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Conservator of the Museums of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Member of 
the Natural History Societies of Edinburgh and Philadelphia, &c. 








THE celebrity which Baron Humboldt enjoys, and 
which he has earned by a life of laborious investiga- 
tion and perilous enterprise, renders his name fami- 
liar to every person whose attention has been drawn 
to political statistics or natural philosophy. In the 
estimation of the learned no author of the present 
day occupies a higher place among those who have 
enlarged the boundaries of human knowledge. To 
every one, accordingly, whose aim is the general cul- 
tivation of the mental faculties, his works are recom- 
mended by the splendid pictures of scenery which 
they contain, the diversified information which they 
afford respecting objects of universal interest, and 
the graceful attractions with which he has succeeded 
in investing the majesty of science. 

These considerations have induced the publishers 
to offer a condensed account of his Travels and Re- 
seaVches, such as, without excluding subjects even 
of laboured investigation, might yet chiefly embrace 
those which are best suited to the purposes of the 
general reader. The public taste has of late years 
gradually inclined towards objects of useful know- 
ledge, works of imagination have in a great mea- 


sure given place to those occupied with descriptions 
of nature, physical or moral, and the phenomena 
of the material world now afford entertainment to 
many who in former times would have sought for it 
at a different source. Romantic incidents, perilous 
adventures, the struggles of conflicting armies, and 
vivid delineations of national manners and individ- 
ual character, naturally excite a lively interest in 
every bosom, whatever may be the age or sex ; but, 
surely, the great facts of creative power and wis- 
dom, as exhibited in regions of the globe of which 
they have no personal knowledge, are net less cal- 
culated to fix the attention of all reflecting minds. 
The magnificent vegetation of the tropical regions, 
displaying forests of gigantic trees, interspersed with 
the varied foliage of innumerable shrubs, and adorned 
with festoons of climbing and odoriferous plants ; 
the elevated table-lands of the Andes, crowned by 
volcanic cones whose summits shoot high into the 
region of perennial snow ; the earthquakes that have 
desolated populous and fertile countries ; the vast 
expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, with its circling cur- 
rents ; and the varied aspect of the heavens in those 
distant lands, are subjects suited to the taste of 
every individual who is capable of contemplating the 
wonderful machinery of the universe. 

It is unnecessary here to present an analysis of 
the labours of the illustrious philosopher whose foot- 
steps are traced in this volume. Suffice it to observe, 
that some notices respecting his early life introduce 
the reader to an acquaintance with his character and 
motives, as the adventurous traveller, who, crossing 


the Atlantic, traversed the ridges and plains of Vene- 
zuela, ascended the Orinoco to its junction with the 
Amazon, sailed down the former river to the capital 
of Guiana, and after examining the island of Cuba, 
mounted by the valley of the Magdalena to the ele- 
vated platforms of the Andes, explored the majestic 
solitudes of the great Cordilleras of Quito, navigated 
the margin of the Pacific Ocean, and wandered over 
the extensive and interesting provinces of New- 
Spain, whence he made his way back by the United 
States to Europe. The publication of the important 
results of this journey was not completed when he 
undertook another to Asiatic Russia and the con- 
fines of China, from which he has but lately re- 

From the various works which he has given to the 
world have been derived the chief materials of this 
narrative ; and, when additional particulars were 
wanted, application was made to M. de Humboldt 
himself, who kindly pointed out the sources whence 
the desired information might be obtained. The 
life of a man of letters, he justly observed, ought 
to be sought for in his books ; and for this reason 
little has been said respecting his occupations during 
the intervals of repose which have succeeded his 
perilous journeys. 

It is only necessary further to apprize the reader, 
that the several measurements, the indications of the 
thermometer, and the value of articles of industry 
or commerce, which in the original volumes are ex- 
pressed according to French, Spanish, and Russian 
usage, have been reduced to English equivalents. 


Finally, the publishers, confident that this abridged 
account of the travels of Humboldt will prove bene- 
ficial in diffusing a knowledge of the researches of 
that eminent naturalist, and in leading to the study 
of those phenomena which present themselves daily 
to the eye, send it forth with a hope that its reception 
will be as favourable and extensive as that bestowed 
upon its predecessors. 

EDINBURGH, October, 1832. 




Birth and Education of Humboldt His early Occupations He resolves 
to visit Africa Is disappointed in his Views, and goes to Madrid, 
where he is introduced to the King, and obtains Permission to visit 
the Spanish Colonies Observations made on the Journey through 
Spain Geological Constitution of the Country between Madrid and 
Corunna Climate Ancient Submersion of the Shores of the Medi- 
terranean Reception at Corunna, and Preparations for the Voyage to 
South America Page 15 



Departure from Corunna Currents of the Atlantic Ocean Marine Ani- 
mals Falling Stars Swallows Canary Islands Lancerota Fucus 
vitifolius Causes of the Green Colour of Plants La Graciosa 
Stratified Basalt alternating with Marl Hyalite Quartz Sand- 
Remarks on the Distance at which Mountains are visible at Sea, and 
the Causes by which it is modified Landing at Teneriffe . 22 



Santa Cruz Villa de la Laguna Guanches Present Inhabitants of 
Teneriffe Climate Scenery of the Coast Orotava Dragon-tree 
Ascent of the Peak Its Geological Character Eruptions Zones of 
Vegetation Fires of St. John 35 



Departure from Santa Cru/, Floating Seaweeds Flying-fish Stars- 
Malignant Fever Island of Tobago Death of a Passenger Island 
of Coche Port of Cumana Observations made during the Voyage ; 
Temperature of the Air ; Temperature of the Sea ; Hygrometrical 
State of the Air ; Colour of the Sky and Ocean 47 




Landing at Cumana Introduction to the Governor State of the Sick- 
Description of the Country and City of Cumana Mode of Bathing in 
the Manzanares Port of Cumana Earthquakes ; Their Periodicity ; 
Connexion with the State of the Atmosphere ; Gaseous Emanations ; 
Subterranean Noises ; Propagation of Shocks ; Connexion between 
those of Cumana and the West Indies ; and general Phenomena. . . 59 



Lunar Halo African Slaves Excursion to the Peninsula of Araya 
Geological Constitution of the Country Salt-works of Araya Indians 
and Mulattoes Pearl-fishery Maniquarez Mexican Deer Spring 
of Naphtha 66 



Excursion to the Missions of the Chayma Indians Remarks on Cul- 
tivation The Impossible Aspect of the Vegetation San Fernando 
Account of a Man who suckled a Child Cumanacoa Cultivation of 
Tobacco Igneous Exhalations Jaguars Mountain of Cocollar 
Turimiquiri Missions of San Antonio and Guanaguana 73 



Convent of Caripe Cave of Guacharo, inhabited by Nocturnal Birds 
Purgatory Forest Scenery Howling Monkeys Vera Cruz Cariaco 
Intermittent Fevers Cocoa-trees Passage across the Gulf of Cari- 
aco to Cumana 86 



Physical Constitution and Manners of the Chaymas Their Languages 
American Races 96 



Residence at Cumana Attack of a Zambo Eclipse of the San- 
Extraordinary Atmospherical Phenomena Shocks of an Earthquake 
Luminous Meteors 104 




Passage from Cumana to La Guayra Phosphorescence of the Sea- 
Group of the Caraccas and Chimauas Port of New-BarcelonaLa 
Guayra Yellow Fever Coast and Cape Blanco Road from La 
Guayra to Caraccas HO 



City of Caraccas General View of Venezuela Population Climate- 
Character of the Inhabitants of Caraccas Ascent of the Silla Geo- 
logical Nature of the District, and the Mines 123 



Extensive Connexion of Earthquakes Eruption of the Volcano of St. 
Vincent's Earthquake of the 26th March, 1812 Destruction of the 
City Ten Thousand of the Inhabitants killed Consternation of the 
Survivors Extent of the Commotions 135 



Departure from Caraccas La Buenavista Valleys of San Pedro and the 
Tuy Manterola Zamang-tree Valleys of Aragua Lake of Valencia 

. Diminution of its Waters Hot Springs Jaguar New- Valencia 
Thermal Waters of La Trinchera Porto Cabello Cow-tree Cocoa- 
plantations General View of the Littoral District of Venezuela. . 142 



Mountains between the Valleys of Aragua and the Llanos Their Geologi- 
cal Constitution The Llanos of Caraccas Route over the Savanna 
to the Rio Apure Cattle and Deer Vegetation Calabozo Gymnoti 
or Electric Eels Indian Girl Alligators and Boas Arrival at San 
Fernando de Apure 160 



San Fernando Commencement of the Rainy Season Progress of At- 
mospherical Phenomena Cetaceous Animals Voyage down the Rio 
Apure Vegetation and Wild Animals Crocodiles, Chiguires, and 


Jaguars Don Ignacio and Donna Isabella Water-fowl Nocturnal 
Ilovvlings in the Forest Caribe-fish Adventure with a Jaguar Ma- 
natees Mouth of the Rio Apure 174 


Ascent of the Orinoco Port of Encaramadm Traditions of a universal 
Deluge Gathering of Turtles' Eggs Two Species described Mode 
of collecting the Eggs and of manufacturing the Oil Probable Num- 
ber of these Animals on the Orinoco Decorations of the Indians- 
Encampment of Pararuma Height of the Inundations of the Ori- 
noco Ilapids of Tabage 189 



Mission of Atures Epidemic Fevers Black Crust of Granitic Rocks- 
Causes of Depopulation of the Missions Falls of Apures Scenery 
Anecdote of a Jaguar Domestic Animals Wild Man of the Wooda 
Mosquitoes and other poisonous Insects Mission and Cataracts of 
Maypures Scenery Inhabitants Spice-trees San Fernando de Ata- 
bipo San Baltasar The] Mother's Rock Vegetation Dolphins 
San Antonio de Javita Indians Elastic Gum Serpents Portage of 
the Pimichin Arrival at the Rio Negro, a Branch of the Amazon 
Ascent of the Casiquiare 206 



Mission of Esmeralda Curare Poison Indians Duida Mountain- 
Descent of the Orinoco Cave of Ataruipe Raudalito of Carucari 
Mission of Uruana Character of the Otomacs Clay eaten by the Na- 
tives Arrival at Angostura The Travellers attacked by Fever Fe- 
rocity of the Crocodiles 234 



Departure from Angostura Village of Cari Natives New-Barcelona 
Hot Springs Crocodiles Passage to Cumana 248 



Passage from New-Barcelona to Havana Description of the latter Ex 
tent of Cuba Geological Constitution Vegetation Climate Popula 


lion Agriculture Exports Preparations for Joining Captain Baudin'y 
Expedition Journey to Batabano, and Voyage to Trinidad de Cuba 25* 



Passage from Trinidad of Cuba to Carthagena Description of the laUer 
Village of Turbaco Air-volcanoes Preparations for ascending the 
RioMagdalena 266 



Ascent of the Rio Magdalena Santa Fe de Bogota Cataract of Tequen- 
dama Natural Bridges of Icononzo Passage of Quindiu Cargueros 
Popayan Quito Cotopaxi and Chimborazo Route from Quito to 
Lima Guayaquil Mexico Guanaxuato Volcano of Jorullo Pyra- 
mid of Cholula 279 



General Description of New- Spain or Mexico Cordilleras Climates 
Mines-^-Ri vers^ Lakes S oil-=- Volcan oes- Harbours Popul ation 
Provinces Valley Of Mexico, and Description of the Capital Inunda- 
tions, and Works undertaken for the Purpose of preventing them. . 297 



Agriculture of Mexico Banana, Manioc, and Maize Cereal Plants- 
Nutritive Roots and Vegetables Agave Americana Colonial Com- 
modities Cattle, and Animal Productions 325 



Mining Districts Metalliferous Veins and Beds Geological Relations 
of the Ores Produce of the Mines Recapitulation 338 



Departure from Mexico Passage fo Havana and Philadelphia Return 

to Europe Results of the Journeys in America 347 





Brief Account of Humboldt's Journey to Asia, with a Sketch of the Four 
great Chains of Mountains which intersect the central Part of that 
Continent 352 


VIGNETTE Basaltic Rocks and Cascade of Regla. 

Dragon-tree of Orotava Page 42 

Humboldt's Route on the Orinoco 112 

Jaguar, or American Tiger 183 

Air- volcanoes of Turbaco 274 

Costumes of the Indians of Mechoacan 295 







Birth and Education of Humboldt His early Occupations He resolves 
to visit Africa Is disappointed in his Views, and goes to Madrid, 
where he is introduced to the King, and obtains Permission to visit 
the Spanish Colonies Observations made on the Journey through 
Spain Geological Constitution of the Country between Madrid and 
Corurma Climate Ancient Submersion of the Shores of the Medi- 
terranean Reception at Corunna, and Preparations for the Voyage to 
South America. 

WITH the name of Humboldt we associate all that 
is interesting in the physical sciences. No travel- 
ler who has visited remote regions of the globe, for 
the purpose of observing the varied phenomena of 
nature, has added so much to our stock of positive 
knowledge. While the navigator has explored the 
coasts of unknown lands, discovered islands and 
shores, marked the depths of the sea, estimated the 
force of currents, and noted the more obvious traits 
in the aspect of the countries at which he has 
touched; while the zoologist -has investigated the 
multiplied forms of animal life, the botanist the di- 
versified vegetation, the geologist the structure and 


relations of the rocky masses of which the exterior 
of the earth is composed ; and while each has thus 
contributed to the illustration of the wonderful con- 
stitution of our planet, the distinguished traveller 
whose discoveries form the subject of this volume 
stands alone as uniting in himself a knowledge of all 
these sciences. Geography, meteorology, magnet- 
ism, the distribution of heat, the various depart- 
ments of natural history, together with the affinities 
of races and languages, the history of nations, the 
political constitution of countries, statistics, com- 
merce, and agriculture, all have received accumu- 
lated and valuable additions from the exercise of his 
rare talents. The narrative of no traveller, there- 
fore, could be more interesting to the man of varied 
information. But as from a work like that of which 
the present volume constitutes a part subjects strictly 
scientific must be excluded, unless when they can 
be treated in a manner intelligible to the public at 
large, it may here be statfl^that many of the inves- 
tigations of which we present the results must be 
traced in the voluminous works which the author 
himself has published. At the same time enough 
will be given to gratify the scientific reader ; and 
while the narrative of personal adventure, the diver- 
sified phenomena of the physical world, the condi- 
tion of societies, and the numerous other subjects 
discussed, will afford amusement and instruction, let 
it be remembered that truths faithfully extracted 
from the book of nature are alone calculated to en- 
large the sphere of mental vision ; and that, while 
fanciful description is more apt to mislead than to 
direct the footsteps of the student, there is reflected 
from the actual examination of the material universe 
a light which never fails to conduct the mind at once 
to sure knowledge and to pious sentiment. 

Frederick Henry Alexander Von Humboldt was 
born at Berlin, on the 14th of September, 1769. He 
received his academic education at Gottingen and 


Frankfort on the Oder. In 1790 he ^isited Holland 
and England in company with Messrs. George Fors- 
ter and Van Getms, and in the same year published 
his first work, entitled " Observations on the Basalts 
of the Rhine." In 1791 he went to Freyberg to re- 
ceive the instructions of the celebrated Werner, the 
fouiyler of geological science. The results of some 
of his observations in the mines of that district 
were published in 1793, under the title of Specimen 
Flora. Fribergensis Subterranean. 

Having been appointed assessor of the Council of 
Mines at Berlin in 1792, and afterward director- 
general of the mines of the principalities of Bareith 
and Anspach in Franconia, he directed his efforts to 
the formation of public establishments in these dis- 
tricts ; but in 1795 he resigned his office with the 
view of travelling, and visited part of Italy. His 
active and comprehensive mind engaged in the study 
of all the physical sciences ; but the discoveries of 
Galvani seem at this period to have more particularly- 
attracted his attention. The results of his experi- 
ments on animal electricity were published in 1796, 
with notes by Professor Blumenbach. In 1795 he 
had gone to Vienna, where he remained some time, 
ardently engaged in the study of a fine collection of 
exotic plants in that city. He travelled through 
several cantons of Salzburg and Styria with the 
celebrated Von Buch, but was prevented by the war 
which then raged in Italy from extending his journey 
to that country, whither he was anxious to proceed 
for the purpose of examining the/ volcanic districts 
of Naples and Sicily. Accompanied by his brother 
William Von Humboldt and Mr. Fischer, he then 
visited Paris, where he formed an acquaintance with 
M. Aime Bonpland, a pupil of the School of Medicine 
arid Garden of Plants, who, afterward becoming his 
associate in travel, has greatly distinguished himself 
by his numerous discoveries in botany. 

Humboldt, from his earliest youth, had cherished 


an ardent desire to travel into distant regions little 
known to Europeans; and having at the age of 
eighteen resolved to visit the New Continent, he 
prepared himself by examining some of the most 
interesting parts of Europe, that he might be enabled 
to compare the geological structure of these two 
portions of the globe, and acquire a practical ac- 
quaintance with the instalments best adapted for 
aiding him in his observations. Fortunate in pos- 
sessing ample pecuniary resources, he did not expe- 
rience the privations which have disconcerted the 
plans and retarded the progress of many eminent 
individuals ; but, not the less subject to unforeseen 
vicissitudes, he had to undergo several disappoint- 
ments that thwarted the schemes which, like all 
men of ardent mind, he had indulged himself in 
forming. Meeting with a person passionately fond 
of the fine arts, and anxious to visit Upper Egypt, he 
resolved to accompany him to that interesting coun- 
try ; but political events interfered, and forced him 
to abandon the project. The knowledge of the 
monuments of the more ancient nations of the Old 
World, which he acquired at this period, was sub- 
sequently of great use to him in his researches in 
the New Continent. An expedition of discovery to 
the southern hemisphere, under the direction of 
Captain Baudin, then preparing in France, and \vith 
which MM. Michaux and Bonpland were to be asso- 
ciated as naturalists, held out to him the hope of 
gratifying his desire of exploring unknown regions. 
But the war which broke out in Germany and Italy 
compelled the government to withdraw the funds 
allotted to this enterprise. Becoming acquainted 
with a Swedish consul who happened to pass through 
Paris, with the view of embarking at Marseilles on 
a mission to Algiers, he resolved to embrace the 
opportunity thus offered of visiting Africa, in order 
to examine the lofty chain of mountains in the em- 
pire of Morocco, and ultimately to join the body of 


scientific men attached to the French army in Egypt, 
Accompanied by his friend Bonpland, he therefore 
betook himself to Marseilles, where he waited for 
two months the arrival of the frigate which was to 
convey the consul to his destination. At length, 
learning that this vessel had been injured by a 
storm, he resolved to pass the winter in Spain, in 
hopes of finding another the following spring. 

On his way to Madrid, he determined the geo- 
graphical position of several important parts, and 
ascertained the height of the central plain of Castile. 
In March, 1799, he was presented at the court of 
Aranjuez, and graciously received by the king, to 
whom he explained the motives which induced him 
to undertake a voyage to the New Continent. Be- 
ing .seconded in his application by the representa- 
tions of an enlightened minister, Don Mariano Luis 
de Urquijo, he to his great joy obtained leave to visit 
and explore, without impediment or restriction, all 
the Spanish territories in America. The impatience 
of the travellers to take advantage of the permission 
thus granted did not allow them to bestow much 
time upon preparations; and about the middle of 
May they left Madrid, crossed part of Old Castile, 
Leon, and Galicia, and betook themselves to Co- 
runna, whence they were to sail for the island of 

According to the observations made by our travel- 
lers, the interior of Spain consists of an elevated 
table-land, formed of secondary deposites, sand- 
stone, gypsum, rock-salt, and Jura limestone. The 
climate of the Castiles is much colder than that of 
Toulon and Genoa, its mean temperature scarcely 
rising to 59 of Fahrenheit's thermometer. The 
central plain is surrounded by a low and narrow belt, 
in several parts of which the fan-palm, the date, the 
sugar-cane, the banana, and many plants common to 
Spain and the north of Africa vegetate, without suf- 
fering from the severity of the winter. In the space 


included between the parallels of thirty-six and forty 
degrees of north latitude the mean temperature 
ranges from 62'6 to 68'2 Fahrenheit, and by a con- 
currence of favourable circumstances this section 
has become the principal seat of industry and intel- 
lectual cultivation. 

Ascending from the shores of the Mediterranean, 
towards the elevated plains of La Mancha and the 
Castiles, one imagines that he sees far inland, in the 
extended precipices, the ancient coast of the Penin- 
sula ; a circumstance which brings to mind the tra- 
ditions of the Samothracians and certain historical 
testimonies, according to which the bursting of the 
waters through the Dardanelles, while it enlarged the 
basin of the Mediterranean, overwhelmed the south- 
ern part of Europe. The high central plain just de- 
scribed would, it may be presumed, resist the effects 
of the inundation until the escape of the waters by 
the strait formed between the Pillars of Hercules, 
had gradually lowered the level of the Mediterra- 
nean, and thereby once more laid bare Upper Egypt 
on the one hand, and on the other, the fertile valleys 
of Tarfagon, Valentia, and Murcia. 

From Astorgato Corunna the mountains gradually 
rise, the sepondary strata disappear by degrees, and 
the transition rocks which succeed announce the prox- 
imity of primitive formations. Large mountains of 
graywacke and graywacke-slate present themselves. 
In the vicinity of the latter town are granitic sum- 
mits which extend to 4 Cape Ortegal, and which 
might seem, with those of Brittany and Cornwall, to 
have once formed a chain of mountains that has 
been broken up and submersed. This rock is char- 
acterized by large and beautiful crystals of felspar, 
and contains tin-ore, which is worked with much 
labour and little profit by the GaliCians. 

On arriving at Corunna, they found the port block- 
aded by the English, for the purpose of interrupting 
the communication between the mother-country 


and the American colonies. The principal secre- 
tary of state had recommended them to Don Rafael 
Clavigo, recently appointed director-general of the 
maritime posts, who neglected nothing that could 
render their residence agreeable, and advised them 
to embark on board the corvette Pizarro bound for 
Havana and Mexico. Instructions were given for 
the safe disposal of the instruments, and the captain 
was ordered to stop at Teneriffe so long as should 
be found necessary to enable the travellers to visit 
the port of Orotava and ascend the Peak. 

During the few days of their detention, they occu- 
pied themselves in preparing the plants which they 
had collected and in making sundry observations. 
Crossing to Ferrol they made some interesting ex- 
periments on the temperature of the sea and the 
decrease of heat in the successive strata of the 
water. The thermometer on the bank and near it 
was from 54 to 55'9, while in deep water it stood 
at 59 or 59-5, the air being 55. The fact that the 
proximity of a sand-bank is indicated by a rapid 
descent of the temperature of the sea at its surface 
is of great importance for the safety of navigators ; 
for, although the use of the thermometer ought not 
to supersede that of the lead, variations of tempera- 
ture indicative of danger may be perceived by it long 
before the vessel reaches the shoal. A heavy swell 
from the north-west rendered it impossible to con- 
tinue their experiments. It was produced by a storm 
at sea, and obliged the English vessels to retire from 
the coast, a circumstance which induced our trav- 
ellers speedily to embark their instruments and bag- 
gage, although they were prevented from sailing by 
a high westerly wind, that continued for several days. 



Voyage from Corunna to Teneriffe. 

Departure from Corunna Currents of the Atlantic Ocean Marine Ani- 
mals Falling Stars Swallows Canary Islands^Lanceroia Fucus 
vitifolius Causes of the Green Colour of Plants La Graciosa 
Stratified Basalt alternating with Marl Hyalite Quartz Sand- 
Remarks on the Distance at which Mountains are visible at Sea, and 
the Causes by which it is modified Landing at Teneriffe. 

THE wind having come round to the north-east, 
the Pizarro set sail on the afternoon of the 5th of 
June, 1799, and after working out of the narrow pas- 
sage passed the Tower of Hercules, or lighthouse 
of Corunna, at half-past six. Towards evening the 
wind increased, and the sea ran high. They directed 
their course to the north-west, for the purpose of 
avoiding the English frigates which were cruising 
off the coast, and about nine spied the fire of a fish- 
ing-hut at Lisarga, which was the last object they 
beheld in the west of Europe. As they advanced, 
the light mingled itself with the stars which rose on 
the horizon. " Our eyes," says Humboldt, " re- 
mained involuntarily fixed upon it. Such impres- 
sions do not fade from the memory of those who 
have undertaken long voyages at an age when the 
emotions of the heart are in full force. How many 
recollections are awakened in the imagination by a 
luminous point which in the middle of a dark night, 
appearing at intervals above the agitated waves, 
marks the shore of one's native land !" 

They were obliged to run under courses, and pro- 
ceeded at the rate of ten knots, although the vessel 
was not a fast sailer. At six in the morning she 
rolled so much that the fore topgallant-mast was 
carried away. On the 7th they were in the latitude 


of Cape Finisterre, the group of granitic rocks on 
which, named the Sierra de Torinona, is visible at 
sea to the distance of 59 miles. On the 8th, at sun- 
set, they discovered from the mast-head an English 
convoy ; and to avoid them they altered their course 
during the night. On the 9th they began to feel the 
effects of the great current which flows from the 
Azores towards the Straits of Gibraltar and the 
Canaries. Its direction was at .first east-by-south; 
but nearer the inlet it became due east, and its force 
was such as, between 37 and 30 lat., sometimes to 
carry the vessel in twenty-four hours from 21 to 30 
miles eastward. 

Between the tropics, especially from the coast of 
Senegal to the Caribbean Sea, there is a stream that 
always flows from east to west, and which is named 
the Equinoctial Current. Its mean rapidity may be 
estimated at ten or eleven miles in twenty-four 
hours. This movement of the waters, which is also 
observed in the Pacific Ocean, having a direction 
contrary to that of the earth's rotation, is supposed 
to be connected with the latter only in so far as it 
changes into trade-winds those aerial currents from 
the poles, which, in the lower regions of the atmo- 
sphere, carry the cold air of the high latitudes to- 
wards the equator ; and it is to the general impulse 
which these winds give to the surface of the ocean 
that the phenomenon in question is to be attributed. 

This current carries the waters of the Atlantic 
towards the Mosquito and Honduras coasts, from 
which they move northwards, .and. passing into the 
Gulf of Mexico follow the bendings of the shore 
from Vera Cruz to the mouth of the Rio del Norte, 
and from thence to the mouths of the Mississippi 
and the shoals at the southern extremity of Florida. 
After performing this circuit, it again directs itself 
northward, rushing with great impetuosity through 
the Straits of Bahama. At the end of these nar- 
rows, in the parallel of Cape Canaveral, the flow, 


which rushes onward like a torrent, sometimes at 
the rate of five miles an hour, runs to the north-east. 
Its velocity diminishes and its breadth enlarges as it 
proceeds northward. Between Cape Biscayo and 
the Bank of Bahama the width is only 52 miles, 
while in 28J of lat. it is 59 ; and in the parallel of 
Charleston," opposite Cape Henlopen, it is from 138 
to 173 miles, the rapidity being from three to five 
miles an hour where the stream is narrow, and only 
one mile as it advances towards the north. To the 
east of Boston and in the meridian of Halifax the 
current is nearly 276 miles broad. Here it suddenly 
turns towards the east ; its western margin touching 
the extremity of the great bank of Newfoundland. 
From this to the Azores it continues to flow to the 
E. and E.S.E., still retaining part of the impulse 
which it had received nearly 1150 miles distant in 
the Straits of Florida. In the meridian of the Isles 
of Corvo and Flores, the most western of the Azores, 
it is not less than 552 miles in breadth. From the 
Azores it directs itself towards the Straits of Gib- 
raltar, the island of Madeira, and the Canary Isles. 
To the south of Madeira we can distinctly follow its 
motion to the S.E. and S.S.E., bearing on the shores 
of Africa, between Capes Cantin and Bojador. Cape 
Blanco, which, next to Cape Verd, farther to the 
south, is the most prominent part of that coast, 
seems again to influence the direction of the stream ; 
and in this parallel it mixes with the great equinoc- 
tial current as already described. 

In this manner the waters of the Atlantic, between 
the parallels of 11 and 43, are carried round in a 
continual whirlpool, which Humboldt calculates must 
take two years and ten months to perform its cir- 
cuit of 13,118 miles. This great current is named 
the Gulf-stream. Off the coast of Newfoundland a 
branch separates from it, and runs from S.W. to 
N.E. towards the coasts of Europe. 

From Corunna to 36 of latitude, our travellers had 


scarcely seen any other animals than terns (or sea- 
swallows) and a few dolphins ; but on the llth June 
they entered a zone in which the whole sea was 
covered with a prodigious quantity of medusae. The 
vessel was almost becalmed ; but the molusca ad- 
vanced towards the south-east with a rapidity equal 
to four times that of the current, and continued to 
pass nearly three-quarters of an hour, after which 
only a few scattered individuals were seen. Among 
these animals they recognised the Medusa aurita of 
Baster, the M. pelagica of Bosc, and a third approach- 
ing in its characters to the M. hysocella, which is dis- 
tinguished by its yellowish-brown colour, and by 
having its tentacula longer than the body. Several 
of them were four inches in diameter, and the bright 
reflection from their bodies contrasted pleasantly 
with the azure tint of the sea. 

On the morning of the 13th June, in lat. 34 33', 
they observed large quantities of the Dagysa notata, 
of which several had been seen among the medusae, 
and which consist of little transparent gelatinous 
sacs, extending to 14 lines, with a diameter of 2 or 
3, and open at both ends. These cylinders are lon- 
gitudinally agglutinated like the cells of a honey- 
comb, and form strings from six to eight inches in 
length. They observed, after it became dark, that 
none of the three species of medusa which they had 
collected emitted light unless they were slightly 
shaken. When a very irritable individual is placed 
on a tin plate, and the latter is struck with a piece of 
metal, the vibrations of the tin are sufficient to make 
the animal shine. Sometimes, on galvanizing me- 
dusae, the phosphorescence appears at the moment 
when the chain closes, although the exciters are not 
in direct contact with the body of the subject. The 
fingers, after touching it, remain luminous for two 
or three minutes. Wood, on being rubbed with a 
medusa, becomes luminous, and after the phospho- 
rescence has ceased, it may be rekindled by passing 


the dry hand over it ; but when the light is a second 
time extinguished it cannot be reproduced. 

Between the island of Madeira and the coast of 
Africa they were struck by the prodigious quantity 
of falling stars, which continued to increase as they 
advanced southward. These meteors, Humboldt 
remarks, are more common and more luminous in 
certain regions of the earth than in others. He 
has nowhere seen them more frequent than in the 
vicinity of the volcanoes of Quito and in that part 
of the South Sea which washes the shores of Gua- 
timala. According to the observations of Benzen- 
berg and Brandes, many falling stars noticed in Eu- 
rope were only 63,950 yards, or a little more than 36 
miles high; and one was measured, the elevation 
of which did not exceed 29,843 yards, or about 17 
miles. In warm climates, and especially between 
the tropics, they often leave behind them a train 
which remains luminous for twelve or fifteen seconds. 
At other times they seem to burst, and separate 
into a number of sparks. They are generally much 
lower than in the north of Europe. These meteors 
can be observed only when the sky is clear ; and 
perhaps none has ever been seen beneath a cloud. 
According to the observations of M. Arago, they usu- 
ally follow the same course for several hours ; and 
in this case their direction is that of the wind. 

When the voyagers were 138 miles to the east of 
Madeira, a common swallow (Hirundo rustica) perched 
on the topsail-yard, and was caught. What could 
induce a bird, asks our traveller, to fly so far at this 
season, and in calm weather 1 In the expedition of 
Entrecasteaux, a swallow was also seen at the dis- 
tance of 207 miles off Cape Blanco ; but this hap- 
pened about the end of October, and M. Labillar- 
diere imagined that it had newly arrived from 

The Pizarro had been ordered to touch at Lan- 
cerota, one of the Canaries, to ascertain whether the 


harbour of Santa Cruz in Teneriffe was blockaded 
by the English ; and on the 16th, in the afternoon, 
the seamen discovered land, which proved to be 
that island. As they advanced they saw first the 
island of Forteventura, famous for the number of 
camels reared upon it, and soon after the smaller 
one of Lobos. Spending part of the night on deck, 
the naturalists viewed the volcanic summits of Lan- 
cerota illumined by the moon, and enjoyed the beau- 
tiful serenity of the atmosphere. After a time, great 
black clouds, rising behind the volcano, shrouded at 
intervals the moon and the constellation of Scorpio. 
They observed lights carried about on the shore, 
probably by fishermen, and having been employed 
occasionally during their passage in reading some 
of the old Spanish voyages, these moving fires re- 
called to their imagination those seen on the island 
of Guanahani on the memorable night of the dis- 
covery of the New World. 

In passing through the archipelago of small isl- 
ands situated to the north of Lancerota, they were 
struck by the configuration of the coasts, which re- 
sembled the banks of the Rhine near Bonn. It is a 
remarkable circumstance, our author observes, that, 
while the forms of animals and plants exhibit the 
greatest diversity in different climates, the rocky- 
masses present the same appearances in both hemi- 
spheres. In the Canary Isles, as in Auvergne, in the 
Mittelgebirge, in Bohemia, in Mexico, and on the 
banks of the Ganges, the trap formation displays a 
symmetrical arrangement of the mountains, ex- 
hibiting truncated cones and graduated platforms. 

The whole western part of Lancerota announces 
the character of a country recently deranged by vol- 
canic action, every part being black, arid, and des- 
titute of soil. The Abbe Viera relates that in 1730 
more than half of the island changed its appearance. 
The great volcano ravaged the most fertile and best- 
cultivated district, and entirely destroyed nine vil- 


lages. Its eruptions were preceded by an earth- 
quake, and violent shocks continued to be felt for 
several years, a phenomenon of rare occurrence, 
the agitation of the ground usually ceasing after a 
disengagement of lava or other volcanic products. 
The summit of the great crater is rounded, and its 
absolute height does not appear to be much above 
1918 feet. The island of Lancerota was formerly 
named Titeroigotra, and at the time of the arrival 
of the Spaniards its inhabitants were more civilized 
than the other Canarians, living in houses built of 
hewn stone, while the Guanches of Teneriffe resided 
in caves. There was then a very singular institu- 
tion in the island. The women had several hus- 
bands, each of whom enjoyed the prerogative be- 
longing to the head of a family in succession, the 
others remaining for the time in the capacity of 
common domestics.* 

The occurrence, between the islands of Alegranza 
and Montana Clara of a singular marine production, 
with light-green leaves, which was brought up by 
the lead from a great depth, affords our author, in 
his narrative, an opportunity of stating some inter- 
esting facts respecting the colouring of plants. This 
seaweed, growing at the bottom of the ocean at a 
depth of 205 feet, had its vine-shaped leaves as 
green as those of our gramineae. According to Bou- 
guer's experiments, light is weakened after a passage 
of 192 feet, in the proportion of 1 to 1477'8. At the 
depth of 205 this fucus could only have had light 

* A similar practice is stated by Mr. Fraser in his " Journal of a Tour 
through the Himala Mountains," p. 206, to occur in several of the hill 
provinces of India. "It is usual all over the country for the future hus- 
band to purchase his wife from her parents; and the sum thus paid 
varies of course with the rank of the purchaser. The difficulty of rais- 
ing this sum, and the alleged expense of maintaining women, may in 
part account tor, if it cannot excuse, a most disgusting usage, which is 
universal over the country. Three or four or more brothers marry and 
cohabit with one woman, who is the wife of all. They are unable to 
raise the requisite sum individually, aud thus club their shares, and buy 
this one common spouse." 


equal to half of that supplied by a candle seen at 
the distance of a foot. The germs of several of 
the liliaceae, the embryo of the mallows and other 
families, the branches of some subterranean plants, 
and vegetables transported into mines in which the 
air contains hydrogen or a great quantity of azote, 
become green without light. From these facts one 
might be induced to think that the existence of car- 
buret of iron, which gives the green colour to the 
parenchmay of plants, is not dependent upon the 
presence of the solar rays only. Turner and many 
other botanists are of opinion that most of the sea- 
weeds which we find floating on the ocean, and which 
in certain parts of the Atlantic present the appear- 
ance of a vast inundated meadow, grow originally 
at the bottom of the sea, and are torn off by the 
waves. If this opinion be correct, the family of 
marine algae presents great difficulties to those physi- 
ologists who persist in thinking that, in all cases, 
the absence of light must produce blanching. 

The captain, having mistaken a basaltic rock for 
a castle, saluted it, and sent one of the officers to 
inquire if the English were cruising in those parts. 
Our travellers took advantage of the boat to examine 
the land, which they had regarded as a prolongation 
of the coasts of Lancerota, but which turned out to 
be the small island of La Graciosa. " Nothing," 
says Humboldt, " can express the emotion a natu- 
ralist feels when for the first time he lands in a place 
which is not European. The attention is fixed upon 
so many objects, that one can hardly give an ac- 
count of the impressions which he receives. At 
every step he imagines that he finds a new produc- 
tion ; and in the midst of this agitation he often does 
not recognise those which are most common in our 
botanical gardens and museums." A fisherman, 
who, having been frightened by the firing, had fled 
from them, but whom the sailors overtook, stated 
that no vessels had been seen for several weeks. 


The rocks of this small island were of basalt and 
marl, destitute of trees or shrubs, in most places 
without a trace of soil, and but scantily crusted with 

The basalts are not columnar, but arranged in 
strata from 10 to 16 inches thick, and incline to the 
north-west at an angle of 80 degrees, alternating 
with marl. Some of these strata are compact, and 
contain large crystals of foliated olivine, often porous, 
with oblong cavities, from two to eight lines in di- 
ameter, which are coated with calcedony, and en- 
close fragments of compact basalt. The marl, which 
alternates more than a hundred times with the trap, 
is of a yellowish colour, extremely friable, very 
tenacious internally, and often divided into regular 
prisms like those of basalt. It contains much lime, 
and effervesces strongly with muriatic acid. The 
travellers had not time to reach the summit of a hill, 
the base of which was formed of clay, with layers 
of basalt resting on it, precisely as in the Schneiben- 
berger Huegel of Saxony. These rocks were cov- 
ered with hyalite, of which they procured several 
fine specimens, leaving masses eight or ten inches 
square untouched. 

On the shore there were two kinds of sand, the 
one black and basaltic, the other white and quartzy. 
Exposed to the sun's rays the thermometer rose in 
the former to 124'2, and in the latter to 104; while 
in the shade the temperature of the air was 81 '5, 
being 14 higher than the sea air. The quartzy sand 
contains fragments of felspar. Pieces of granite 
have been observed at Teneriffe ; and the island of 
Gomera, according to M. Broussonet, contains a nu- 
cleus of mica-slate. From these facts Humboldt 
infers that in the Canaries, as in the Andes of Quito, 
in Auvergne, Greece, and most parts of the globe, 
the subterranean fires have made their way through 
primitive rocks. 
Having re-embarked, they hoisted sail, and en- 


deavoured to get out again by the strait which sep- 
arates Alegranza from Montana Clara ; but, the wind 
having fallen, the currents drove them close upon a 
rock marked in old charts by the name of Infierno, 
and in modern ones under that of Roca del Oeste, 
a basaltic mass which has probably been raised by 
volcanic agency. Tacking during the night between 
Montana Clara and this islet, they were several 
times in great danger among shelves towards which 
they were drawn by the motion of the water ; but 
the wind freshening in the morning, they succeeded 
in passing the channel, and sailed along the coasts 
of Lancerota, Lobos, and Forteventura. 

The haziness of the atmosphere prevented them 
from seeing the Peak of Teneriffe during the whole 
of their passage from Lancerota ; but our traveller, 
in his narrative, states the following interesting cir- 
cumstances relative to the distance at which moun- 
tains may be seen. If the height of the Peak, he 
says, is 12,182 feet, as indicated by the last trigono- 
metrical measurement of Borda, its summit ought 
to be visible at the distance of 148 miles, supposing 
the eye at the level of the ocean, and the refraction 
equal to 0*079 of the distance. Navigators who fre- 
quent these latitudes find that the peaks of Teneriffe 
and the Azores are sometimes observed at very great 
distances, while at other times, they cannot be seen 
when the interval is considerably less, although the 
sky is clear. Such circumstances are of importance 
to navigators, who, in returning to Europe, impa- 
tiently wait for a sight of these mountains to rectify 
their longitude. The constitution of the atmosphere 
has a great influence on the visibility of distant ob- 
jects, the transparency of the air being much in- 
creased when a certain quantity of water is uni- 
formly diffused through it. 

It is not surprising that the Peak of Teneriffe 
should be less frequently visible at a great distance 
than the tops of the Andes, riot being like them in- 


vested with perpetual snow. The Sugar-loaf which 
constitutes the summit of the former no doubt re- 
flects a great degree of light, on account of the white 
colour of the pumice with which it is covered ; but 
its height does not form a twentieth part of the total 
elevation, and the sides of the volcano are coated 
with blocks of dark-coloured lava, or with luxuriant 
vegetation, the masses of which reflect little light, 
the leaves of the trees being separated by shadows 
of greater extent than the illuminated parts. 

Hence the Peak of Teneriffe is to be referred to 
the class of mountains which are seen at great dis- 
tances only in what Bouguer calls a negative man- 
ner, or because they intercept the light transmitted 
from the extreme limits of the atmosphere ; and we 
perceive 4heir existence only by means of the dif- 
ference of intensity that subsists between the light 
which surrounds them, and that reflected by the par- 
ticles of air placed between the object of vision and 
the observer. In receding from Teneriffe, the Sugar- 
loaf is long seen in a positive manner, as it reflects 
a whitish light, and detaches itself clearly from the 
sky ; but as this terminal cone is only 512 feet high, 
by 256 in breadth at its summit, it has been ques- 
tioned whether it can be visible beyond the distance 
of 138 miles. If it be admitted that the mean breadth 
of the Sugar-loaf is 639J feet, it will still subtend, at 
the distance now named^ an angle of more than three 
minutes, which is enough to render it visible ; and 
were the height of the cone greatly to exceed its 
basis, the angle might be still less, and the mass yet 
make an impression on our organs ; for it has been 
proved by micrometrical observations, that the limit 
of vision is one minute only when the dimensions 
of objects are the same in all directions. 

As the visibility of an object, which detaches it- 
self from the sky of a brown colour, depends on the 
quantities of light the eye meets in two lines, of 
which one ends at the mountain and the other is 


prolonged to the surface of the aerial ocean, it fol- 
lows that the farther we remove from the object 
the less also becomes the difference between the 
light of the surrounding atmosphere and that of the 
strata of air placed before the mountain. For this 
reason, when summits of low elevation begin to ap- 
pear above the horizon, they are of a darker tint 
than those more elevated ones which we discover at 
very great distances. In like manner, the visibility 
of mountains which are only negatively perceived 
does not depend solely upon the state of the low 
regions of the air, to which our meteorological ob- 
servations are confined, but also upon its transpa- 
rency and physical constitution in the most elevated 
parts ; for the image is more distinctly detached, 
the more intense the aerial light which comes from 
the limits of the atmosphere has originally been, or 
the less it has lost in its passage. This in a certain 
degree accounts for the circumstance that the Peak 
is sometimes visible and sometimes invisible to 
navigators who are equally distant from it, when 
the state of the thermometer and hygrometer is pre- 
cisely the same in the lower stratum of air. It is 
even probable that the chance of perceiving this 
volcano would not be greater were the cone equal, 
as in Vesuvius, to a fourth part of the whole height. 
The ashes spread upon its surface do not reflect so 
much light as the snow with which the summits of 
the Andes are covered ; but, on the contrary, make 
the mountain, when seen from a great distance, be- 
come more obscurely detached, and assume a brown 
tint. They contribute, as it were, to equalize the 
portions of aerial light, the variable difference of 
which renders the object more or less distinctly vis- 
ible. Bare calcareous mountains, summits covered 
with granitic sand, and the elevated savannas of the 
Andes, which are of a bright yellow colour, are more 
clearly seen at small distances than objects that are 
perceived only in a negative manner; but theory 


points out a limit beyond which the latter are more 
distinctly detached from the azure vault of the sky. 

The aerial light projected on the tops of hills in- 
creases the visibility of those which are seen posi- 
tively, but diminishes that of such as are detached 
with a brown colour. Bouguer, proceeding on theo- 
retical data, has found that mountains which are seen 
negatively cannot be perceived at distances exceed- 
ing 121 miles ; but experience goes against this con- 
clusion. The Peak of Teneriffe has often been ob- 
served at the distance of 124, 131, and even 138 
miles ; and the summit of Mowna-Roa in the Sand- 
wich Isles, which is probably 16,000 feet high, has 
been seen, at a period when it was destitute of snow, 
skirting the horizon from a distance of 183 miles. 
This is the most striking example yet known of the 
visibility of high land, and is the more remarkable 
that the object was negatively seen. 

The atmosphere continuing hazy, the navigators 
did not discover the island of Grand Canary, not- 
withstanding its height, until the evening of the 18th 
June, On the following day they saw the point of 
Naga, but the Peak of Teneriffe still remained in- 
visible. After repeatedly sounding, on account of the 
thickness of the mist, they anchored in the road of 
Santa Cruz, when at the moment they began to salute 
the place the fog instantaneously dispersed, and the 
Peak of Teyde, illuminated by the first rays of the 
sun, appeared in a break above the clouds. Our 
travellers betook themselves to the bow of the ves- 
sel to enjoy the majestic spectacle, when, at the very 
moment, four English ships were seen close astern. 
The anchor was immediately got up, and the Pizarro 
stood in as close as possible, to place herself under 
the protection of the fort. 

While waiting the governor's permission to land, 
Humboldt employed the time in making observations 
for determining the longitude of the mole of Santa 
Cruz and the dip of the needle. Berthoud's chro- 


nometer gave 18 33' 10", the accuracy of which re- 
sult, although differing from the longitude assigned 
by Cook and others, was afterward confirmed by 
Krusenstern, who found that port 16 12' 45" west 
of Greenwich, and consequently 18 33' west of 
Paris. The dip of the magnetic needle was 62 24', 
although it varied considerably in different places 
along the shore. After undergoing the fatigue of 
answering the numberless questions proposed by 
persons who visited them on board, our travellers 
were at length permitted to land. 


Island of Teneriffe. 

Santa Cruz Villa de la Laguna Guanches Present Inhabitants of 
Teneriffe Climate Scenery of the Coast Orotava Dragon-tree- 
Ascent of the Peak Its Geological Character Eruptions Zones of 
Vegetation Fires of St. John. 

SANTA CRUZ, the Anaja of the Guanches, which is 
a neat town, with a population of 8000 persons, may 
be considered as a great caravansera situated on the 
road to America and India, and has consequently 
been often described. The recommendations of the 
court of Madrid procured for our travellers the most 
satisfactory reception in the Canaries. The cap- 
tain-general gave permission to examine the island, 
and Colonel Armiaga, who commanded a regiment 
of infantry, extended his hospitality to them, and 
showed the most polite attention. In his garden 
they admired the banana, the papaw, and other plants 
cultivated in the open air, which they had before 
seen only in hothouses. 

In the evening they made a botanical excursion 


points out a limit beyond which the latter are more 
distinctly detached from the azure vault of the sky. 

