor, p. 227. 


same hemisphere) less than 2 from orchideous parasites, and within 
a single degree of tree-ferns ! 

These facts are of high geological interest with respect to the 
climate of the northern hemisphere at the period when boulders 
were transported. I will not here detail how simply the theory of 
icebergs being charged with fragments of rock, explains the origin 
and position of the gigantic boulders of eastern Tierra del Fuego, 
on the high plain of Santa Cruz, and on the island of Chiloe. In 
Tierra del Fuego, the greater number of boulders lie on the lines 
of old sea-channels, now converted into dry valleys by the elevation 
of the land. They are associated with a great unstratified forma- 
tion 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 
transported on them. Few geologists now doubt that those erratic 
boulders which lie near lofty mountains have been pushed forward 
by the glaciers themselves, and that those distant from mountains, 
and embedded in subaqueous deposits, have been conveyed thither 
either on icebergs or frozen in coast-ice. The connection between 
the transported of boulders and the presence of ice in some form, 
is strikingly shown by their geographical distribution over the 
earth. In South America they arc 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 2 from the 
northern pole ; but in Europe to not more than 40 of latitude, 
measxired from the same point. On the other hand, in the intertro- 
pical parts of America, Asia, and Africa, they have never been 
observed; nor at the Cape of Good Hope, nor in Australia.! 

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands. Con- 
idering the rankness of the vegetation in Tierra del Fuego, and 
on the coast northward of it, the condition of the islands south 
and south-west of America is truly surprising. Sandwich Land, 
in the latitude of the north part of Scotland, was found by Cook, 
during the hottest month of the year, "covered many fathoms 
thick with everlasting snow ;" and there seems to be scarcely any 

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

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


vegetation. Georgia, an island 96 miles long and 10 broad, in the 
latitude of Yorkshire, "in the very height of summer, is in a man- 
ner wholly covered with frozen snow." It can boast only of moss, 
some tufts of grass, and wild burnet; it has only one land-bird 
(Anthus correndera), yet Iceland, which is 10 nearer the pole, has, 
according to Mackenzie, fifteen laud-birds. The South Shetland 
Islands, in the same latitude as the southern half of Norway, 
possess only some lichens, moss, and a little grass; and Lieut. 
Kendall * found the bay, in which he was at anchor, beginning to 
freeze at a period corresponding with our 8th of September. The 
soil here consists of ice and volcanic ashes interstratified ; and at a 
little depth beneath the surface it must remain perpetually con- 
gealed, for Lieut. Kendall found the body of a foreign sailor which 
had long been buried, with the flesh and all the features perfectly 
preserved. It is a singular fact, that on the two great continents 
in the northern hemisphere (but not in the broken land of Europe 
between them), we have the zone of perpetually frozen under-soil 
in a low latitude namely, in 56 in North America at the depth of 
three feet,f and in G2 in Siberia at the depth of twelve to fifteen 
feet as the result of a directly opposite condition of things to 
those of the southern hemisphere. On the northern continents, 
the winter is rendered excessively cold by the radiation from a 
large area of land into a clear sky, nor is it moderated by the 
warmth-bringing currents of the sea; the short summer, on the 
other hand, is hot. In the Southern Ocean the winter is not so 
excessively cold, but the summer is far less hot, for the clouded sky 
seldom allows the sun to warm the ocean, itself a bad absorbent of 
heat ; and hence the mean temperature of the year, which regulates 
the zone of perpetually congealed under-soil, is low. It is evident 
that a rank vegetation, which does not so much require heat as 
it does protection from intense cold, would approach much nearer 
to this zone of perpetual congelation under the equable climate of 
the southern hemisphere, than tinder 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 

* Geographical Journal, 1830, pp. Go, 66. 

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


frozen rhinoceros in Siberia, is very interesting. Although it is a 
fallacy, as I have endeavoured to show in a former chapter, to 
suppose that the larger quadrupeds require a luxuriant vegetation 
for their support, nevertheless it is important to find in the South 
Shetland Islands, a frozen uuder-soil within 360 miles of the forest- 
clad islands near Cape Horn, where, as far as the bulk of vegetation 
is concerned, any number of great quadrupeds might be supported. 
The perfect preservation of the carcasses of the Siberian elephants 
and rhinoceroses is certainly one of the most wonderful facts in 
geology ; but independently of the imagined difficulty of supplying 
them with food from the adjoining countries, the whole case is not, 
I think, so perplexing as it has generally been considered. The 
plains of Siberia, like those of the Pampas, appear to have been 
formed under the sea, into which rivers brought down the bodies 
of many animals ; of the greater number of these, only the skeletons 
have been preserved, but of others the perfect carcass. Now, it is 
known that in the shallow sea on the Arctic coast of America the 
bottom freezes,* 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 in the case on the land with 
the soil at the depth of a few feet. At still greater depths, the 
temperature of the mud and water would probably not be low 
enough to preserve the flesh ; and hence, carcasses drifted beyond 
the shallow parts near an Arctic coast, would have only their 
skeletons preserved : now in the extreme northern parts of Siberia 
bones are infinitely numerous, so that even islets are said to bo 
almost composed of them ; f and those islets lie no less than ten 
degrees of latitude north of the place where Pallas found the 
frozen rhinoceros. On the other hand, a carcass washed by a flood 
into a shallow part of the Arctic Sea, would be preserved for an 
indefinite period, if it were soon afterwards covered with mud 
sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer- water penetrat- 
ing to it ; and if, when the sea-bottom was upraised into land, the 
covering was sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer 
air and sun thawing and corrupting it. 
Recapitulation. I will recapitulate the principal facts with 

* Messrs. Boaso and Simpson, in Geograph. Journ., vol. viii. pp. 218 
t Cuvier (Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 151), from Billing's Voyage. ' 


regard to the climate, ice-action, and organic productions of the 
southern hemisphere, transposing the places in imagination to 
Europe, with which we are so much better acquainted. Then, 
near Lisbon, the commonest sea-shells, namely, three species of 
Oliva, a Voluta, and a Terebra, would have a tropical character. In 
the southern provinces of France, magnificent forests, intwined by 
arborescent grasses and with the trees loaded with parastical 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 
parastical Orchiderc would thrive amidst the thick woods. Even 
as far north as central Denmark, humming-birds would be seen 
fluttering about delicate flowers, and parrots feeding amidst the 
evergreen woods ; and in the sea there, we should have a Voluta, 
and all the shells of large size and vigorous growth. Nevertheless, 
on some islands only 360 miles northward of our new Cape Horn 
in Denmark, a carcass buried in the soil (or if washed into a shallow 
sea, and covered up with mud) would be preserved perpetually 
frozen. If some bold navigator attempted to penetrate northward 
of these islands, he would run a thousand dangers amidst gigantic 
icebergs, on some of which he would see great blocks of rock borne 
far away from their original site. Another island of largo size 
in the latitude of southern Scotland, but twice as far to the 
west, would be " almost wholly covered with everlasting snow," and 
would have each bay terminated by ice-cliffs, whence great masses 
would be yearly detached : this island would boast only of a little 
moss, grass, and burnet, and a titlark would be its only land 
inhabitant. From our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a chain of 
mountains, scarcely half the height of the Alps, would run in 
a straight line due southward; and on its western flank every 
deep creek of the sea, or fiord, would end in " bold and astonishing 
glaciers." These lonely channels would freqiiently reverberate 
with the falls of ice, and so often would great waves rush 
along their coasts ; numerous icebergs, some as tall as cathedrals, 
and occasionally loaded with " no inconsiderable blocks of rock," 
would be stranded on the outlying islets ; at intervals violent 
earthquakes would shoot prodigious masses of ice into the waters 
below. Lastly, some missionaries attempting to penetrate a long 
arm of the sea, would behold the not lofty surrounding mountains, 
sending dawn their many grand icy streams to the sea-coast, and 

2 10 RECAPITULATION. \cu\r. xr. 

tlicir 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 Antarctic Ocean. This 
subject has lately been treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the Boston 
Journal (vol. iv. p. 426). The author does not appear aware of a case 
published by me (Geographical Journal, vol. ix. p. 528) of a gigantic 
boulder embedded in an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean, almost certainly 
one hundred miles distant from any land, and perhaps much more distant. 
In the Appendix I have discussed at length the probability (at that time 
hardly thought of) of icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing 
rocks, like glaciers. This is now a very commonly received opinion ; and 
I cannot still avoid the suspicion that it is applicable even to such cases 
as that of the Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me that the icebergs oft' 
North America push before them pebbles and sand, and leave the sub- 
marine rocky flats quite bare : it is hardly possible to doubt that such 
ledges must be polished and scored in the direction of the set of the pre- 
vailing currents. Since writing that Appendix, I havo seen in North 
Wales (London Phil. Mag., vol. xxi. p. 180) the adjoining action of 
glaciers and of floating icebergs. 

1834.] fcAY OF VALPARAISO. 241 


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


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

242 CENTRAL CHILE. Iciui'. xu. 

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

their colour. 

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Eichard Corfield, 
an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality and kindness 
I was greatly indebted, in having afforded me a most pleasant 
residence during the Beagle's stay in Chile. The immediate 
neighbourhood of Valparaiso is not very productive to the 
naturalist. During the long summer the wind blows steadily 
from the southward, and a little off shore, so that rain never 
falls ; during the three winter months, however, it is sufficiently 
abundant. The vegetation in consequence is very scanty : except 
in some deep valleys, there are no trees, and only a little grass and 
a few low bushes are scattered over the less steep parts of the hills. 
"When we reflect, that at the distance of 850 miles to the south, 
this side of the Andes is completely hidden by one impenetrable 
forest, the contrast is very remarkable. I took several long 
walks while collecting objects of natural history. The country 
is pleasant for exercise. There are many very beautiful flowers ; 
and, as in most other dry climates, the plants and shrubs possess 
strong and peculiar odours even one's clothes by brushing through 
them became scented. I did not cease from wonder at finding each 
succeeding day as fine as the foregoing. What a difference does 
climate make in the enjoyment of life! How opposite are the 
sensations when viewing black mountains half enveloped in clouds, 
and seeing another range through the light blue haze of a fine day ! 
The one for a time may be very sublime ; the other is all gaiety and 
happy life. 

August ~L4:th. I set out on a riding excursion, for the purpose of 
geologizing the basal parts of the Andes, which alone at this time 
of the year are not shut up by the winter snow. Our first day's 
ride was northward along the sea-coast. After dark we reached 
the Hacienda of Quintero, the estate which formerly belonged to 
Lord Cochrane. My object in coming here was to see the great 
beds of shells, which stand some yards above the level of the sea, 
and are burnt for lime. The proofs of the elevation of this whole 
line of coast are unequivocal : at the height of a few hundred feet 
old-looking shells are numerous, and I found some at 1300 feet. 
These shells either lie loose on the surface, or are embedded in a 


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

15th. We returned towards the valley of Quiilota. The country 
was exceedingly pleasant; just such as poets would call pastoral : 
green open lawns, separated by small valleys with rivulets, and 
the cottages, we may suppose of the shepherds, scattered on the 
hill-sides. We were obliged to cross the ridge of the Chilicauquen. 
At its base there were many fine evergreen forest-trees, but these 
flourished only in the ravines, where there was running water. 
Any person who had seen only the country near Valparaiso, would 
never have imagined that there had been such picturesque spots in 
Chile. As soon as we reached the brow of the Sierra, the valley of 
Quiilota was immediately under our feet. The prospect was one 
of remarkable artificial luxuriance. The valley is very broad and 
quite flat, and is thus easily irrigated in all parts. The little 
square gardens are crowded with orange and olive trees, and 
every sort of vegetable. On each side huge bare mountains rise, 
and this from the contrast renders the patchwork valley the more 
pleasing. Whoever called " Valparaiso " the " Valley of Paradise," 
must have been thinking of Quiilota. We crossed over to the 
Hacienda de San Isidro, situated at the very foot of the Bell 

Chile, as may be seen in the maps, is a narrow strip of laud 
between the Cordillera and the Pacific; and this strip is itself 
traversed by several mountain-lines, which in this part run 
parallel to the great range. Between these oiiter lines and the 
main Cordillera, a succession of level basins, generally opening 
into each other by narrow passages, extend far to the southward : 
in these, the principal towns are situated, as San Felipe, Santiago, 
San Fernando. These basins or plains, together with the transverse 
flat valleys (like that of Quiilota) which connect them with the 
coast, I have no doubt are the bottoms of ancient inlets and deep 
bays, such as at the present day intersect every part of Tierra del 
Fuego and the western coast. Chile must formerly have resembled 
the latter country in the configuration of its land and water. The 
resemblance was occasionally shown strikingly when a level fog- 
bank covered, as with a mantle, all the lower parts of the country : 
the white vapour curling into the ravines, beautifully represented 
little coves and bays ; and here and there a solitary hillock peeping 


up, showed that it had formerly stood there as au islet. The 
contrast of these flat valleys and basins with the irregular 
mountains, gave the scenery a character which to me was new 
and very interesting. 

From the natural slope to seaward of these plains, they are very 
easily irrigated, and in consequence singularly fertile. Without 
this process the laud would produce scarcely anything, for during 
the whole summer the sky is cloudless. The mountains and hills 
are dotted over with bushes and low trees, and excepting these the 
vegetation is very scanty. Each landowner in the valley possesses 
a certain portion of hill-country, where his half-wild cattle, in 
considerable numbers, manage to find sufficient pasture. Once 
every year there is a grand " rodeo," when all the cattle are driven 
down, counted, and marked, and a certain number separated to be 
fattened in the irrigated fields. Wheat is extensively cultivated, 
and a good deal of Indian corn : a kind of bean is, however, the 
staple article of food for the common labourers. The orchards 
produce an overflowing abundance of peaches, figs, and grapes. 
With all these advantages, the inhabitants of the country ought to 
be much more prosperous than they are. 

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

183-1.] THE BELL OF QUILLOTA. '1 L"> 

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

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and prepared to pass 
the night. The evening was fine, and the atmosphere so clear, that 
the masts of the vessels at anchor in the bay of Valparaiso, although 
no less than twenty-six geographical miles distant, could be dis- 
tinguished clearly as little black streaks. A ship doubling the 
point under sail, appeared as a bright white speck. Anson 
expresses much surprise, in his voyage, at the distance at which 
his vessels were discovered from the coast; but he did not 
sufficiently allow for the height of the land, and the great 
transparency of the air. 

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

Augmt 17M. In the morning we climbed up the rough mass of 
greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as frequently 
happens, was much shattered and broken into huge angular frag- 
ments. I observed, however, one remarkable circumstance, namely, 
that many of the surfaces presented every degree of freshness some 
appearing as if broken the day before, whilst on others lichens had 
either just become, or had long grown, attached. I so fully believed 
that this was owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt inclined 

2:16 ( EXTRA L CHILE. [ciiAi>. XIT. 

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 ascend- 
ing Mount Wellington, in Van Dienien's Laud, where earthquakes 
do not occur ; and there I saw the summit of the mountain similarly 
composed and similarly shattered, but all the blocks appeared as 
if they had been hurled into their present position thousands of 
years ago. 

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

Almost every part of the hill had been drilled by attempts to 
open gold-mines : the rage for mining has left scarcely a spot in 
Chile unexarnined. I spent the evening as before, talking round 
the fire with my two companions. The Guasbs of Chile, who 
correspond to the Gauchos of the Pampas, are, however, a very 
different set of 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 

1*31.] r/r IT/LOTA. 247 

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

August 18t7i. "We descended the mountain, and passed some 
beautiful little spots, with rivulets and fine trees. Having slept at 
the same hacienda as before, we rode during the two succeeding 
days up the valley, and passed through Quillota, which is more like 
a collection of nursery-gardens than a town. The orchards were 
beautiful, presenting one mass of peach-blossoms. I saw, also, in 
one or two places the date-palm; it is a most stately tree; and I 
should think a group of them in their native Asiatic or African 


deserts must be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe, a pretty 
straggling town like Quillota. The valley in this part expands into 
one of those great bays or plains, reaching to the foot of the 
Cordillera, which have been mentioned as forming so curious a part 
of the scenery of Chile. In the evening we reached the mines of 
Jajuel, situated in a ravine at the flank of the great chain. I 
stayed' here five days. My host, the superintendent of the mine, 
was a shrewd but rather ignorant Cornish miner. He had married 
a Spanish woman, and did not mean to return home ; but his 
admiration for the mines of Cornwall remained unbounded. 
Amongst many other questions, he asked me, "Now that George 
Eex is dead, how many more of the family of Hexes are yet alive ? " 
This Eex certainly must be a relation of the great author Finis, 
who wrote all books ! 

These mines are of copper, and the ore is all shipped to Swan- 
sea, 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 

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

It is now well known that the Chilian method of mining is the 
cheapest. My host says that the two principal improvements 
introduced by foreigners have been, first, reducing by previous 
roasting the copper pyrites which, being the common ore in 
Cornwall, the English miners were astounded on their arrival to 
find thrown away as useless : secondly, stamping and washing the 
scoriae from the old furnaces by which process particles of metal 
arc recovered in abundance. I have actually seen mules carrying 
to the coast, for transportation to England, a cargo of such cinders. 
Bat 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 reins for a few 
dollars. It is very odd that, in a country where mining had been 
extensively carried on for many years, so simple a process as gently 
roasting the ore to expel the sulphur previous to smelting it, had 

ls:;i.] MorNTATX SCKNKKV. 

never been discovered. A few improvements have likewise been 
introduced in some of the simple machinery ; but even to the present 
day, water is removed from some mines by men carrying it up the 
shaft in leathern bags! 

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

During my stay hero I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling about 
these huge mountains. The geology, as might have been expected, 
was very interesting. The shattered and baked rocks, traversed 
by innumerable dykes of greenstone, showed what commotions had 
formerly taken place. The scenery was much the same as that 
near the Bell of Quillota dry barren mountains, dotted at inter- 
vals by bushes with a scanty foliage. The cactuses, or rather 
opuntias, were here very numerous. I measured one of a spherical 
figure, which, including the spines, was six feet and four inches in 
circumference. The height of the common cylindrical, branching 
kind, is from twelve to fifteen feet, and the girth (with spines) of 
the branches between three and four feet. 

A heavy fall of snow on the mountains prevented mo, during 
the last two days, from making some interesting excursions. I 
attempted to reach a lake which the inhabitants, from some un- 
accountable reason, believe to be an arm of the sea. During a 
very dry season, it was proposed to attempt cutting a channel 
from it for the sake of the water, but the padre, after a consulta- 
tion, declared it was too dangerous, as all Chile would be inundated, 
if, as 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 

250 CEXTRAL CHILE. [ciui>. xn. 

animals, when led, could only move by jumping. The black sky 
showed that a fresh snow-storm was gathering, and we therefore 
were not a little glad when we escaped. By the time we reached 
the base the storm commenced, and it was lucky for us that this 
did not happen three hours earlier in the day. 

August 26th. We left Jajuel and again crossed the basin of 
Ran Felipe. The day was truly Chilian : glaringly bright, and the 
atmosphere quite clear. The thick and uniform covering of newly 
fallen snow rendered the view of the volcano of Aconcagua and the 
main chain qiiite 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 niy part I do not think that 
Chile sees with any." 

Awjust 27th. After crossing many low hills we descended into 
the small land-locked plain of Guitron. In the basins, such as this 
one, which are elevated from one thousand to two thousand feet 
above the sea, two species of acacia, which are stunted in their 
forms, and stand wide apart from each other, grow in large numbers. 
These trees are never found near the sea-coast ; and this gives 
another characteristic feature to the scenery of these basins. We 
crossed a low ridge which separates Guitron from the great plain 
on which Santiago stands. The view was here pre-eminently 
striking: the dead level surface, covered in parts by woods of 
acacia, and with the city in the distance, abutting horizontally 
against the base of the Andes, whose snowy peaks were bright 
with the evening sun. At the first glance of this view, it was 
quite evident that the plain represented the extent of a former 
inland sea. As soon as we gained the level road we pushed our 
horses into a gallop, and reached the city before it was dark. 

I stayed a week in Santiago, and enjoyed myself very much. In 
the morning I rode to various places on the plain, and in the 
evening dined with several of the English merchants, whose hos- 
pitality 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, Imt is built after tlio same 
model. I arrived here by a circuit to the north; so I resolved 
to return to Valparaiso by a rather longer excursion to the south 
of the direct road. 

September 5th. By the middle of the day we arrived at one of 
the suspension bridges, made of hide, which cross the Maypu, 
a large turbulent river a few leagues southward of Santiago. 
These bridges are very poor affairs. The road, following the 
curvature of the suspending ropes, is made of bundles of sticks 
placed close together. It was full of holes, and oscillated rather 
fearfully, even with the weight of a man leading his horse. In 
the evening we reached a comfortable farm-house, where there 
were several very pretty sefioritas. They were much horrified at 
my having entered one of their churches out of mere curiosity. 
They asked me, " Why do you not become a Christian for our 
religion is certain ? " I assured them I was a sort of Christian ; 
but they would not hear of it appealing to my own words, " Do 
not your padres, your very bishops, marry?" The absurdity 
of a bishop having a wife particularly struck them : they scarcely 
knew whether to be most amused or horror-struck at such an 

6th. We proceeded due south, and slept at Eancagua. 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 Kio Cachapual, in which the hot- 
baths of Cauquenes, long celebrated for their medicinal properties, 
are situated. The suspension bridges, in the less frequented parts, 
are generally taken down during the winter when the rivers are 
low. Such was the case in this valley, and we were therefore 
obliged to cross the stream on horseback. This is rather dis- 
agreeable, for the foaming water, though not deep, rushes so quickly 
over the bed of large rounded stones, that one's head becomes quite 
confused, and it is difficult even to perceive whether the horse is 
moving onward or .standing still. In summer, when the snow 
melts, the torrents are quite impassable ; their strength and fury 
are then extremely great, as might be plainly seen by the marks 
which they had left. We reached the baths in the evening, and 
stayed there five days, being confined the two last by heavy rain. 
The buildings consist of a square of miserable little hovels, each 
with a single table and bench. They are situated in a narrow deep 

252 ( 'EN'J'lt A 1. cJfl !.!:. ['HAi'. XTI. 

valley just without the central Cordillera, It is a quiet, solitary 
spot, with a good deal of wild beauty. 

The mineral springs of Cauquenes burst forth ou a lino of dis 
location, crossing a mass of stratified rock, the whole of whicn 
betrays the action of heat. A considerable quantity of gas is con 
tinually escaping from the same orifices with the water. Though 
the springs are only a few yards apart, they have very different 
temperatures ; and this appears to be the result of an unequal 
mixture of cold water : for those with the lowest temperature have 
scarcely any mineral taste. After the great earthquake of 1822 
the springs ceased, and the water did not return for nearly a 
year. They were also much affected by the earthquake of 1885 ; 
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 dis- 
turbances than those nearer the surface. The man who had charge 
of the baths assured me that in summer the water is hotter and 
more plentiful than in winter. The former circumstance I should 
have expected, from the less mixture, during the dry season, of 
cold water; but the latter statement appears very strange and 
contradictory. The periodical increase during the summer, when 
rain never falls, can, I think, only be accounted for by the melting 
of the snow : yet the mountains which are covered by snow during 
that season, are three or four leagues distant from the springs. I 
have no reason to doubt the accuracy of my informer, who, 
having lived on the spot for several years, ought to be well ac- 
quainted with the circumstance, which, if true, certainly is very 
curious: for we must suppose that the snow-water, being con- 
ducted through poroiis strata to the regions of heat, is again thrown 
up to the surface by the line of dislocated and injected rocks at 
Cauquenes ; and the regularity of the phenomenon would seem to 
indicate that in this district heated rock occurred at a depth not 
very great. 

One day I rode up the valley to the farthest inhabited spot, 
Shortly above that point, the Cachapual divides into two deep 
tremendous ravines, which penetrate directly into the great range. 
I scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably more than six thou- 
sand feet high. Here, as indeed everywhere else, scenes of the 
highest interest presented themselves. It was by one of these 
; Caldclcugh, iu PUilosopli. Transact, for 183G. 


ravines, that Piucheira entered Chile and ravaged the neighbour- 
ing country. This is the same man whose attack on an estancia at 
the Eio Negro I have described. He was a renegade half-caste 
Spaniard, who collected a great body of Indians together and 
established himself by a stream in the Pampas, which place none 
of the forces sent after him could ever discover. From this point 
he used to sally forth, and crossing the Cordillera by passes hitherto 
nnattempted, he ravaged the farm-houses and drove the cattle to 
his secret rendezvous. Pincheira was a capital horseman, and he 
made all 'around him equally good, for he invariably shot any one 
who hesitated to follow him. It was against this man, and other 
wandering Indian tribes, that Kosas waged the war of extermina- 

September 13th. We left the baths of Cauquenes, and, rejoining 
the main road, slept at the Eio Claro. From this place we rode to 
the town of San Fernando. Before arriving there, the last land- 
locked basin had expanded into a great plain, which extended so 
far to the south, that the snowy summits of the more distant Andes 
were seen as if above the horizon of the sea. San Fernando is forty 
leagues from Santiago; and it was my farthest point southward; 
for we here turned at right angles towards the coast. We slept 
at the gold-mines of Yaquil, which are worked by Mr. Nixon, 
an American gentleman, to whose kindness I was much indebted 
during the four days I stayed at his house. The next morning \ve 
rode to the mines, which are situated at the distance of some leagues, 
near the summit of a lofty hill. On the way we had a glimpse of 
the lake Tagua-tagua, celebrated for its floating islands, which have 
been described by M. Gay.* They are composed of the stalks of 
various dead plants intertwined together, and on the surface of 
which other living ones take root. Their form is generally circular, 
and their thickness from four to six feet, of which the greater part 
is immersed in the water. As the wind blows, they pass from one 
side of the lake to the other, and often carry cattle and horses as 

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by the pale appear- 
ance of many of the men, and inquired from Mr. Nixon respecting 
their condition. The mine is 450 feet deep, and each man brings 

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


up about 200 pouuds weight of stone. With this load they have to 
eliinb up the alternate notches cut in the trunks of trees, placed in 
a zigzag line up the shaft. Even beardless young men, eighteen 
and twenty years old, with little muscular development of their 
bodies (they are quite naked excepting drawers) ascend with this 
great load from nearly the same depth. A strong man, who is not 
accustomed to this labour, perspires most profusely, with merely 
carrying up his own body. With this very severe labour, they live 
entirely on boiled beans aud bread. They would prefer having 
bread alone ; but their masters, finding that they cannot work so 
hard upon this, treat them like horses, and make them eat the 
beans. Their pay is here rather more than at the mines of Jajucl, 
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 

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground into an im- 
palpable powder ; the process of washing removes all the lighter 
particles, and amalgamation finally secures the gold-dust. The 
washing, when described, sounds a very simple process ; but it is 
beautiful to see how the exact adaptation of the current of water 
to the specific gravity of the gold, so easily separates the powdered 
matrix from the metal. The mud which passes from the mills is 
collected into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is 
cleared out, and thrown into a common heap. A great deal of 
chemical action then commences, salts of various kinds effloresce 
on the surface, and the mass becomes hard. After having been left 
for a year or two, and then rewashed, it yields gold ; and this pro- 
cess may be repeated even six or seven times ; but the gold each 
time becomes less in quantity, and the intervals required (as the 
inhabitants say, to generate the metal) are longer. There can be 
no doubt that the chemical action, already mentioned, each time 
liberates fresh gold from some combination. The discovery of a 
method to effect this before the first grinding, would without doubt 
raise the value of gold-ores many fold. It is curious to find how 

1834.] INDIAN IIELIC. 255 

the minute particles of gold, being scattered about and not corrod- 
ing, 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 mills; they washed the earth thus got together, 
and so procured thirty dollars' worth of gold. This is an exact 
counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer 
degradation and wear away, and with them the metallic veins 
which they contain. The hardest rock is worn into impalpable 
mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed ; but gold, 
platina, and a few others are nearly indestructible, and from their 
weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After whole moun- 
tains have passed through this grindiug-inill, and have been washed 
by the hand of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, and man 
finds it worth his while to complete the task of separation. 

Bad as the above treatment of the miners appears, it is gladly 
accepted of by them ; for the condition of the labouring agricul- 
turists is much worse. Their wages are lower, and they live almost 
exclusively on beans. This poverty must be chiefly owing to the 
feudal-like system on which the land is tilled : the landowner gives 
a small plot of ground to the labourer, for building on and culti- 
vating, and in return has his services (or those of a proxy) for 
every day of his life, without any wages. Until a father has a 
grown-up son, who can by his labour pay the rent, there is no one, 
except on occasional days, to take care of his own patch of ground. 
Hence extreme poverty is very common among the labouring classes 
in this country. 

There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, and I 
was shown one of the perforated stones, which Molina mentions 
as being found in many places in considerable numbers. They 
are of a circular flattened form, from five to six inches in diameter, 
with a hole passing quite through the centre. It has generally 
been supposed that they were used as heads to clubs, although 
their form does not appear at all well adapted for that purpose. 
Burchell * states that some of the tribes in Southern Africa dig up 
roots by the aid of a stick pointed at one end, the force and 
weight of which are 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 

* Burohell'e Travels, vol. ii. p. 45. 

250 CENTRAL CHILE. [<:n\t. xn. 

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

September 19^. We left Yaquil, and followed the flat valley, 
formed like that of Quillota, in which the Eio Tinderidica flows. 
Even at these few miles south of Santiago the climate is much 
damper; in consequence there are flue tracts of pasturage, which 
are not irrigated. (20th.) We followed this valley till it expanded 
into a great plain, which reaches from the sea to the mountains 
west of Eancagua. We shortly lost all trees and even bushes ; so 
that the inhabitants are nearly as badly off for firewood as those in 
the Pampas. Never having heard of these plains, I was much sur- 
prised at meeting with such scenery in Chile. The plains belong 
to more than one series of different elevations, and they are tra- 
versed by broad flat-bottomed valleys ; both of which circumstances, 
as in Patagonia, bespeak the action of the sea on gently rising land. 
In the steep cliffs bordering these valleys, there are some largo 
caves, which no doubt were originally formed by the waves : one of 
these is celebrated under the name of Cueva del Obispo ; having 
formerly been consecrated. During the day I felt very unwell, and 
from that time till the end of October did not recover. 

September 22cZ. We continued to pass over green plains without 
a tree. The next day we arrived at a house near Navedad, on the 

1834.] THE PUMA. 257 

sea-coast, whore a rich Hacienclero gave us lodgings. I stayed here 
the two ensuing days, and although very unwell, managed to collect 
from the tertiary formation some marine shells. 

1tli. Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, which 
with great difficulty I reached on the 27th, and was there confined 
to my bed till the end of October. During this time I was an 
inmate in Mr. Cor field's house, whose kindness to me I do not 
know how to express. 

I will here add a few observations on some of the animals and 
birds of Chile. The Puma, or South American Lion, is not 
uncommon. This animal has a wide geographical range; being 
found from the equatorial forests, throughout the deserts of Pata- 
gonia, as far south as the clamp and cold latitudes (53 to 54) of 
Tierra del Fuego. I have seen its footsteps in the Cordillera of 
central Chile, at an elevation of at least 10,000 feet. In La Plata 
the puma preys chiefly on deer, ostriches, bizcacha, and other small 
quadrupeds; it there seldom attacks cattle or horses, and most 
rarely man. In Chile, however, it destroys many young horses and 
cattle, owing probably to the scarcity of other quadrupeds : I heard, 
likewise, of two men and a woman who had been thus killed. It 
is asserted that the puma always kills its prey by springing on the 
shoulders, and then drawing back the head with one of its paws, 
until the vertebrae break : I have seen in Patagonia the skeletons 
of guanacos, with their necks thus dislocated. 

The puma, after eating its fill, covers the carcass with many 
large bushes, and lies down to watch it. This habit is often the 
cause of its being discovered ; for the condors wheeling in the air 
every now and then descend to partake of the feast, and being 
angrily driven away, rise all together on the wing. The Chileno 
Guaso then knows there is a lion watching his prey the word is given 
and men and dogs hurry to the chase. Sir F. Head says that a 
Gaucho in the Pampas, upon merely seeing some condors wheeling 
in the air, cried " A lion ! " I could never myself meet with any one 
who pretended to such powers of discrimination. It is asserted 
that, if a puma has once been betrayed by thus watching the 
carcass, and has then been hunted, it never resumes this habit ; but 
that, having gorged itself, it wanders far away. The puma is easily 
killed. In an open country, it is first entangled with the bolas, 
then lazoed, and dragged along the ground till rendered insensible. 


258 CENTRAL CHILE. [CHAI-. xii. 

At Tandeel (south of the Plata), I was told that within three 
mouths oue hundred were thus destroyed. In Chile they are 
generally driven up bushes or trees, and are then either shot, or 
baited to death by dogs. The dogs employed in this chase belong- 
to a particular breed, called Leoneros: they are weak, slight 
animals, like long-legged terriers, but are born with a particular 
instinct for this sport. The puma is described as being very 
crafty: when pursued, it often returns on its former track, and 
then suddenly making a spring on one side, waits there till the 
dogs have passed by. It is a very silent animal, uttering no cry 
even when wounded, and only rarely during the breeding season. 

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos (megapodius and 
albicollis of Kittlitz) are perhaps the most conspicuous. The 
former, called by the Chilenos " el Turco," is as large as a fieldfare, 
to which bird it has some alliance ; but its legs are much longer, 
tail shorter, and beak stronger: its colour is a reddish brown. 
The Turco is not uncommon. It lives on the ground, sheltered 
among the thickets which are scattered over the dry and sterile 
hills. With its tail erect, and stilt-like legs, it may be seen every 
now and then popping from one bush to another with uncommon 
quickness. It really requires little imagination to believe that the 
bird is ashamed of itself, and is aware of its most ridiculous figure. 
On first seeing it, one is tempted to exclaim, " A vilely stuffed 
specimen has escaped from some museum, and has come to life 
again!" It cannot be made to take flight without the greatest 
trouble, nor does it run, but only hops. The various loud cries 
which it utters when concealed amongst the bushes, are as strange 
as its appearance. It is said to build its nest in a deep hole 
beneath the ground. I dissected several specimens : the gizzard, 
which was very muscular, contained beetles, vegetable fibres, and 
pebbles. From this character, from the length of its legs, scratching 
feet, membranous covering to the nostrils, short and arched wings, 
this bird seems in a certain degree to connect the thrushes with 
the gallinaceous order. 

The second species (or P. albicollis) is allied to the first in its 
general form. It is called Tapacolo, or " cover your posterior ;" 
and well does the shameless little bird deserve its name; for it 
carries its tail more than erect, that is, inclined backwards towards 
its head. It is very common, and frequents the bottoms of hedge- 
rows, and the bushes scattered over the barren hillSj where scarcely 

1H34.] HUMMING-BIRDS. 259 

another bird can exist. In its general manner of feeding, of quickly 
hopping out of the thickets and back again, in its desire of con- 
cealment, unwillingness to take flight, and nidification, it bears a 
close resemblance to the Turco ; but its appearance is not quite so 
ridiculous. The Tapacolo is very crafty : when frightened by any 
person, it will remain motionless at the bottom of a bush, and will 
then, after a little while, try with much address to crawl away on 
the opposite side. It is also an active bird, and continually making 
a noise : these noises are various and strangely odd ; some are like 
the cooing of doves, others like the bubbling of water, and many 
defy all similes. The country people say it changes its cry five 
times in the year according to some change of season, I suppose.* 
Two species of humming-birds are common ; Trochilus forficatus 
is found over a space of 2500 miles on the west coast, from the hot 
dry country of Lima, to the forests of Tierra del Fuego where it 
may be seen flitting about in snow-storms. In the wooded island 
of Chiloe, which has an extremely humid climate, this little bird, 
skipping from side to side amidst the dripping foliage, is perhaps 
more abundant than almost any other kind. I opened the stomachs 
of several specimens, shot in different parts of the continent, and 
in all, remains of insects were as numerous as in the stomach of a 
creeper. When this species migrates in the summer southward, 
it is replaced by the arrival of another species coming from the 
north. This second kind (Trochilus gigas) is a very large bird for 
the delicate family to which it belongs: when on the wing its 
appearance is singular. Like others of the genus, it moves from 
place to place with a rapidity which may be compared to that of 
Syrphus amongst flies, and Sphinx among moths ; but whilst 
hovering over a flower, it flaps its wings with a very slow and 
powerful movement, totally different from that vibratory one 
common to most of the species, which produces the humming 
noise. I never saw any other bird where the force of its wings 
appeared (as in a butterfly) so powerful in proportion to the weight 
of its body. When hovering by a flower, its tail is constantly 

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


expanded and shut like a fan, the body being kept in a nearly 
vertical position. This action appears to steady and support the 
bird, between the slow movements of its wings. Although flying 
from flower to flower in search of food, its stomach generally 
contained abundant remains of insects, -which I suspect are much 
more the object of its search than honey. The note of this species, 
like that of nearly the whole family, is extremely shrill. 

1834.] ASPECT OF CHILOE. 261 


Chiloe General Aspect Boat Excursion Native Indians Castro 
Tame Fox Ascend San Pedro Chouos Archipelago Peninsula of 
Tres Montes Granitic Kange Boat-wrecked Sailors Low's Harbour 
Wild Potato Formation of Peat Myopotamus, Otter and Mice 
Cheucau and Barking-bird Opetiorhyuchus Singular Character of 
Ornithology Petrels. 


Novemler 10th. THE Beagle sailed from Valparaiso to the south, 
for the purpose of surveying the southern part of Chile, the island 
of Chiloe, and the broken land called the Chonos Archipelago, as far 
south as the Peninsula of Tres Montes. On the 21st we anchored 
in the bay of S. Carlos, the capital of Chiloe. 

This island is about ninety miles long, with a breadth of rather 
less than thirty. The land is hilly, but not mountainous, and is 
covered by one great forest, except where a few green patches have 
been cleared round the thatched cottages. From a distance the 
view somewhat resembles that of Tierra del Fuego ; but the woods, 
when seen nearer, are incomparably more beautiful. Many kinds 
of fine evergreen trees, and plants with a tropical character, here 
take the place of the gloomy beech of the southern shores. In 
winter the climate is. detestable, and in summer it is only a little 
better. I should think there are few parts of the world, within 
the temperate regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are 
very boisterous, and the sky almost always clouded : to have a 
week of fine weather is something wonderful. It is even difficult 
to get a single glimpse of the Cordillera: during our first visit, 
once only the volcano of Osorno stood out in bold relief, and that 
was before sunrise ; it was curious to watch, as the sun rose, the 
outline gradually fading away in the glare of the eastern sky. 

The inhabitants, from their complexion and low stature, appear 
to have three-fourths of Indian blood in their veins. They are an 

202 CIIILOE, [< IIAI-. xni. 

humble, quiet, illustrious set of men. Although the fertile soil, 
resulting from the decomposition of the volcanic rocks, supports a 
rank vegetation, yet the climate is not favourable to any pro- 
duction which requires much sunshine to ripen it. There is very 
little pasture for the larger quadrupeds ; and in consequence, the 
staple articles of food are pigs, potatoes, and fish. The people all 
dress iu strong woollen garments, which each family makes for 
itself, and dyes with indigo of a dark blue colour. The arts, how- 
ever, are in the rudest state ; as may be seen in their strange 
fashion of ploughing, their method of spinning, grinding corn, and 
in the construction of their boats. The forests are so impenetrable, 
that the land is nowhere cultivated except near the coast and on 
the adjoining islets. Even where paths exist, they arc scarcely 
passable from the soft and swampy state of the soil. The inhabi- 
tants, like those of Tierra del Fuego, move about chiefly on the 
beach or in boats. Although with plenty to eat, the people arc 
very poor : there is no demand for labour, and consequently the 
lower orders cannot scrape together money sufficient to pur- 
chase even the smallest luxuries. There is also a great deficiency 
of a circulating medium. I have seen a man bringing on his back 
a bag of charcoal, with which to buy some trifle, and another carry- 
ing a plank to exchange for a bottle of wine. Hence every trades- 
man must also be a merchant, and again sell the goods which he 
takes in exchange. 

November 24<A. The yawl and whale-boat were sent under the 
command of Mr. (now Captain) Sulivan, to survey the eastern or 
inland coast of Chiloe ; and with orders to meet the Beagle at the 
southern extremity of the island ; to which point she would pro- 
ceed by the outside, so as thus to circumnavigate the whole. I 
accompanied this expedition, but instead of going in the boats the 
first day, I hired horses to take me to Chacao, at the northern ex- 
tremity of the island. The road followed the coast; every now and 
then crossing promontories covered by fine forests. In these shaded 
paths it is absolutely necessary that the whole road should be 
made of logs of wood, which are squared and placed by the side of 
each other. From the rays of the sun never penetrating the ever- 
green foliage, the ground is so damp and soft, that except by this 
means neither man nor horse would be able to pass along. I 
arrived at the village of Chacao, shortly after the tents belonging 
to the boats were pitched for the night. 


The land in this neighbourhood has been extensively cleared, 
and there were many quiet and most picturesque nooks in the 
forest. Chacao was formerly the principal port in the island ; but 
many vessels having been lost, owing to the dangerous currents 
and rocks in the straits, the Spanish government burnt the church, 
and thus arbitrarily compelled the greater number of inhabitants 
to migrate to S. Carlos. "NVo had not long bivouacked, before 
the barefooted sou of the governor came down to reconnoitre us. 
.Seeing the English flag hoisted at the yawl's mast-head, he asked, 
with the utmost indifference, whether it was always to fly at 
Chacao. In several places the inhabitants were much astonished 
at the appearance of men-of-war's boats, and hoped and believed 
it was the forerunner of a Spanish fleet, coming to recover the 
island from the patriot government of Chile. All the men in 
power, however, had been informed of our intended visit, and were 
exceedingly civil. While we were eating our supper, the governor 
paid us a visit. He had been a lieutenant-colonel in the Spanish 
service, but now was miserably poor. He gave us two sheep, and 
accepted in return two cotton handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets, 
and a little tobacco. 

25tf*. Torrents of rain : we managed, however, to run down the 
coast as far as Huapi-lenou. The whole of this eastern side of 
Chiloe has one aspect ; it is a plain, broken by valleys and divided 
into little islands, and the whole thickly covered with one im- 
pervious blackish-green forest. On the margins there are some 
cleared spaces, surrounding the high-roofed cottages. 

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

264 CfilLOi:. [CHAP. int. 

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

Landing at midday, we saw a family of pure Indian extraction. 
The father was singularly like York Minster; and some of the 
younger boys, with their ruddy complexions, might have been 
mistaken for Pampas Indians. Everything I have seen, convinces 
rnc of the close connexion of the different American tribes, who 
nevertheless speak distinct languages. This party could muster 
but little Spanish, and talked to each other in their own tongue. 
It is a pleasant thing to see the aborigines advanced to the same 
degree of civilization, however low that may be, which their white 
conquerors have attained. More to the south we saw many pure 
Indians : indeed, all the inhabitants of some of the islets retain 
their Indian surnames. In the census of 1832, there were in 
Chiloe and its dependencies forty-two thousand souls; the greater 
number of these appear to be of mixed blood. Eleven thousand 
retain their Indian surnames, but it is probable that not nearly 
all of these are of a pure breed. Their manner of life is the 
game with that of the other poor inhabitants, and they are all 
Christians ; but it is said that they yet retain some strange super- 
stitious ceremonies, and that they pretend to hold communication 
with the devil in certain caves. Formerly, every one convicted of 
this offence was sent to the Inquisition at Lima. Many of the 
inhabitants who are not included in the eleven thousand with 
Indian surnames, cannot be distinguished by their appearance 
from Indians. Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is descended from 
noblemen of Spain on both sides ; but by constant intermarriages 
with the natives the present man is an Indian: On the other 
hand, the governor of Quinchao boasts much of his purely kept 
Spanish blood. 

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the island 
of Caucahue. The people here complained of want of land. This 
is partly owing to their own negligence in not clearing the woods, 
and partly to restrictions by the government, which makes it 
necessary, before buying over so small a piece, to pay two shillings 

1834.] TENURE OP LAND. 265 

to the surveyor, for measuring each quadra (150 yards square), 
together with whatever price he fixes for the value of the land. 
After his valuation, the laud must be put up three times to auction, 
and if no one bids more, the purchaser can have it at that rate. 
All these exactions must be a serious check to clearing the ground, 
where the inhabitants are so extremely poor. In most countries, 
forests are removed without much difficulty by the aid of fire ; but 
in Chiloe, from the damp nature of the climate, and the sort of 
trees, it is necessary first to cut them down. This is a heavy draw- 
back to the prosperity of Chiloe. In the time of the Spaniards the 
Indians could not hold laud; and a family, after having cleared a 
piece of ground, might be driven away, and the property seized by 
the government. The Chilian authorities are now performing an 
act of justice by making retribution to these poor Indians, giving 
to each man, according to his grade of life, a certain portion of 
land. The value of uncleared ground is very little. The govern- 
ment gave Mr. Douglas (the present surveyor, who informed me of 
these circumstances) eight and a half square miles of forest near 
S. Carlos, in lieu of a debt ; and this he sold for 350 dollars, or 
about 701. sterling. 

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached the 
island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most cultivated 
part of the Archipelago ; for a broad strip of land on the coast of 
the main island, as well as on many of the smaller adjoining ones, 
is almost completely cleared. Some of the farmhouses seemed very 
comfortable. I was curious to ascertain how rich any of these 
people might be, but Mr. Douglas says that no one can be con- 
sidered as possessing a regular income. One of the richest land- 
owners might possibly accumulate, in a long industrious life, as 
much as 1000?. sterling ; but should this happen, it would all be 
stowed away in some secret corner, for it is the custom of almost 
every family to have a jar or treasure-chest buried in the ground. 

November 3Qtk. Early on Sunday morning we reached Castro, 
the ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn and deserted 
place. The visual quadrangular arrangement of Spanish towns 
could be traced, but the streets and plaza were coated with fine 
green turf, on which sheep were browsing. The church, which 
stands in the middle, is entirely built of plank, and has a pic- 
turesque and venerable appearance. The poverty of the place 
may l>e conceived from the fact, that although containing some 

26G CHILOE. [CHAP. xiii. 

hundreds of inhabitants, one of our party was unable anywhere to 
purchase either a pound of sugar or an ordinary knife. Xo indi- 
vidual possessed either a wateh or a clock ; and an old man, who 
was supposed to have a good idea of time, was employed to strike 
the church bell by guess. The arrival of our boats was a rare 
event in this quiet retired corner of the world ; and nearly all the 
inhabitants came down to the beach to see us pitch our tents. 
They were very civil, and offered us a house ; and one man even 
sent us a cask of cider as a present. In the afternoon we paid our 
respects to the governor a quiet old man, who, in his appearance 
and manner of life, was scarcely superior to an English cottager. 
At night heavy rain set in, which was hardly sufficient to drive 
away from our tents the large circle of lookers-on. An Indian 
family, who had come to trade in a canoe from Caylen, bivouacked 
near us. They had no shelter during the rain. In the morning 
I asked a young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how lie had passed 
the night. He seemed perfectly content, and answered, " Muy bien, 

December 1st. We steered for the island of Lemuy. I was 
anxious to examine a reported coal-mine which turned out to be 
lignite of little value, in the sandstone (probably of an ancient 
tertiary epoch) of which these islands are composed. When we 
reached Lemuy we had much difficulty in finding any place to 
pitch our tents, for it was spring-tide, and the land was wooded 
down to the water's edge. In a short time we were surrounded by 
a large group of the nearly pure Indian inhabitants. They were 
much surprised at our arrival, and said one to the other, " This is 
the reason we have seen so many parrots lately ; the cheucau (an 
odd red-breasted little bird, which inhabits the thick forest, and 
utters very peculiar noises) has not cried ' beware ' for nothing." 
They were soon anxious for barter. Money was scarcely worth 
anything, but their eagerness for tobacco was something quite 
extraordinary. After tobacco, indigo came next in value ; then 
capsicum, old clothes, and gunpowder. The latter article was 
required for a very innocent purpose: each parish has a public- 
musket, and the gunpowder was wanted for making a noise on their 
saint or feast days. 

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. At 
certain seasons they catch also, in "corrales," or hedges under 
water, many fish which are left on the mud-banks as the tide falls. 


They occasionally possess fowls, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, ami 
cattle; the order in which they are here mentioned, expressing 
their respective numbers. I never saw anything more obliging 
and humble than the manners of these people. They generally 
began with stating that they were poor natives of the place, and 
not Spaniards, and that they were in sad want of tobacco and other 
comforts. At Caylen, the most southern island, the sailors bought 
with a stick of tobacco, of the value of three-halfpence, two fowls, 
one of which, the Indian stated, had skin between its toes, and 
turned out to be a fine duck ; and with some cotton handkerchiefs, 
worth three shillings, three sheep and a large bunch of onions 
were procured. The yawl at this place was anchored some way 
from the shore, and we had fears for her safety from robbers during 
the night. Our pilot, Mr. Douglas, accordingly told the constable 
of the district that we always placed sentinels with loaded arms, 
and not xinderstauding Spanish, if we saw any person in the dark, 
we should assuredly shoot him. The constable, with much humi- 
lity, agreed to the perfect propriety of this arrangement, and 
promised us that no one should stir out of his house during that 

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing southward. 
The general features of the country remained the same, but it was 
much less thickly inhabited. On the large island of Tauqui thero 
was scarcely one cleared spot, the trees on every side extending 
their branches over the sea-beach. I one day noticed, growing on 
the sandstone cliffs, some very fine plants of the panke (Gunnera 
scabra), which somewhat resembles the rhubarb on a gigantic 
scale. The inhabitants eat the stalks, which are subacid, and tan 
leather with the roots, and prepare a black dye from them. Tho 
leaf is nearly circular, but deeply indented on its margin. I mea- 
sured one which was nearly eight feet in diameter, and therefore no 
less than twenty-four in circumference! The stalk is rather more 
than a yard high, and each plant sends out four or five of these 
enormous leaves, presenting together a very noble appearance. 

December 6th. We reached Caylen, called " el fin del Cristian- 
dad." In the morning wo stopped for a few minutes at a house 
on the northern end of Laylec, which was the extreme point of 
South American Christendom, and a miserable hovel it was. The 
latitude is 43 10', which is two degrees farther south than the Rio 
Negro on the Atlantic coast. These extreme Christians were very 

2(58 CHILOE. [CHAP! xni. 

poor, aucl, under the plea of their situation, begged for some to- 
bacco. As a proof of the poverty of these Indians, I may mention 
that shortly before this, we had met a man, who had travelled three 
days and a half on foot, and had as many to return, for the sake 
of recovering the value of a small axe and a few fish. How very 
difficult it must be to buy the smallest article, when such trouble 
is taken to recover so small a debt ! 

In the evening we reached the island of San Pedro, where we 
found the Beagle at anchor. In doubling the point, two of the 
officers landed to take a round of angles with the theodolite. A 
fox (Cam's fulvipes), of a kind said to be peculiar to the island, 
and very rare in it, and which is a new species, was sitting on 
the rocks. He was so intently absorbed in watching the work of 
the officers, that I was able, by quietly walking up behind, to 
knock him on the head with my geological hammer. This fox, 
more curious or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality 
of his brethren, is now mounted in the museum of the Zoological 

We stayed three days in this harbour, on one of which Captain 
Fitz Eoy, with a party, attempted to ascend to the summit of San 
Pedro. The woods here had rather a different appearance from 
those on the northern part of the island. The rock, also, being 
micaceous slate, there was no beach, but the steep sides dipped 
directly beneath the water. The general aspect in consequence 
was more like that of Tierra del Fuego than of Chiloe. In vain 
we tried to gain the summit : the forest was so impenetrable, that 
no one who has not beheld it can imagine so entangled a mass of 
dying and dead trunks. I am sure that often, for more than ten 
minutes together, our feet never touched the ground, and we were 
frequently ten or fifteen feet above it, so that the seamen as a joke 
called out the soundings. At other times we crept one after 
another on our hands and knees, under the rotten trunks. In the 
lower part of the mountain, noble trees of the Winter's Bark, and 
a laurel like the sassafras with fragrant leaves, and others, the 
names of which I do not know, were matted together by a trailing 
bamboo or cane. Here we were more like fishes struggling in a 
net than any other animal. On the higher parts, brushwood takes 
the place of larger trees, with here and there a red cedar or an 
alcrco pine. I was also pleased to see, at an elevation of a little 
less than 1000 feet, our old friend the southern beech. They were, 

1834.] SAN PEDRO. 269 

however, poor stunted trees ; and I should think that this must bo 
nearly their northern limit. We ultimately gave up the attempt 
in despair. 

December 10th. The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr. Sulivau, 
proceeded on their survey, but I remained on board the Beagle, 
which the next day left San Pedro for the southward. On the 13th 
we ran into an opening in the southern part of Guayatecas, or the 
Chonos Archipelago ; and it was fortunate we did so, for on the 
following day a storm, worthy of Tierra del Fuego, raged with great 
fury. White massive clouds were piled up against a dark blue sky, 
and across them black ragged sheets of vapour were rapidly driven. 
The successive mountain ranges appeared like dim shadows ; and 
the setting sun cast on the woodland a yellow gleam, much like 
that produced by the flame of spirits of wine. The water was white 
with the flying spray, and the wind lulled and roared again through 
the rigging: it was an ominous, sublime scene. During a few 
minutes there was a bright rainbow, and it was curious to observe 
the effect of the spray, which, being carried along the surface of the 
water, changed the ordinary semicircle into a circle a band of 
prismatic colours being continued, from both feet of the common 
arch across the bay, close to the vessel's side : thus forming a dis- 
torted, but very nearly entire ring. 

We stayed here three days. The weather continued bad; but 
this did not nmch signify, for the surface of the land in all these 
islands is all but impassable. The coast is so very rugged that 
to attempt to walk in that direction requires continued scrambling 
up and down over the sharp rocks of mica-slate ; and as for the 
woods, our faces, hands, and shin-bones all bore witness to the 
maltreatment we received, in merely attempting to penetrate their 
forbidden recesses. 

December 18th. We stood out to sea. On the 20th we bade 
farewell to the south, and with a fair wind turned the ship's head 
northward. From Cape Tres Montes we sailed pleasantly along 
the lofty weather-beaten coast, which is remarkable for the bold 
outline of its hills, and the thick covering of forest even on the 
almost precipitous flanks. Thejnext day a harbour was discovered, 
which on this dangerous coast might be of great service to a dis- 
tressed vessel. It can easily be recognized by a hill 1600 feet high, 
which is even more perfectly conical than the famous sugar-loaf at 
Bio de Janeiro. The next day, after anchoring, I succeeded in 


reaching the summit of this hill. It was a laborious undertaking, 
for the sides were so steep that in some parts it was necessary to 
use the trees as ladders. There were also several extensive brakes 
of the Fuchsia, covered with its beautiful drooping flowers, but 
very difficult to crawl through. In these wild countries it gives 
much delight to gain the summit of any mountain. There is an 
indefinite expectation of seeing something very strange, which, 
however often it may be balked, never failed with me to recur oil 
each successive attempt. Every one must know the feeling of 
triumph and pride which a grand view from a height communicates 
to the mind. In these little frequented countries there is also joined 
to it some vanity, that you perhaps are the first man who ever stood 
on this pinnacle or admired this view. 

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

December 28tf/;. The weather continued very bad, but it at last 
permitted us to proceed with the survey. The time hung heavy 
on our hands, as it always did when we were delayed from day to 
day by successive gales of wind. In the evening another harbour 
was discovered, where we anchored. Directly afterwards a man 
was seen waving his shirt, and a boat was sent which brought back 
two seamen. A party of six had run away from an American 
whaling vessel, and had landed a little to the southward in a boat, 
which was shortly afterwards knocked to pieces by the surf. They 
had now been wandering up and down the coast for fifteen months, 
without knowing which way to go, or where they were. What a 
singular piece of good fortune it was that this harbour was now 
discovered ! Had it not been for this one chance, they might have 


wandered till they had grown old men, and at last have perished 
on this wild coast. Their sufferings had been very great, and one 
of their party had lost his life by falling from the cliffs. They were 
sometimes obliged to separate in search of food, and this explained 
the bed of the solitary man. Considering what they had undergone, 
I think they had kept a very good reckoning of time, for they had 
lost only four days. 

December SQth. We anchored in a snug little cove at the foot of 
some high hills, near the northern extremity of Tres Montes. After 
breakfast the next morning, a party ascended one of these mountains, 
which was 2400 feet high. The scenery was remarkable. The chief 
part of the range was composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of 
granite, which appeared as if they had been coeval with the begin- 
ning of the world. The granite was capped with mica-slate, and 
this in the lapse of ages had been worn into strange finger-shaped 
points. These two formations, thus differing in their outlines, agree 
in being almost destitute of vegetation. This barrenness had to 
our eyes a strange appearance, from having been so long accustomed 
to the sight of an almost universal forest of dark-green trees. I 
took much delight in examining the structure of these mountains. 
The complicated and lofty ranges bore a noble aspect of durability 
equally profitless, however, to man and to all other animals. 
Granite to the geologist is classic ground: from its widespread 
limits, and its beautiful and compact texture, few rocks have been 
more anciently recognised. Granite has given rise, perhaps, to more 
discussion concerning its origin than any other formation. We 
generally see it constituting the fundamental rock, and, however 
formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the crust of this globe 
to which man has penetrated. The limit of man's knowledge in 
any subject possesses a high interest, which is perhaps increased 
by its close neighbourhood to the realms of imagination. 

January 1st, 1835. The new year is ushered in with the 
ceremonies proper to it in these regions. She lays out no false 
hopes : a heavy north-western gale, with steady rain, bespeaks 
the rising year. Thank God, we are not destined here to see the 
end of it, but hope then to be in the Pacific Ocean, where a blue 
sky tells one there is a heaven, a something beyond the clouds 
above our heads. 

The north-west winds prevailing for the next four days, we only 
managed to cross a great bay, and then anchored in another secure 


harbour. I accompanied the Captain in a boat to the head of a 
deep creek. On the way the number of seals which we saw was qiiite 
astonishing : every bit of flat rock, and parts of the beach, were 
covered with them. They appeared to be of a loving disposition, 
and lay huddled together, fast asleep, like so many pigs ; but even 
pigs would have been ashamed of their dirt, and of the foul smell 
which came from them. Each herd was watched by the patient but 
inauspicious eyes of the turkey-buzzard. This disgusting bird, 
with its bald scarlet head, formed to wallow in putridity, is', very 
common on the west coast, and their attendance on the seals shows 
on what they rely for their food. We found the water (probably 
only that of the surface) nearly fresh: this was caused by the 
number of torrents which, in the form of cascades, came tumbling 
over the bold granite mountains into the sea. The fresh water 
attracts the fish, and these bring many terns, gulls, and two kinds 
of cormorant. We saw also a pair of the beautiful black-necked 
swans, and several small sea-otters, the fur of which is held in such 
high estimation. In returning, we were again amused by the im- 
petuous manner in which the heap of seals, old and young, tumbled 
into the water as the boat passed. They did not remain long under 
water, but rising, followed us with outstretched necks, expressing 
great wonder and curiosity. 

7th. Having run up the coast, we anchored near the northern 
end of the Chonos Archipelago, in Low's Harbour, where we 
remained a week. The islands were here, as in Chiloe, composed 
of a stratified, soft, littoral deposit ; and the vegetation in conse- 
quence was beautifully luxuriant. The woods came down to the 
sea-beach, just in the manner of an evergreen shrubbery over a 
gravel walk. We also enjoyed from the anchorage a splendid 
view of four great snowy cones of the Cordillera, including "el 
famoso Corcovado ; " the range itself had in this latitude so little 
height, that few parts of it appeared above the tops of the neigh- 
bouring islets. We found here a party of five men from Caylen, 
" el fin del Cristiandad," who had most adventurously crossed in 
their miserable boat-canoe, for the purpose of fishing, the open 
space of sea which separates Chonos from Chiloe. These islands 
will, in all probability, in a short time become peopled like those 
adjoining the coast of Chiloe. 

The wild potato grows on these islands iii great abundance, on 

1835.] WILD POTATO. 2?o 

the sandy, shelly soil near the sea-beach. The tallest plant was 
four feet in height. The tubers were generally small, but I found 
one, of an oval shape, two inches in diameter : they resembled in 
every respect, and had the same smell as English potatoes; but 
when boiled they shrunk much, and were watery and insipid, with- 
out any bitter taste. They are undoubtedly here indigenous : they 
grow as far south, according to Mr. Low, as lat. 50, and are 
called Aquinas by the wild Indians of that part: the Chilotan 
Indians have a different name for them. Professor Henslow, who 
has examined the dried specimens which I brought home, says 
that they are the same with those described by Mr. Sabine * from 
Valparaiso, but that they form a variety which by some botanists 
has been considered as specifically distinct. It is remarkable that 
the same plant should be found on the sterile mountains of central 
Chile, where a drop of rain does not fall for more than six months, 
and within the damp forests of these southern islands. 

In the central parts of the Choiios Archipelago (lat. 45), the 
forest has very much the same character with that along the 
whole west coast, for 600 miles southward to Cape Horn. The 
arborescent grass of Chiloe is not found here; while the beech of 
Tierra del Fuego grows to a good size, and forms a considerable 
proportion of the wood ; not, however, in the same exclusive 
manner as it does farther southward. Cryptogamic plants here 
find a most congenial climate. In the Strait of Magellan, as I 
have before remarked, the country appears too cold and wet to 
allow of their arriving at perfection ; but in these islands, within 
the forest, the number of species and great abundance of mosses, 
lichens, and small ferns, is quite extraordinary.! In Tierra del 
Fuego trees grow only on the hillsides ; every level piece of land 
being invariably covered by a thick bed of peat ; but in Chiloe flat 
land supports the most luxuriant forests. Here, within the Chonos 
Archipelago, the nature of the climate more closely approaches 

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

t By sweeping with uiy insect-net, I procured from these situations a, 
considerable number of minute insects, of the family of Staphyliuidse, and 
others allied to Pseluplms, and minute Hymenoptera. But the mos( 
characteristic family in number, both of individuals and species, through- 
out the more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos is that of the Telephoridiu. 



that of Tierra del Fuego than that of northern Chiloe ; for every 
patch of level ground is covered by two species of plants (Astelia 
pumila and Donatia raagellanica), which by their joint decay com- 
pose a thick bed of elastic peat. 

In Tierra del Fuego, above the region of woodland, the former 
of these eminently sociable plants is the chief agent in the pro- 
duction of peat. Fresh leaves are always succeeding one to the 
other round the central tap-root ; the lower ones soon decay, and 
in tracing a root downwards in the peat, the leaves, yet holding 
their place, can be observed passing through every stage of decom- 
position, till the whole becomes blended in one confused mass. 
The Astelia is assisted by a few other plants, here and there a 
small creeping Myrtus (M. numniularia), with a woody stem like 
our cranberry and with a sweet berry, an Empetrum (E. rubrran), 
like our heath, a rush (Juncus grandiflorus), are nearly the only 
ones that grow on the swampy surface. These plants, though 
possessing a very close general resemblance to the English species 
of the same genera, are different. In the more level parts of the 
country, the surface of the peat is broken up into little pools of 
water, which stand at different heights, and appear as if artificially 
excavated. Small streams of water, flowing underground, com- 
plete the disorganization of the vegetable matter, and consolidate 
the whole. 

The climate of the southern part of America appears particularly 
favourable to the production of peat. In the Falkland Islands 
almost every kind of plant, even the coarse grass which covers the 
whole surface of the land, becomes converted into this substance : 
scarcely any situation checks its growth ; some of the beds are as 
much as twelve feet thick, and the lower part becomes so solid when 
dry, that it will hardly burn. Although every plant lends its aid, 
yet in most parts the Astelia is the most efficient. It is rather a 
singular circumstance, as being so very different from what occurs 
in Europe, that I nowhere saw moss forming by its decay any por- 
tion of the peat in South America. With respect to the northern 
limit, at which the climate allows of that peculiar kind of slow 
decomposition which is necessary for its production, I believe that 
in Chiloe (lat. 41 to 42), although there is much swampy ground, 
no well-characterized peat occurs : but in the Chonos Islands, three 
degrees farther southward, we have seen that it is abundant. On 
the eastern coast in La Plata (lat. 85) I was told by a Spanish 


resident, who had visited Ireland, that he had often sought for 
this substance, but had never been able to find any. He showed 
me, as the nearest approach to it which he had discovered, a black 
peaty soil, so penetrated with roots as to allow of an extremely slow 
and imperfect combustion. 

The zoology of these broken islets of the Chonos Archipelago 
is, as might have been expected, very poor. Of quadrupeds two 
aquatic kinds are common. The Myopotamus Coypus (like a 
beaver, but with a round tail) is well known from its fine fur, 
which is an object of trade throughout the tributaries of La Plata. 
It here, however, exclusively frequents salt water ; which same 
circumstance has been mentioned as sometimes occurring with the 
great rodent, the Capybara. A small sea-otter is very numerous ; 
this animal does not feed exclusively on fish, but, like the seals, 
draws a large supply from a small red crab, which swims in shoals 
near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe saw one in Tierra del 
Fuego eating a cuttle-fish ; and at Low's Harbour, another was 
killed in the act of carrying to its hole a large volute shell. At 
one place I caught in a trap a singular little mouse (M. brachiotis) ; 
it appeared common on several of the islets, but the Chilotans at 
Low's Harbour said that it was not found in all. What a suc- 
cession of chances,* or what changes of level must have been 
brought into play, thus to spread these small animals throughout 
this broken archipelago ! 

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds occur, 
which are allied to, and replace, the Turco and Tapacolo of central 
Chile. One is called by the inhabitants " Cheucau " (Pteroptochos 
rubecula) : it frequents the most gloomy and retired spots within 
the damp forests. Sometimes, although its cry may be heard close 
at hand, let a person watch ever so attentively he will not see the 
cheucau; at other times, let him stand motionless and the red- 
breasted little bird will approach within a few feet in the most 
familiar manner. It then busily hops about the entangled mass 
of rotting canes and branches, with its little tail cocked upwards. 
The cheucau is held in sitperstitious fear by the Chilotans, on 

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


account of its strange and varied cries. There are three very 
distinct cries : one is called " chidnco," and is an omen of good ; 
another, "huitreu," which is extremely unfavourable; and a third, 
which I have forgotten. These words are given in imitation of the 
noises ; and the natives are in some things absolutely governed by 
them. The Chilotans assuredly have chosen a most comical little 
creature for their prophet. An allied species, but rather larger, is 
called by the natives " Guid-guid " (Pteroptochos Tamil), and by 
the English the barking-bird. This latter name is well given ; for 
1 defy any one at first to feel certain that a small dog is not yelping 
somewhere in the forest. Just as with the cheucau, a person will 
sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain many endeavour by 
watching, and with still less chance by beating ^the bushes, to see 
the bird ; yet at other times the guid-guid fearlessly comes near. 
Its manner of feeding and its general habits are very similar to 
those of the cheucau. 

On the coast,* a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus Pata- 
gonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from its quiet habits ; 
it lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a sandpiper. Besides these 
birds only few others inhabit this broken land. In my rough notes 
I describe the strange noises, which, although frequently heard 
within these gloomy forests, yet scarcely disturb the general silence. 
The yelping of the guid-guid, and the sudden whew-whew of the 
cheucau, sometimes come from afar off, and sometimes from close 
at hand ; the little black wren of Tierra del Fuego occasionally adds 
its cry; the creeper (Oxyurus) follows the intruder screaming and 
twittering; the humming-bird may be seen every now and then 
darting from side to side, and emitting, like an insect, its shrill 
chirp; lastly, from the top of some lofty tree the indistinct but 
plaintive note of the white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius) may 
be noticed. From the great preponderance in most countries of 
certain common genera of birds, such as the finches, one feels at 
lirst surprised at meeting with the peculiar forms above enumerated, 
as the commonest birds in any district. In central Chile two of 
them, namely, the Oxyurus and Scytalopus, occur, although most 

* I may mention, as a proof of how great a difference there is between 
the seasons of the wooded and the open parts of this coast, that on Sep- 
tember 20th, in lat. 31, these birds had young ones in the nest, while 
uuioiig the Chouos Islands, three months later in the summer, they were 
only laying, the difference in latitude between these two places' being 
about 700 miles. 

1835.] ORNITHOLOGY. 277 

rarely. When finding, as in this case, animals which seem to play 
so insignificant a part in the great scheme of nature, one is apt to 
wonder why they were created. But it should always be recollected, 
that in some other country perhaps they are essential members of 
society, or at some former period may have been so. If America 
south of 37 were sunk beneath the waters of the ocean, these two 
birds might continue to exist in central Chile for a long period, but 
it is very improbable that their numbers would increase. We 
should then see a case which must inevitably have happened with 
very many animals. 

These southern seas are frequented by several species of Petrels: 
the largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly (quebrautahuesos, 
or break-bones, of the Spaniards), is a common bird, both in the 
inland channels and on the open sea. In its habits and manner of 
flight, there is a very close resemblance with the albatross; and as 
with the albatross, a person may watch it for hours together with- 
out seeing on what it feeds. The " break-bones " is, however, a 
rapacious bird, for it was observed by some of the officers at Tort 
St. Antonio chasing a diver, which tried to escape by diving and 
flying, but was continually struck down, and at last killed by a 
blow on its head. At Port St. Julian these great petrels were seen 
killing and devouring young gulls. A second species (Puffinus 
cinereus), which is common to Europe, Cape Horn, and the coast of 
Peru, is of a much smaller size than the P. gigantea, but, like it, of 
a dirty black colour. It generally frequents the inland sounds in 
very large flocks : I do not think I ever saw so many birds of any 
other sort together, as I once saw of these behind the island of 
Chiloo. Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular line for several 
hours in one direction. When part of the flock settled on the water 
the surface was blackened, and a noise proceeded from them as of 
human beings talking in the distance. 

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only mention 
one other kind, the Pelacanoides Berardi, which offers an example 
of those extraordinary cases, of a bird evidently belonging to one 
well-marked family, yet both in its habits and structure allied to a 
very distinct tribe. This bird never leaves the quiet inland sounds. 
When disturbed it dives to a distance, and on coming to the surface, 
with the same movement takes flight. After flying by the rapid 
movement of its short wings for a space in a straight line, it drops, 
as if struck dead, and dives again, The form of its beak and 


nostrils, length of foot, and even the colouring of its plumage, show 
that this bird is a petrel : on the other hand, its short wings and 
consequent little power of flight, its form of body and shape of tail, 
the absence of a hind toe to its foot, its habit of diving, and its 
choice of situation, make it at first doubtful whether its relation- 
ship is not equally close with the auks. It would undoubtedly be 
mistaken for an auk, when seen from a distance, either on the wing, 
or when diving and quietly swimming about the retired channels of 
Tierra del Fuego. 