The aerial light projected on the tops of hills in- 
creases the visibility of those which are seen posi- 
tively, but diminishes that of such as are detached 
with a brown colour. Bouguer, proceeding on theo- 
retical data, has found that mountains which are seen 
negatively cannot be perceived at distances exceed- 
ing 121 miles ; but experience goes against this con- 
clusion. The Peak of Teneriffe has often been ob- 
served at the distance of 124, 131, and even 138 
miles ; and the summit of Mowna-Roa in the Sand- 
wich Isles, which is probably 16,000 feet high, has 
been seen, at a period when it was destitute of snow, 
skirting the horizon from a distance of 183 miles. 
This is the most striking example yet known of the 
visibility of high land, and is the more remarkable 
that the object was negatively seen. 

The atmosphere continuing hazy, the navigators 
did not discover the island of Grand Canary, not- 
withstanding its height, until the evening of the 18th 
June, On the following day they saw the point of 
Naga, but the Peak of Teneriffe still remained in- 
visible. After repeatedly sounding, on account of the 
thickness of the mist, they anchored in the road of 
Santa Cruz, when at the moment they began to salute 
the place the fog instantaneously dispersed, and the 
Peak of Teyde, illuminated by the first rays of the 
sun, appeared in a break above the clouds. Our 
travellers betook themselves to the bow of the ves- 
sel to enjoy the majestic spectacle, when, at the very 
moment, four English ships were seen close astern. 
The anchor was immediately got up, and the Pizarro 
stood in as close as possible, to place herself under 
the protection of the fort. 

While waiting the governor's permission to land, 
Humboldt employed the time in making observations 
for determining the longitude of the mole of Santa 
Cruz and the dip of the needle. Berthoud's chro- 


nometer gave 18 33' 10", the accuracy of which re- 
sult, although differing from the longitude assigned 
by Cook and others, was afterward confirmed by 
Krusenstern, who found that port 16 12' 45" west 
of Greenwich, and consequently 18 33' west of 
Paris. The dip of the magnetic needle was 62 24', 
although it varied considerably in different places 
along the shore. After undergoing the fatigue of 
answering the numberless questions proposed by 
persons who visited them on board, our travellers 
were at length permitted to land. 


Island of Teneriffe. 

Santa Craz Villa de la Laguna Guanches Present Inhabitants of 
Teneriffe Climate Scenery of the Coast Orotava Dragon-tree 
Ascent of the Peak Its Geological Character Eruptions Zones of 
Vegetation Fires of fet. John. 

SANTA CRUZ, the Anaja of the Guanches, which is 
a neat town, with a population of 8000 persons, may 
be considered as a great caravansera situated on the 
road to America and India, and has consequently 
been often described. The recommendations of the 
court of Madrid procured for our travellers the most 
satisfactory reception in the Canaries. The cap- 
tain-general gave permission to examine the island, 
and Colonel Armiaga, who commanded a regiment 
of infantry, extended his hospitality to them, and 
showed the most polite attention. In his garden 
they admired the banana, the papaw, and other plants 
cultivated in the open air, which they had before 
seen only in hothouses. 

In the evening they made a botanical excursion 


towards the fort of Passo Alto, along the basaltic 
rocks which close the promontory of Naga, but had 
little success, as the drought and dust had in a 
manner destroyed the vegetation. The Cacalia 
Hernia, Euphorbia canariensis, and other succulent 
plants, which derive their nourishment more from 
the air than from the soil, reminded them by their 
aspect that the Canaries belong to Africa, and even 
to the most arid part of that continent. 

The captain of the Pizarro, having apprized them 
that, on account of the blockade by the English, 
they ought not to reckon upon a longer stay than 
four or five days, they hastened to set out for the 
port of Orotava, where they might find guides for 
the ascent of the Peak ; and on the 20th, before 
sunrise, they were on the way to Villa de la Laguna, 
which is 2238 feet higher than the port of Santa 
Cruz. The road to this place is on the right of a 
torrent, which, in the rainy season, forms beautiful 
falls. Near the town they met with some white 
camels, employed in transporting merchandise. 
These animals, as well as horses, were introduced 
into the Canary Islands in the fifteenth century 
by the Norman conquerors, and were unknown to 
the Guanches. Camels are more abundant in Lan- 
cerota and Forteventura, which are nearer the con- 
tinent, than at Teneriffe, where they very seldom 

The hill on which the Villa de la Laguna stands 
belongs to the series of basaltic mountains which 
forms a girdle around the Peak, and is independent 
of the newer volcanic rocks. The basalt on which 
the travellers walked was blackish-brown, compact, 
and partially decomposed. They found in it horn- 
blende, olivine, and transparent pyroxene, with la- 
mellar fracture, of an olive-green tint, and often 
crystallized in six-sided prisms. The rock of La- 
guna is not columnar, but divided into thin beds, in- 
clined at an angle of from 30 to 48, and has no 


appearance of having been formed by a current of 
lava from the Peak. Some arborescent Euphorbias, 
Cacalia kleinia, and Cacti, were the only plants ob- 
served on these parched acclivities. The mules 
slipped at every step on the inclined surfaces of the 
rock although traces of an old road were observ- 
able, which, with the numerous other indications that 
occur in these colonies, afford evidence of the ac- 
tivity displayed by the Spanish nation in the six- 
teenth century. 

The heat of Santa Cruz, which is suffocating, is 
in a great measure to be attributed to the reverbera- 
tion of the rocks in its vicinity ; but as the travellers 
approached Laguna they became sensible of a very 
pleasant diminution of temperature. In fact, the 
perpetual coolness which exists here renders it a 
delightful residence. It is situated in a small plain, 
surrounded by gardens, and commanded by a hill 
crowned with the laurel, the myrtle, and the arbutus. 
The rain, in collecting, forms from time to time a 
kind of large pool or marsh, which has induced 
travellers to describe the capital of Teneriffe as 
situated on the margin of a lake. The town, which 
was deprived of its opulence in consequence of the 
port of Garachico having been destroyed by the 
lateral eruptions of the volcano, has only 9000 in- 
habitants, of which about 400 are monks. It is sur- 
rounded by numerous windmills for corn. Hum- 
boldt observes that the cereal grasses were known 
to the original inhabitants, and that parched barley- 
flour and goats' milk formed their principal meals. 
This food tends to show that they were connected 
with the nations of the old continent, perhaps even 
with those of the Caucasian race, and not with the 
inhabitants of the New World, who, previous to the 
arrival of the Europeans among them, had no know- 
ledge of grain, milk, or cheese. 

The Canary Islands were originally inhabited by 
a people famed for their tall stature, and known by 


although the cold may be two degrees below zero. 
Trees growing in a fertile soil are remarked by cul- 
tivators to be less delicate, and less affected by 
changes of temperature, than those planted in land 
that affords little nutriment. 

From Laguna to the port of Orotava and the 
western coast of Teneriffe the route is at first over 
a hilly country, covered by a black argillaceous soil. 
The subjacent rock is concealed by layers of ferru- 
ginous earth ; but in some of the ravines are seen 
columnar basalts, with recent conglomerates, re- 
sembling volcanic tufas lying over them, which con- 
tain fragments of the former, and also, as is asserted,' 
marine petrifactions. This delightful country, of 
which travellers of all nations speak with enthu- 
siasm, is entered by the valley of Tacoronte, and pre - 
sents scenes of unrivalled beauty. The seashore is 
ornamented with palms of the date and cocoa spe- 
cies. Farther up, groups of musa? and dragon-trees 
present themselves. The declivities are covered 
with vines. Orange-trees, myrtles, and cypresses 
surround the chapels that have been raised on the 
little hills. The lands are separated by enclosures 
formed of the agave and cactus. Multitudes of 
cryptogamic plants, especially ferns, cover the walls. 
In winter, while the volcano is wrapped in snow, 
there is continued spring in this beautiful district ; 
and in summer, towards evening, the sea-breezes 
diffuse a gentle coolness over it. From Tegueste 
and Tacoronte to the village of San Juan de la Ram- 
bla, the coast is cultivated like a garden, and might 
be compared to the neighbourhood of Capua or Va- 
lentia ; but the western part of Teneriffe is much 
more beautiful, on account of the proximity of the 
Peak, the sight of which has a most imposing effect, 
and excites the imagination to penetrate into the 
mysterious source of volcanic action. For thou- 
sands of years no light has been observed at the 
summit of the mountain, and yet enormous lateral 


eruptions, the last of which happened in 1798, prove 
the activity of a fire which is far from being extinct. 
There is, besides, something melancholy in the sight 
of a crater placed in the midst of a fertile and highly- 
cultivated country. 

Pursuing their course to the port of Orotava, the 
travellers passed the beautiful hamlets of Matanza 
and Vitioria (slaughter and victory), names which 
occur together in all the Spanish colonies, and pre- 
sent a disagreeable contrast to the feelings of peace 
and quiet which these countries inspire. On their 
way they visited a botanic garden at Durasno, where 
they found M. Le Gros, the French vice-consul, who 
subsequently served as an excellent guide to the 
Peak. The idea of forming such an establishment 
at Teneriffe originated with the Marquis de Nava, 
who thought that the Canary Islands afford the most 
suitable place for naturalizing the plants of the East 
and West Indies, previous to their introduction to 
Europe. They arrived very late at the port, and 
next morning commenced their journey to the Peak, 
accompanied by M. Le Gros, M. Lalande, secretary 
of the French consulate at Santa Cruz, the English 
gardener of Durasno, and a number of guides. 

Orotava, the Taoro of the Guanches, is situated 
on a very steep declivity, and has a pleasant aspect 
when viewed from a distance, although the houses, 
when seen at hand, have a gloomy appearance. One 
of the most remarkable objects in this place is the 
dragon-tree in the garden of M. Franqui, of which 
an engraving is here presented, and which our 
travellers found to be about 60 feet high, with a cir- 
cumference of 48 feet near the roots. The trunk 
divides into a great number of branches, which rise 
in the form of a candelabrum, and are terminated by 
tufts of leaves. This tree is said to have been re- 
vered by the Guanches as the ash of Ephesus was 
by the Greeks ; and in 1402, at the time of the first 
expedition of Bethencour, was as large and as hollow 



Dragon-tree of Orotava. 

as our travellers found it. As the species is of very 
slow growth, the age of this individual must be great. 
It is singular that the dragon-tree should have been 
cultivated in these islands at so early a period, it 
being a native of India, and nowhere occurring on 
the African continent. 

Leaving Orotava they passed by a narrow and 
stony path through a beautiful wood of chestnuts to 
a place covered with brambles, laurels, and arbores- 
cent heaths, where, under a solitary pine, known by 
the name of Pino del Dornajito, they procured a 
supply of water. From this place to the crater they 
continued to ascend without crossing a single valley, 
passing over several regions distinguished by their 
peculiar vegetation, and rested during part of the 
night in a very elevated position, where they suffered 


severely from the cold. About three in the morn- 
ing they began to climb the Sugar-loaf, or small 
terminal cone, by the dull light of fir-torches, and ex- 
amined a small subterranean glacier or cave, whence 
the towns below are supplied with ice throughout 
the summer. 

In the twilight they observed a phenomenon not 
unusual on high mountains, a stratum of white 
clouds spread out beneath, concealing the face of the 
ocean, and presenting the appearance of a vast plain 
covered with snow. Soon afterward another very 
curious sight occurred, namely, the semblance of 
small rockets thrown into the air, and which they 
at first imagined to be a certain indication of some 
new eruption of the great volcano of Lancerota. 
But the illusion soon ceased, and they found that the 
luminous points were only the images of stars mag- 
nified and refracted by the vapours. They remained 
motionless at intervals, then rose perpendicularly, 
descended sidewise, and returned to their original 
position. After three hours' march over an ex- 
tremely rugged tract, the travellers reached a small 
plain, called La Rambleta, from the centre of which 
rises the Piton or Sugar-loaf. The slope of this 
cone, covered with volcanic ashes and pumice, is so 
steep that it would have been almost impossible to 
reach the summit, had they not ascended by an old 
current of lava, which had in some measure resisted 
the action of the atmosphere. 

On attaining the top of this steep they found the 
crater surrounded by a wall of compact lava, in 
which, however, there was a breach affording a pas- 
sage to the bottom of the funnel or caldera, the 
greatest diameter of which at the mouth seemed to 
be 320 feet. There were no large openings in the 
crater ; but aqueous vapours were emitted by some 
of the crevices, in which heat was perceptible. In 
fact, the volcano has not been active at the summit 
for thousands of years, its eruptions having been 


from the sides, and the depth of the crater is only 
about 106 feet. After examining the objects that 
presented themselves in this elevated spot, and en- 
joying the vast prospect, the travellers commenced 
their descent, and towards evening reached the port 
of Orotava. 

The Peak of Teneriffe forms a pyramidal mass, 
having a circumference at the base of more than 
115,110 yards, and a height of 12,176 feet.* Two- 
thirds of the mass are covered with vegetation, the 
remaining part being steril, and occupying about 
ten square leagues of surface. The cone is very 
small in proportion to the size of the mountain, it 
having a height of only 537 feet, or -^ of the whole. 
The lower-part of the island is composed of basalt 
and other igneous rocks of ancient formation, and is 
separated from the more recent lavas, and the pro- 
ducts of the present volcano, by strata x>f tufa, puz- 
zolana, and clay. The first that occur in ascending 
the Peak are of a black colour, altered by decom- 
position, and sometimes porous. Their basis is 
wacke, and has usually an irregular, but sometimes 
a conchoidal fracture. They are divided into very 
thin layers, and contain olivine, magnetic iron, and 
augite. On the first elevated plain, that of Retama, 
the basaltic deposites disappear beneath heaps of 
ashes and pumice. Beyond this are lavas, with 
a basis of pitch-stone and obsidian, of a blackish- 
brown, or deep olive-green colour, and containing 

* Various measurements have been made of the height of the Peak of 
Teneriffe ; but Humboldt, after enumerating fourteen, states that the fol- 
lowing alone can be considered as deserving of confidence : 

Borda's, by trigonometry 1905 toises. 

Borda's, by the barometer 1976 

Lamanou's, by the same 1902 

Cordier's, by the same 1920 

The average of these four observations makes the height 1926 toises ; 
but if the barometric measurement of Borda be rejected, as liable to ob- 
jections particularly stated by our author, the mean of the remaining 
measurement is 1909 toises, or 12,208 English feet. It is seen above, 
that the height adopted by Humboldt is 1904 toises, or 12,176 English 


crystals of felspar, which are seldom vitreous. la 
the middle of the Malpays, or second platform, are 
found, among- the glassy kinds, blocks of greenish- 
gray clinkstone or porphyry-slate. Obsidian of sev- 
eral varieties is exceedingly abundant on the Peak, 
as well as pumice, the latter being generally of a 
white colour ; and the crater contains an enormous 
quantity of sulphur. 

The oldest written testimony in regard to the ac- 
tivity of the volcano dates at the beginning of the 
sixteenth century, and is contained in the narrative 
of Aloysio Cadamusto, who landed in the Canaries 
in 1505. In 1558, 1646, and 1677, eruptions took 
place in the Isle of Palma ; and on the 31st Decem- 
ber, 1704, the Peak of Teneriffe exhibited a lateral 
burst, preceded by tremendous earthquakes. On 
the 5th January, 1705, another opening occurred, the 
lavas produced by which filled the whole valley of 
Fasnia. This aperture closed on the 13th January ; 
but on the 2d February, a third formed in the Can- 
nada de Arafo, the stream from which divided into 
three currents. On the 5th May, 1706, another 
eruption supervened, which destroyed the populous 
and opulent city of Garachico. In 1730, on the 1st 
September, the island of Lancerota was violently 
convulsed; and on the 9th June, 1798, the Peak 
emitted a great quantity of matter, which continued 
to run three months and six days. 

The island of Teneriffe presents five zones of vege- 
tation, arranged in stages one above another, and 
occupying a perpendicular height of 3730 yards. 

1. The Region of Vines extends from the shores to 
an elevation varying from 430 to 640 yards, and is 
the only part carefully cultivated. It exhibits vari- 
ous species of arborescent Euphorbiae, Mesembryan- 
thema, the Cacalia kleinia, the Dracoena, and other 
plants, whose naked and tortuous trunks, succulent 
leaves, and bluish-green tints, constitute features 
distinctive of the vegetation of Africa. In this 


zone are raised the date-tree, the plantain, the sugar- 
cane, the Indian-fig, the arum colocasia, the olive, 
the fruit trees of Europe, the vine, and wheat. 

2. The Region of Laurels is that which forms the 
woody part of Teneriffe, where the surface of the 
ground is always verdant, being plentifully watered 
by springs. Four kinds of laurel, an oak, a wild 
olive, two species of iron-tree, the arbutus calli- 
carpa, and other evergreens, adorn this zone. The 
trunks are covered by the ivy of the Canaries, and 
various twining shrubs, and the woods are filled with 
numerous species of fern. The hypericum, and 
other showy plants, enrich with their beautiful flow- 
ers the verdant carpet of moss and grass. 

3. The Region of Pines, which commences at the 
height of 1920 yards, and has a breadth of 850, is 
characterized by a vast forest of trees, resembling 
the Scotch fir, intermixed with jumper. 

4. The fourth zone is remarkable chiefly for the 
profusion of retama, a species of broom, which 
forms oases in the midb. of a wide sea of ashes. It 
grows to the height of nine or ten feet, is ornamented 
with fragrant flowers, aife? c furnishes food to the 
goats, which have run wild* on the Peak from time 

5. The fifth zone is the Region of the Grasses, in 
which some species of these supply a scanty cover- 
ing to the heaps of pumice, obsidian, and lava. A 
few cryptogamic plants are observed higher ; but 
the summit is entirely destitute of vegetation. 

Thus the whole island may be considered as a 
forest of laurels, arbutuses, and pines, of which the 
external margin only has been in some measure 
cleared, while the central part consists of a rocky 
and steril soil, unfit even for pasturage. 

The following day was passed by our travellers in 
visiting the neighbourhood of Orotava, and enjoy- 
ing an agreeable company at Mr. Cologan's. On 
the eve of St. John, they were present at a pastoral 


fete in the garden of Mr. Little, who had reduced to 
cultivation a hill covered with volcanic substances, 
from which there is a magnificent view of the Peak, 
the villages along the coast, and the isle of Palma. 
Early in the evening the volcano suddenly exhibited 
a most extraordinary spectacle, the shepherds hav- 
ing, in conformity to ancient custom, lighted the 
fires of St. John ; the scattered masses of which, 
with the columns of smoke driven by the wind, 
formed a fine contrast to the deep verdure of the 
woods that covered the sides of the mountain, while 
the silence of nature was broken at intervals by the 
shouts of joy which came from afar. 


Passage from Teneri&e to Cumana. 

Departure from Santa Cruz Floating Seaweeds Flying-fish Stars- 
Malignant Fever Island of Tolwfo Death of a Passenger Island 
of Coche Port of Cumana O ervations made during the Voyage; 
Temperature of the Air ; Temperature of the Sea j Hygrometrical 
State of the Air ; Colour of the Sky and Ocean. 

HAVING sailed from Santa Cruz on the evening of 
the 25th of June, with a strong wind from the north- 
east, our travellers soon lost sight of the Canary 
Islands, the mountains of which were covered with 
reddish vapour, the Peak alone appearing at intervals 
in the breaks. The passage from Teneriffe to Cu- 
mana was performed in twenty days, the distance 
being 3106 miles. 

The wind gradually subsided as they retired from 
the African coast. Short calms of several hours 
occasionally took place, which were regularly inter- 
rupted by slight squalls, accompanied by masses of 
dark clouds, emitting a few large drops of rain, but 


without thunder. To the north of the Cape Verd 
Islands they met with large patches of floating sea- 
weed (Fucus natans), which grows on submarine 
rocks, from the equator to forty degrees of latitude 
on either side. These scattered plants, however, 
must not be confounded with the vast beds, said 
by Columbus to resemble extensive meadows, and 
which inspired with terror the crew of the Santa 
Maria. From a comparison of numerous journals, 
it appears that there are two such fields of seaweed 
in the Atlantic. The largest occurs a little to the 
west of the meridian of Fayal, one of the Azores, 
between 25 and 36 of latitude. The temperature 
of the ocean there is between 60'8 and 68 ; and 
the north-west winds, which blow sometimes with 
impetuosity, drive floating islands of those weeds 
into low latitudes, as far as the parallels of 24 and 
even 20. Vessels returning to Europe from Monte 
Video, or the Cape of Good Hope, pass through this 
marine meadow, which the Spanish pilots consider 
as lying half-way between the West Indies and the 
Canaries. The other section is not so well known, 
and occupies a smaller space between lat. 22 and 
26 of N., two hundred and seventy-six miles east- 
ward of the Bahama Islands. 

Although a species of seaweed, the Laminaria py- 
rifera of Lanlouroux, has been observed with stems 
850 feet in length, and although the growth of the^se 
plants is exceedingly rapid, it is yet certain that in 
those seas the fuci are not fixed to the bottom, but 
float in detached parcels at the surface. In this 
state, vegetation, it is obvious, cannot continue longer 
than in the branch of a tree separated from the 
trunk ; and it may therefore be supposed, that float- 
ing masses of these weeds occurring for ages in the 
same position, owe their origin to submarine rocks, 
which continually supply what has been carried off 
by the equinoctial currents. But the causes by 
which these plants are detached are not yet suffi- 


ciently known, although the author just named has 
shown that fuel in general separate with great facil- 
ity after the period of fructification. 

Beyond 22 of latitude they found the surface of 
the sea covered with flying-fish (Exocetus volitans), 
which sprang into the air to a height of twelve, fif- 
teen, and even eighteen feet, and sometimes fell on 
the deck. The great size of the swimming-bladder 
in these animals, being two-thirds the length of their 
body, as well as that of the pectoral fins, enable 
them to traverse in the air a space of twenty-four 
feet, horizontal distance, before falling again into the 
water. They are incessantly pursued by dolphins 
while under the surface, and when flying are attacked 
by frigate-birds, and other predatory species. Yet 
it does not seem that they leap into the atmosphere 
merely to avoid their enemies ; for, like swallows, 
they move by thousands in a right line, and always in 
a direction opposite to that of the waves. The air 
contained in the swimming-bladder had been sup- 
posed to be pure oxygen ; but Humboldt found it to 
consist of ninety-four parts of azote, four of oxygen, 
and two of carbonic acid. 

On the 1st July they met with the wreck of a ves- 
sel, and on the 3d and 4th crossed that part of the 
ocean where the charts indicate the bank of the 
Maal-Stroom, which, however, is of very doubtful 
existence. As they approached this imaginary whirl- 
pool, they observed no other motion in the waters 
than that produced by a current bearing to the north- 

From the time when they entered the torrid zone 
(the 27th June), they never ceased to admire the 
nocturnal beauty of the southern sky, which grad- 
ually disclosed new constellations to their view. 
" One experiences an indescribable sensation," says 
Humboldt, " when, as he approaches the equator, and 
especially in passing from the one hemisphere to the 
other, he sees the stars with which he has been fa- 


jniliar from infancy gradually approach the horizon, 
and finally disappear. Nothing impresses more 
vividly on the mind of the traveller the vast dis- 
tance to which he has been removed from his native 
country than the sight of a new firmament. The 
grouping of the larger stars, the scattered nebulae 
rivalling in lustre the milky-way, and spaces re- 
markable for their extreme darkness, give the south- 
ern heavens a peculiar aspect. The sight even 
strikes the imagination of those who, although igno- 
rant of astronomy, find pleasure in contemplating 
the celestial vault, as one admires a fine landscape 
or a majestic site. Without being a botanist, the 
traveller knows the torrid zone by the mere sight of 
its vegetation ; and without the possession of astro- 
nomical knowledge, perceives that he is not in Eu- 
rope, when he sees rising in the horizon the great 
constellation of the Ship, or the phosphorescent 
clouds of Magellan. In the equinoctial regions, the 
earth, the sky, and all their garniture assume an 
exotic character." 

The intertropical seas being usually smooth, and 
the vessel being impelled by the gentle breezes of 
the trade-wind, the passage from the Cape Verd 
Islands to Cumana was as pleasant as could be de- 
sired ; but as they approached the West Indies a 
malignant fever disclosed itself on board. The ship 
was very much encumbered between decks, and from 
the time they passed the tropic the thermometer 
stood from 93 to 96'8. Two sailors, several pas- 
sengers, two negroes from the coast of Guinea, and 
a mulatto child were attacked. An ignorant Galician 
surgeon ordered bleedings, to obviate the " heat and 
corruption of the blood ;" but little exertion had been 
made in attempting to diminish the danger of infec- 
tion, and there was not an ounce of bark on board. 
A sailor, who had been on the point of expiring, re- 
covered his health in a singular manner. His ham- 
mock having been so hung that the sacrament could 


not be administered to him, he was removed to an 
airy place near the hatchway, and left there, his 
death being expected every moment. The transi- 
tion from a hot and stagnant to a fresher and purer 
atmosphere gradually restored him, and his recovery 
furnished the doctor with an additional proof of the 
necessity of bleeding and evacuation, a treatment 
of which the fatal effects soon became perceptible. 

On the 13th, early in the morning, very highland 
was seen. The wind blew hard, the sea was rough, 
large drops of rain fell at intervals, and there was 
every appearance of stormy weather. Considerable 
doubt existed as to the latitude and longitude, which 
was however removed by observations made by our 
travellers, and the appearance of the island of To- 
bago. This little island is a heap of rocks, the daz- 
zling whiteness of which forms an agreeable contrast 
with the verdure of the scattered tufts of trees upon 
it. The mountains are crowned with very tall 
opuntiae, which alone are enough to apprize the nav- 
igator that he has arrived on an American coast. 

After doubling the north cape of Tobago and the 
point of St. Giles, they discovered from the mast- 
head what they regarded as a hostile squadron ; 
which, however, turned out to be only a group of 
rocks. Crossing the shoal which joins the former 
island to Grenada, they found that, although the 
colour of the sea was not visibly changed, the ther- 
mometer indicated a temperature several degrees 
lower than that of the neighbouring parts. The 
wind diminished after sunset, and the clouds dis- 
persed as the moon reached the zenith. Numerous 
falling-stars were seen on this and the following 

On the 14th, at sunrise, they were in sight of the 
Bocca del Drago, and distinguished the island of 
Chacachacarreo. When seventeen miles distant from 
the coast, they experienced, near Punta de la Baca, 
the effect of a current which drew the ship southward. 


Heaving the lead, they found from 230 to 275 feet, 
with a bottom of very fine green clay, a depth 
much less than, according to Dampier's rule, might 
have been expected in the vicinity of a shore formed 
of very elevated and perpendicular mountains. 

The disease which had broken out on board the 
Pizarro made rapid progress from the time they ap- 
proached the coast. The thermometer kept steady 
at night between 7T6 and 73 '4, and during the day 
rose to between 75 "2 and 80 -6. The determination 
to the head, the extreme dryness of the skin, the 
prostration of strength, and all the other symptoms 
became more alarming ; but it was hoped that the 
sick would recover as soon as they were landed on 
the island of St. Margaret, or at the port of Cumana, 
both celebrated for their great salubrity. This hope, 
however, was not entirely realized, for one of the 
passengers fell a victim to the distemper. He was 
an Asturian, nineteen years of age, the only son of 
a poor widow. Various circumstances combined to 
render the death of this young man affecting. He 
was of an exceedingly gentle disposition, bore the 
marks of great sensibility, and had left his native 
land against his inclination, with the view of earn- 
ing an independence and assisting his reluctant 
mother, under the protection of a rich relation, who 
resided in the island of Cuba. From the commence- 
ment of his illness he had fallen into a lethargic 
state, interrupted by accessions of delirium, and on 
the third day expired. Another Asturian, who was 
still younger, did not leave the bed of his dying 
friend for a moment, and yet escaped the disease. 
He had intended to accompany his countryman to 
Cuba, to be introduced by him to the house of his 
relative, on whom all their hopes rested ; and it was 
distressing to see his deep sorrow, and to hear him 
curse the fatal counsels which had thrown him into 
a foreign climate, where he found himself alone and 


" We were assembled on the deck," says our elo- 
quent author, " absorbed in melancholy reflections. 
It was no longer doubtful that the fever which pre- 
vailed on board had of late assumed a fatal character. 
Our eyes were fixed on a mountainous and desert 
coast, on which the moon shone at intervals through 
the clouds. The sea, gently agitated, glowed with 
a feeble phosphoric light. No sound came on the 
ear save the monotonous cry of some large seabirds, 
that seemed to be seeking the shore. A deep calm 
reigned in these solitary places ; but this calm of ex- 
ternal nature accorded ill with the painful feelings 
which agitated us. About eight the death-bell was 
slowly tolled. At this doleful signal the sailors 
ceased from their work, and threw themselves on 
their knees to offer up a short prayer ; an affecting 
ceremony, which, while it recalls the times when 
the primitive Christians considered themselves as 
members of the same family, seems to unite men by 
the feeling of a common evil. In the course of the 
night the body of the Asturian was, brought upon 
deck, and the priest prevailed upon them not to 
throw it into the sea till after sunrise, in order that 
he might render to it the last rites, in conformity to 
the practice of the Romish church. There was not 
an individual on board who did not feel for the fate 
of this young man, whom we had seen a few days 
before full of cheerfulness and health." 

The passengers who had not been affected by the 
disease resolved to leave the ship at the first place 
where she should touch, and there wait the arrival 
of another packet to convey them to Cuba and 
Mexico. Our travellers also thought it prudent to 
land at Cumana, more especially as they wished not 
to visit New Spain until they had remained for some 
time on the coasts of Venezuela and Paria, and ex- 
amined the beautiful plants of which Bosc and Bre- 
demeyer collected specimens on their voyage to 
Terra Firma, and which Humboldt had seen in the. 
E 2 


gardens of Schonbrunn and Vienna. This resolution 
had a happy influence upon the direction of their 
journey, as will subsequently be seen, and perhaps 
was the occasion of securing for them the health 
which they enjoyed during a long residence in the 
equinoctial regions. They were by this means for- 
tunate enough to pass the time when a European 
recently landed runs the greatest danger of being 
affected by the yellow fever, in the hot but very dry 
climate of Cuinana, a city celebrated for its salubrity. 
As the coast of Paria stretches to the west, in the 
form of perpendicular cliffs of no great height, they 
were long without perceiving the bold shores of the 
island of St. Margaret, where they intended to stop 
for the purpose of obtaining information respecting 
the English cruisers. Towards eleven in the morn- 
ing of the 15th, they observed a very low islet cov- 
ered with sand, and destitute of any trace of culture 
or habitation. Cactuses rose here and there from a 
scanty soil, which seemed to have an undulating mo- 
tion, in consequence of the extraordinary refraction 
the solar rays undergo in passing through the stra- 
tum of air in contact with a strongly-heated surface. 
The deserts and sandy shores of all countries pre- 
sent this appearance. The aspect of this place not 
corresponding with the ideas which they had formed 
of the island of Margaretta, and the greatest per- 
plexity existing as to their position and course, they 
cast anchor in shallow water, and were visited by 
some Guayquerias in two canoes, constructed each 
of the single trunk of a tree. These Indians, who 
we're of a coppery colour, and very tall, informed 
them that they had kept too far south, that the low 
islet near which they were at anchor was the island 
of Coche, and that Spanish vessels coming from Eu- 
rope usually passed to the northward of it. The 
master of one of the canoes offered to remain on 
board as coasting pilot, and towards evening the 
captain set sail. 


On the 16th they beheld a verdant coast of pictu- 
resque appearance ; the mountains of New- Anda- 
lusia bounded the southern horizon, and the city of 
Cumana and its castle appeared among groups of 
trees. They anchored in the port about nine in the 
morning, when the sick crawled on deck to enjoy 
the sight. The river was bordered with cocoa- 
trees more than sixty feet high, the plain was cov- 
ered with tufts of cassias, capers, and arborescent 
mimosas, while the pinnated leaves of the palms 
were conspicuous on the azure of a sky unsullied 
by the least trace of vapour. A dazzling light was 
spread along the white hills clothed with cylindrical 
cactuses, and over the smooth sea, the shores of 
which were peopled by pelicans, egrets, and flamin- 
goes. Every thing announced the magnificence of 
nature in the equinoctial regions. 

Before accompanying our learned friends to the 
city of Cumana, we may here take a glance of the 
physical observations made by them during the 
voyage, and which refer to the temperature of the 
air and sea, and other subjects of general interest. 

Temperature of the Air. In the basin of the 
northern Atlantic Ocean, between the coasts of Eu- 
rope, Africa, and America, the temperature of the 
atmosphere exhibits a very slow increase. From 
Corunna to the Canary Islands, the thermometer, 
observed at noon and in the shade, gradually rose 
from 50 to 64, and from Teneriffe to Cumana from 
64 to 7"/. The maximum of heat observed during 
the voyage did not exceed 79*9. 

The extreme slowness with which the tempera- 
ture increases during a voyage from Spain to South 
America is highly favourable to the health of Eu- 
ropeans, as it gradually prepares them for the intense 
heat which they have to experience. It is in a 
great measure attributable to the evaporation of the 
water, augmented by the motion of the air and 
waves, together with the property possessed by 


transparent liquids of absorbing very little light at 
their surface. On comparing the numerous obser- 
vations made by navigators, we are surprised to see 
that in the torrid zone, in either hemisphere, they 
have not found the thermometer to rise in the open 
sea above 93 ; while in corresponding latitudes 
on the continents of Asia and Africa, it attains a 
much greater elevation. The difference between 
the temperature of the day and night is also less 
than on land. 

Temperature of the Sea. From Corunna to the 
mouth of the Tagus, the temperature of the sea 
varied little (between 59 and 60-8), but from lat. 
39 to 10 N., the increase was rapid and generally 
uniform (from 59 to 78 '4), although inequalities 
occurred, probably caused by currents. It is very 
remarkable that there is a great uniformity in the 
maximum of heat everywhere in the equinoctial 
waters. This maximum, which varies from 82 to 
84'2, proves that the ocean is in general warmer 
than the atmosphere in direct contact with it, and 
of which the mean temperature near the equator is 
from 78-8 to 80'6. 

Hygrometrical State of the Air. During the whole 
of the voyage, the apparent humidity of the atmo- 
sphere indicated by the hygrometer underwent a sen- 
sible increase. In July, in lat. 13 and 14 N., 
Saussure's hygrometer marked at sea from 88 to 
92, in perfectly clear weather, the thermometer 
being at 75*2. On the banks of the Lake of Ge- 
neva the mean humidity of the same month is only 
80, the average heat being 66 '2. On reducing 
these observations to a uniform temperature, we find 
that the real humidity in the equinoctial basin of the 
Atlantic Ocean is to that of the summer months at 
Geneva as 12 to 7. This astonishing degree of 
moisture in the air accounts to a great extent for the 
vigorous vegetation which presents itself on the 


coasts of South America, where so little rain falls 
throughout the year. 

Intensity of the Colour of the Sky and Ocean. 
From the coasts of Spain and Africa to those of 
South America, the azure colour of the sky increased 
from 13 to 23 of Saussure's cyanometer. From 
the 8th to the 12th of July, in lat. 12| and 14 N., 
the sky, although free of vapour, was of an extra- 
ordinary paleness, the instrument indicating only 16 
or 17, although on the preceding days it had been at 
22. The tint of the sky is generally deeper in the 
torrid zone than in high latitudes, and in the same 
parallel it is fainter at sea than on land. The latter 
circumstance may be attributed to the quantity of 
aqueous vapour which is continually rising towards 
the higher regions of the air from the surface of the 
sea. From the zenith to the horizon, there is in all 
latitudes a diminution of intensity, which follows 
nearly an arithmetical progression, and depends upon 
the moisture suspended in the atmosphere. If the 
cyanometer indicate this accumulation of vapour in 
the more elevated portion of the air, the seaman 
possesses a simpler method of judging of the state 
of its lower regions, by observing the colour and 
figure of the solar disk at its rising and setting. In 
the torrid zone, where meteorological phenomena 
follow each other with great regularity, the prog- 
nostics are more to be depended upon than in north- 
ern regions. Great paleness of the setting sun, and 
an extraordinary disfiguration of its disk, almost 
certainly presage a storm ; and yet one can hardly 
conceive how the condition of the lower strata of 
the air, which is announced in this manrler, can be 
so intimately connected with those atmospherical 
changes that take place within the space of a few 

Mariners are accustomed to observe the appear- 
ances of the sky more carefully than landsmen, and 
among the numerous meteorological rules which 


pilots transmit to each other, several evince great 
sagacity. Prognostics are also in general less un- 
certain on the ocean, and especially in the equinoc- 
tial parts of it, than on land, where the inequalities 
of the ground interrupt the regularity of their mani- 

Humboldt also applied the cyanometer to measure 
the colour of the sea. In fine calm weather, the 
tint was found to be equal to 33, 38, sometimes 
even 44 of the instrument, although the sky was 
very pale, and scarcely attained 14 or 15. When, 
instead of directing the apparatus to a great extent 
of open sea, the observer fixes his eyes on a small 
part of its surface viewed through a narrow aper- 
ture, the water appears of a rich ultramarine colour. 
Towards evening again, when the edge of the waves, 
as the sun shines upon them, is of an emerald-green, 
the surface of the shaded side reflects a purple hue. 
Nothing is more striking than the rapid changes 
which the colour of the sea undergoes under a clear 
sky, in the midst of the ocean and^in deep water, 
when it maybe seen passing from irn c ^o-blue to the 
deepest green, and from .j&is to slate-gray. The 
blue is almost independent of the reflection of the 
atmosphere. The intertropical seas are in general 
of a deeper and purer tint than in high latitudes, and 
the ocean often remains blue, when, in fine weather, 
more than four-fifths of the sky are covered with 
light and scattered clouds of a white colour. 




Landing at Cumana Introduction to the Governor State of the Sick- 
Description of the Country and City of Cumana Mode of Bathing In 
the Manzanares Port of Cumana Earthquakes ; Their Periodicity ; 
Connexion with the State of the Atmosphere; Gaseous Emanations; 
Subterranean Noises; Propagation of Shocks; Connexion between 
those of Cumana and the West Indies ; and general Phenomena, 

THE city of Cumana, the capital of New- Andalu- 
sia, is a mile distant from the landing-place, and in 
proceeding towards it our travellers crossed a large 
sandy plain, which separates the suburb inhabited 
by the Guayqueria Indians from the seashore. The 
excessive heat of the atmosphere was increased by 
the reflection of the sun's rays from a naked soil, 
the thermometer immersed in which rose to 99 '9. 
In the little ols of salt water it remained at 86 "9, 
while the surface of t T "e sea in the port generally 
ranges from 77'4 to 79'3. The first plant gathered 
by them was the Avicennia tomentosa, which is re- 
markable for occurring also on the Malabar coast, 
and belongs to the small number that live in society, 
like the heaths of Europe, and are seen in the torrid 
zone only on the shores of the ocean and the ele- 
vated platforms of the Andes. 

Crossing the Indian suburb, the streets of which 
were very neat, they were conducted by the captain 
of the Pizarro to the governor of the province, Don 
Vicente Emparan, who received them with frank- 
ness ; expressed his satisfaction at the resolution 
which they had taken of remaining for some time 
in New- Andalusia ; showed them cottons died with 
native plants, and furniture made of indigenous wood ; 
and surprised them with questions indicative of 


scientific attainments. On disembarking their in- 
struments, they had the pleasure of finding- that none 
of them had been damaged. They hired a spacious 
house in a situation favourable for astronomical 
observations, in which they enjoyed an agreeable 
coolness when the breeze arose, the windows being 
without glass, or even the paper panes which are 
often substituted for it at Cumana. 

The passengers all left the vessel. Those who 
had been attacked by the fever recovered so very 
slowly, that some were seen a month after who, 
notwithstanding the care bestowed upon them by 
their countrymen, were still in a state of extreme 
debility. The hospitality of the inhabitants of the 
Spanish colonies is such that the poorest stranger is 
sure of receiving the kindest treatment. Among 
the sick landed here was a negro, who soon fell into 
a state of insanity and died ; which fact our author 
mentions, as a proof that persons born in the torrid 
zone are liable to suffer from the heat of the tropics 
after having resided in temperate climates. This 
individual, who was a robust young man, was a native 
of Guinea, but had lived for some years on the ele- 
vated plain of Castile. 

The soil around Cumana is composed of gypsum 
and calcareous breccia, and is supposed at a remote 
period to have been covered by the sea. The neigh- 
bourhood of the city is remarkable for the woods 
of cactus which are spread over the arid lands. 
Some of these plants were thirty or forty feet high, 
covered with lichens, and divided into branches in 
the form of a candelabrum. When the large species 
grow in groups they form a thicket, which, while it 
is almost impenetrable, is extremely dangerous on 
account of the poisonous serpents that frequent it. 

The fortress of St. Antonio, which is built on a 
calcareous hill, commands the town, and forms a pic- 
turesque object to vessels entering the port. On the 
south-western slope of the same rock are the ruins 


of the castle of St. Mary, from the site of which 
there is a fine view of the gulf, together with the 
island of Margaretta and the small isles of Caraccas, 
Picuita, and Boracha, which present the most singu- 
lar appearances from the effect of mirage. 

The city of Cumana, properly speaking, occupies 
the ground that lies between the castle of St. An- 
tonio and the small rivers Manzanares and Santa 
Catalina. It has no remarkable buildings, on account 
of the violent earthquakes to which it is subject. 
The suburbs are almost as populous as the town it- 
self, and are three in number : namely, Serritos, St. 
Francis, and that of the Guayquerias. The latter is 
inhabited by a tribe of civilized Indians, who, for 
upwards of a century, have adopted the Castilian 
language. The whole population in 1802 was about 
eighteen or nineteen thousand. 

The plains which surround the city have a parched 
and dusty aspect. The hill on which the fort of St. 
Antonio stands is also bare, and composed of calca- 
reous breccia, containing marine shells. Southward, 
in the distance, is avast curtain of inaccessible moun- 
tains, also of limestone. These ridges are covered by 
majestic forests, extending along the sloping ground 
at their base to an open plain in the neighbourhood of 
Cumana, through which the river Manzanares winds 
its way to the sea, fringed with mimosas, erythrinas, 
ceibas, and other trees of gigantic growth. 

This river, the temperature of which in the season 
of the floods descends as low as 7T6 , when that of 
the air is as high as 91, is an inestimable benefit to 
the inhabitants ; all of whom, even the women of 
the most opulent families, learn to swim. The mode 
of bathing is various. Our travellers frequented 
every evening a very respectable society in the 
suburb of the Guayquerias. In the beautiful moon- 
light chairs were placed in the water, on which were 
seated the ladies and gentlemen, lightly clothed. 
The family and the strangers passed several hours 


in the river, smoking cigars and chatting on the 
usual subjects of conversation, such as the extreme 
drought, the abundance of rain in the neighbouring 
districts, and the female luxury which prevails in 
Caraccas and Havana. The company were not 
disturbed by the bavas, or small crocodiles, which 
are only three or four feet long, and are now ex- 
tremely rare. Humboldt and his companions did 
not meet with any of them in the Manzanares ; but 
they saw plenty of dolphins, which sometimes as- 
cended the river at night, and frightened the bathers 
by spouting water from their nostrils. 

The port of Cumana is capable of receiving all 
the navies of Europe ; and the whole of the Gulf of 
Cariaco, which is forty-two miles long, and from 
seven to nine miles broad, affords excellent anchor- 
age. The hurricanes of the West Indies are never 
experienced on these coasts, where the sea is con- 
stantly smooth, or only slightly agitated by an east- 
erly wind. The sky is often bright along the shores, 
while stormy clouds are seen to gather among the 
mountains. Thus, as at the foot of the Andes, on the 
western side of the continent, the extremes of clear 
weather and fogs, of drought and heavy rain, of ab- 
solute nakedness and perpetual verdure, present 
themselves on the coasts of New- Andalusia. 

The same analogy exists as to earthquakes, which 
are frequent and violent at Cumana. It is a gene- 
rally received opinion that the Gulf of Cariaco owed 
its existence to a rent of the continent, the remem- 
brance of which was fresh in the minds of the na- 
tives at the time of Columbus's third voyage. In 
1530 the coasts of Paria and Cumana were agitated 
by shocks ; and towards the end of the sixteenth 
century, earthquakes and inundations very often oc- 
curred. On the 21st October, 1766, the city of Cu- 
mana was entirely destroyed in the space of a few 
minutes. The earth opened in several parts of the 
province, and emitted sulphureous waters. During 


the years 1766 and 1767 the inhabitants encamped 
in the streets, and they did not begin to rebuild their 
houses until the earthquakes took place only once 
in four weeks. These commotions had been pre- 
ceded by a drought of fifteen months, and were ac- 
companied and followed by torrents of rain, which 
swelled the rivers. 

On the 14th December, 1797, more than four-fifths 
of the city were again entirely destroyed. Previous 
to this the shocks had been horizontal oscillations ; 
but the shaking now felt was that of an elevation 
of the ground, and was attended by a subterraneous 
noise, like the explosion of a mine at a great depth. 
The most violent concussion, however, was pre- 
ceded by a slight undulating motion, so that the in- 
habitants had time to escape into the streets ; and 
only a few perished, who had betaken themselves 
for safety to the churches. Half an hour before the 
catastrophe, a strong smell of sulphur was expe- 
rienced near the hill of the convent of St. Francis ; 
and on the same spot an internal noise, which seemed 
to pass from S . E . to N. W. , was heard loudest. Flames 
appeared on the banks of the Manzanares and in the 
Gulf of Cariaco. In describing this frightful con- 
vulsion of nature, our author enters upon general 
views respecting earthquakes, of which a very brief 
account may be here given. 

The great earthquakes which interrupt the long 
series of small shocks do not appear to have any 
stated times at Cumana, as they have occurred at 
intervals of eighty, of a hundred, and sometimes 
even of less than thirty years ; whereas, on the 
coasts of Peru, at Lima, for example, there is, 
without doubt, a certain degree of regularity in the 
periodical devastations thereby occasioned. 

It has long been believed at Cumana, Acapulco, 
and Lima, that there exists a perceptible relation 
between earthquakes and the state of the atmosphere 
which precedes these phenomena. On the coasts 


of New- Andalusia the people become uneasy when, 
in excessively hot weather and after long drought, 
the breeze suddenly ceases, and the sky, clear at the 
zenith, presents the appearance of a reddish vapour 
near the horizon. But these prognostics are very 
uncertain, and the dreaded evil has arrived in all 
kinds of weather. 

Under the tropics the regularity of the horary va- 
riations of the barometer is not disturbed on the days 
when violent shocks occur. In like manner, in the 
temperate zone the aurora borealis does not always 
modify the variations of the needle, or the intensity 
of the" magnetic forces. 

When the earth is open and agitated, gaseous 
emanations occasionally escape in places consider- 
ably remote from unextinguished volcanoes. At 
Cumana, flames and sulphureous vapours spring 
from the arid soil, while in other parts of the same 
province it throws out water and petroleum. At 
Riobamba, a muddy inflammable mass called moya 
issues from crevices which close again, and forms 
elevated heaps. Flames and smoke were also seen 
to proceed from the rocks of Alvidras, near Lisbon, 
during the earthquake of 1755, by which that city 
was ravaged. But in the greater number of earth- 
quakes it is probable that no elastic fluids escape 
from the ground, and when gases are evolved, they 
more frequently accompany or follow than precede 
the shocks. 