1835.] CHILOE. 279 


Sau Carlos, Chiloe Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with Acon- 
cagua and Coscguina Ride to Cucao Impenetrable Forests Valdivia 
Indians Earthquake Concepcion Great Earthquake Kocks fissured 
Appearance of the former Towns The Sea Black and Boiling Direc- 
tion of the Vibrations Stones twisted round Great Wave Permanent 
Elevation of the Land Area of Volcanic Phenomena The connection 
between the Elevatory and Eruptive Forces Cause of Earthquakes 
Slow Elevation of Mountain-chains. 


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

I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in Chile, 
480 miles northwards, was in action on the same night ; and still 
more surprised to hear that the great eruption of Coseguina 
(2700 miles north of Aconcagua), accompanied by an earthquake 

280 CHILOE. 

felt over a 1000 miles, also occurred within six hours of this same 
time. This coincidence is the more remarkable, as Coseguina had 
been dormant for twenty-six years; and Aconcagua most rarely 
shows any signs of action. It is difficult even to conjecture 
whether this coincidence was accidental, or shows some subter- 
ranean connection. If Vesuvius, Etna, and Hecla in Iceland (all 
three relatively nearer each other than the corresponding points in 
South America) suddenly burst forth in eruption on the same nighl, 
the coincidence would be thought remarkable ; but it is far more 
remarkable in this case, where the three vents fall on the same 
great mountain-chain, and where the vast plains along the entire 
eastern coast, and the upraised recent shells along more than 2000 
miles on the western coast, show in how equable and connected a 
manner the elevatory forces have acted. 

Captain Fitz Eoy being anxious that some bearings should be 
taken on the outer coast of Chiloe, it was planned that Mr. King 
and myself should ride to Castro, and thence across the island to 
the Capella de Cucao, situated on the west coast. Having hired 
horses and a guide, we set out on the morning of the 22nd. We 
had not proceeded far, before we were joined by a woman and t\vo 
boys, who were bent on the same journey. Every one on this road 
acts on a " hail fellow well met " fashion ; and one may here enjoy 
the privilege, so rare in South America, of travelling without fire- 
arms. At first, the country consisted of a succession of hills and 
valleys: nearer to Castro it became very level. The road itself is 
a curious affair; it consists in its whole length, with the exception 
of very few parts, of great logs of wood, which are either broad and 
luid longitudinally, or narrow and placed transversely. In summer 
the road is not very bad; but in winter, when the wood is rendered 
slippery from rain, travelling is excetdingly difficult. At that time 
of the year, the ground on each side becomes a morass, and is often 
overflowed : hence it is necessary that the longitudinal logs should 
be fastened down by transverse poles, which are pegged on each 
side into the earth. These pegs render a fall from a horse dan- 
gerous, as the chance of alighting on one of them is not small. It 
is remarkable, however, how active custom has made" the Chilotan 
horses. In crossing bad parts, where the logs had been displaced, 
they skipped from one to the other, almost with the quickness and 
certainty of a dog. On both hands the road is bordered by the 
lofty forest-trees, with their bases matted together by canes. When 

18H5.] OHILOE. 281 

occasionally a long reach of this avennc could be behold, it pre- 
sented a carious scsnc of uniformity : the white line of logs, narrow- 
ing in perspective, became hidden by the gloomy forest, or terminated 
in a zigzag which ascended some steep hill. 

Although the distance from S. Carlos to Castro is only twelve 
leagues in a straight line, the formation of the road must have 
been a great labour. I was told that several people had formerly 
lost their lives in attempting to cross the forest. The first who 
succeeded was an Indian, who cut his way through the canes in 
eight days, and reached S. Carlos: he was rewarded by the Spanish 
government with a grant of land. During the summer, many of 
the Indians wander about the forests (but chiefly in the higher 
parts, where the woods are not quite so thick) in search of the 
half-wild cattle which live on the leaves of the cane and certain 
trees. It was one of these huntsmen who by chance discovered, 
a few years since, an English vessel, which had been wrecked on 
the outer coast. The crew were beginning to fail in provisions, 
and it is not probable that, without the aid of this man, they 
would ever have extricated themselves from these scarcely pene- 
trable woods. As it was, one seaman died on the march, from 
fatigue. The Indians in these excursions steer by the sun ; so that 
if there is a continuance of cloudy weather, they cannot travel. 

The day was beautiful, and the number of trees which were in 
full flower perfumed the air; yet even this could hardly dissipate 
the effect of the gloomy dampness of the forest. Moreover, the 
many dead trunks that stand like skeletons, never fail to give to 
these primeval woods a character of solemnity, absent in those of 
countries long civilized. Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for 
the night. Our female companion, who was rather good-looking, 
belonged to one of the most respectable families in Castro: she 
rode, however, astride, and without shoes or stockings. I was 
surprised at the total want of pride shown by her and her brother. 
They brought food with them, but at all oiir meals sat watching 
Mr. King and myself whilst eating, till we were fairly shamed into 
feeding the whole party. The night was cloudless; and while 
lying in our beds, we enjoyed the sight (and it is a high enjoy- 
ment) of the multitude of stars which illumined the darkness of 
the forest. 

January 23>'d. We rose early in the morning, and reached the 
pretty quiet town of Castro by two o'clock. The old governor had 

282 CHILOE. [CHAP. xiv. 

died since our last visit, and a Chileno was acting in his place, 
We had a letter of introduction to Don Pedro, whom we found 
exceedingly hospitable and kind, and moi-e disintei-ested than is 
usual on this side of the continent. The next day Don Pedro 
procured us fresh horses, and offered to accompany us himself. 
We proceeded to the south generally following the coast, and 
passing through several hamlets, each with its large barn-like 
chapel built of wood. At Vilipilli, Don Pedro asked the com- 
mandant to give us a guide to Cucao. The old gentleman offered 
to come himself; but for a long time nothing would persuade him 
that two Englishmen really wished to go to such an out-of-the- 
way place as Cucao. We were thus accompanied by the two 
greatest aristocrats in the country, as was plainly to be seen in 
the manner of all the poorer Indians towards them. At Chonchi 
we struck across the island, following intricate winding paths, 
sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and sometimes 
through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn and potato 
crops. This undulating woody country, partially cultivated, re- 
minded me of the wilder parts of England, and therefore had to 
my eye a most fascinating aspect. At Vilinco, which is situated 
on the borders of the lake of Cucao, only a few fields were cleared ; 
and all the inhabitants appeared to be Indians. This lake is 
twelve miles long, and runs in an east and west direction. From 
local circumstances, the sea-breeze blows very regularly during 
the day, and during the night it falls calm : this has given rise 
to strange exaggerations, for the phenomenon, as described to us 
at S. Carlos, was quite a prodigy. 

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to 
embark in a periagua. The commandant, in the most authoritative 
manner, ordered six Indians to get ready to pull us over, without 
deigning to tell them whether they woiild be paid. The periagua 
is a strange rough boat, but the crew were still stranger : I doubt 
if six uglier little men ever got into a boat together. They pulled, 
however, very well and cheerfully. The stroke-oarsman gabbled 
Indian, and uttered strange cries, much after the fashion of a pig- 
driver driving his pigs. We started with a light breeze against 
us, but yet reached the Capella de Cucao before it was late. The 
country on each side of the lake was one unbroken forest. In the 
same periagua with us, a cow was embarked. To get so large an 
animal into a small boat appears at first a difficulty, but the 

1835.] RIDE TO CUOAO. 283 

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

The district of Cucao is the only inhabited part on the whole 
west coast of Chiloe. It contains about thirty or forty Indian 
families, who are scattered along four or five miles of the shore. 
They are very much secluded from the rest of Chiloe, and have 
scarcely any sort of commerce, except sometimes in a little oil, 
which they get from seal-blubber. They are tolerably dressed in 
clothes of their own 'manufacture, and they have plenty to eat. 
They seemed, however, discontented, yet humble to a degree which 
it was quite painful to witness. These feelings are, I think, chiefly 
to be attributed to the harsh and authoritative manner in which 
they are treated by their rulers. Our companions, although so 
very civil to us, behaved to the poor Indians as if they had been 
slaves, rather than free men. They ordered provisions and the 
use of their horses, without ever condescending to say how much, 
or indeed whether the owners should be paid at all. In. the 
morning, being left alone with these poor people, we soon ingra- 
tiated ourselves by presents of cigars and mate. A lump of white 
sugar was divided between all present, and tasted with the greatest 
curiosity. The Indians ended all their complaints by saying, 
" And it is only because we are poor Indians, and know nothing ; 
but it was not so when we had a King." 

The next day after breakfast, we rode a few miles northward 
to Punta Huantamo. The road lay along a very broad beach, 
on which, even after so many fine days, a terrible surf was break- 
ing. I was assured that after a heavy gale, the roar can be heard 
at night even at Castro, a distance of no less than twenty-one sea- 
miles across a hilly and wooded country. We had some difficulty 
in reaching the point, owing to the intolerably bad paths; for 
everywhere in the shade the ground soon becomes a perfect quag- 
mire. The point itself is a bold rocky hill. It is covered by a 
plant allied, I believe, to Bromelia, and called by the inhabitants 
Chepones. In scrambling through the beds, our hands were very 


much scratched. I was amused by observing the precaution our 
Indian guide took, in turning up his trousers, thinking that they 
were more delicate than his own hard skin. This plant bears a 
fruit, in shape like an artichoke, in which a number of seed-vessels 
are packed: these contain a pleasant sweet pulp, here nmch 
esteemed. I saw at Low's Harbour the Chilotans making chichi, 
ov cider, with this fruit : so true is it, as Humboldt remarks, that 
almost everywhere man finds means of preparing some kind of 
1 .overage from the vegetable kingdom. The savages, however, 
of Tierva del Fuego, and I believe of Australia, have not advanced 
ilms far in the arts. 

The coast to the north of Punta Huautamo is exceedingly rugged 
and broken, and is fronted by many breakers, on which the sea is 
eternally roaring. Mr. King and myself were anxious to return, 
if it had been possible, on foot along this coast; but even the 
Indians said it was quite impracticable. We were told that men 
have crossed by striking directly through the woods from Cucao 
to S. Carlos, but never by the coast. On these expeditions, the 
Indians carry with them only roasted corn, and of this they eat 
sparingly twice a day. 

26th. Re-embarking in the periagua, we returned across the 
lake, and then mounted our horses. The whole of Chiloe took 
advantage of this week of unusually fine weather, to clear the 
ground by burning. In every direction volumes of smoke were 
curling upwards. Although the inhabitants were so assiduous 
in setting fire to every part of the wood, yet I did not see a single 
fire which they had succeeded in making extensive. We dined 
with our friend the commandant, and did not reach Castro till 
after dark. The next morning we started very early. After 
having ridden for some time, we obtained from the brow of a 
steep hill an extensive view (and it is a rare thing on this road) 
of the great forest. Over the horizon of trees, the volcano of 
Corcovado, and the great flat-topped one to the north, stood out 
in proud pre-eminence : scarcely another peak in the long range 
showed its snowy summit. I hope it will be long before I forget 
this farewell view of the magnificent Cordillera fronting Chiloe. 
At night we bivouacked under a cloudless sky, and the next 
morning reached S. Carlos. We arrived on the right day, for 
before evening heavy rain commenced. 

February 4^. Sailed from Chiloe. During the last week I 

1835.] VALDIVIA. 285 

made several short excursions. One was to examine a great bed of 
now-existing shells, elevated 350 feet above the level of the sea : 
from among these shells, large forest-trees were growing. Another 
ride was to P. Huechucucuy. I had with me a guide who knew 
the country far too well ; for he would pertinaciously tell me 
endless Indian names for every little point, rivulet, and creek. 
In the same manner as in Tierra del Fuego, the Indian language 
appears singularly well adapted for attaching names to the most 
trivial features of the land. I believe every one was glad to say 
farewell to Chiloe ; yet if we could forget the gloorn and ceaseless 
rain of winter, Chiloe might pass for a charming island. There is 
also something very attractive in the simplicity and humble polite- 
ness of the poor inhabitants. 

We steered northward along shore, but owing to thick weather 
did not reach Valdivia till the night of the 8th. The next morning 
the boat proceeded to the town, which is distant about ten miles. 
We followed the course of the river, occasionally passing a few 
hovels, and patches of ground cleared out of the otherwise unbroken 
forest; and sometimes meeting a canoe with an Indian family. 
The town is situated on the low banks of the stream, and is so 
completely buried in a wood of apple-trees that the streets are 
merely paths in an orchard. I have never seen any country, where 
apple-trees appeared to thrive so well as in this damp part of South 
America : on the borders of the roads there were many young 
trees evidently self-sown. In Chiloe the inhabitants possess a 
marvellously short method of making an orchard. At the lower 
part of almost every branch, small, conical, brown, wrinkled points 
project : these are always ready to change into roots, as may some- 
times be seen, where any mud has been accidentally splashed 
against the tree. A branch as thick as a man's thigh is chosen in 
the early spring, and is cut off just beneath a group of these points; 
all the smaller branches are lopped off, and it is then placed about 
two feet deep in the ground. During the ensuing summer the 
stump throws out long shoots, and sometimes even bears fruit : I 
was shown one which had produced as many as twenty-three 
apples, but this was thought very unusual. In the third season 
the stump is changed (as I have myself seen) into a well-wooded 
tree, loaded with fruit. An old man near Valdivia illustrated 
his motto, " Necesidad es la madre del invention," by giving an 
account of the several useful things ho manufactured from his 

286 VALDIVIA. [CHAP. xiv. 

apples. After making cider, aud likewise wine, he extracted from 
the refuse a white and finely flavoured spirit ; by another process 
he procured a sweet treacle, or, as he called it, honey. His children 
and pigs seemed almost to live, during this season of the year, in 
his orchard. 

February llth. I set out with a guide on a short ride, in which, 
however, I managed to see singularly little, either of the geology 
of the country or of its inhabitants. There is not much cleared 
land near Valdivia : after crossing a river at the distance of a few 
miles, we entered the forest, and then passed only one miserable 
hovel, before reaching our sleeping-place for the night. The short 
difference in latitude, of 150 miles, has given a new aspect to the 
forest, compared with that of Chiloe. This is owing to a slightly 
different proportion in the kinds of trees. The evergreens do not 
appear to be quite so numerous, and the forest in consequence has 
a brighter tint. As in Chiloe, the lower parts are matted together 
by canes : here also another kind (resembling the bamboo of Brazil 
and about twenty feet in height) grows in clusters, and ornaments 
the banks of some of the streams in a very pretty manner. It is 
with this plant that the Indians make their chuzos, or Jong taper- 
ing spears. Our resting-house was so dirty that I preferred sleeping 
outside : on these journeys the first night is generally very un- 
comfortable, because one is not accustomed to the tickling and 
biting of the fleas. I am sure, in the morning, there was not a space 
on my legs of the size of a shilling which had not its little red mark 
where the flea had feasted. 

12/i. "We continued to ride through the uncleared forest ; only 
occasionally meeting an Indian on horseback, or a troop of fine 
mules bringing alerce-planks and corn from the southern plains. 
In the afternoon one of the horses knocked up : we were then on 
a brow of a hill, which commanded a fine view of the Llanos. The 
view of these open plains was very refreshing, after being hemmed 
in and buried in the wilderness of trees. The uniformity of a forest 
soon becomes very wearisome. This west coast makes me remember 
with pleasure the free, unbounded plains of Patagonia ; yet, with 
the true spirit of contradiction, I cannot forget how sublime is the 
silence of the forest. The Llanos are the most fertile and thickly 
peopled parts of the country, as they possess the immense 
advantage of being nearly free from trees. Before leaving the 
forest we crossed some flat little lawns, around which single trees 


stood, as in an English park : I have often noticed with surprise, 
in wooded undulatory districts, that the quite level parts have been 
destitute of trees. On account of the tired horse, I determined to 
stop at the Mission of Cudico, to the friar of which I had a letter 
of introduction. Cudico is an intermediate district between the 
forest and the Llanos. There are a good many cottages, with 
patches of corn and potatoes, nearly all belonging to Indians. The 
tribes dependent on Valdivia are "reducidos y cristianos." The 
Indians farther northward, about Arauco and Imperial, are still 
very wild, and not converted ; but they have all much intercourse 
with the Spaniards. The padre said that the Christian Indians 
did not much like coming to mass, but that otherwise they showed 
respect for religion. The greatest difficulty is in making them 
observe the ceremonies of marriage. The wild Indians take as 
many wives as they can support, and a cacique will sometimes 
have more than ten : on entering his house, the number may be 
told by that of the separate fires. Each wife lives a week in turn 
with the cacique ; but all are employed in weaving ponchos, etc., 
for his profit. To be the wife of a cacique, is an honour much 
sought after by the Indian women. 

The men of all these tribes wear a coarse woollen poncho : those 
south of Valdivia wear short trousers, and those north of it a petti- 
coat, like the chilipa of the Gauchos. All have their long hair 
bound by a scarlet fillet, but with no other covering on their heads. 
These Indians are good-sized men; their cheek-bones are prominent, 
and in general appearance they resemble the great American family 
to which they belong ; but their physiognomy seemed to me to be 
slightly different from that of any other tribe which I had before 
seen. Their expression is generally grave, and even austere, and 
possesses much character : this may pass either for honest bluntness 
or fierce determination. The long black hair, the grave and much- 
lined features, and the dark complexion, called to my mind old 
portraits of James I. On the road we met with none of that humble 
politeness so universal in Chiloe. Some gave their " mari-mari " 
(good morning) with promptness, but the greater number did not 
seem inclined to offer any salute. This independence of manners is 
probably a consequence of their long wars, and the repeated victories 
which they alone, of all the tribes in America, have gained over the 
I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the padre. He 

288 VALDIVIA. [CHAP. xiv. 

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

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of officers, 
and lauded near the fort called Niebla. The buildings were in a 
most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages quite rotten. Mr. Wickham 
remarked to the commanding officer, that with one discharge they 
would certainly all fall to pieces. The poor man, trying to put a 
good face upon it, gravely replied, " No, I am sure, sir, they would 
stand two ! " The Spaniards must have intended to have made this 
place impregnable. There is now lying in the middle of the court- 
yard a little mountain of mortar, which rivals in hardness the rock 
on which it is placed. It was brought from Chile, and costs 7000 
dollars. The revolution having broken out, prevented its being 
applied to any purpose, and now it remains a monument of the 
fallen greatness of Spain. 

I wanted to go to a house about a mile and a half distant, but my 
guide said it was quite impossible to penetrate the wood in a straight 
line, lie offered, however, to lead me, by following obscure cattle- 


tracks, the shortest way : the walk, nevertheless, took no less than 
three hours ! This man is employed iu hunting strayed cattle ; yet, 
well as he must know the woods, he was not long since lost for two 
whole days, and had nothing to eat. These facts convey a good 
idea of the impracticability of the forests of these countries. A 
question often occurred to me how long does any vestige of a 
fallen tree remain ? This man showed me one which a party of 
fugitive royalists had cut down fourteen years ago ; and taking this 
as a criterion, I should think a bole a foot and a half in diameter 
would in thirty years be changed into a heap of mould. 

February %Qth. This day has been memorable in the annals of 
Valdivia, for the most severe earthquake experienced by the oldest 
inhabitant. I happened to be on shore, and was lying down in the 
wood to rest myself. It came on suddenly, and lasted two minutes, 
but the time appeared much longer. The rocking of the ground 
was very sensible. The undulations appeared to nay companion 
and myself to come from due east, whilst others thought they pro- 
ceeded from south-west : this shows how difficult it sometimes is to 
perceive the direction of the vibrations. There was no difficulty in 
standing upright, but the motion made me almost giddy : it was 
something like the movement of a vessel in a little cross-ripple, or 
still more like that felt by a person skating over thin ice, which 
bends under the weight of his body. 

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



great waves, to high-water mark, and then as quickly returned to 
its proper level ; this was also evident by the line of wet sand. This 
same kind of quick but quiet movement in the tide happened a 
few years since at Chiloe, during a slight earthquake, and created 
much causeless alarm. In the course of the evening there were 
many weaker shocks, which seemed to produce in the harbour the 
most complicated currents, and some of great strength. 

Uh. We entered the harbour of Concepcion. While the 
ship was beating up to the anchorage, I landed on the island of 
Quiriquina. The mayor-domo of the estate quickly rode down to 
tell me the terrible news of the great earthquake of the 20th : 
" That not a house in Concepcion or Talcahuano (the port) was 
standing ; that seventy villages were destroyed ; and that a great 
wave had almost washed away the ruins of Talcuhuano." Of this 
latter statement I soon saw abundant proofs the whole coast being 
strewed over with timber and furniture as if a thousand ships had 
been wrecked. Besides chairs, tables, book-shelves, etc., in great 
numbers, there were several roofs of cottages, which had been 
transported almost whole. The storehouses at Talcahuano had 
been burst open, and great bags of cotton, yerba, and other valuable 
merchandise were scattered on the shore. During my walk round 
the island, I observed that numerous fragments of rock, which, 
from the marine productions adhering to them, must recently have 
been lying in deep water, had been cast up high on the beach ; one 
of these was six feet long, three broad, and two thick. 

The island itself as plainly showed the overwhelming power 
of the earthquake, as the beach did that of the consequent great 
wave. The ground in many parts was fissured in north and south 
lines, perhaps caused by the yielding of the parallel and steep sides 
of this narrow island. Some of the fissures near the cliffs were a 
yard wide. Many enormous masses had already fallen on the 
beach ; and the inhabitants thought that when the rains commenced 
far greater slips would happen. The effect of the vibration on the 
hard primary slate, Avhich composes the foundation of the island, 
was still more curious : the superfical parts of some narrow ridges 
were as completely shivered as if they had been blasted by gun- 
powder. This effect, which was rendered conspicuous by the fresh 
fractures and displaced soil, must be confined to near the surface, 
for otherwise; there would not exist a block of solid rock through- 


out Chile ; nor is this improbable, as it is known that the surface 
of a vibrating body is affected differently from the central part. It 
is, perhaps, owing to this same reason, that earthquakes do not cause 
quite such terrific havoc within deep mines as would be expected. 
I believe this convulsion has been more effectual in lessening the 
size of the island of Quiriquina, than the ordinary wear-and-tear of 
the sea and weather during the course of a whole century. 

The next day I landed at Talcahuano, and afterwards rode to 
Concepcion. Both towns presented the most awful yet interesting 
spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who had formerly known 
them, it possibly might have been still more impressive ; for the 
ruins were so mingled together, and the whole scene possessed so 
little the air of a habitable place, that it was scarcely possible to 
imagine its former condition. The earthquake commenced at half- 
past eleven o'clock in the forenoon. If it had happened in the 
middle of the night, the greater number of the inhabitants (which 
in this one province amount to many thousands) must have 
perished, instead of less than a hundred : as it was, the invariable 
practice of running out of doors at the first trembling of the 
ground, alone saved them. In Concepcion each house, or row of 
houses, stood by itself, a heap or line of ruins ; but in Talcahuano, 
owing to the great wave, little more than one layer of bricks, tiles, 
and timber, with here and there part of a wall left standing, could 
bo distinguished. From this circumstance Concepcion, although 
not so completely desolated, was a more terrible, and, if I may so 
call it, picturesque sight. The first shock was very sudden. The 
mayor-domo at Quiriquina told me, that the first notice he received 
of it, was finding both the horse he rode and himself, rolling together 
on the ground. Eising up, he was again thrown down. He also 
told me that some cows which were standing on the steep side of 
the island were rolled into the sea. The great wave caused the 
destruction of many cattle ; on one low island, near the head of the 
bay, seventy animals were washed off and drowned. It is generally 
thought that this has been the worst earthquake ever recorded in 
Chile ; but as the very severe ones occur only after long intervals, 
this cannot easily be known ; nor indeed would a much worse shock 
have made any great difference, for the ruin was now complete. 
Innumerable small tremblings followed the great earthquake, and 
within the first twelve days no less than three hundred were 

2 ( J2 CONCEPCIOtf. [CHAP, xiv. 

After viewing Concepcion, I cannot understand how the greater 
number of inhabitants escaped unhurt. The houses in many parts 
fell outwards; thus forming in the middle of the streets little 
hillocks of brickwork and rubbish. Mr. Bouse, the English consul, 
told us that he was at breakfast when the first movement warned 
him to run out. He had scarcely reached the middle of the court- 
yard, when one side of his house came thundering down. He 
retained presence of mind to remember, that if he once got on the 
top of that part which had already fallen, he would be safe. Not 
being able from the motion of the ground to stand, he crawled up 
on his hands and knees ; and no sooner had he ascended this little 
eminence, than the other side of the house fell in, the great beams 
sweeping close in front of his head. With his eyes blinded, and 
his mouth choked with the cloud of dust which darkened the sky, 
at last he gained the street. As shock succeeded shock, at the 
interval of a few minutes, no one dared approach the shattered 
ruins ; and no one knew whether his dearest friends and relations 
were not perishing from the want of help. Those who had saved 
any property were obliged to keep a constant watch, for thieves 
prowled about, and at each little trembling of the ground, with one 
hand they beat their breasts and cried " Misericordia ! " and then 
with the other filched what they could from the ruins. The 
thatched roofs fell over the fires, and flames burst forth in all parts. 
Hundreds knew themselves ruiued, and few had the means of pro- 
viding food for the day. 

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity of any 
country. If beneath England the now inert subterranean forces 
should exert those powers, which most assuredly in former geo- 
logical ages they have exerted, how completely would the entire 
condition of the country be changed! What would become of 
the lofty houses, thickly packed cities, great manufactories, tho 
beautiful public and private edifices? If the ne\v period of dis- 
turbance were first to commence by some great earthquake in the 
dead of the night, how terrific would be the carnage ! England 
would at once be bankrupt; all papers, records, and accounts 
would from that moment be lost. Government being unable to 
collect the taxes, and failing to maintain its authority, the hand of 
violence and rapine would remain uncontrolled. In every large 
town famine would go forth, pestilence and death following in its 

1835.] GEEAT WAVE. 293 

Shortly after the shock, a great wave was seen from the distance 
of three or four miles, approaching in the middle of the bay with 
a smooth outline; but along the shore it tore up cottages and trees, 
as it swept onwards with irresistible force. At the head of the bay 
it broke in a fearful line of white breakers, which rushed up to a 
height of 23 vertical feet above the highest spring-tides. Their 
force must have been prodigious ; for at the Fort a cannon with its 
carriage, estimated at four tons in weight, was moved 15 feet in- 
wards. A schooner was left in the midst of the ruins, 200 yards 
from the beach. The first wave was followed by two others, which 
in their retreat carried away a vast wreck of floating objects. In 
one part of the bay, a ship was pitched high and dry on shore, 
was carried off, again driven on shore, and again carried off. In 
another part, two large vessels anchored near together were whirled 
about, and their cables were thrice wound round each other : 
though anchored at a depth of 36 feet, they were for some minutes 
aground. The great wave must have travelled slowly, for the 
inhabitants of Talcahuano had time to run up the hills behind the 
town ; and some sailors pulled out seaward, trusting sitccessfully 
to their boat riding securely over the swell, if they could reach it 
before it broke. One old woman with a little boy, four or five 
years old, ran into a boat, but there was nobody to row it out : the 
boat was consequently dashed against an anchor and cut in twain ; 
the old woman was drowned, but the child was picked up some 
hours afterwards clinging to the wreck. Pools of salt-water were 
still standing amidst the ruins of the houses, and children, making 
boats with old tables and chairs, appeared as happy as their 
parents were miserable. It was, however, exceedingly interesting 
to observe, how much more active and cheerful all appeared than 
could have been expected. It was remarked with much truth, 
that from the destruction being universal, no one individual was 
humbled more than another, or could suspect his friends of cold- 
ness that most grievous result of the loss of wealth. Mr. House, 
and a large party whom he kindly took under his protection, lived 
for the first week in a garden beneath some apple-trees. At first 
they were as merry as if it had been a picnic ; but soon afterwards 
heavy rain caused much discomfort, for they were absolutely with- 
out shelter. 

In Captain Fitz Roy's excellent account of the earthquake, it is 
said that two explosions, one like a column of smoke and another 

294 CONCEPCIOX. [CHAP. xiv. 

like tbc blowing of a great whale, were seen in the bay. The 
water also appeared everywhere to be boiling; and it "became 
black, and exhaled a most disagreeable sulphureous smell." These 
latter circumstances were observed in the Bay of Valparaiso during 
the earthquake of 1822 ; they may, I think, be accounted for, by 
the disturbance of the mud at the bottom of the sea containing 
organic matter in decay. In the Bay of Callao, during a calm day, 
I noticed, that as the ship dragged her cable over the bottom, its 
course was marked by a line of bubbles. The lower orders in 
Talcahuano thought that the earthquake was caused by some old 
Indian women, who two years ago, being offended, stopped the 
volcano of Antuco. This silly belief is curious, because it shows 
that experience has taught them to observe, that there exists a 
relation between the suppressed action of the volcanos, and the 
trembling of the ground. It was necessary to apply the witchcraft 
to the point where their perception of cause and effect failed ; and 
this was the closing of the volcanic vent. This belief is the more 
singular in this particular instance, because, according to Captain 
Fitz Roy, there is reason to believe that Antuco was noways 

The town of Concepcion was built in the usual Spanish fashion, 
with all the streets running at right angles to each other ; one set 
ranging S.W. by W., and the other set N.W. by N. The walls in 
the former direction certainly stood better than those in the latter ; 
the greater number of the masses of brickwork were thrown down 
towards the N.E. Both these circumstances perfectly agree with 
the general idea, of the undulations having come from the S.W., 
in which quarter subterranean noises were also heard; for it is 
evident that the walls running S.W. and N.E. which presented 
their ends to the point whence the undulations came, would be 
much less likely to fall than those walls which, running N.W. and 
S.E., must in their whole lengths have been at the same instant 
thrown out of the perpendicular ; for the undulations, coming from 
the S.W., must have extended in N.W. and S.E. waves, as they 
passed under the foundations. This may be illustrated by placing 
books edgeways on a carpet, and then, after the manner suggested 
by Michell, imitating the undulations of an earthquake : it will be 
found that they fall with more or less readiness, according as their 
direction more or less nearly coincides with the line of the waves. 
The fissures in the ground generally, though not uniformly, ex- 


tended iii a S.E. and N.W. direction, and therefore corresponded 
to the lines of undulation or of principle flexure. Bearing in mind 
all these circumstances, which so clearly point to the S.W. as the 
chief focus of disturbance, it is a very interesting fact that the 
island of S. Maria, situated in that quarter, was, during the general 
uplifting of the land, raised to nearly three times the height of any 
other part of the coast. 

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to their 
direction, was well exemplified in the case of the Cathedral. The 
side which fronted the N.E. presented a grand pile of ruins, in the 
midst of which door-cases and masses of timber stood up, as if 
floating in a stream. Some of the angular blocks of brickwork 
were of great dimensions ; and they were rolled to a distance on 
the level plaza, like fragments of rock at the base of some high 
mountain. The side walls (running S.W. and N.E.), though ex- 
ceedingly fractured, yet remained standing; but the vast buttresses 
(at right angles to them, and therefore parallel to the walls that 
fell) were in many cases cut clean off, as if by a chisel, and hurled 
to the ground. Some square ornaments on the coping of these 
same walls, were moved by the earthquake into a diagonal position. 
A similar circumstance was observed after an earthquake at 
Valparaiso, Calabria, and other places, including some of the 
ancient Greek temples.* This twisting displacement, at first ap- 
pears to indicate a vorticose movement beneath each point thus 
affected ; but this is highly improbable. May it not be caused by 
a tendency in each stone to arrange itself in some particular posi- 
tion, with respect to the lines of vibration, in a manner somewhat 
similar to pins on a sheet of paper when shaken? Generally 
speaking, arched doorways or windows stood much better than any 
other part of the buildings. Nevertheless, a poor lame old man, 
who had been in the habit, during trifling shocks, of crawling to a 
certain doorway, was this time crushed to pieces. 

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of the 
appearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite impossible to 
convey the mingled feelings which I experienced. Several of the 
officers visited it before me, but their strongest language failed to 
give a just idea of the scene of desolation. It is a bitter and 
humiliating thing to see works, which have cost man so much time 

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

296 CONCEPCIOX. [CHAP. xiv. 

and labour, overthrown in one minute; yet compassion for the 
inhabitants was almost instantly banished, by the surprise in see- 
jug a state of things produced in a moment of time, which one was 
accustomed to attribute to a succession of ages. In my opinion, 
we have scarcely beheld, since leaving England, any sight so deeply 

In almost every severe earthquake, the neighbouring waters of 
the sea are said to have been greatly agitated. The disturbance 
seems generally, as in the case of Concepcion, to have been of two 
kinds : first, at the instant of the shock, the water swells high up 
on the beach with a gentle motion, and then as quietly retreats ; 
secondly, some time afterwards, the whole body of the sea retires 
from the coast, and then returns in waves of overwhelming force. 
The first movement seems to be an immediate consequence of the 
earthquake affecting differently a fluid and a solid, so that their 
respective levels are slightly deranged : but the second case is a far 
more important phenomenon. During most earthquakes, and 
especially during those on the west coast of America, it is certain 
that the first great movement of the waters has been a retirement. 
Some authors have attempted to explain this, by supposing that 
the water retains its level, whilst the land oscillates upwards ; but 
surely the water close to the land, even on a rather steep coast, 
would partake of the motion of the bottom: moreover, as urged 
by Mr. Lyell, similar movements of the sea have occurred at 
islands far distant from the chief line of disturbance, as was the 
case with Juan Fernandez during this earthquake, and with Ma- 
deira during the famous Lisbon shock. I suspect (but the subject 
is a very obscure one) that a wave, however produced, first draws 
the water from the shore, on which it is advancing to break : I have 
observed that this happens with the little waves from the paddles 
of a steam-boat. It is remarkable that whilst Talcahuano and 
Callao (near Lima), both situated at the head of large shallow bays, 
have suffered during every severe earthquake from great waves, 
Valparaiso, seated close to the edge of profoundly deep water, has 
never been overwhelmed, though so often shaken by the severest 
shocks. From the great wave not immediately following the 
earthquake, but sometimes after the interval of even half an hour, 
and from distant islands being affected similarly with the coasts 
near the focus of the disturbance, it appears that the wave first 
rises in the offing ; and as this is of general occurrence, the cause 


must be general : I suspect we must look to the line, where the 
less disturbed waters of the deep ocean join the water nearer 
the coast, which has partaken of the movements of the land, as the 
place where the great wave is first generated ; it would also appear 
that the wave is larger or smaller, according to the extent of shoal 
water which has been agitated together with the bottom on which 
it rested. 

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

inied or caused the earthquake of this year, and likewise by 
insensibly slow rise, which is certainly in progress on some 

xrts of this coast. 