The subterranean noise which so frequently at- 
tends earthquakes, is generally not proportionate to 
the strength of the shocks. At Cumana it always 
precedes them ; while at Quito, and for some time 
past at Caraccas and in the West India islands, a 
noise like the discharge of a battery was heard long 
after the agitation had ceased. The rolling of thun- 
der in the bowels of the earth, which continues for 
months, without being accompanied by the least 
shaking, is a very remarkable phenomenon 


In all countries subject to earthquakes, the point 
at which the effects are greatest is considered as 
the source or focus of the shocks. We forget that 
the rapidity with which the undulations are propa- 
gated to great distances, even across the basin of 
the ocean, proves the centre of action to be very re- 
mrte from the earth's surface. Hence it is clear 
that earthquakes are not restricted to certain species 
of rocks, as some naturalists assert, but pervade all ; 
although sometimes, in the same rock, the upper 
strata seem to form an insuperable obstacle to the 
propagation of the motion. It is curious also, that 
in a district of small extent certain formations in- 
terrupt the shocks. Thus, at Cumana, before the 
catastrophe of 1797, the earthquakes were felt only 
along the southern or calcareous coast of the Gulf 
of Cariaco, as far as the town of that name, while 
in the peninsula of Araya, and at the village of Man- 
iquarez, the ground was not agitated. At present, 
however, the peninsula is as liable to earthquakes 
as the district around Cumana. 

In New- Andalusia, as in Chili and Peru, the shocks 
follow the line of the shore, and extend but little 
into the interior, a circumstance which indicates 
an intimate connexion between the causes that pro- 
duce earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. If the 
land along the coasts is most agitated because it is 
generally lowest, why should not the shocks be 
equally strong in the savannas, which are only a 
few yards above the level of the sea ? 

The earthquakes of Cumana are connected with 
those of the West Indies, and are even suspected to 
have some relation to the volcanic phenomena of 
the Andes. On the 4th November, 1797, the prov- 
ince of Quito underwent so violent a commotion that 
40,000 persons were destroyed ; and at the same 
period shocks were experienced in the Eastern An- 
tilles, followed by an eruption of the volcano of 
Guadaloupe, in the end of September, 1798. On the 


14th December the great concussion took place at 

It has long been remarked that earthquakes ex- 
tend their effects to much greater distances than 
volcanoes ; and it is probable, as has just been men- 
tioned, that the causes which produce the former 
have an intimate connexion with the latter. When 
se'ated within the verge of a burning crater, one feels 
the motion of the ground several seconds before 
each partial eruption. The phenomena of earth- 
quakes seem strongly to indicate the action of elastic 
fluids endeavouring to force their way into the at- 
mosphere. On the shores of the South Sea the 
concussion is almost instantaneously communicated 
from Chili to the Gulf of Guayaquil, over a space 
of 2070 miles. The shocks also appear to be so 
much the stronger the more distant the country is 
from active volcanoes ; and a province is more 
agitated the smaller the number of funnels by which 
the subterranean cavities communicate with the; 
open air. 


Residence at Cumana. 

Lunar Halo African Slaves Excursion to the Peninsula of Araya 
Geological Constitution of the Country Salt- worts of Araya Indians 
and Mulattoes Pearl-fishery -Maniquarez Mexican Deer Spring- 
of Naphtha. 

THE occupations of our travellers were much dis- 
turbed during the first weeks of their abode at Cu- 
mana by the intrusion of persons desirous of ex- 
amining their astronomical and other instruments. 
They however determined the latitude of the great 
square to be 10 27' 52", and its longitude 66 30' 2". 


On the 17th of August a halo of the moon attracted 
the attention of the inhabitant, who viewed it as 
the presage of a violent earthquake. Coloured cir- 
cles of this kind, Humboldt remarks, are much rarer 
in the northern than in the southern countries of Eu- 
rope. They are seen more especially when the sky 
is clear and the weather settled. In the torrid zone 
they appear almost every night, and often in the 
space of a few minutes disappear several times. 
Between the latitude of 15 N. and the equator he 
has seen small haloes around the planet Venus, but 
never observed any in connexion with the fixed stars. 
While the halo was seen at Cumana, the hygrome- 
ter indicated great humidity, although the atmo- 
sphere was perfectly transparent. It consisted of 
two circles ; a larger, of a whitish colour, and 44 
in diameter, and a smaller, displaying all the tints 
of the rainbow, and 1 43' in diameter. The inter- 
mediate space .was of the deepest azure. 

Part of the great square is surrounded with ar- 
cades, over which is a long wooden gallery, where 
slaves imported from the coast of Africa are sold. 
These were young men from fifteen to twenty years 
of age. Every morning cocoanut oil was given 
them, with which they rubbed their skin, to render it 
glossy. The persons who came to purchase them 
examined their teeth, as we do those of horses, to 
judge of their age and health. Yet the Spanish 
laws, according to our author, have never favoured 
the trade in African slaves, the number of whom in 
1800 did not exceed 6000 in the two provinces of 
Cumana and Barcelona, while the whole population 
was estimated at 110,000. 

The first excursion which our travellers made was 
to the peninsula of Araya. They embarked on the 
Manzanares, near the Indian suburb, about two in 
the morning of the 19th August. The night was 
delightfully cool. Swarms of shining insects (Elater 
wctilucus) sparkled in the air along the banks of the 


river. As the boat descended the stream, they ob- 
served a company of negroes dancing to the music 
of the guitar by the light of bonfires, a practice 
which they prefer to mere relaxation or sleep, on 
their days of rest. 

The bark in which they passed the Gulf of Cari- 
aco was commodious, and large skins of the jaguar 
were spread for their repose during the night. The 
cold, however, prevented them from sleeping, al- 
though, as they were surprised to find, the ther- 
mometer was as high as 71-2. The circumstance 
that in a warm country a degree of cold which would 
be productive of no inconvenience to the inhabitant 
of a temperate climate, excites a disagreeable feel- 
ing, is worthy of the attention of physiologists. 
When Bouguer reached the summit of Pelee, in the 
island of Martinico, he trembled with cold, although 
the heat was above 70'7 ; and in heavy showers 
at Cum ana, when the thermometer indicates the 
same temperature, the inhabitants make bitter com- 

About eight in the morning they landed at the 
point of Araya, near .the new salt -works, which are 
situated in a plain destitute of vegetation. From 
this spot are seen the islet of Cubagua, the lofty 
hills of Margaretta, the ruins of the castle of St. 
Jago, the Cerro de la Vela, and the limestone ridge 
of the Bergantin, bounding the horizon towards the 
south. Here salt is procured by digging brine-pits 
in the clayey soil, which is impregnated with mu- 
riate of soda. In 1799 and 1800 the consumption 
of this article in the provinces of Cumana and Bar- 
celona amounted to 9000 or 10,000 fanegas, each 
16 arrobas, or 405jlbs. avoirdupois. Of this quan- 
tity the salt-works of Araya yield only about a 
third part ; the rest being obtained from sea-water 
in the Morro of Barcelona, at Pozuelos, at Piritu, 
and in the Golfo Triste. 
In order to understand the geological relations of 


this saliferous clay, it is necessary to follow our 
author in his exposition of the nature of the neigh- 
bouring country. Three great parallel chains of 
mountains extend from east to west. The two 
most northerly, which are primitive, constitute the 
Cordilleras of the island of Margaretta, as well as 
of Araya. The most southerly, the cordillera of 
Bergantin and Cocollar, is secondary, although more 
elevated than the others. The two former have 
been separated by the sea, and the islets of Coche 
and Cubagua are supposed to be remnants of the 
submersed land. The Gulf of Cariaco divides the 
chains of Araya and Cocollar, which were connected, 
to the east of the town of Cariaco, between the 
lakes of Campoma and Putaquao, by a kind of dike. 
This barrier, which had the name of Cerro de Mea- 
pire, prevented in remote times the waters of the 
Gulf of Cariaco from uniting with those of the Gulf 
of Paria. 

The western slope of the peninsula of Araya and 
the plains on which rises the castle of St. Antony 
are covered with recent deposites of sandstone, clay, 
and gypsum. Near Manifuarez, a conglomerate 
with calcareous cement rests on the mica-slate; 
while on the opposite side, near Punta Delgada, it is 
superimposed on a compact bluish-gray limestone, 
containing a few organic remains, traversed by 
small veins of calcareous spar, and analogous to that 
of the Alps. 

The saliferous clay is generally of a smoke--gray 
colour, earthy and friable, but encloses masses of a 
dark-brown tint and more solid texture. Selenite 
and fibrous gypsum are disseminated in it. Scarcely 
any shells are to be seen, although the adjacent 
rocks contain abundance of them. The muriate of 
soda is not discoverable by the naked eye ; but when 
a mass is sprinkled with rainwater and exposed to 
the sun, it appears in large crystals. In the marsh 
to the east of the castle of St. Jago, which receives 


only rainwater, crystallized and very pure muriate 
of soda forms, after great droughts, in masses of 
large size. The new salt-works of Araya have five 
very extensive reservoirs with a depth of eight 
inches, and are supplied partly with seawater and 
partly with rain. The evaporation is so rapid that 
salt is collected in eighteen or twenty days after 
they are filled ; and it is freer from earthy muriates 
and sulphates than that of Europe, although manu- 
factured with less care. 

After examining these works, they departed at 
the decline of day, and proceeded towards an Indian 
cabin some miles distant. Night overtook them in 
a narrow path between a range of perpendicular 
rocks and the sea. Arriving at the foot of the old 
castle of Araya, which stands on a bare and arid 
mountain, and is crowned with agave, columnar 
cactus, and prickly mimosas, they were desirous of 
stopping to admire the majestic spectacle, and ob- 
serve the setting of the planet Venus ; but their 
guide, who was parched with thirst, earnestly urged 
them to return, and hoped to work on their fears by 
continually warning them of jaguars and rattle- 
snakes. They at length yielded to his solicitations'; 
but after proceeding three-quarters of an hour along 
a shore covered by the tide they were joined by the 
negro that carried their provisions, who led them 
through a wood of nopals to the hut of an Indian, 
where they were received with cordial hospitality. 
The several classes of natives in this district live by 
catching fish, part of which they carry to Cumana. 
The wealth of the inhabitants consists chiefly of 
goats, which are of a very large size, and brownish- 
yellow colour. They are marked like the mules, 
and roam at large. 

Among the mulattoes, whose hovels surrounded 
the salt-lake near which they had passed the night, 
they found an indigent Spanish cobbler, who received 
them with an air of gravity and importance. After 


amusing them with a display of his knowledge, he 
drew from a leathern bag a few very small pearls, 
which he forced them to accept, enjoining them to 
note on their tablets, " that a poor shoemaker of 
Araya, but a white man, and of noble Castilian de- 
scent, was enabled to give them what on the other 
side of the sea would be sought for as a thing of 
great value." 

The pearl-shell (Avicula margaritifera) is abundant 
on the shoals which extend from Cape Paria to the 
Cape of Vela. Margarita, Cubagua, Coche, Punta 
Araya, and the mouth of the Rio la Hacha were as 
celebrated in the sixteenth century for them as the 
Persian Gulf was among the ancients. At the be- 
ginning of the conquest the island of Coche alone 
furnished 1500 marks (1029 troy pounds) monthly. 
The portion which the king's officers drew from the 
produce of the pearls amounted to 3406Z. 5s. ; and 
it would appear that up to 1530 the value of those 
sent to Europe amounted, at a yearly average, to 
more than 130,OOOZ. Towards the end of the six- 
teenth century, this fishery diminished rapidly ; and, 
according to Laet, had been long given up in 1683. 
The artificial imitations, and the great diminution 
of the shells, rendered it less lucrative. At present, 
the Gulf of Panama and the mouth of the Rio de la 
Hacha are the only parts of South America in which 
this branch of industry is continued. 

On the morning of the 20th, a young Indian con- 
ducted the travellers over Barigon and Caney to the 
village of Maniquarez. The thermometer kept as 
high as 78*5, and before their guide had travelled a 
league he frequently sat down to rest himself, and 
expressed a desire to repose under the shade of a 
tamarind-tree until night should approach. Hum- 
boldt explains the circumstance, that the natives 
complain more of lassitude under an intense heat 
than Europeans not inured to it, by a reference to 


their listless disposition, and their not being excited 
by the same stimulus. 

In crossing the arid hills of Cape Cirial, they per- 
ceived a strong smell of petroleum, the wind blow- 
ing from the side where the springs of that sub- 
stance occur. Near the village of Maniquarez, they 
found the mica-slate cropping out from below the 
secondary rocks. It was of a silvery white, con- 
tained garnets, and was traversed by small layers 
of quartz. From a detached block of this last, found 
on the shore, they separated a fragment of cyanite, 
the only specimen of that mineral seen by them in 
South America. 

A rude manufacture of pottery is carried on at 
that hamlet by the Indian women. The clay is pro- 
duced by the decomposition of mica-slate, and is of 
a reddish colour. The natives, being unacquainted 
with the use of ovens, place twigs around the ves- 
sels, and bake them in the open air. 

At the same place they met with some Creoles 
who had been hunting small deer in the uninhabited 
islet of Cubagua, where they are very abundant. 
These creatures are of a brownish-red hue, spotted 
with white, and of the latter colour beneath. They 
belong to the species named by naturalists Cervus 

In the estimation of the natives, the most curious 
production of the coast of Araya is what they call 
the eye-stone. They consider it as both a stone and 
an animal, and assert that when it is found in the 
sand it is motionless ; whereas on a polished surface, 
as an earthen plate, it moves when stimulated by 
lemon-juice. When introduced into the eye it ex- 
pels every other substance that may have accident- 
ally insinuated itself. The people offered these 
stones to the travellers by hundreds, and wished to 
put sand into their eyes, that they might try the 
power of this wondrous remedy ; which, however, 


was nothing else than the operculum of a small 

Near Cape de la Brea, at the distance of eighty 
feet from the shore, is a small stream of naphtha, 
the produce of which covers the sea to a great ex- 
tent. It is a singular circumstance that this spring 
issues from mica-slate, all others that are known 
belonging to secondary deposites. 

After examining the neighbourhood of Mani- 
quarez, the adventurers embarked at night in a small 
fishing-boat, so leaky that a person was constantly 
employed in baling out the water with a calabash, 
and arrived in safety at Cumana. 


Missions of the Chaymas. 

Excursion to the Missions of the Chayma Indians Remarks on Cul- 
tivation The Impossible Aspect of the Vegetation San Fernando 
Account of a Man who suckled a Child Cumanacoa Cultivation of 
Tobacco Igneous Exhalations Jaguars Mountain of Cocollar 
Turimiquiri Missions of San Antonio and Guanaguana. 

ON the 4th of September, at an early hour, our 
travellers commenced an excursion to the missionary 
stations of the Chayma Indians, and to the lofty 
mountains which traverse New-Andalusia. The 
morning was deliciously cool ; and from the summit 
of the hill of San Francisco they enjoyed in the short 
twilight an extensive view of the sea, the adjacent 
plain, and the distant peaks. After walking two 
hours they arrived at the foot of the chain, where 
they found different rocks, together with a new and 
more luxuriant vegetation. They observed that the 
latter was more brilliant wherever the limestone was 


covered by a quartzy sandstone, a circumstance 
which probably depends not so much on the nature 
of the soil as on its greater humidity ; the thin layers 
of slate-clay, which the latter contains, preventing 
the water from filtering into the crevices of the 
former. In those moist places they always dis- 
covered appearances of cultivation, huts inhabited 
by mestizoes, and placed in the centre of small en- 
closures, containing papaws, plantains, sugar-canes, 
and maize. In Europe, the wheat, barley, and other 
kinds of grain cover vast spaces of ground, and, in 
general, wherever the inhabitants live upon corn, the 
cultivated lands are not separated from each other 
by the intervention of large wastes ; but in the tor- 
rid zone, where the fertility of the soil is propor- 
tionate to the heat and humidity of the air, and where 
man has appropriated plants that yield earlier and 
more abundant crops, an immense population finds 
ample subsistence on a narrow space. The scat- 
tered disposition of the huts in the midst of the forest 
indicates to the traveller the fecundity of nature. 

In so mild and uniform a climate the only urgent 
want of man is that of food ; and in the midst of 
abundance his intellectual faculties receive less im- 
provement than in colder regions, where his neces- 
sities are numerous and diversified. While in Eu- 
rope we judge of the inhabitants of a country by the 
extent of laboured ground ; in the warmest parts of 
South America populous provinces seem to the 
traveller almost deserted, because a very small ex- 
tent of soil is sufficient for the maintenance of a 
family. The insulated state in which the natives 
thus live prevents any rapid progress of civilization, 
although it develops the sentiments of independence 
and liberty. 

As the travellers penetrated into the forests the 
barometer indicated the progressive elevation of the 
land. About three in the afternoon they halted on 
a small flat, where a few houses had been erected 


near a spring, the water of which they found de- 
licious. Its temperature was 72*5, while that of 
the air was 83 '7. From the top of a sandstone-hill 
in the vicinity they had a splendid view of the sea 
and part of the coast, while in the intervening space 
the tops of the trees, intermixed with flowery lianas, 
formed a vast carpet of deep verdure. As they ad- 
vanced towards the south-west the soil became dry 
and loose. They ascended a group of rather high 
mountains, destitute of vegetation, and having steep 
declivities. This ridge is named the Impossible, it 
being imagined that in case of invasion it might 
afford a safe retreat to the inhabitants of Cumana. 
The prospect was finer and more extensive than 
from the fountain above mentioned. 

They arrived on the summit only a little before 
dusk. The setting of the sun was accompanied by 
a very rapid diminution of temperature, the ther- 
mometer suddenly falling from 77 '4 to 70'S^, 
although the air was calm. They passed the night 
in a house at which there was a military post of eight 
men, commanded by a Spanish sergeant. When, 
afte'r the capture of Trinidad by the English in 1797, 
Cumana was threatened, many of the people fled 
to Cumanacoa, leaving the more valuable of their 
property in sheds constructed on this ridge. The 
solitude of the place reminded Humboldt of the 
nights which he had passed on the top of St. Gothard. 
Several parts of the surrounding forests were burn- 
ing, and the reddish flames arising amid clouds of 
smoke, presented a most impressive spectacle. The 
shepherds set fire to the woods for the purpose of 
improving the pasturage, though conflagrations are 
often caused by the negligence of the wandering 
Indians. The number of old trees on the road from 
Cumana to Cumanacoa has been greatly reduced by 
these accidents ; and in several parts of the province 
the dryness has increased, owing both to the dimi- 
nution of the forests and the frequency of earth- 
. quakes which produce crevices in the soil. 


Leaving the Impossible on the 5th before sunrise, 
they descended by a very narrow path bordering on 
precipices. The summit of the ridge was of quartzy 
sandstone, beneath which the alpine limestone re- 
appeared. The strata being generally inclined to 
the south, numerous springs gush out on that side, 
and in the rainy season form torrents which fall in 
cascades, shaded by the hura, the cuspa, and the 
trumpet-tree. The cuspa, which is common in the 
neighbourhood of Ciimana, had long been used for 
carpenter-work, but has of late attracted notice as a 
powerful tonic or febrifuge. 

Emerging from the ravine which opens at the 
foot of the mountain, they entered a dense forest, 
traversed by numerous small rivers, which were 
easily forded. They observed that the leaves of the 
cecropia were more or less silvery according as the 
soil was dry or marshy, and specimens occurred in 
which they were entirely green on both sides. The 
roots of these shrubs were concealed beneath tufts 
of dorstenia, a plant which thrives only in shady and 
moist places. In the midst of the forest they found 
papaws and orange-trees bearing excellent fruit, 
which they conjectured to be the remains of some 
Indian plantations, as in these countries they are 
no more indigenous than the banana, the maize, the 
manioc, and the many other useful plants whose 
native country is unknown, although they have ac- 
companied man in his migrations from the most re- 
mote periods. 

" When a traveller newly arrived from Europe," 
says Humboldt, " penetrates for the first time into 
the forests of South America, nature presents herself 
to his view in an unexpected aspect : the objects by 
which he is surrounded bear but a faint resemblance 
to the pictures drawn by celebrated writers on the 
banks of the Mississippi, in Florida, and in other 
temperate regions of the New World. He per- 
ceives at every step that he is not upon the verge, 


but in the centre of the torrid zone, not in one of 
the West India islands, but upon a vast continent, 
where the mountains, the rivers, the mass of vege- 
tation, and every thing else are gigantic. If he be 
sensible to the beauties of rural scenery, he finds it 
difficult to account to himself for the diversified 
feelings which he experiences : he is unable to de- 
termine what most excites his admiration ; whether 
the solemn silence of the wilderness, or the indi- 
vidual beauty and contrast of the forms, or the vigour 
and freshness of vegetable life, that characterize the 
climate of the tropics. It might be said that the 
earth, overloaded with plants, does not leave them 
room enough for growth. The trunks of the trees 
are everywhere covered with a thick carpet of ver- 
dure ; and were the orchidese and the plants of the 
genera piper and pothos, which grow upon a single 
courbaril or American fig-tree, transferred to the 
ground, they would cover a large space. By this 
singular denseness of vegetation, the forests, like 
the rocks and mountains, enlarge the domain of or- 
ganic nature. The same lianas which creep along 
the ground rise to the tops of the trees, and pass 
from the one to the other at a height of more than 
a hundred feet. In consequence of this intermixture 
of parasitic plants, the botanist is often led to con- 
found the flowers, fruits, and foliage which belong 
to different species." 

The philosophers walked for some hours under 
the shade of these arches, which scarcely admitted 
an occasional glimpse of the clear blue sky, and for 
the first time admired the pendulous nests of the 
orioles, which mingled their warblings with the cries 
of the parrots and macaws. The latter fly only in 
pairs, while the former are seen in flocks of several 
hundreds. At the distance of about a league from 
the village of San Fernando, they issued from the 
woods, and entered an open country, covered with 
aquatic plants from eight to ten feet high ; there 


being no meadows or pastures in the lower parts of 
the torrid zone, as in Europe. The road was bor- 
dered with a kind of bamboo, rising more thaa forty 
feet. These plants, according to Humboldt, are less 
common in America than is usually supposed, al- 
though they form dense woods in New- Grenada and 
Quito, and' occur abundantly on the western slope of 
the Andes. 

They now entered San Fernando, which is situ- 
ated in a narrow plain, and bounded by limestone 
rocks. This was the first missionary station they 
saw in America. The houses of the Chayma In- 
dians were built of clay, strengthened by lianas, and 
the streets were straight, and intersected each other 
at right angles. The great square in the centre of 
the village contains the church, the house of the 
missionary, and another, destined for the accommo- 
dation of travellers, which bears the pompous name 
of the king's house (Casa del Rey). These royal 
residences occur in all the Spanish settlements, and 
are of the greatest benefit in countries where there 
are no inns. 

They had been recommended to the friars who 
superintend the missions of the Chaymas, by their 
syndic at Cumana, and the superior, a corpulent and 
jolly old capuchin, received them with kindness. 
This respectable personage, seated the greater part 
of the day in an arm-chair, eomplained bitterly of 
the indolence of his countrymen. He considered 
the pursuits of the travellers as useless, smiled at 
the sight of their instruments and dried plants, and 
maintained that of all the enjoyments of life, with- 
out excepting sleep, none could be compared with 
the pleasure of eating good beef. 

This mission was founded about the end of the 
seventeenth century, near the junction of the Man- 
zanares and Lucasperez ; but, in consequence of a 
fire, was removed to its present situation. The num- 
ber of families now amounted to a hundred, and as the 


head of the establishment observed, the custom of 
marrying at a very early age contributes greatly to 
the rapid increase of population. 

In the village of Arenas, which is inhabited by 
Indians of the same race as those of San Fernando, 
there lived a labourer, Francisco Lozano, who had 
suckled a child. Its mother happening to be sick, 
he took it, and in order to quiet it, pressed it to his 
breast, when the stimulus imparted by the sucking 
of the child caused a flow of milk. The travellers 
saw the certificate drawn up on the spot to attest 
this remarkable fact, of which several eyewitnesses 
were still living. The man was not at Arenas during 
their stay at the mission, but afterward visited them 
at Cumana^. accompanied by his son, when M. Bon- 
pland examined his breasts, and found them wrinkled, 
like those of women who have nursed. He was 
not an Indian, but a white descended from European 
parents. Alexander Benedictus relates a similar 
case of an inhabitant of Syria, and other authors 
have given examples of the same nature. 

Returning towards Cumana, they entered the small 
town of Cumanacoa, situated in a naked and almost 
circular plain, surrounded by lofty mountains, and 
containing about two thousand three hundred inhabit- 
ants. The houses were low and slight, and with very 
few exceptions built of wood. The travellers were 
surprised to find the column of mercury in the ba- 
rometer scarcely 7'3 lines shorter than on the coast. 
The hollow in which the town is erected is not more 
than 665 feet above the level of the sea, and only 
seven leagues from Cumana; but the climate is 
much colder than in the latter place, where it scarcely 
ever rains ; whereas at Cumanacoa there are seven 
months of severe weather. It was during the winter 
season that our travellers visited the missions. A 
dense fog covered the sky every night ; the ther- 
mometer varied from 64 '8 to 68 ; and Deluc's hy- 
grometer indicated 85. At ten in the morning the 


thermometer did not rise above 69 '8, but from noon 
to three o'clock attained the height of from 78'8 to 
80-6. About two, large black clouds regularly 
formed, and poured down torrents of rain, accom- 
panied by thunder. At five the rain ceased, and the 
sun reappeared ; but at eight or nine the fog again 
commenced. In consequence of the humidity, the 
vegetation, although not very diversified, is remark- 
able for its freshness. The soil is highly fertile ; 
but the most valuable production of the district is 
tobacco, the cultivation of which, in the province of 
Cumana, is nearly confined to this valley. 

Next to the tobacco of Cuba and the Rio Negro, 
that grown here is the most aromatic. The seed is 
sown in the beginning of September, and the coty- 
ledons appear on the eighth day. The young plants 
are then covered with large leaves to protect them 
from the sun. A month or two after, they are trans- 
ferred to a rich and well-prepared soil, and disposed 
in rows, three or four feet distant from each other. 
The whole is carefully weeded, and the principal 
stalk is several times topped, until the leaves are 
mature, when they are gathered. They are then 
suspended by threads of the Agave Americana, and 
their ribs taken out ; after which they are twisted. 
The cultivation of tobacco was a royal monopoly, 
and employed about 1500 persons. Indigo is also 
raised in the valley of Cumanacoa. 

This singular plain appeared to be the bed of an 
ancient lake. The surrounding mountains are all 
precipitous, and the soil contains pebbles and bivalve 
shells. One of the gaps in the range, they were in- 
formed, was inhabited by jaguars, which passed the 
day in caves, and roamed about the plantations at 
night. The preceding year one of them had de- 
voured a horse belonging to a farm in the neighbour- 
hood. The groans of the dying animal awoke the 
slaves, who went out armed with lances and large 


knives, with which they despatched the tiger after a 
vigorous resistance. 

From two caverns in this ravine there at times 
issue flames, which illumine the adjacent mountains, 
and are seen to a great distance at night. The phe- 
nomenon was accompanied by a long-continued sub- 
terraneous noise at the time of the last earthquake. 
A first attempt to penetrate into this pass was ren- 
dered unsuccessful, by the strength of the vegeta- 
tion and the intertwining of lianas and thorny plants ; 
but the inhabitants becoming interested in the re- 
searches of the travellers, and being desirous to 
know what the German miner thought of the gold 
ore which they imagined to exist in it, cleared a path 
through the woods. On entering the ravine, they 
found traces of jaguars ; and the Indians returned for 
some small dogs upon which they knew these ani- 
mals would spring in preference to attacking a man. 
The rocks that bound it are perpendicular, and what 
geologists term alpine limestone. The excursion 
was rendered hazardous by the nature of the ground ; 
but they at length reached the pretended gold mine, 
which was merely an excavation in a bed of black 
marl containing iron pyrites, a substance which the 
guides insisted was no other than the precious 

They continued to penetrate into the crevice, and 
after undergoing great fatigue, reached a wall of 
rock, which-, rising perpendicularly to the height of 
5116 feet, presented two inaccessible caverns inhab- 
ited by nocturnal birds. Halting at the foot of one 
of the caves from which flames had been seen to 
issue, they listened to the remarks of the natives 
respecting the probability of an increase in the fre- 
quency of the agitations to which New -Andalusia 
had so often been subjected. The cause of the lu- 
minous exhalations, however, they were unable to 

On the 12th, they continued their journey to the 


convent of Caripe, the principal station of the Chay- 
ma missions, choosing, instead of the direct road, 
the line of the mountains Cocollar and Turimiquiri. 
At the Hato de Cocollar, a solitary farm situated on 
a small elevated plain, they rested for some time, 
and had the good fortune to enjoy at once a delight- 
ful climate and the hospitality of the proprietor. 
From this elevated point, as far as the eye could 
reach, they saw only naked savannas, although in 
the neighbouring valleys they found tufts of scat- 
tered trees> and a profusion of beautiful flowers. 
The upper part of the mountain was destitute of 
wood, though covered with gramineous plants a 
circumstance which Humboldt attributes more to 
the custom of burning the forests than to the eleva- 
tion of the ground, which is not sufficient to prevent 
the growth of trees. 

Their host, Don Mathias Yturburi, a native of 
Biscay, had visited the New World with an expedi- 
tion, the object of which was to form establishments 
for procuring timber for the Spanish navy. But 
these natives of a colder climate were unable to sup- 
port the fatigue of so laborious an occupation, the 
heat, and the effect of noxious vapours. Destruc- 
tive fevers carried off most of the party, when this 
individual withdrew from the coast, and settling on 
the Cocollar, became the undisturbed possessor of 
five leagues of savannas, among which he enjoyed 
independence and health. 

" Nothing," says Humboldt, " can be compared to 
the impression of the majestic tranquillity left on 
the mind by the view of the firmament in this soli- 
tary place. Following with the eye, at evening- 
tide, those meadows which stretch along the hori- 
zon, and the gently-undulated plain covered with 
plants, we thought we saw in the distance, as in the 
deserts of the Orinoco, the surface of the ocean 
supporting the starry vault of heaven. The tree 
under which we were seated, the luminous insects 


that vaulted in the air, and the constellations which 
shone in the south seemed to tell us that we were 
far from our native land. In the midst of this exotic 
nature, when the bell of a cow, or the lowing of a 
bull was heard from the bottom of a valley, the re- 
membrance of our country was suddenly awakened 
by the sounds. They were like distant voices, that 
came from beyond the ocean, and by the magic of 
which we were transported from the one hemi- 
sphere to the other. Strange mobility of the human 
imagination, the never-failing source of our enjoy- 
ments and griefs !" 

In the cool of the morning they commenced the 
ascent of Turimiquiri, the summit of the Cocollar, 
which, with the Brigantine, forms a mass of moun- 
tains, formerly named by the natives the Sierra de 
los Tageres. They travelled part of the way on 
horses, which are left to roam at large in these 
wilds, though some of them have been trained to the 
saddle. Stopping at a spring which issued from a 
bed of quartzy sandstone, they found its tempera- 
ture to be 69-8. To the height of 4476 feet, this 
mountain, like those in its vicinity, was covered 
with gramineous plants. The pastures became less 
rich in proportion to the elevation, and wherever the 
scattered rocks afforded a shade lichens and mosses 
occurred. The summit is 4521 feet above the level 
of the sea. The view from it was extensive and 
highly picturesque: chains of mountains running 
from east to west enclosed longitudinal valleys, 
which were intersected at right angles by number- 
less ravines. The distant peninsula of Araya formed 
a dark streak on a glittering sea, and the more dis- 
tant rocks of Cape Macanao rose amid the waters 
like an immense rampart. 

On the 14th September, they descended the Co- 
collar in the direction of San Antonio, where was 
also a mission. After passing over savannas strewed 
with blocks of limestone, succeeded by a dense 


forest and two very steep ridges, they came to a 
beautiful valley, about twenty miles in length, in 
which are situated the missions of San Antonio and 
Guanaguana. Stopping at the former only to open 
the barometer and take a few altitudes of the sun, 
they forded the rivers Colorado and Guarapiche, and 
proceeding along a level and narrow road covered 
with thick mud, amid torrents of rain, reached in the 
evening the latter of these stations, where they 
were cordially received by the missionary. This 
village had existed only thirty years on the spot 
which it then occupied, having been transferred 
from a place more to the south. Humboldt remarks, 
that the facility with which the Indians remove their 
dwellings is astonishing, there being several small 
towns in South America which have thrice changed 
their situation in less than half a century. These 
compulsory migrations are not unfrequently caused 
by the caprice of an ecclesiastic ; and as the houses 
are constructed of clay, reeds, and palm-leaves, a 
hamlet shifts its position like a camp. 

The mission of San Antonio had a small church 
with two towers, built of brick and ornamented with 
Doric columns, the wonder of the county ; but that 
of Guanaguana possessed as yet no place of worship, 
although a spacious house had been built for the 
padre, the terraced roof of which was ornamented 
with numerous chimneys like turrets, and which, he 
informed the travellers, had been erected for no 
other purpose than to remind him of his native coun- 
try. The Indians cultivate cotton. The machines 
by which they separate the wool from the seeds are 
of very simple construction, consisting of wooden 
cylinders of very small diameter, made to revolve 
by a treadle. Maize is the article on which they 
principally depend for food ; and when it happens 
to be destroyed by a protracted drought, they be- 
take themselves to the surrounding forest, where 
they find subsistence in succulent plants, cabbage- 


palms, fern-roots, and the produce of various 

Proceeding to wards the valley of Caripe, the travel- 
lers passed a limestone ridge which separates it from 
that of Guanaguana, an undertaking which they 
found rather difficult, the path being in several parts 
only fourteen or fifteen inches broad, and the slopes 
being covered with very slippery turf. When they 
had reached the summit, an interesting spectacle pre- 
sented itself to their view, consisting of the vast 
savannas of Maturin and Rio Tigre, the Peak of 
Turimiquiri, and a multitude of parallel hills resem- 
bling the waves of a troubled ocean. 

Descending the height by a winding path, they 
entered a woody country, where the ground was 
covered by moss and a species of Drosera. As they 
approached the convent of Caripe, the forests grew 
more dense, and the power of vegetation increased. 
The calcareous strata became thinner, forming grad- 
uated terraces, while the stone itself assumed a white 
colour, with a smooth or imperfectly conchoidal 
fracture. This rock Humboldt considers as anal- 
ogous to the Jura deposites. He found the level of 
the valley of Caripe 1279 feet higher than that of 
Guanaguana. Although the former is only sepa- 
rated from the latter by a narrow ridge, it affords a 
complete contrast to it, being deliciously cool and 
salubrious, while the other is remarkable for its 
great heat. 




Excursion continued, and Return to Cumana. 

Convent of Caripe Cave of Guacharo, inhabited by Nocturnal Birds- 
Purgatory Forest Scenery Howling Monkeys Vera Cruz Cariaco 
Intermittent Fevers Cocoa-trees Passage across the Gulf of Cari- 
aco to Cumana. 

ARRIVING at the hospital of the Arragonese Capu- 
chins, which was backed by an enormous wall 'of 
rocks of resplendent whiteness, covered with a luxu- 
riant vegetation, our travellers were hospitably re- 
ceived by the monks. The superior was absent ; 
but having heard of their intention to visit the place, 
he had provided for them whatever could serve to 
render their abode agreeable. The inner court, sur- 
rounded by a portico, they found highly convenient 
for setting up their instruments and making observa- 
tions. In the convent they found a numerous so- 
ciety, consisting of old and infirm missionaries, who 
sought for health in the salubrious air of the moun- 
tains of Caripe, and younger ones newly arrived 
from Spain. Although the inmates of this estab- 
lishment knew that Humboldt was a Protestant, they 
manifested no mark of distrust, nor proposed any 
indiscreet question, to diminish the value of the be- 
nevolence which they exercised with so much libe- 
rality. Even the light of science had in some de- 
gree extended to this obscure place ; for in the library 
of the superior they found among other books the 
Traite d'Electricite, by the Abbe Nollet ; and one of 
the monks had brought with him a Spanish transla- 
tion of Chaptal's Treatise on Chymistry. 

The height of this monastery above the sea is 
nearly the same as that of Caraccas, and the 


inhabited parts of the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. 
The thermometer was between 60'8 and 63 at mid- 
night, between 66*2 and 68 in the morning, and 
only 69 '8 or 72*5 about one o'clock. The mean 
temperature, inferred from that of the month of Sep- 
tember, appears to be 65'3. This degree of heat 
is sufficient to develop the productions of the torrid 
zone, although much inferior to that of the plains 
of Cumana. Water exposed in vessels of porous 
clay cools during the night as low as 55*4. The 
mild climate and rarefied air of this place have been 
found highly favourable to the cultivation of coffee, 
which was introduced into the province by the pre- 
fect of the Capuchins, an active and enlightened 
man. In the garden of the community were many 
culinary vegetables, maize, the sugar-cane, and five 
thousand coffee-trees. 

The greatest curiosity in this beautiful and salu- 
brious district is a cavern inhabited by nocturnal birds, 
the fat of which is employed in the missions for 
dressing food. It is named the Cave of Guacharo, 
and is situated in a valley three leagues distant from 
the convent. 

On the 18th of September our travellers, accom- 
panied by most of the monks and some of the Indians, 
set out for this aviary, following for an hour and a 
half a narrow path, leading across a fine plain cov- 
ered with beautiful turf; then, turning westward 
along a small river which issues from the cave, they 
proceeded, during three-quarters of an hour, some- 
times walking in the water, sometimes on a slippery 
and miry soil, between the torrent and a wall of 
rocks, until they arrived at the foot of the lofty 
mountain of Guacharo. Here the torrent ran in a 
deep ravine, and they went on under a projecting 
cliff, which prevented them from seeing the sky, 
until at the last turning they came suddenly upon 
the immense opening of the recess, which is eighty- 
five feet broad and seventy-seven feet high. The 


entrance is towards the south, and is formed in the 
vertical face of a rock, covered with trees of gigantic 
height, intermixed with numerous species of singular 
and beautiful plants, some of which hang in festoons 
over the vault. This luxuriant vegetation is not 
confined to the exterior of the cave, but appears 
even in the vestibule, where the travellers were as- 
tonished to see heliconias nineteen feet in height, 
palms, and arborescent arums. They had advanced 
about four hundred and sixty feet before it became 
necessary to light their torches, when they heard 
from afar the hoarse screams of the birds. 

The guacharo is the size of a domestic fowl, and 
has somewhat the appearance of a vulture, with a 
mouth like that of a goatsucker. It forms a distinct 
genus in the order Passer es, differing from that just 
named in having a stronger beak, furnished with two 
denticulations, though in its manners it bears an af- 
finity to it as well as to the alpine crow. Its plu- 
mage is dark bluish-gray, minutely streaked and 
spotted with deep brown ; the head, wings, and tail 
being marked with white spots bordered with black. 
The extent of the wings is three feet and a half. It 
lives on fruits, but quits the cave only in the even- 
ing. The shrill and piercing cries of these birds, 
assembled in multitudes, are said to form a harsh 
and disagreeable noise, somewhat resembling that 
of a rookery. The nests, which the guides showed 
by means of torches fastened to a long pole, were 
placed in funnel-shaped holes in the roof. The 
noise increased as they advanced, the animals being 
frightened by the numerous lights. 

About midsummer every year the Indians, armed 
with poles, enter the cave, and destroy the greater 
part of the nests. Several thousands of young birds 
are thus killed, and the old ones hover around, utter- 
ing frightful cries. Those which are secured in this 
manner are opened on the spot, to obtain the fat 
which exists abundantly in their abdomen, and which 


is subsequently melted in clay vessels over fires of 
brushwood. This substance is semifluid, transpa- 
rent, destitute of smell, and keeps above a year with- 
out becoming rancid. At the convent of Caripe it 
was used in the kitchen of the monks, and our trav- 
ellers never found that it communicated any dis- 
agreeable smell or taste to the food. 

The guacharoes would have been long ago de- 
stroyed, had not the superstitious dread of the In- 
dians prevented them from penetrating far into the 
cavern. It also appears, that birds of the same 
species dwell in other inaccessible places in the 
neighbourhood, and that the great cave is repeopled 
by colonies from them. The hard and dry fruits 
which are found in the crops and gizzards of the 
young ones are considered as an excellent remedy 
against intermittent fevers, and regularly sent to Ca- 
riaco and other parts of the lower districts where 
such diseases prevail. 

The travellers followed the banks of the small 
river which issues from the cavern as far as the 
mounds of calcareous incrustations permitted them, 
and afterward descended into its bed. The cave 
preserved the same direction, breadth, and height 
as at its entrance, to the distance of 1554 feet. The 
natives having a belief that the souls of their an- 
cestors inhabit its deep recesses, the Indians who 
accompanied our travellers could hardly be persuaded 
to venture into it. Shooting at random in the dark, 
they obtained two specimens of the guacharo. Hav- 
ing proceeded to a certain distance, they came to a 
mass of stalactite, beyond which the cave became 
narrower, although it retained its original direction. 
Here the rivulet had deposited a blackish mould re- 
sembling that observed at Muggendorf in Franconia. 
The seeds which the birds carry to their young 
spring up wherever they are dropped into it ; and M. 
Humboldt and his friend were astonished to find 
blanched stalks that had attained a height of two feet. 


As the missionaries were unable to persuade the 
Indians to advance farther, the party returned. The 
river, sparkling amid the foliage of the trees, seemed 
like a distant picture, to which the mouth of the cave 
formed a frame. Having sat down at the entrance 
to enjoy a little needful repose, they partook of a 
repast which the missionaries had prepared, and in 
due time returned to the convent. 

The days which our travellers passed at this reli- 
gious house glided hastily and pleasantly past. From 
morning to night they traversed the forests and 
mountains collecting plants ; and when the rains 
prevented them from making distant excursions, 
they visited the huts of the Indians ; returning to the 
good monks only when the sound of the bell called 
them to the solace of the refectory. Sometimes 
also they followed them to the church, to witness 
the religious instruction given to the Indians ; which 
was found a difficult task, owing to the imperfect 
knowledge of the Spanish language possessed by 
the latter. The evenings were employed in taking 
notes, drying plants, and sketching those that ap- 
peared new. 

The natural beauties of this interesting valley 
engaged them so much, that they were long in per- 
ceiving the embarrassment felt by their kind enter- 
tainers, who had now but a very slender store of 
wine and bread. At length, on the 22d September, 
they departed, followed by four mules carrying their 
instruments and plants. The descent of the rugged 
chain of the Brigantine and Cocollar, which is about 
4400 feet in height, is exceedingly difficult. The 
missionaries have given the name of Purgatory to 
an extremely steep and slippery declivity at the base 
of a sandstone rock, in passing which the mules, 
drawing their hind-legs under their bodies, slide down 
at a venture. From this point they saw towards the 
left the great peak of Guacharo, which presented a 
very picturesque appearance ; and soon after entered 


a dense forest, through which they descended for 
seven hours in a kind of ravine, the path being 
formed of steps from two to three feet high, over 
which the mules leaped like wild goats. The Creoles 
have sufficient confidence in these animals to remain 
in their saddles during this dangerous passage ; but 
our travellers preferred walking. 

The forest was exceedingly dense, and consisted 
of trees of stupendous size. The guides pointed 
out some whose height exceeded 130 feet, while the 
diameter of many of the curucays and hymendas 
was more than three yards. Next to these, the plants 
which most attracted their notice were the dragon's- 
blood (Croton sanguifluum),the purple juice of which 
flowed along the whitish bark, various species of 
palms, and arborescent ferns of large size. The old 
trunks of some of the la.tter were covered with a 
carbonaceous powder, having a metallic lustre like 

As they descended the mountain the tree-ferns 
diminished, while the number of palms increased. 
Large-winged butterflies (nymphales) became more 
common, and every thing showed that they were 
approaching the coast. The weather was cloudy, 
the heat oppressive, and the howling of the monkeys 
gave indication of a coming thunder-storm. These 
creatures, the arguatoes, resemble a young bear, and 
are about three feet long from the top of the head to 
the root of the tail. The fur is tufty and reddish- 
brown, the face blackish-blue, with a bare and 
wrinkled skin, and the tail long and prehensile. 

While engaged in observing a troop of them cross 
the road upon the horizontal branches of the trees, 
the travellers met a company of naked Indians pro- 
ceeding towards the mountains of Caripe. The 
men were armed with bows and arrows, and the 
women, heavily laden, brought up the rear. They 
marched in silence, with their eyes fixed on the 
ground. Our philosophers, oppressed with the in- 


creasing heat, and faint with fatigue, endeavoured to 
learn from them the distance of the missionary con- 
vent of Vera Cruz, where they intended to pass 
the night ; but little information could be obtained 
on account of their imperfect knowledge of the Span- 
ish language. 

Continuing to descend amid scattered blocks, they 
unexpectedly found themselves at the -end of the 
forest, when they entered a savanna, the verdure 
of which had been renewed by the winter rains. 
Here they had a splendid view of the Sierra del 
Guacharo, the northern declivity of which presented 
an almost perpendicular wall, exceeding 3200 feet in 
height, and scantily covered with vegetation. The 
ground before them consisted of several level spaces, 
lying above each other like vast steps. The mission 
of Vera Cruz, which is situated in the middle of it, 
they reached in the evening, and next day continued 
their journey towards the Gulf of Cariaco. 

Proceeding on their way, they entered another 
forest, and reached the station of Catuaro, situated 
in a very wild spot, where they lodged at the house 
of the priest. Their host was a doctor of divinity, 
a thin little man, of petulant vivacity, who talked 
continually of a lawsuit in which he was engaged 
with the superior of his convent, and wished to know 
what Humboldt thought of free-will and the souls of 
animals. At this place they met with the corregidor 
of the district, an amiable person, who gave them 
three Indians to assist in cutting a way through the 
forest, the lianas and intertwining branches having 
obstructed the narrow lanes. The little missionary, 
however, insisted on accompanying them to Cariaco, 
and contrived to render the road extremely tedious 
by his observations on the necessity of the slave- 
trade, the innate wickedness of blacks, and the ben- 
efit which they derived from being reduced to 
bondage by Christians. 

The road which they followed through the forest 


of Catuaro resembled that of the preceding day. 
The clay, which filled the path and rendered it ex- 
cessively slippery, was produced by layers of sand- 
stone and slate-clay which cross the calcareous 
strata. At length, after a fatiguing march, they 
reached the town of Cariaco, on the coast, where 
they found a great part of the inhabitants confined 
to their beds with intermittent fever. The low situa- 
tion of the place, as well as of the surrounding dis- 
trict, the great heat and moisture, and the stagnant 
marshes generated during the rainy season, are 
supposed to be the causes of this disease, which 
often assumes a malignant character, and is accom- 
panied with dysentery. Men of colour, and espe- 
cially Creole negroes, resist the influence of the cli- 
mate much better than any other race. It is gen- 
erally observed, however, that the mortality is less 
than might be supposed; for although intermittent 
fevers, when they attack the same individual several 
years in succession, alter and weaken the constitu- 
tion, they do not usually cause death. It is remark- 
able that the natives believe the air to have become 
more vitiated in proportion as a larger extent of land 
has been cultivated; but the miasmata from the 
marshes, and the exhalations from the mangroves, 
avicenniae, and other astringent plants growing on 
the borders of the sea, are probably the real causes 
of the unhealthiness of the coasts. 

In 1800 the town of Cariaco contained more than 
6000 inhabitants, who were actively employed in the 
cultivation of cotton, the produce of which ex- 
ceeded 10,000 quintals (9057 Ibs. avoirdupois). The 
capsules, after the separation of the wool, were 
carefully burnt, as they were thought to occasion 
noxious exhalations when thrown into the river. 
Cacao and sugar were also raised to a considerable 

As our travellers were not sufficiently inured to 
the climate, they considered it prudent to leave Cari- 


aco as expeditiously as possible on account of the 
fever. Embarking early in the morning, they pro- 
ceeded westward along the river of Carenicuar, 
which flows through a deep marshy soil covered 
with gardens and plantations of cotton. The Indian 
women were washing their linen with the fruit of 
the parapara (Sapindus saponaria). Contrary winds, 
accompanied with heavy rain and thunder, rendered 
the voyage disagreeable ; more especially as the 
canoe was narrow and overloaded with raw sugar, 
plantains, cocoanuts, and passengers. Swarms of 
flamingoes, egrets, and cormorants were flying to- 
wards the shore, while the alcatras, a large species 
of pelican, less affected by the weather, continued 
fishing in the bay. The general depth of the sea is 
from 288 to 320 feet ; but at the eastern extremity 
of the gulf it is only from nineteen to twenty-five 
feet for an extent of seventeen miles, and there is 
a sandbank which at low water resembles a small 
island. They crossed the part where the hot springs 
rush from the bottom of the ocean ; but it being high 
water the change of temperature was not very per- 
ceptible. The contrary winds continuing, they were 
forced to land at Pericautral, a small farm .on the 
south side of the gulf. The coast, although cov- 
ered by a beautiful vegetation, was almost destitute 
of human labour, and scarcely possessed seven hun- 
dred inhabitants. The cocoa-tree is the principal 
object of cultivation. This palm thrives best in the 
neighbourhood of the sea, and like the sugar-cane, the 
plantain, the mammee-apple, and the alligator-pear, 
may be watered either with fresh or salt water. In 
other parts of America it is generally nourished 
around farm-houses ; but along the Gulf of Cariaco 
it forms real plantations, and at Cumana they talk 
of a hacienda de coco, as they do of a hacienda de 
canna, or de cacao. In moist and fertile ground it 
begins to bear abundantly the fourth year ; but in 
dry soils it does not produce fruit until the tenth. 


Its duration does not generally exceed ninety or a 
hundred years ; at which period its mean height is 
about eighty feet. Throughout this coast a c ;eoa- 
tree supplies annually about a hundred nuts, which 
yield eight flascoes of oil. The fiasco is sold for 
about sixteen pence. A great quantity is made at 
Cumana, and Humboldt frequently witnessed the 
arrival there of canoes containing 3000 nuts. The 
oil, which is clear and destitute of smell, is well 
adapted for burning. 

After sunset they left the farm of Pericautral, and 
at three in the morning reached the mouth of the 
Manzanares, after passing a very indifferent night in 
a narrow and deeply-laden canoe. Having been for 
several weeks accustomed to mountain scenery, 
gloomy forests, and rainy weather, they were struck 
by the barrenness of the soil, the clearness of the 
sky, and the mass of reflected light by which the 
neighbourhood of Cumana is characterized. At sun- 
rise they saw the zamuro vultures (Vultur aura), 
perched on the cocoa-trees in large flocks. These 
birds go to roost long before night, and do not quit 
their place of repose until after the heat of the solar 
rays is felt. The same idleness, as it were, is in- 
dulged by the trees with pinnate leaves, such as the 
mimosas and tamarinds, which close these organs 
half an hour before the sun goes down, and unfold 
them in the morning only after he has been some 
time visible. In our climates the leguminous plants 
open their leaves during the morning twilight;, Hum- 
boldt seems to think that the humidity deposited 
upon the parenchyma by the refrigeration of the 
foliage, which is the effect of the nocturnal radia- 
tion, prevents the action of the first rays of the sun 
upon them. 



Indians of New -Andalusia. 

Physical Constitution and Manners of the Chaymas Their Lan- 
guages American Races. 

IT is the custom of Humboldt, in his " Journey to 
the Equinoctial Region," to stand still after an ex- 
cursion, reflect, and present to his readers the result 
of his inquiries on any subject that has fixed his at- 
tention. For example, on concluding the narrative 
of his visit to the Chayma missions, he gives a gen- 
eral account of the aborigines of New- Andalusia, of 
which an abridgment is here offered. 

The north-eastern part of equinoctial America, 
Terra Firma, and the shores of the Orinoco, resem- 
ble, in the multiplicity of the tribes by which they 
are inhabited, the defiles of Caucasus, the mountains 
of Hindookho, and the northern extremity of Asia, 
beyond the Tungooses and the Tartars of the mouth 
of the Lena. The barbarism which prevails in these 
various regions is perhaps less owing to an original 
absence of civilization than to the effects of a long 
debasement ; and if every thing connected with the 
first population of a continent were known, we should 
probably find that savages are merely tribes banished 
from society and driven into the forests. At the 
commencement of the conquest of America, the na- 
tives were collected into large bodies only on the 
ridge of the Cordilleras and the coast opposite to 
Asia, while the vast savannas, and the great plains 
covered by forests and intersected by rivers, pre- 
sented wandering tribes, separated by differences of 
language and manners. 

In New-Andalusia, Cumana, and New-Barcelona, 


the aborigines still form fully one-half of the scanty 
population. Their number may be about 60,000, of 
which 24,000 inhabit the first of these provinces. 
This amount appears large when we refer to the 
hunting tribes of North America, but seems the re- 
verse when we look to those districts of New-Spain 
where agriculture has been followed for more than 
eight centuries. Thus, the intendancy of Oaxaca, 
which forms part of the old Mexican empire, and 
which is one-third smaller than the two provinces 
of Cumana and Barcelona, contains more than 400,000 
of the original race. The Indians of Cumana do not 
all live assembled in the missions, some being found 
dispersed in the neighbourhood of towns along the 
coasts. The stations of the Arragonese Capuchins 
contain 15,000, almost all of the Chayma tribe. The 
villages, however, are less crowded than in the 
province of Barcelona, their indigenous population 
being only between five and six hundred ; whereas, 
more to the west, in the establishments of the Fran- 
ciscans of Piritoo, there are towns of 2000 or 3000 
inhabitants. Besides the 60,000 natives of the prov- 
inces of Cumana and Barcelona, there are some 
thousands of Guaraounoes who have preserved their 
independence in the islands at the mouth of the 
Orinoco. Excepting a few families there are no wild 
Indians in New-Andalusia. 

The term wild or savage Humboldt says he uses 
with regret, because it implies a difference of cultiva- 
tion which does not always exist between the re- 
duced or civilized Indian, living in the missions, and 
the free or independent Indian. In the forests of 
South America there are tribes which dwell in vil- 
lages, rear plantains, cassava, and cotton, and are 
scarcely more barbarous than those in the religious 
establishments, who have been taught to make the 
sign of the Cross. It is an error to consider all the 
free natives as wandering hunters ; for agriculture 
existed on the continent long before the arrival of 


the Europeans, and still exists between the Orinoco 
and the Amazons, in districts to which they have 
never penetrated. The sy-'em of the missions has 
produced an attachment to landed property, a fixed 
residence, and a taste for quiet life ; but the baptized 
Indian is often as little a Christian as his heathen 
brother is an idolater, both discovering a marked 
indifference for religious opinions, and a tendency to 
worship nature. 

There is no reason to believe that in the Spanish . 
colonies the number of Indians has^diminished since 
the conquest. There are still more than six mil- 
lions of the copper-coloured race in both Americas ; 
and although tribes and languages have been de- 
stroyed or blended in those colonies, the natives 
have in fact continued to increase. In the temperate 
zone the contact of Europeans with the indigenous 
population becomes fatal to the latter ; but in South 
America the result is different, and there they do 
not dread the approach of the whites. In the former 
case a vast extent of country is required by the In- 
dians, because they live by hunting ; but in the latter 
a small piece of ground suffices to afford subsistence 
for a family. 

In these provinces the Europeans advance slowly; 
and the religious orders have founded establishments 
between the regions inhabited by them and those 
possessed by the independent Indians. The mis- 
sions have no doubt encroached on the liberty of the 
natives, but they have generally been favourable to 
the increase of the population. As the preachers 
advance into the interior the planters invade their 
territory, the whites and the castes of mixed breed 
settle among the Indians, the missions become Span- 
ish villages, and finally the old inhabitants lose their 
original manners and language. In this way civili- 
zation advances from the coasts towards the centre 
of the continent. 

New-Andalusia and Barcelona contain more than 


fourteen tribes of Indians. Those of the former are 
the Chaymas, Guayquerias, Pariagotoes, Quaquas, 
Aruacas, Caribs, and Guaraounoes ; and those of the 
latter, the Cutnanagatoes, Palenkas, Caribs, Piritoos, 
Tomoozas, Topocuares, Chacopatas, and Guarivas. 
The precise number of the Guaraounoes, who live 
in huts elevated on trees at the mouth of the Ori- 
noco, is not knoAvn. There are two thousand Guay- 
querias in the suburbs of Cumana and the peninsula 
of Araya. Of the other tribes the Chaymas of the 
mountains of Caripe, the Caribs of New-Barcelona, 
and the Cumanagatoes of the missions of Piritoo, 
are the most numerous. The language of the 
Guaraounoes, and that of the Caribs, Cumanagatoes, 
and Chaymas, are the most general, and seem to 
belong to the same stock. 

Although the Indians attached to the missions are 
all agriculturists, cultivate the same plants, build 
their huts in the same manner, and lead the same 
kind of life, yet the shades by which the several 
tribes are distinguished remain unchanged. There 
are few of these villages in which the families do 
not belong to different tribes, and speak different 
languages. The missionaries have, indeed, pro- 
hibited the use of various practices and ceremonies, 
and have destroyed many superstitions; but they 
have not been able to alter the essential character 
common to all the American races, from Hudson's 
Bay to the Straits of Magellan. The instructed In- 
dian, more secure of subsistence than the untamed 
native, and less exposed to the fury of hostile neigh- 
bours or of the elements, leads a more monotonous 
life, possesses the mildness of character which 
arises from the love of repose, and assumes a sedate 
and mysterious air ; but the sphere of his ideas has 
received little enlargement, and the expression of 
melancholy which his countenance exhibits is merely 
the result of indolence. 

The Chaymas, of whom more than fifteen thousand 


inhabit the Spanish villages, and who border on the 
Cumanagatoes towards the west, the Guaraounoes 
towards the east, and the Caribs towards the south, 
occupy part of the elevated mountains of the Co- 
collar and Guacharo, as also the banks of the Gua- 
rapichc, Rio Colorado, Areo, and the Cano of Caripe. 
The first attempt to reduce them to subjection was 
made in the middle of the seventeenth century, by 
Father Francisco of Pamplona, a person of great 
zeal and intrepidity. The mission subsequently 
formed among these people suffered greatly in 1681, 
1697, and 1720, from the invasions of the Caribs ; 
while during six years subsequently to 1730, the 
population was diminished by the ravages of the 

The Chaymas are generally of low stature, their 
ordinary height being about five feet two inches ; 
but their figures are broad and muscular. The colour 
of the skin is a dull brown, inclining to red. The 
expression of the countenance is sedate and some- 
what gloomy ; the forehead is small and retiring ; 
the eyes sunk, very long and black, but not so small 
or oblique as in the Mongolian race ; the eyebrows 
slender, nearly straight, and black or dark-brown, 
and the eyelids furnished with very long lashes ; 
the cheek-bones are usually high, the hair straight, 
the beard almost entirely wanting, as in the same 
people, from whom, however, they differ essentially 
in having the nose pretty long. The mouth is 
wide, the lips broad but not prominent, the chin ex- 
tremely short and round, and the jaws remarkable 
for their strength. The teeth are white and sound, 
the toothache being a disease w^ith which they are 
seldom afflicted. The hands are small and slender, 
while the feet are large, and the toes possessed of 
an extraordinary mobility. They have so strong a 
family look, that on entering a hut it is often difficult, 
among grown-up persons, to distinguish the father 
from the son. This is attributable to the circum- 


stance of their only marrying* in their own tribe, as 
well as to their inferior degree of intellectual im- 
provement ; the differences between uncivilized and 
cultivated man being similar to those between wild 
and domesticated animals of the same species. 

As they live in a very warm country, they are ex- 
cessively averse to clothing. In spite of the remon- 
strances of the monks, men and women remain naked 
while within their houses ; and, when they go out, 
wear only a kind of cotton gown scarcely reaching 
to the knees. The dress of the men has sleeves, 
while that of the women and boys has none ; the 
arms, shoulders, and upper part of the breast being 
uncovered. Till the age of nine the girls are allowed 
to go to church naked. The missionaries complain 
that the feeling of modesty is very little known to 
the younger of the sex. The women are not hand- 
some ; but the maidens have a kind of pleasant mel- 
ancholy in their looks. No instances of natural de- 
formity occurred to the travellers. Humboldt re- 
marks, that deviations from nature are exceedingly 
rare among certain races of men, especially such as 
have the skin highly coloured ; an effect which he 
does not ascribe solely to a luxurious life or the cor- 
ruption of morals, but rather imagines that the im- 
munity enjoyed by the American Indians arises from 
hereditary organization. The custom of marrying 
at a very early age, which depends upon the same 
circumstance, is stated to be no way detrimental to 
population. It occurs in the most northern parts 
of the continent as well as in the warmest, and 
therefore is not dependent upon climate. 

They have naturally very little hair on the chin, 
and the little that appears is carefully plucked out. 
This thinness of the beard is common to the Ameri- 
can race, although there are tribes, such as the 
Chipeways and the Patagonians, in which it assumes 
respectable dimensions. 

The Chaymas lead a very regular and uniform 


life. They go to bed at seven, and rise at half after 
four. The inside of their huts is kept very clean, 
and their hammocks, utensils, and weapons are ar- 
ranged in the greatest order.' They bathe every 
day, and, being generally naked, are thus exempted 
from the filth principally caused by clothing. Be- 
sides their cabin in the village, they usually have a 
smaller one, covered with palm or plantain-leaves, 
in some solitary place in the woods, to which they 
retire as often as they can; and so strong is the 
desire among them of enjoying the pleasures of 
savage life, that the children sometimes wander en- 
tire days in the forests. In fact, the towns are often 
almost wholly deserted. As in all semi-barbarous 
nations, the women are subjected to privation and 
suffering, the hardest labour falling to their share. 

The Indians learn Spanfsh with extreme difficulty ; 
and even when they perfectly understand the mean- 
ing of the words, are unable to express the most 
simple ideas in that language without embarrass- 
ment. They seem to have as little capacity for 
comprehending any thing belonging to numbers ; the 
more intelligent counting in Spanish with the ap- 
pearance of great effort only as far as thirty, or per- 
haps fifty, while in their own tongue they cannot 
proceed beyond five or six. The construction of the 
American dialects is so different from that of the 
several classes of speech derived from the Latin, 
that the Jesuits employed some of the more perfect 
among the former instead of their own ; and had this 
system been generally followed the greatest benefit 
would have resulted from it. The Chayma appeared 
to Humboldt less agreeable to the ear than that of 
the other South American tribes. 

The Pariagotoes, or Farias, formerly occupied the 
coasts of Berbice and Essequibo, the peninsula of 
Paria, and the plains of Piritoo and Parima. Little 
information, however, is furnished respecting them. 

The Guaraounoes are dispersed in the delta of the 


Orinoco, and owe their independence to the nature 
of their country. In order to raise their houses 
above the inundations of the river, they support 
them on the trunks of the mangrove and mauritia 
palm. They make bread of the flour obtained from 
the pith of the latter tree. Their excellent qualities 
as seamen, their perfect knowledge of the mouths 
and inosculations of that magnificent stream, and 
their great number, give them a certain degree of 
political importance. They run with great address 
on marshy ground, where the whites, the negroes, 
or other Indian tribes, will not venture ; and this 
circumstance has given rise to the idea of their 
being specifically lighter than the rest of the natives. 

The Guayquerias are the most intrepid fishermen 
of these countries, and are the only persons well 
acquainted with the great bank that surrounds the 
islands of Coche, Margarita, Sola, and Testigos. 
They inhabit Margarita, the peninsula of Araya, and 
a suburb of Cumana. 

The Quaquas, formerly a very warlike tribe, are 
now mingled with the Chaymas attached to the mis- 
sions of Cumana, although their original abode was 
on the banks of the Assiveru. 

The Cumanagatoes, to the number of more than 
twenty thousand, subject to the Christian stations 
of Piritoo, live westward of Cumana, where they 
cultivate the ground. At the beginning of the six- 
teenth century they inhabited the mountains of the 
Brigantine and Parabolota. 

The Caribbees of these countries are part of the 
remnant of the great Carib nation. 

The natives of America may be divided into two 
great classes. To the first belong the Esquimaux 
of Greenland, Labrador, and Hudson's Bay, and the 
inhabitants of Behring's Straits, Alaska, and Prince 
William's Sound. The eastern and western branches 
of this great family, the Esquimaux proper and the 
Tschougages, are united by the most intimate simi- 


larity of language, although separated to the im- 
mense distance of eight hundred leagues. The in- 
habitants of the north-east of Asia are evidently of 
the same stock. Like the Malays, this hyperborean 
nation resides only on the seacoast. They are of 
smaller stature than the other Americans, lively and 
loquacious. Their hair is straight and black ; but- 
their skin is originally white, in which respect they 
essentially differ from the other class. 

The second race is dispersed over the various re- 
gions of the continent, from the northern parts to 
the southern extremity. They are of larger size, 
more warlike, and more taciturn, and differ in the 
colour of their skin. At the earliest age it has more 
or less of a coppery tinge in most of the tribes, 
while in others the children are fair, or nearly so ; 
and certain tribes on the Orinoco preserve the same 
complexion during their whole life. Humboldt is 
of opinion that these differences in colour are but 
slightly influenced by climate or other external cir- 
cumstances, and endeavours to impress the idea 
that they depend on the original constitution. 


Residence at Cwnana. 

Residence at Cumana Attack of a Zambo Eclipse of the Sun 
Extraordinary Atmospherical Phenomena Shocks of an Earthquake 
Luminous Meteors. 

OUR travellers remained a month longer at Cu- 
mana. As they had determined to make a voyage 
on the Orinoco and Rio Negro, preparations of va- 
rious kinds were necessary ; and the astronomical 
determination of places being the most important 
object of this undertaking, it was of essential advan- 


tage to observe an eclipse of the sun which was to 
happen in the end of October. 

On the 27th, the day before the obscuration, they 
went out in the evening, as usual, to take the air. 
Crossing the beach which separates the suburb of 
the Guayquerias from the landing place, they heard 
the sound of footsteps behind, and on turning saw a 
tall Zambo, who, coming up, flourished a great palm- 
tree bludgeon over Humboldfs head. He avoided 
the stroke by leaping aside ; but Bonpland was less 
fortunate ; for, receiving a blow above the temple, 
he was felled to the ground. The former assisted 
his companion to rise, and both now pursued the 
ruffian, who had run off with one of their hats, and 
on being seized, drew a long knife from his trou- 
sers. In the mean time some Biscayan merchants, 
who were walking on the shore, came to their as- 
sistance ; when the Zambo, seeing himself sur- 
rounded, took to his heels, and sought refuge in a 
cowhouse, from which he was led to prison. The 
inhabitants showed the warmest concern for the 
strangers ; and although Bonpland had a fever dur- 
ing the night, he speedily recovered. The object 
of the Zambo, who soon afterward, succeeded in 
escaping from the castle of San Antonio, was never 
satisfactorily made out. 

Notwithstanding this untoward accident, Hum- 
boldt was enabled to observe the eclipse. The days 
which preceded and followed it displayed very re- 
markable atmospheric phenomena. It was what is 
called winter in those countries. From the 10th of 
October to the 3d of November a reddish vapour 
rose in the evening, and in a few minutes covered 
the sky. The hygrometer gave no indication of hu- 
midity. The diurnal heat was from 82'4 to 89'6. 
Sometimes in the midst of the night the mist dis- 
appeared for a moment, when clouds of a brilliant 
whiteness formed in the zenith, and extended to- 
wards the horizon. On the 18th of October they 


were so transparent that they did not conceal stars 
even of the fourth magnitude, and the spots of the 
moon were very clearly distinguished. They were 
arranged in masses at equal distances, and seemed 
to be at a prodigious height. From the 28th of Oc- 
tober to the 3d of November the fog was thicker 
than it had yet been. The heat at night was stifling, 
although the thermometer indicated only 78*8. 
The evening breeze was no longer felt ; the sky ap- 
peared as if on fire, and the ground was everywhere 
cracked and dusty. On the 4th of November about 
two in the afternoon, large clouds of extraordinary 
blackness enveloped the mountains of the Brigantine 
and Tataraqual, extending gradually to the zenith. 
About four, thunder was heard overhead, but at an 
immense height, and with a dull and often inter- 
rupted sound. At the moment of the strongest 
electric explosion, two shocks of an earthquake, 
separated by an interval of fifteen seconds, were 
felt. The people in the streets filled the air with 
their cries. Bonpland. who was examining plants, 
was nearly thrown on the floor, and Humboldt, who 
was lying in his hammock, felt the concussion 
strongly. Its direction was from north to south. 
A few minutes before the first there was a violent 
gust of wind followed by large drops OQ rain. The 
sky remained cloudy, and the blast was succeeded by 
a dead calm, which continued all night. The setting 
of the sun presented a scene of great magnificence. 
The dark atmospheric shroud was rent asunder close 
to the horizon, and the sun appeared at 12 of alti- 
tude on an indigo ground, its disk enormously en- 
larged and distorted. The clouds were gilded on 
the edges, and bundles of rays reflecting the most 
brilliant prismatic colours extended over the heavens. 
About nine in the evening there was a third shock, 
which, although much slighter, was evidently at- 
tended with a subterranean noise. The barometer 
was a little lower than usual, but the progress of the 


horary variations was in no way interrupted. In 
the night, between the 3d and 4th of November, the 
red vapour was so thick that the rlace of the moon 
could be distinguished only by a beautiful halo, 20 
in diameter. 

Scarcely twenty-two months had elapsed since 
the almost total destruction of Cumana by an earth- 
quake ; and as the people look on the vapours, and 
the failure of the breeze during the night, as prog- 
nostics of disaster, the travellers had frequent visits 
from persons desirous of knowing whether their in- 
struments indicated new shocks on the morrow. On 
the 5th, precisely at the same hour, the same phe- 
nomena recurred, but without any agitation ; and 
the gust, accompanied by thunder, returned period- 
ically for five or six days. 

This earthquake, being the first that Humboldt 
ever felt, made a strong impression upon him ; but 
scenes of this kind afterward became so familiar as 
to excite little apprehension. It appeared to have a 
sensible influence on the magnetical phenomena. 
Soon after his arrival on the coasts of Cumana, he 
found the dip of the needle 43*53 of the centesimal 
division. On the 1st November it was 43 '65. On 
the 7th, three days after the concussion, he was 
astonished tj find it no more than 42*75, or 90 cen- 
tesimal degrees less. A. year later, on his return 
from the Orinoco, he still found it 42*80, though the 
intensity of the magnetic forces remained the same 
after as before the event under consideration, being 
expressed by 229 oscillations in ten minutes of time. 
On the 7th November he observed the magnetic va- 
riation to be 4 13' 50" E. 

The reddish vapour which appeared about sunset 
ceased on the 7th November. The atmosphere then 
assumed its former purity ; and the night of the llth 
was cool and extremely beautiful. Towards morn- 
ing a very extraordinary display of luminous meteors 
was observed in the east by M. Bonpland, who had 


risen to enjoy the freshness of the air in the gallery 
Thousands of fireballs and falling-stars succeeded 
each other during four hours, having a direction 
from north to south, and filling a space of the sky 
extending from the true east 30 degrees on either 
side. They rose above the horizon at E.N.E. and 
at E., described arcs of various sizes, and fell to- 
wards S., some attaining a height of 40, and all ex- 
ceeding 25 or 30. No trace of clouds was to be 
seen, and a very slight easterly wind blew in the 
lower regions of the atmosphere. All the meteors 
left luminous traces from five to ten degrees in 
length, the phosphorescence of which lasted seven or 
eight seconds. The fireballs seemed to explode, 
but the largest disappeared without scintillation ; 
and many of the falling-stars had a very distinct 
nucleus, as large as the disk of Jupiter, from which 
sparks were emitted. The light occasioned by them 
was white, an effect which must be attributed to 
the absence of vapours ; stars of the first magnitude 
having, within the tropics, a much paler hue at their 
rising than in Europe. 

As the inhabitants of Cumana leave their houses 
before four, to attend the first morning mass, most 
of them were witnesses of this phenomenon, which 
gradually ceased soon after, although some were 
still perceived a quarter of an hour before sunrise. 

The day of the 12th November was exceedingly 
hot, and in the evening the reddish vapour reap- 
peared in the horizon, and rose to the height of 14. 
This was the last time it was seen that year. 

The researches of M. Chladni having directed the 
attention of the scientific world to fireballs and fall- 
ing-stars at the period of Humboldt's departure from 
home, he did not fait to inquire, during his journey 
from Caraccas to the Rio Negro, whether the me- 
teors of the 12th November had been seen. He 
found that they had been observed by various indi- 
viduals in places very remote from each other ; and 


on returning to Europe was astonished to find that 
they had been seen there also. The following is a 
brief account of the facts relating to these phenom- 
ena : 1st, The luminous meteors were seen in the 
E. and E.N.E. at 40 of elevation, from 2 to 6 A.M., 
at Cumana, in lat. 10 21' 52", long. 66 30' ; at Porto 
Cabello, in lat. 10 6' 52", long. 67 5' ; and on the 
frontiers of Brazil, near the equator, in long. 70 
west. 2dly, The Count de Marbois observed them 
in French Guiana, lat. 4 56', long. 54 35'. 3dly, 
Mr. Ellicot, astronomer to the United States, being 
in the Gulf of Florida on the 12th November, saw 
an immense number of meteors, some of which ap- 
peared to fall perpendicularly ; and the same phe- 
nomenon was perceived on the American continent 
as far as lat. 30 42'. 4thly, In Labrador, in lat. 56 
55', and lat. 58 4' ; in Greenland, in latitudes 61 5' 
and 64 14', the natives were frightened by the vast 
quantity of fireballs that fell during twilight, some 
of them of great size. 5thly, In Germany, Mr. 
Zeissing, vicar of Itterstadt near Weimar, in lat. 50 
59', long. 9 1' E., observed, between 6 and 7 in the 
morning of the 12th November, some falling-stars 
having a very white light. Soon after reddish 
streaks appeared in the S. and S.W. ; and at dawn 
the south-western part of the sky was from time to 
time illuminated by white lightning running in ser- 
pentine lines along the horizon. 

Calculating from these facts, it is manifest that 
the height of the meteors was at least 1419 miles ; 
and as near Weimar they were seen in the S. and 
S.W., while at Cumana they were observed in the 
E. and N.E., we must conclude that they fell into 
the sea between Africa and South America, to the 
west of the Cape Verd Islands. 
1 Without entering into the learned discussion which 
Humboldt submits to his readers, respecting the na- 
ture of these luminous bodies, we shall merely ob- 
serve, 'that he found falling-stars more frequent in 


the equinoctial regions than in the temperate zone, 
and also that they occurred oftener over continents 
and near certain coasts than on. the ocean. He 
states, that on the platform of the Andes, there was 
observed, upwards' of forty years ago, a phenom- 
enon similar to that related above as having oc- 
curred at Cumana. From the city of Quito an im- 
mense number of meteors was seen rising over the 
volcano of Cayambo, insomuch that the whole 
mountain was thought to be on fire. They con- 
tinued more than an hour, and a religious procession 
was about to be commenced, when the true nature 
of the luminous appearance was discovered. 


Voyage from Cumana to Guayra. 

Passage from Cumana to La Guayra Phosphorescence of tne Sea 
Group of the Caraccas and Chimanas Port of New-BarcelonaLa 
Guayra Yellow Fever Coast and Cape Blanco Road from La 
Guayra to Caraccas. 

HAVING completed the partial investigations which 
their short residence admitted, and having in some 
measure become acclimatized, the adventurous phi- 
losophers prepared to leave Cumana. Passing by 
sea to La Guayra, they intended to take up their 
abode in the town of Caraccas until the rainy season 
should be over ; from thence to traverse the Llanos, 
or great plains, to the missions of the Orinoco ; to 
go up that river as far as the Rio Negro ; and to re- 
turn to Cumana by Angostura, the capital of Spanish 

On the 16th November, at eight in the evening, 
they took their passage in one of the boats which 
trade between these coasts and the West India 


islands. They are thirty-two feet long, three feet 
high at the gunwale, without decks, and generally 
carry from 200 to 250 quintals (181 to 226 cwts. 
avoirdupois). Although the sea is very rough from 
Cape Codera to La Guayra, and these boats have an 
enormous triangular sail, there had not been an in- 
stance for thirty years of the loss of one of them 
on the passage from Cumana to Caraccas, so great 
is the skill of the Guayqueria pilots. They de- 
scended the Manzanares with rapidity, delighted 
with the sight of its marginal cocoa-trees, and the 
glitter of the thorny bushes covered with noctilu- 
cous insects, and left with regret a country in which 
every thing had appeared new and marvellous. 
Passing at high water the bar of the river, they en- 
tered the Gulf Of Cariaco, the surface of which was 
gently rippled by the evening breeze. In a short 
time the coasts were recognised only by the scat- 
tered lights of the Indian fishermen. 

As they advanced towards the shoal that sur- 
rounds Cape Arenas, stretching as far as the petro- 
leum springs of Maniquarez, they enjoyed one of 
those beautiful sights which the phosphorescence of 
the sea so often displays in tropical climates. When 
the porpoises, which followed the boat in bands of 
fifteen or sixteen, struck the surface of the water 
with their tails, they produced a brilliant light re- 
sembling flames. Each troop left behind it a lumi- 
nous track; and as few sparks were caused' by the 
motion of an oar or of the boat, Hurnboldt conjectured 
that the vivid glow produced by these cetaceous ani- 
mals was owing, not to the stroke of their tails alone, 
but also to the gelatinous matter which envelops 
their bodies, and which is detached by the waves. 

At midnight they found themselves among some 
rocky islets, rising in the form of bastions, and con- 
stituting the group of the Caraccas and Chimanas. 
Many of these eminences are visible from Cumana, 
and present the most singular appearances under 


the effect of mirage. Their height, which is prob- 
ably not more than 960 feet, seemed much greater 
when enlightened by the moon, which now shone in 
a clear sky. The travellers were becalmed in the 
neighbourhood of these islands, and at sunrise drifted 
towards Boracha, the largest of them. The temper-^ 
ature had sensibly increased, in consequence of the* 
rocks giving out by radiation a portion of the heat 
which they had absorbed during the day. As the 
sun rose, the cliffs projected their lengthened shad- 
ows on the ocean, and the flamingoes began to fish 
in the creeks. The insular spots were all uninhab- 
ited; but on one of them, which had formerly been 
the residence of a family of whites, there were wira 
goats of a large size and brown colour. The inhab- 
itants had cultivated maize and cassava; but the 
father, after the death of his children, having pur- 
chased two black slaves, was murdered by them 
One of the assassins subsequently informed against 
his accomplice, and at the time of Humboldt's visit 
was hangman at Cumana. 

Proceeding onwards, they anchored for some 
hours in the road of New-Barcelona, at the mouth 
of the river Neveri, which is full of crocodiles. 
These animals, especially in calm weather, occa 
sionally make excursions into the open sea, a fact 
which is interesting to geologists, on account of the 
mixture of marine and fresh water organic remains 
that are occasionally observed in some of the more 
recent deposites. The port of Barcelona had at 
that time a very active commerce, arising from the 
demand in the West Indies for salted provision, 
oxen, mules, and horses ; the merchants of the Ha- 
vana being the principal purchasers. Its situa- 
tion is extremely favourable for this exportation, 
the animals arriving in three days from the Llanos, 
while they take more than double that time to reach 
Cumana, on account of the chain of mountains which 
they have to cross. Eight thousand mules were 


embarked at Barcelona, six thousand at Porto Ca- 
bello, and three thousand at Carupano, in 1799 and 
1800, for the several islands. 

Landing on the right bank of the river, they as- 
cended to a small fort, the Morro de Barcelona, built 
on a calcareous rock, at an elevation of about 400 
feet above the sea, but commanded by a much higher 
hill on the south. Here they observed a very curi- 
ous geological phenomenon, which recurred in the 
Cordilleras of Mexico. The limestone, which had 
a dull, even, or flat conchoidal fracture, and was 
divided into very thin strata, was traversed by layers 
of black slaty jasper, with a similar fracture, and 
breaking into fragments having a parallelopipedal 
form. It did not exhibit the little veins of quartz so 
common in Lydian stone, and was decomposed at 
the surface into a yellowish-gray crust. 

Setting sail on the 19th at noon, they found the 
temperature of the sea at its surface to be 78*6 ; 
but when passing through the narrow channel which 
separates the Piritoos, in three fathoms it was only 
76 '1. These islands do not rise more than eight 
or nine inches above the mean height of the tide, 
and are covered with long grass. To the westward 
of the Morro de Barcelona and the mouth of the 
river Unare, the ocean became more and more agi- 
tated as they approached Cape Codera, the influence 
of which extends to a great distance. Beyond this 
promontory it always runs very high, although a 
gale of wind is never felt along this coast. It blew 
fresh during the night, and on the 20th, at sunrise, 
they were so far advanced as to be in expectation 
of doubling the cape in a few hours ; but some of 
the passengers having suffered from sea-sickness, 
and the pilot being apprehensive of danger from the 
privateers stationed near La Guayra, they made for 
the shore, and anchored at nine o'clock in the Bay 
of Iliguerota, westward of the Rio Capaya. 

On landing, they found two or three huts inhab- 


ited by mestizo fishermen, the livid tint of whom, 
together with the miserable appearance of their 
children, gave indication of the unhealthy nature of 
the coast. The sea is so shallow that one cannot go 
ashore in the smallest boat without wading. The 
woods come nearly to the beach, which is covered 
with mangroves, avicennias, mancjjriineel-trees, and 
Suriana maritima, called by the natives romero de la 
mar. Here, as elsew T here, the insalubrity of the air 
is attributed to the exhalations from the first of these 
plants. A faint and sickly smell was perceived, re- 
sembling that of the galleries of deserted mines. 
The temperature rose to 93 '2, and the w r ater along 
the whole coast acquired a yellowish-brown tint 
wherever it was in contact with these trees. 

Struck by this phenomenon, Humboldt gathered 
a considerable quantity of branches and roots, with 
the view of making experiments on the mangrove 
upon his arrival at Caraccas. The infusion in warm 
water was of a brown colour, and had an astringent 
taste. It contained extractive matter and tannin. 
When kept in contact with atmospheric air under a 
glass jar for twelve days, the purity of the latter 
was not perceptibly affected. The wood and roots 
placed under water were exposed to the rays of the 
sun. Bubbles of air were disengaged, which at the 
end of ten days amounted to a volume of 40 cubic 
inches. These consisted of azote and carbonic acid, 
with a trace of oxygen. Lastly, the same substances 
thoroughly wetted were enclosed with a given vol- 
ume of atmospheric air in a phial. The whole of 
the oxygen disappeared. These experiments led 
him to think that it is the moistened bark and fibre 
that act upon the atmosphere, and not the brownish 
water which formed a distinct belt along the coast. 
Many travellers attribute the smell perceived among 
mangroves to the disengagement of sulphuretted 
hydrogen, but no appearance of this kind was ob- 
served in the course of these investigations. 


" Besides," says Humboldt, " a thick wood cover- 
ing a muddy ground would diffuse noxious exhala- 
tions in the atmosphere, were it composed of trees 
which in themselves have no deleterious property. 
Wherever mangroves grow on the margin of the 
sea, the beach is peopled with multitudes of mol- 
lusca and insects. These animals prefer the shade 
and a faint light ; and find shelter from the waves 
among the closely interlaced roots which rise like 
lattice-work above the surface of the water. Shells 
attach themselves to the roots, crustaceous animals 
nestle in the hollow trunks, the seaweeds which 
the wind and tide drive upon the shore remain 
hanging upon the recurved branches. In this man- 
ner the maritime forests, by accumulating masses 
of mud among their roots, extend the domain of the 
continents; but, in proportion as they gain upon 
the sea, they scarcely experience any increase in 
breadth, their very progress becoming the cause of 
their destruction. The mangroves and the other 
plants with which they always associate die as the 
ground dries, and when the salt-water ceases to 
bathe them. Centuries after, their decayed trunks, 
covered with shells, and half-buried in the sand, 
mark both the route which they have followed in 
their migrations, and the limit of the land which 
they have wrested from the ocean." 

Cape Codera, seven miles distant from the Bay of 
Iliguerota, is more imposing on account of its mass 
than for its elevation, which appeared to be only 
1280 feet. It is precipitous on the north, west, and 
east. Judging from the fragments of rock found 
along the coast, and from the hills near the town, 
it is composed of foliated gneiss, containing nodules 
of reddish felspar, and little quartz. The strata 
next the bay have the same dip and direction as the 
great mountain of the Silla, which stretches from 
Caraccas to Maniqnarez in the isthmus of Araya, 
and seem to prove that the primitive chain forming 


that neck of land, after being disrnptnred or swal- 
lowed up by the sea along an extent of 121 miles, 
reappears at Cape Codera. and runs westward in an 
unbroken line. Towards the north the cape forms 
an immense segment of a sphere, and at its foot 
stretches a tract of low land, known to navigators 
by the name of the Points of Tutumo and of San 

The passengers in the boat dreaded the rolling in 
a rough sea so much, that they resolved to proceed 
to Caraccas by land, and M. Bonpland, following 
their example, procured a rich collection of plants. 
Humboldt, however, continued the voyage, as it 
seemed hazardous to lose sight of the instruments. 

Setting sail at the beginning of the night, they 
doubled Cape Codera with difficulty, the wind being 
unfavourable, and the surges short and high. On 
the 21st of November, at sunrise, they were oppo- 
site Curuao, to the west of the cape. The Indian 
pilot was frightened at seeing an English frigate only 
a mile distant ; but they escaped without attracting 
notice. The mountains were everywhere precipi- 
tous, and from 3200 to 4300 feet high, while along 
the shore was a tract of low humid land, glowing 
with verdure, and producing a great part of the fruits 
found so abundantly in the neighbouring markets. 
The peaks of Niguatar and the Silla of Caraccas 
form the loftiest summits of this chain. In the 
fields and valleys the sugar-cane and maize are cul- 
tivated. To the west of Caravalleda the declivities 
along-shore are again very steep. After passing this 
place they discovered the village of Macuto, the 
black rocks of La Guayra covered with batteries, 
and in the distance the long promontory of Cabo 
Blanco, with conical summits of dazzling white- 

Humboldt landed at Guayra, and in the evening 
arrived at Caraccas, four days sooner than his fel- 
low-travellers, who had suffered greatly from the 


rains and inundations. The former he describes as 
rather a road than a port, the sea being always agi- 
tated, and ships suffering from the action of the wind, 
the tideways, the. bad anchorage, and the worms. 
The lading is taken in with difficulty. The free mu- 
lattoes and negroes, who carry the cocoa on board 
the ships, are remarkable for their strength. They 
go through the water up to their middles, although 
this place abounds in sharks, from which, however, 
they have in reality nothing to dread. It is singular, 
that while these animals are dangerous and blood- 
thirsty at the island opposite the coast of Caraccas, 
at the Roques, at Buenos Ayres, and at Curassao, 
they do not disturb persons swimming in the ports 
of Guayra and Santa Martha. As an analogous fact, 
Humboldt mentions that the crocodiles of one pool 
in the Llanos are cowardly, while those of another 
attack with the greatest fierceness. 

The situation of La Guayra resembles that of 
Santa Cruz in Teneriffe ; the houses, which are built 
on a flat piece of ground about 640 feet broad, being 
backed by a wall of rock, beyond which is a chain 
of mountains. The town consists of two parallel 
streets, and contains 6000 or 8000 inhabitants. The 
heat is greater than even at Cumana, Porto Cabello, 
or Coro, the Seabreeze being less felt, and the tem- 
perature being increased by the radiant caloric emitted 
by the rocks after sunset. 

The examination of the thermometrical observa- 
tions made at La Guayra during nine months by 
Don Joseph Herrera enabled Humboldt to compare 
the climate of that port with those of Cumana, 
Havana, and Vera Cruz. The result of this com- 
parison was, that the first mentioned is one of the 
hottest places on the globe ; that the quantity of heat 
which it receives in the course of a year is a little 
greater than that experienced at Cumana ; but that 
in November, December, and January, the atmo- 
sphere cools to a lower point. The mean temperature 


of the year in these several districts is as follows : 
At La Guayra, nearly 82*6 ; at Cumana, 81.2; at 
Vera Cruz, 77'7 ; at Havana, 78'1; while at Rio 
Janeiro it is 74'5 ; at Santa Cruz in Teneriffe, 71'4 ; 
at Cairo, 72.3 ; and at Rome, 60'4. 

At the time of Humboldt's visit to La Guayra, 
the yellow fever, or calentura amarilla, had been 
known only two years there, and the mortality had 
not been very great, as the confluence of strangers 
was less than at Havana and Vera Cruz. Some 
individuals, even Creoles and mulattoes, were occa- 
sionally taken off by remittent attacks, complicated 
with bilious symptoms and hemorrhages, and their 
death often alarmed unseasoned Europeans ; but the 
disease was not propagated. On the coast of Terra 
Firma this malignant typhus was known only at 
Porto Cabello, Carthagena, and Santa Martha. But 
since 1797 things have changed. The extension of 
commerce having caused an influx of Europeans and 
seamen from the United States, the distemper in 
question soon appeared. It is maintained by some, 
that it was introduced by a brig from Philadelphia, 
while others think it took its birth in the country 
itself, and attribute its origin to a change in the 
constitution of the atmosphere caused by the over- 
flowings of the Rio de la Guayra, which inundated 
the town. This fever has since continued its rav- 
ages, and has proved fatal, not only to troops newly 
arrived from Spain, but also to those raised far from 
the coast, in the Llanos between Calabozo and Uri- 
tuco, a region nearly as hot as La Guayra itself. It 
scarcely ever passes beyond the ridge of mountains 
that separates this province from the valley of Ca- 
raccas, which has long been exempted from it. The 
following are the principal pathological facts having 
reference to this frightful pestilence : 

When a great number of persons, born in a cold 
climate, arrive at a port in the torrid zone, the insa- 
lubrity of which has not been particularly dreaded 


by navigators, the American typhus (black vomit- 
ing, or yellow fever) makes its appearance. These 
persons, we may add, are not affected by it during 
the passage ; it manifests itself only on the spot. 
Has the constitution of the atmosphere been changed ? 
asks Humboldt ; or, has a new form of disease de- 
veloped itself in individuals whose excitability is 
raised to a high pitch 1 

The malady forthwith attacks other Europeans 
born in warmer countries. Immediate contact does 
not increase the danger, nor does seclusion diminish 
it. When the sick are removed to the interior, and 
especially to cooler and more elevated places, they 
do not communicate the typhus to the inhabitants. 
Whenever a considerable diminution of temperature 
occurs, the distemper usually ceases ; but it again 
begins at the commencement of the hot season, 
although no ship may have entered the harbour for 
several months. 

The yellow fever disappears periodically at Ha- 
vana and at Vera Cruz, when the north winds 
carry the cold air of Canada towards the Mexican 
Gulf ; but as Porto Cabello, La Guayra, New-Bar- 
celona, and Cumana possess an extreme equality of 
temperature, it is probable that it will become per- 
manent there. Happily, the mortality has diminished 
since the treatment has been varied according to the 
modifications which the disease assumes. In well- 
managed hospitals, the number of deaths is often 
reduced to eighteen or fifteen in a hundred ; but when 
the sick are crowded together the loss increases to 
one -half, or even more. 

To the west of La Guayra there are several in- 
dentations of the land which furnish excellent an- 
chorage. The coast is granitic, and a great portion 
of it extremely unhealthy. At Cape Blanco the 
gneiss passes into mica-slate, containing beds of 
chlorite-slate, in which garnets and magnetic sand 
occur. On the road to Catia-the chlorite-slate is 


seen passing into hornblende-slate. At the foot of 
the promontory the sea throws on the beach rolled 
fragments of a granular mixture of hornblende and 
felspar, in which traces of quartz and pyrites are 
recognised. On the western declivity of that hill 
the gneiss is covered by a recent sandstone or con- 
glomerate, in which are observed angular fragments 
of gneiss, quartz, and chlorite, magnetic sand, mad- 
repores, and bivalve shells. The latitude of the 
cape is 10 36' 45"; that of La Guayrais 10 36' 19", 
its longitude 67 5' 49". 

The road from La Guayra to Caraccas resembles 
the passages over the Alps ; but as it is kept in tol- 
erable repair, it requires only three hours to go with 
mules from the port to the capital, and two hours to 
return. The ascent commences with a ridge of 
rocks, and is extremely laborious. In the steepest 
parts the path winds in a zigzag manner. At the 
Salto, or Leap, there is a crevice which is passed by 
a drawbridge, and on the summit of the mountain 
are fortifications. Half-way is La Venta (the Inn) ; 
beyond which there is a rise of 960 feet to Guayavo, 
which is not far from the highest part of the route. 
At the fort of La Cuchilla Humboldt was nearly 
made prisoner by some Spanish soldiers, whom he 
however contrived to pacify. Round the little inn 
several travellers were assembled, who were dis- 
puting on the efforts that had been made towards 
obtaining independence ; on the hatred of the mulat- 
toes against the free negroes and whites ; the wealth 
of the monks ; and on the difficulty of holding 
slaves in obedience. From Guayavo the road passes 
over a smooth table-land covered with alpine plants ; 
and here is seen for the first time the capital, stand- 
ing nearly 2000 feet lower, in a beautiful valley en- 
closed by lofty mountains. 

The ridges between La Guayra and Caraccas con- 
sist of gneiss. On the south side the eminence, 
which bears the name of Avila, is traversed by veins 


of quartz, containing" rutile in prisms of two or three 
lines in diameter. The gneiss of the intervening 
valley contains red and green garnets, which disap- 
pear when the rock passes into mica-slate. Near 
the cross of La Guayra, half a league distant from 
Caraccas, there were vestiges of blue copper-ore 
disseminated in veins of quartz, and small layers of 
graphite. Between the former point and the spring 
of Sanchorquiz were beds of bluish-gray primitive 
limestone, containing mica, and traversed by veins 
of white calcareous spar. In this deposite were 
found crystals of pyrites and rhomboidal fragments 
of sparry iron-ore. 


City of Caraccas and surrounding District. 

City of Caraccas General View of Venezuela Population Climate 
Character of the Inhabitants of Caraccas Ascent of the Silla Geo- 
logical Nature of the District, and the Mines. 