The island of Juan Fernandez, 360 miles to the N.E., was, at the 
time of the great shock of the 20th, violently shaken, so that the 

rees beat against each other, and a volcano burst forth under water 
3lose to the shore : these facts are remarkable because this island, 
luring the earthquake of 1751, was then also affected more 
violently than other places at an equal distance from Concepcion, 
ind this seems to show some subterranean connection between 
these two points. Chiloe, about 340 miles southward of Concep- 
cion, appears to have been shaken more strongly than the inter- 


mediate district of Valdivia, where the volcano of Villarica was 
noways affected, whilst in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe, two 
of the volcanos burst forth at the same instant in violent action. 
These two volcanos, and some neighbouring ones, continued for 
a long time in eruption, and ten months afterwards were again 
influenced by an earthquake at Concepcion. Some men, cutting 
wood near the base of one of these volcanos, did not perceive the 
shock of the 20th, although the whole surrounding Province was 
then trembling; here we have an eruption relieving and taking 
the place of an earthquake, as would have happened at Concepcion, 
according to the belief of the lower orders, if the volcano at Antuco 
had not been closed by witchcraft. Two years and three quarters 
afterwards, Valdivia and Chiloe were again shaken, more violently 
than on the 20th, and an island in the Chonos Archipelago was 
permanently elevated more than eight feet. It will give a better 
idea of the scale of these phenomena, if (as in the case of the 
glaciers) we suppose them to have taken place at corresponding 
distances in Europe : then would the land from the North Sea to 
the Mediterranean have been violently shaken, and at the same 
instant of time a large tract of the eastern coast of England would 
have been permanently elevated, together with some outlying 
islands, a train of volcanos on the coast of Holland would have 
burst forth in action, and an eruption taken place at the bottom 
of the sea, near the northern extremity of Ireland and lastly, the 
ancient vents of Auvergne, Cantal, and Mont d'Or would each 
have sent up to the sky a dark column of smoke, and have long 
remained in fierce action. Two years and three quarters after- 
wards, France, from its centre to the English Channel, would have 
been again desolated by an earthquake, and an island permanently 
upraised in the Mediterranean. 

The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 20th was 
actually erupted, is 720 miles in one line, and 400 miles in another 
line at right angles to the first : hence, in all probability, a sub- 
terranean lake of lava is here stretched out, of nearly double the 
area of the Black Sea. From the intimate and complicated man- 
ner in which the elevatory and eruptive forces were shown to be 
connected during this train of phenomena, we may confidently 
come to the conclusion, that the forces which slowly and by little 
starts uplift continents, and those which at successive periods pour 
forth volcanic matter from open orifices, are identical. From many 


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

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



Valparaiso Portillo Pass Sagacity of Mules Mountain-torrents 
Mines, how discovered Proofs of the gradual Elevation of the Cordillera 
Effect of Snow on Eocks Geological Structure of the two main 
Ranges, their distinct Origin and Upheaval Great Subsidence Rod 
Snow Winds Pinnacles of Snow Dry and clear Atmosphere 
Electricity Pampas Zoology of the opposite Side of the Andes 
Locusts Great Bugs Mendoza Uspallata Pass Silicified Trees 
buried as they grew Incas Bridge Badness of the Passes exagge- 
rated Cumbre Casuohas Valparaiso. 


March 7th, 1835. We stayed three days at Concepcion, and then 
sailed for Valparaiso. The wind being northerly, we only reached 
the mouth of the harbour of Concepcion before it was dark. Being 
very near the land, and a fog coming on, the anchor was dropped. 
Presently a large American whaler appeared alongside of us ; and 
we heard the Yankee swearing at his men to keep quiet, whilst 
he listened for the breakers. Captain Fitz Roy hailed him, in a 
loud clear voice, to anchor where he then was. The poor man 
must have thought the voice came from the shore : such a Babel 
of cries issued at once from the ship every one hallooing out, 
" Let go the anchor ! veer cable ! shorten sail ! '' It was the most 
laughable thing I ever heard. If the ship's crew had been all 
captains, and no men, there could not have been a greater uproar 
of orders. We afterwards found that the mate stuttered : I suppose 
all hands were assisting him in giving his orders. 

On the llth we anchored at Valparaiso, and two days afterwards 
I set out to cross the Cordillera. I proceeded to Santiago, where 
Mr. Caldcleugh most kindly assisted me in every possible way in 
making the little preparations which were necessary. In this part 
of Chile there are two passes across the Andes to Mendoza : the 
one most commonly used namely, that of Aconcagua or Uspallata 

1835.] PORTILLO PASS. 301 

is situated some way to the north; the other, called the Portillo, 
is to the south, and nearer, but more lofty and dangerous. 

March 18th. We set out for the Portillo pass. Leaving Santiago 
we crossed the wide burnt-up plain on which that city stands, and 
in the afternoon arrived at the Maypu, one of the principal rivers 
in Chile. The valley, at the point where it enters the first Cor- 
dillera, is bounded on each side by lofty barren mountains ; and 
although not broad, it is very fertile. Numerous cottages were 
surrounded by vines, and by orchards of apple, nectarine, and peach- 
trees their boughs breaking with the weight of the beautiful ripe 
fruit. In the evening we passed the custom-house, where our 
luggage was examined. The frontier of Chile is better guarded by 
the Cordillera, than by the waters of the sea. There are very few 
valleys which lead to the central ranges, and the mountains are 
quite impassable in other parts by beasts of burden. The cus- 
tom-house officers were very civil, which was perhaps partly owing 
to the passport which the President of the Eepublic had given me ; 
but I must express my admiration at the natural politeness of 
almost every Chileno. In this instance, the contrast with the 
same class of men in most other countries was strongly marked. I 
may mention an anecdote with which I was at the time much 
pleased : we met near Mendoza a little and very fat negress, riding 
astride on a mule. She had a goitre so enormous that it was 
scarcely possible to avoid gazing" at her for a moment ; but my two 
companions almost instantly, by way of apology, made the common 
salute of the country by taking off their hats. Where would one 
of the lower or higher classes in Europe, have shown such feeling 
politeness to a poor and miserable object of a degraded race ? 

At night we slept at a cottage. Our manner of travelling was 
delightfully independent. In the inhabited parts we bought a 
little firewood, hired pasture for the animals, and bivouacked in 
the corner of the same field with them. Carrying an iron pot, 
we cooked and ate our supper under a cloudless sky, and knew 
no trouble. My companions were Mariano Gonzales, who had 
formerly accompanied me in Chile, and an "arriero," with his 
ten mules and a " madrina." The madrina (or godmother) is a 
most important personage : she is an old steady mare, with a little 
bell round her neck; and wherever she goes, the mules, like 
good children, follow her. The affection of these animals for their 
madrinas saves infinite trouble. If several large troops arc turned 


into one field to graze, in the morning the muleteers have only to 
lead the madrinas a little apart, and tinkle their bells; and 
although there may be two or three hundred together, each mule 
immediately knows the bell of its own madrina, and comes to her. 
It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule ; for if detained for 
several hours by force, she will, by the power of smell, like a 
dog, track out her companions, or rather the madrina, for, accord- 
ing to the muleteer, she is the chief object of affection. The feel- 
ing, however, is not of an individual nature ; for I believe I am 
right in saying that any animal with a bell will serve as a madrina. 
In a troop each animal carries on a level road, a cargo weighing 
416 pounds (more than 29 stone), but in a mountainous country 100 
pounds less ; yet with what delicate slim limbs, without any pro- 
portional bulk of muscle, these animals support so great a burden ! 
The mule always appears to me a most surprising animal. That a 
hybrid should possess more reason, memory, obstinacy, social 
affection, powers of muscular endurance, and length of life, than 
..cither of its parents, seems to indicate that art has here outdone 
nature. Of our ten animals, six were intended for riding, and four 
for carrying cargoes, each taking turn about. We carried a good 
deal of food, in case we should be snowed up, as the season was 
rather late for passing the Portillo. 

March l$th. We rode during this day to the last, and therefore 
most elevated, house in the yalley. The number of inhabitants 
became scanty ; but wherever water could be brought on the land, it 
was very fertile. All the main valleys in the Cordillera are charac- 
terized by having, on both sides, a fringe or terrace of shingle and 
sand, rudely stratified, and generally of considerable thickness. 
These fringes evidently once extended across the valleys, and were 
united ; and the bottoms of the valleys in northern Chile, where 
there are no streams, are thus smoothly filled up. On these fringes 
the roads are generally carried, for their surfaces are even, and 
they rise with a very gentle slope up the valleys : hence, also, they 
are easily cultivated by irrigation. They may be traced up to a 
height of between 7000 and 9000 feet, where they become hidden 
by the irregular piles of debris. At the lower end or mouths of 
the valleys, they are continuously united to those land-locked 
plains (also formed of shingle) at the foot of the main Cordillera, 
which I have described in a former chapter as charateristic of the 
scenery of Chile, and which were undoubtedly deposited when the 


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

The rivers which flow in these valleys ought rather to be called 
mountain-torrents. Their inclination is very great, and their 
water the colour of mud. The roar which the Maypu made, as 
it rushed over the great rounded fragments, was like that of the 
sea. Amidst the din of rushing waters, the noise from the stones, 
as they rattled one over another, was most distinctly audible even 
from a distance. This rattling noise, night and day, may be heard 
along the whole course of the torrent. The sound spoke eloquently 
to the geologist ; the thousands and thousands of stones, which, 
striking against each other, made the one dull uniform sound, 
were all hurrying in one direction. It was like thinking on time, 
where the minute that now glides past is irrecoverable. So was it 
with these stones ; the ocean is their eternity, and each note of that 
wild music told of one more step towards their destiny. 

It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by a slow 
process, any effect which is produced by a cause repeated so often, 
that the multiplier itself conveys an idea, not more definite than 
the savage implies when he points to the hairs of his head. As 
often as I have seen beds of mud, sand, and shingle, accumulated 

304 PORTILLO PASS. tcii.\r. xv. 

to the thickness of many thousand feet, I have felt inclined to 
exclaim that causes, such as the present rivers and the present 
beaches, could never have ground down and produced such masses. 
But, on the other hand, when listening to the rattling noise of these 
torrents, and calling to mind that whole races of animals have 
passed away from the face of the earth, and that during this whole 
period, night and day, these stones have gone rattling onwards in 
their course, I have thought to myself, can any mountains, any 
continent, withstand such waste ? 

In this part of the valley, the mountains on each side were from 
3000 to 6000 or 8000 feet high, with rounded outlines and steep 
bare flanks. The general colour of the rock was dullish purple, 
and the stratification very distinct. If the scenery was not beautiful, 
it was remarkable and grand. We met during the day several 
herds of cattle, which men were driving down from the higher 
valleys in the Cordillera. This sign of the approaching winter 
hurried our steps, more than was convenient for geologizing. The 
house where we slept was situated at the foot of a mountain, on the 
summit of which are the mines of S. Pedro de Nolasko. Sir F. 
Head marvels how mines have been discovered in such extra- 
ordinary situations, as the bleak summit of the mountain of S. 
Pedro de Nolasko. In the first place, metallic veins in this country 
are generally harder than the surrounding strata: hence, during 
the gradual wear of the hills, they project above the surface of the 
ground. Secondly, almost every labourer, especially in the northern 
parts of Chile, understands something about the appearance of ores. 
In the great mining provinces of Coquimbo and Copiapo, firewood 
is very scarce, and men search for it over every hilt and dale ; and 
by this means nearly all the richest mines have there been discovered. 
Chanuncillo, from which silver to the value of many hundred 
thousand pounds has been raised in the course of a few years, 
was discovered by a man who threw a stone at his loaded donkey, 
and thinking that it was very heavy, he picked it up, and found 
it full of pure silver: the vein occurred at no great distance, 
standing up like a wedge of metal. The miners, also, taking 
a crowbar with them, often wander on Sundays over the moun- 
tains. In this south part of Chile, the men who drive cattle into 
the Cordillera, and who frequent every ravine where there is a little 
pasture, are the usual discoverers. 

20^. As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, with the 


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

I frequently observed, both in Tierra del Fuego and within the 
Andes, that where the rock was covered during the greater part of 
the year with snow, it was shivered in a very extraordinary manner 
into small angular fragments. Scoresby * has observed the same 
fact in Spitzbergen. The case appears to me rather obscure : for 
that part of the mountain which is protected by a mantle of snow, 
must be less subject to repeated and great changes of temperature 
than any other part. I haA'e sometimes thought, that the earth 
and fragments of stone on the surface, were perhaps less effectually 
removed by slowly percolating snow- water f than by rain, and 
therefore that the appearance of a quicker disintegration of the 
solid rock under the snow, was deceptive. Whatever the cause 
may be, the quantity of crumbling stone on the Cordillera is very 
great. Occasionally in the spring, great masses of this detritus 
slide down the mountains, and cover the snow-drifts in the valleys, 
thus forming natural ice-houses. We rode over one, the height of 
which was far below the limit of perpetual snow. 

* Scoresby's Arctic Eegions, vol. i. p. 122. 

t I have heard it remarked in Shropshire, that the water, when the 
Severn is flooded from long-continued rain, is much more turbid than 
when it proceeds from the snow melting in the Welsh mountains. 
D'Orbigny (torn. i. p. 184), in explaining the cause of the various colours 
of the rivers in South America, remarks that those with blue or clear water 
have their source in the Cordillera, where the snow melts. 


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

I will here give a very brief sketch of the geology of the several 
parallel lines forming the Cordillera. Of these lines, there are two 
considerably higher than the others ; namely, on the Chilian side, 
the Peuquenes ridge, which, where the road crosses it, is 13,210 
feet above the sea; and the Portillo ridge, on the Mendoza side, 
which is 14,305 feet. The lower beds of the Peuquenes ridge, and 
of the several great lines to the westward of it, are composed of a 
vast pile, many thousand feet in thickness, of porphyries which 
have flowed as submarine lavas, alternating with angular and 
rounded fragments of the same rocks, thrown out of the submarine 
craters. These alternating masses are covered in the central parts, 
by a great thickness of red sandstone, conglomerate, and calcareous 
clay-slate, associated with, and passing into, prodigious beds of 
gypsum. In these upper beds shells are tolerably frequent ; and 
they belong to about the period of the lower chalk of Europe. It 
is an old story, but not the less wonderful, to hear of shells which 
were once crawling on the bottom of the sea, now standing nearly 
14,000 feet above its level. The lower beds in this great pile of 
strata, have been dislocated, baked, crystallized and almost blended 
together, through the agency of mountain masses of a peculiar 
white soda-granitic rock. 

The other main line, namely, that of the Portillo, is of a totally 
different formation : it consists chiefly of grand bare pinnacles of 
a red potash-granite, which low down on the western flank aro 
covered by a sandstone, converted by the former heat into a quartz- 


rock. On the quartz, there rest beds of a conglomerate several 
thousand feet in thickness, which have been upheaved by the red 
granite, and dip at an angle of 45 towards the Peuqiaenes line. I 
was astonished to lind that this conglomerate was partly composed 
of pebbles, derived from the rocks, with their fossil shells, of the 
Peuquenes range; and partly of red potash-granite, like that of 
the Portillo. Hence we must conclude, that both the Peuquenes 
and Portillo ranges were partially upheaved and exposed to wear 
and tear, when the conglomerate was forming ; but as the beds of 
the conglomerate have been thrown off at an angle of 45 by the 
red Portillo granite (with the underlying sandstone baked by it), 
we may feel sure, that the greater part of the injection and upheaval 
of the already partially formed Portillo line, took place after the 
accumulation of the conglomerate, and long after the elevation of 
the Peuquenes ridge. So that the Portillo, the loftiest line in this 
part of the Cordillera, is not so old as the less lofty line of the 
Peuquenes. Evidence derived from an inclined stream of lava at 
the eastern base of the Portillo, might be adduced to show, that it 
owes part of its great height to elevations of a still later date. 
Looking to its earliest origin, the red granite seems to have been 
injected on an ancient pre-existing line of white granite and mica- 
slate. In most parts, perhaps in all parts, of the Cordillera, it may 
be concluded that each line has been formed by repeated upheavals 
and injections ; and that the several parallel lines are of different 
ages. Only thus can we gain time, at all siifficient to explain the 
truly astonishing amount of denudation, which these great, though 
comparatively with most other ranges recent, mountains havo 

Finally, the shells in the Peuquenes or oldest ridge, prove, as 
before remarked, that it has been upraised 14,000 feet since a 
Secondary period, which in Europe we are accustomed to consider 
as far from ancient ; but since these shells lived in a moderately 
deep sea, it can be shown that the area now occupied by the 
Cordillera, must have subsided several thousand feet in northern 
Chile as much as 6000 feet so as to have allowed that amount of 
submarine strata to have been heaped on the bed on which the 
shells lived. The proof is the same with that by which it was 
shown, that at a much later period since the tertiary shells of 
Patagonian lived, there must have been there a subsidence of 
several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing elevation. Daily it is 


forced home on the mind of the geologist, that nothing, not even 
the wind that blows, is so unstable as the level of the crust of this 

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

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes ridge, 
and then for the first time experienced some little difficulty in our 
respiration. The mules would halt every fifty yards, and after 
resting for a few seconds the poor willing animals started of their 
own accord again. The short breathing from the rarefied atmo- 
sphere is called by the Chilenos "puna;" and they have most 
ridiculous notions concerning its origin. Some say " all the waters 
here have puna ; " others that " where there is snow there is puna ; " 
and this no doubt is true. The only sensation I experienced was 
a slight tightness across the head and chest, like that felt on leaving 
a warm room and running quickly in frosty weather. There was 
some imagination even in this; for upon finding fossil shells on 
the highest ridge, I entirely forgot the puna in my delight. 
Certainly the exertion of walking was extremely great, and the 
respiration became deep and laborious : I am told that in Potosi 
(about 13,000 feet above the sea) strangers do not become 
thoroughly accustomed to the atmosphere for an entire year. 
The inhabitants all recommend onions for the puna; as this 
vegetable has sometimes been given in Europe for pectoral com- 
plaints, it may possibly be of real service : for my part I found 
nothing so good as the fossil shells ! 

1835.] BED SNOW. 309 

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

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

The wind on the crest of the Peuquenes, as just remarked, is 
generally impetuous and very cold: it is said* to blow steadily 
from the westward or Pacific side. As the observations have been 
chiefly made in summer, this wind must be an upper and return 
current. The Peak of Teneriffe, with a less elevation, and situated 
in lat. 28, in like manner falls within an upper return stream. At 

* Dr. Gillies in Journ. of Nat. and Geograph. Science, Aug., 1830. This 
author gives the heights of the Passes. 

310 PORTILLO PASS. [cn.\r. xv. 

first it appears rather surprising, that the trade-wind along the 
northern parts of Chile and on the coast of Peru, should blow in so 
very southerly a direction as it does ; but when we reflect that the 
Cordillera, running in a north and south line, intercepts, like a 
great wall, the entire depth of the lower atmospheric current, we 
can easily see that the trade-wind must be drawn northward, fol- 
lowing the line of mountains, towards the equatorial regions, and 
thus lose part of that easterly movement which it otherwise would 
have gained from the earth's rotation. At Mendoza, on the eastern 
foot of the Andes, the climate is said to be subject to long calms, 
and to frequent though false appearances of gathering rain-storms : 
wo may imagine that the wind, which coming from the eastward is 
thus banked up by the line of mountains, would become stagnant 
and irregular in its movements. 

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

At the place where we slept water necessarily boiled, from the 
diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a lower temperature than 
it does in a less lofty country ; the case being the converse of that 
of a Papin's digester. Hence the potatoes, after remaining for some 
hours in the boiling water, were nearly as hard as ever. The pot 

1835.] PINNACLES OF SNOW. 311 

was left on the fire all night, and next morning it was boiled again, 
but yet the potatoes were not cooked. I found out this, by over- 
hearing my two companions discussing the cause ; they had come 
to the simple conclusion, " that the cursed pot (which was a new 
one) did not choose to boil potatoes." 

March 22nd. After eating our potatoless breakfast, we travelled 
across the intermediate tract to the foot of the Portillo range. In 
the middle of summer cattle are brought up here to graze ; but 
they had now all been removed: even the greater number of the 
guanacos had decamped, knowing well that if overtaken here by a 
snow-storm, they would be caught in a trap. We had a fine view 
of a mass of mountains called Tupungato, the whole clothed with 
unbroken snow, in the midst of which there was a blue patch, no 
doubt a glacier ; a circumstance of rare occurrence in these moun- 
tains. Now commenced a heavy and long climb, similar to that 
of the Peuquenes. Bold conical hills of red granite rose on each 
hand ; in the valleys there were several broad fields of perpetual 
snow. These frozen masses, during the process of thawing, had in 
some parts been converted into pinnacles or columns,* which, as 
they were high and close together, made it difficult for the cargo 
mules to pass. On one of these columns of ice, a frozen horse was 
sticking as on a pedestal, but with its hind legs straight up in the 
air. The animal, I suppose, must have fallen with its head down- 
ward into a hole, when the snow was continuous, and afterwards 
the surrounding parts must have been removed by the thaw. 

When nearly on the crest of the Portillo, we were enveloped in a 
falling cloud of minute frozen spicula. This was very unfortunate, 
as it continued the whole day, and quite intercepted our view. The 
pass takes its name of Portillo, from a narrow cleft or doorway on 
the highest ridge, through which the road passes. From this 
point, on a clear day, those vast plains which uninterruptedly 
extend to the Atlantic Ocean, can be seen. We descended to the 
upper limit of vegetation, and found good quarters for the night 

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

312 TORTILLO PASS. tciiAi-. xv. 

under the shelter of some large fragments of rock. We met here 
some passengers, who made anxious inquiries about the state of 
the road. Shortly after it was dark the clouds suddenly cleared 
away, and the effect was quite magical. The great mountains, 
bright with the fall moon, seemed impending over us on all sides, 
as over a deep crevice : one morning, very early, I witnessed the 
same striking effect. As soon as the clouds were dispersed it froze 
severely ; but as there was no wind, we slept very comfortably. 

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this elevation, 
owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was very 
remarkable. Travellers having observed the difficulty of judging 
heights and distances amidst lofty mountains, have generally 
attributed it to the absence of objects of comparison. It appears 
to me, that it is fully as much owing to the transparency of the air 
confounding objects at different distances, and likewise partly to 
the novelty of an unusual degree of fatigue arising from a little 
exertion, habit being thus opposed to the evidence of the senses. 
I am sure that this extreme clearness of the air gives a peculiar 
character to the landscape, all objects appearing to be brought 
nearly into one plane, as in a drawing or panorama. The trans- 
parency is, I presume, owing to the equable and high state of 
atmospheric dryness. This dryness was shown by the manner in 
which woodwork shrank (as I soon found by the trouble my 
geological hammer gave me); by articles of food, such as bread 
and sugar, becoming extremely hard ; and by the preservation of 
the skin and parts of the flesh of the beasts, which had perished on 
the road. To the same cause we must attribute the singular 
facility with which electricity is excited. My flannel waistcoat, 
when rubbed in the dark, appeared as if it had been washed with 
phosphorus ; every hair on a dog's back crackled ; even the linen 
sheets, and leathern straps of the saddle, when handled, emitted 

March 23rd. The descent on the eastern side of the Cordillera, 
is much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side ; in other words, 
the mountains rise more abruptly from the plains than from the 
alpine country of Chile. A level and brilliantly white sea of clouds 
was stretched out beneath our feet, shutting out the view of the 
equally level Pampas. We soon entered the band of clouds, and 
did not again emerge from it that day. About noon, finding 
pasture for the animals and bushes for firewood at Los Arenales, 

1835.] PORTILLO PASS. olo 

we stopped for the night. This was near the uppermost limit of 
bushes, and the elevation, I suppose, was between seven and eight 
thousand feet. 

I was much struck with the marked difference between the 
vegetation of these eastern valleys and those on the Chilian side : 
yet the climate, as well as the kind of soil, is nearly the same, and 
the difference of longitude very trifling. The same remark holds 
good with the quadrupeds, and in a lesser degree with the birds 
and insects. I may instance the mice, of which I obtained thirteen 
species on the shores of the Atlantic, and five on the Pacific, and 
not one of them is identical. We must except all those species, 
which habitually or occasionally frequent elevated mountains ; and 
certain birds, which range as far south as the Strait of Magellan. 
This fact is in perfect accordance with the geological history of the 
Andes ; for these mountains have existed as a great barrier, since 
the present races of animals have appeared ; and therefore, unless 
we suppose the same species to have been created in two different 
places, we ought not to expect any closer similarity between the 
organic beings on the opposite sides of the Andes, than on the 
opposite shores of the ocean. In both cases, we must leave out of 
the question those kinds which have been able to cross the barrier, 
whether of solid rock or salt-water.* 

A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely the 
same as, or most closely allied to those of Patagonia. We here 
have the agouti, bizcacha, three species of armadillo, the ostrich, 
certain kinds of partridges and other birds, none of which are ever 
seen in Chile, but are the characteristic animals of the desert plains 
of Patagonia. We have likewise many of the same (to the eyes of 
a person who is not a botanist) thorny stunted bushes, withered 
grass, and dwarf plants. Even the black slowly crawling beetles 
are closely similar, and some, I believe, on rigorous examination, 
absolutely identical. It had always been to me a subject of regret, 
that we were unavoidably compelled to give up the ascent of the S. 
Cruz river, before reaching the mountains : I always had a latent 
hope of meeting with some great change in the features of the 

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

31-i POilTILLO PASS. [CHAP. xv. 

country ; but I now feel sure, that it would only have been follow- 
ing the plains of Patagonia up a mountainous ascent. 

March 24/7*. Early in the morning I climbed up a mountain on 
one side of the valley, and enjoyed a far extended view over the 
Pampas. This was a spectacle to which I had always looked forward 
with interest, but I was disappointed : at the first glance it much 
resembled a distant view of the ocean, but in the northern parts 
many irregularities were soon distinguishable. The most striking 
feature consisted in the rivers, which, facing the rising sun, glittered 
like silver threads, till lost in the immensity of the distance. At 
midday we descended the valley, and reached a hovel, where an 
officer and three soldiers were posted to examine passports. One 
of these men was a thoroughbred Pampas Indian : he was kept 
much for the same purpose as a bloodhound, to track out any 
person who might pass by secretly, either on foot or horseback. 
Some years ago, a passenger endeavoured to escape detection, by 
making a long circuit over a neighbouring mountain ; but this 
Indian, having by chance crossed his track, followed it for the 
whole day over dry and very stony hills, till at last he came on his 
prey hidden in a gully. We here heard that the silvery clouds, 
which we had admired from the bright region above, had poured 
down torrents of fain. The valley from this point gradually opened, 
and the hills became mere water-worn hillocks compared to the 
giants behind : it then expanded into a gently sloping plain of 
shingle, covered with low trees and bushes. This talus, although 
appearing narrow, must be nearly ten miles wide before it blends 
into the apparently dead level Pampas. We passed the only house 
in this neighbourhood, the Estancia of Chaquaio ; and at sunset we 
pulled up in the first snug corner, and there bivouacked. 

March *25th. I was reminded of the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, by 
seeing the disk of the rising sun, intersected by an horizon, level as 
that of the ocean. During the night a heavy dew fell, a circumstance 
which we did not experience within the Cordillera. The road pro- 
ceeded for some distance due east across a low swamp; then 
meeting the dry plain, it turned to the north towards Mendoza, 
The distance is two very long days' journey. Our first day's journey 
was called fourteen leagues to Estacado, and the second seventeen 
to Luxan, near Mendoza. The whole distance is over a level desert 
plain, with not more than two or three houses. The sun was ex- 
ceedingly powerful, and the ride devoid of all interest. There is 

1835.] SWARM OF LOCUSTS. 315 

very little water in this "traversia," and in our second day's journey 
we found only one little pool. Little water flows from the moun- 
tains, and it soon becomes absorbed by the dry and porous soil; so 
that, although we travelled at the distance of only ten or fifteen 
miles from the outer range of the Cordillera, we did not cross a 
single stream. In many parts the ground was incrusted with 
a saline efflorescence; hence we had the same salt-loving plants, 
which are common near Bahia Blanca. The landscape has a uniform 
character from the Strait of Magellan, along the whole eastern 
coast of Patagonia, to the Rio Colorado ; and it appears that the 
same kind of country extends inland from this river, in a sweeping 
line as far as San Luis, and perhaps even further north. To the 
eastward of this curved line, lies the basin of the comparatively 
damp and green plains of Buenos Ayres. The sterile plains of 
Mendoza and Patagonia consist of a bed of shingle, worn smooth 
and accumulated by the waves of the sea; while the Pampas, 
covered by thistles, clover, and grass, have been formed by the 
ancient estuary mud of the Plata. 

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to see in 
the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing round the 
village and river of Luxan. Shortly before we arrived at this place, 
we observed to the south a ragged cloud of a dark reddish-brown 
colour. At first we thought that it was smoke from some great 
fire on the plains; but we soon found that it was a swarm of 
locusts. They were flying northward ; and with the aid of a light 
breeze, they overtook us at a rate of ten or fifteen miles an hour. 
The main body filled the air from a height of twenty feet, to that, 
as it appeared, of two or three thousand above the ground ; " and 
the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many 
horses running to battle : " or rather, I should say, like a strong 
breeze passing through the rigging of a ship. The sky, seen through 
tbe advanced guard, appeared like a mezzotinto engraving, but the 
main body was impervious to sight ; they were not, however, so 
thick together, but that they could escape a stick waved backwards 
and forwards. When they alighted, they were more numerous 
than the leaves in the field, and the surface became reddish instead 
of being green : the swarm having once alighted, the individuals 
flew from side to side in all directions. Locusts are not an un- 
common pest in this country : already during this season, several 
smaller swarms had come up from the south, where, as apparently 

316 MENDOZA. [CHAP. xv. 

in all other parts of the world, they arc bred ill the deserts. The 
poor cottagers in vain attempted by lighting fires, by shouts, and 
by waving branches to avert the attack. This species of locust 
closely resembles, and perhaps is identical with the famous Gryllus 
niigratorius of the East. 

We crossed the Luxau, which is a river of considerable size, 
though its course towards the sea-coast is very imperfectly known : 
it is even doubtful whether, in passing over the plains, it is not 
evaporated and lost. We slept in the village of Luxan, which is a 
small place surrounded by gardens, and forms the most southern 
cultivated district in the Province of Mendoza ; it is five leagues 
south of the capital. At night I experienced an attack (for it 
deserves no less a name) of the Benckuca,& species of Eeduvius, the 
great black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft 
wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one's body. 
Before sucking they are quite thin, bxit afterwards they become 
round and bloated with blood, and in this state are easily crushed. 
One which I caught at Iquique, (for they are found iu Chile and 
Peru,) was very empty. When placed on a table, and though sur- 
rounded by people, if a finger was presented, the bold insect would 
immediately protrude its sucker, make a charge, and if allowed, 
draw blood. No pain was caused by the wound. It was curious 
to watch its body during the act of sucking, as in less than ten 
minutes it changed from being as flat as a wafer to a globular form. 
This one feast, for which the benchuca was indebted to one of the 
officers, kept it fat during four whole months ; but, after the first 
fortnight, it was quite ready to have another suck. 

March 27<7. We rode on to Mendoza. The country was beauti- 
fully cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbourhood is 
celebrated for its fruit ; and certainly nothing could appear more 
flourishing than the vineyards and the orchards of figs, peaches, 
and olives. We bought water-melons nearly twice as large as a 
man's head, most deliciously cool and well-flavoured, for a halfpenny 
apiece ; and for the value of threepence, half a wheelbarrowful of 
peaches. The cultivated and enclosed part of this province is very 
small; there is little more than that which we passed through 
between Luxan and the capital. The land, as in Chile, owes its 
fertility entirely to artificial irrigation ; and it is really wonderful 
to observe how extraordinarily productive a barren haversia is 
thus rendered. 

1835.] MENDOZA. 317 

We stayed the ensuing day in Mendoza. The prosperity of the 
place has much declined of late years. The inhabitants say " it is 
good to live in, but very bad to grow rich in." The lower orders 
have the lounging, reckless manners of the Gauchos of the Pampas ; 
and their dress, riding-gear, and habits of life, are nearly the same. 
To my mind the town had a stupid, forlorn aspect. Neither the 
boasted alameda, nor the scenery, is at all comparable with that of 
Santiago ; but to those who, coming from Buenos Ayres, have just 
crossed the unvaried Pampas, the gardens and orchards must appear 
delightful. Sir F. Head, speaking of the inhabitants, says, " They 
eat their dinners, and it is so very hot, they go to sleep and could 
they do better ? " I quite agree with Sir F. Head : the happy doom 
of the Mendozinos is to eat, sleep, and be idle. 

March 29th. We set out on our return to Chile, by the Uspallata 
pass situated north of Mendoza. We had to cross a long and most 
sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. The soil in parts was absolutely 
bare, in others covered by numberless dwarf cacti, armed with 
formidable spines, and called by the inhabitants "little lions." 
There were, also, a few low bushes. Although the plain is nearly 
three thousand feet above the sea, the sun was very powerful ; and 
the heat, as well as the clouds of impalpable dust, rendered the 
travelling extremely irksome. Our course during the day lay 
nearly parallel to the Cordillera, but gradually approaching them. 
Before sunset we entered one of the wide valleys, or rather bays, 
which open on the plain : this soon narrowed into a ravine, where 
a little higher up the house of Villa Vicencio is situated. As AVC 
had ridden all day without a drop of water, both our mules and 
selves were very thirsty, and we looked out anxiously for the 
stream which flows down this valley. It was curious to observe 
how gradually the water made its appearance: on the plain the 
course was quite dry ; by degrees it became a little damper ; then 
puddles of water appeared ; these soon became connected ; and at 
Villa Vicencio there was a nice little rivulet. 

30th. The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name of 
Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who has 
crossed the Andes. I stayed here and at some neighbouring mines 
during the two succeeding days. The geology of the surrounding- 
country is very curious. The Uspallata range is separated from 
the main Cordillera by a long narrow plain or basin, like those so 


often mentioned in Chile, but higher, being six thousand feet 
above the sea. This range has nearly the same geographical 
position with respect to the Cordillera, which the gigantic Portillo 
line has, but it is of a totally different origin : it consists of various 
kinds of submarine lava, alternating with volcanic sandstones and 
other remarkable sedimentary deposits ; the whole having a very 
close resemblance to some of the tertiary beds on the shores of the 
Pacific. From this resemblance I expected to find silicified wood, 
which is generally characteristic of those formations. I was 
gratified in a very extraordinary manner. In the central part of 
the range, at an elevation of about seven thousand feet, I observed 
on a bare slope some snow-white projecting columns. These were 
petrified trees, eleven being silicified, and from thirty to forty con- 
verted into coarsely-crystallized white calcareous spar. They were 
abruptly broken off, the upright stumps projecting a few feet above 
the ground. The trunks measured from three to five feet each in 
circumference. They stood a little way apart from each other, but 
the whole formed one group. Mr. Kobert Brown has been kind 
enough to examine the wood : he says it belongs to the fir tribe, 
partaking of the character of the Araucariau family, but with some 
curious points of affinity with the yew. The volcanic sandstone in 
which the trees were embedded, and from the lower part of which 
they must have sprung, had accumulated in successive thin layers 
around their trunks; and the stone yet retained the impression of 
the bark. 