CARACCAS, the capital of the former captain-gen- 
eralship of Venezuelan's more known to Europeans 
on account of the earthquakes by which it was des- 
olated than from its importance in a political or com- 
inercial point of view. At the present day it is the 
chief city of a district of the same name, forming 
part of the republic of Colombia ; though, at the 
time of Humboldt's visit, it was the metropolis of a 
Spanish colony which contained nearly a million of 
inhabitants, and consisted of New- Andalusia, or the 
province of Cunrana, New-Barcelona, Venezuela or 
Caraccas, Coro, and Maracaybo, along the coast ; 
and in the interior, the provinces of Varinas and 


In a general point of view Venezuela presents 
three distinct zones. Along the shore, and near the 
chain of mountains which skirts it, we find culti- 
vated land ; behind this, savannas or pasturages ; and 
beyond the Orinoco, a mass of forests, penetrable 
only by means of the rivers by which it is traversed. 
In these three belts, the three principal stages of 
civilization are found more distinct than in almost 
any other region. We have the life of the wild 
hunter in the woody district the pastoral life in the 
savannas and the agricultural in the valleys and 
plains which descend to various parts of the coast. 
Missionaries and a few soldiers occupy advanced 
posts on the southern frontiers. In this section are 
felt the preponderance of force and the abuse of 
power. The native tribes are engaged in perpetual 
hostilities; the monks endeavour to augment the 
little villages of their missions by availing them- 
selves of the dissensions of the Indians ; and the 
soldiers live in a state of war with the clergy. In 
the second division, that of the plains and prairies, 
where food is extremely abundant, little advance has 
been made in civilization, and the inhabitants live in 
huts partly covered with skins. It is in the third 
district alone, where agriculture and commerce are 
pursued, that society has made any progress. 

In following our travellers through these interest- 
ing countries, it is necessary that we lose sight in 
some measure of the present constitution of the 
South American states, and view them simply as 
Spanish provinces. When we seek, says Humboldt, 
to form a precise idea of those vast\ regions, which 
for ages have been governed by viceroys and cap- 
tains-general, we must fix our attention on several 
points. We must distinguish the parts of Spanish 
America that are opposite to Asia, and those that are 
washed by the Atlantic, we must observe where the 
greatest part of the population is placed, whether near 
the coast, or in the interior, or on the table-lands of the 


Cordilleras, we must determine the numerical pro- 
portions between the natives and other inhabitants, 
and examine to what race, in each part of the col- 
onies, the greater number of whites belong. The 
inhabitants of the different districts of the mother- 
country preserve in some measure their moral pecu- 
liarities in the New World, although they have under- 
gone various modifications depending upon the phy- 
sical constitution of their new abode. 

In Venezuela, whatever is connected with an ad- 
vanced state of civilization is found along the coast, 
which has an extent of more than two hundred 
leagues. It is washed by the Caribbean Sea, a kind 
of Mediterranean, on the shores of which almost 
all the European nations have founded colonies, 
and which communicates at several points with the 
Atlantic Ocean. Possessing much facility of inter- 
course with the inhabitants of other parts of Amer- 
ica, and with those of Europe, the natives have ac- 
quired a great degree of knowledge and opulence. 

The Indians constitute a large proportion of the 
agricultural residents in those places only where the 
conquerors found regular and long-established gov- 
ernments, as in New Spain and Peru. In the prov- 
ince of Caraccas, for example, the native popula- 
tion is inconsiderable, having been in 1800 not more 
than one-ninth of the whole, while in Mexico it 
formed nearly one-half. The black slaves do not 
exceed one-fifteenth of the general mass, whereas 
in Cuba they were in 1811 as one to three, and in 
other West India islands still more numerous. In 
the seven United Provinces of Venezuela there 
were 60,000 slaves ; while Cuba, which has but one- 
eighth of the extent, had 212,000. The blacks of 
these countries are so unequally distributed, that in 
the district of Caraccas alone there were nearly 
40,000, of which one-fifth were mulattoes. Hum- 
boldt estimates the Creoles, or Hispano-Americans, 


at 210,000 in a population of 900,000, and the Euro- 
peans, not including troops, at 12,000 or 15,000. 

Caraccas was then the seat of an audiencia, or 
high court of justice, and one of the eight arch- 
bishoprics into which Spanish America was divided. 
Its population in 1800 was about 40,000. In 1766 
great devastation was made by the small-pox, from 
6000 to 8000 individuals having perished ; but since 
that period inoculation has become general. In 
1812 the inhabitants amounted to 50,000, of which 
12,000 were destroyed by the earthquakes ; while 
the political events which succeeded that catas- 
trophe reduced their number to less than twenty 

The town is situated at the entrance of the valley 
of Chacao, which is ten miles in length, eight and a 
half miles in breadth, and about 2660 feet above the 
level of the sea. The ground occupied by it is a 
steep uneven slope. It was founded by Diego de 
Losada in 1567. Three small rivers descending 
from the mountains traverse the line of its direction ; 
it contained eight churches, five convents, and a 
theatre capable of holding 1500 or 1800 persons. 
The streets were wide, and crossed each other at 
right angles ; the houses spacious and lofty. 

The small extent of the valley, and the proximity 
of the mountains of Avila and the Silla, give a stern 
and gloomy character to the scenery, particularly in 
November and December, when the vapours accu- 
mulate towards evening along the high grounds ; in 
June and July, however, the atmosphere is clear and 
the air pure and delicious. The two rounded sum- 
mits of the latter are seen from Caraccas, nearly 
under the same angle of elevation as the Peak of 
Teneriffe is observed from Orotava. The first half 
of the ascent is covered with grass ; then succeeds 
a zone of evergreen trees ; while above this the 
rocky masses rise in the form of domes destitute of 
vegetation. The cultivated region below forms an 


agreeable contrast to the sombre aspect of the tow- 
ering ridges which overhang the town, as well as of 
the hills to the north. 

The climate of Caraccas is a perpetual spring, the 
temperature by day being between 68 and 79, and 
by night between 60 and 64. It is, however, liable 
to great variations, and the inhabitants complain of 
having several seasons in twenty-four hours, as well 
as a too rapid transition from one to another. In 
January, for example, a night of which the mean 
heat does not exceed 60 is followed by a day in 
which the thermometer rises above 71 in the shade. 
Although in our mild climates oscillations of this 
kind produce no disagreeable effects, yet in the tor- 
rid zone Europeans themselves are so accustomed 
to uniformity in the temperature, that a difference 
of a few degrees is productive of unpleasant sensa- 
tions. This inconvenience is aggravated here by 
the position of the town in a narrow valley, which 
is at one time swept by a wind from the coast, loaded 
with humidity, and depositing its moisture in the 
higher regions as the warmth decreases ; and at an- 
other by a dry breeze from the interior, which dissi- 
pates the vapours and unveils the mountain-summits. 
This inconstancy of climate, however, is not pecu- 
liar to Caraccas, but is common to the whole equi- 
noctial regions near the tropics. Uninterrupted 
serenity during a great part of the year prevails only 
in the low districts adjoining the sea, or on the ele- 
vated table-lands of the interior. The intermediate 
zone is misty and variable. 

In this province the sky is generally less blue than 
at Cumana. The intensity of colour measured by 
Saussure's cyanometer was commonly 18, and 
never above 20, from November to January, while 
on the coasts it was from 22 to 25. The mean 
temperature is estimated by Humboldt at 68 or 72. 
The heat very seldom rises to 84, and in winter 
it has been observed to fall as low as 52. The 


cold at night is more felt on account of its being 
usually accompanied by a misty sky. Rains are 
very frequent in April, May, and June. No hail falls 
in the low regions of the tropics, but it is seen here 
every fourth or fifth year. 

The coffee-tree is much cultivated in the valley, 
and the sugar-cane thrives even at a still greater 
height. The banana, the pineapple, the vine, the 
strawberry, the quince, the apple, the peach, to- 
gether with maize, pulse, and corn, grow in great 
perfection. But although the atmospheric consti- 
tution of this alpine vale be favourable to diversified 
culture, it is not equally so to the health of the in- 
habitants, as the inconstancy of the weather and the 
frequent suppression of cutaneous perspiration give 
rise to catarrhal affections ; and a European, once 
accustomed to the violent heat, enjoys better health 
in the low country, where the air is not very humid, 
than in the elevated and cooler districts. 

The travellers remained two months at Caraccas, 
where they lived in a large house in the upper part 
of the town, from which they had an extensive view 
of the mountain-plain, the ridge of the Gallipano, 
and the summit of the Silla. It was the season of 
drought, and the conflagrations intended to improve 
the pasturage produced the most singular effects 
when seen at night. 

They experienced the greatest kindness from all 
classes of the inhabitants, and more especially from 
the captain-general of the province, M. de Guevara 
Vascongelos. Caraccas being situated on the con- 
tinent, and its population less mutable than that of 
the islands, the national manners had not undergone 
so material a change. Notwithstanding the increase 
of the blacks, says Humboldt, at Caraccas and the 
Havana, we seem to be nearer Cadiz and the 
United States than in any other part of the New 
World. There was nothing to be seen of the cold 
and assuming air so common in Europe; on the 


contrary, conviviality, candour, uniform cheerful- 
ness, and politeness of address, characterized the 
natives of Spanish origin. The travellers found in 
several 'families a taste for instruction, some know- 
ledge of French and Italian literature, and a particular 
predilection for music. But there was a total de- 
ficiency of scientific attainments ; nor had the sim- 
plest of all the physical sciences, botany, a single 
cultivator. Previous to 1806 there were no printing- 
offices in Caraccas. 

Believing that in a country which presents such 
enchanting views, and exhibits such a profusion of 
natural productions, he should find many persons 
well acquainted with the surrounding mountains, 
Humboldt yet failed to discover one individual who 
had visited the summit of the Silla. But the gov- 
ernor having ordered the proprietor of a plantation 
to furnish the philosophers with negro guides who 
knew something of the way, they prepared for the 

As in the whole month of December the moun- 
tain had appeared only five times without clouds, 
and as at that season two clear days seldom succeed 
each other, they were advised to choose for their 
excursion an interval when, the clouds being low, 
they might hope by passing through them to enter 
into a transparent atmosphere. They spent the night 
of the 2d of January at a coffee-plantation, near a 
ravine, in which the little river Chacaito formed 
some fine cascades. At five in the morning they 
set out, accompanied by slaves carrying their instru- 
ments, and about seven reached a promontory of the 
Silla, connected with the body of the mountain by 
a narrow dike. The weather was fine and cool, 
They proceeded along this ridge of rocks, between 
two deep valleys covered with vegetation ; the large, 
shining, and coriaceous leaves, illumined by the sun, 
presenting a very picturesque appearance. Beyond 
this point the ascent became very steep, the ac- 


clivity being often from 32 to 33. The surface 
was covered with short grass, which afforded no 
support when laid hold of, and it was impossible to 
imprint steps in the gneiss. The persons who had 
accompanied them from the town were discouraged, 
and at length retired. 

Slender streaks of mist began to issue from the 
woods, and afforded indications of a dense fog. The 
familiar loquacity of the negro Creoles formed a 
striking contrast to the gravity of the Indians who 
had attended the travellers in the missions of Caripe. 
They amused themselves at the expense of the de- 
serters, among whom was a young Capuchin monk, 
a professor of mathematics, who had promised to 
fire off dockets from the top of the mountain, to an- 
nounce to the inhabitants of Caraccas the success 
of the expedition. 

The eastern peak being the most elevated, they 
directed their course to it. The depression between 
the two summits has given rise to the name Silla, 
which signifies a saddle. From this hollow a ravine 
descends towards the valley of Caraccas. This nar- 
row opening originates near the western dome, and 
the eastern summit is accessible only by going first 
to the westward of it, straight over the promontory 
of the Puerta. 

From the foot of the cascade of Chacaito to an 
elevation of 6395 feet they found only savannas or 
pastures, among which were observed two small 
liliaceous plants with yellow flowers and some bram- 
bles. Mixed with the latter they expected to find a 
wild rose, but were disappointed ; nor did they sub- 
sequently meet with a single species of that genus 
in any part of South America. 

Sometimes lost in the mist, they made their way 
with difficulty, and there being no path, they were 
obliged to use their hands in climbing the steep and 
slippery ascent. A vein of porcelain-clay, the re- 
mains of decomposed felspar, attracted their atten- 


tion. Whenever the clouds surrounded them the 
thermometer fell to 53'6 ; but when the sky was 
clear it rose to 69 '8. At the height of 6011 feet 
they saw in a ravine a wood of palms, which formed 
a striking contrast with the willows scattered at the 
bottom of the valley. 

After proceeding four hours across the pastures 
they entered a small forest. The acclivity became 
less steep, and they observed a profusion of rare and 
beautiful plants. At the height of 6395 feet the 
savannas terminate, and are succeeded by a zone of 
shrubs with tortuous branches, rigid leaves, and 
large purple flowers, consisting of rhododendra, thi- 
baudiae, andromedae, vaccinia, and befariae. 

Leaving this little group of alpine plants they 
again found themselves in a savanna, and climbed 
over part of the western dome, to descend into the 
hollow which separates the two summits. Here 
the vegetation was so strong and dense that they 
were obliged to cut their way through it. On a 
.sudden they were enveloped in a thick mist, and 
being in danger of coming inadvertently upon the 
brink of an enormous wall of rocks, which on the 
north side descends perpendicularly to the depth of 
more than 6000 feet, were obliged to stop. At this 
point, however, the negroes who carried their pro- 
visions, and who had been detained by the recreant 
philosopher already mentioned, overtook them, when 
they made a poor repast, the negroes or the padre 
having left nothing but a few olives and a little 
bread. The guides were discouraged, and were 
with difficulty prevented from returning. 

In the midst of the fog the electrometer of Volta, 
armed with a smoking match, gave very sensible 
signs of atmospheric electricity, varying frequently 
from positive to negative, and this, together with 
the conflict of small currents of air, appeared to in- 
dicate a change of weather. It was only two in the 
afternoon, and they yet entertained some hope of 


reaching the eastern summit before sunset, and of 
returning to the hollow separating the two peaks, 
where they might pass the night. With this view 
they sent half of their attendants to procure a sup- 
ply, not of olives, but of salt beef. These arrange- 
ments were scarcely made when the east wind 
began to blow violently, and in less than two minutes 
the clouds dispersed. The obstacles presented by 
the vegetation gradually diminished as they ap- 
proached the eastern summit, in order to attain 
which it was necessary to go close to the great pre- 
cipice. Hitherto the guests had preserved its lamel- 
lar structure ; but as they climbed the cone of the 
Silla they found it passing into granite, containing, 
instead of garnets, a few scattered crystals of horn- 
blende. In three-quarters of an hour they reached 
the top of the pyramid, which was covered with 
grass, and for a few minutes enjoyed all the serenity 
of the sky. The elevation being 8633 feet, the eye 
commanded a vast range of country. The slope, 
which extends nearly to the sea, had an angle of 
53 28', though when viewed from the coast it seems 
perpendicular. Humboldt remarks that a precipice 
of 6000 or 7000 feet is a phenomenon much rarer 
than is usually believed, and that a rock of 1600 feet 
of perpendicular height has in vain been sought for 
among the Swiss Alps. That of the Silla is partly 
covered with vegetation, tufts of befariae and andro- 
medae appearing as if suspended from the rock. 

Seven months had elapsed since they were on the 
summit of the Peak of Teneriffe, where the apparent 
horizon of the sea is six leagues farther distant than 
on the Silla; yet while the boundary line was seen 
distinct in the former place it was completely 
blended with the air in the latter. The western 
dome concealed the town of Caraccas ; but they dis- 
tinguished the villages of Chacao and Petare, the 
coffee-plantations, and the course of .the Rio Guayra. 
While they were examining the part of the sea 


where the horizon was well defined, and the great 
chain of mountains in the distant south, a dense fog 
arose from the plains, and they were obliged to use 
all expedition in completing their observations. 

When seated on the rock, employed in determin- 
ing the dip of the needle, Humboldt found his hands 
covered by a species of hairy bee, a little smaller 
than the honey-bee of Europe. These insects make 
their nest in the ground, seldom fly, move very 
slowly, and are apt to use their sting, the guides 
asserting that they do so only when seized by the 

The temperature varied from 52 to 57, accord- 
ing as the weather was calm or otherwise. . The 
dip of the needle was one centesimal degree less 
than at Caraccas. The breeze was from the east, 
which might indicate that the trade-winds extend 
in this latitude much higher than 9600 feet. The 
blue of the atmosphere was deeper than on the coasts, 
Saussure'scyanometer indicating 26'5, while at Ca- 
raccas it generally gave only 18 in fine dry weather. 
The phenomenon that most struck the travellers was 
the apparent aridity of the air, which seemed to in- 
crease as the mist thickened, the hygrometer retro- 
grading, and their clothes remaining dry. 

As it would have been imprudent to remain long 
in a dense fog on the brink of a precipice, the trav- 
ellers descended the eastern dome, and on regaining 
the hollow between the two summits, were sur- 
prised to find round pebbles of quartz, a phenomenon 
which perhaps indicates that the mountain has been 
raised by a power applied from below. Relinquish- 
ing their design of passing the night in that valley, 
and having again found the path which they had cut 
through the wood, they soon arrived at the district 
of resinous shrubs, where they lingered so long col- 
lecting plants that darkness surprised them as they 
entered the savanna. The moon was up, but every 


now and then obscured by clouds. The guides who 
carried the instruments slunk off successively to 
sleep among the cliffs ; and it was not until ten that 
the travellers arrived at the bottom of the ravine, 
overcome by thirst and fatigue. 

During the excursion to the Silla, and in all their 
walks in the valley of Caraccas, they were very at- 
tentive to the indication of ores which they found in 
the gneiss mountains. In America that rock has not 
hitherto been found to be very rich in metals ; the 
most celebrated mines of Mexico and Peru being in 
primitive and transition slate, trap, porphyry, gray- 
wacke, and alpine limestone. In several parts of 
the region now visited, a small quantity of gold was 
found disseminated in veins of quartz, sulphuretted 
silver, blue copper-ore, arfd leadglance ; but these 
deposites did not seem of any importance. In the 
group of the western mountains of Venezuela the 
Spaniards, in 1551, attempted the gold mine of Buria, 
but the works were soon given up. In the vicinity 
of Caraccas some had also been wrought, but to no 
great extent. In short, the mines here afforded 
little gratification to the cupidity of the conquerors, 
and were almost totally abandoned ; those of Arva, 
near San Felipe el Fuerte, being the only ones in 
operation when Humboldt visited the country. 

In the course of their investigations the travellers 
examined the ravine of Tipe, situated in that part 
of the valley which opens towards Cape Blanco. 
The first portion of the road was over a barren and 
rocky soil, on which grew a few plants of Ar~ 
gemone Mecticana. On either side of the de-file was a 
range of bare mountains, and at this spot the plain 
on which the town is built communicates with the 
coast near Catia by the valleys of Tacagua and 
Tipe. In the former they found some plantations 
of maize and plantains, and a very extensive one of 
cactuses fifteen feet high. They met with several 


veins of quartz, containing pyrites, carbonated iron- 
ore, sulphuretted silver, and gray copper. The 
works that had been undertaken were superficial, 
and now filled up. 


Earthquakes of Caraccas. 

Extensive Connexion of Earthquakes Eruption of the Volcano of St. 
Vincent's Earthquake of the 26th March, 1812 Destruction of the 
City Ten Thousand of the Inhabitants killed Consternation of the 
Survivors Extent of the Commotions. 

THE valley of Caraccas, a few years after Hum- 
boldt's visit, became the theatre of one of those 
physical revolutions which from time to time pro- 
duce violent alterations upon the surface of our 
planet ; involving the overthrow of cities, the de- 
struction of human life, and a temporary agitation 
of those elements of nature on which the system of 
the universe is founded. In the narrative of his 
Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Con- 
tinent, he has recorded all that he could collect with 
certainty respecting the earthquake of the 26th 
March, 1812, which destroyed the city of Caraccas, 
together with 20,000 inhabitants of the province of 

When our travellers visited those countries, they 
found it to be a general opinion that the eastern 
parts of the coasts were most exposed to the de- 
structive effects of such concussions, and that the 
elevated districts, remote from the shores, were in 
a great measure secure ; but in 1811 all these ideas 
were proved groundless. 

At Humboldt's arrival in Terra Firma, he was 
struck with the connexion which appeared between 


the destruction of Cumana in 1797 and the eruption 
of volcanoes in the smaller West India islands. A 
similar principle was manifested in 1812. in the case 
of Caraccas. From the beginning of 1811 till 1813, 
a vast extent of the earth's surface, limited by the 
meridian of the Azores, the valley of the Ohio, the 
Cordilleras of New-Grenada, the coasts of Venezuela, 
and the volcanoes of the West Indies, was shaken 
by subterranean commotions, indicative of a common 
agency exerted at a great depth in the interior of 
the globe. At the period when these earthquakes 
commenced in the valley of the Mississippi, the city 
of Caraccas felt the first shock in December, 1811; 
and on the 26th of March 1812 it was totally de- 

" The inhabitants of Terra Firma were ignorant 
of the agitation, which on the one hand the volcano 
of the island of St. Vincent had experienced, and on 
the other the basin of the Mississippi, where, on the 
7th and 8th of February, 1812, the ground was day 
and night in a state of continual oscillation. At this 
period the province of Venezuela laboured under 
great drought ; not a drop of rain had fallen at Ca- 
raccas, or to the distance of 311 miles around, during 
the five months which preceded the destruction of 
the capital. The 26th March was excessively hot ; 
the air was calm and the sky cloudless. It was 
Holy Thursday, and a great part of the population 
was in the churches. The calamities of the day 
were preceded by no indications of danger. At 
seven minutes after four in the evening the first 
commotion was felt. It was so strong as to make 
the bells of the churches ring. It lasted from five 
to six seconds, and was immediately followed by an- 
other shock of from ten to twelve seconds, during 
which the ground was in a continual state of undu- 
lation, and heaved like a fluid under ebullition. The 
danger was thought to be over, when a prodigious 
subterranean noise was heard, resembling the rolling 


of thunder, but louder and more prolonged than that 
heard within the tropics during- thunder-storms. 
This noise preceded a perpendicular motion of about 
three or four seconds, followed by an undulatory 
motion of somewhat longer duration. The shocks 
were in opposite directions, from north to south and 
from east to west. It was impossible that any thing 
could resist the motion from beneath upwards, and 
the undulations crossing each other. The city of 
Caraccas was completely overthrown. Thousands 
of the inhabitants (from nine to ten thousand) were 
buried under the ruins of the churches and houses. 
The procession had not yet set out ; but the crowd 
in the churches was so great that nearly three or 
four thousand individuals were crushed to death by 
J he falling in of the vaulted roofs. The explosion 
fcras stronger on the north side of the town, in the 
part nearest the mountain of Avila and the Silla. 
The churches of the Trinity and Alta Gracia, which 
were more than a hundred and fifty feet in height, 
and of which the nave was supported by pillars from 
twelve to fifteen feet in diameter, left a mass of 
ruins nowhere higher than five or six feet. The 
sinking of the ruins has been so great that at pres- 
ent hardly any vestige remains of the pillars and 
columns. The barracks called El Quartel de San 
Carlos, situated farther to the north of the church 
of the Trinity, on the road to the custom-house de la 
Pastora, almost entirely disappeared. A regiment 
of troops of the line, which was assembled in it 
under arms to join in the procession, was, with the 
exception of a few individuals, buried under this 
large building. Nine-tenths of the fine town of Ca- 
raccas were entirely reduced to ruins. The houses 
which did not fall, as those of the street of San Juan, 
near the Capuchin Hospital, were so cracked that 
no one could venture to live in them. The effects 
of the earthquake were not quite so disastrous in 
the southern and western parts of the town, be- 


tween the great square and the ravine of Caraguata ; 
there the cathedral, supported by enormous but- 
tresses, remains standing. 

" In estimating the number of persons killed in 
the city of Caraccas at nine or ten thousand, we do 
not include those unhappy individuals who were 
severely wounded, and perished several months after 
from want of food and proper attention. The night 
of Holy Thursday presented the most distressing 
scenes of desolation and sorrow. The thick cloud 
of dust, which rose above the ruins and darkened the 
air like a mist, had fallen again to the ground ; the 
shocks had ceased ; never was there a finer or quieter 
night, the moon, nearly at the full, illuminated the 
rounded summits of the Silla, and the serenity of 
the heavens contrasted strongly with the state of 
the earth, which was strewn with ruins and dead 
bodies. Mothers were seen carrying in their arms 
children whom they hoped to recall to life; desolate 
females ran through the city in quest of a brother, a 
husband, or a friend, of whose fate they were igno- 
rant, and whom they supposed to have been sepa- 
rated from them in the crowd. The people pressed 
along the streets, which now could only be distin- 
guished by heaps of ruins arranged in lines. 

" All the calamities experienced in the great 
earthquakes of Lisbon, Messina, Lima, and Rio- 
bamba were repeated on the fatal day of the 26th 
March, 1812. The wounded, buried under the ruins, 
implored the assistance of the passers-by with loud 
cries, and more than two thousand of them were 
dug out. Never was pity displayed in a more af- 
fecting manner ; never, we may say, was it seen 
more ingeniously active than in the efforts made to 
succour the unhappy persons whose groans reached 
the ear. There was an entire want of instruments 
adapted for digging up the ground and clearing away 
the ruins, and the people were obliged to use their 
hands for the purpose of disinterring the living. 


Those who were wounded, as well as the patients 
who had escaped from the hospitals, were placed on 
the bank of the little river of Guayra, where they 
had no other shelter than the foliage of the trees. 
Beds, linen for dressing their wounds, surgical in- 
struments, medicines, in short, every thing necessary 
for their treatment, had been buried in the ruins. 
During the first days nothing could be procured, 
not even food. Within the city water became 
equally scarce. The commotion had broken the 
pipes of the fountains, and the falling in of the earth 
had obstructed the springs which supplied them. To 
obtain water it was necessary to descend as far as 
the Rio Guayra, which was considerably swelled, 
and there were no vessels for drawing it. 

" There remained to be performed towards the 
dead a duty imposed alike by piety and the dread of 
infection. As it was impossible to inter so many 
thousands of bodies half-buried in the ruins, com- 
missioners were appointed to'burn them. Funeral- 
piles were erected among the heaps of rubbish. 
This ceremony lasted several days. Amid so many 
public calamities, the people ardently engaged in the 
religious exercises which they thought best adapted 
to appease the anger of Heaven. Some walked 
in bodies chanting funeral-hymns, while others, in 
a state of distraction, confessed themselves aloud 
in the streets. In this city was now repeated what 
had taken place in the province of Quito after the 
dreadful earthquake of the 4th February, 1797. Mar- 
riages were contracted between persons who for 
many years had neglected to sanction their union by 
the sacerdotal blessing. Children found parents in 
persons who had till then disavowed them ; restitu- 
tion was promised by individuals who had never been 
accused of theft ; and families who had long been 
at enmity drew together, from the feeling of a com- 
mon evil. But while in some this feeling seemed to 
soften the heart and open it to compassion, it had a 


contrary effect on others, rendering them more obdu- 
rate and inhuman. In great calamities vulgar minds 
retain still less goodness than strength ; for misfor- 
tune acts like the pursuit of literature and the in- 
vestigation of nature, which exercise their happy 
influence only upon a few, giving more warmth to 
the feelings, more elevation to the mind, and more 
benevolence to the character. 

" Shocks so violent as these, which in the space 
of one minute overthreAv the city of Caraccas, could 
not be confined to a small portion of the continent. 
Their fatal effects extended to the provinces of 
Venezuela, Varinas, and Maracaybo, along the coast, 
and were more especially felt in the mountains of 
the interior. La Guayra, Mayguetia, Antimana, 
Baruta, La Vega, San Felipe, and Merida were 
almost entirely destroyed. The number of dead 
exceeded four or five thousand at La Guayra and 
at the villa de San Felipe, near the copper-mines of 
Aroa. The earthquake would appear to have been 
most violent along a line running from E.N.E. to 
W.S.W., from Guayra and Caraccas towards the 
high mountains of Niquitas and Merida. It was felt 
in the kingdom of New-Grenada, from the ramifica- 
tions of the lofty Sierra of Santa Martha to Santa 
Fe de Bogota, and Honda on the banks of the Mag- 
dalena, 620 miles distant from Caraccas. In all parts 
it was more violent in the cordilleras of gneiss and 
mica-slate, or immediately at their base, than in 
the plains. This difference was particularly remark- 
able in the savannas of Varinas and Casanare. In 
the valleys of Aragua, situated between Caraccas 
and the town of San Felipe, the shocks were very 
weak. La Victoria, Maracay, and Valencia scarcely 
suffered, notwithstanding the proximity of the capi- 
tal. At Valecillo, not many leagues distant from 
Valencia, the ground opened and emitted so great a 
mass of water that a new torrent was formed. The 
same phenomenon took place near Porto Cabello. 


On the other hand, the Lake of Maracaybo underwent 
considerable diminution. At Coro no commotion 
was felt, although the town was situated on the coast 
between other towns which suffered. The fishermen 
who had passed the day of the 26th March in the 
island of Orchila, 130 miles N.E. of La Guayra, 
were not sensible of *any shock." 

Towards the east of Caraccas the commotions 
were very violent, especially beyond Caurimare, in 
the valley of Capaya, and as far as the meridian of 
Cape Codera, while they were very feeble on the 
coasts of New-Barcelona, Cumana, and Paria, though 
these shores are known to have been formerly shaken 
by volcanic vapours. 

Fifteen or eighteen hours after the great catas- 
trophe the ground ceased to be agitated ; but subse- 
quently to the 27th the tremblings recommenced, 
and were accompanied with very loud subterranean 
noises. Frequently not less than fifteen oscillations 
were felt in one day. On the 5th April there was 
an earthquake almost as severe as that of the 12th 
March. The surface was in continuous undulation 
during several hours, large masses of earth fell in 
the mountains, and enormous rocks were detached 
from the Silla. 

While violent agitations were experienced in the 
valley of the Mississippi, in the island of St. Vincent, 
and in the province of Venezuela, a subterranean 
noise, resembling an explosion of artillery, was 
heard at Caraccas, at Calabozo, and on the banks of 
the Rio Apure, over the space of four thousand 
square leagues. This sound began at two in the 
morning of the 30th April, and was as loud on the 
coast as at the distance of eighty leagues. It was 
everywhere taken for the firing of guns. On the 
same day a great eruption of the volcano of the 
island of St. Vincent took place. This mountain 
had not ejected lava since 1718, and hardly any 
smoke was issuing from it, when in May, 1811, fre- 


quent shocks occurred, and a discharge of ashes, 
attended with a tremendous bellowing, followed on 
the 27th April next 'year. On the 30th the lava 
flowed, and after a course of four hours reached the 
sea. The explosions resembled alternate volleys 
of very large cannon and musketry. As the space 
between the volcano of St. Vincent and the Rio 
Apure is 725 miles, these were heard at a distance 
equal to that between Vesuvius and Paris, and must 
have been propagated by the earth, and not by 
the air. 

After adducing numerous instances of the coinci- 
dence of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes-, Hum- 
boldt endeavours to prove that subterranean com- 
munications extend to vast distances, that the phe- 
nomena of volcanoes and earthquakes are intimately 
connected, and that the latter have certain lines of 


Journey from Caraccas to the Lake of Valencia. 

Departure from Caraccas LaBuenavista Vaiteysof San Pedro and the 
Tuy Manterola Zarnang-tree Valleys of Aragua Lake of Valencia 
Diminution of its Waters Hot Springs Jaguar New- Valencia 
Thermal Waters of La Trinchera Porto Cabello Cow-tree Cocoa- 
plantations General View of the Littoral District of Venezuela. 

LEAVING the city of Caraccas, on their way to the 
Orinoco, our travellers slept the first night at the 
base of the woody mountains which close the valley 
towards the south-west. They followed the right 
bank of the Rio Giiayra, as far as the village Anti- 
mano, by an excellent road, partly scooped out of 
the rock. The mountains were all of gneiss or 
mica-slate. A little before reaching that hamlet they 


observed two large veins of gneiss in the slate, con- 
taining balls of granular diabase or greenstone, com- 
posed of felspar and hornblende, with garnet dis- 
seminated. In the vicinity all the orchards were 
full of peach-trees covered with flowers. Between 
Antimano and Ajuntas, they crossed the Rio Guayra 
seventeen times, and proceeded along the bottom of 
the valley. The river was bordered by a gramineous 
plant, the Gyneriwn saccharoides, which sometimes 
reaches the height of 32 feet, while the huts were 
surrounded by enormous trees of Laurus persea, 
covered by creepers. They passed the night in a 
sugar-plantation. In a square house were nearly 
eighty negroes, lying on skins of oxen spread on the 
floor, while a dozen fires were burning in the yard, 
at which people were cooking. 

A great predilection for the culture of the coffee- 
tree was entertained in the province. The young 
plants were chiefly procured by exposing the seeds 
to germination between plaintain-leaves. They 
were then sown, and produced shoots better adapted 
to bear the heat of the sun than such as spring up in 
the shade of the plantations. The tree bears flowers 
only the second year, and its blossoms last only 
twenty-four hours. The returns of the third year 
are very abundant ; at an average each plant yield- 
ing a pound and a half or two pounds of coffee. 
Humboldt, remarks, that although it is not yet a 
century since the first trees were introduced at 
Surinam and in the West Indies, the produce of 
America already amounts to fifteen millions of pias- 
ters, or 2,437,500Z. sterling. 

On the 8th February the travellers set out at sun- 
rise, and after passing the junction of the two small 
rivers San Pedro and Macarao, which form the Rio 
Guayra, ascended a steep hill to the table-land of La 
Buenavista. The country here had a wild appear- 
ance, and was thickly wooded. The road, which 
was so much frequented that long files of mules and 


oxen met them at every step, was cut out of a tal* 
cose gneiss, in a state of decomposition. Descend- 
ing from that point, they came upon a ravine, in 
which a fine spring formed several cascades. Here 
they found an abundant and diversified vegetation, 
consisting of arborescent ferns, more than twenty- 
seven feet high, heliconias, plumerias, browneae, 
gigantic figs, palms, and other plants. The brownea, 
which bears four or five hundred purple flowers in a 
single thyrsus, reaches the height of fifty or sixty 

At the base of the wooded mountain of Higuerota 
they entered the small village of San Pedro, situated 
in a basin where several valleys meet. Plantains, 
potatoes, and coffee were sedulously cultivated. 
The rock was mica-slate, filled with garnets, and 
containing beds of serpentine of a fine green, varied 
with spots of a lighter tint. 

Ascending from the low ground, they passed by 
the farms of Las Lagunetas and Garavatos, near the 
latter of which there is a mica-slate rock of a singular 
form, that of a ridge, or wall, crowned by a tower. 
The country is mountainous, and almost entirely 
uninhabited ; but beyond this they entered a fertile 
district, covered with hamlets and small towns. 
This beautiful region is the valley of the Tuy, where 
they spent two days at the plantation of Don Jose 
de Manterola, on the bank of the river, the water of 
which was as clear as crystal. Here they observed 
three species of sugar-cane, the old Creole, the Ota- 
heitan, and the Batavian, which are easily distin- 
guished, and of which the most valuable is the Ota- 
heitan, as it not only yields a third more of juice 
than the creole cane, but furnishes a much greater 
quantity of fuel. 

As this valley, like most other parts of the Span- 
ish colonies, has its gold mine, Humboldt was de- 
sired to visit it. In the ravine leading to it an enor- 
mous tree fixed the attention of the travellers. It 


had grown on a steep declivity above a house, which 
it was apprehended it might injure in its fall, should 
the earth happen to give way. It had therefore been 
burnt near the root, and cut so as to sink between 
some large fig-trees, which would prevent it from 
rolling down. It was eight and a half feet in diam- 
eter at the lower end, four feet five inches at the 
other (the top having been burnt off), and one hun- 
dred and sixty feet in length. The rocks were mica- 
slate passing into talc-slate, and contained masses 
of bluish granular limestone, together with graphite. 
At the place where the gold-mine was said to have 
been they found some vestiges of a vein of quartz ; 
but the subsidence of the earth, in consequence of 
the rain, rendered it impossible to make any observa- 
tion. The travellers, however, found a recompense 
for their fatigues in the harvest of plants which they 
made in the thick forest abounding in cedraelas, 
browneas, and fig-trees. They were struck by the 
woody excrescences, which, as far as twenty' feet 
above the ground, augment the thickness of the lat- 
ter. Some of these trunks were observed to be 
twenty-three feet in diameter near the roots. 

At the plantation of Tuy, the dip of the needle 
was 41 '6, and the intensity of the magnetic power 
was indicated by 228 oscillations in ten minutes. 
The variation of the former was 4 30' N.E. The 
zodiacal light appeared almost every night with ex- 
traordinary brilliancy. 

On the llth, at sunrise, they left the plantation of 
Manterola, and proceeded along the beautiful banks 
of the river. At a farm by the way they found a 
negress more than a hundred years old, seated be- 
fore a small hut, to enjoy the benefit of the sun's 
rays, the heat of which, according to her grandson, 
kept her alive. As they drew near to Victoria the 
ground became smoother, and resembled the bottom 
of a lake, the waters of which had been drained off. 
The neighbouring hills were composed of calcareous 


tufa. Fields of corn were mingled with crops of 
sugar-canes, coffee, and plantains. The level of 
the country above the sea is only from 576 to 640 
yards ; and, except in the district of Quatro Villas 
in the island of Cuba, wheat is scarcely cultivated 
in large quantities in any other part of the equinoc- 
tial regions. La Victoria and the neighbouring vil- 
1 A^e of San Matheo yielded 4000 quintals, or 3622 
cwt., annually. It is sown in December, and is fit 
for being cut in seventy or seventy-five days. The 
grain is large and white, and the average produce is 
three or four times as much as in Europe. The cul- 
ture of the sugar-cane, however, is still more pro- 

Proceeding slowly on their way, the travellers 
passed through the villages of San Matheo, Turmero, 
and Maracay, where every thing was indicative of 
prosperity. " On leaving the village of Turmero," 
says Humboldt, " we discover, at the distance of a 
league, an object which appears on the horizon like 
a round hillock, or a tumulus covered with vegeta- 
tion. It is not a hill, however, nor a group of very 
close trees, but a single tree, the celebrated Zamang 
of Guayra, known over the whole province for the 
enormous extent of its branches, which form a hemi- 
spherical top of 614 feet in circumference. The 
zamang is a beautiful species of mimosa, whose 
tortuous branches divide by forking. Its slim and 
delicate foliage is agreeably detached on the blue of 
the sky. We rested a long while beneath this 
vegetable arch. The trunk of the Guayra zamang, 
which grows on the road from Turmero to Maracay, 
is not more than sixty-four feet high and nine and a 
half in diameter ; but its real beauty consists in the 
general form of its top. The branches stretch out 
like the spokes of a great umbrella, and all incline 
towards the ground, from which they uniformly re- 
main twelve or fifteen feet distant. The circumfe- 
rence of the branches or foliage is so regular, that I 


found the different diameters 205 and 198 feet. One 
side of the tree was entirely stripped of leaves from 
the effect of drought, while on the other both foliage 
and flowers remained. The branches were covered 
with creeping-plants. The inhabitants of these val- 
leys, and especially the Indians, have a great vene- 
ration for the Guayra zamang, which the first con- 
querors seem to have found nearly in the same state 
as that in which we now see it. Since it has been 
attentively observed, no change has been noticed in 
its size or form. It must be at least as old as the 
dragon-tree of Orotava. Near Turmero and the 
Hacienda de Cura, there are other trees of the same 
species, with larger trunks ; but their hemispherical 
tops do not spread so widely." 

The valleys of Aragua at this time contained 
more than 52,000 inhabitants, on a space thirteen 
leagues in length and two in breadth : making 2000 
to a square league, which is almost equal to the 
densest population of France. The houses were all 
of masonry, and every court contained cocoa-trees, 
rising above the habitations ; besides wheat, sugar, 
cacao, cotton, and coffee, indigo is cultivated to a 
great extent. 

In this district the travellers experienced the 
greatest kindness, more especially from the persons 
with whom they had associated in Caraccas, and 
who possessed large estates in these highly-improved 
and beautiful plains. At the Hacienda de Cura they 
spent seven very agreeable days in a small habita- 
tion surrounded by thickets, on the Lake of Valen- 
cia. Their host, Count Tovar, had begun to let out 
lands to poor persons, with the view of rendering 
slaves less necessary to the landholders ; and his 
example was happily followed by other proprietors. 
Here they lived after the manner of the rich ; they 
bathed twice, slept three times, and made three 
meals in twenty-four hours. 

The valleys of Aragua form a narrow basin be- 


tween granitic and calcareous mountains of unequal 
height. On the north they are separated from the 
coast by the Sierra Mariara, and on the south from 
the steppes by the chain of Guacimo and Yusma. 
On the east and west they are bounded by hills of 
smaller elevation, the rivers from which unite their 
streams, and are collected in an inland lake which 
has no communication with the sea. This body of 
water, named the Lake of Valencia, and by the In- 
dians called Tacarigua, is larger than the Lake of 
Neufchatel, but in its general form has more resem- 
blance to that of Geneva. The southern banks are 
desert, and backed by a screen of high mountains, 
while the northern shores are decked with the rich 
cultivation of the sugar-cane, coffee-tree, and cot- 
ton. " Paths bordered with cestrum, azedarach, and 
other shrubs always in flower, traverse the plain 
and join the scattered farms. Every house is sur- 
rounded by a tuft of trees. The ceiba, with large 
yellow flowers, gives a peculiar character to the 
landscape, as it unites its branches with those of 
the purple erythrina. The mixture and brilliancy 
of the vegetable colours form a contrast to the un- 
varied tint of a cloudless sky. In the dry season, 
when the burning soil is covered with a wavy vapour, 
artificial irrigations keep up its verdure and fecundity. 
Here and there the granitic rocks pierce the culti- 
vated land, and enormous masses rise abruptly in 
the midst of the plain, their bare and fissured sur- 
faces affording nourishment to some succulent 
plants, which prepare a soil for future ages. Often 
on the summit of these detached hills, a fig-tree or 
a clusia, with juicy leaves, have fixed their roots in 
the rock, and overlook the landscape. With their 
dead and withered branches they seem like signals 
erected on a steep hill. The form of these emi- 
nences reveals the secret of their origin ; for when 
the whole of this valley was filled with water, and 
the waves beat against the base of the peaks of 


Mariara, the Devil's Wall, and the coast chain, these 
rocky hills were shoals or islets." 

But the Lake of Valencia is remarkable for other 
circumstances than its beauties. From a careful ex- 
amination, Humboldt was convinced that in very re- 
mote times, the whole valley, from the mountains 
of Cocuyza to those of Torito and Nirgua, and from 
the Sierra of Mariara to that of Guigue, Guacimo, 
and La Palma, had been filled with water. The 
form of the promontories and their abrupt slopes in- 
dicate the shores of an alpine lake. The same little 
shells (helicites and valvatae) whicli occur at the 
present day in the Lake of Valencia are found in 
layers three or four feet thick in the heart of the 
country, as far as Turmero and La Concesion, near 
Victoria. These facts prove a retreat of the waters ; 
but no evidence exists that any considerable diminu- 
tion of them has taken place in recent times, al- 
though within the thirty years preceding Humboldt's 
visit the gradual desiccation of this great basin had 
excited general attention. This, however, is not de- 
pendent upon subterranean channels, as some sup- 
pose, but upon the effects of evaporation, increased 
by the changes operated upon the surface of the 
country. Forests, by sheltering the soil from the 
direct action of the sun, diminish the waste of moist- 
ure ; consequently, when they are imprudently de- 
stroyed, the springs become less abundant, or are 
* entirely dried up. Till the middle of the last cen- 
tury the mountains that surround the valleys of 
Aragua were covered with woods, and the plains with 
thickets, interspersed with large trees. As cultiva- 
tion increased, the sylvan vegetation suffered ; and 
as the evaporation in this district is excessively pow- 
erful, the little rivers were dried up in the lower 
portion of their course during a great part of the 
year. The land that surrounds the lake being quite 
flat and even, the decrease of a few inches in the 
level of the water exposed a vast extent of ground, 


and as it retired the planters took possession of the 
new land. 

The idea that the lake will soon entirely disappear 
Humboldt treats as chimerical, considering it proba- 
ble that a period will shortly arrive when the supply 
of waters by the rivers and the evaporation will 
balance each other. The mean depth is from 77 to 
96 feet, and there are some parts not less than 224 
or 256 feet. The length is thirty-four and a half 
miles, and the breadth four or five. The tempera- 
ture at the surface, in February, was from 73*4 to 
74 '7, which was a little lower than the mean tem- 
perature of the air. 

The Lake of Valencia is covered with beautiful 
islands to the number of fifteen, some of which are 
cultivated. It is well stocked with fish, although it 
furnishes only three kinds, which are soft and in- 
sipid. A small crocodile, the bava, which generally 
attains the length of three or four feet, is very com- 
mon ; but it is remarkable that neither the lake nor 
any of the rivers which flow into it have any large 
alligators, though these animals abound a few 
leagues off, in the streams that unite with the Apure 
and Orinoco, or pass directly into the Caribbean 
Sea, The islands are of gneiss, like the surround- 
ing country. Of the plants which they produce, 
many have been believed to be peculiar to the dis- 
trict, such as the papaws of the lake, and the toma- 
toes of the island of Cura. The aquatic vegeta- 
tion along the shores reminded the travellers of the 
lakes of Europe, although the species of potamoge- 
ton, chara, and equisetum were peculiar to the New 

Some of the rivers that flow into this fine sheet 
of water owe their origin to hot springs, of which, 
however, the travellers were able to examine only 
those of Mariara and Las Trincheras. In going up 
the Cura towards its source, the mountains of Ma- 
riara are seen advancing into the plain, in the form 


of an amphitheatre composed of steep rocks, crowned 
by serrated peaks. The central point is named Rin- 
con del Diablo. These masses are composed of a 
coarse-grained granite, and are partially covered 
with vegetation. In the hills towards the east of 
the Rincon is a ravine containing several small 
basins, the two uppermost of which are only eight 
inches in diameter, while the three lower are from 
two to three feet. Their depth varies from three to 
fifteen inches, and their temperature is from 133 to 
138. The hot water from these funnels forms a 
rill, which thirty feet lower has a temperature of 
only 118'4. These springs are sjightly impreg- 
nated with sulphuretted hydrogen gas, the fluid hav- 
ing a thin pellicle of sulphur ; while a few plants in 
the vicinity are crusted with the same substance. 
To the south of this ravine, in the plain extending 
to the shores of the lake, is another fountain of the 
same kind, which issues from a crevice. The water, 
which is not so hot, collects in a basin fifteen or 
eighteen feet in diameter and three feet deep, in 
which the slaves of the neighbouring plantations 
wash at the end of the day. Here the travellers also 
bathed, and afterward found in the surrounding 
woods a great variety of beautiful plants. 

While drying themselves in the sun, after coming 
out of the pool, a little mulatto approached them, 
bowing gravely, and making a long speech on the 
virtues of the water. Showing them his hut, he as- 
sured them they should find in it all the conveniences 
of life ; but his attentions ceased the moment he 
heard they had come merely to satisfy their curios- 
ity, and had no intention to try the efficacy of the 
baths. They are said to be used with success in 
rheumatic swellings, old ulcers, and the dreadful 
affections of -the skin called bubas. 