It required little geological practice to interpret the marvellous 
story which this scene at once unfolded ; though I confess I was 
at first so much astonished that I could scarcely believe the plainest 
evidence. I saw the spot where a cluster of fine trees once waved 
their branches on the shores of the Atlantic, when that ocean (now 
driven back 700 miles) came to the foot of the Andes. I saw that 
they had sprung from a volcanic soil which had been raised above 
the level of the sea, and that subsequently this dry land, with its 
upright trees, had been let down into the depths of the ocean. In 
these depths, the formerly dry land was covered by sedimentary 
beds, and these again by enormous streams of submarine lava one 
such mass attaining the thickness of a thousand feet ; and these 
deluges of molten stone and aqueous deposits five times alternately 
had been spread out. The ocean which received such thick 
masses, must have been profoundly deep; but again the subter- 


rauean forces exerted themselves, and 1 now beheld the bed of that 
ocean, forming a chain of mountains more than seven thousand 
feet in height. Nor had those antagonistic forces been dormant, 
which are always at work wearing down the surface of the land ; 
the great piles of strata had been intersected by many wide valleys, 
and the trees now changed into silex, were exposed projecting from 
the volcanic soil, now changed into rock, whence formerly, in a 
green and budding state, they had raised their lofty heads. Now, 
all is utterly irreclaimable and desert; even the lichen cannot 
adhere to the stony casts of former trees. Vast, and scarcely 
comprehensible as such changes must ever appear, yet they have 
all occurred within a period, recent when compared with the 
history of the Cordillera ; and the Cordillera itself is absolutely 
modern as compared with many of the fossiliferous strata of Europe 
and America. 

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

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

The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared with that 
of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond the bare walls of 
the one grand flat-bottomed valley, which the road follows up to 


the highest crest. The valley and the huge rocky mountains are 
extremely barren : during the two previous nights the poor mules 
had absolutely nothing to eat, for excepting a few low resinous 
bushes, scarcely a plant can be seen. In the course of this clay we 
crossed some of the worst passes in the Cordillera, but their danger 
has been much exaggerated. I was told that if I attempted to 
pass on foot, my head would turn giddy, and that there was no 
room to dismount ; but I did not see a place where any one might 
not have walked over backwards, or got oif his mule on either side. 
One of the bad passes, called las Animas (the Souls), I had crossed, 
and did not find out till a day afterwards, that it was one of the 
awful dangers. No doubt there are many parts in which, if the 
mule should stumble, the rider would be hurled down a great 
precipice; but of this there is little chance. I dare say, in the 
spring, the " laderas," or roads, which each year are formed anew 
across the piles of fallen detritus, are very bad ; but from what I 
saw, I suspect the real danger is nothing. With cargo-mules the 
case is rather different, for the loads project so far, that the animals, 
occasionally running against each other, or against a point of rock, 
lose their balance, and are thrown down the precipices. In cross- 
ing the rivers I can well believe that the difficulty may be very 
great : at this season there was little trouble, but in the summer 
they must be very hazardous. I can quite imagine, as Sir F. Head 
describes, the different expressions of those who have passed the 
gulf, and those who are passing. I never heard of any man being 
drowned, but with loaded mules it frequently happens. The 
arriero tells you to show your mule the best line, and then allow 
her to cross as she likes : the cargo-mule takes a bad line, and is 
often lost. 

April Uh. From the Eio de las Vacas to the Puente del Incas, 
half a day's journey. As there was pasture for the mules, and 
geology for me, we bivouacked here for the night. When one hears 
of a natural Bridge, one pictures to one's self some deep and 
narrow ravine, across which a bold mass of rock has fallen ; or a 
great arch hollowed out like the vault of a cavern. Instead of 
this, the Incas Bridge consists of a crust of stratified shingle, 
cemented together by the deposits of the neighbouring hot springs. 
It appears, as if the stream had scooped out a channel on one side, 
leaving an overhanging ledge, which was met by earth and stones 
falling down from the opposite cliff. Certainly an oblique junction, 

1835.] OJOS DEL AGUA. 321 

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

5th. We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, from 
the Incas Bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which are situated near 
the lowest casucha on the Chilian side. These casuchas are round 
little towers, with steps outside to reach the floor, which is raised 
some feet above the ground on account of the snow-drifts. They 
are eight in number, and under the Spanish government were kept 
during the winter well stored with food and charcoal, and each 
courier had a master-key. Now they only answer the purpose of 
caves, or rather dungeons. Seated on some little eminence, they 
are not, however, ill suited to the surrounding scene of desolation. 
The zigzag ascent of the Cumbre, or the partition of the waters, 
was very steep and tedious ; its height, according to Mr. Pentland, 
is 12,454 feet. The road did not pass over any perpetual snow, 
although there were patches of it on both hands. The wind on 
the summit was exceedingly cold, but it was impossible not to stop 
for a few minutes to admire, again and again, the colour of the 
heavens,, and the brilliant transparency of the atmosphere. The 
scenery was grand : to the westward there was a fine chaos of 
mountains, divided by profound ravines. Some snow generally falls 
before this period of the season, and it has even happened that the 
Cordillera have been finally closed by this time. But we were most 
fortunate. The sky, by night and by day, was cloudless, excepting 
a few round little masses of vapour, that floated over the highest 
pinnacles. I have often seen these islets in the sky, marking the 
position of the Cordillera, when the far-distant mountains have 
been hidden beneath the horizon. 

April 6th. In the morning we found some thief had stolen one 
of our mules, and the bell of the madrina. We therefore rode only 
two or three miles down the valley, and stayed there the ensuing 
day in hopes of recovering the mule, which the arriero thought had 
been hidden in some ravine. The scenery in this part had assumed 
a Chilian character : the lower sides of the mountains, dotted over 
with the pale evergreen Quillay tree, and with the great chandelier- 
like cactus, are certainly more to be admired than the bare eastern 
valleys ; but I cannot quite agree with the admiration expressed by 
some travellers. The extreme pleasure, I suspect, is chiefly owing 
to the prospect of a good fire and of a good supper, after escaping 



from the cold regions above : and I am sure I most heartily par- 
ticipated in these feelings. 

8#i. "We left the valley of the Aconcagua, by which we had 
descended, and reached in the evening a cottage near the Villa 
del St. Eosa. The fertility of the plain was delightful: the 
autumn being advanced, the leaves of many of the fruit-trees 
were falling; and of the labourers, some were busy in drying 
figs and peaches on the roofs of their cottages, while others were 
gathering the grapes from the vineyards. It was a pretty scene ; 
but I missed that pensive stillness which makes the autumn in 
England indeed the evening of the year. On the 10th we reached 
Santiago, where I received a very kind and hospitable reception 
from Mr. Caldcleugh. My exciirsion only cost me twenty-four 
days, and never did I more deeply enjoy an equal space of time. 
A few days afterwards I returned to Mr. Corfield's house at 



Coast-road to Coquimbo Great Loads carried by the Miners Coquiinbo 
Earthquake Step-formed Terraces Absence of recent Deposits Con- 
temporaneousness of the Tertiary Formations Excursion up the Valley 
Road to Guasco Deserts Valley of Copiapo Rain and Earthquakes 
-Hydrophobia The Despoblado Indian Ruins Probable change of 

Climate River-bed arched by an Earthquake Cold Gales of Wind 

Xoises from a Hill Iquique Salt Alluvium Nitrate of soda Lima- 
Unhealthy Country Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an Earthquake- 
Recent subsidence Elevated Shells on San Lorenzo, their decomposi- 
tion Plain with embedded Shells and fragments of Pottery Antiquity 
of the Indian Race. 


April 27th. I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and thence 
through Guasco to Copiapo, where Captain Fitz Eoy kindly offered 
to pick me up in the Beagle. The distance in a straight line 
along the shore northward in only 420 miles ; but my mode of 
travelling made it a very long journey. I bought four horses and 
two mules, the latter carrying the luggage on alternate days. The six 
animals together only cost the value of twenty-five pounds sterling, 
and at Copiapo I sold them again for twenty-three. We travelled 
in the same independent manner as before, cooking our own meals, 
and sleeping in the open air. As we rode towards the Vino del 
Mar, I took a farewell view of Valparaiso, and admired its pic- 
turesque appearance. For geological purposes I made a detour 
from the high road to the foot of the Bell of Quillota. We passed 
through an alluvial district rich in gold, to the neighbourhood of 
Limache, where we slept. Washing for gold supports the inhabi- 
tants of numerous hovels, scattered along the sides of each little 
rivulet; but, like all those whose gains are uncertain, they are 
unthrifty in their habits, and consequently poor. 

28M. In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the foot of 
the Bell mountain. The inhabitants were freeholders, which is not 


very usual in Chile. They supported themselves ou the produce 
of a gardeu and a little field, but were very poor. Capital is here 
so deficient, that the people are obliged to sell their green corn while 
standing in the field, in order to buy necessaries for the ensuing 
year. "Wheat in consequence was dearer in the very district of its 
production than at Valparaiso, where the contractors live. The 
next day we joined the main road to Coquimbo. At night there 
was a very light shower of rain : this was the first drop that had 
fallen since the heavy rain of September llth and 12th, which de- 
tained me a prisoner at the Baths of Cauquenes. The interval was 
seven and a half months ; but the rain this year in Chile was rather 
later than usual. The distant Andes were now covered by a thick 
mass of snow ; and were a glorious sight. 

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

3rd. Quilirnari to Conchalee. The country became more and 
more barren. In the valleys there was scarcely sufficient water for 
any irrigation; and the intermediate land was quite bare, not sup- 
porting even goats. In the spring, after the winter showers, a thin 
pasture rapidly springs up, and cattle are then driven down from 
the Cordillera to graze for a short time. It is curious to observe 
how the seeds of the grass and other plants seem to accommodate 
themselves, as if by an acquired habit, to the quantity of rain 
which falls on different parts of this coast. One shower far north- 
ward at Copiapo produces as great an effect on the vegetation, as 
two at Guasco, and as three or four in this district. At Valparaiso 
a winter so dry as greatly to injure the pasture, would at Guasco 
produce the most unusual abundance. Proceeding northward, the 
quantity of rain does not appear to decrease in strict proportion to 
the latitude. At Conchalee, which is only 67 miles north of Val- 
paraiso, rain is not expected till the end of May; whereas, at 
Valparaiso some generally falls early in April : the annual quantity 

1835.] CHILIAN MINERS. 325 

is likewise small in proportion to the lateness of the season at 
which it commences. 

4<7i. Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any kind, wo 
turned inland towards the mining district and valley of Illapel. 
This valley, like every other in Chile, is level, broad, and very 
fertile: it is bordered on each side, either by cliffs of stratified 
shingle, or by bare rocky mountains. Above the straight line of 
the uppermost irrigating ditch, all is brown as on a high road ; 
while all below is of as bright a green as verdigris, from the beds 
of alfarfa, a kind of clover. We proceeded to Los Hornos, another 
mining district, where the principal hill was drilled with holes, 
like a great ants'-nest. The Chilian miners are a peculiar race of 
men in their habits. Living for weeks together in the most desolate 
spots, when they descend to the villages on feast-days, there is no 
excess or extravagance into which they do not run. They some- 
times gain a considerable sum, and then, like sailors with prize- 
money, they try how soon they can contrive to squander it. They 
drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days 
return penniless to their miserable abodes, there to work harder 
than beasts of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, is 
evidently the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily food 
is found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness ; more- 
over, temptation and the means of yielding to it are placed in their 
power at the same time. On the other hand, in Cornwall, and 
some other parts of England, where the system of selling part 
of the vein is followed, the miners, from being obliged to act and 
think for themselves, are a singularly intelligent and well-conducted 
set of men. 

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


We continued travelling northward, in a zigzag line ; sometimes 
stopping a day to geologize. The country was so thinly inhabited, 
and the track so obscure, that we often had difficulty in finding 
our way. On the 12th I stayed at some mines. The ore in this 
case was not considered particularly good, but from being abundant 
it was supposed the mine would sell for about thirty or forty 
thousand dollars (that is, 6000 or 8000 pounds sterling) ; yet it had 
been bought by one of the English Associations for an ounce of 
gold (31. 8s.). The ore is yellow pyrites, which, as I have already 
remarked, before the arrival of the English, was not supposed 
to contain a particle of copper. On a scale of profits nearly as 
great as in the above instance, piles of cinders, abounding with 
minute globules of metallic copper, were purchased; yet with 
these advantages, the mining associations, as is well known, 
contrived to lose immense sums of money. The folly of the 
greater number of the commissioners and shareholders amounted 
to infatuation; a thousand pounds per annum given in some 
cases to entertain the Chilian authorities ; libraries of well-bound 
geological books ; miners brought out for particular metals, as tin, 
which are not found in Chile ; contracts to supply the miners with 
milk, in parts where there are no cows ; machinery, where it could 
not possibly be used ; and a hundred similar arrangements, bore 
witness to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to the 
natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the same capital well 
employed in these mines would have yielded an immense return : 
a confidential man of business, a practical miner and assayer, 
would have been all that was required. 

Captain Head has described the wonderful load which the 
" Apires," truly beasts of burden, carry up from the deepest 
mines. I confess I thought the account exaggerated; so that I 
was glad to take an opportunity of weighing one of the loads, 
which I picked out by hazard. It required considerable exertion 
on my part, when standing directly over it, to lift it from the 
ground. The load was considered under weight when found to 
be 197 pounds. The apire had carried this up eighty perpen- 
dicular yards, part of the way by a steep passage, but the greater 
part up notched poles, placed in a zigzag line up the shaft. Ac- 
cording to the general regulation, the apire is not allowed to halt 
for breath, except the mine is six hundred feet deep. The average 
load is considered as rather more than 200 pounds, and I have been 

1835.] CHILIAN MINERS. 327 

assured that one of 300 pounds (twenty-two stone and a half) by 
way of a trial has been brought up from the deepest mine ! At 
this time the apires were bringing up the usual load twelve times 
in the day ; that is, 2400 pounds from eighty yards deep ; and they 
were employed in the intervals in breaking and picking ore. 

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

In the evening, talking with the mayor-domo of these mines, 
about the number of foreigners now scattered over the whole 
country, he told me that, though quite a young man, he remembers 
when he was a boy at school at Coquimbo, a holiday being given 
to see the captain of an English ship, who was brought to the city 
to speak to the governor. He believes that nothing would have 
induced any boy in the school, himself included, to have gone close 
to the Englishman ; so deeply had they been impressed with an 
idea of the heresy, contamination, and evil to be derived from 
contact with such a person. To this day they relate the atrocious 
actions of the bucaniers; and especially of one man, who took 
away the figure of the Virgin Mary, and returned the year after for 
that of St. Joseph, saying it was a pity the lady should not have a 
husband. I heard also of an old lady who, at a dinner in Coquimbo, 
remarked how wonderfully strange it was that she should have 
lived to dine in the same room with an Englishman; for she 


remembered as a girl, that twice, at the more cry of " Los 
Ingleses," every soul, carrying what valuables they could, had 
taken to the mountains. 

14th. We reached Coquimbo, where we stayed a few days. The 
town is remarkable for nothing but its extreme quietness. It is 
said to contain from 6000 to 8000 inhabitants. On the morning 
of the 17th it rained lightly, the first time this year, for about five 
hours. The farmers, who plant corn near the sea-coast where the 
atmosphere is most humid, taking advantage of this shower, would 
break up the ground ; after a second they would put the seed in ; 
and if a third shower should fall, they would reap a good harvest 
in the spring. It was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling 
amount of moisture. Twelve hours afterwards the ground appeared 
as dry as ever ; yet after an interval of ten days, all the hills were 
faintly tinged with green patches; the grass being sparingly 
scattered in hair-like fibres a full inch, in length. Before this 
shower every part of the surface was bare as on a high road. 

In the evening, Captain Fitz Roy and myself were dining with 
Mr. Edwards, an English resident well known for his hospitality 
by all who have visited Coquimbo, when a sharp earthquake 
happened. I heard the forecoming rumble, but from the screams 
of the ladies, the running of the servants, and the rush of several 
of the gentlemen to the doorway, I could not distinguish the 
motion. Some of the women afterwards were crying with terror, 
and one gentleman said he should not be able to sleep all night, or 
if he did, it would only be to dream of falling houses. The father 
of this person had lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and 
he himself had only just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso, in 
1822. He mentioned a curious coincidence which then happened: 
he was playing at cards, when a German, one of the party, got up, 
and said he would never sit mja room in these countries with the 
door shut, as, owing to his having done so, he had nearly lost his 
life at Copiapo. Accordingly he opened the door ; and no sooner 
had he done this, than he cried out, " Here it comes again ! " and 
the famous shock commenced. The whole party escaped. The 
danger in an earthquake is not from the time lost in opening a 
door, but from the chance of its becoming jammed by the move- 
ment of the walls. 

It is impossible to be much surprised at the fear which natives 
and old residents, though some of them known to be men of great 


command of mind, so generally experience during earthquakes. 
I think, however, this excess of panic may be partly attributed to 
a want of habit in governing their fear, as it is not a feeling they 
are ashamed of. Indeed, the natives do not like to see a person 
indifferent. I heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in the open 
air during a smart shock, knowing that there was no danger, did 
not rise. The natives cried out indignantly, " Look at those here- 
tics, they will not even get out of their beds ! " 

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

Shells of many existing species not only lie on the surface of the 
terraces at Coquimbo (to a height of 250 feet), but are embedded 
in a friable calcareous rock, which in some places is as much as 
between twenty and thirty feet in thickness, but is of little extent. 
These modern beds rest on an ancient tertiary formation containing 
shells, apparently all extinct. Although I examined so many hun- 
dred miles of coast on the Pacific, as well as Atlantic side of the 
continent, I found no regular strata containing sea-shells of recent 
species, excepting at this place, and at a few points northward on 
the road to Guasco. This fact appears to me highly remarkable ; 
for the explanation generally given by geologists, of the absence in 
any district of stratified fossiliferous deposits of a given period, 
namely, that the surface then existed as dry land, is not here appli- 


cable; for we know from the shells strewed on the surface and 
embedded in loose sand or mould, that the land for thousands of 
miles along both coasts has lately been submerged. The explana- 
tion, no doubt, must be sought in the fact, that the whole southern 
part of the continent has been for a long time slowly rising ; and 
therefore that all matter deposited along shore in shallow water, 
must have been soon brought up and slowly exposed to the wearing 
action of the sea-beach; and it is only in comparatively shallow 
water that the greater number of marine organic beings can flourish, 
and in such water it is obviously impossible that strata of any great 
thickness can accumulate. To show the vast power of the wearing 
action of sea-beaches, we need only appeal to the great cliffs along 
the present coast of Patagonia, and to the escarpments or ancient 
sea-cliffs at different levels, one above another, on that same line 
of coast. 

The old underlying tertiary formation at Coquimbo, appears to 
be of about the same age with several deposits on the coast of 
Chile (of which that of Navedad is the principal one), and with 
the great formation of Patagonia. Both at Navedad and in Patagonia 
there is evidence, that since the shells (a list of which has been 
seen by Professor E. Forbes) there intombed were living, there has 
been a subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing 
elevation. It may naturally be asked, how it comes that, although 
no extensive fossiliferous deposits of the recent period, nor of any 
period intermediate between it and the ancient tertiary epoch, have 
been preserved on either side of the continent, yet that at this 
ancient tertiary epoch, sedimentary matter containing fossil re- 
mains, should have been deposited and preserved at different 
points in north and south lines, over a space of 1100 miles on the 
shores of the Pacific, and of at least 1350 miles on the shores of 
the Atlantic, and in an east and west line of 700 miles across the 
widest part of the continent? I believe the explanation is not 
difficult, and that it is perhaps applicable to nearly analogous facts 
observed in other quarters of the world. Considering the enormous 
power of denudation which the sea possesses, as shown by number- 
less facts, it is not probable that a sedimentary deposit, when being 
upraised, could pass through the ordeal of the beach, so as to be 
preserved in sufficient masses to last to a distant period, without it 
were originally of wide extent and of considerable thickness : now 
it is impossible on a moderately shallow bottom, which alone is 


favourable to most living creatures, that a thick and widely ex- 
tended covering of sediment could be spread out, without the 
bottom sank down to receive the successive layers. This seems to 
have actually taken place at about the same period in southern 
Patagonia and Chile, though these places are a thousand miles 
apart. Hence, if prolonged movements of approximately contem- 
poraneous subsidence are generally widely extensive, as I am 
strongly inclined to believe from my examination of the Coral Eecfs 
of the great oceans or if, confining our view to South America, 
the subsiding movements have been coextensive with those of 
elevation, by which, within the same period of existing shells, the 
shores of Peru, Chile, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, and La Plata 
have been upraised then we can see that at the same time, at far 
distant points, circumstances would have been favourable to the 
formation of fossiliferous deposits, of wide extent and of consider- 
able thickness ; and such deposits, consequently, would have a good 
chance of resisting the wear and tear of successive beach-lines, and 
of lasting to a future epoch. 

May 2lst. I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards to the 
silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of Coquimbo. 
Passing through a mountainous country, we reached by nightfall 
the mines belonging to Mr. Edwards. I enjoyed my night's rest 
here from a reason which will not be fully appreciated in England, 
namely, the absence of fleas ! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with 
them ; but they will not live here at the height of only three or four 
thousand feet : it can scarcely be the trifling diminution of tem- 
perature, but some other cause which destroys these troublesome 
insects at this place. The mines are now in a bad state, though 
they formerly yielded about 2000 pounds in weight of silver a year. 
It has been said that " a person with a copper-mine will gain ; with 
silver he may gain ; but with gold he is sure to lose." This is not 
true : all the large Chilian fortunes have been made by mines^ of 
the more precious metals. A short time since an English physician 
returned to England from Copiapo, taking with him the profits of 
one share in a silver-mine, which amounted to about 24,000 pounds 
sterling. No doubt a copper-mine with care is a sure game, whereas 
the other is gambling, or rather taking a ticket in a lottery. The 
owners lose great quantities of rich ores; for no precautions can 
prevent robberies. I heard of a gentleman laying a bet with 


another, that one of his men should rob him before his face. 
The ore when brought out of the mine is broken into pieces, and 
the useless stone thrown on one side. A couple of the miners 
who were thus employed, pitched, as if by accident, two fragments 
away at the same moment, and then cried out for a joke " Let us 
see which rolls furthest." The owner, who was standing by, bet a 
cigar with his friend on the race. The miner by this means 
watched the very point amongst the rubbish where the stone lay. 
In the evening he picked it up and carried it to his master, showing 
him a rich mass of silver-ore, and saying, " This was the stone on 
which you won a cigar by its rolling so far." 

May %3rd. We descended into the fertile valley of Coquimbo, 
and followed it till we reached an Hacienda belonging to a relation 
of Don Jose, where we stayed the next day. I then rode one day's 
journey further, to see what were declared to be some petrified 
shells and beans, which latter turned out to be small quartz peb- 
bles. We passed through several small villages; and the valley 
was beautifully cultivated, and the whole scenery very grand. We 
were here near the main Cordillera, and the surrounding hills were 
lofty. In all parts of northern Chile, fruit trees produce much 
more abundantly at a considerable height near the Andes than in 
the lower country. The figs and grapes of this district are famous 
for their excellence, and are cultivated to a great extent. This 
valley is, perhaps, the most productive one north of Quillota: I 
believe it contains, including Coquirnbo, 25,000 inhabitants. The 
next day I returned to the Hacienda, and thence, together with 
Don Jose, to Coquimbo. 

June 2nd. We set out for the valley of Guasco, following the 
coast-road, which was considered rather less desert than the other. 
Our first day's ride was to a solitary house, called Yerba Buena, 
where there was pasture for our horses. The shower mentioned as 
having fallen a fortnight ago, only reached about half-way to 
Guasco ; we had, therefore, in the first part of our journey a most 
faint tinge of green, which soon faded quite away. Even where 
brighest, it was scarcely sufficient to remind one of the fresh turf 
and budding flowers of the spring of other countries. While 
travelling through these deserts one feels like a prisoner shut up in 
a gloomy court, who longs to see something green and to smell a 
moist atmosphere. 

June 3rd. Yerba Buena to Carizal. During the first part of 

1835.] DESERT COUNTRY. 333 

the day we crossed a mountainous rocky desert, and afterwards 
a long deep sandy plain, strewed with broken sea-sliells. There 
was very little water, and that little saline: the whole country, 
from the coast to the Cordillera, is an uninhabited desert. I saw 
traces only of one living animal in abundance, namely, the shells 
of a Bulimus, which were collected together in extraordinary 
numbers on the driest spots. In the spring one humble little 
plant sends out a few leaves, and on these the snails feed. As 
they are seen only very early in the morning, when the ground is 
slightly damp with dew, the Guascos believe that they are bred 
from it. I have observed in other places that extremely dry and 
sterile districts, where the soil is calcareous, are extraordinarily 
favoiarable to land-shells. At Carizal there were a few cottages, 
some brackish water, and a trace of cultivation : but it was with 
difficulty that we purchased a little corn and straw for our horses. 

4th. Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert plains, 
tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also the valley of 
Chaneral; which, although the most fertile one between Guasco 
and Coquimbo, is very narrow, and produces so little pasture, that 
we could not purchase any for our horses. At Sauce we found a 
very civil old gentleman, superintending a copper-smelting furnace. 
As an especial favour, he allowed me to purchase at a high price 
an armful of dirty straw, which was all the poor horses had for 
supper after their long day's journey. Few smelting-furnaces are 
now at work in any part of Chile ; it is found more profitable, on 
account of the extreme scarcity of firewood, and from the Chilian 
method of reduction being so unskilful, to ship the ore for Swan- 
sea. The next day we crossed some mountains to Freyrina, in the 
valley of Guasco. During each day's ride further northward, the 
vegetation became more and more scanty ; even the great chandelier- 
like cactus was here replaced by a different and much smaller 
species. During the winter months, both in northern Chile and in 
Peru, a uniform bank of clouds hangs, at no great height, over the 
Pacific From the mountains we had a very striking view of this 
white and brilliant aerial-field, which sent arms up the valleys, 
leaving islands and promontories in the same manner, as the ; 
does in the Chonos archipelago and in Tierra del Fuego. 

We stayed two days at Freyrina. In the valley of Guasco there 
are four small towns. At the mouth there istte port, a spot 
entirely desert, and without any water in the immediate neigh- 


born-hood. Five leagues higher up stands Freyrina, a long 
straggling village, with decent whitewashed houses. Again, ten 
leagues further up Ballenar is situated; and above this Guasco 
Alto, a horticultural village, famous for its dried fruit. On a 
clear day the view up the valley is very fine ; the straight opening 
terminates in the far-distant snowy Cordillera; on each side an 
infinity of crossing lines are blended together in a beautiful haze. 
The foreground is singular from the number of parallel and step- 
formed terraces ; and the included strip of green valley, with its 
willow-bushes, is contrasted on both hands with the naked hills. 
That the surrounding country was most barren will be readily 
believed, when it is known that a shower of rain had not fallen 
during the last thirteen months. The inhabitants heard with the 
greatest envy of the rain at Coquimbo ; from the appearance of the 
sky they had hopes of equally good fortune, which, a fortnight 
afterwards, were realized. I was at Copiapo at the time ; and 
there the people, with equal envy, talked of the abundant rain at 
Guasco. After two or three very dry years, perhaps with not more 
than one shower during the whole time, a rainy year generally 
follows; and this does more harm than even the drought. The 
rivers swell, and cover with gravel and sand the narrow strips of 
ground, which alone are fit for cultivation. The floods also injure 
the irrigating ditches. Great devastation had thus been caused 
three years ago. 

June 8th. We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name from 
Ballenagh in Ireland, the birthplace of the family of O'Higgins, 
who, under the Spanish government, were presidents and generals 
in Chile. As the rocky mountains on each hand were concealed 
by clouds, the terrace-like plains gave to the valley an appearance 
like that of Santa Cruz in Patagonia. After spending one day at 
Ballenar I set out, on the 10th, for the upper part of the valley of 
Copiapo. We rode all day over an uninteresting country. I am 
tired of repeating the epithets barren and sterile. These words, 
however, as commonly used, are comparative; I have always 
applied them to the plains of Patagonia, which can boast of spiny 
bushes and some tufts of grass ; and this is absolute fertility, as 
compared with northern Chile. Here again, there are not many 
spaces of two hundred yards square, where some little bush, 
cactus or lichen, may not be discovered by careful examination ; 
and in the soil seeds lie dormant ready to spring up daring the first 

1835.] VALLEY OF COPIAPO. 335 

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

June llth. We rode without stopping for twelve hours, till wo 
reached an old smelting-furnace, where there was water and fire- 
wood ; but our horses again had nothing to eat, being shut up in 
an old courtyard. The line of road was hilly, and the distant 
views interesting" from the varied colours of the bare mountains. 
It was almost a pity to see the sun shining constantly over so use- 
less a country; such splendid weather ought to have brightened 
fields and pretty gardens. The next day we reached the valley of 
Copiapo. I was heartily glad of it ; for the whole journey was a 
continued source of anxiety; it was most disagreeable to hear, 
whilst eating our own suppers, our horses gnawing the posts to 
which they were tied, and to have no means of relieving their 
hunger. To all appearance, however, the animals were quite 
fresh ; and no one could have told that they had eaten nothing for 
the last fifty -five hours. 

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Bingley, who received me 
very kindly at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. This estate is 
between twenty and thirty miles long, but very narrow, being 
generally only two fields wide, one on each side the river. In 
some parts the estate is of no width, that is to say, the land cannot 
be irrigated, and therefore is valueless, like the surrounding rocky 
desert. The small quantity of cultivated land in the whole line of 
valley, does not so much depend on inequalities of level, and con- 
sequent unfitness for irrigation, as on the small supply of water. 
The river this year was remarkably full : here, high up the valley ; 
it reached to the horse's belly, and was about fifteen yards wide, 
and rapid ; lower down it becomes smaller and smaller, and is 
generally quite lost, as happened during one period of thirty years, 
so that not a drop entered the sea. The inhabitants watch a storm 
over the Cordillera with great interest ; as one good fall of snow 
provides them with water for the ensuing year. This is of 
infinitely more consequence than rain in the lower country. Rain, 


as often as it falls, which is about once in every two or three years, 
is a great advantage, because the cattle and mules can for some time 
afterwards find a little pasture on the mountains. But without 
snow on the Andes, desolation extends throughout the valley. It 
is on record that three times nearly all the inhabitants have been 
obliged to emigrate to the south. This year there was plenty of 
water, and every man irrigated his ground as much as he chose ; 
but it has frequently been necessary to post soldiers at the sluices, to 
see that each estate took only its proper allowance during so many 
hours in the week. The valley is said to contain 12,000 souls, but 
its produce is sufficient only for three months in the year ; the rest 
of the supply being drawn from Valparaiso and the south. Before 
the discovery of the famous silver-mines of Chanuncillo, Copiapo 
was in a rapid state of decay ; but now it is in a very thriving 
condition ; and the town, which was completely overthrown by an 
earthquake, has been rebuilt. 

The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green in a 
desert, runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is of con- 
siderable length to its source in the Cordillera. The valleys of 
Guasco and Copiapo may both be considered as long narrow 
islands, separated from the rest of Chile by deserts of rock instead 
of by salt water. Northward of these, there is one other very 
miserable valley, called Paposo, which contains about two hundred 
souls; and then there extends the real desert of Atacama a 
barrier far worse than the most turbulent ocean. After staying 
a few days at Potrero Seco, I proceeded up the valley to the 
house of Don Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter of introduction. 
I found him most hospitable ; indeed it is impossible to bear too 
strong testimony to the kindness with which travellers are received 
in almost every part of South America. The next day I hired 
some mules to take me by the ravine of Jolquera into the central 
Cordillera. On the second night the weather seemed to foretell 
a storm of snow or rain, and whilst lying in our beds we felt a 
trifling shock of an earthquake. 

The connexion between earthquakes and the weather has been 
often disputed : it appears to me to be a point of great interest, 
which is little understood. Humboldt has remarked in one part 
of the Personal Narrative,* that it would bo difficult for any 

* Vol. iv. p. 11, and vol. ii. p. 217. For the remarks on Guayaquil, see 
Silliman's Journ., vol. xxiv. p. 384. For those on Tacna by Mr. Hamilton, 


person who had long resided in New Andalusia, or in Lower Peru, 
to deny that there exists some connection between these phenomena: 
in another part, however, he seems to think the connection fanciful. 
At Guayaquil, it is said that a heavy shower in the dry season is 
invariably followed by an earthquake. In Northern Chile, from 
the extreme infrequency of rain, or even of weather foreboding 
rain, the probability of accidental coincidences becomes very 
small ; yet the inhabitants are here most firmly convinced of some 
connection between the state of the atmosphere and of the trem- 
bling of the ground : I was much struck by this, when mentioning 
to some people at Copiapo that there had been a sharp shock at 
Coquimbo: they immediately cried out, "How fortunate! there 
will be plenty of pasture there this year." To their minds an 
earthquake foretold rain, as surely as rain foretold abundant 
pasture. Certainly it did so happen that on the very day of the 
earthquake, that shower of rain fell, which I have described as in 
ten days' time producing a thin sprinkling of grass. At other 
times rain has followed earthquakes at a period of the year when 
it is a far greater prodigy than the earthquake itself: this hap- 
pened after the shock of November, 1822, and again in 1829, at 
Valparaiso; also after that of September, 1833, at Tacna. A person 
must be somewhat habituated to the climate of these countries to 
perceive the extreme improbability of rain falling at such seasons, 
except as a consequence of some law quite unconnected with the 
ordinary course of the weather. In the cases of great volcanic 
eruptions, as that of Coseguina, where torrents of rain fell at a 
time of the year most unusual for it, and " almost unprecedented 
in Central America," it is not difficult to understand that the 
volumes of vapour and clouds of ashes might have disturbed the 
atmospheric equilibrium. Humboldt extends this view to the case 
of earthquakes unaccompanied by eruptions; but I can hardly 
conceive it possible, that the small quantity of aeriform fluids 
which then escape from the fissured ground, can produce such 
remarkable effects. There appears much probability in the view 
first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that when the barometer is low, 
and when rain might naturally be expected to fall, the diminished 

see Trans, of British Association, 1840. For those on Coseguina see Mr. 
Caldcleugh in Phil. Trans., 1835. In the former edition, I collected 
several references on the coincidences between sudden falls in the baro- 
meter and earthquakes ; and between earthquakes and meteors. 



pressure of the atmosphere over a wide extent of country, might 
well determine the precise day on which the earth, already stretched 
to the utmost by the subterranean forces, should yield, crack, and 
consequently tremble. It is, however, doubtful how far this idea 
will explain the circumstance of torrents of rain falling in the dry 
season during several days, after an earthquake unaccompanied 
by an eruption ; such cases seem to bespeak some more intimate 
connexion between the atmospheric and subterranean regions. 

Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we retraced 
our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed two days 
collecting fossil shells and wood. Great prostrate silicified trunks 
of trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were extraordinarily nume- 
rous. I measured one, which was fifteen feet in circumference: 
how surprising it is that every atom of the woody matter in this 
great cylinder should have been removed and replaced by silex so 
perfectly, that each vessel and pore is preserved! These trees 
nourished at about the period of our lower chalk; they all be- 
longed to the fir-tribe. It was amusing to hear the inhabitants 
discussing the nature of the fossil shells which I collected, almost 
in the same terms as were used a century ago in Europe, namely, 
whether or not they had been thus " born by nature." My geo- 
logical examination of the country generally created a good deal 
of surprise amongst the Chilenos : it was long before they could 
be convinced that I was not hunting for mines. This was some- 
times troublesome : I found the most ready way of explaining my 
employment, was to ask them how it was that they themselves 
were not curious concerning earthquakes and volcanos? why 
some springs were hot and others cold ? why there were moun- 
tains in Chile, and not a hill in La Plata ? These bare questions 
at once satisfied and silenced the greater number; some, however 
(like a few in England who are a century behindhand), thought 
that all such inquiries were useless and impious ; and that it was 
quite sufficient that God had thus made the mountains. 

An order had recently been issued that all stray dogs should be 
killed, and we saw many lying dead on the road. A great number 
had lately gone mad, and several men had been bitten and had 
died in consequence. On several occasions hydrophobia has pre- 
vailed in this valley. It is remarkable thus to find so strange and 
dreadful a disease, appearing time after time in the same isolated 
gppt. It has been remarked that certain villages in England are 

1835 -J HYDROPHOBIA. 339 

in like manner much more subject to this visitation than others. 
Dr. Unaniie states that hydrophobia was first known in South 
America in 1803: this statement is corroborated by Azara and 
Ulloa having never heard of it in their time. Dr. Unaniie says 
that it broke out in Central America, and slowly travelled south- 
ward. It reached Arequipa in 1807; and it is said that some men 
there, who had not been bitten, were affected, as were some negroes, 
who had eaten a bullock which had died of hydrophobia. At lea 
forty-two people thus miserably perished. The disease came on 
between twelve and ninety days after the bite; and in those cases 
where it did come on, death ensued invariably within five clays. 
After 1808, a long interval ensued without any cases. On inquiry, 
I did not hear of hydrophobia in Van Diemen's Land, or in 
Australia ; and Burchell says, that during the five years he was at 
the Cape of Good Hope, he never heard of an instance of it. 
Webster asserts that at the Azores hydrophobia has never oc- 
curred; and the same assertion has been made with respect to 
Mauritius and St. Helena.* In so strange a disease, some infor- 
mation might possibly be gained by considering the circumstances 
under which it originates in distant climates ; for it is improbable 
that a dog already bitten, should have been brought to these distant 

At night, a stranger arrived at the house of Don Bem'to, and 
asked permission to sleep there. He said he had been wandering 
about the mountains for seventeen days, having lost his way. He 
started from Guasco, and being accustomed to travelling in the 
Cordillera, did not expect any difficulty in following the track to 
Copiapo; but he soon became involved in a labyrinth of moun- 
tains, whence he could not escape. Some of his mules had fallen 
over precipices, and he had been in great distress. His chief 
difficulty arose from not knowing where to find water in the lower 
country, so that he was obliged to keep bordering the central 

We returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached the town 
of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad, forming a fine 
plain like that of Quillota. The town covers a considerable space 

* Observa. sobro cl Cliuia de Lima, p. 67. Azara's Travels, vol. i. 
p. 381. Ulloa's Voyage, vol. ii. p. 28. Burchell's Travels, vol. n. p. 524. 
-Webster's Description of the Azores, p. 124. Voyage a 1 Isle de * ranee 
par im Officer du Roi, tome i. p. 248.- Description of St. Helena, p. 12d. 


of ground, each house possessing a garden : but it is an uncom- 
fortable place, and the dwellings are poorly furnished. Every ono 
seems bent on the one object of making money, and then migrating 
as quickly as possible. All the inhabitants are more or less 
directly concerned \vith mines: and mines and ores are the solo 
subjects of conversation. Necessaries of all sorts are extremely 
dear; as the distance from the town to the port is eighteen leagues, 
and the land carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or six 
shillings; meat is nearly as dear as in England; firewood, or 
rather sticks, are brought on donkeys from a distance of two 
and three days' journey within the Cordillera ; and pasturage for 
animals is a shilling a day : all this for South America is wonder- 
fully exorbitant. 

June 26M. I hired a guide and eight mules to take me into the 
Cordillera by a different line from my last excursion. As the 
country was utterly desert, we took a cargo and a half of barley 
mixed with chopped straw. About two leagues above the town, 
a broad valley called the " Despoblado," or uninhabited, branches 
off from that one by which we had arrived. Although a valley of 
the grandest dimensions, and leading to a pass across the Cordillera, 
yet it is completely dry, excepting perhaps for a few days during 
some very rainy winter. The sides of the crumbling mountains 
were furrowed by scarcely any ravines; and the bottom of the 
main valley, filled with shingle, was smooth and nearly level. No 
considerable torrent could ever have flowed down this bed of 
shingle ; for if it had, a great cliff-bounded channel, as in all the 
southern valleys, would assuredly have been formed. I feel little 
doubt that this valley, as well as those mentioned by travellers in 
Peru, were left in the state we now see them by the waves of the 
sea, as the land slowly rose. I observed in one place, where the 
Despoblado was joined by a ravine (which in almost any other 
chain would have been called a grand valley), that its bed, though 
composed merely of sand and gravel, was higher than that of its 
tributary. A mere rivulet of water, in the course of an hour, 
would have cut a channel for itself; but it was evident that ages 
had passed away, and no such rivulet had drained this great 
tributary. It was curious to behold the machinery, if such a term 
may be used, for the drainage, all, with the last trifling exception, 
perfect, yet without any signs of action. Every ono must have 


remarked how mud-banks, left by the retiring tide, imitate in 
miniature a country with hill and dale ; and here we have the 
original model in rock, formed as the continent rose during the 
secular retirement of the ocean, instead of during the ebbing and 
flowing of the tides. If a shower of rain falls on the mud-bank, 
when left dry, it deepens the already-formed shallow lines of 
excavation ; and so it is with the rain of successive centuries on 
the bank of rock and soil, which we call a continent. 

We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side ravine with 
a small well, called " Agua amarga." The water deserved its 
name, for besides being saline it was most offensively putrid and 
bitter ; so that we could not force ourselves to drink either tea or 
mate. I suppose the distance from the river of Copiapo to this 
spot was at least twenty-five or thirty English miles ; in the whole 
space there was not a single drop of water, the country deserving 
the name of desert in the strictest sense. Yet about half way AVC 
passed some old Indian ruins near Punta Gorda : I noticed also in 
front of some of the valleys, which branch off from the Desploblado, 
two piles of stones placed a little way apart, and directed so as to 
point up the mouths of these small valleys. My companions knew 
nothing about them, and only answered my queries by their imper- 
turbable " quien sabe ? " 

I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera : the 
most perfect which I saw, were the Euinas de Tambillos, in the 
Uspallata Pass. Small square rooms were there huddled together 
in separate groups : some of the doorways were yet standing ; they 
were formed by a cross slab of stone only about three feet high. 
Ulloa has remarked on the lowness of the doors in the ancient 
Peruvian dwellings. These houses, when perfect, must have been 
capable of containing a considerable number of persons. Tradition 
says, that they were used as halting places for the Incas, when 
they crossed the mountains. Traces of Indian habitations have 
been discovered in many other parts, where it does not appear 
probable that they were used as mere resting-places, but yet where 
the land is as utterly unfit for any kind of cultivation as it is near 
the Tambillos or at the Incas Bridge, or in the Portillo Pass, at all 
which places I saw ruins. In the ravine of Jajuel, near Aconcagua, 
where there is no pass, I heard of remains of houses situated at a 
great height, where it is extremely cold and sterile. At first I 
imagined that these buildings had been places of refuge, built by 


the Indians on the first arrival of the Spaniards ; Imt I have since 
been inclined to speculate on the probability of a small change of 

In this northern part of Chile, within the Cordillera, old Indian 
houses are said to be especially numerous : by digging amongst 
the ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of precious metals, 
and heads of Indian corn, are not tmfrequently discovered: an 
arrow-head made of agate, and of precisely the same form with 
those now used in Tierra del Fuego, was given me. I am aware 
that the Peruvian Indians now frequently inhabit most lofty and 
bleak situations; but at Copiapo I was assured by men who had 
spent their lives in travelling through the Andes, that there were 
very many (muchisimcu) buildings at heights so great as almost to 
border on the perpetual snow, and in parts where there exist no 
passes, and where the land produces absolutely nothing, and what 
is still more extraordinary, where there is no water. Nevertheless 
it is the opinion of the people of the country (although they are 
much puzzled by the circumstance), that, from the appearance of 
the houses, the Indians must have used them as places of residence. 
In this valley, at Punta Gorda, the remains consisted of seven or 
eight square little rooms, which were of a similar form with those 
at Tambillos, but built chiefly of mud, which the present inhabi- 
tants cannot, either here or, according to Ulloa, in Peru, imitate in 
durability. They were situated in the most conspicuous and 
defenceless position, at the bottom of the flat broad valley. There 
was no water nearer than three or four leagues, and that only in 
very small quantity, and bad : the soil was absolutely sterile ; I 
looked in vain even for a lichen adhering to the rocks. At the 
present day, with the advantage of beasts of burden, a mine, unless 
it were very rich, could scarcely be worked here with profit. Yet 
the Indians formerly chose it as a place of residence ! If at the 
present time two or three showers of rain were to fall annually, 
instead of one, as now is the case during as many years, a small 
rill of water would probably be formed in this great valley ; and 
then, by irrigation (which was formerly so well understood by the 
Indians), the soil would easily be rendered sufficiently productive 
to support a few families. 

I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent of South 
America has been elevated near the coast at least from 400 to 500, 
and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, since the epoch of 


existing shells; and further inland the rise possibly may have 
been greater. As the peculiarly arid character of the climate is 
evidently a consequence of the height of the Cordillera, we may 
feel almost sure that before the later elevations, the atmosphere 
could not have been so completely drained of its moisture as it now 
is; and as the rise has been gradual, so would have been the 
change in climate. On this notion of a change of climate since the 
buildings were inhabited, the ruins must be of extreme antiquity, 
but I do not think their preservation under the Chilian climate 
any great difficulty. We must also admit on this notion (and this 
perhaps is a greater difficulty) that man has inhabited South 
America for an immensely long period, inasmuch as any change 
of climate effected by the elevation of the land must have been 
extremely gradual. At Valparaiso, within the last 220 years, the 
rise has been somewhat less than 19 feet : at Lima a sea-beach has 
certainly been upheaved from 80 to 90 feet, within the Indo-human 
period : but such small elevations could have had little power in 
deflecting the moisture-bringing atmospheric currents. Dr. Lund, 
however, found human skeletons in the caves of Brazil, the appear- 
ance of which induced him to believe that the Indian race has 
existed during a vast lapse of time in South America. 

When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects * with Mr. Gill, 
a civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior country. He 
told me that a conjecture of a change of climate had sometimes 
crossed his mind; but that he thought that the greater portion of 
land, now incapable of cultivation, but covered with Indian ruins, 
had been reduced to this state by the water-conduits, which the 
Indians formerly constructed on so wonderful a scale, having been 
injured by neglect and by subterranean movements. I may here 
mention, that the Peruvians actually carried their irrigating 
streams in tunnels through hills of solid rock. Mr. Gill told me, 
he had been employed professionally to examine one : he found the 
passage low, narrow, crooked, and not of uniform breadth, but of 
very considerable length. Is it not most wonderful that men 
should have attempted such operations, without the use of iron or 

* Temple, in his travels through Upper Peru or Bolivia, in going 
from Potosi to Oruro, says, " I saw many Indian villages or dwellings in 
ruins up even to the very tops of the mountains, attesting a former 

popu aSLThere now all is desolate." He f*f/ m ^ *T 

is desolation has been 

another place; but I cannot tell whether this 

by a want of population, or by an altered condition of the land. 


gunpowder? Mr. Gill also mentioned to me a most interesting, 
and, as far as I am aware, quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean 
disturbance having changed the drainage of a country. Travelling 
from Casma to Huaraz (not very far distant from Lima), he found 
a plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient cultivation, but 
now quite barren. Near it was the dry course of a considerable 
river, whence the water for irrigation had formerly been conducted. 
There was nothing in the appearance of the water-course, to 
indicate that the river had not flowed there a few years previously ; 
in some parts, beds of sand and gravel were spread out ; in others, 
the solid rock had been worn into a broad channel, which in one 
spot was about 40 yards in breadth and 8 feet deep. It is self- 
evident that a person following up the course of a stream, will 
always ascend at a greater or less inclination : Mr. Gill, therefore, 
was much astonished, when walking up the bed of this ancient 
river, to find himself suddenly going down hill. He imagined that 
the downward slope had a fall of about 40 or 50 feet perpendicular. 
We here have unequivocal evidence that a ridge had been uplifted 
right across the old bed of a stream. From the moment the river- 
course was thus arched, the water must necessarily have been 
thrown back, and a new channel formed. From that moment, also, 
the neighbouring plain must have lost its fertilizing stream, and 
become a desert. 

June 27th. We set out early in the morning, and by midday 
reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a tiny rill of water, 
with a little vegetation, and even a few algarroba trees, a kind of 
mimosa. From having fire-wood, a smelting-furnace had for- 
merly been built here : we found a solitary man in charge of it, 
whose sole employment was hunting guanacos. At night it froze 
sharply ; but having plenty of wood for our fire, we kept ourselves 

28<A. We continued gradually ascending, and the valley now 
changed into a ravine. During the day we saw several guanacos, 
and the track of the closely-allied species, the Vicuna : this latter 
animal is pre-eminently alpine in its habits ; it seldom descends 
much below the limit of perpetual snow, and therefore haunts even 
a more lofty and sterile situation than the guanaco. The only 
other animal which we saw in any number was a small fox : I 
suppose this animal preys on the mice and other small rodents, 


which, as long as there is the least vegetation, subsist in consi- 
derable numbers in very desert places. In Patagonia, even on the 
borders of the salinas, where a drop of fresh water can never be 
found, excepting dew, these little animals swarm. Next to lizards, 
mice appear to be able to support existence on the smallest and 
driest portions of the earth even on islets in the midst of great 

The scene on all sides showed desolation, brightened and made 
palpable by a clear, unclouded sky. For a time such scenery 
is sublime, but this feeling cannot last, and then it becomes un- 
interesting. We bivouacked at the foot of the " primera linea," or 
the first line of the partition of the waters. The streams, however, 
on the east side do not flow to the Atlantic, but into an elevated 
district, in the middle of which there is a large salina, or salt lake ; 
thus forming a little Caspian Sea at the height, perhaps, of ten 
thousand feet. Where we slept, there were some considerable 
patches of snow, but they do not remain throughout the year. The 
winds in these lofty regions obey very regular laws : every day a 
fresh breeze blows up the valley, and at night, an hour or two 
after sunset, the air from the cold regions above descends as through 
a funnel. This night it blew a gale of wind, and the temperature 
must have been considerably below the freezing-point, for water in 
a vessel soon became a block of ice. No clothes seemed to oppose 
any obstacle to the air ; I suffered very much from the cold, so that 
I could not sleep, and in the morning rose with my body quite dull 
and benumbed. 

In the Cordillera further southward, people lose their lives from 
snowstorms ; here, it sometimes happens from another cause. My 
guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was passing the Cordillera 
with a party in the month of May ; and while in the central parts, 
a furious gale of wind arose, so that the men could hardly cling on 
their mules, and stones were flying along the ground. The day 
was cloudless, and not a speck of snow fell, but the temperature 
was low. It is probable that the thermometer would not have 
stood very many degrees below the freezing-point, but the effect 
on their bodies, ill protected by clothing, must have beeen in pro- 
portion to the rapidity of the current of cold air. The gale lasted 
for more than a day; the men began to lose their strength, and the 
mules would not move onwards. My guide's brother tried to return , 
but he perished, and his body was found two years afterwards, lying 

o4G NORTHERN CHILE. [< 'HAP. xvr. 

by the side of his mule near the road, with the bridle still in his 
hand. Two other men in the party lost their fingers and toes ; and 
out of two hundred mules and thirty cows, only fourteen mules 
escaped alive. Many years ago the whole of a large party are sup- 
posed to have perished from a similar cause, but their bodies to this 
day have never been discovered. The union of a cloudless sky, low 
temperature, and a furious gale of wind, must be, I should think, 
in all parts of the world an unusual occurrence. 

June 29</;. We gladly travelled down the valley to our former 
night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua amarga. On July 1st 
we reached the valley of Copiapo. The smell of the fresh clover 
was quite delightful, after the scentless air of the dry sterile 
Despoblado. Whil'st staying in the town I heard an account from 
several of the inhabitants, of a hill in the neighbourhood which 
they called " El Bramador," the roarer or bellower. I did not at 
the time pay sufficient attention to the account ; but, as far as I 
understood, the hill was covered by sand, and the noise was pro- 
duced only \vhen people, by ascending it, put the sand in motion. 
The same circumstances are described in detail on the authority of 
Seetzen and Ehrenberg,* as the cause of the sounds which have 
been heard by many travellers on Mount Sinai near the Eed Sea. 
One person with whom I conversed had himself heard the noise : 
he described it as very surprising ; and he distinctly stated that, 
although he could not understand how it was caused, yet it was 
necessary to set the sand rolling down the acclivity. A horse walk- 
ing over dry and coarse sand, causes a peculiar chirping noise from 
the friction of the particles ; a circumstance which I several times 
noticed on the coast of Brazil. 

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at the Port, 
distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is very little land 
cultivated down the valley ; its wide expanse supports a wretched 
wiry grass, which even the donkeys can hardly eat. This poorness 
of the vegetation is owing to the quantity of saline matter with 
which the soil is impregnated. The Port consists of an assemblage 
of miserable little hovels, situated at the foot of a sterile plain. At 
present, as the river contains water enough to reach the sea, the 
inhabitants enjoy the advantage of having fresh water within a mile 

* Edinburgh Phil. Journ., Jan. 1830, p. 74; and April, 1830, p. 258 
also Daubeny on Volcanoes, p. 433 ; and Bengal Jonru.. vol. vii. p. 324. 


and a half. On the beach there were large piles of merchandise, 
and the little place had an air of activity. In the evening I gave 
my adios, with a hearty good-will, to my companion Mariano 
Gonzales, with whom I had ridden so many leagues in Chile. The 
next morning the Beagle sailed for Iquique. 

July 12th. We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat. 20 12', 
on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a thousand in- 
habitants, and stands on a little plain of sand at the foot of a great 
wall of rock, 2000 feet in height, here forming the coast. The 
whole is utterly desert. A light shower of rain falls only once in 
very many years; and the ravines consequently are filled with 
detritus, and the mountain-sides covered by piles of fine white sand, 
even to a height of a thousand feet. During this season of the year 
a heavy bank of clouds, stretched over the ocean, seldom rises above 
the wall of rocks on the coast. The aspect of the place was most 
gloomy ; the little port, with its few vessels, and small group of 
wretched houses, seemed overwhelmed and out of all proportion 
with the rest of the scene. 

The inhabitants live like persons on board a ship : every necessary 
comes from a distance : water is brought in boats from Pisagua, 
aboiit forty miles northward, and is sold at the rate of nine reals 
(is. 6d.) an eighteen-gallon cask : I bought a wine-bottle full for 
threepence. In like manner firewood, and of course every article 
of food, is imported. Very few animals can be maintained in such 
a place : on the ensuing morning I hired with difficulty, at the 
price of four pounds sterling, two mules and a guide to take me to 
the nitrate of soda works. These are at present the support of 
Iquique. This salt was first exported in 1830: in one year an 
amount in value of one hundred thousand pounds sterling, was 
sent to France and England. It is principally used as a manure 
and in the manufacture of nitric acid : owing to its deliquescent 
property it will not serve for gunpowder. Formerly there were two 
exceedingly rich silver-mines in this neighbourhood, but their pro- 
duce is now very small. 

Our arrival in the offing caused some little apprehension. Peru 
was in a state of anarchy; and each party having demanded a 
contribution, the poor town of Iquique was in tribulation, thinking 
the evil hour was come. The people had also their domestic 
troubles ; a short time before, three French carpenters had broken 

348 PERU. [Yii.M'. xvr. 

open, during the same night, the two churches, and stolen all the 
plate : one of the robbers, however, subsequently confessed, and the 
plate was recovered. The convicts were sent to Arequipa, which, 
though the capital of this province, is two hundred leagues distant ; 
the government there thought it a pity to punish such useful 
workmen, who could make all sorts of furniture ; and accordingly 
liberated them. Things being in this state, the churches were 
again broken open, but this time the plate was not recovered. The 
inhabitants became dreadfully enraged, and declaring that none 
but heretics would thus " eat God Almighty," proceeded to torture 
some Englishmen, with the intention of afterwards shooting them. 
At last the authorities interfered, and peace was established. 

13th. In the morning I started for the saltpetre-works, a dis- 
tance of fourteen leagues. Having ascended the steep coast-moun- 
tains by a zigzag sandy track, we soon came in view of the mines 
of Guantajaya and St. Eosa. These two small villages are placed 
at the very mouths of the mines ; and being perched up on hills, 
they had a still more unnatural and desolate appearance than the 
town of Iquique. We did not reach the saltpetre- works till after 
sunset, having ridden all day across an undulating country, a 
complete and utter desert. The road was strewed with the bones 
and dried skins of the many beasts of burden which had perished 
on it from fatigue. Excepting the Yultur aura, which preys on 
the carcasses, I saw neither bird, quadruped, reptile, nor insect. 
On the coast-mountains, at the height of about 2000 feet, where 
during this season the clouds generally hang, a very few cacti were 
growing in the clefts of rock ; and the loose sand was strewed over 
with a lichen, which lies on the surface quite unattached. This 
plant belongs to the genus Cladonia, and somewhat resembles the 
reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in sufficient quantity to 
tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish colour. 
Further inland, during the Avhole ride of fourteen leagues, I saw 
only one other vegetable production, and that was a most minute 
yellow lichen, growing on the bones of the dead mules. This was 
the first true desert which I had seen : the effect on rnc was not 
impressive ; but I believe this was owing to my having become 
gradually accustomed to such scenes, as I" rode northward from 
Valparaiso, through Coquimbo, to Copiapo. The appearance of 
the country was remarkable, from being covered by a thick crust 
of common salt, and of a stratified saliferous alluvium, which 

1835.] BAY OF CALLAO. 349 

seems to have been deposited as the laud slowly rose above the 
level of the sea. The salt is white, very hard, and compact : it 
occurs in water-worn nodules projecting from the agglutinated 
sand, and is associated with much gypsum. The appearance of 
this superficial mass very closely resembled that of a country after 
snow, before the last dirty patches are thawed. The existence of 
this crust of a soluble substance over the whole face of the country, 
shows how extraordinarily dry the climate must have been for a 
long period. 

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the saltpetre 
mines. The country is here as unproductive as near the coast ; 
but water, having rather a bitter and brackish taste, can be pro- 
cured by digging wells. The well at this house was thirty-six 
yards deep : as scarcely any rain falls, it is evident the water is 
not thus derived ; indeed if it were, it could not fail to be as salt 
as brine, for the whole surrounding country is incrusted with 
various saline substances. We must therefore conclude that it 
percolates under ground from the Cordillera, though distant many 
leagues. In that direction there are a few small villages, where 
the inhabitants, having more water, are enabled to irrigate a little 
land, and raise hay, on which the mules and asses, employed in 
carrying the saltpetre, are fed. The nitrate of soda was now 
selling at the ship's side at fourteen shillings per hundred pounds : 
the chief expense is its transport to the sea-coast. The mine 
consists of a hard stratum, between two and three feet thick, of the 
nitrate mingled with a little of the sulphate of soda and a good 
deal of common salt. It lies close beneath the surface, and follows 
for a length of one hundred and fifty miles the margin of a grand 
basin or plain ; this, from its outline, manifestly must once have 
been a lake, or more probably an inland arm of the sea, as may be 
inferred from the presence of iodic salts in the saline stratum. 
The surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific. 

ISth. We anchored in the Bay of Callao, the seaport of Lima, 
the capital of Peru. We stayed here six weeks, but from the 
troubled state of public affairs, I saw very little of the country. 
During our whole visit the climate was far from being so delight- 
ful, as it is generally represented. A dull heavy bank of clouds 
constantly hung over the land, so that during the first sixteen days 
I had onlv one view of the Cordillera behind Lima. These moun- 

350 PERU. [ciiAi>. xvi. 

tains, seen in stages, one above the other, through openings in the 
clouds, had a very grand appearance. It is almost become a 
proverb, that rain never falls in the lower part of Peru. Yet this 
can hardly be considered correct ; for during almost every day of 
our visit there was a thick drizzling mist, which was sufficient to 
make the streets muddy and one's clothes damp : this the people 
are pleased to call Peruvian dew. That much rain does not fall is 
very certain, for the houses are covered only with flat roofs made 
of hardened mud ; and on the mole ship-loads of wheat were piled 
up, being thus left for weeks together without any shelter. 

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru : in summer, 
however, it is said that the climate is much pleasanter. In all 
seasons, both inhabitants and foreigners suffer from severe attacks 
of ague. This disease is common on the whole coast of Peru, but 
is unknown in the interior. The attacks of illness which arise from 
miasma never fail to appear most mysterious. So difficult is it to 
judge from the aspect of a country, whether or not it is healthy, 
that if a person had been told to choose within the tropics a situa- 
tion appearing favourable for health, very probably he would have 
named this coast. The plain round the outskirts of Callao is 
sparingly covered with a coarse grass, and in some parts there are 
a few stagnant, though very small, pools of water. The miasma, 
in all probability, arises from these : for the town of Arica was 
similarly circumstanced, and its healthiness was much improved by 
the drainage of some little pools. Miasma is not always produced 
by a luxuriant vegetation with an ardent climate ; for many parts 
of Brazil, even where there are marshes and a rank vegetation, are 
much more healthy than this sterile coast of Peru. The densest 
forests in a x temperate climate, as in Chiloe, do not seem in the 
slightest degree to affect the healthy condition of the atmosphere. 

The island of St. Jago, at the Cape de Yerds, offers another 
strongly marked instance of a country, which any one would have 
expected to find most healthy, being very much the contrary. I 
have described the bare and open plains as supporting, during a 
few weeks after the rainy season, a thin vegetation, which directly 
withers away and dries up : at this period the air appears to 
become quite poisonous ; both natives and foreigners often being 
affected with violent fevers. On the other hand, the Galapagos 
Archipelago, in the Pacific, with a similar soil, and periodically 
sul'ject to the same process of vegetation, is perfectly healthy. 


Humboldt has observed, that, " under the torrid zone, the smallest 
marshes are the most dangerous, being surrounded, as at Vera 
Cruz and Carthagena, with an arid and sandy soil, which raises 
the temperature of the ambient air." * On the coast of Peru, how- 
ever, the temperature is not hot to any excessive degree ; and 
perhaps in consequence, the intermittent fevers are not of the most 
malignant order. In all unhealthy countries the greatest risk is 
run by sleeping on shore. Is this owing to the state of the body 
during sleep, or to a greater abundance of miasma at such times ? 
It appears certain that those who stay on board a vessel, though 
anchored at only a short distance from the coast, generally suffer 
less than those actually on shore. On the other hand, I have 
heard of one remarkable case where a fever broke out among the 
crow of a man-of-war some hundred miles off the coast of Africa, 
and at the very same time that one of those fearful periods f of 
death commenced at Sierra Leone. 

No State in South America, since the declaration of independence, 
has suffered more from anarchy than Peru. At the time of our 
visit, there were four chiefs in arms contending for supremacy in 
the government : if one succeeded in becoming for a time very 
powerful, the others coalesced against him ; but no sooner were 
they victorious, than they were again hostile to each other. The 
other day, at the Anniversary of the Independence, high mass was 
performed, the President partaking of the sacrament : during the 
Te Deum laudamus, instead of each regiment displaying the Peru- 
vian flag, a black one with death's head was unfurled. Imagine a 
government under which such a scene could be ordered, on such 
an occasion, to be typical of their determination of fighting to 
death ! This state of affairs happened at a time very unfortunately 
for rue, as I was precluded from taking any excursions much 
beyond the limits of the town. The barren island of S. Lorenzo, 
which forms the harbour, was nearly the only place where one 
could walk securely. The upper part, which is upwards of 1000 
feet in height, during this season of the year (winter), comes within 
the lower limit of the clouds ; and in consequence, an abundant 

* Political Essuy on the Kingdom of Now Spain, vol. iv. p. 199. 

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

352 PERU. [CHAP. xvr. 

cryptogamic vegetation, and a few flowers cover the summit. Oa 
the hills near Lima, at a height but little greater, the ground is 
carpeted with moss, and beds of beautiful yellow lilies, called 
Amancaes. This indicates a very much greater degree of humidity, 
than at a corresponding height at Iquique. Proceeding northward 
of Lima, the climate becomes damper, till on the banks of the 
Guyaquil, nearly under the equator, we find the most luxuriant 
forests. The change, however, from the sterile coast of Peru to 
that fertile land is described as taking place rather abruptly in tho 
latitude of Cape Blanco, two degrees south of Guyaquil. 

Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants, both 
here and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of mixture, 
between European, Negro, and Indian blood. They appear a 
depraved, drunken set of people. The atmosphere is loaded with 
foul smells, and that peculiar one, which may be perceived in 
almost every town within the tropics, was here very strong. The 
fortress, which withstood Lord Cochrane's long siege, has an im- 
posing appearance. But the President, during our stay, sold the 
brass guns, and proceeded to dismantle parts of it. The reason 
assigned was, that he had not an officer to whom he could trust 
so important a charge. He himself had good reasons for thinking 
so, as he had obtained the presidentship by rebelling while in 
charge of this same fortress. After we left South America, he 
paid the penalty in the usual manner, by being conquered, taken 
prisoner, and shot. 

Lima stands on a plain in a valley, formed during the gradual 
retreat of the sea. It is seven miles from Callao, and is elevated 
500 feet above it ; but from the slope being very gradual, the road 
appears absolutely level ; so that when at Lima it is difficult to 
believe one has ascended even one hundred feet : Humboldt has 
remarked on this singularly deceptive case. Steep, barren hills 
rise like islands from the plain, which is divided, by straight 
mud-walls, into large green fields. In these scarcely a tree grows 
excepting a few willows, and an occasional clump of bananas and 
of oranges. The city of Lima is now in a wretched state of decay : 
the streets are nearly unpaved ; and heaps of filth are piled up in 
all directions, where the black gallinazos, tame as poultry, pick up 
bits of carrion. The houses have generally an upper story, built, 
on account of the earthquakes, of plastered woodwork ; but some 
of the old ones, which are now used by several families, are 

1835.] RUINS OF CALLAO. 353 

immensely large, and would rival in suites of apartments the most 
magnificent in any place. Lima, the City of the Kings, must 
formerly have been a splendid town. The extraordinary number 
of churches gives it, even at the present day, a peculiar and 
striking character, especially when viewed from a short distance. 

One day I went out with some merchants to hunt in the imme- 
diate vicinity of the city. Our sport was very poor; but I had 
an opportunity of seeing the ruins of one of the ancient Indian 
villages, with its mound like a natural hill in the centre. The 
remains of houses, enclosures, irrigating streams, and burial 
mounds, scattered over this plain, cannot fail to give one a high 
idea of the condition and number of the ancient population. 
When their earthenware, woollen clothes, utensils of elegant forms 
cut out of the hardest rocks, tools of copper, ornaments of precious 
stones, palaces, and hydraulic works, are considered, it is impos- 
sible not to respect the considerable advance made by them in the 
arts of civilization. The burial mounds, called Huacas, are really 
stupendous; although in some places they appear to be natural 
hills incased and modelled. 

There is also another and very different class of ruins, which 
possesses some interest, namely, those of old Callao, overwhelmed 
by the great earthquake of 1746, and its accompanying wave. The 
destruction must have been more complete even than at Talcahuano. 
Quantities of shingle almost conceal the foundations of the walls, 
and vast masses of brickwork appear to have been whirled about 
like pebbles by the retiring waves. It has been stated that the 
land subsided during this memorable shock : I could not discover 
any proof of this ; yet it seems far from improbable, for the form 
of the coast must certainly have undergone some change since the 
foundation of the old town; as no people in their senses would 
willingly have chosen for their building place, the narrow spit 
of shingle on which the ruins now stand. Since our voyage, 
M. Tschudi has come to the conclusion, by the comparison of old 
and modern maps, that the coast both north and south of Lima 
has certainly subsided. 

On the island of San Lorenzo, there are very satisfactory proofs 
of elevation within the recent period ; this of course is not opposed 
to the belief, of a small sinking of the ground having subsequently 
taken place. The side of this island fronting the Bay of Callao, 
is worn into three obscure terraces, the lower one of which is 

2 A 

854 PEIiI". .[CHAP. xvi. 

covered by a bed a mile in length, almost wholly composed of 
shells of eighteen species, now living in the adjoining sea. The 
height of this bed is eighty-five feet. Many of the shells are 
deeply corroded, and have a much older and more decayed appear- 
ance than those at the height of 500 or 600 feet on the coast of 
Chile. These shells are associated with much common salt, a 
little sulphate of lime (both probably left by the evaporation of 
the spray, as the land slowly rose), together with sulphate of soda 
and muriate of lime. They rest on fragments of the underlying 
sandstone, and are covered by a few inches thick of detritus. The 
shells, higher up on this terrace, could be traced scaling off in 
flakes, and falling into an impalpable powder; and on an upper 
terrace, at the height of 170 feet, and likewise at some considerably 
higher points, I found a layer of saline powder of exactly similar 
appearance, and lying in the same relative position. I have no 
doubt that this upper layer originally existed as a bed of shells, 
like that on the eighty-five-feet ledge ; but it does not now contain 
even a trace of organic structure. The powder has been analyzed 
for me by Mr. T. Eeeks ; it consists of siilphates and muriates both 
of lime and soda, with very little carbonate of lime. It is known 
that common salt and carbonate of lime left in a mass for some 
time together, partly decompose each other ; though this does not 
happen with small quantities in solution. As the half-decomposed 
shells in the lower parts are associated with much common salt, 
together with some of the saline substances composing the upper 
saline layer, and as these shells are corroded and decayed in a 
remarkable manner, I strongly suspect that this double decompo- 
sition has here taken place. The resultant salts, however, ought 
to be carbonate of soda and muriate of lime ; the latter is present, 
but not the carbonate of soda. Hence I am led to imagine that 
by some unexplained means, the carbonate of soda becomes changed 
into the sulphate. It is obvious that the saline layer could not 
have been preserved in any country in which abundant rain 
occasionally fell : on the other hand, this very circumstance, which 
at first sight appears so highly favourable to the long preservation 
of exposed shells, has probably been the indirect means, through 
the common salt not having been washed away, of their decompo- 
sition and early decay. 