On the 21st February, the travellers set out from 
the Hacienda de Cura for Guacara and New- Valen- 
cia. As the heat was excessive they preferred 


travelling by night. Near the hamlet of Punta Za- 
muro, at the foot of the lofty mountains of Las 
Viruelas, the road was bordered by large mimosas, 
sixty feet in height, and with horizontal branches 
meeting at a distance of more than fifty yards, so as 
to form a most beautiful canopy of verdure. The 
night was gloomy, and the Rincon del Diablo with 
its serrated cliffs appeared from time to time illu- 
minated by the burning of the savannas. At a place 
where the wood was thickest their horses were 
frightened by the yelling of a large jaguar, which 
seemed to follow them closely, and which they were 
informed had roamed among these mountains for 
three years, having escaped the pursuit of the most 
intrepid hunters. 

They spent the 22d in the house of the Marquis de 
Foro, at the village of Guacara, a large Indian com- 
munity ; and on the 23d, after visiting Mocundo, an 
extensive sugar-plantation near it, they continued 
their journey to New-Valencia. They passed a 
little wood of palms, of the genus Corypha^ the 
withered foliage of which, together with the camels 
feeding in the plain, and the undulating motion of 
the vapours on the arid soil, gave the landscape quite 
an African character. The sterility of the land in- 
creased as they advanced towards the city, which 
is said to have been founded in 1555, by Alonzo 
Diaz Moreno, and contains a population of six or 
seven thousand individuals. The streets are broad ; 
and as the houses are low, they occupied a large ex- 
tent of ground. Here the termites, or white ants, 
were so numerous, that their excavations resembled 
subterranean canals, which, being filled with water 
in rainy weather, became extremely dangerous to 
the buildings. 

On the 26th they set out for the farm of Barbula, 
to examine anew road that was making from the 
city to Porto Cabello ; and on the 27th visited the 
hot springs of La Trinchera, three leagues from Va- 


lencia. These fountains were so copious as to form 
a rivulet, which, during the greatest droughts, was 
two feet deep and eighteen wide. The temperature 
of the water was 194'5. Eggs immersed in them 
were boiled in less than four minutes. They issued 
from granite, and were strongly impregnated with 
sulphuretted hydrogen. A sediment of carbonate 
of lime was deposited, and the most luxuriant vege- 
tation surrounded the basin, mimosas, clusias, and 
fig-trees, pushing their roots into the water, and ex- 
tending their branches over it. Forty feet distant 
from these remarkable sources there arose others 
which were of the ordinary temperature. Hum- 
boldt remarks, that in all climates people show the 
same predilection for heat. In Iceland the first 
Christian converts would be baptized only in the 
tepid streams of Hecla ; and in the torrid zone, the 
natives flock from all parts to the thermal waters. 
The river which is formed by the fountains of La 
Trinchera runs towards the north-east, and near the 
coast expands to a considerable size. 

Descending towards Porto Cabello, the travellers 
passed through a very picturesque district, beauti- 
fied by a most luxuriant vegetation and numerous 
cascades. A stratified coarse-grained granite oc- 
curred near the road. The heat became suffocating 
as they approached the coast, and a reddish vapour 
veiled the horizon. In the evening they reached the 
town, where they were kindly received by: a French 
physician, M. Juliac, whose house contained an in- 
teresting collection of zoological subjects. This 
gentleman was principal surgeon to the royal hospi- 
tal, and was celebrated for his profound acquaintance 
with the yellow fever. He stated, that when he had 
treated his patients by bleeding, aperients, and acid 
drinks, in hospitals where the sick were crowded, 
the mortality was 33 in 100 among the white Creoles, 
and 65 in 100 among recently-disembarked Eu- 
ropeans ; but that since a stimulating treatment, and 


the use of opium, benzoin, and alcoholic draughts 
had been substituted for the old debilitating method, 
the mortality had been reduced to 20 in 100 among 
Europeans, and 10 among natives. 

The heat of Porto Cabello is not so intense as that 
of La Guayra, the breeze being stronger and more 
regular, and the air having more room to circulate 
between the coast and the mountains. The cause 
of the insalubrity o f the atmosphere is therefore to 
be sought for in the exhalations that arise from the 
shore to the eastward, where at the beginning of the 
rainy season tertian fevers prevail, which easily de- 
generate into the continued typhoid. It has been 
observed that the mestizoes employed in the salt- 
works have a yellower skin when they have suffered 
several years from these fevers. The fishermen 
assert, that the unwholesomeness of the air is owing 
to the overflowings of the rivers and not to inunda- 
tions of the sea, and it has been found that the 
extended cultivation along the^ banks of the Rio Es- 
tevan has rendered them less pestilential. 

The salt-works are similar to those of Araya, 
near Cumana, but the earth at Porto Cabello con- 
tains less muriate of soda. As the employment is 
very unhealthy, the poorest persons alone engage in 
it. The defence of the coasts of Terra Firma was 
maintained at six points, the castle of San Antonio 
at Cumana, the fortifications of La Guayra, Porto 
Cabello, Fort St. Charles, and Carthagena. Next 
to Carthagena the most important place is Porto 
Cabello. The harbour is one of the finest in the 
world, resembling a basin or little inland lake, open- 
ing to the westward by a passage so narrow that 
only one vessel can anchor at a time, and is defended 
by batteries. The upper part of it is marshy ground 
filled with stagnant and putrid water. At the time 
of Humboldt's visit the number of inhabitants was 

Leaving Porto Cabello on the 1st March at sun- 

COW-TREE. 155 

rise, our travellers were astonished at the number of 
boats which they saw laden with fruit for the mar- 
ket. They returned to the valleys of Aragua, and 
again stopped at the farm of Barbula. Having 
heard of a tree, the juice of which resembles milk, 
and is used as an article of food, they visited it, and 
to their surprise found that the statements which 
had been made to them with respect to it were cor- 
rect. It is named the polo de vaca or cow-tree, and 
has oblong pointed leaves, with a somewhat fleshy 
fruit containing one or sometimes two nuts. When 
an incision is made in the trunk, there issues abun- 
dantly a thick glutinous milky fluid, perfectly fr$e 
from acrimony, and having an agreeable smell. It 
is drunk by the negroes and free people who work 
in the plantations, and the travellers took a consid- 
erable quantity of it without the least injurious 
effect. When exposed to the air, this juice presents 
on its surface a yellowish cheesy substance, in mem- 
branous layers, which are elastic, and in five or six 
days become sour, and afterward putrefy. 

The cow-tree appears to be peculiar to the littoral 
cordillera, and occurs most plentifully between Bar- 
bula and the Lake of Maracaybo. 

"Among the many curious phenomena," says 
Hurnboldt, " which presented themselves to me in 
the course of my travels, I confess there were few 
by which my imagination was so powerfully affected 
as the cow-tree. All that relates to milk and to the 
cereal plants inspires us with an interest, which is 
not merely that of the physical knowledge of things, 
but which connects itself with another order of ideas 
and feelings. We can hardly imagine how the hu- 
man species could exist without farinaceous sub- 
stances, and without the nutritious fluid which the 
breast of the mother contains, and which is appro- 
priated to the condition of the feeble infant. The 
amylaceous matter of the cereal plants, the object 
of religious veneration among so many ancient and 

156 COW-TREE. 

modern nations, is distributed in the seeds, and de- 
posited in the roots of vegetables ; while the milk 
which we use as food appears exclusively the pro- 
duct of animal organization. Such are the impres- 
sions which we receive in early childhood, and such 
is the source of the astonishment with which we 
are seized on first seeing the cow-tree. Magnificent 
forests, majestic rivers, and lofty mountains clad in 
perennial snows, are not the objects which we here 
admire. A few drops of a vegetable fluid impress 
us with an idea of the power and fecundity of na- 
ture. On the parched side of a rock grows a tree 
with dry and leathery foliage, its large woody roots 
scarcely penetrating into the ground. For several 
months in the year its leaves are not moistened by a 
shower ; its branches look as if they were dead and 
withered ; but when the trunk is bored, a bland and 
nourishing milk flows from it. It is at sunrise that 
the vegetable fountain flows most freely. At that 
time the blacks and natives are seen coming from 
all parts, provided with large bowls to receive the 
milk, which grows yellow and thickens at its sur- 
face. Some empty their vessels on the spot, while 
others carry them to their children. One imagines 
he sees the family of a shepherd who is distributing 
the milk of his flock." 

The travellers had resolved to visit the eastern 
extremity of the cordilleras of New-Grenada, where 
they end in the Paramos of Tirnotes and Niquitas ; 
but learning at Barbula that this excursion would 
retard their arrival at the Orinoco thirty -five days, 
they judged it prudent to relinquish it, lest they 
should fail in the real object of their journey, that 
of ascertaining by astronomical observations the 
point at which the Rio Negro and the River of Ama- 
zons communicate with the former stream. They 
therefore returned to Guacara, to take leave of the 
family of the Marquis del Toro, and pass three days 
more on the shores of the Lake of Valencia. It 


happened to be the time of carnival, and all was 
gayety. The games in which the common people 
indulged were occasionally not of the most pleasant 
kind. Some led about an ass laden with water, with 
which they sprinkled the apartments wherever they 
found an open winaow ; -while others, carrying bags 
full of the hairs of the Dolichos pruriens, which ex- 
cite great irritation of the skin, blew them into the 
faces of those who were passing by. From Gua- 
cara they returned to New-Valencia, where they 
found a few French emigrants, the only ones they 
saw during five years in the Spanish colonies. 

The cacao-plantations have always been consid- 
ered as the principal source of the prosperity of 
these countries. The tree ( Theolroma cacao) which 
produces this substance is not now found wild in the 
woods to the north of the Orinoco, and begins to be 
seen only beyond the cataracts of Atures and May- 
pures ; but it abounds near the Ventuaro, and on the 
Upper Orinoco. In the plantations it vegetates so 
vigorously, that flowers spring out even from the 
woody roots wherever they are left uncovered. It 
suffers from the north-east winds ; and the heavy 
showers that fall during the winter season, from De- 
cember to March, are very injurious to it. Great 
humidity is favourable only when it augments grad- 
ually, and continues a long time without interrup- 
tion. In the dry season, when the leaves and young 
fruit are wetted by a heavy shower, the latter falls 
to the ground. For these reasons the cacao-har- 
vest is very uncertain, and the causes of failure are 
increased by the depredations of worms, insects, 
birds, and quadrupeds. This branch of agriculture 
has the disadvantage, moreover, of obliging the new 
planter to wait eight or ten years for the fruits of 
his labours, and of yielding an article of very diffi- 
cult preservation ; but it requires a much less num- 
ber of slaves than most others, one being sufficient 
for a thousand trees, which at an average yield 


twelve fanegas annually. It appeared probable, that 
from 1800 to 1806 the yearly produce of the cacao- 
plantations of the capitania-general of Caraccas was 
at least 193,000 fanegas, or 299,200 bushels, of which 
the province of Caraccas furnished three-fourths. 
The crops are gathered twice a year, at the end of 
June and of December. 

Humboldt states, as the result of numerous local 
estimates, that Europe consumes, 

23,000,000 pounds of cacao, at 12 fr. per cwt.= 27,600,000 fr. 

32,000,000 pounds of tea, at 4 fr. per Ib =128,000,000 

140,000,000 pounds of coffee, at 1 14 fr. per cwt.= 159,000.000 
450,000,000 pounds of sugar, at 54 fr. per cwt.=243,000,000 

Total value, 23,250,0002. sterling, or 558,000,000 fr. 

The late wars have had a very injurious effect on 
the cacao-trade of Caraccas ; and the cultivation of 
this article seems to be gradually declining. It is as- 
serted that the new plantations are not so productive 
as the old, the trees not acquiring the same vigour, 
and the harvest being later and less abundant. This 
is supposed to be owing to exhaustion of the land ; 
but Humboldt attributes it rather to the diminution 
of moisture caused by cropping.* 

Tn concluding his remarks on the province of Vene- 
zuela, our author gives a general view of the soil 
and metallic productions of the districts of Aroa, 
Barquesimeto, and Carora. From the Sierra Nevada 
of Merida, and the Paramos of Niquitao, Bocono, 
and Las Rosas, the eastern cordillera of New-Gre- 
nada decreases so rapidly in height, that between 
the ninth and tenth degrees of latitude it forms only 

* According to Maccullocti, the little use made of this excellent beve- 
rage in England may be ascribed to the oppressiveness of the duties 
with which it has been loaded, and not to its being unsuitable to the 
public taste. "At this moment (May, 1831)," he says, " Trinidad and 
Grenada cacao is worth in bond, in the London market, from 24s, to 65s. 
a cwt. ; while the duty is no less than 65s., being nearly JOO per cent, 
upon the finer qualities, and no less than 230 per cent, upon those that 
are inferior ':" MaccuUoch's Dictionary of Commerce, art. Cacao. 


a chain of hills, which separates the rivers that join 
the Apure and the Orinoco from those that flow 
into the Caribbean Sea or the Lake of Valencia. 
On this ridge are built the towns of Nirgua, San 
Felipe, Barquesimeto, and Tocuyo. The ground 
rises towards the south. 

In the cordillera just described, the strata usually 
dip to the N. W ; so that the waters flow in that di- 
rection over the ledges, forming those numerous 
torrents and rivers, the inundations caused by which 
are so fatal to the health of the inhabitants from 
Cape Codera to the Lake of Maraycabo. 

Of the streams that descend N.E. towards the 
coast of Porto Cabello and La Puenta de Hicacos, 
the most remarkable are the Tocuyo, Aroa, and Ta- 
racuy ; the valleys of whicl? ^vere it not for morbid 
miasmata, would perhaps be more populous than 
those of Aragua, as the soil is prolific and the wa- 
ters' navigable. In a lateral valley, opening into that 
of the Aroa, are copper-mines ; and in the ravines 
nearer the sea are similar ores and gold- washings. 
The total produce of both amounts to a quantity 
varying from 1087 to 1358 cwts. of excellent metal. 
Indications of silver and gold have been found in 
various parts. 

The savannas or llanos of Monai and Carora, 
separated from the great plains of Portuguesa and 
Calabozo by the mountainous tract of Tocuyo and 
Migua, although bare and arid, are oppressed with 
miasmata ; and Humboldt seems to think that their 
insalubrity may be owing to the disengagement of 
sulphuretted hydrogen gas. 



Journey across the Llanos, from Aragua to San 

Mountains between the Valleys of Aragua and the Llanos Their Geologi- 
cal Constitution The Llanos of Caraccas Route over the Savanna 
to the Rio Apure Cattle and Deer Vegetation Calabozo Gymnoti 
or Electric Eels Indian Girl Alligators and Boas Arrival at San 
Fernando de Apure. 

FROM the chain of mountains which borders the 
Lake of Valencia towards the south, there stretches 
in the same direction a vast extent of level land, 
constituting the llanos or savannas of Caraccas ; 
and from the cultivated and populous district of 
Aragua, embellished with mountains and rivers, 
and teeming with vegetation, one descends into a 
parched desolate plain, bounded by the horizon. On 
this route we now accompany our travellers, who 
on the 6th March left the valleys of Aragua, and 
keeping along the south-west side of the lake, passed 
over a rich champaign country covered with cala- 
bashes, watermelons, and plantains. The rising of 
the sun was announced by the howling of monkeys, 
of which they saw numerous bands moving as in 
procession from one tree to another. These crea- 
tures (the Simia ursina) execute their evolutions with 
singular uniformity. When the boughs of two trees 
do not touch each other, the leader of the party 
swings himself by the tail upon the nearest twigs, 
the rest following in regular succession. The dis- 
tance to which their howlings may be heard was 
ascertained by Humbotdt to be 1705 yards. The In- 
dians assert that one always chants as leader of the 
choir ; and the missionaries say that when a female 


is on the point of bringing forth, the howlings are 
suspended till the moment when the young appears. 

The travellers passed the night at the village of 
Guigue, near the lake, where they lodged with an 
old sergeant, a native of Murcia, who amused them 
with a recital of the history of the world in Latin, 
which he had learned among the Jesuits. Leaving 
this place, they began to ascend the chain of moun- 
tains which extends towards La Palma, and from 
the top of an elevated platform took their last view 
of the valleys of Aragua. The rock was gneiss with 
auriferous veins of quartz. Arriving at the hamlet 
of Maria Magdalena, they were stopped by the in- 
habitants, who wanted to force their muleteers to 
hear mass. Seven miles farther on they came to 
the Villa de Cura, situated in an arid valley almost 
destitute of vegetation. Here they remained for 
the night, and joined an assembly of nearly all the 
residents in the town to admire in a magic-lantern 
a view of the great capitals of Europe. This place, 
which contains a population of four thousand, is 
celebrated for the miracles performed by an image 
of the Virgin found by an Indian in a ravine. 

Continuing to descend the southern declivity of 
the range, they passed part of the night of the llth 
at the village of San Juan, remarkable for its hot 
springs and the singular form of two mountains in 
the neighbourhood, called the Morros, which rise 
like slender peaks from a wall of rocks. At two in 
the morning they continued their journey by Ortiz 
and Parapara to the Mesa de Paja. The ground over 
which they travelled forms the ancient shore of the 
llanos ; and as the chain has now been traversed, it 
may be interesting to present a brief view of its geo- 
logical constitution. 

In the Sierra de Mariara, near Caraccas, the rock 

is coarse-grained granite. The valleys of Aragua, 

the shores of the Lake of Valencia, its islands, and 

the southern branch of the coast chain, are of gneiss 



and mica-slate, which are auriferous. At San Juan 
some of the rocks were gneiss passing into mica- 
slate. , On the south of this place the gneiss is con- 
cealed beneath a deposit of serpentine, which, far- 
ther south, passes into or alternates with green- 
stone. This rock is now the principal one, and in 
the midst of it rise the Morros of San Juan, com- 
posed of crystalline limestone of a greenish-gray 
colour, and containing masses of dark-blue indurated 
clay. Behind the Morros is another compact lime- 
stone containing shells. The valley that descends 
from San Juan to the llanos is filled with trap-rocks 
lying upon green-slate. Lower down the rocks take 
a basaltic aspect. Farther south the slates disap- 
pear, being concealed under a trap-deposit of varied 
appearance, but assuming an amygdaloidal charac- 
ter, and on the margin of the plain is seen a forma- 
tion of clinkstone or porphyry- slate. 

The travellers now entered the basin of the llanos. 
The sun was almost in the zenith, the ground was 
at the temperature of 1 18 or 122, and the suffo- 
cating heat was augmented by the whirls of dust 
which incessantly arose from the surface of the 
steril soil. All around the plains seemed to ascend 
into the sky. The horizon in some parts was clear 
and distinct, while in others it seemed undulating or 
blended with the atmosphere. The trunks of palm- 
trees, stripped of their foliage, and seen from afar 
through the haze, resembled the masts of ships dis- 
covered on the verge of the ocean. 

In order to give some interest to the narrative of 
a journey across a tract of so monotonous an aspect^ 
Humboldt presents a general view of the plains of 
America, contrasted with the deserts of Africa, and 
the fertile steppes of Asia ; of which, however, the 
most striking points alone can be here taken. There 
is something awful and melancholy, he says, in the 
uniform aspect of these savannas, where every thingp 
seems motionless, and where the shadow of a cloud 


hardly ever falls for months. He even doubts whe- 
ther the first sight of the Andes or of the llanos ex- 
cites most astonishment ; for as mountainous coun- 
tries have a similarity of appearance, whatever may 
be the elevation of their summits, the view of a very 
elevated range is perhaps not so striking as that of 
a boundless plain, spread out like an ocean, and on 
all sides mixing with the sky. 

It has been said that Europe has its heaths, Asia 
its steppes, Africa its deserts, and America its savan- 
nas ; and these great divisions of the globe have been 
characterized by these circumstances. But as the 
term heath always supposes the existence of plants 
of that name, and as all the plains of Europe are not 
heathy, the description is incorrect. Nor are the 
steppes of Asia always covered with saline plants, 
some of them being real deserts ; neither are the 
American llanos always grassy. Instead of desig- 
nating the vast levels of these different regions by 
the nature of the plants which they produce, it seems 
proper to distinguish them into deserts and steppes, 
or savannas, by which terms would be meant plains 
destitute of vegetation, or covered with grasses or 
small dicotyledonous plants. The savannas of North 
America have been designated by the name of prai- 
ries or meadows ; but the phrase is not very applica- 
ble to pastures which are often dry. The llanos 
and pampas of South America are real steppes, dis- 
playing a beautiful verdure in the rainy season, but 
during great droughts assuming the aspect of a des- 
ert. The grass is then reduced to powder, the 
ground cracks, and the alligators and serpents bury 
themselves in the mud, where they remain in a state 
of lethargy till they are roused by the showers of 
spring. On the borders of rivulets, however, and 
around the little pools of stagnant water, thickets 
of the Mauritia palm preserve a brilliant verdure, even 
during the driest part of the year. 

The principal characteristic of the savannas of 


South America is the entire want of hills. In a 
space extending to 387 square miles, there is not a 
single eminence a foot high. These plains, how- 
ever, present two kinds of inequalities : the francos, 
consisting of broken strata of sandstone or lime- 
stone, which stand four or five feet above the sur- 
face ; and the mesas, composed of small flats or con- 
vex mounds, rising gradually to the height of a few 
yards. The uniform aspect of these flats, the ex- 
treme rarity of inhabitants, the fatigue of travelling 
under a burning sky amid clouds of dust, the con- 
tinual recession of the horizon, and the successive 
appearance of solitary palms, make the steppes ap- 

Eear far more extensive than they really are. It 
as even been imagined that the whole eastern side 
of South America, from the Orinoco and the Apure 
to the Plata and the Straits of Magellan, is one great 
level ; but this is not the case. In order to under- 
stand their limitations it will be necessary to take a 
general view of the mountain-ranges. 

The cordillera of the coast, where the highest 
summit is the Silla of Caraccas, and which is con- 
nected by the Paramo de las Rosas to the Nevado 
de Merida, and the Andes of New-Grenada, has al- 
ready been described. A less elevated but much 
larger group of mountains extends from the mouths 1 
of the Guaviare and the Meta, the source of the Ori- 
noco, the Marony,and the Essequibo, to wards French 
and Dutch Guiana. This, which is named the cor- 
dillera of Parime, may be followed for a length of 
863 miles, and is separated from the Andes of New- 
Grenada by a space of 276 miles in breadth. A third 
chain of mountains, which connects the Andes of 
Peru with the mountains of Brazil, is the cordillera 
of Chiguitos, dividing the rivers flowing into the 
Amazon from the tributaries of the Plata. 

These three transverse chains or groups, extend- 
ing from west to east within the limits of the torrid 
zone, are separated by level tracts forming the plains 


of Caraccas or of the Lower Orinoco, the flats of the 
Amazon and Rio Negro, and those of Buenos Ayres 
or La Plata. The middle basin, known by the colo- 
nists under the name of the basques or selv as of the 
Amazon, is covered with trees; the southern, the 
pampas of Buenos Ayres, with grass ; and the north- 
ern, the llanos of Varinas and Caraccas, with plants 
of various kinds. 

The western coasts of South America are bordered 
by a wall of mountains, pierced at intervals by vol- 
canic fires, and constituting the celebrated cordillera 
of the Andes, the mean height of which is 11,830 
feet. It extends in the direction of a meridian, send- 
ing out two lateral branches, one in lat. 10 north, 
being that of the coast of Caraccas ; the other in lat. 
16 and 18 south, forming the cordillera of Chiquitos, 
and widening eastward in Brazil into vast table-lands. 
Between these lines is a group of granitic mountains, 
running from 3 to 7 north latitude, in a direction 
parallel to the equator, but not united to the Andes. 
These three chains have no active volcanoes, and 
none of their summits enter the line of perpetual 
snow. They are separated by plains, which are 
closed towards the west and open towards the east ; 
and they are so low that were the Atlantic to rise 
320 feet at the mouth of the Orinoco, and 1280 feet 
at the mouth of the Amazon, more than the half of 
South America would be covered, and the eastern 
declivity of the Andes would become a shore of the 

We now accompany the travellers on their route 
from the northern side of the llanos to the banks 
of the Apure, in the province of Varinas. After 
passing two nights on horseback they arrived at a 
little farm called El Cayman, where was a house 
surrounded by some small huts covered with reeds 
and skins. They found an old negro who had the 
management of the farm during his master's ab- 
sence. Although he told them of herds composed 


of several thousand cows, they asked in vain foi 
milk, and were obliged to content themselves with, 
some muddy and fetid water drawn from a neigh- 
bouring 1 pool, of which they contrived to drink by 
using a linen cloth as a filter. When the mules 
were unloaded, they were set at liberty to go and 
search for water, and the strangers following them 
came upon a copious reservoir surrounded with palm- 
trees. Covered with dust and scorched by the sandy 
wind of the desert, they plunged into the pool, but 
had scarcely begun to enjoy its coolness when the 
noise of an alligator floundering in the mud induced 
them to make a precipitate retreat. Night coming 
on, they wandered about in search of the farm with- 
out succeeding in finding it, and at length resolved 
to seat themselves under a palm-tree, in a dry spot 
surrounded by short grass, when an Indian, who had 
been on his round collecting the cattle, coming up 
on horseback, was persuaded, though not without 
difficulty, to guide them to the house. At two in 
the morning they set off, with the view of reaching 
Calabozo before noon. The aspect of the country 
continued the same. There was no moonlight, but 
the great masses of nebulae illumined part of the ter- 
restrial horizon as they set out. As the sun as- 
cended, the phenomena of mirage presented them- 
selves in all their modifications. The little currents 
of air that passed along the ground had so variable a 
temperature, that in a herd of wild cows some ap- 
peared with their legs raised from the surface, while 
others rested upon it. The objects were generally 
suspended, but no inversion was observed. At sun- 
rise the plains assumed a more animated appearance ; 
the horses, mules, and oxen, which graze on them 
in a state of freedom, after having reposed during the 
night beneath the palms, now assembled in crowds. 
As the travellers approached Calabozo they saw 
troops of small deer feeding in the midst of the 
cattle. These animals, which are called matacani, 


are a little larger than the roe of Europe, and have 
a sleek fawn-coloured pile, spotted with white. 
Some of them were entirely of the latter hue. 
Their flesh is good ; and their number is so great 
that a trade in their skins might be carried on with 
advantage ; but the inhabitants are too indolent to 
engage in any active occupation. 

These steppes were principally covered with 
grasses of the genera killingia, cenchrus, and pas- 
palum, which at that season scarcely attain a height 
of nine or ten inches near Calabozo and St. Jerome 
del Pirital, although on the banks of the Apure and 
Portuguesa they rise to the length of four feet. 
Along with these were mingled some turnerae, mal- 
vacae, and mimosas. The pastures are richest on 
the banks of the rivers, and under the shade of cory- 
pha palms. These trees were singularly uniform in 
size ; their height being from twenty-one to twenty- 
five feet, and their diameter from eight to ten inches. 
The wood is very hard, and the fan-like leaves are 
used for roofing the huts scattered over the plains. 
A few clumps of a species of rhopala occur here and 

The philosophers suffered greatly from the heat 
in crossing the Mesa de Calabozo. Whenever the 
wind blew the temperature rose to 104 or 106, and 
the air was loaded with dust. The guides advised 
them to fill their hats with the rhopala leaves, to 
prevent the action of the solar rays on the head, 
and from this expedient they derived considerable 

At Calabozo they experienced the most cordial 
hospitality from the administrator of the Real Ha- 
cienda, Don Miguel Cousin. The town, which is 
situated between the Guarico and the Urituco, has 
a population of 5000. The principal wealth of the 
inhabitants consists of cattle, of which it was com- 
puted that there were 98,000 in the neighbour- 
ing pastures. M. Depons estimates tits number in 


the plains, extending from the mouths of the Orinoco 
to the Lake of Maracaybo, at 1,200,000 oxen, 180,000 
horses, and 90,000 mules ; and in the pampas of 
Buenos Ayres it is believed that there are 12,000,000 
of cows and 3,000,000 of horses, not including cattle 
which have no acknowledged owner. In the llanos 
of Caraccas the richer proprietors of the great hatos, 
or cattle-farms, brand 14,000 head every year, and 
sell 5000 or 6000. The exportation from the whole 
capitania-general amounts annually to 174,000 skins 
of oxen and 11.500 of goats, for the West India 
islands alone. This stock was first introduced about 
1548 by Christoval Rodriguez. They are of the 
Spanish breed, and their disposition is so gentle 
that a traveller runs no risk of being attacked or 
pursued by them. The horses are also descended 
from ancestors of the same country, and are gene- 
rally of a brown colour. There were no sheep in 
the plains. 

Humboldt remarks, that when we hear of the 
prodigious numbers of oxen, horses, and mules 
spread over the plains of America, we forget that in 
civilized Europe the aggregate amount is not less 
surprising. According to M. Peuchet, France feeds 
6,000,000 of the large-horned class ; and in the Aus- 
trian monarchy, the oxen, cows, and calves are es- 
timated by Mr. Lichtenstein at about 13,400,000. 

At Calabozo, in the midst of the llanos, the trav- 
ellers found an electrical apparatus nearly as com- 
plete as those of Europe, made by a person who had 
never seen any such instrument, had received no in- 
structions, and was acquainted with the phenomena 
of electricity only by reading the Treatise of Sigaud 
de la Fond, and Franklin's Memoirs. Next to this 
piece of mechanism, the objects that excited the 
greatest interest were the electrical eels, or gymnoti, 
which abound in the basins of stagnant water and 
the confluents of the Orinoco. The dread of the 
shocks given by these animals is so great among* 


the common people and Indians, that for some time 
no specimens could be procured, and one which was 
at length brought to them afforded very unsatisfac- 
tory results. 

On the 19th March, at an early hour, they set off 
for the village of Rastro de Abaxo, whence they 
were conducted by the natives to a stream which, 
in the dry season, forms a pool of muddy water sur- 
rounded by trees. It being very difficult to catch 
the gymnoti with nets, on account of their extreme 
agility, it was resolved to procure some by intoxi- 
cating or benumbing them with the roots of certain 
plants, which when thrown into the water produce 
that effect. At this juncture the Indians informed 
them that they would fish with horses, and soon 
brought from the savanna about thirty of these ani- 
mals, which they drove into the pool. 

" The extraordinary noise caused by the horses' 
hoofs makes the fishes issue from the mud, and ex- 
cites them to combat. These yellowish and livid 
eels, resembling large aquatic snakes, swim at the 
surface of the water, and crowd under the bellies 
of the horses and mules. The struggle between 
animals of so different an organization affords a very 
interesting sight. The Indians, furnished with har- 
poons and long slender reeds, closely surround the 
pool. Some of them climb the trees, whose branches 
stretch horizontally over the water. By their wild 
cries and their long reeds they prevent the horses 
from coming to the edge of the basin. The eels, 
stunned by the noise, defend themselves by repeated 
discharges of their electrical batteries, and for a 
long time seem likely to obtain the victory. Several 
horses sink under the violence of the invisible blows 
which they receive in the organs most essential to 
life, and, benumbed by the force and frequency of 
the shocks, disappear beneath the surface. Others, 
panting, with erect mane, and haggard eyes expres- 
sive of anguish, raise themselves and endeavour to 


escape from the storm which overtakes them, but 
are driven back by the Indians. A few, however, 
succeed in eluding the active vigilance of the fishers ; 
they gain the shore, stumble at every step, and 
stretch themselves out on the sand, exhausted with 
fatigue, and having their limbs benumbed by the 
electric shocks of the gymnoti. 

" In less than five minutes two horses were killed. 
The eel, which is five feet long, presses itself against 
the belly of the horse, and makes a discharge along 
the whole extent of its electric organ. It attacks at 
once the heart, the viscera, and the caBliac plexus of 
the abdominal nerves. It is natural that the effect 
which a horse experiences should be more powerful 
than that produced by the same fish on man, when 
he touches it only by one of the extremities. The 
horses are probably not killed, but only stunned ; 
they are drowned from the impossibility of rising 
amid the prolonged struggle between the other horses 
and eels." 

The gymnoti at length dispersed, and approached 
the edge of the pool, when five of them were taken 
by means of small harpoons fastened to long cords. 
A few more were caught towards evening, and there 
was thus obtained a sufficient number of specimens 
on which to make experiments. The results of Hum- 
boldt's observations on these animals may be stated 
briefly, as follows : 

The gymnotus is the largest electrical fish known, 
some of those measured by him being from 5 feet 4 
inches to 5 feet 7 inches in length. One, 4 feet 1 
inch long, weighed 15f Troy pounds, and its trans- 
verse diameter was 3 inches 7\ lines. The colour 
was a fine olive-green ; the under part of the head 
yellow mingled with red. Along the back are two 
rows of small yellow spots, each of which contains 
an excretory aperture for the mucus, with which 
the skin is constantly covered. The swimming- 
bladder is of large size, and before it is situated an- 


other of smaller dimensions ; the former separated 
from the skin by a mass of fat, and resting upon the 
electric organs, which occupy more than two-thirds 
of the fish. 

It would be rash to expose one's self to the first 
shocks of a very large individual, the pain and 
numbness which follow in such a case being ex- 
tremely violent. When in a state of great weak- 
ness, the animal produces in the person who touches 
it a twitching, which is propagated from the hand to 
the elbow ; a kind of internal vibration lasting two 
or three seconds, and followed by painful torpidity, 
being felt after every stroke. The electric energy 
depends Upon the will of the creature, and it directs 
it towards the point where it feels most strongly 
irritated. The organ acts only under the immediate 
influence of the brain and heart ; for when one of 
them was cut through the middle, the fore -part of 
the body alone gave shocks. Its action on man is 
transmitted and intercepted by the same substances 
that transmit and intercept the electrical current of 
a conductor charged by a Leyden jar or a Voltaic 
pile. In the water the shock can be conveyed to 
a considerable distance. No spark has ever been ob- 
served to issue from the body of the eel when ex- 

The gymnoti are objects of dread to the natives, 
and their presence is considered as the principal 
cause of the want of fish in the pools of the llanos. 
All the inhabitants of the waters avoid them ; and 
the Indians asserted that when they take young al- 
ligators and these animals in the same net, the latter 
never display any appearance of wounds, because 
they disable their enemies before they are attacked 
by them. It became necessary to change the di- 
rection of a road near Urituco, solely because they 
were so numerous in a river that they killed many 
mules in the course of fording it. 

On the 24th March the travellers left Calabozo, 


and advanced southward. As they proceeded they 
found the country more dusty, and destitute of herb- 
age. The palm-trees gradually disappeared. From 
eleven in the morning till sunset the thermometer 
kept at 95. Although the air was calm at the 
height of eight or ten feet, the ground was swept by 
little currents which raised clouds of dust. About 
four in the afternoon, they observed in the savanna 
a young Indian girl, twelve or thirteen years of age, 
quite naked, lying on her back, exhausted with fa- 
tigue and thirst, and with her eyes, nostrils, and 
mouth filled with dust. Her breathing was sterto- 
rous, and she was unable to answer the questions 
put to her. Happily one of the mules was laden 
with water, the application of which to her face 
aroused her. She was at first frightened, but by de- 
grees took courage, and conversed with the guides. 
As she could not be prevailed upon to mount the 
beasts of burden, nor to return to Urituco, she was 
furnished with some water ; upon which she re- 
sumed her way, and was soon separated from her 
preservers by a cloud of dust. 

In the night they forded the Rio Urituco, which is 
filled with crocodiles remarkable for their ferocity, 
although those of the Rio Tisnao, in the neighbour- 
hood, are not at all dangerous. They were shown 
a hut or shed, in which a singular scene had been 
witnessed by their host of Calabozo, who, having 
slept in it upon a bench covered with leather, was 
awakened early in the morning by a violent shaking, 
accompanied with a horrible noise. Presently an 
alligator, two or three feet long, issued from under 
the bed, and darted at a dog lying on the threshold, 
but missing him, ran towards the river. When the 
spot where the bench stood was examined, the dried 
mud was found turned up to a considerable depth, 
where the alligator had lain in its state of torpidity, 
or summer sleep. The hut being situated on the 
edge of a pool, and inundated during part of the 


year, the animal had no doubt entered at that period 
and concealed itself in the mire. The Indians often 
find enormous boas, or water-serpents, in the same 
lethargic state. 

On the 25th March they passed over the smooth- 
est part of the steppes of Caraccas, the Mesa de Pa- 
vones. As far as the eye could reach, no object 
fifteen inches high could be discovered, excepting 
cattle, of which they met some large herds, accom- 
panied by flocks of the crotophaga ani, a bird of a 
black colour, with olive reflections. They were ex- 
ceedingly tame, and perched upon the quadrupeds in 
search of insects. 

Wherever excavations had been made, they found 
the rock to be old red sandstone or conglomerate, 
in which were observed fragments of quartz, kiesel- 
schiefer. and lydian stone. The cementing clay is 
ferruginous, and often of a very bright red. This 
formation, which covers an extent of several thou- 
sand square leagues, rests on the northern margin 
of the plains upon transition-slate, and to the south 
upon the granites of the Orinoco. 

After wandering a long time on the desert and 
pathless savannas of the Mesa de Pavones, they 
were agreeably surprised to find a solitary farm- 
house surrounded with gardens and pools of clear 
water. Farther on they passed the night near the 
village of San Geronymo del Guyaval, situated on 
the banks of the Rio Guarico, which joins the Apure. 
The ecclesiastic, who was a young man, and had no 
other habitation than his church, received them in 
the kindest manner. Crossing the Guarico, they en- 
camped in the plain, and early in the morning pur- 
sued their tvay over low grounds, which are often 
inundated. On the 27th they arrived at the Villa de 
San Fernando, and terminated their journey over the 




Voyage down the Rio Apure. 

San Fernando Commencement of the Rainy Season Progress of At- 
mospherical Phenomena Cetaceous Animals Voyage down the Rio 
Apure Vegetation and Wild Animals Crocodiles, Chiguires, and 
Jaguars Don Ignacio and Donna Isabella Water-fowl Nocturnal 
Bowlings in the Forest Caribe-fish Adventure with a Jaguar Ma- 
natees Mouth of the Rio Apure. 

THE town of San Fernando, which was founded 
only in 1789, is advantageously situated on a large 
navigable river, the Apure, a tributary of the Ori- 
noco, near the mouth of another stream which 
traverses the whole province of Varinas, all the pro- 
ductions of which pass through it on their way to 
the coast. It is during the rainy season, when the 
rivers overflow their banks and inundate a vast ex- 
tent of country, that commerce is most active. At 
this period the savannas are covered with water to 
the depth of twelve or fourteen feet, and present the 
appearance of a great lake, in the midst of which 
the farm-houses and villages are seen rising on 
islands scarcely elevated above the surface. Horses, 
mules, and cows perish in great numbers, and afford 
abundant food to the zamuros, or carrion vultures, 
as well as to the alligators. The inhabitants, to 
avoid the force of the currents, and the danger 
arising from the trees carried down by them, in- 
stead of ascending the course of the rivers, find it 
safer to cross the flats in their boats. 

San Fernando is celebrated for the excessive heat 
which prevails there during the greater part of the 
year. The travellers found the white sand of the 
shores, wherever it was exposed to the sun, to have 


a temperature of 126'5, at two in the afternoon. 
The thermometer, raised eighteen inches above the 
sand, indicated 109 : and at six feet, 101*7. The 
temperature of the air in the shade was 97. These 
observations were made during a dead calm, and 
when the wind began to blow, the heat increased 
three degrees. 

On the 28th March, Humboldt and his companion, 
being on the shore at sunrise, heard the thunder 
rolling all around, although as yet there were only 
scattered clouds, advancing in opposite directions 
towards the zenith. Deluc's hygrometer was at 53, 
the thermometer stood at 74*7, and the electrome- 
ter gave no particular indication. As the clouds 
mustered, the blue of the sky changed to deep azure, 
and then to gray ; and when it was completely over- 
cast the thermometer rose several degrees. Al- 
though a heavy rain fell, the travellers remained 
on the shore to observe the electrometer. When 
it was held at the height of six feet from the 
ground, the pith-balls generally separated only a few 
seconds before the lightning was seen. The sep- 
aration was four lines. The electric charge re- 
mained the same for several minutes, and there were 
repeated oscillations from positive to negative. To- 
wards the end of the storm the west wind blew with 
great impetuosity, and when the clouds dispersed 
the thermometer fell to 7T6 . 

Humfroldt states, that he enters into these details 
because Europeans usually confine themselves to a 
description of the impression made on their minds 
by the solemn spectacle of a tropical thunder-storm ; 
and because, in a country where the year is divided 
into two great seasons of drought and rain, it is in- 
teresting to trace the transition from the one to the 
other. In the valleys of Aragua, he had from the 
18th February observed clouds forming in the even- 
ing, and in the beginning of March the accumulation 
of vesicular vapours became visible. Flashes of 


lightning were seen in the south, and at sunset Vol- 
ta's electrometer regularly displayed positive indi- 
cations, the separation of the pith-balls being from 
three to four lines. After the 26th of the latter 
month, the electrical equilibrium of the atmosphere 
seemed broken, although the hygrometer still de- 
noted great dryness. 

The following is an account of the atmospheric 
phenomena in the inland districts to the east of the 
Cordilleras of Merida and New-Grenada, in the lla- 
nos of Venezuela, and the Rio Meta, from the fourth to 
the tenth degree of north latitude, wherever the rains 
continue from May to October, and consequently in- 
clude the period of the greatest heat, which is in 
July and August : " Nothing can equal the purity of 
the atmosphere from December to February. The 
sky is then constantly without clouds, and should 
one appear, it is a phenomenon that occupies all the 
attention of the inhabitants. The breeze from the 
east and north-east blows with violence. As it 
always carries with it air of the same temperature, 
the vapours cannot become visible through refrigera- 
tion. Towards the end of February and the begin- 
ning of March the blue of the sky is less intense ; 
the hygrometer gradually indicates greater humid- 
ity; the stars are sometimes veiled by a thin stratum 
of vapours ; their light ceases to be tranquil and 
planetary ; and they are seen to sparkle from time 
to time at the height of 20 above the horizon. At 
this period the breeze diminishes in strength, and be- 
comes less regular, being more frequently inter- 
rupted by dead calms. Clouds accumulate towards 
the south-east, appearing like distant mountains 
with distinct outlines. From time to time they are 
seen to separate from the horizon, and traverse the 
celestial vault with a rapidity which has no cor- 
respondence with the feebleness of the wind that 
prevails in the lower strata of the air. At the e, id 
of March the southern region of the atmosphere is 


illuminated by small electric explosions, like phos- 
phorescent gleams confined to a single group of va- 
pours. From this period the breeze shifts at inter- 
vals, and for several hours, to the west and south- 
west, affording a sure indication of the approach of 
the rainy season, which, on the Orinoco, commences 
about the end of April. The sky begins to be over- 
cast, its azure colour disappears, and a gray tint is 
uniformly diffused over it. At the same time the 
heat of the atmosphere gradually increases, and in- 
stead of scattered clouds the whole vault of the 
heavens is overspread with condensed vapours. The 
howling-monkeys begin to utter their plaintive cries 
long before sunrise. The atmospheric electricity, 
which, during the period of the greatest drought, 
from December to March, had been almost con- 
stantly in the daytime from 1*7 to 2 lines to Volta's 
electrometer, becomes extremely variable after 
March. During whole days it appears null, and 
again, for some hours, the pith-balls of the elec- 
trometer diverge from three to four lines. The at- 
mosphere, which in the torrid as in the temperate 
zone is generally in a state of positive electricity, 
passes alternately, in the course of eight or ten 
minutes, to the negative state. The rainy season is 
that of thunder-storms ; and yet I have found, from 
numerous experiments made during three years, that 
at this season the electric tension is less in the 
lower regions of the atmosphere. Are thunder- 
storms the effect of this unequal change of the dif- 
ferent superimposed strata of the air ? What pre- 
vents the electricity from descending towards the 
earth in a stratum of air which has become more 
humid since the month of March ? At this period 
the electricity, in place of being diffused through the 
whole atmosphere, would seem to be accumulated 
on the outer envelope at the surface of the clouds. 
According to M. Gay Lussac, it is the formation of 
the cloud itself that carries the fluid towards the sur- 


face. The storm rises in the plains two hours after 
the sun passes through the meridian, and therefore 
shortly after the period of the maximum of the di- 
urnal heat in the tropics. In the inland districts it 
is exceedingly rare to hear thunder at night or in the 
morning, nocturnal thunder-storms being peculiar to 
certain valleys of rivers which have a particular 

It maybe interesting to present a very brief state- 
ment of Humboldt's explanation of these phenome- 
na : The season of rains and thunder in the northern 
equinoctial zone coincides with the passage of the 
sun through the zenith of the place, the cessation 
of the breezes or north-east winds, and the frequency 
of calms, and furious currents of the atmosphere 
from the south-east and south-west, accompanied 
with a cloudy sky. While the breeze from the north- 
east blow&, it prevents the atmosphere from being 
saturated with moisture. The hot and loaded air of 
the torrid zone rises and flows off again towards the 
poles, while inferior currents from these last, bring- 
ing drier and colder strata, take the place of the 
ascending columns. In this manner the humidity, 
being prevented from accumulating, passes off to- 
wards the temperate and colder regions, so that the 
sky is always clear. When the sun, entering the 
northern signs, rises towards the zenith, the breeze 
from the north-east softens, and at length ceases ; 
this being the season at which the difference of tem- 
perature between the tropics and the contiguous 
zone is least. The column of air resting on the 
equinoctial zone becomes replete with vapours, be- 
cause it is no longer renewed by the current from 
the pole ; clouds form in this atmosphere, saturated 
and cooled by the effects of radiation and the dilata- 
tion of the ascending air, which increases its capacity 
for heat in proportion as it is rarefied. Electricity 
accumulates in the higher regions in consequence 
of the formation of the vesicular vapours, the pre- 


cipitation of which is constant during the day, but 
generally ceases at night. The showers are more 
violent, and accompanied with electrical explosions, 
shortly after the maximum of the diurnal heat. 
These phenomena continue until the sun enters the 
southern signs, when the polar current is re-estab- 
lished, because the difference between the heat of 
the equinoctial and temperate regions is daily increas- 
ing. The air of the tropics being thus renewed, the 
rains cease, the vapours are dissolved, and the sky 
resumes its azure tint. 

At San Fernando, Humboldt observed in the river 
long files of cetaceous animals, resembling the com- 
mon porpoise. The crocodiles seemed to dislike 
them, and dived whenever they approached. They 
were three or four feet long, and appear to be pecu- 
liar to the great streams of South America, as he 
saw some of them above the cataracts of the Ori- 
noco, whither they could not have ascended from 
the sea. 