I was much interested by finding on the terrace, at the height of 
eighty-five feet, embedded amidst the shells and much sea-drifted 


rubbish, some bits of cotton thread, plaited rush, and the head 
of a stalk of Indian corn: I compared these relics with similar 
ones taken out of the Huacas, or old Peruvian tombs, and found 
them identical in appearance. On the mainland in front of San 
Lorenzo, near Bellavista, there is an extensive and level plain 
about a hundred feet high, of which the lower part is formed of 
alternating layers of sand and impure clay, together with some 
gravel, and the surface, to the depth of from three to six feet, of 
a reddish loam, containing a few scattered sea-shells and numerous 
small fragments of coarse red earthenware, more abundant at 
certain spots than at others. At first I was inclined to believe that 
this superficial bed, from its wide extent and smoothness, must 
have been deposited beneath the sea ; but I afterwards found in 
one spot, that it lay on an artificial floor of round stones. It 
seems, therefore, most probable that at a period when the land 
stood at a lower level there was a plain very similar to that now 
surrounding Callao, which being protected by a shingle beach, is 
raised but very little above the level of the sea. On this plain, 
with its underlying red-clay beds, I imagine that the Indians 
manufactured their earthen vessels ; and that, during some violent 
earthquake, the sea broke over the beach, and converted the plain 
into a temporary lake, as happened round Callao in 1713 and 1746. 
The water would then have deposited mud, containing fragments 
of pottery from the kilns, more abundant at some spots than at 
others, and shells from the sea. This bed, with fossil earthenware, 
stands at about the same height with the shells on the lower 
terrace of San Lorenzo, in which the cotton-thread and other 
relics were embedded. Hence we may safely conclude, that within 
the Indo-human period there has been an elevation, as before 
alluded to, of more than eighty-five feet ; for some little elevation 
must have been lost by the coast having subsided since the old 
maps were engraved. At Valparaiso, although in the 220 years 
before our visit, the elevation cannot have exceeded nineteen feet, 
yet subsequently to 1817 there has been a rise, partly insensible 
and partly by a start during the shock of 1822, of ten or eleven 
feet. The antiquity of the Indo-human race here, judging by the 
eighty-five feet rise of the land since the relics were embedded, is 
the more remarkable, as on the coast of Patagonia, when the land 
stood about the same number of feet lower, the Macrauchenia was 
a living beast; but as the Patagoniau coast is some way distant 



[CHAP, xvr, 

from the Cordillera, the rising there may have been slower than 
here. At Bahia Blanca, the elevation has been only a few feet 
since the numerous gigantic quadrupeds were there entombed ; 
and, according to the generally received opinion, when these ex- 
tinct animals were living, man did not exist. But the rising of 
that part of the coast of Patagonia, is perhaps no way connected 
with the Cordillera, but rather with a line of old volcanic rocks 
in Banda Oriental, so that it may have been infinitely slower than 
on the shores of Peril. All these speculations, however, must be 
vague ; for who will pretend to say that there may not have been 
several periods of subsidence, intercalated between the movements 
of elevation ; for we know that along the whole coast of Patagonia, 
there have certainly been many and long pauses in the upward 
action of the elevatory forces. 






The whole Group Volcanic Numbers of Craters Leafless Bushes Colony 
at Charles Island James Island Salt-lake in Crater Natural History 
of the Group Ornithology, curious Finches Reptiles Great Tortoises, 
habits of Marine Lizard, feeds on Sea-weed Terrestrial Lizard, burrow - 
inghabits, herbivorous Importance of Reptiles in the Archipelago Fish, 
Shells, Insects Botany American Type of Organization Differences 
in the Species or Races on different Islands Tameness of the Birds 
Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct. 

September 15th. This archipelago consists of ten principal islands, 
of which five exceed the others in size. They arc situated under 

Cnl pepper I. 

Wenman I. 

60 Miles 

\ Abinydon I. 


Narborough L { 

Albemarlc 1. 

ower I. 

Tn3.eratigc.Llc I. 

Chatham L 


Charles I. Hood's I. 


the Equator, and between five and six hundred miles westward of 
the coast of America. They are all formed of volcanic rocks ; a fe\v 
fragments of granite curiously glazed and altered by the heat, can 
hardly be considered as an exception. Some of the craters, sur- 
mounting the larger islands, are of immense size, and they rise to 
a height of between three and four thousand feet. Their flanks are 
studded by innumerable smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to 
affirm, that there must be in the whole archipelago at least two 
thoitsand craters. These consist either of lava and scorise, or of 
finely-stratified, sandstone-like tuff. Most of the latter are beauti- 
fully symmetrical ; they owe their origin to eruptions of volcanic 
mud without any lava : it is a remarkable circumstance that every 
one of the twenty-eight tuff-craters which were examined, had 
their southern sides either much lower than the other sides, or 
quite broken down and removed. As all these craters apparently 
have been formed when standing in the sea, and as the waves from 
the trade wind and the swell from the open Pacific here unite their 
forces on the southern coasts of all the islands, this singular uni- 
formity in the broken state of the craters, composed of the soft and 
yielding tuff, is easily explained. 

Considering that these islands are placed directly under the 
equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot ; this seems 
chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature of the surrounding 
water, brought here by the great southern Polar current. Except- 
ing during one short season, very little rain falls, and even then it 
is irregular; but the clouds generally hang low. Hence, whilst 
the lower parts of the islands are very sterile, the upper parts, at 
a height of a thousand feet and upwards, possess a damp climate 
and a tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is especially Ihe case 
on the windward sides of the islands, which first receive and 
condense the moisture from the atmosphere. 

In the morning (17th) we landed on Chatham Island, which, 
like the others, rises with a tame and rounded outline, broken 
here and there by scattered hillocks, the remains of former craters. 
Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken 
field of black basaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves, 
and crossed by great fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, 
sun-burnt brushwood, which shows little signs of life. The dry 
and parched surface, being heated by the noon-day sun, gave to 
the air a close and sultry feeling, like that from a stove: we fancied 

1835.1 LEAFLESS BUSHES. 359 

even that the bashes smelt unpleasantly. Although I diligently 
tried to collect as many plants as possible, I succeeded in getting 
very few; and such wretched-looking little weeds would have 
better become an arctic than an equatorial Flora. The brushwood 
appears, from a short distance, as leafless as our trees during 
winter; and it was some time before I discovered that not only 
almost every plant was now in full leaf, bnt that the greater 
number were in flower. The commonest bush is one of the Eu- 
phorbiaceao : an acacia and a great odd-looking cactus are the only 
trees which afford any shade. After the season of heavy rains, the 
islands are said to appear for a short time partially green. The 
volcanic island of Fernando Noronha, placed in many respects 
under nearly similar conditions, is the only other country where 
I have seen a vegetation at all like this of the Galapagos Islands. 

The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored in 
several bays. One night I slept on shore on a part of the island, 
where black truncated cones were extraordinarily numerous : from 
one small eminence I counted sixty of them, all surmounted by 
craters more or less perfect. The greater number consisted merely 
of a ring of red scoriae or slags, cemented together: and their height 
above the plain of lava was not more than from, fifty to a hundred 
feet ; none had been very lately active. The entire surface of this 
part of the island seems to have been permeated, like a sieve, by 
the subterranean vapours : here and there the lava, whilst soft, has 
been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts, the tops of 
caverns similarly formed have fallen in, leaving circular pits with 
steep sides. From the regular form of the many craters, they 
gave to the country an artificial appearance, which vividly re- 
minded me of those parts of Staffordshire, where the great iron- 
foundries are most numerous. The day was glowing hot, and the 
scrambling over the rough surface and through the intricate 
thickets, was very fatiguing ; but I was well repaid by the strange 
Cyclopean scene. As I was walking along I met two large 
tortoises, eacli of which must have weighed at least two hundred 
pounds: one was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, 
it stared at me and slowly walked away ; the other gave a deep 
hiss, and drew in its head. These huge reptiles, surrounded by 
the black lava, the leafless shrubs, and large cacti, seemed to my 
fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull-coloured 
i-irds cared no more for me than they did for the great tortoises. 


23rd -The Beagle proceeded to Charles Island. This archi- 
pelago has long been frequented, first by the bucaniers, and 
latterly by whalers, but it is only within the last six years, that 
a small colony has been established here. The inhabitants are 
between two and three hundred in number; they are nearly all 
people of colour, who have been banished for political crimes from 
the Eepublic of the Equator, of which Quito is the capital. The 
settlement is placed about four and a half miles inland, and at a 
height probably of a thousand feet. In the first part of the road 
we passed through leafless thickets, as in Chatham Island. Higher 
up, the woods gradually became greener; and as soon as we crossed 
the ridge of the island, we were cooled by a fine southerly breeze, 
and our sight refreshed by a green and thriving vegetation. In 
this upper region coarse grasses and ferns aboiind ; but there arc 
no tree-ferns : I saw nowhere any member of the Palm family, 
which is the more singular, as 360 miles northward, Cocos Island 
take its name from the number of cocoa-nuts. The houses are 
irregularly scattered over a flat space of ground, which is culti- 
vated with sweet potatoes and bananas. It will not easily be 
imagined how pleasant the sight of black mud was to us, after 
having been so long accustomed to the parched soil of Peru and 
northern Chile. The inhabitants, although complaining of poverty, 
obtain, without much trouble, the means of subsistence. In the 
woods there are many wild pigs and goats ; but the staple article 
of animal food is supplied by the tortoises. Their mimbers have 
of course been greatly reduced in this island, but the people yet 
count on two days' hunting giving them food for the rest of the 
week. It is said that formerly single vessels have taken away as 
many as seven hundred, and that the ship's company of a frigate 
some years since brought down in one day two hundred tortoises 
to the beach. 

September 29^. We doubled the south-west extremity of Albe- 
marle Island, and the faext day were nearly becalmed between it 
and Narborough Island. Both are covered with immense deluges 
of black naked lava, which have flowed either over the rims of the 
great caldrons, like pitch over the rim of a pot in which it has 
been boiled, or have burst forth from smaller orifices on the flanks ; 
in their descent they have spread over miles of the sea- coast. On 
both of these islands, eruptions are known to have taken place ; 
and in Albemarle, wp saw a small jet of smoke curling from the 

1835.] JAMES ISLAND. 361 

summit of one of the great craters. In the evening we anchored 
in Bank's Cove, in Albemarle Island. The next morning I went 
out walking. To the south of the broken tuff-crater, in which the 
Beagle was anchored, there was another beautifully symmetrical one 
of an elliptic form ; its longer axis was a little less than a mile, 
and its depth about 500 feet. At its bottom there was a shallow 
lake, in the middle of which a tiny crater formed an islet. The 
day was overpoweringly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue : 
I hurried down the cindery slope, and, choked with dust, eagerly 
tasted the water but, to my sorrow, I found it salt as brine. 

The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards, be- 
tween three and four feet long; and on the hills, an ugly yellowish- 
brown species was equally common. We saw many of this latter 
kind, some clumsily running out of our way, and others shuffling 
into their burrows. I shall presently describe in more detail the 
habits of both these reptiles. The whole of this northern part of 
Albemarle Island is miserably sterile. 

October 8th. We arrived at James Island : this island, as well 
as Charles Island, were long since thus named after our kings of 
the Stuart line. Mr. Bynoe, myself, and our servants were left 
here for a week, with provisions and a tent, whilst the Beagle 
went for water. We found here a party of Spaniards, who had 
been sent from Charles Island to dry fish, and to salt tortoise- 
meat. About six miles inland, and at the height of nearly 2000 
feet, a hovel had been built in which two men lived, who were 
employed in catching tortoises, whilst the others were fishing on 
the coast. I paid this party two visits, and slept there one night. 
As in the other islands, the lower region was covered by nearly 
leafless bushes, but the trees were here of a larger growth than 
elsewhere, several being two feet and some even two feet nine 
inches in diameter. The upper region being kept damp by the 
clouds, supports a green and flourishing vegetation. So damp was 
the ground, that there were large beds of a coarse cyperus, in 
which great numbers of a very small water-rail lived and bred. 
While staying in this upper region, we lived entirely upon tortoise- 
meat : the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos do came con ciiero), 
with the flesh on it, is very good ; and the young tortoises make 
excellent soup ; but otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent. 

One day we accompanied a party of the Spaniards in their 
whale-boat to a salina, or lake from which salt is procured. After 


landing, we had a very rough walk over a rugged field of recent 
lava, which has almost surrounded a tuff-crater, at the bottom of 
which the salt-lake lies. The water is only three or four inches 
deep, and rests on a layer of beautifully crystallized, white salt. 
The lake is quite circular, and is fringed with a border of bright 
green succulent plants ; the almost precipitous walls of the crater 
are clothed with wood, so that the scene was altogether both pic- 
turesque and curious. A few years since, the sailors belonging to 
a sealing-vessel murdered their captain in this quiet spot ; and we 
saw his skull lying among the bushes. 

During the greater part of our stay of a week, the sky was 
cloudless, and if the trade-wind failed for an hour, the heat became 
very oppressive. On two days, the thermometer within the tent 
stood for some hours at 93 ; but in the open air, in the wind and 
sun, at only 85. The sand was extremely hot ; the thermometer 
placed in some of a brown colour immediately rose to 137, and 
how much above that it would have risen, I do not know, for it 
was not graduated any higher. The black sand felt much hotter, 
so that even in thick boots it was quite disagreeable to walk 
over it. 

The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and 
well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are abori- 
ginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even a difference 
between the inhabitants of the different islands ; yet all show a 
marked relationship with those of America, though separated from 
that continent by an open space of ocean, between 500 and 600 
miles in width. The archipelago is a little world within itself, or 
rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few 
stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indi- 
genous productions. Considering the small size of these islands, 
we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal 
beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned 
with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still 
distinct, we are led to believe that within a period, geologically 
recent, the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in 
space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great 
fact that mystery of mysteries the first appearance of new beings 
on this earth. 

Of terrestrial mammals, there is only one which must be con- 


sidered as indigenous, namely, a mouse (Mas Galapagoensis), and 
this is confined, as far as I could ascertain, to Chatham Island, the 
most easterly island of the group. It belongs, as I am informed by 
Mr. Waterhouse, to a division of the family of mice characteristic 
of America. At James Island, there is a rat sufficiently distinct 
from the common kind to have been named and described by Mr- 
Waterhouse ; but as it belongs to the old-world division of the 
family, and as this island has been frequented by ships for the last 
hundred and fifty years, I can hardly doubt that this rat is merely 
a variety, produced by the new and peculiar climate, food, and soil, 
to which it has been subjected. Although no one has a right to 
speculate without distinct facts, yet even with respect to the Chat- 
ham Island mouse, it should be borne in mind, that it may possibly 
be an American species imported here ; for I have seen, in a most 
unfrequented part of the Pampas, a native mouse living in the roof 
of a newly built hovel, and therefore its transportation in a vessel 
is not improbable: analogous facts have been observed by Dr. 
Richardson in North America. 

Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the 
group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark-like 
finch from North America (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), which ranges 
on that continent as far north as 54, and generally frequents 
marshes. The other twenty-five birds consist, firstly, of a hawk, 
curiously intermediate in structure between a buzzard and the 
American group of carrion-feeding Polybori ; and with these latter 
birds it agrees most closely in every habit and even tone of voice. 
Secondly, there are two owls, representing the short-eared and white 
barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly, a wren, three tyrant-flycatchers 
(two of them species of Pyrocephalus, one or both of which would 
be ranked by some ornithologists as only varieties), and a dove 
all analogous to, but distinct from, American species. Fourthly, a 
swallow, which though differing from the Progne purpurea of both 
Americas, only in being rather duller coloured, smaller, and slen- 
derer, is considered by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, 
there are three species of mocking-thrush a form highly charac- 
teristic of America. The remaining land-birds form a most singular 
group of finches, related to each other in the structure of their 
beaks, short tails, form of body and plumage : there are thirteen 
species, which Mr. Gould has divided into four sub-groups. All 
these species are peculiar to this archipelago ; and so is the whole 


[CHAP. xvn. 

group, with the exception of one species of the sub-group Cac- 
tornis,' lately brought from Bow Island, in the low Archipelago. 
Of Cactornis, the two species may be often seen climbing about the 
flowers of the great cactus-trees ; but all the other species of this 
group of finches, mingled together in flocks, feed on the dry and 
sterile ground of the lower districts. The males of all, or certainly 
of the greater number, are jet black ; and the females (with perhaps 
one or two exceptions) are brown. The most curious fact is the 
perfect gradation in the size of the beaks in the different species of 
Geospiza, from one as large as that of a hawfinch to that of a 

1. Geospiza miignirostris. 
3. Geospiza parvula. 

2. Gpo.-piza 1'oitis. 
4. Certliidea olivasea. 

chaffinch, and (if Mr. Gould is right in including his sub-group, 
Certhidea, in the main group) even to that of a warbler. The 
largest beak in the genus Geospiza is shown in Fig. 1, and the 
smallest in Fig. 3 ; but instead of there being only one intermediate 
species, with a beak of the size shown in Fig. 2, there are no less 
than six species with insensibly graduated beaks. The beak of the 
sub-group Certhidea, is shown in Fig. 4. The beak of Cactornis 
is somewhat like that of a starling; and that of the fourth sub- 
group, Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot-shaped. Seeing this gra- 
dation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related 
group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original 
paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and 

1835.] BIRDS. 365 

modified for different ends. In a like manner it might be fancied 
that a bird originally a buzzard, had been induced here to under- 
take the office of the carrion-feeding Polybori of the American 

Of waders and water-birds I was able to get only eleven kinds, 
and of these only three (including a rail confined to the damp 
summits of the islands) are new species. Considering the wander- 
ing habits of the gulls, I was surprised to find that the species 
inhabiting these islands is peculiar, but allied to one from the 
southern parts of South America. The far greater peculiarity of 
the land-birds, namely, twenty-five out of twenty-six being new 
species or at least new races, compared with the waders and 
web-footed birds, is in accordance with the greater range which 
these latter orders have in all parts of the world. We shall 
hereafter see this law of aquatic forms, whether marine or fresh- 
water, being less peculiar at any given point of the earth's surface 
than the terrestrial forms of the same classes strikingly illustrated 
in the shells, and in a lesser degree in the insects of this archi- 

Two of the waders are rather smaller than the same species 
brought from other places : the swallow is also smaller, though it is 
doubtful whether or not it is distinct from its analogue. The two 
owls, the two tyrant-flycatchers (Pyrocephalus) and the dove, are 
also smaller than the analogous but distinct species, to which they 
are most nearly related ; on the other hand, the gull is rather larger. 
The two owls, the swallow, all three species of mocking-thrush, 
the dove in its separate colours though not in its whole plumage, 
the Totauus, and the gull, are likewise duskier coloured than their 
analogous species; and in the case of the mocking-thrush and 
Totanus, than any other species of the two genera. With the 
exception of a wren with a fine yellow breast, and of a tyrant-fly- 
catcher Avith a scarlet tuft and breast, none of the birds are 
brilliantly coloured, as might have been expected in an equatorial 
district. Hence it would appear probable, that the same causes 
which here make the immigrants of some species smaller, make 
most of the peculiar Galapageian species also smaller, as well as 
very generally more dusky coloured. All the plants have a wretched, 
weedy appearance, and I did not see one beautiful flower. The 
insects, again, are small-sized and dull-coloured, and, as Mr. Water- 
house informs me, there is nothing in their general appearance 


which would have led him to imagine that they had come from 
under the equator.* The birds, plants, and insects have a desert 
character, and are not more brilliantly coloured than those from 
southern Patagonia; we may, therefore, conclude that the usual 
gaudy colouring of the intertropical productions, is not related 
either to the heat or light of those zones, but to some other cause, 
perhaps to the conditions of existence being generally favourable 
to life. 

We will now turn to the order of reptiles, which gives the most 
striking character to the zoology of these islands. The species are 
not numerous, but the numbers of individuals of each species are 
extraordinarily great. There is one small lizard belonging to a 
South American genus, and two species (and probably more) of the 
Amblyrhynchus a genus confined to the Galapagos Islands. There 
is one snake which is numerous ; it is identical, as I am informed 
by M. Bibron, with the Psammophis Teruminckii from Chile. f Of 
sea-turtle I believe there are more than one species ; and of tortoises 
there are, as we shall presently show, two or three species or races. 
Of toads and frogs there are none : I was surprised at this, con- 
sidering how well suited for them the temperate and damp upper 
woods appeared to be. It recalled to my mind the remark made by 
Bory St. Vincent,:]: namely, that none of this family are found on 
any of the volcanic islands in the great oceans. As far as I can 
ascertain from various works, this seems to hold good throughout 
the Pacific, and even in the large islands of the Sandwich archi- 

* The progress of research has shown that some of these birds, which 
were then thought to be confined to the islands, occur on the American 
continent. The eminent ornithologist, Mr. Sclater, informs me that this 
is Hie case with the Strix punctatissima and Pyrocephalus nanus; and 
probably with the Otus Galapagocusis and Zenaida Galapagoensis : so 
that the number of endemic birds is reduced to twenty-three, or probably 
to twenty-one. Mr. Sclater thinks that one or two of these endemic 
forms should be ranked rather as varieties than species, which always 
seemed to me probable. 

t This is stated by Dr. Giinther (Zoolog. Soc., Jan. 24th, 1859) to be a 
peculiar species, not known to inhabit any other country. 

% Voyage aux Quatre lies d'Afrique. With respect to the Sandwich 
Islands, see Tyermau and Bennett's Journal, vol. i. p. 434. For Mauri- 
tius, see Voyage par un Officier, etc., part i., p. 170. There are no frogs 
in the Canary Islands (Webb et Berthelot, Hist. Nat. des lies Canaries). 
I saw none at St. Jago in the Cape de Verds. There are none at 
St. Helena. 


pelago. Mauritius offers an apparent exception, where I saw the 
Kana Mascariensis in abundance : this frog is said now to inhabit 
the Seychelles, Madagascar, and Bourbon ; but on the other hand, 
Du Bois, in his voyage in 1669, states that there were no reptiles 
in Bourbon except tortoises ; and the Officier du Eoi asserts that 
before 1768 it had been attempted, without success, to introduce 
frogs into Mauritius I presume, for the purpose of eating : hence 
it may be well doubted whether this frog is an aboriginal of these 
islands. The absence of the frog family in the oceanic islands is 
the more remarkable, when contrasted with the case of lizards, 
which swarm on most of the smallest islands. May this difference 
not be caused, by the greater facility with which the eggs of lizards, 
protected by calcareous shells, might be transported through salt- 
water, than could the slimy spawn of frogs ? 

I will first describe the habits of the tortoise (Testudo nigra, 
formerly called ludica), which has been so frequently alluded 
to. These animals are found, I believe, on all the islands of the 
archipelago; certainly on the greater number. They frequent in 
preference the high damp parts, but they likewise live in the lower 
and arid districts. I have already shown, from the numbers 
which have been caught in a single day, how very numerous they 
must be. Some grow to an immense size : Mr. Lawson, an Eng- 
lishman, aud vice-governor of the colony, told us that he had seen 
several so large, that it required six or eight men to lift them from 
the ground ; and that some had afforded as much as two hundred 
pounds of meat. The old males are the largest, the females rarely 
growing to so great a size : the male can readily be distinguished 
from the female by the greater length of its tail. The tortoises 
which live on those islands where there is no water, or in the 
lower and arid parts of the others, feed chiefly on the succulent 
cactus. Those which frequent the higher and damp regions, eat 
the leaves of various trees, a kind of berry (called guayavita) 
which is acid and austere, and likewise a pale green filamentous 
lichen (Usnera plicata), that hangs in tresses from the boughs of 
the trees. 

The tortoise is very fond of water, drinking large quantities, 
and wallowing in the mud. The larger islands alone possess 
springs, and these are always situated towards the central parts, 
and at a considerable height. The tortoises, therefore, which 
frequent the lower districts, when thirsty, are obliged to travel 


from a long distance. Hence broad and well-beaten paths branch 
off in every direction from the wells down to the sea-coast ; and 
the Spaniards by following them up, first discovered the watering- 
places. When I landed at Chatham Island, I could not imagine 
what animal travelled so methodically along well-chosen tracks. 
Near the springs it was a curious spectacle to behold many of 
these huge creatures, one set eagerly travelling onwards with 
outstretched necks, and another set returning, after having drunk 
their fill. When the tortoise arrives at the spring, quite regardless 
of any spectator, he buries his head in the water above his eyes, 
and greedily swallows great mouthfuls, at the rate of about ten 
in a minute. The inhabitants say each animal stays three or 
four days in the neighbourhood of the water, and then returns 
to the lower country ; but they differed respecting the frequency 
of these visits. The animal probably regulates them according 
to the nature of the food on which it has lived. It is, however, 
certain, that tortoises can subsist even on those islands, where 
there is no other water than what falls during a few rainy days in 
the year. 

I believe it is well ascertained, that the bladder of the frog acts 
as a reservoir for the moisture necessary to its existence: such 
seems to be the case with the tortoise. For some time after a visit 
to the springs, their urinary bladders are distended with fluid, 
which is said gradually to decrease in volume, and to become less 
pure. The inhabitants, when walking in the lower district, and 
overcome with thirst, often take advantage of this circumstance, 
and drink the contents of the bladder if full : in one I saw killed, 
the fluid was quite limpid, and had only a very slightly bitter taste. 
The inhabitants, however, always first drink the water in the 
pericardium, which is described as being best. 

The tortoises, when purposely moving towards any point, travel 
by night and day, and arrive at their journey's end much sooner 
than would be expected. The inhabitants, from observing marked 
individuals, consider that they travel a distance of about eight 
miles in two or three days. One large tortoise, which I watched, 
walked at the rate of sixty yards in ten minutes, that is 360 yards 
in the hour, or four miles a day, allowing a little time for it to eat 
on the road. During the breeding season, when the male and 
female are together, the male utters a hoarse roar or bellowing, 
which, it is said, can be heard at the distance of more than a 

1835.] GREAT TORTOISE. 369 

hundred yards. The female never uses her voice, and the male 
only at these times ; so that when the people hear this noise, they 
know that the two are together. They were at this time (October) 
laying their eggs. The female, where the soil is sandy, deposits 
them together, and covers them up with sand; but where the 
ground is rocky she drops them indiscriminately in any hole : Mr. 
Bynoe found seven placed in a fissure. The egg is white and 
spherical ; one which I measured was seven inches and three-eighths 
in circumference, and therefore larger than a hen's egg. The young 
tortoises, as soon as they are hatched, fall a prey in great numbers 
to the carrion-feeding buzzard. The old ones seem generally to die 
from accidents, as from falling down precipices : at least, several of 
the inhabitants told me, that they had never found one dead with- 
out some evident cause. 

The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely deaf; 
certainly they do not overhear a person walking close behind them. 
I was always amused when overtaking one of these great monsters, 
as it was quietly pacing along, to sec how suddenly, the instant I 
passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep 
hiss fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead. I 
frequently got on their backs, and then giving a few raps on the 
hinder part of their shells, they would rise up and walk away ; 
but I found it very difficult to keep my balance. The flesh of this 
animal is largely employed, both fresh and salted ; and a beautifully 
clear oil is prepared from the fat. When a tortoise is caught, the 
man makes a slit in the skin near its tail, so as to see inside its 
body, whether the fat under the dorsal plate is thick. If it is not, 
the animal is liberated ; and it is said to recover soon from this 
strange operation. In order to secure the tortoises, it is not suffi- 
cient to turn them like turtle, for they are often able to get on their 
legs again. 

There can be little doubt that this tortoise is an aboriginal 
inhabitant of the Galapagoes; for it is found on all, or nearly all, 
the islands, even on some of the smaller ones where there is no 
water ; had it been an imported species, this would hardly have 
been the case in a group which has been so little frequented. 
Moreover, the old Bucaniers found this tortoise in greater numbers 
even than at present : Wood and Rogers also, in 1708, say that it 
is the opinion of the Spaniards, that it is found nowhere else in 
this quarter of the world. It is now widely distributed; but it 

2 B 


may be questioned whether it is in any other place an aboriginal. 
The bones of a tortoise at Mauritius, associated with those of the 
extinct Dodo, have generally been considered as belonging to this 
tortoise : if this had been so, undoubtedly it must have been there 
indigenous ; but M. Bibron informs me that he believes that it \vas 
distinct, as the species now living there certainly is. 

The Arnblyrhynchus, a remarkable genus of lizards, is confined 
to this archipelago : there are two species, resembling each other 
in general form, one being terrestrial and the other aquatic. This 
latter species (A. cristatus) was first characterized by Mr. Bell, who 
well foresaw, from its short, broad head, and strong claws of equal 
length, that its habits of life would turn out very peculiar, and 
different from those of its nearest ally, the Iguana. It is extremely 
common on all the islands throughout the group, and lives exclu- 
sively on the rocky sea-beaches, being never found, at least I never 
saw one, even ten yards in-shore. It is a hideous-looking creature, 
of a dirty black colour, stupid, and sluggish in its movements. 

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

The usual length of a full-grown one is about a yard, but there 
are some even four feet long ; a large one weighed twenty pounds : 
on the island of Albemarle they seem to grow to a greater size 
than elsewhere. Their tails are flattened sideways, and all four feet 
partially webbed. They are occasionally seen some hundred yards 
from the shore, swimming about; and Captain Collnett, in his 
Voyage, says, " They go to sea in herds a-fishing, and sun them- 
selves on the rocks; and may be called alligators in miniature." 
It must not, however, be supposed that they live on fish. When 
in the water this lizard swims with perfect ease and quickness, 
by a serpentine movement of its body and flattened tail the legs 


bciug motionless arid closely collapsed on its sides. A seaman on 
board sank one, with a heavy weight attached to it, thinking thus to 
kill it directly ; but when, an hour afterwards, he drew up the line, 
it was quite active. Their limbs and strong claws are admirably 
adapted for crawling over the rugged and fissured masses of lava ? 
which everywhere form the coast. In such situations, a group of 
six or seven of these hideous reptiles may oftentimes be seen on 
the black rocks, a few feet above the surf, basking in the sun with 
outstretched legs. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them largely dis- 
tended with minced sea-weed (Ulvre), which grows in thin foliaceous 
expansions of a bright green or a dull red colour. I do not 
recollect having observed this sea-weed in any quantity on the tidal 
rocks ; and I have reason to believe it grows at the bottom of the 
sea, at some little distance from the coast. If such be the case, the 
object of these animals occasionally going out to sea is explained. 
The stomach contained nothing but the sea-weed. Mr. Bynoc, 
however, found a piece of a crab in one ; but this might have got 
in accidentally, in the same manner as I have seen a caterpillar, in 
the midst of some lichen, in the paunch of a tortoise. The 
intestines were large, as in other herbivorous animals. The nature 
of this lizard's food, as well as the structure of its tail and feet, 
and the fact of its having been seen voluntarily swimming out at 
sea, absolutely prove its acquatic habits; yet there is in this 
respect one strange anomaly, namely, that when frightened it will 
not enter the water. Hence it is easy to drive these lizards down 
to any little point overhanging the sea, where they will sooner 
allow a person to catch hold of their tails than jump into the water. 
They do not seem to have any notion of biting ; but when much 
frightened they squirt a drop of fluid from each nostril. I threw 
one several times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the 
retiring tide ; biit it invariably returned in a direct line to the spot 
where I stood. It swam near the bottom, with a very graceful 
and rapid movement, and occasionally aided itself over the uneven 
ground with its feet. As soon as it arrived near the edge, but 
still being under water, it tried to conceal itself in the tufts of 
sea-weed, or it entered some crevice. As soon as it thought the 
danger was past, it crawled out on the dry rocks, and shuffled 
away as quickly as it could. I several timee caught this same 
lizard, by driving it down to a point, and though possessed of 


such perfect powers of diving and swimming, nothing would induce 
it to enter the water ; and as often as I threw it in, it returned 
in the manner above described. Perhaps this singular piece of 
apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance, 
that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore, whereas at sea it 
must often fall a prey to the numerous sharks. Hence, probably, 
urged by a fixed and hereditary instinct that the shore is its place 
of safety, whatever the emergency may be, it there takes refuge. 

During our visit (in October), I saw extremely few small indi- 
viduals of this species, and none I should think tinder a year old. 
From this circumstance it seems probable that the breeding season 
had not then commenced. I asked several of the inhabitants if 
they knew where it laid its eggs: they said that they knew nothing 
of its propagation, although well acquainted with the eggs of the 
land kind a fact, considering how very common this lizard is, not 
a little extraordinary. 

AVo will now turn to the terrestrial species (A. Demarlii), with 
a round tail, and toes without webs. This lizard, instead of being 
found like the other on all the islands, is confined to the central 
part of the archipelago, namely to Albemarle, James, Barriugton, 
and Indefatigable islands. To the southward, in Charles, Hood, and 
Chatham islands, and to the northward, in Towers, Bindloes, 
and Abingdon, I neither saw nor heard of any. It would appear 
as if it had been created in the centre of the archipelago, and 
thence had been dispersed only to a certain distance. Some of 
these lizards inhabit the high and damp parts of the islands, but 
they arc much more numerous in the lower and sterile districts 
near the coast. I cannot give a more forcible proof of their 
numbers, than by stating that when we were left at James Island, 
we could not for some time find a spot free from their burrows on 
which to pitch our single tent. Like their brothers the sea-kind, 
they are ugly animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, and of a 
brownish red colour above : from their low facial angle they have 
a singularly stupid appearance. They arc, perhaps, of a rather 
less size than the [marine species; but several of them weighed 
between ten and fifteen pounds. In their movements they are 
lazy and half torpid. When not frightened, they slowly crawl 
along with their tails and bellies dragging on the ground. They 
often stop, and doze for a minute or two, with closed eyes and 
hind legs spread out on the parched soil. 


They inhabit burrows, which they sometimes make between 
fragments of lava, but more generally on level patches of the soft 
sandstone-like tuff. The holes do not appear to be very deep, and 
they enter the ground at a small angle; so that when walking 
over these lizard-warrens, the soil is constantly giving way, much 
to the annoyance of the tired walker. This animal, when making 
its burrow, works alternately the opposite sides of its body. One 
front leg for a short time scratches up the soil, and throws it 
towards the hind foot, which is well placed so as to heave it 
beyond the mouth of the hole. That side of the body being tired, 
the other takes up the task, and so on alternately. 1 watched one 
for a long time, till half its body was buried ; I then walked up 
and pulled it by the tail ; at this it was greatly astonished, and 
soon shuffled up to see what was the matter; and then stared 
me in the face, as much as to say, "What made you pull my 
tail ? " 

They feed by day, and do not wander far from their burrows ; 
if frightened, they rush to them with a most awkward gait. 
Except when running down hill, they cannot move very fast, 
apparently from the lateral position of their legs. They are not 
at all timorous: when attentively watching any one, they curl 
their tails, and, raising themselves on their front legs, nod their 
heads vertically, with a quick movement, and try to look very 
fierce : but in reality they are not at all so : if one just stamps 
on the ground, down go their tails, and off they shuffle as quickly 
as they can. I have frequently observed small fly-eating lizards, 
when watching anything, nod their heads in precisely the same 
manner; but I do not at all know for what piirpose. If this 
Amblyrhyuchus is held and plagued with a stick, it will bite it 
very severely ; but I caught many by the tail, and they never tried 
to bite me. If two are placed on the ground and held together, 
they will fight, and bite each other till blood is drawn. 

The individuals, and they are the greater number, which inhabit 
the lower country, can scarcely taste a drop of water throughout 
the year; but they consume much of the succulent cactus, the 
branches of which are occasionally broken off by the wind. I 
several times threw a piece to two or three of them when 
together; and it was amusing enough to see them trying to seize 
and carry it away in their mouths, like so many hungry dogs with 
a bone. They eat very deliberately, but do not chew their food. 


The little birds are aware how harmless these creatures are : I 
have seen one of the thick-billed finches picking at one end of 
a piece of cactus (which is much relished by all the animals of the 
lower region), whilst a lizard was eating at the other end; and 
afterwards the little bird with the utmost indifference hopped on 
the back of the reptile. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them full of vege- 
table fibres and leaves of different trees, especially of an acacia. 
In the upper region they live chiefly on the acid and astringent 
berries of the guayavita, under which trees I have seen these 
lizards and the huge tortoises feeding together. To obtain the 
acacia-leaves they crawl up the low stunted trees ; and it is not 
uncommon to see a pair quietly browsing, whilst seated on a 
branch several feet above the ground. These lizards, when cooked, 
yield a white meat, which is liked by those whose stomachs soar 
above all prejudices. Humboldt has remarked that in intertropical 
South America, all lizards which inhabit dry regions are esteemed 
delicacies for the table. The inhabitants state that those which 
inhabit the upper damp parts drink water, but that the others 
do not, like the tortoises, travel up for it from the lower sterile 
country. At the time of our visit, the females had within their 
bodies numerous, large, elongated eggs, which they lay in their 
burrows : the inhabitants seek them for food. 

These two species of Amblyrhynchus agree, as I have already 
stated, in their general structure, and in many of their habits. 
Neither have that rapid movement, so characteristic of the genera 
Lacerta and Iguana. They are both herbivorous, although the 
kind of vegetation on which they feed is so very different. Mr. 
Bell has given the name to the genus from the shortness of the 
snout: indeed, the form of the mouth may almost be compared 
to that of the tortoise : one is led to suppose that this is an adapta- 
tion to their herbivorous appetites. It is very interesting thus to 
find a well-characterized genus, having its marine and terrestial 
species, belonging to so confined a portion of the world. The 
aquatic species is by far the most remarkable, because it is the 
only existing lizard which lives on marine vegetable productions. 
As I at first observed, these islands are not so remarkable for the 
number of the species of reptiles, as for that of the individuals ; 
when we remember the well-beaten paths made by the thousands 
of huge tortoises the many turtles the great warrens of the 


terrestrial Amblyrhynchus 'and the groups of the marine species 
basking on the coast-rocks of every island we must admit that 
there is no other quarter of the world where this Order replaces 
the herbivorous mammalia in so extraordinary a manner. The 
geologist on hearing this will probably refer back in his mind to 
the Secondary epochs, when lizards, some herbivorous, some car- 
nivorous, and of dimensions comparable only with our existing 
whales, swarmed on the land and in the sea. It is, therefore, 
worthy of his observation, that this archipelago, instead of pos- 
sessing a humid climate and rank vegetation, cannot be considered 
otherwise than extremely arid, and, for an equatorial region, 
remarkably temperate. 

To finish with the zoology : the fifteen kinds of sea-fish which 
I procured here are all new species ; they belong to twelve genera, 
all widely distributed, with the exception of Prionotus, of which 
the four previously known species live on the eastern side of 
America. Of land-shells I collected sixteen kinds (and two marked 
varieties), of which, with the exception of one Helix found k at 
Tahiti, all are peculiar to this archipelago: a single fresh- water 
shell (Paludina) is common to Tahiti and Van Diemen's Land. 
Mr. Cuming, before our voyage, procured here ninety species of 
sea-shells, and this does not include several species not yet speci- 
fically examined, of Trochus, Turbo, Monodonta, and Nassa. He 
has been kind enough to give me the following interesting results : 
Of the ninety shells, no less than forty-seven are unknown else- 
where a wonderful fact, considering how widely distributed sea- 
shells generally are. Of the forty-three shells found in other parts 
of the world, twenty-five inhabit the western coast of America, and 
of these eight are distinguishable as varieties; the remaining 
eighteen (including one variety) were found by Mr. Cuming in 
the Low Archipelago, and some of them also at the Philippines. 
This fact of shells from islands in the central parts of the Pacific 
occurring here, deserves notice, for not one single sea-shell is 
known to be common to the islands of that ocean and to the west 
coast of America. The space of open sea running north and south 
off the west coast, separates two quite distinct conchological 
provinces ; but at the Galapagos Archipelago we have a halting- 
place, where many new forms have been created, and whither 
these two great conchological provinces have each sent several 
colonists. The American province has also sent here representa- 


live species; for there is a Galapageian species of Monoceros, a 
genus only found on the west coast of America; and there are 
Galapageian species of Fissurella and Cancellaria, genera common 
on the west coast, but not found (as I am informed by Mr. Curning) 
in the central islands of the Pacific. On the other hand, there are 
Galapageian species of Oniscia and Stylifer, genera common to the 
West Indies and to the Chinese and Indian seas, but not found 
either on the west coast of America or in the central Pacific. I 
may here add, that after the comparison by Messrs. Curning and 
Hinds of about 2000 shells from the eastern and western coasts of 
America, only one single shell was found in common, namely, the 
Purpura patula, which inhabits the West Indies, the coast of 
Panama, and the Galapagos. We have, therefore, in this quarter 
of the world, three great conchological sea-provinces, quite distinct, 
though surprisingly near each other, being separated by long north 
and south spaces either of land or of open sea. 

I took great pains in collecting the insects, but, excepting Tierra 
del Fuego, I never saw in this respect so poor a country. Even in 
the upper and damp region I procured very few, excepting some 
minute Diptera and Hymenoptera, mostly of common mundane 
forms. As before remarked, the insects, for a tropical region, are 
of very small size and dull colours. Of beetles I collected twenty- 
five species (excltiding a Dermestes and Corynetes imported, where- 
over a ship touches); of these, two belong to the Harpalidee, two 
to the Hydrophilida3, nine to three families of the Heteromera, and 
the remaining twelve to as many different families. This circum- 
stance of insects (and I may add plants), where few in number, 
belonging to many different families, is, I believe very general. 
Mr. Waterhouse, who has published * an account of the insects 
of this archipelago, and to whom I am indebted for the above 
details, informs me that there are several new genera ; and that 
of the genera not new, one or two are American, and the rest 
of mundane distribution. With the exception of a wood-feeding 
Apate, and of one or probably two water-beetles from the American 
continent, all the species appear to be new. 

The botany of this group is fully as interesting as the zoology. 

Dr. J. Hooker will soon publish in the " Linnean Transactions " 

a full account of the Flora, and I am much indebted to him for the 

following details. Of flowering plants there are, as far as at present 

* Ann. anrl Mag. of Nat. Hist., vol. xvi. p. 19. 

1835.] BOTANY. 377 

is known, 185 species, and 40 cryptogamic species, making together 
225 ; of this number I was fortunate enough to bring home 193. 
Of the flowering plants, 100 are new species, and are probably 
confined to this archipelago. Dr. Hooker conceives that, of the 
plants not so confined, at least 10 species found near the cultivated 
ground at Charles Island, have been imported. It is, I think, 
surprising that more American species have not been introduced 
naturally, considering that the distance is only between 500 and 
600 miles from the continent ; and that (according to Collnet, p. 58) 
drift-wood, bamboos, canes, and the nuts of a palm, are often 
washed on the south-eastern shores. The proportion of 100 
flowering plants out of 185 (or 175 excluding the imported weeds) 
being new, is sufficient, I conceive, to make the Galapagos 
Archipelago a distinct botanical province ; but this Flora is 
not nearly so peculiar as that of St. Helena, nor, as I am informed 
by Dr. Hooker, of Juan Fernandez. The peculiarity of the 
Galapageian Flora is best shown in certain families ; thus there 
are 21 species of Composite, of which 20 are peculiar to this 
archipelago ; these belong to twelve genera, and of the&e genera 
no less than ten are confined to the archipelago! Dr. Hooker 
informs me that the Flora has an undoubted Western American 
character ; nor can he detect in it any affinity with that of the 
Pacific. If, therefore, we except the eighteen marine, the one 
fresh-water, and one land-shell, which have apparently come here 
as colonists from the central islands of the Pacific, and likewise 
the one distinct Pacific species of the Galapageian group of finches, 
we see that this archipelago, though standing in the Pacific Ocean, 
is zoologically part of America. 

If this character were owing merely to immigrants from America, 
there would be little remarkable in it ; but we see that a vast 
majority of all the land animals, and that more than half of the 
flowering plants, are aboriginal productions. It was most striking 
to be surrounded by new birds, new reptiles, new shells, new 
insects, new plants, and yet by innumerable trifling details of 
structure, and even by the tones of voice and plumage of the 
birds, to have the temperate plains of Patagonia, or the hot dry 
deserts of Northern Chile, vividly brought before my eyes. Why, 
on these small points of land, which within a late geological period 
must have been covered by the ocean, which are formed of basaltic 
lava, and therefore differ in geological character from the American 


continent, and which are placed under a peculiar climate, why 
were their aboriginal inhabitants, associated, I may add, in 
different proportions both in kind and number from those on 
the continent, and therefore acting on each other in a different 
manner why were they created on American types of organi- 
zation ? It is probable that the islands of the Cape de Verd group 
resemble, in all their physical conditions, far more closely the 
Galapagos Islands than these latter physically resemble the coast 
of America, yet the aboriginal inhabitants of the two groups are 
totally unlike; those of the Cape de Verd Islands bearing the 
impress of Africa, as the inhabitants of the Galapagos Archipelago 
are stamped with that of America. 

I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature in 
the natural history of this archipelago ; it is, that the different 
islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set 
of beings. My attention was first called to this fact by the Vice- 
Governor, Mr. Lawson, declaring that the tortoises differed from 
the different islands, and that he could with certainty tell from 
which island any one was brought. I did not for some time pay 
sufficient attention to this statement, and I had already partially 
mingled together the collections from two of the islands. I never 
dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of 
them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, 
placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal 
height, would have been differently tenanted ; but we shall soon 
see that this is the case. It is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner 
to discover what is most interesting in any locality, than they are 
hurried from it ; but I ought, perhaps, to be thankful that I 
obtained sufficient materials to establish this most remarkable fact 
in the distribution of organic beings. 

The inhabitants, as I have said, state that they can distinguish 
the tortoises from the different islands ; and that they differ not 
only in size, but in other "characters. Captain Porter has de- 
scribed* those from Charles and from the nearest island to it, 
namely, Hood Island, as having their shells in front thick and 
turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst the tortoises from James 
Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked. 
M. Bibron, moreover, informs me that he has seen what he con- 
* Voyage in the U. S. ship Essex vol. i. p. 215. 


siders two distinct species of tortoise from the Galapagos, but he 
does not know from which islands. The specimens that I brought 
from three islands were young ones : and probably owing to this 
cause, neither Mr. Gray nor myself could find in them any specific 
differences. I have remarked that the marine Amblyrhynchus 
was larger at Albemarle Island than elsewhere; and M. Bibron 
informs me that he has seen two distinct aquatic species of this 
genus; so that the different islands probably have their repre- 
sentative species or races of the Amblyrhynchus, as well as of the 
tortoise. My attention was first thoroughly aroused, by com- 
paring together the numerous specimens, shot by myself and 
several other parties on board, of the mocking-thrushes, when, 
to my astonishment, I discovered that all those from Charles 
Island belonged to one species (Mimus trifasciatus) ; all from 
Albemarle Island to M. parvulus ; and all from James and Chatham 
Islands (between which two other islands are situated, as connecting 
links) belonged to M. melanotis. These two latter species are 
closely allied, and would by some ornithologists be considered as 
only well-marked races or varieties; but the Mimus trifasciatus 
is very distinct. Unfortunately most of the specimens of the 
finch tribe were mingled together ; but I have strong reasons to 
suspect that some of the species of the sub-group Geospiza are 
confined to separate islands. If the different islands have their 
representatives of Geospiza, it may help to explain the singularly 
large number of the species of this sub-group in this one small 
archipelago, and as a probable consequence of their numbers, 
the perfectly graduated series in the size of their beaks. Two 
species of the sub-group Cactornis, and two of Camarhynchus, 
were procured in the archipelago ; and of the numerous specimens 
of these two sub-groups shot by four collectors at James Island, 
all were found to belong to one species of each ; whereas the 
numerous specimens shot either on Chatham or Charles Island 
(for the two sets were mingled together) all belonged to the two 
other species : hence we may feel almost sure that these islands 
possess their ^representative species of these two sub-groups. In 
land-shells this law of distribution does not appear to hold good. 
In my very small collection of insects, Mr. Waterhouse remarks, 
that of those which were ticketed with their locality, not one was 
common to any two of the islands. 

If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal plants 




of the different islands wonderfully different. I give all the follow- 
ing results on the high authority of my friend Dr. J. Hooker. I 
may premise that I indiscriminately collected everything in flower 
on the different islands, and fortunately kept my collections 
separate. Too much confidenee, however, must not be placed in 
the proportional results, as the small collections brought home by 
some other naturalists, though in some respects confirming the 
results, plainly show that much remains to be done in the botany 
of this group: the Leguniinosfe, moreover, has as yet been only 
approximately worked out : 



\U. Cif 


Xo. of No. of 
Species Species 
found in confined 
other parts to the 
of the Galapagos 
world. Archipelago. 

No. of Species 
No. confined to the 
confined Galapagos 
to the Archipelago, 
one but found on 
Island. more than tin- 
one Island. 

James Island 


p>:> :i,s 

:;<> s 

Albemarle Island 


18 -2C, 

2-2 -t 

Chatham Island 


ic n; 

12 4 

( 'liarles Island . 


39 29 

21 8 

(or 29, if the 

probably im- 


ported plants 

be subtracted) 

Hence we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James Island, of 
the thirty-eight Galapageian plants, or those found in no other part 
of the world, thirty are exclusively confined to this one island ; and 
in Albemarle Island, of the twenty-six aboriginal Galapageian 
plants, twenty-two are confined to this one island, that is, only four 
are at present known to grow in the other islands of the archipelago ; 
and so on, as shown in the above table, with the plants from 
Chatham and Charles Islands. This fact will, perhaps, be rendered 
even more striking, by giving a few illustrations : thus, Scalesia, 
a remarkable arborescent genus of the Compositre, is confined to 
the archipelago : it has six species : one from Chatham, one from 
Albemarle, one from Charles Island, two from James Island, and 
the sixth from one of the three latter islands, but it is not known 
from which : not one of these six species grows on any two islands. 
Again, Euphorbia, a mundane or widely distributed genus, has 
here eight species, of which seven are confined to the archipelago, 
and not one found on any two islands: Acalypha and Borreria, 


both mundane genera, have respectively six and seven species, none 
of which have the same species on two islands, with the exception 
of one Borreria, which does occur on two islands. The species of 
the Composite arc particularly local ; and Dr. Hooker has furnished 
me with several other most striking illustrations of the difference 
of the species on the different islands. He remarks that this law of 
distribution holds good both with those genera confined to the 
archipelago, and those distributed in other quarters of the world : 
in like manner we have seen that the different islands have their 
proper species of the mundane genus of tortoise, and of the widely 
distributed American genus of the mocking thrush, as well as of 
two of the Galapageian sub-groups of finches, and almost certainly 
of the Galapageiau genus Amblyrhynchus. 

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would not bo 
nearly so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had a mockiog- 
thrush, and a second island some other quite distinct genus; if 
one island had its genus of lizard, and a second island another 
distinct genus, or none whatever ; or if the different islands wero 
inhabited, not by representative species of the same genera of 
plants, but by totally different genera, as does to a certain extent 
hold good : for, to give one instance, a large berry-bearing tree at 
James Island has no representative species in Charles Island. But 
it is the circumstance, that several of the islands possess their own 
species of the tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous 
plants, these species having the same general habits, occupying 
analogous situations, and obviously filling the same place in the 
natural economy of this archipelago, that strikes me with wonder. 
It may bo suspected that some of these representative species, at 
least in the case of the tortoise and of some of the birds, may here- 
after prove to be only well-marked races ; but this would be of 
equally great interest to the philosophical naturalist. I have said 
that most of the islands are in sight of each other : I may specify 
that Charles Island is fifty miles from the nearest part of Chatham 
Island, and thirty-three miles from the nearest part of Albemarle 
Island. Chatham Island is sixty miles from the nearest part of 
James Island, but there are two intermediate islands between them 
Avhich were not visited by me. James Island is only ten miles 
from the nearest part of Albemarle Island, but the two points 
where the collections were made are thirty-two miles apart. I 
nmst repeat, that neither the nature of the soil, nor height of the 


land, nor the climate, nor the general character of the associated 
beings, and therefore their action one on another, can differ much 
in the different islands. If there be any sensible difference in their 
climates, it must be between the Windward group (namely Charles 
and Chatham Islands), and that to leeward ; but there seems to be 
no corresponding difference in the productions of these two halves 
of the archipelago. 

The only light which I can throw on this remarkable difference 
in the inhabitants of the different islands, is, that very strong 
currents of the sea running in a westerly and W.N.W. direction 
must separate, as far as transportal by the sea is concerned, the 
southern islands from the northern ones; and between these 
northern islands a strong N.W. current was observed, which must 
effectually separate James and Albemarle Islands. As the archi- 
pelago is free to a most remarkable degree from gales of wind, 
neither the birds, insects, nor lighter seeds, would be blown from 
island to island. And lastly, the profound depth of the ocean 
between the islands, and their apparently recent (in a geological 
sense) volcanic origin, render it highly unlikely that they were 
ever united ; and this, probably, is a far more important considera- 
tion than any other, with respect to the geographical distribution 
of their inhabitants. Eeviewing the facts here given, one is 
astonished at the amount of creative force, if such an expression 
may be used, displayed on these small, barren, and rocky islands ; 
and still more so, at its diverse yet analogous action on points so 
near each other. I have said that the Galapagos Archipelago might 
be called a satellite attached to America, but it should rather be 
called a group of satellites, physically similar, organically distinct, 
yet intimately related to each other, and all related in a marked, 
though much lesser degree, to the great American continent. 

I will conclude my description of the natural history of these 
islands, by giving an account of the extreme tameness of the birds. 
This disposition is common to all the terrestrial species ; namely, 
to the mocking-thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant-flycatchers, 
the dove, and carrion-buzzard. All of them are often approached 
sufficiently near to be killed with a switch, and sometimes, as I. 
myself tried, with a cap or hat. A gun is here almost superfluous ; 
for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk off the branch of a tree. One 
day, whilst lying down, a mocking-thrush alighted on the edge of 


a pitcher, made of the shell of a tortoise, which I held in iny hand, 
and began very quietly to sip the water ; it allowed me to lift it 
from the ground whilst seated on the vessel : I often tried, and very 
nearly succeeded, in catching these birds by their legs. Formerly 
the birds appear to have been even tamer than at present. Cowley 
(in the year 1684) says that the " Turtle-doves were so tame, that 
they would often alight upon our hats and arms, so as that we 
could take them alive : they not fearing man, until such time as 
some of our company did fire at them, whereby they were rendered 
more shy." Dampier also, in the same year, says that a man in a 
morning's walk might kill six or seven dozen of these doves. At 
present, although certainly very tame, they do not alight on people's 
arms, nor do they suffer themselves to be killed in such large 
numbers. It is surprising that they have not become wilder ; for 
these islands during the last hundred and fifty years have been 
frequently visited by bucaniers and whalers ; and the sailors, 
wandering through the woods in search of tortoises, always take 
cruel delight in knocking down the little birds. 

These birds, although now still more persecuted, do not readily 
become wild. In Charles Island, which had then been colonized 
about six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well with a switch in his 
hand, with which he killed the doves and finches as they came to 
drink. He had already procured a little heap of them for his 
dinner ; and he said that he had constantly been in the habit of 
waiting by this well for the same purpose. It would appear that 
the birds of this archipelago, not having as yet learnt that man is 
a more dangerous animal than the tortoise or the Amblyrhynchus, 
disregard him, in the same manner as in England shy birds, such 
as magpies, disregard the cows and horses grazing in our fields. 

The Falkland Islands offer a second instance of birds with a 
similar disposition. The extraordinary tameness of the little 
Opetiorhynchus has been remarked by Pernety, Lesson, and other 
voyagers. It is not, however, peculiar to that bird : the Polyborus, 
snipe, upland and lowland goose, thrush, bunting, and even some 
true hawks, are all more or less tame. As the birds are so tame 
there, where foxes, hawks, and owls occur, we may infer that the 
absence of all rapacious animals at the Galapagos, is not the cause 
of their tameness here. The upland geese at the Falklands show, 
by the precaution they take in building on the islets, that they are 
aware of their danger from the foxes ; but they are not by this 


.ndered wild towards man. This tameness of the birds especially 

o he wate fowl, is strongly contrasted with the habits of the same 

ecies in Tierra del Fuego, where for ages past they have been 

" c , ted bv the wild inhabitants. In the Falkland*, the sports- 

lav sometimes kill more of the upland geese m one day than 

e can carry home; whereas in Tierra del Fuego, it is nearly as 

difficult to kill one, as it is in England to shoot the common wild 

e time of Pernety (1763), all the birds there appear to have 
been much tamer than at present ; he states that the Opetiorhynchua 
would almost perch on his finger; and that with a wand he killed 
ten in half an hour. At that period the birds must have been about 
as tame as they now are at the Galapagos. They appear to have 
learnt caution more slowly at these latter islands than at the 
Falklands, where they have had proportionate means of experience ; 
for besides frequent visits from vessels, those islands have been at 
intervals colonized during the entire period. Even formerly, when 
all the birds were so tame, it was impossible by Pernety's account 
to kill the black-necked swan a bird of passage, which probably 
brought with it the wisdom learnt in foreign countries. 

I may add that, according to Du Bois, all the birds at Bourbon 
in 1571-72, with the exception of the flamingoes and geese, were so 
extremely tame, that they could be caught by the hand, or killed 
in any number with a stick. Again, at Tristan d' Acunha in the 
Atlantic, Carmichael * states that the only two land-birds, a thrush 
and a bunting, were " so tame as to suffer themselves to be caught 
with a hand-net." From these several facts we may, I think, con- 
clude, first, that the wildness of birds with regard to man, is a 
particular instinct directed against him, and not dependent on any 
general degree of caution arising from other sources of danger ; 
secondly, that it is not acquired by individual birds in a short 

* Linn. Trans., vol. xii. p. 496. The most anomalous fact on this sub- 
ject which I have met with is the wildness of the small birds in the 
Arctic parts of North America (as described by Richardson, Fauna Bor., 
vol. ii. p. 332), where they are said never to be persecuted. This case- 
is the more strange, because it is asserted that some of the same species 
iu their winter-quarters in the United States are tame. There is much, 
as Dr. Richardson well remarks, utterly inexplicable connected with the 
different degrees of shyness and care with which birds conceal their 
nests. How strange it is that the English wood-pigeon, generally so wild 
a bird, should very frequently rear its young iu shrubberies elf'*:.- to 


time, even -when much persecuted; but that in the course of 
successive generations it becomes hereditary. With domesticated 
animals we are accustomed to see new mental habits or instincts 
acquired or rendered hereditary; but with animals in a state of 
nature, it must always be most difficult to discover instances of 
acquired hereditary knowledge. In regard to the wildness of birds 
towards man, there is no way of accounting for it, except as au 
inherited habit: comparatively few young birds, in anyone year, 
have been injured by man in England, yet almost all, even nestlings, 
are afraid of him ; many individuals, on the other hand, both at 
the Galapagos and at the Falklands, have been pursued and injured 
by man, but yet have not learned a salutary dread of him. We 
may infer from these facts, what havoc the introduction of any new 
beast of prey must cause in a country, before the instincts of the 
indigenous inhabitants have become adapted to the stranger's craft 
or power. 

2 c 

386 TAHITI. [CHAP. xvm. 



Pass through the Low Archipelago Tahiti Aspect Vegetation on the 
Mountains View of Eimeo Excursion into the Interior Profound 
Eavinos Succession of Waterfalls dumber of wild useful Plants- 
Temperance of the Inhabitants Their moral state Parliament con- 
vened New Zealand Bay of Islands Hippahs Excursion to Wai- 
mate Missionary Establishment English Weeds now run wild 
Waiomio Funeral of a New Zealand Woman Sail for Australia. 

October 20th. The survey of the Galapagos Archipelago being 
concluded, we steered towards Tahiti and commenced our long 
passage of 3200 miles. In the course of a few days we sailed out 
of the gloomy and clouded ocean-district which extends during tho 
winter far from the coast of South America. Wo then enjoyed 
bright and clear weather, while running pleasantly along at tho 
rate of 150 or 160 miles a day before the steady trade-wind. The 
temperature in this more central part of the Pacific is higher than 
near the American shore. The thermometer in the poop cabin, 
by night and day, ranged between 80 and 83, which feels very 
pleasant; but with one degree or two higher, the heat becomes 
oppressive. We passed through, the Low or Dangerous Archi- 
pelago, and saw several of those most curious rings of coral land, 
just rising above the water's edge, which have been called Lagoon 
Islands. A long and brilliantly white beach is capped by a margin 
of green vegetation; and the strip, looking either way, rapidly 
narrows away in the distance, and sinks beneath the horizon. 
From the mast-head a wide expanse of smooth water can be seen 
within the ring. These low hollow coral islands bear no propor- 
tion to the vast ocean out of which they abruptly rise; and it 
seems wonderful, that such weak invaders are not overwhelmed, 
by the all-powerful and never-tiring waves of that great sea, 
miscalled the Pacific. 


November 15tk. At daylight, Tahiti, an island which must for 
ever remain classical to the voyager in the South Sea, was in view. 
At a distance the appearance was not attractive. The luxuriant 
vegetation of the lower part could not yet be seen, and as the 
clouds rolled past, the wildest and most precipitous peaks showed 
themselves towards the centre of the island. As soon as we 
anchored in Matavai Bay, we were surrounded by canoes. This 
was our Sunday, but the Monday of Tahiti : if the case had been 
reversed, we should not have received a single visit ; for the in- 
junction not to launch a canoe on the sabbath is rigidly obeyed. 
After dinner wo landed to enjoy all the delights produced by the 
first impressions of a new country, and that country the charming 
Tahiti. A crowd of men, women, and children, was collected on 
the memorable Point Venus, ready to receive us with laughing, 
merry faces. They marshalled us towards the house of Mr. Wilson, 
the missionary of the district, who met us on the road, and gave 
us a very friendly reception. After sitting a short time in his 
house, wo separated to walk about, but returned there in the 

The land capable of cultivation, is scarcely in any part more 
than a fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round the base of 
the mountains, and protected from the waves of the sea by a coral 
reef, which encircles the entire line of coast. Within the reef 
there is an expanse of smooth water, like that of a lake, where 
the canoes of the natives can ply with safety and where ships 
anchor. The low land which comes down to the beach of coral- 
sand, is covered by the most beautiful productions of the inter- 
tropical regions. In the midst of bananas, orange, cocoa-nut, and 
bread-fruit trees, spots arc cleared where yams, sweet potatoes, the 
sugar-cane, and pine-apples are cultivated. Even the brushwood 
is an imported fruit-tree, namely, the guava, which from its 
abundance has become as noxious as a weed. In Brazil I have 
often admired the varied beauty of the bananas, palms, and 
orange-trees contrasted together; and here we also have the 
bread-fruit, conspicuous from its large, glossy, and deeply digi- 
tated leaf. It is admirable to behold groves of a tree, sending 
forth its branches with the vigour of an English oak, loaded with 
large and most nutritious fruit. However seldom the usefulness 
of an object can account for the pleasure of beholding it, in the 
case of these beautiful woods, the knowledge of their high pro- 

383 TAHITI. [CIIAI-. xvm. 

ductiveuess no doubt enters largely into the feeling of admiration. 
The little winding paths, cool from the surrounding shade, led to 
the scattered houses; the owners of which everywhere gave us 
a cheerful and most hospitable reception. 

I was pleased with nothing so much as with the inhabitants. 
There is a mildness in the expression of their countenances which 
at once banishes the idea of a savage ; and an intelligence which 
shows that they are advancing in civilization. The common 
people, when working, keep the upper part of their bodies quite 
naked; and it is then that the Tahitians are seen to advantage. 
They are very tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, and well-propor- 
tioned. It has been remarked, that it requires little habit to make 
a dark skin more pleasing and natural to the eye of an European 
than his own colour. A white man bathing by the side of a 
Tahitian, was like a plant bleached by the gardener's art compared 
with a fine dark green one growing vigorously in the open fields. 
Most of the men are tattooed, and the ornaments follow the curva- 
ture of the body so gracefully, that they have a very elegant effect. 
One common pattern, varying in its details, is somewhat like the 
crown of a palm-tree. It springs from the central line of the back, 
and gracefully curls round both sides. The simile may be a 
fanciful one, but I thought the body of a man thus ornamented 
was like the trunk of a noble tree embraced by a delicate 

Many of the elder people had their feet covered with small 
figures, so placed as to resemble a sock. This fashion, however, 
is partly gone by, and has been succeeded by others. Here, 
although fashion is far from immutable, every one must abide by 
that prevailing in his youth. An old man has thus his age for 
ever stamped on his body, and he cannot assume the airs of a 
young dandy. The women are tattooed in the same manner as 
the men, and very commonly on their fingers. One unbecoming 
fashion is now almost universal: namely, shaving the hair from 
the upper part of the head, in a circular form, so as to leave only 
an outer ring. The missionaries have tried to persuade the people 
to change this habit ; .but it is the fashion, and that is a sufficient 
answer at Tahiti, as well as at Paris. I was much disappointed in 
the personal appearance of the women: they are far inferior in 
every respect to the men. The custom of wearing a white or 
scarlet flower in the back of the head, or through a small hole 


in each car, is pretty. A crown of woven cocoa-nut leaves is also 
worn as a shade for the eyes. The women appear to be in greater 
want of some becoming costume even than the men. 

Nearly all the natives understand a little English that is, they 
know the names of common things ; and by the aid of this, 
together with signs, a lame sort of conversation could be carried 
on. In returning in the evening to the boat, we stopped to witness 
a very pretty scene. Numbers of children were playing on the 
beach, and had lighted bonfires which illumined the placid sea 
and surrounding trees; others, in circles, were singing Tahitian 
verses. Wo seated ourselves on the sand, and joined their party. 
The songs were impromptu, and I believe related to our arrival : 
one little girl sang a line, which the rest took up in parts, forming 
a very pretty chorus. The whole scene made iis unequivocally 
aware that we were seated on the shores of an island in the far- 
famed South Sea. 

17th. This day is reckoned in the log-book as Tuesday the 17th, 
instead of Monday the 16th, owing to our, so far, successful chase 
of the sun. Before breakfast the ship was hemmed in by a flotilla 
of canoes ; and when the natives were allowed to come on board, 
I suppose there could not have been less than two hundred. It 
was the opinion of every one that it would have been difficult to 
have picked out an equal number from any other nation, who 
would have given so little trouble. Everybody brought something 
for sale : shells were the main article of trade. The Tahitians now 
fully understand the value of money, and prefer it to old clothes 
or other articles. The various coins, however, of English and 
Spanish denomination puzzle them, and they never seemed to 
think the small silver quite secure until changed into dollars. 
Some of the chiefs have accumulated considerable sums of money. 
One chief, not long since, offered 800 dollars (about 1GO?. sterling) 
for a small vessel ; and frequently they purchase whale-boats and 
horses at the rate of from 50 to 100 dollars. 

After breakfast I went on shore, and ascended the nearest slope 
to a height of between two and three thousand feet. The outer 
mountains are smooth and conical, but steep ; and the old volcanic 
rocks, of which they are formed, have been cut through by many 
profound ravines, diverging from the central broken parts of the 
island to the coast. Having crossed the narrow low girt of 
inhabited and fertile land, I followed a smooth steep ridge between 

390 TAHITI. [CHAP. xvm. 

two of the deep ravines. The vegetation was singular, consisting 
almost exclusively of small dwarf ferns, mingled, higher up, with 
coarse grass ; it was not very dissimilar from that on some of the 
Welsh hills, and this so close above the orchard of tropical plants 
on the coast was very surprising. At the highest point, which I 
reached, trees again appeared. Of the three zones of comparative 
luxuriance, the lower one owes its moisture, and therefore fertility, 
to its flatness ; for, being scarcely raised above the level of the sea, 
the water from the higher land drains away slowly. The inter- 
mediate zone does not, like the upper one, reach into a damp and 
cloudy atmosphere, and therefore remains sterile. The woods in 
the upper zone are very pretty, tree-ferns replacing the cocoa-nuts 
on the coast. It must not, however, be supposed that these woods 
at all equal in splendour the forests of Brazil. The vast number 
of productions, which characterize a continent, cannot be expected 
to occur in an island. 

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


paid mo so adroit an attention, that I wanted him and another 
man to accompany me on a short excursion into the mountains. 

18th. In the morning I came on shore early, bringing with me 
some provisions in a bag, and two blankets for myself and servant. 
These were lashed to each end of a long pole, which was alter- 
nately carried by my Tahitian companions on their shoulders. 
These men are accustomed thus to carry, for a whole day, as much 
as fifty pounds at each end of their poles. I told my guides to 
provide themselves with food and clothing; but they said that 
there was plenty of food in the mountains, and for clothing, that 
their skins were sufficient. Our line of march was the valley of 
Tia-auru, down which a river flows into the sea by Point Venus. 
This is one of the principal streams in the island, and its source 
lies at the base of the loftiest central pinnacles, which rise to a 
height of about 7000 feet. The whole island is so mountainous 
that the only way to penetrate into the interior is to follow up the 
valleys. Our road, at first, lay through woods which bordered 
each side of the river ; and the glimpses of the lofty central peaks, 
seen as through an avenue, with here and there a waving cocoa- 
nut tree on one side, were extremely picturesque. The valley 
soon began to narrow, and the sides to grow lofty and more pre- 
cipitous. After having walked between three and four hours, wo 
found the width of the ravine scarcely exceeded that of the bed of 
the stream. On each hand the walls were nearly vertical; yet 
from the soft nature of the volcanic strata, trees and a rank 
vegetation sprung from every projecting ledge. These precipices 
must have been some thousand feet high; and the whole formed a 
mountain gorge far more magnificent than anything which I had 
ever before beheld. Until the midday sun stood vertically over 
the ravine, the air felt cool and damp, but now it became very 
sultry. Shaded by a ledge of rock, beneath a fagade of columnar 
lava, we ate our dinner. My guides had already procured a dish 
of small fish and fresh-water prawns. They carried with them a 
small net stretched on a hoop ; and where the water was deep and 
in eddies, they dived, and like otters, with their eyes open followed 
the fish into holes and corners, and thus caught them. 

The Tahitians have the dexterity of amphibious animals in the 
water. An anecdote mentioned by Ellis shows how nrach they 
feel at home in this element. When a horse was landing for 
Pomarre in 1817, the slings broke, and it fell into the water; 

392 TAHITI. ['HAP. xvnr. 

immediately the natives jumped overboard, and by their cries and 
vain efforts at assistance almost drowned it. As soon, however, as 
it reached the shore, the whole population took to flight, and tried 
to hide themselves from the man-carrying pig, as they christened 
the horse. 

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


found ravines. In the Cordillera I have seen mountains on a far 
grander scale, but for abruptness, nothing at all comparable with 
this. In the evening we reached a flat little spot on the banks of 
the same stream, which we had continued to follow, and which 
descends in a chain of waterfalls : here we bivouacked for the night. 
On each side of the ravine there were great beds of the mountain- 
banana, covered with ripe fruit. Many of these plants were from 
twenty to twenty-five feet high, and from three to four in circum- 
ference. By the aid of strips of bark for rope, the stems of 
bamboos for rafters, and the large leaf of the banana for a thatch, 
the Tahitians in a few minutes built us an excellent house ; and 
with withered leaves made a soft bed. 

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