The rainy season had now commenced, and as the 
way to that river by land lies across an unhealthy 
and uninteresting flat, they preferred the longer way 
by the Rio Apure, and embarked in a large canoe or 
lancha, having a pilot and four Indians for crew. A 
cabin was constructed in the stern, of sufficient size 
to hold a table and benches, and covered with cory- 
pha-leaves. They put on board a stock of provi- 
sions for a month, while the capuchin missionary, 
with whom they had lodged during their stay, sup- 
plied them with wine, oranges, and tamarinds. 
Fishing-instruments, firearms, and some casks of 
brandy, for bartering with the natives, were added 
to their store. On the 30th March, at four in the 
afternoon, they left San Fernando, accompanied by 
Don Nicolas Sopo, brother-in-law of the governor 
of the province. The river abounds in fish, ma- 
natees, and turtles, and its banks are peopled by 
numberless birds, of which the pauxi and guacharaca 


are the most useful to man. Passing the mouth of 
the Apurito, they coasted the island of the same 
name, formed by the Apure and Guarico, and which 
is seventy-six miles in length. On the banks they 
saw huts of the Yaruroes, who live by hunting and 
fishing, and are very skilful in killing jaguars, the 
skins of which they dispose of in the Spanish vil- 
lages. The night was passed at Diamante, a small 

On the 31st a contrary wind obliged them to re- 
main on shore till noon, when they embarked, and 
as they proceeded found the river gradually widen- 
ing; one of its banks being generally sandy and 
barren, the other higher and covered with tall trees. 
Sometimes, however, it was bordered on both sides 
by forests, and resembled a straight canal 320 yards 
in breadth. Bushes of sauso (Hermesia castaneifo- 
lia) formed along the margins a kind of hedge about 
four feet high, in which the jaguars, tapirs, and 
pecaris had made openings for the purpose of drink- 
ing ; and as these animals manifest little fear at the 
approach of a boat, the travellers had the pleasure 
of viewing them as they walked slowly along the 
shore, until they disappeared in the forest. When 
the sauso-hedge was at a distance from the current,, 
crocodiles were often seen in parties of eight or ten, 
stretched out on the sand motionless, and with their 
jaws opened at right angles. These monstrous rep- 
tiles were so numerous, that throughout the whole 
course of the river there were usually five or six in 
view, although the w r aters had scarcely begun to 
rise, and hundreds were still buried in the mud of the 
savannas. A dead individual which they found was 
17 feet 9 inches long, and another, a male, was more 
than 23. This species is not a cayman or alligator, 
but a real crocodile, with feet dentated on the outer 
edge like that of the Nile. The Indians informed 
them, that scarcely a year passes at San Fernanda 
without two or three persons being drowned by them,, 


and related the history of a young girl of Urituco, 
who, by singular presence of mind, made her escape 
from one. Finding herself seized and carried into 
the water, she felt for the eyes of the animal, and 
thrust her fingers into them ; when the crocodile let 
her loose, after biting off the lower part of her left 
arm. Notwithstanding the quantity of blood which 
she lost, she was still able to reach the shore by 
swimming with the right hand. Mungo Park's 
guide, Isaaco, effected his preservation from a croco- 
dile by employing the same means. The motions 
of these animals are abrupt and rapid when they 
attack an object, although they move very slowly 
when not excited. In running they make a rustling 
noise, which seems to proceed from their scales, and 
appear higher on their legs than when at rest, at the 
same time bending the back. They generally ad- 
vance in a straight line, but can easily turn when 
they please. They swim with great facility, even 
against the most rapid current. On the Apure they 
seemed to live chiefly on the chiguires (Cavia capy- 
lara), which feed in herds on the banks, and are of 
the size of our pigs. These creatures have no 
weapons for defence, and are alternately the prey 
of the jaguars on land and of the crocodiles in the 

Stopping below the mouth of the Cano de la Fi- 
guera, in a sinuosity called La Vuelta del Joval, they 
measured the velocity of the current at its surface, 
which was only 3*4 feet in a second. Here they 
were surrounded by chiguires, swimming like dogs, 
with the head and neck out of the water. A large 
crocodile, which was sleeping on the shore in the 
midst of a troop of these animals, awoke at the 
approach of the canoe, and moved slowly into the 
stream without frightening the others. Near the Jo- 
val every thing assumed a wild and awful aspect. 
Here they saw an enormous jaguar stretched beneath 
the shade of a large zamang or mimosa. It had 

182 JAGUAR. 

just killed a chiguire, which it held with one of its 
paws, while the zamuro-vultures were assembled in 
flocks around it. It was curious to observe the 
mixture of boldness and timidity which these birds 
exhibited, for although they advanced within two 
feet of the tiger, they instantly shrank back at the 
least motion which he made. In order to examine 
more nearly their manners, the travellers went into 
the little boat ; when the tyrant of the forest with- 
drew behind the sauso-bushes, leaving his victim, 
which the vultures in the mean time attempted to 
devour, but were soon put to flight by his rushing 
into the midst of them.* 

Continuing to descend the river, they met with a 
great herd of chiguires that the tiger had dispersed, 
and from which he had selected his prey. These 
animals seemed not to be afraid of men, for they saw 
the travellers land without agitation, but the sight of 
a dog put them to flight. They ran so slowly that 
the people succeeded in catching two of them. It is 
the largest of the Glires, or gnawing animals. Its 
flesh has a disagreeable smell of musk, although 

* Ih the province of Tucuman, the common mode of killing the jaguar 
is to trace him to his lair by the wool left on the bushes, if he has carried 
off a sheep, or by means of a dog trained for the purpose. On finding 
the enemy the gaucho puts himself into a position for receiving him oa 
the point of a bayonet or spear, at the first spring which he makes, and 
thus waits until the dogs drive him out ; an exploit which he performs 
with such coolness and dexterity that there is scarcely an instance of 
failure. " In a recent instance, related by our capitaz, the business was 
not so quickly completed. The animal lay stretched at full length on the 
ground, like a gorged cat. Instead of showing anger and attacking his 
enemies with fury, he was playful, and disposed rather to parley with the 
dogs with good-humour than to take their attack in sober earnestness. 
He was now fired upon, and a ball lodged in his shoulder ; on which he 
sprang so quickly on his watching assailant, that he not only buried the 
bayonet in his body, but tumbled over the capitaz who held it, and they 
floundered on the ground together, the man being completely in his 
clutches. ' I thought,' said the brave fellow, ' I was no longer a capitaz, 
while I held my arm up to protect my throat, which the animal seemed in 
the act of seizing ; but when I expected to feel his fangs in my flesh, the 
green fire of his eyes which blazed upon me, flashed out in a moment. 
He fell on me and expired at the very instant I thought myself lost for 
ever.' " Captain Andrews's Travels in South America, vol. i. p. 219. 


hams are made of it in the country, which are eaten 
during Lent ; as this quadruped, according to eccle- 
siastical zoology, is esteemed a fish. 

The travellers passed the night as usual in the open 
air, although in a plantation, the proprietor of which, 
a jaguar-hunter, half-naked, and as brown as a Zambo, 
prided himself on being of the European race, and 
called his wife and daughter, who were as slightly 
clothed as himself, Donna Isabella and Donna Man- 
uela. Humboldt had brought a chiguire ; but his 
host assured him such food was not fit for white 
gentlemen like them, at the same time offering him 
venison. As this aspiring personage had neither 
house nor hut, he invited the strangers to sling their 
hammocks near his own, between two trees ; which 
they accordingly did. They soon found reason, how- 
ever, to regret that they had not obtained better shel- 
ter; for after midnight a thunder-storm came on, 
which wetted them to the skin. Donna Isabella's 
cat had perched on one of the trees, and fell into a 
cot, the inmate of which imagined he was attacked 
by some wild beast, and could hardly be quieted. 

At sunrise, the lodgers took leave of Don Ignacio 
and his lady, and proceeded on their voyage. The 
weather was a little cooler, the thermometer having 
fallen from 86 to 75, but the temperature of the 
river continued at 79 or 80. One might imagine 
that on smooth ground, where no eminence can be 
distinguished, the stream would have hollowed out 
an even bed for itself ; but this is by no means the 
ease ; the two banks not opposing equal resistance 
to the water. Below the Joval the mass of the cur- 
rent is a little wider, and forms a perfectly straight 
channel, margined on either side by lofty trees. It 
was here about 290 yards broad. They passed a 
low island densely covered by flamingoes, roseate 
spoonbills, herons, and water-hens, which presented 
a most diversified mixture of colours. On the right 
bank they found a little Indian mission, consisting of 


sixteen huts constructed of palm-leaves, and inhab- 
ited by a tribe of the Guamoes. These Christians 
were unable to furnish them with the provisions 
which they wanted, but hospitably offered them dried 
fish and water. The night was spent on a bare and 
very extensive beach. The forest being impenetra- 
ble, they had great difficulty in obtaining dry wood 
to light fires for the purpose of keeping off the wild 
beasts. But the night was calm, with beautiful 
moonlight. Finding no tree on the banks, they stuck 
their oars in the sand, and suspended their hammocks 
upon them. About eleven there arose in the wood 
so terrific a noise that it was impossible to sleep. 
The Indians distinguished the cries of sapajous, alou- 
ates, jaguars, cougars, pecaris, sloths, carassows, 
panakas, and other gallinaceous birds. When the 
tigers approached the edge of the forest, a dog which 
the travellers had began to howl and seek refuge 
under their cots. Sometimes, after a long silence, 
the cry of the ferocious animal came from the tops 
of the trees, when it was followed by the sharp 
and long whistling of the monkeys. Humboldt sup- 
poses the noise thus made by the inhabitants of 
the thicket, at certain hours of the night, to be 
the effect of some contest that has arisen among 

On the 2d April they set sail before sunrise. The 
river was ploughed by porpoises, and the shore 
crowded with aquatic birds ; while some of the latter, 
perched on the floating timber, were endeavouring 
to surprise the fish that preferred the middle of the 
stream. The navigation is rather dangerous, on ac- 
count of the large trees which remain obliquely fixed 
in the mud, and the canoe touched several times. 
Near the island of Carizales, they saw enormous 
trunks covered with plotuses or darters, and below 
it observed a diminution of the waters of the river, 
owing to infiltration and evaporation. Near the 
Vuelta de Basilio, where they landed to gather 


plants, they saw on a tree two beautiful jet-black 
monkeys of an unknown species, and also a nest 
of iguanas, which was pointed out by the Indians. 
The flesh of this lizard is very white, and, next to 
that of the armadillo, is the best food to be found in 
the huts of the natives. Towards evening it rained, 
and swallows were seen skimming along the water. 
They also saw a flock of parrots pursued by hawks. 
The night was passed on the beach. 

On the 3d they proceeded down the river in their 
solitary course. The sailors caught the fish known 
in the country by the name of caribe ; which, although 
only four or five inches in length, attacks persons 
who go into the water, and with its sharp triangular 
teeth often tears considerable portions of flesh from 
their legs. When pieces of meat are cast into the 
river, clouds of these little fishes appear in a few 
minutes. There are three varieties in the Orinoco ; 
one of which seems to be the Salmo rhombeus of 
Linnaeus. At noon they stopped in a desert spot 
called Algodonal, when Humboldt left his companions 
and went along the beach to observe a group of 
crocodiles sleeping in the sun. Some little herons 
of a white colour were walking along their backs, 
and even on their heads. As he was proceeding, 
his eyes directed towards the river, he discovered 
recent footmarks of a beast of prey, and turning 
towards the forest, found himself within eighty steps 
of an enormously large jaguar. Although extremely 
frightened, he yet retained sufficient command of 
himself to follow the advice which the Indians had 
so often given, and continued to walk without mov- 
ing his arms, making a large circuit towards the edge 
of the water. As the distance increased he accele- 
rated his pace, and at length, judging it safe to look 
about, did so, and saw the tiger in the same spot. 
Arriving at the boat out of breath, he related his ad- 
venture to the natives, who seemed to think it nothing 
extraordinary. In the evening they passed the mouth 


of the Cano del Manati, so named on account of the 
vast number of manatees caught there. This aquatic 
herbivorous animal generally attains the length of 
ten or twelve feet, and abounds in the Orinoco below 
the cataracts, the Rio Meta, and the Apure. The 
flesh, although very savoury and resembling pork, is 
considered unwholesome ; but it is in request during 
Lent, being classed by the monks among fishes. 
The fat is used for lamps in the churches, as well as 
for cooking ; while the hide is cut into slips to supply 
the place of cordage. Whips are also made of it in 
the Spanish colonies for the castigation of negroes 
and other slaves. The fires lighted by the boatmen 
on the shore attracted the crocodiles and dolphins. 
Two persons kept watch during the night. A jaguar 
with her cub approached the encampment, but was 
driven away by the attendants ; and soon after the 
dog was bitten in the nose by a large bat or vam- 

On the 4th they intended to pass the night at 
Vuelta del Palmito ; but as the Indians were going 
to sling the hammocks they found two tigers con- 
cealed behind a tree, and it was judged safer to re- 
embark and sleep on the island of Apurito. Multi- 
tudes of gnats made their appearance regularly at 
sunset, and covered their faces and hands. On the 
5th they were much struck by the diminution the 
waters of the Apure had undergone, which they 
attributed chiefly to absorption by the sand and evap- 
oration. It was only from 128 to 170 yards broad, 
and about twenty feet deep. Humboldt estimates 
the mean fall of this river at 14 inches in a mile. 
The canoe touched several times on shoals as they 
approached the point of junction, and it became ne- 
cessary to tow it by means of a line. 



Voyage up the Orinoco. 

Ascent of the Orinoco Port of Encaramada Traditions of a universal 
Deluge Gathering of Turtles' Eggs Two Species described Mode 
of collecting the Eggs and of manufacturing the Oil Probable Num- 
ber of these Animals on the Orinoco Decorations of the Indians 
Encampment of Pararuma Height of the Inundations of the Ori- 
nocoRapids of Tabage. 

LEAVING the Rio Apure, the travellers entered the 
Orinoco, and presently found themselves in a coun- 
try of an entirely different aspect. As far as the 
eye could reach there lay before them a sheet of 
water, the waves of which, from the conflict of the 
breeze and the current, rose to the height of several 
feet. The long files of herons, flamingoes, and 
spoonbills which were observed on the Apure had 
disappeared ; and all that supplied the place of those 
multitudes of animated beings by whom they had 
been lately accompanied was here and there a croco- 
dile swimming in the agitated stream. The hori- 
zon was bounded by a girdle of forests, separated 
from the river by a broad beach, the bare and 
parched surface of which refracted the solar rays 
into the semblance of pools. 

The wind was favourable for sailing up the Ori- 
noco ; but the short broken waves at the junction of 
the two rivers were exceedingly disagreeable. They 
passed the Punta Curiquima, a granitic promontory, 
between which and the mouth of the Apure the 
breadth of the stream was ascertained to be 4063 
yards, and in the rainy season it extends to 11,760. 
The temperature of the water was in the middle of 
the current 82'9, and near the shores 84'6. They 


first went up towards the south-west as far as the 
shore of the Guaricoto Indians on the left bank, and 
then towards the south. The mountains of Encara- 
mada, forming a continued chain from west to east, 
seemed to rise from the water as distant land rises 
on the horizon at sea. The beach was composed 
of clay intermixed with scales of mica, deposited 
in very thin strata. At the port of Encaramada, 
where they stopped for some time, they met with a 
Carib cacique going up the river in his canoe to 
gather turtles' eggs. He was armed with a bow and 
arrows, as were his attendants, and, like them, he 
was naked and painted red. These Indians were 
tall and athletic, and, with their hair cut straight 
across the forehead, their eyebrows painted black, 
and their gloomy but animated countenances had a 
singular appearance. The travellers were surprised 
to find that the anterior portion of the cranium is 
not so depressed as those of the Caribs are usually 
represented to be. The women carried their infants 
on their backs. The shore is here formed by a rock 
forty or fifty feet high, composed of blocks of gran- 
ite piled upon each other ; the surface of which was 
of a dark-gray colour, although the interior was red- 
dish-white. The night was passed in a creek oppo- 
site the mouth of the Rio Cabullare. The evening was 
beautiful, with moonlight ; but towards twelve the 
north-east wind blew so violently that they became 
apprehensive for the safety of their canoe. 

On the 6th, continuing to ascend, they saw the 
southern side of the mountains of Encaramada, 
which stretch along the right bank of the river, and 
are inhabited by Indians of a gentle character, and 
addicted to agriculture. There is a tradition here, 
and elsewhere on the Orinoco, among the natives, 
" That at the time of the Great Waters, when their 
fathers were obliged to betake themselves to their 
canoes in order to escape the general inundation, 
the waves of the sea beat upon the rocks of Encara- 


mada." When the Tamanacs are asked how the 
human race survived this great deluge they say, 
" That a man and a woman saved themselves upon a 
high mountain called Tamanacu, situated on the 
bank of the Aseveru, and that, throwing behind 
them, over their heads, the fruits of the Mauritia 
palm, they saw arising from the nuts of these fruits 
the men and women who repeopled the earth." 
Thus, among the natives of America, a fable similar 
to that of Pyrrha and Deucalion commemorates the 
grand catastrophe of a general inundation. Hum- 
boldt, in reference to the same event, mentions that 
hieroglyphic figures are often found along the Ori- 
noco sculptured on rocks now inaccessible but by 
scaffolding, and that the natives, when asked how 
these figures could have been made, answer with a 
smile, as relating a fact of which a stranger alone 
could be ignorant, " That at the period of the Great 
Waters their fathers went to that height in boats." 
" These ancient traditions of the human race," 
says Humboldt, " which we find dispersed over the 
surface of the globe, like the fragments of a vast 
shipwreck, are of the greatest interest in the philo- 
sophical study of our species. Like certain families 
of plants, which, notwithstanding the diversity of 
climates and the influence of heights, retain the im- 
press of a common type, the traditions respecting 
the primitive state of the globe present among all 
nations a resemblance that fills us with astonish- 
ment ; so many different languages belonging to 
branches which appear to have no connexion with 
each other, transmit the same facts to us. The sub- 
stance of the traditions respecting the destroyed 
races and the renovation of nature is everywhere 
almost the same, although each nation gives it a 
local colouring. In the great continents, as in the 
smallest islands of the Pacific Ocean, it is always on 
the highest and nearest mountain that the remains 
of the human race were saved ; and this event ap- 


pears so much the more recent the more unculti- 
vated the nations are, and the shorter the period 
since they have begun to acquire a knowledge of 
themselves. When we attentively examine the 
Mexican monuments anterior to the discovery of 
America, penetrate into the forests of the Orinoco, 
and become aware of the smallness of the Euro- 
pean establishments, their solitude, and the state of 
the tribes which retain their independence, we can- 
not allow ourselves to attribute the agreement of 
these accounts to the influence of missionaries and 
to that of Christianity upon national traditions. Nor 
is it more probable that the sight of marine bodies 
found on the summits of mountains presented to the 
tribes of the Orinoco the idea of those great inun- 
dations which for some time extinguished the germs 
of organic life upon the globe. The country which 
extends from the right bank of the Orinoco to the 
Casiquiare and the Rio Negro consists of primitive 
rocks. I saw there a small deposite of sandstone 
or conglomerate, but no secondary limestone, and 
no trace of petrifactions." 

At eleven in the morning the travellers landed on 
an island celebrated for the turtle fishery, or the 
"harvest of eggs," which takes place 'annually. 
Here they found encamped more than 300 Indians 
of different races, each tribe, distinguished by its 
peculiar mode of painting, keeping separate from the 
rest, together with a few white men who had come 
to purchase egg-oil from them. The missionary of 
Uruana, whose presence was necessary to procure 
a supply for the lamp of the church and keep the 
natives in order, received the strangers with kind- 
ness, and made the tour of the island with them ; 
showing them, by means of a pole which he thrust 
into the sand, the extent of the stratum of eggs, that 
had been deposited wherever there were no emi- 
nences. The Indians asserted, that in coming up the 
Orinoco, from its mouth to the junction of the Apure, 


there is no place where eggs can be collected in 
abundance ; and the only three spots where the 
turtles assemble annually in great numbers are situ- 
ated between the mouth of the A pure and the great 
cataracts. These animals do not seem to pass be- 
yond the falls, the species found above Atures and 
Maypures being different. 

The arrau or tortuga, which deposites the eggs 
that are so much valued on the Lower Orinoco, is 
a large fresh-water tortoise, with webbed feet, a 
very flat head, a deep groove between the eyes, and 
an upper shell composed of five central, eight lateral, 
and twenty- four marginal scutella or plates. The 
colour is dark-gray above and orange beneath. 
When of full size it weighs from forty to fifty pounds. 
The eggs are much larger than those of a pigeon, 
and are covered with a calcareous crust. 

The terekay, the species which occurs above the 
cataracts, is much smaller. It has the same num- 
ber of dorsal plates, but the colour is olive green, 
with two spots of red mixed with yellow on the top of 
the head, and a prickly appendage under the chin. 
The eggs have an agreeable taste, and are much 
sought after, but are not deposited in masses like 
those of the tortuga. This variety is found below 
the cataracts as well as in the Apure, the Urituco, 
the Guarico, and the small rivers of the llanos of 

The period at which the arrau deposites its eggs 
is when the river is lowest. About the beginning 
of February these creatures issue from the water 
and warm themselves on the beach, remaining there 
a great part of the day. Early in the month of 
March they assemble on the islands where they 
breed, when thousands are to be seen ranged in files 
along the shores. The Indians place sentinels at 
certain distances to prevent them from being dis- 
turbed, and the people who pass in boats are told to 
keep in the middle of the river. The laying of the 


eggs begins soon after sunset, and is continued 
throughout the night. The animal digs a hole three 
feet in diameter and two in breadth with its hind 
feet, which are very long and furnished with crooked 
claws. So pressing is the desire which it feels to 
get rid of its burden, that great confusion prevails, 
and an immense number of eggs is broken. Some 
of the tortoises are surprised by day before they 
have finished the operation, and becoming insensi- 
ble to danger, continue to work with the greatest 
diligence even in the presence of the fishers. 

The Indians assemble about the beginning of 
April, and commence operations under the direction 
of the missionaries, who divide the egg-ground into 
portions. The leading person among them first 
examines by means of a long pole or cane how far 
the bed extends, and then allots the shares. The 
natives remove the earth with tlieir hands, gather 
up the eggs, and carry them in baskets to the camp, 
where they throw them into long wooden troughs 
filled with water. They are next broken and stirred, 
and remain exposed to the sun until the yolk, which 
swims at the surface, has time to inspissate, when 
it is taken off and boiled. The oil thus obtained is 
limpid and destitute of smell, and is used for lamps 
as well as for cooking. The shores of the missions 
of Uruana furnish 1000 botijas or jars annually, and 
the three stations jointly may be supposed to furnish 
5000. It requires 5000 eggs to fill ajar; and if we 
estimate at 100 or 116 the number which one tor- 
toise produces, and allow one-third to be broken at 
the time of laying, we may presume that 330,000 of 
these animals assemble every year, and lay 33,000,000 
of eggs. This calculation, however, is much below 
the truth. Many of them lay only 60 or 70 ; great num- 
bers of them again are devoured by jaguars ; the In- 
dians take away a considerable quantity to eat them 
dried in the sun, and break nearly as many while 
gathering them ; and, besides, the proportion that is 


hatched is such that Humboldt saw the whole shore 
near the encampment of Uruana swarming with 
young ones. Moreover, all the arraus do not as- 
semble on the three shores of the encampments, but 
many lay elsewhere. The number which annually 
deposite their eggs on the shores of the Lower Ori- 
noco may, therefore, be estimated at little short of 
a million. The travellers were shown the shells 
of large turtles which had been emptied by the 
jaguars. These animals surprise them on the sand, 
and turn them on their back in order to devour them 
at their ease ; they dig up the eggs also : and, to- 
gether with the gallinazo vulture and the herons, 
destroy thousands of their brood. 

After procuring some fresh provision, and taking 
leave of the missionary, they set sail in the after- 
noon. The wind blew in squalls, and after they had 
entered the mountainous part of the country, they 
found the canoe not very safe when under sail ; but 
the master was desirous of showing off to the In- 
dians, and in going close upon the wind almost upset 
his vessel, which filled with water, and nearly foun- 
dered. In the evening they landed on a barren 
island, where they supped under a beautiful moon- 
light, with turtle-shells for seats, and indulged their 
imagination with the picture of a shipwrecked man, 
wandering on the desert shores of the Orinoco amid 
rivers full of crocodiles and caribe fishes. The night 
was intensely hot, and not finding trees on which to 
sling their hammocks, they slept on skins spread on 
the ground. To their surprise the jaguars swam to 
the island, although they had kindled fires to pre- 
vent them; but these animals did not venture to 
attack them. 

On the 7th they passed the mouth of the Rio 
Arauca, which is frequented by immense numbers 
of birds. They also saw the mission of Uruana, at 
the foot of a mountain composed of detached blocks 
of granite, in the caverns formed by which hiero- 


glyphic figures are sculptured. Measuring the 
breadth of the Orinoco here, they found it, at a dis- 
tance of 670 miles from the mouth, to be 5700 yards, 
or nearly three miles. The temperature of the 
water at its surface was 82. As the strength of 
the current increased, the progress of the boat be- 
came much slower, while at one time the woods de- 
prived them of the wind, and at another a violent 
gust descended from the mountain-passes. Opposite 
the lake of Capanaparo, which communicates with 
the river, the number of crocodiles was increased. 
The Indians asserted that they came in troops to 
the water from the savannas, where they lie buried 
in the solid mud until the first showers awaken 
them. Humboldt remarks, that the dry season of 
the torrid zone corresponds to the winter of the 
temperate regions of the globe ; and that while the 
alligators of North America become torpid through 
excess of cold, the crocodiles of the llanos are 
reduced to the same state through deficiency of 

They now entered the passage of the Baraguan, 
where the Orinoco is hemmed in by precipices of 
granite, forming part of a range of mountains 
through which it has found or forced a channel. 
Like all the other granitic hills which they observed 
on this river, they were formed of enormous cubical 
masses piled upon each other. Landing in the mid- 
dle of the strait, they found the breadth of the stream 
to be 1895 yards. They looked in vain for plants in 
the fissures of the rocks ; but the stones were cov- 
ered with multitudes of lizards. There was not a 
breath of wind, and the heat was so intense that the 
thermometer placed against the rock rose to 122*4. 
" How vivid," says Humboldt, " is the impression 
which the noontide quiet of nature produces in these 
burning climates ! The beasts of the forest retire 
to the thickets, and the birds conceal themselves 
among the foliage or in the crevices of rocks, Yet 


amid this apparent silence, should one listen atten- 
tively, he hears a stifled sound, a continued murmur, 
ahum of insects, that fill the lower strata of the air. 
Nothing is more adapted to excite in man a senti- 
ment of the extent and power of organic life. My- 
riads of insects crawl on the ground, and flutter 
round the plants scorched by the heat of the sun. 
A confused noise issues from every bush, from the 
decayed trunks of the trees, the fissures of the rocks, 
and from the ground, which is undermined by lizards, 
millipedes, and blind worms. It is a voice proclaim- 
ing to us that all nature breathes, that under a thou- 
sand different forms life is diffused in the cracked 
and dusty soil, as in the bosom of the waters, and in 
the air that circulates around us. The water of the 
river was very disagreeable here, as it had a musky 
smell and a sweetish taste. In some parts it was 
pretty good ; but in others it seemed loaded with 
gelatinous matter, which the natives attribute to pu- 
trified crocodiles." 

After sleeping at the foot of an' eminence they 
continued their voyage, and passed the mouths of 
several rivers ; and on the 9th arrived, early in the 
morning, at the beach of Pararuma, where they 
found an encampment of Indians, who had assem- 
bled to search the sands for turtles' eggs. The pilot, 
who had brought them from San Fernando de Apure, 
would not undertake to accompany them farther ; 
but they procured a boat from one of the mission- 
aries who had come to the egg-harvest. 

This assemblage or encampment afforded to the 
travellers an interesting subject of study. " How 
difficult," says Humboldt, " to recognise in this in- 
fancy of society, this collection of dull, taciturn, and 
unimpassioned Indians, the original character of our 
species ! Human nature is not seen here arrayed 
in that gentle simplicity of which poets in every 
language have drawn such enchanting pictures. 
The savage of the Orinoco appeared to us as hideous 


as the savage of the Mississippi described by the 
philosophical traveller who best knew how to paint 
man in the various regions of the globe. One would 
fain persuade himself that these natives of the soil, 
crouched near the fire, or seated on large shells of 
turtles, their bodies covered with earth and grease, 
and their eyes stupidly fixed for whole hours on the 
drink which they are preparing, far from being the 
original type of our species, are a degenerated race, 
the feeble remains of nations which, after being long 
scattered in the forests, have been again immersed 
in barbarism. 1 " 

Red paint is the ordinary decoration of these 
tribes. The most common kind is obtained from 
the seeds of the Bixa orellana, and is called anotto, 
achote, or roucou. Another much more expensive 
species is extracted from the leaves of Bignonia 
chica. Both these are red ; but a black ingredient is 
obtained from the Genipa Americana, and is called 
caruto. These pigments are mixed with turtle-oil 
or grease, and are variously applied according to na- 
tional or individual taste. *The Caribs and Otomacs 
colour only the head and hair, while the Salivas 
smear the whole body ; but there prevails in general 
as great a diversity in the mode of staining as is 
found in Europe in respect to dress ; and at Para- 
ruma the travellers saw some Indians painted with a 
blue jacket and black buttons. Women advanced in 
years are fonder of being thus ornamented than the 
younger ladies ; and so expensive is this mode of 
decoration, that an industrious man can hardly gain 
enough by the labour of a fortnight to adorn himself 
with chica, of which the missionaries make an article 
of traffic. After all, the paintings that cost so much 
are liable to be effaced by a heavy shower ; although 
the caruto long resists the action of water, as the 
travellers found by disagreeable experience ; for 
having one day in sport marked their faces with 
spots and strokes of it, it was not entirely removed 


till after a long period. It has been supposed that 
this usage prevents the Indians from being stung by 
insects ; but this was found to be incorrect. The 
preference given by the American tribes to the red 
colour, Humboldt supposes to be owing to the tend- 
ency which nations feel to attribute the idea of 
beauty to whatever characterizes their national 

The encampment of Pararuma also afforded the 
travellers an opportunity of examining several ani- 
mals they had not before seen alive, and which the 
Indians brought to exchange with the missionaries 
for fish-hooks and other necessaries. Among these 
specimens were gallitoes, or rock-manakins, mon- 
keys of different species, of which the titi or Simia 
sciurea seems to have been a special favourite with 
Humboldt. He mentions a very interesting fact 
illustrative of the sagacity of this creature. One 
which he had purchased of the natives distinguished 
the different plates of a work on natural history so 
well, that when an engraving which contained zoo- 
logical representations was placed before it, it rapidly 
advanced its little hand to catch a grasshopper or a 
wasp ; which was the more remarkable as the 
figures were not coloured. Humboldt observes, that 
he never heard of any the most perfect picture of 
hares or deer producing the least effect upon a 
hound, and doubts if there be a well-ascertained ex- 
ample of a dog having recognised a full-length por- 
trait of its master. 

The canoe which they had procured was forty- 
two feet long and three broad. The missionary of 
Atures and Maypures had offered to accompany 
them as far as the frontiers of Brazil, and made pre- 
parations for the voyage. Two Indians who were 
to form part of the crew were chained during the 
night to prevent their escape ; and on the morning 
of the 10th the company set out. The vessel was 
found to be extremely incommodious. To gain 


something in breadth a kind of frame had been ex- 
tended over the gunwale in the hinder part of it ; but 
the roof of leaves which covered it was so low that 
the travellers were obliged to lie down, or sit nearly 
double, while in rainy weather the feet were liable 
to be wetted. The natives, seated two and two, 
were furnished with paddles three feet long, and 
rowed with surprising uniformity to the cadence of 
a monotonous and melancholy song. Small cages, 
containing birds and monkeys, were suspended to 
the shed, and the dried plants and instruments were 
placed beneath it. To their numerous inconve- 
niences was added the continual torment of the mos- 
quitoes, which they were unable by any means to 
alleviate. Every night, when they established their 
watch, the collection of animals and instruments 
occupied the centre, around which were placed first 
their own hammocks, and then those of the Indians, 
while fires were lighted to intimidate the jaguars. 
At sunrise the monkeys in the cages answered the 
cries of those in the forests, affording an affecting 
display of sympathy between the captive and the 

Above the deserted mission of Pararuma the river 
is full of islands, and divides into several branches. 
Its total breadth is about 6395 yards. The country- 
becomes more wooded. A granitic prism, termi- 
nated by a flat surface covered with a tuft of trees, 
rises to the height of 213 feet in the midst of the 
forest. Farther on the river narrows ; and upon the 
east is an eminence, on which the Jesuits formerly 
maintained a garrison for protecting the missions 
against the inroads of the Caribs, and for extending 
what, in the Spanish colonies, was called the con- 
quest of souls, which of course was effected through 
the conquest of bodies. The soldiers made incur- 
sions into the territories of the independent Indians, 
killed all who offered resistance, burned their huts, 
destroyed the plantations, and made prisoners of the 


old men, women, and children, who were afterward 
divided among their establishments. The river again 
contracted, and rapids began to make their appear- 
ance, the shores becoming sinuous and precipitous. 
In a bay between two promontories of granite, they 
landed at what is called the Port of Carichana, and 
proceeded to the mission of that name, situated at 
the distance of two miles and a half from the bank, 
where they were hospitably received at the priest's 
house. The Christian converts at this station were 
Salivas, a social and mild people, having a great taste 
for music. 

Among these Indians they found a white woman, 
the sister of a Jesuit of New-Grenada, and expe- 
rienced great pleasure in conversing with her with- 
out the aid of a third person. In every mission, 
says Humboldt, there are at least two interpreters, 
for the purpose of communicating between the 
monks and the catechumens, the former seldom 
studying the language of the latter. They are na- 
tives, somewhat less stupid than the rest, but ill 
adapted for their office. They always attended the 
travellers in their excursions ; but little more could 
be got from them than a mere affirmation or nega- 
tion. Sometimes, in attempting to hold intercourse 
with the Indians, he preferred the language of signs, 
a method which he recommends to travellers, as the 
variety of languages spoken on the Meta, Orinoco, 
Casiquiare, and Rio Negro is so great, that no one 
could ever make himself understood in them all. 

The scenery around the mission of Carichana ap- 
peared delightful. The village was situated on a 
grassy plain, bounded by mountains. Banks of rock, 
often more than 850 feet in circumference, scarcely 
elevated a few inches above the savannas, and 
nearly destitute of vegetation, give a peculiar char- 
acter to the country. On these stony flats they 
eagerly observed the rising vegetation in the differ- 
ent stages of its development : lichens cleaving to the 


rock and collected into crusts ; a few succulent plants 
growing among little portions of quartz-sand ; and 
tufts of evergreen shrubs springing up in the black 
mould deposited in the hollows. At the distance 
of eight or ten miles from the religious house they 
found a rich and diversified assemblage of plants, 
among which M. Bonpland obtained numerous new 
species. Here grew the Dipterix odorata, which fur- 
nishes excellent timber, and of which the fruit is 
known in Europe by the name of tonkay or tongo 

In a narrow part of the river the marks of the 
great inundations were 45 feet above the surface ; 
but at various places black bands and erosions are 
seen, 106, or even 138 feet above the present highest 
increase of the waters. " Is this river, then," says 
Humboldt, " the Orinoco, which appears to us so im- 
posing and majestic, merely the feeble remnant 
of those immense currents of fresh water which, 
swelled by alpine snows, or by more abundant rains, 
everywhere shaded by dense forests, and destitute 
of those beaches which favour evaporation, formerly 
traversed the regions to the east of the Andes, like 
arms of inland seas 1 What must then have been 
the state of those low countries of Guiana, which 
now experience the effects of annual inundations ? 
What a prodigious number of crocodiles, laman- 
tines, and boas must have inhabited these vast 
regions, alternately converted into pools of stagnant 
water and arid plains ! The more peaceful world in 
which we live has succeeded to a tumultuous world. 
Bones of mastodons and real American elephants 
are found dispersed over the platforms of the Andes. 
The megatherium inhabited the plains of Uruguay. 
By digging the earth more deeply in high valleys, 
which at the present day are unable to nourish palms 
or tree-ferns, we discover strata of coal containing 
gigantic remains of monocotyledonous plants. There 
was therefore a remote period, when the tribes of 


vegetables were differently distributed; when the 
animals were larger, the rivers wider and deeper. 
There stop the monuments of nature which we can 
consult. We are ignorant if the human race, which 
at the time of the discovery of America scarcely 
presented a few feeble tribes to the east of the Cor- 
dilleras, had yet descended into the plains, or if the 
ancient tradition of the Great Waters, which we 
find among all the races of the Orinoco, Erevato, 
and Caura, belong to other climates, whence it had 
been transferred to this part of the new continent." 
On the llth they left Carichana at two in the 
afternoon, and found the river more and more en- 
cumbered by blocks of granite. At the large rock 
known by the name of Piedra del Tigre, the depth is 
so great that no bottom can be found with a line of 
140 feet. Towards evening they encountered a 
thunder-storm, which for a time drove away the 
mosquitoes that had tormented them during the day. 
At the cataract of Cariven the current was so rapid 
that they had great difficulty in landing; but at 
length two Saliva Indians swam to the shore, and 
drew the canoe to the side with a rope. The thun- 
der continued a part of the night, and the river in- 
creased considerably. The granitic rock on which 
they slept is one of those from which travellers on 
the Orinoco have heard subterranean sounds, re- 
sembling those of an organ, emitted about sunrise. 
Humboldt supposes that these must be produced by 
the passage of rarefied air through the fissures, and 
seems to think that the impulse of the fluid against 
the elastic scales of mica which intercept the crev- 
ices may contribute to modify their expression.* 

* Many examples of mysterious sounds produced under similar cir- 
cumstances are on record. In the autumn of 1828, a recent traveller 
crossing the Pyrenees, when in a wild pass with the Maladetta moun- 
tain opposite, heard "a dull, low, moaning, JEolian sound, which alone 
broke upon the deathly silence, evidently proceeding from the body of 
this mighty mass." The air was perfectly calm, and clear to an extra- 
ordinary degree ; no waterfall could be seen even with the aid of a tele- 


On the 12th they set off at four in the morning. 
The Indians rowed twelve hours and a half without 
intermission, during which time they took no other 
nourishment than cassava and plantains. The bed 
of the river, to the length of 1280 yards, was full of 
granite rocks, the channels between which were 
often very narrow, insomuch that the canoe was 
sometimes jammed in between two blocks. When 
the current was too strong the sailors leaped out, and 
warped the boat along. The rocks were of all di- 
mensions, rounded, very dark, glossy like lead, and 
destitute of vegetation. No crocodiles were seen 
in these rapids. The left bank of the Orinoco, from 
Cabruto to the mouth of the Rio Serianico, a dis- 
tance of nearly two degrees of latitude, is entirely 
uninhabited ; but to the westward of these rapids 
an enterprising individual, Don Felix Relinchon, had 
formed a village of Jaruro and Otomac Indians. At 
nine in the morning they arrived at the mouth of 
the Meta, which, next to the Guaviare, is the largest 
river that joins the Orinoco. At the union of these 
streams the scenery is of a very impressive charac- 
ter. Solitary peaks rise on the eastern side, appear- 
ing in the distance like ruined castles, while vast 
sandy shores intervene between the bank and the 
forests. They passed two hours on a large rock in 
the middle of the Orinoco, upon which Humboldt 

scope, and no cause could be assigned for the phenomenon, unless the 
sun's rays, "at that moment impinging in all their glory on every point 
and peak ot the snowy heights," hud some share " in vibrating these 
mountain-chords." JV M. Mag. xxx. 341. The granite statueof Mem- 
non is well known to have emitted sounds when the morning beams 
darted upon it ; and MM. Jomard, Jollois, and Devilliers heard a noise 
resembling that of the breaking of a string, which proceeded at sunrise 
from a monument of granite situated near the centre of the spot on 
which stands the palace of Carnac. Singular sounds have been heard 
from the interior of a mountain near Tor, in Arabia Petrsea. They are 
familiar to the natives, who ascribe them to a convent of monks, miracu- 
lously preserved under ground, and were heard by M. Seetzen and Mr. 
Gray, the only European travellers who have visited the place. For an 
account of these curious phenomena, the reader may be referred to Dr. 
firewater's Letters on Natural Magic, forming Ko. L. of the Family 


succeeded in fixing his instruments, and in deter- 
mining the longitude of the embouchure of the Meta ; 
a river which will one day be of great political im- 
portance to the inhabitants of Guiana and Venezuela, 
as it is navigable to the foot of the Andes of New- 
Grenada. Above this point the current was com- 
paratively free from shoals ; and in the evening they 
reached the rapids of Tabaje. As the Indians 
would not venture to pass them, they were obliged 
to land, and repose on a craggy platform having a 
slope of more than eighteen degrees, and having its 
crevices filled with bats. The cries of the jaguar 
were heard very near during the whole night ; the 
sky was of a tremendous blackness ; and the hoarse 
noise of the rapids blended with the thunder which 
rolled at a distance among the woods. 

Early in the morning they cleared the rapids, and 
disembarked at the new mission of San Borja, where 
they found six houses inhabited by uncatechised 
Guahiboes, who differed in nothing from the wild 
natives. The faces of the young girls were marked 
with black spots. This people had not painted their 
bodies, and several of them had beards, of which 
they seemed proud, taking the travellers by the 
chin, and showing by signs that they were like 
themselves. In continuing to ascend the river, they 
found the heat less intense, the temperature during 
the day being 79 or 80, and at night about 75 ; 
but the torment of the mosquitoes increased. The 
crocodiles which they saw were all of the extraor- 
dinary size of twenty-four or twenty-five feet. 

The night was spent on the beach ; but the suffer- 
ings inflicted by the flies induced the travellers to 
start at five in the morning. On the island of Gua- 
chaco, where they stopped to breakfast, they found 
the granite covered by a sandstone or conglomerate, 
containing fragments of quartz and felspar cemented 
by indurated clay, and exhibiting small veins of 
brown iron-ore. Passing the mouth of the Rio Pa- 


rueni, they slept on the island of Panumana, which 
they found rich in plants, and where they again 
observed the low shelves of rock partially coated 
with the vegetation which they had admired at 


Voyage up the Orinoco continued. 

Mission of Atures Epidemic Fevers Black Crust of Granitic Rocks- 
Causes of Depopulation of the Missions Falls of Apures Scenery- 
Anecdote of a Jaguar Domestic Animals Wild Man of the Woods 
Mosquitoes and other poisonous Insects Mission and Cataracts of 
Maypures Scenery Inhabitants Spice-trees San Fernando de Ata- 
bapo San Baltasar The Mother's Rock Vegetation Dolphins- 
San Antonio de Javita Indians Elastic Gum Serpents Portage of 
the Pimichin Arrival at the Rio Negro, a Branch of the Amazon- 
Ascent of the Casiquiare 

LEAVING the island of Panumana at an early hour, 
the navigators continued to ascend the Orinoco, the 
scenery on which became more interesting the 
nearer they approached the great cataracts. The 
sky was in part obscured, and lightnings flashed 
among the dense clouds ; but no thunder was heard. 
On the western bank of the river they perceived the 
fires of an encampment of Guahiboes, to intimidate 
whom some shots were discharged by the direction 
of the missionary. In the evening they arrived at 
the foot of the great fall, and passed the night at the 
mission of Atures, in its neighbourhood. The flat 
savanna which surrounds the village seemed to 
Humboldt to have formerly .been the bed of the 

* This station was found to be in a deplorable state, 
the Indians having gradually deserted it until only 


forty-seven remained. At its foundation in 1748 
several tribes had been assembled, which subse- 
quently dispersed, and their places were supplied 
by the Guahiboes, who belong- to the lowest grade 
of uncivilized society, and a few families of Macoes. 
The epidemic fevers, which prevail here at the com- 
mencement of the rainy season, contributed greatly 
to the decay of the establishment. This distemper 
is ascribed to the violent heats, excessive humidity 
of the air, bad food, and, as the natives believe, to 
the noxious exhalations that rise from the bare rocks 
of the rapids. This last is a curious circumstance, 
and, as Humboldt remarks, is the more worthy of 
attention on account of its being connected with a 
fact that has been observed in several parts of the 
world,, although it has not yet been sufficiently ex- 

Among the cataracts and falls of the Orinoco, the 
granite rocks, wherever they are periodically sub- 
mersed, become smooth, and seem as if coated with 
black lead. The crust is only 0*3 of a line in thick- 
ness, and occurs chiefly on the quartzy parts of the 
stone, which is coarse-grained, and contains solitary 
crystals of hornblende. The same appearance is 
presented at the cataracts of Syene as well as those 
of the Congo. This black deposite, according to 
Mr. Children's analysis, consists of oxide of iron 
and manganese, to which some experiments of 
Humboldt induced him to add carbon and super- 
carburetted iron. The phenomenon has hitherto 
been observed only in the torrid zone, in rivers that 
overflow periodically and are bounded by primitive 
rocks, and is supposed by our author to arise from 
the precipitation of substances chymically dissolved 
in the water, and not from an eiflorescence of mat- 
ters contained in the rocks themselves. The Indians 
and missionaries assert, that the exhalations from 
these rocks are unwholesome, and consider it dan- 
gerous to sleep on grahite near the river ; and our 


travellers, without entirely crediting- this assertion, 
usually took care to avoid the black rocks at night. 
But the danger of reposing on them, Humboldt 
thinks, may rather be owing to the very great degree 
of warmth they retain during the night, which was 
found to be 85'5, while that of the air was 78'8. 
In the day their temperature was 118'4, and the 
heat which they emitted was stifling. 

Among the causes of the depopulation of the 
missions, Humboldt mentions the general insalubrity 
of the climate, bad nourishment, want of proper 
treatment in the diseases of children, and the prac- 
tice of preventing pregnancy by the use of dele- 
terious herbs. Among the savages of Guiana, when 
twins are produced one is always destroyed, from 
the idea that to bring more than one at a time into 
the world is to resemble rats, opossums, and the 
vilest animals ; and that two children born at once 
cannot belong to the same father. When any phy- 
sical deformity occurs in an infant, the father puts 
it to death, and those of a feeble constitution some- 
times undergo the same fate, because the care which 
they require is disagreeable. " Such," says Hum- 
boldt, " is the simplicity of manners, the boasted 
happiness of man in the state of nature ! He kills 
his son to escape the ridicule of having twins, or 
to avoid travelling more slowly, in fact to avoid a 
little inconvenience." 

The two great cataracts of the Orinoco are formed 
by the passage of the river across a chain of granitic 
mountains, constituting part of the Parime range. 
By the natives they are called Mapara and Quittuna; 
but the missionaries have denominated them the 
falls of Atures and Maypures, after the first tribes 
which they assembled in the nearest villages. They 
are only forty-one miles distant from each other, 
and are not more than 345 miles west of the qpr- 
dilleras of New-Grenada. They divide the Chris- 
tian establishments of Spanish Guiana into two un- 


equal parts ; those situated between the lower 
cataract, or that of Apures, being called the missions 
of the Lower Orinoco, and those between the upper 
cataract and the mountains of Duida being called 
the missions of the Upper Orinoco. The length of 
the lower section, including its sinuosities, is 897 
miles, while that of the upper is 576 miles. The 
navigation of the river extends from its mouth to 
the point where it meets the Anaveni near the lower 
cataract, although in the upper part of this division 
there are rapids which can be passed only in small 
boats. The principal danger, however, is that which 
arises from natural rafts, consisting of trees inter- 
woven with lianas, and covered with aquatic plants 
carried down by the current. The cataracts are 
formed by bars stretching a cross the bed of the 
river, which forces its way through a break in the 
mountains ; but beyond this rugged pass the course 
is again open for a length of more than 576 miles. 

The scenery in the vicinity of the lower fall is 
described as exceedingly beautiful. To the west of 
Atures, a pyramidal mountain, the Peak of Uniana, 
rises from a plain to the height of nearly 3200 feet. 
The savannas, which are covered with grasses and 
slender plants, though never inundated by the river, 
present a surprising luxuriance and diversity of 
vegetation. Piles of granitic blocks rise here and 
there, and at the margins of the plains occur deep 
valleys and ravines, the humid soil of which is 
covered with arums, heliconias, and lianas. The 
shelves of primitive rocks, scarcely elevated above 
the plain, are partially coated with lichens and 
mosses, together with succulent plants, and tufts of 
evergreen shrubs with shining leaves. On all sides 
the horizon is bounded by mountains, overgrown 
with forests of laurels, among which clusters of 
palms rise to the height of more than a hundred 
feet, their slender steins supporting tufts of feathery 
foliage. To the east of Atures other mountains ap- 


The missionary related a striking instance of the 
familiarity of these animals : " Two Indian chil- 
dren, a boy and girl, eight or nine years of age, were 
sitting among the grass near the village of Atures, 
in the midst of a savanna. It was two in the after- 
noon when a jaguar issued from the forest and ap- 
proached the children, gamboling around them ; some- 
times concealing itself among the long grass, and 
again springing forward, with his back curved and 
his head lowered, as is usual with our cats. The 
little boy was unaware of the danger in which he 
was placed, and became sensible of it only when the 
jaguar struck him on the head with one of his paws. 
The blows thus inflicted were at first slight, but 
gradually became ruder. The claws of the jaguar 
wounded the child, and blood flowed with violence. 
The little girl then took up a branch of a tree and 
struck the animal, which fled before her. The In- 
dians, hearing the cries of the children, ran up and 
saw the jaguar, which bounded off without showing 
any disposition to defend itself." " What," asks 
Humboldt, " meant this fit of playfulness in an ani- 
mal which, although not difficult to be tamed in our 
menageries, is always so ferocious and cruel in the 
state of freedom ? If we choose to admit that, being 
sure of its prey, it played with the young Indian 
as the domestic cat plays with a bird, the wings of 
which have been clipped, how can we account for 
the forbearance of a large jaguar when pursued by 
a little girl? If the jaguar was not pressed by hun- 
ger, why should it have gone up to the children 1 
There are mysteries in the affections and hatreds 
of animals. We have seen lions kill three or four 
dogs which were put into their cage, and instantly 
caress another which had the courage to seize the 
royal beast by the mane. Man is ignorant of the 
sources of these instincts. It would seem that 
weakness inspires more interest the more confiding 
it is." 


The cattle introduced by the Jesuits had entirely 
disappeared ; but the Indians rear the common pig 
and another kind peculiar to America, and known in 
Europe by the name of pecari. A third species of 
hog, the apida, which is of a dark-brown colour, 
wanders in large herds composed of several hun- 
dreds. M. Bonpland, when upon a botanical excur- 
sion, saw a drove of these animals pass near him. 
It marched in a close body ; the males before, and 
each sow accompanied by her young. The natives 
kill them with small lances tied to cords. At the 
mission they saw a monkey of a new species, which 
had been brought up in captivity, and which every 
day seized a pig in the court-yard, and remained upon 
it from morning to night, in all its wanderings in the 
savannas. Here, for the first time, they heard of 
the hairy man of the woods, a large animal of the 
ape kind, which, according to report, carries off 
women, builds huts, and sometimes eats human 
flesh. In all his travels in America, Humboldt found 
no traces of a large anthropomorphous monkey, al- 
though in several places, very distant from each 
other, he heard similar accounts of it. 

Flies of various kinds unceasingly tormented the 
travellers ; mosquitoes and simulia by day, and zan- 
cudoes by night. The missionary, observing that 
the insects were more abundant in the lowest stra- 
tum of the atmosphere, had constructed near the 
church a small apartment supported upon palm- 
trunks, to which they retired in the evening to dry 
their plants and write their journals.* At Maypures 

* A similar expedient was tried by a British officer who had joined the 
insurgents under Bolivar, in 1818. "These insects"" (the mosquitoes), 
says he, " do not rise high in the air, but are generated and remain near 
the wet bank of the river. I found a tree in the neighbourhood, which I 
ascended nearly to its top with a cord. This I attached firmly to the 
branches, and then fixed it round rne, so that I could riot fall, but sit with 
safety, although not with much comfort. It was, however, with me 
here as with many in various situations in life I could estimate the nature 
and extent of my pleasures and my difficulties merely by comparison ; 
and, certainly, although the being tied to the top of a tree us a sleeping- 


the Indians leave the village at night, and sleep on 
the little islands in the midst of the cataracts, where 
the insects are less numerous. Humboldt gives an 
elaborate account of these creatures, of which, how- 
ever, the most interesting particulars alone can be 
here extracted. In the missions of the Orinoco, 
when two persons meet in the morning, the first 
questions are, " How did you find the zancudoes 
during the night ? How are we to-day for the mos- 
quitoes ?" The plague of these animals, however, 
is not so general in the torrid zone as is commonly 
believed. On the table-lands that have an elevation 
of more than 2558 feet, and in very dry plains at a 
distance from rivers, they are not more numerous 
than in Europe ; but along the valleys, as well as in 
moist places on the coast, they continually harass 
the traveller ; the lower stratum of air, to the height 
of fifteen or twenty feet, being filled with a cloud of 
venomous insects. It is a remarkable circumstance 
that on the streams, the water of which is of a yel- 
lowish-brown colour, the tipulary flies do not make 
their appearance. Not less astonishing is the fact, 
that the different kinds do not associate together; 
but that at certain hours of the day, distinct species, 
as the missionaries say, mount guard. From half 
after six in the morning till five in the afternoon the 
air is filled with mosquitoes, which are of the genus 
Simulium, and resemble a common fly. An hour 
before sunset small gnats, called tempraneroes, suc- 
ceed them, to disappear between six and seven; 
after which zancudoes, a species of gnat with very 
long legs, come abroad and continue until near sun- 
rise, when the former again take their turn. Per- 
sons born in the country, whether whites, mulattoes, 
negroes, or Indians, all suffer from the sting of these 

place was not very agreeable, it was far preferable to being among swarms 
of hungry mosquitoes where I had previously lodged. I enjoyed several 
hours' sleep, and awoke considerably refreshed." Robinson's Journal 
of an Expedition up the Orinoco and Arauca, 


insects, although not so severely as recently-arrived 

The travellers, after remaining two days in the 
vicinity of the cataract of Atures, proceeded on the 
17th to rejoin their canoe, already conducted by 
eight Indians of the mission through the rapids, and 
reached it about eleven in the morning, accompanied 
by Father Zea, who had procured a small stock of 
provisions, consisting of plantains, cassava, and 
fowls. The river was now free from shoals ; and 
after a few hours they passed the rapids of Garcita, 
and perceived numerous small holes at an elevation 
of more than 190 feet above the level of the current, 
which appeared to have been caused by the erosion 
of the waters. The night was spent in the open air, 
on the left bank. 

On the 18th they set out at three in the morning, 
and near five in the afternoon reached the Raudal 
des Guahiboes, on the dike of which they landed 
while the Indians were drawing up the boat. The 
gneiss rock exhibited circular holes, produced by 
the friction of pebbles, in one of which they prepared 
a beverage consisting of water, sugar, and the juice 
of acid fruits, for the purpose of allaying the thirst 
of the missionary, who was seized by a fever fit ; 
after which they had the pleasure of bathing in a 
quiet place in the midst of the cataracts. After an 
I hour's delay, the boat having been got up, they re- 
embarked their instruments and provisions. The 
river was 1705 yards broad, and had to be crossed 
obliquely, at a part where the waters rushed with 
extreme rapidity towards the bar over which they 
were precipitated. In the midst of this dangerous 
navigation they were overtaken by a thunder-storm 
accompanied by torrents of rain ; and after rowing 
twenty minutes found that so far from having made 
progress they were approaching the fall. But, as 
the Indians redoubled their efforts, the danger was 
escaped, and the boat arrived at nightfall in the port of 


Maypures. The night was extremely dark, and the 
village was at a considerable distance ; still, as the 
missionary caused copal-torches to be lighted, they 
proceeded. As the rain ceased the zaricudoes re- 
appeared, and the flambeaux being extinguished, 
they had to grope their way. One of their fellow- 
travellers, Don Nicolas Soto, slipped from a round 
trunk on which he attempted to cross a gully, but 
fortunately received no injury. To add to their 
distress, the pilot talked incessantly of venomous 
snakes, water- serpents, and tigers. On their arrival 
at the mission they found the inhabitants immersed 
in profound sleep, and nothing was heard but the 
cries of nocturnal birds and the distant roar of the 

At the village of Maypures they remained three 
days, for the purpose of examining the neighbour- 
hood. The cataract, called by the Indians Quittuna, 
is formed by an archipelago of islands, filling the 
bed of the river to the length of 6395 yards, and by 
dikes of rock which occasionally join them together. 
The largest of these shelves or bars are at Purima- 
rimi, Manimi, and the Salto de la Sardina ; the last 
of which is about nine feet high. To obtain a full 
view of the falls the travellers frequently ascended 
the eminence of Manimi, a granitic ridge rising from 
the savanna, to the north of the church. " When 
one attains the summit of the rock," says Humboldt, 
"he suddenly sees a sheet of foam a mile in extent. 
Enormous masses of rock, of an iron blackness, 
emerge from its bosom, some of a mammillar form, 
and grouped like basaltic hills ; others resembling 
towers, castles, and ruins. Their dark colour con- 
trasts with the silvery whiteness of the foam. 
Every rock and islet is covered with tufts of stately 
trees. From the base of these prominences, as far 
as the eye ean reach, there hangs over the river a 
dense mist, through which the tops of majestic palms 
are seen to penetrate. At every hour of the day this 


sheet of foam presents a different aspect. Some- 
times the mountain isles and palms project their long 
shadows over it ; sometimes the rays of the setting 
sun are refracted in the humid cloud that covers the 
cataract, when coloured arches form, vanish, and 
reappear by turns." 

The mountain of Manimi forms the eastern limit 
of a plain, which presented the same appearance as 
that of Atures. Towards the west is a level space 
formerly occupied by the waters of the river, and 
exhibiting- rocks similar to the islands of the cata- 
racts. These masses are also crowned with palms ; 
and one of them, called Keri, is celebrated in the 
country for a white spot, which Humboldt supposed 
to be a large nodule of quartz. In an islet amid 
the rush of waters there is a similar spot. The 
Indians view them with a mysterious interest, be- 
lieving they see in the former the image of the moon, 
and in the "latter that of the sun. 

The inhabitants of the mission were Guahiboes 
and Macoes. In the time of the Jesuits the number 
was six hundred, but it had gradually fallen to less 
than sixty. They are represented as gentle, tem- 
perate, and cleanly. They cultivate plantains and 
cassava, and> like most of the Indians of the Orinoco, 
prepare nourishing drinks from the fruits of palms 
and other plants. Some of them were occupied in 
manufacturing a coarse pottery. Cattle, and espe- 
cially goats, had at one time multiplied considerably 
at Maypures ; but at the period of Humboldt's visit 
none were to be seen in any mission of the Orinoco. 
Tame macaws were seen round the huts, and fly- 
ing in the fields like pigeons. Their plumage being 
of the most vivid tints of purple, blue, and yellow, 
these birds are a great ornament to the Indian farm- 

Round the village there grows a majestic tree of 
the genus Unona, with straight branches rising in the 
form of a pyramid. The infusion of the aromatic 


fruit is a powerful febrifuge, and is used as such in 
preference to the astringent bark of the cinchona or 
Bonplandia trifoliata. 

The longitude of this place was found to be 68 
IT 9", the latitude 5 13' 57" ; differing from the best 
maps then existing by half a degree of longitude and 
as much of latitude. The thermometer during the 
night indicated from 80 to 84, and in the day 86. 
The water of the river was 81.7, and that of a 
spring 82. 

Having spent some days at the mission of May- 
pures, the travellers embarked at two in the after- 
noon in the canoe procured at the turtle island, 
which, although considerably damaged by the care- 
lessness of the Indians, was judged sufficient for the 
long voyage they had yet to perform. Above the 
great cataracts they found themselves, as it were, in a 
new world. Towards the east, in the extreme dis- 
tance, rose the great chain of the Cimavami moun- 
tains, one of the peaks of which, named Calida- 
mini, reflects at sunset a reddrsh glare of light. 
After encountering one more rapid they entered 
upon smooth water, and passed the night on a rocky 

On the 22d they set out at an early hour. The 
morning was damp but delicious, and not a breath of 
wind was felt ; a perpetual calm reigning to the 
south of the cataracts, which Humboldt attributes 
to the windings of the rivers, the shelter of moun- 
tains, and the almost incessant rains. In the valley 
of the Amazon, on the contrary, a strong breeze 
rises every day at two in the afternoon, which, how- 
ever, is felt only along the line of the current. It 
always moves against the stream, and by means of 
it a boat may go up the Amazon under sail a length 
of 2590 miles. The great salubrity of this district 
is probably owing to the gale. They passed the 
mouths of several streams, and admired the gran- 
deur of the cerros of Lipapo, a branch of the cordil- 


lera of Parime, the aspect of which varied every 
hour of the day. At sunrise, the dense vegetation 
with which they are covered was tinged with a dark- 
green inclining to brown, while broad and deep 
shadows were projected over the neighbouring plain, 
forming a strong contrast with the vivid light diffused 
around. Towards noon the shadows disappeared, 
and the whole group was veiled in an azure vapour, 
which softened the outlines of the rocks, moderated 
the effects of light, and gave the landscape an aspect 
of calmness and repose. Landing at the mouth of 
the Rio Vichada to examine the vegetation, they 
found numberless small granitic rocks rising from 
the plain, and presenting the appearance of prisms, 
ruined columns, and towers. The forest was thin, 
and at the confluence of the two rivers the rocks 
and even the soil were covered with mosses and 
lichens. M. Bonpland found several specimens of 
Laurus cinnamomoides, a very aromatic species of 
cinnamon, which, together with the American nut- 
meg, the pimento, and Laurus pucheri, Humboldt re- 
marks, would have become important objects of trade, 
had not Europe, at the period when the New World 
was discovered, been already accustomed to the 
spices of India. The travellers rested at night on 
the bank of the Orinoco, at the mouth of the Zama. 
This river is one of those which are said to have black 
water, as it appears of a dark-brown or greenish- 
black ; and here they entered the system of rivers 
to which the name of Aguas Negras is given. The 
colour is supposed to be owing to a solution of ve- 
getable matter, and the Indians attribute it to the 
roots of sarsaparilla. 

At five in the morning of the 23d they continued 
their voyage, and passed the mouth of the Rio Ma- 
taveni. The banks were still skirted by forests, but 
the mountains on the east retired farther back. The 
traces left by the floods were not higher than eight 
feet. At the place where they passed the night, 


multitudes of bats issued from the crevices, and 
hovered around their hammocks. Next day a violent 
rain obliged them to set out at a very early hour. 
In the afternoon they landed at the Indian planta- 
tions of San Fernando, and after midnight arrived at 
the mission, where they were received with the kind- 
est hospitality. 

The village of San Fernando de Atabipo is situated 
near the confluence of the Orinoco, the Atabipo, and 
the Guaviare ; the latter of which Humboldt thinks 
might with more propriety be considered the con- 
tinuation of the Orinoco than a branch. The num- 
ber of inhabitants did not exceed 226. The mission- 
ary had the title of president of the stations on the 
Orinoco, and superintended the twenty-six ecclesias- 
tics settled on its banks, as well as on those of the 
Rio Negro, Casiquiare, Atabipo, and Caura. The 
Indians were a little more civilized than the inmates 
of the other establishments, and cultivated cacao in 
small quantities, together with cassava and plantains. 
They were surrounded with good pasturage, but not 
more than seven or eight cows were to be seen. 
The most striking object in the neighbourhood was 
the- pirijao palm, which has a thorny trunk more than 
sixty-four feet high, pinnated leaves, and clusters of 
fruits two or three inches in diameter, and of a pur- 
ple colour. The fruit furnishes a farinaceous sub- 
stance, of a colour resembling that of the yelk of an 
egg, which when boiled or roasted affords a very 
wholesome and agreeable aliment. 

On entering the Rio Atabipo the travellers found 
a great change in the scenery, the colour of the 
stream, and the constitution of the atmosphere. The 
trees were of a different species ; the mosquitoes had 
entirely disappeared, and the waters, instead of being 
turbid, and loaded with earthy matter, were of a 
dark colour, clear, agreeable to the taste, and two 
degrees cooler. So great is their transparency, that 
the smallest fishes are distinguishable at the depth 


of twenty or thirty feet, and the bottom, which con- 
sists of white quartzy sand, is usually visible. The 
banks covered with plants, among which rise nume- 
rous palms, are reflected by the surface of the river 
with a vividness almost as bright as that of the ob- 
jects themselves. Above the mission no crocodiles 
occur, but their place is supplied by bavas and fresh- 
water dolphins. The chiguires, howling-monkeys 
and zamuro-vultures had disappeared, though jaguars 
were still seen, and the water-snakes were extremely 

On the 26th the travellers advanced only two or 
three leagues, and passed the night on a rock near 
the Indian plantations of Guapasoso. At two in 
the morning they again set out, and continued to 
ascend the river. About noon they passed the gra- 
nitic rock named Piedra del Tigre, and at the close 
of the day had great difficulty in finding a suitable 
place for sleeping, owing to the inundation of the 
banks. It rained hard from sunset, and as the mis- 
sionary had a fit of tertian fever they re-embarked 
immediately after midnight. At dawn they landed 
to examine a gigantic ceiba-tree, which was nearly 
128 feet in height, with a diameter of fifteen or six- 
teen feet. On the 29th the air was cooler, but loaded 
with vapours, and the current being strong they ad- 
vanced slowly. It was night when they arrived 
at the mission of San Baltasar, where they lodged 
with a Catalan priest, a lively and agreeable per- 
son. The village was built with great regularity, and 
the plantations seemed better cultivated than else- 

At a late hour in the morning they left his abode, 
and after ascending the Atabipo for five miles en- 
tered the Rio Temi. A granitic rock on the west- 
ern bank of the former river attracted their atten- 
tion. It is called the Piedra de la Guahiba or 
Piedra de la Madre, and commemorates one of those 
acts of oppression of which Europeans are guilty in 


all countries whenever they come into contact with 
savages. In 1797, the missionary of San Fernando 
had led his people to the banks of the Rio Gua- 
viare on a hostile excursion. In an Indian hut they 
found a Guahibo woman, with three children, occu- 
pied in preparing cassava-flour. She and her little 
ones attempted to escape, but were seized and carried 
away. The unhappy female repeatedly fled with her 
children from the village, but was always traced by 
her Christian countrymen. At length the friar, after 
causing her to be severely beaten, resolved to sepa- 
rate her from her family, and sent her up the Atabipo 
towards the missions of the Rio Negro. Ignorant 
of the fate intended for her, but judging by the di- 
rection of the sun that her persecutors were carry- 
ing her far from her native country, she burst her 
fetters, leaped from the boat, and swam to the left 
bank of the river. She landed on a rock ; but the 
president of the establishment ordered the Indians 
to row to the shore and lay hands on her. She was 
brought back in the evening, stretched upon the bare 
stone (the Piedra de la Madre), scourged with straps 
of manatee leather, which are the ordinary whips of 
the country, and then dragged to the mission of Ja- 
vita, her hands bound behind her back. It was the 
rainy season, the night was excessively dark, forests 
believed to be impenetrable stretched from that sta- 
tion to San Fernando over an extent of 86 miles, and 
the only communication between these places was by 
the river ; yet the Guahibo mother, breaking her 
bonds, and eluding the vigilance of her guards, 
escaped under night, and on the fourth morning was 
seen at the village, hovering around the hut which 
contained her children. On this journey she must 
have undergone hardships from which the most ro- 
bust man would have shrunk ; was forced to live upon 
ants, to swim numerous streams, and to make her 
way through thickets and thorny lianas. And the 
reward of all this courage and devotion was her 


removal to one of the missions of the Upper Ori- 
noco, where, despairing of ever seeing her beloved 
children, and refusing all kind of nourishment, she 
died, a victim to the bigotry and barbarity of wretches 
blasphemously calling themselves the ministers of a 
religion which inculcates universal benevolence. 

Above the mouth of the Guasucavi 4he travellers 
entered the Rio Temi, which runs from south to 
north. The ground was flat and covered with trees, 
over which rose the pirijao palm with its clusters of 
peach-like fruits, and the Mauritia aculeata, with fan- 
shaped leaves pointing downwards, and marked with 
concentric circles of blue and green. Wherever the 
river forms sinuosities the forest is flooded to a great 
extent ; and, to shorten the route, the boat frequently 
pushed through the woods along open avenues of 
water four or five feet broad. An Indian furnished 
with a large knife stood at the bow continually cut- 
ting the branches which obstructed the passage. In 
the thickest part of it a shoal of fresh-water dolphins 
issued from beneath the trees and surrounded the 
vessel. At five in the evening the travellers, after 
sticking for some time between two trunks, and ex- 
periencing great difficulties, regained the proper 
channel, and passed the night near one of the co- 
lumnar masses of granite which occasionally protrude 
from the level surface. 

Setting out before daybreak, they remained in the 
bed of the river till sunrise, when, to avoid the force 
of the current, they again entered the inundated 
forest ; and soon arriving at the junction of the Temi 
with the Tuamini, they followed the latter towards 
the south-west. At eleven they reached San Anto- 
nio de Javita, where they had the pleasure of finding 
a very intelligent and agreeable monk : though they 
were obliged to remain nearly a week, while the 
boat was carried by land to the Rio Negro. For 
two days the travellers had felt an extraordinary 
irritation on the joints of the fingers and on the back 


of the hands, which the missionary informed them 
was caused by insects. Nothing could be distin- 
guished with a lens but parallel streaks of a whitish 
colour, the form of which has obtained for these ani- 
malculae the name of aradores, or ploughmen. A 
mulatto woman engaged to extirpate them one by 
one, and, digging with a small bit of pointed wood, 
at length succeeded in extracting a little round bag ; 
but Humboldt did not possess sufficient patience to 
wait for relief from so tedious an operation. Next 
day, however, an Indian effected a radical cure by 
means of the infusion of bark stripped from a cer- 
tain shrub. 

In 1755, before the expedition to the boundaries, 
the country between the missions of Javita and San 
Baltasar was dependent on Brazil, and the Portu- 
guese had advanced from the Rio Negro as far as 
the banks of the Temi. An Indian chief, named 
Javita, one of their auxiliaries, pushed his hostile 
excursions to a distance of more than 345 miles ; 
and, being furnished with a patent for drawing the 
natives from the forest " for the conquest of souls," 
did not fail to make use of it for selling slaves to 
his allies. When Solano, one of the leaders of the 
expedition just described, arrived at San Fernando 
de Atabipo, he seized the adventurer, and by treat- 
ing him with gentleness gained him over to the in- 
terests of the Spaniards. He was still living when 
the travellers proceeded to the Rio Negro ; and, as he 
attended them on all their botanical excursions, they 
obtained much information from him. He assured 
them, that he had seen almost all the Indian tribes 
which inhabit the vast countries between the Upper 
Orinoco, the Rio Negro, the Irinida, and the Jupura 
devour human flesh. Their cannibalism he consid- 
ered as the effect of a system of revenge, as they 
eat only enemies who are made prisoners in battle. 

The climate of the mission of San Antonio de 
Javita is so rainy that the sun and stars are seldom 


to be seen, and the padre informed the travellers 
that it sometimes rained without intermission for 
four or five months. The water that fell in five 
hours on the 1st of May, Humboldt found to be 21 
lines in height, and on the 3d of 'May he collected 
14 lines in three hours ; whereas at Paris there fall 
only 28 or 30 lines in as many weeks. The tem- 
perature is lower than at Maypures, but higher than 
on the Rio Negro ; the thermometer standing at 80 
or 80-6 by day, and at 69'8 by night. 

The Indians of the mission amounted only to 160. 
Some of them were employed in the construction 
of boats, which are formed of the trunks of a species 
of laurel (Ocotea cymbarum), hollowed by means of 
fire and the axe. These trees attain a height of 
more than a hundred feet, and have a yellow resin- 
ous wood, which emits an agreeable odour. The 
forest between Javita and Pimichin affords an im- 
mense quantity of gigantic timber, as tall occasion- 
ally as 116 or 117 feet; but as the trees give out 
branches only towards the summit, the travellers 
were disappointed, amid so great a profusion of un- 
known species, in not being able to procure the 
leaves and flowers. Besides, as it rained incessantly 
so long a time, M. Bonpland lost the greater part of 
his dried specimens. Although no pines or firs oc- 
cur in these woods, balsams, resins, and aromatic 
gums are abundantly furnished by many other trees, 
and are collected as objects of trade by the people 
of Javita. 

At the mission of San Baltasar they had seen the 
natives preparing a kind of elastic gum, which they 
said was found under ground; and in the forests 
at Javita, the old Indian who accompanied them 
showed that it was obtained by digging several feet 
deep among the roots of two particular trees, the 
Hevea of Aublet and one with pinnate leaves. This 
substance, which bears the name of dapicho, is white, 
corky, and brittle, with a laminated structure and 


undulating edges ; but on being roasted, it assumes 
a black colour, and acquires the properties of caout- 

The natives of these countries live in hordes of 
forty or fifty, and unite under a common chief only 
when they wage war with their neighbours. As the 
different tribes speak different languages they have 
little communication. They cultivate cassava, plan- 
tains, and sometimes maize ; but shift from place to 
place, so that they entirely lose the advantages re- 
sulting in other countries from agricultural habits. 
They have two great objects of worship, the good 
principle, Cachimana, who regulates the seasons 
and favours the harvests ; and the evil principle, Jo- 
lokiamo, less powerful, but more active and artful. 
They have no idols ; but the botuto, or sacred trum- 
pet, is an object of veneration, the initiation into 
the mysteries of which requires pure manners and 
a single life. Women are not permitted to see it, 
and are excluded from all the ceremonies of this 

It took the Indians more than four days to drag 
the boat upon rollers to the Rio Pimichin. One of 
them, a tall strong man, was bitten by a snake, and 
was brought to the mission in a very alarming con- 
dition. He had dropped down senseless, and was 
afterward seized with nausea, vertigo, and a deter- 
mination of blood to the head, but was cured by an 
infusion of raiz de mato ; respecting the plant fur- 
nishing which Humboldt could obtain no satisfactory 
information, although he supposes it to be of the 
family of Apocyneae. In the hut of this individual 
he observed balls of an earthy and impure salt, two 
or three inches in diameter. It is obtained by re- 
ducing to ashes the gpadix and fruit of a palm-tree, 
and consists of muriate of potash and soda, caustic 
lime, and other ingredients. The Indians dissolve 
a few grains in water, which they drop on their 


On the 5th May the travellers set off on foot to 
follow their canoe. They had to ford numerous 
streams, the passage of which was somewhat dan- 
gerous on account of the number of snakes in the 
marshes. After passing through dense forests of 
lofty trees, among which they noted several new 
species of coffee and other plants, they arrived to- 
wards evening at a small farm on the Pimichin, where 
they passed the night in a deserted hut, not without 
apprehension of being bitten by serpents, as they 
were obliged to lie on the floor. Before they took 
possession of this shed their attendants killed two 
great Mapanare snakes, and in the morning a large 
viper was found beneath the jaguar-skin on which one 
of them had slept. This species of serpent is white on 
the belly, spotted with brown and black on the back, 
and grows to the length of four or five feet. Hum- 
boldt remarks, that if vipers and rattlesnakes had 
such a disposition for offence as is usually supposed, 
the human race could not have resisted them in some 
parts of America. 

Embarking at sunrise, they proceeded down the 
Pimichin, which is celebrated for the number of its 
windings. It is navigable during the whole year, 
and has only one rapid. In four hours and a half 
they entered the Rio Negro. " The morning," says 
Humboldt, " was cool and beautiful ; we had been 
confined thirty-six days in a narrow canoe, so un- 
steady that it would have been overset by any one 
rising imprudently from his seat, without warning 
the rowers to preserve its balance by leaning to the 
opposite side. We had suffered severely from the 
stings of insects, but we had withstood the insalu- 
brity of the climate ; we had passed without acci- 
dent the numerous falls and bars that impede the 
navigation of the rivers, and often render it more 
dangerous than long voyages by sea. 
- " After all that we had endured, I may be allowed 
to mention the satisfaction which we felt in having 


reached the tributaries of the Amazon, in having 
passed the isthmus which separates two great sys- 
tems of rivers, and in having attained a certainty 
of fulfilling the most important object of our jour- 
ney, that of determining by astronomical observa- 
tions the course of that arm of the Orinoco which 
joins the Rio Negro, and whose existence had been 
alternately proved and denied for half a century. 
In these inland regions of the New Continent we 
almost accustom ourselves to consider man as ines- 
sential to the order of nature. The earth is over- 
loaded with plants of which nothing impedes the 
development. An immense layer of mould evinces 
the uninterrupted action of the organic powers. 
The crocodiles and boas are masters of the river ; 
the jaguar, pecan, dante, and monkeys of numerous 
species traverse the forest without fear and with- 
out danger, residing there as in an ancient heritage. 
On the ocean and on the sands of Africa, we with 
difficulty reconcile ourselves to the disappearance 
of man ; but here his absence, in a fertile country 
clothed with perpetual verdure, produces a strange 
and melancholy feekng." 

The Rio Negro, which flows eastward into the 
Amazon, was for ages considered of great political 
importance by the Spanish government, as it would 
have furnished to the Portuguese an easy introduc- 
tion into the missions of Guiana. The jealousies 
of these rival nations, the ignorance and diversified 
languages of the Indians, the difficulty of penetrat- 
ing into these inland regions, and other causes, ren- 
dered the knowledge of the sources as well as the 
tributaries of the Negro and Orinoco extremely de- 
fective. To endeavour to throw some light on this 
geographical point, and in particular to determine 
the course of that branch of the Orinoco which 
joins the Rio Negro, was the great object of Hum- 
boldt's journey. This last, or Black River, is so 
named on account of the dark colour of its waters. 


which are of an amber hue wherever it is shallow, 
and dark-brown wherever the depth is great. After 
entering it by the Pimichin, and passing the rapid at 
the confluence of the two streams, the travellers 
soon reached the mission of Maroa, containing 150 
Indians, where they purchased some fine toucans. 
Passing the station of Tomo, they visited that of 
Davipe, where they were received by the missionary 
with great hospitality. Here they bought some 
fowls and a pig, which interested their servants so 
much that they pressed them to depart, in order to 
reach the island of Dapa, where the animal might be 
roasted. They arrived at sunset, and found some 
cultivated ground and an Indian hut. Four natives 
were seated round a fire eating a kind of paste con- 
sisting of large ants, of which several bags were 
suspended over the fire. There were more than 
fourteen persons in this small cabin, lying naked in 
hammocks placed above each other. They received 
Father Zea with great joy, and two young women 
prepared cassava-cakes ; after which the travellers 
retired to rest. The family slept only till two in 
the morning, when they began to converse in their 
hammocks. This custom of being awake four or 
five hours before sunrise Humboldt found to be gen- 
eral among the people of Guiana ; and, hence, when 
an attempt is made to surprise them, the first part 
of the night is chosen for the purpose. 

Proceeding down the Rio Negro, they passed the 
mouth of the Casiquiare, the river by which a com- 
munication is effected between the former and the 
Orinoco : and towards evening reached the mission 
of San Carlos del Rio Negro, with the commander 
of which they lodged. The military establishment 
of this frontier post consisted of seventeen soldiers, 
ten of whom were detached for the security of the 
neighbouring stations. The voyage from the mouth 
of the Rio Negro to Grand Para occupying only 
twenty or twenty-five days, it would not have taken 


much more time to have gone down the Amazon 
to the coast of Brazil, than to return by the Casi- 
quiare and Orinoco to that of Caraccas; but our 
travellers were informed that it was difficult to pass 
from the Spanish to the Portuguese settlements ; 
and it was well for them that they declined this 
route, for they afterward learned that instructions 
had been issued to seize and convey them to Lisbon. 
This project, however, was not countenanced by the 
government at home, who, when informed of the 
zeal of its subaltern agents, gave instant orders that 
the philosophers should not be disturbed in their 

Among the Indians of the Rio Negro they found 
some of those green pebbles known by the name of 
Amazon-rStones, and which are worn as amulets. 
The form usually given to them is that of the Perse- 
politan cylinders longitudinally perforated. These 
hard substances denote a degree of civilization supe- 
rior to that of the present inhabitants, who, so far 
from being able to cut them, imagine that they are 
naturally soft when taken out of the earth, and 
harden after they have been moulded by the hand. 
They were found to be jade or saussurite, approach- 
ing to compact felspar, of a colour passing from 
apple to emerald green, translucent on the edges, 
and taking a fine polish ; but the substance usually 
called Amazon-stone in Europe is different, being a 
common felspar of a similar colour, coming from the 
Uralian Mountains and Lake Onego in Russia. 

Connected with this mineral are the warlike wo- 
men, whom the travellers of the sixteenth century 
named the Amazons of the New World; and re- 
garding whom Humboldt found no satisfactory ac- 
counts, although he is disposed to believe that their 
existence was not merely imaginary. 

The travellers passed three days at San Carlos, 
watching the greater part of each night, in the hope 
of seizing the moment of the passage of some star 


over the meridian; but the sky was continually 
obscured by vapours. On the 10th May they em- 
barked a little before sunrise to go up the Rio Negro. 
The morning was fine, but as the heat increased the 
firmament became darkened. Passing between the 
islands of Zaruma and Mibita, covered with dense 
vegetation, and ascending the rapids of the Piedra 
de Uinumane, they entered the Casiquiare at the 
distance x>f 9 miles from the fort of San Carlos. 
The rock at the rapids was granite, traversed by 
numerous veins of quartz several inches broad. The 
night was spent at the mission of San Francisco 
Solano, on the left bank of the Casiquiare. The 
Indians were of two nations, the Pacimonales and 
Cheruvichahenas ; and from the latter the travellers 
endeavoured to obtain some information respecting 
the upper part and sources of the Rio Negro, but 
without success. In one of the huts of the former 
tribe they purchased two large birds, a toucan and a 
macaw, to add to the already considerable stock 
which they possessed. Most of the animals were 
confined in small cages, while others ran at liberty 
all over the boat. At the approach of rain, the 
macaws uttered frightful screams, the toucan was 
desirous of gaining the shore in order to fish, and 
the little monkeys went in search of Father Zea to 
obtain shelter in his large sleeves. At night the 
leather case containing their provisions was placed 
in the centre ; then the instruments and cages ; 
around which were suspended the hammocks of the 
travellers ; and beyond them the Indians slept, pro- 
tected by a circle of fires to keep off the jaguars. 

On the llth they left the mission of San Francisco 
Solano at a late hour to make a short day's journey, 
for the vapours had begun to break up, and the trav- 
ellers were unwilling to go far from the mouth of 
the Casiquiare without determining the longitude 
and latitude. This they had an opportunity of doing 
at night in the neighbourhood of a solitary granite 


rock, the Piedra di Culimacari, which they found to 
be in lat. 2 0' 42" north, and long. 67 13' 26" west. 
The determination was of great importance in a 
geographical and political point of view, for the 
greatest errors existed in maps, and the equator had 
been considered as the boundary between the Spanish 
and Portuguese possessions. 

Leaving the Rock of Culimacari at half after one 
in the morning, they proceeded against the current, 
which was very rapid. The waters of the Casi- 
quiare are white, and the mosquitoes again com- 
menced their invasions, becoming more numerous 
as the boat receded from the black stream of the Rio 
Negro. In the whole course of the Casiquiare they 
did not find in the Christian settlements a population 
of 200 individuals, and the free Indians have retired 
from its banks. During a great part of the year the 
natives subsist on ants. At the mission of Manda- 
vaca, which they reached in the evening, they found 
a monk who had spent twenty years in the country, 
and whose legs were so spotted by the stings of 
insects that the whiteness of the skin could scarcely 
be perceived. He complained of his solitude, and 
the s&d necessity which often compelled him to 
leave the most atrocious crimes unpunished. An 
indigenous alcayde, or overseer, had a few years 
before eaten one of his wives, after fattening her by 
good feeding. " You cannot imagine," said the 
missionary, " all the perversity of this Indian family. 
You receive men of a new tribe into the village; 
they appear to be good, mild, and industrious ; but 
suffer them to take part in an incursion to bring in 
the natives, and you can scarcely prevent them from 
murdering all they meet, and hiding some portions 
of the dead bodies." The travellers had in their 
canoe a fugitive Indian from the Guaisia, who" in a 
few weeks had become sufficiently civilized to be 
very useful. As he was mild and intelligent, they 
had some desire of taking him into their service ; 


but discovering that his anthropophagous propensi- 
ties remained, they gave up the idea. He told them 
that " his relations (the people of his tribe) preferred 
the inside of the hands in man, as in bears," accom- 
panying the assertion with gestures of savage joy. 

Although the Indians of the Casiquiare readily 
return to their barbarous habits, they manifest, while 
in the missions, intelligence, industry, and a great 
facility in learning the Spanish tongue. As the 
villages are usually inhabited by three or four tribes 
who do not understand each other, the language of 
their instructer affords a general means of commu- 
nication. The soil on the Casiquiare is of excellent 
quality. Rice, beans, cotton, sugar, and indigo 
thrive wherever they have been tried ; but the hu- 
midity of the air, and the swarms of insects, oppose 
almost insuperable obstacles to cultivation. Im- 
mense bands of white ants destroy every thing that 
comes in their way, insomuch, that when a mis- 
sionary would cultivate salad or any European 
culinary vegetable, he fills an old boat with soil, and 
having sown the seeds suspends it with cords, or 
elevates it on posts. 

From the 14th to the 21st the travellers continued 
to ascend the Casiquiare, which flowed with consid- 
erable rapidity, having a breadth of 426 yards, and 
bordered by two enormous walls of trees hung with 
lianas. No openings could be discovered in these 
fences ; and at night the Indians had to cut a small 
spot with their hatchets to make room enough for 
their beds, it being impossible to remain in the canoe 
on account of the mosquitoes and heavy rains. 
Great difficulty was experienced in finding wood to 
make a fire, the branches being so full of sap that 
they would scarcely burn. On shore the pothoses, 
arums, and lianas furnished so thick a covering, that 
although it rained violently they were completely 
sheltered. At their last resting-place on the Casi- 


quiare, the jaguars carried off their great dog while 
they slept. 

On the 21st May they again entered the channel 
of the Orinoco, three leagues below the mission of 
Esmeralda. Here the scenery wore a very impos- 
ing aspect, lofty granitic mountains rising on the 
northern bank. The celebrated bifurcation of the 
river takes place in this manner : The stream, issu- 
ing from among the mountains, reaches the opening 
of a valley or depression of the ground which ter- 
minates at the Rio Negro, and divides into two 
branches. The principal branch continues its course 
towards the west-north-west, turning round the group 
of the mountains of Parime, while the other flows 
off southward, and joins the Rio Negro. By this 
latter branch our travellers ascended from the river 
just mentioned, and again entered the Orinoco, four 
weeks after they had left it near the mouth of the 
Guaviare. They had still a 'voyage of 863 miles 
to perform before reaching Angostura. 


Route from Esmeralda to Angostura. 

Mission of Esmeralda Curare Poison Indians Duida Mountain 
Descent of the Orinoco Cave of Ataruipe Raudalito of Carucari 
Mission of Uruana Character of the Otomacs Clay eaten by the Na- 
tives Arrival at Angostura The Travellers attacked by Fever Fe- 
rocity of the Crocodiles. 

OPPOSITE the point where the division of the river 
takes place, there rises in the form of an amphi- 
theatre a group of granitic mountains, of which the 
principal one bears the name of Duida. It is about 
8500 feet high ; and being perpendicular on the 
south and west, bare and stony on the summit, and 


clothed on its less steep declivities with vast forests, 
presents a magnificent spectacle. At the foot of 
this huge mass is placed the most solitary and re- 
mote Christian settlement on the Upper Orinoco, 
the mission of Esmeralda, containing eighty inhabit- 
ants. It is surrounded by a beautiful plain, covered 
with grasses of various species, pine-apples, and 
clumps of Mauritia palm, and watered by limpid 

There was no monk at the village ; but the trav- 
ellers were received with kindness by an old officer, 
who, taking them for Catalonian shopkeepers, ad- 
mired their simplicity when he saw the bundles of 
paper in which their plants were preserved, and 
which he supposed they intended for sale. Not- 
withstanding the smallness of the mfssion three In- 
dian languages were spoken in it : and among the 
inhabitants were some Zamboes, mulattoes, and cop- 
per-coloured people. A mineralogical error gave 
celebrity to Esmeralda, the rock-crystals and chlo- 
ritic quartzes of Duida having been mistaken for 
diamonds and emeralds. The converts live in great 
poverty, and their misery is augmented by prodi- 
gious swarms of mosquitoes. Yet the situation of 
the establishment is exceedingly picturesque ; the 
surrounding country is possessed of great fertility ; 
and plantains, indigo, sugar, and cacao might be pro- 
duced in abundance. 

This village is the most celebrated spot on the 
Orinoco for the manufacture of the curare, a very 
active poison employed in war and in the chase, as 
well as a remedy for gastric obstructions. Erro- 
neous ideas had been entertained of this substance ; 
but our travellers had an opportunity of seeing it 
prepared. When they arrived at Esmeralda, most 
of the Indians had just finished an excursion to 
gather juvias or the fruit of the bertholletia,* and the 

* The delightful Brazil-nut of our shops. 


liana which yields the curare. Their return was 
celebrated by a festival, which lasted several days, 
during which they were in a state of intoxication. 
One less drunk than the rest was employed in pre- 
paring the poison. He was the chymist of the place, 
and boasted of his skill, extolling the composition as 
superior to any thing that could be made in Europe. 
The liana which yields it is named bejuco, and ap- 
peared to be of the Strychnos family. The branches 
are scraped with a knife, and the bark that comes off 
is bruised, and reduced to very thin filaments on the 
stone employed for grinding cassava. A cold infu- 
sion is prepared by pouring water on this fibrous 
mass, in a funnel made of a plantain-leaf rolled up 
in the form of a cone, and placed in another, some- 
what stronger, made of palm-leaves, the whole sup- 
ported by a slight framework. A yellowish fluid 
filters through the apparatus. It is the venomous 
liquor, which, however, acquires strength only when 
concentrated by evaporation in a large earthen pot. 
To give it consistence it is mixed with a glutinous 
vegetable juice, obtained from s tree named kiraca- 
guera. At the moment when this addition is made 
to the fluid, now kept in a state of ebullition, the 
whole blackens, and coagulates into a substance re- 
sembling tar, or thick syrup. The curare may be 
tasted without danger ; for, like the venom of ser- 
pents, it only acts when introduced directly into the 
blood, and the Indians consider it as an excellent 
stomachic. It is universally employed by them in 
hunting, the tips of their arrows being covered with 
it ; and the usual mode of killing domestic fowls is to 
scratch the skin with one of these infected weapons. 
Other species of vegetable poison are manufactured 
in various parts of Guiana. 

After seeing this composition prepared, the phi- 
losophers accompanied the artist to the festival of 
the juvias. In the hut where the revellers were as- 
sembled, large roasted monkeys blackened by smoke 


were ranged against the wall. Humboldt imagines 
that the habit of eating animals so much resembling 
man has in some degree contributed to diminish the 
horror of anthropophagy among savages. Apes, 
when thus cooked, and especially such as have a 
very round head, bear a hideous likeness to a child ; 
and for this reason such Europeans as are obliged to 
feed upon them separate the head and hands before 
the dish is presented at their tables. The flesh is 
very lean and dry. 

Among the articles brought by the Indians from 
their expedition were various interesting vegetable 
productions ; fruits of different species, reeds up- 
wards of fifteen feet long, perfectly straight and free 
of knots, and bark used for making shirts. The 
women were employed in serving the men with the 
food already mentioned, fermented liquors, and palm- 
cabbage, but were not permitted to join in the fes- 
tivities. Among all the tribes of the Orinoco the 
females live in a sort of slavery, almost the whole 
labour devolving upon them. Polygamy is frequently 
practised, and on the other hand a kind of polyandry- 
is established in places where the fair sex are less 
numerous. When a native who has several wives 
becomes a Christian, the missionaries compel him 
to choose her whom he prefers and to dismiss the 

The summit of Duida is so steep that no person 
has ever ascended it. At the beginning and end of 
the rainy season, small flames, which appear to shift, 
are seen upon it. On this account the mountain has 
been called a volcano, which, however, it is not. The 
granite whereof it is composed is full of veins, some 
of which being partly open, gaseous and inflamma- 
ble vapours may pass through them ; for it is not 
probable that the flames are caused by lightning, the 
humidity of the climate being such that plants do 
not readily take fire. 

The travellers had an opportunity of seeing at Es- 


meralda some of the dwarf and fair Indians, that 
ancient traditions had mentioned as living near the 
sources of the Orinoco. The Guaicas, or diminu- 
tive class, whom they measured, were in general 
from 4 feet JOi to 4 feet 1H inches in height; and it 
was said that the whole tribe was of the same stature. 
The Guahariboes, or fair variety, were similar to the 
others in form and features, and differed only in hav- 
ing the skin of a lighter tint. 

On the 23d May, the travellers left the mission of 
Esmeralda in a state of languor and weakness, 
caused by the torment of insects, bad nourishment, 
and a long voyage, performed in a narrow and damp 
boat. They had not attempted to ascend the Ori- 
noco towards its sources, as the country above that 
station was inhabited by hostile Indians ; so that of 
the two geographical problems connected with the 
river, the position of its sources, and the nature of 
its communication with the Rio Negro, they had 
been obliged to content themselves with the solution 
of the latter. When they embarked they were sur- 
rounded by the mulattoes and others wha considered 
themselves Spaniards, and who entreated them to 
solicit from the governor of Angostura their return 
to the llanos, or at least their removal to the mis- 
sions of the Rio Negro. Humboldt pleaded the 
cause of these proscribed men at a subsequent pe- 
riod; but his efforts were fruitless. The weather 
was very stormy, and the summit of Duida was en- 
veloped in clouds ; but the thunders which rolled 
there did not disturb the plains. Nor did they, gen- 
erally speaking, observe in the valley of the Orinoco 
those violent electric explosions which almost every 
night, during the rainy season, alarm the traveller 
along the Rio Magdalena. After four hours' naviga- 
tion in descending the stream, they arrived at the 
bifurcation, and reposed on the same beach of the 
Casiquiare where, a few days before, their dog had 
been carried off by the jaguars. The cries of these 


animals were again heard through the whole night. 
The black tiger also occurs in these districts. It is 
celebrated for its strength and ferocity, and appears 
to be larger than the other, of which, however, it is 
probably a variety. 

Leaving their resting-place before sunrise, and 
sailing with the current, they passed the mouths of 
the Cunucunumo, Guanami, and Puruname. The 
country was entirely desert, although rude figures 
representing the sun, the moon, and different ani- 
mals are to be seen on the granite rocks ; attesting 
the former existence of a people more civilized 
than any that they had seen. 

On the 27th May they reached the mission of San 
Fernando de Atabipo, where they had lodged a month 
before on their ascent towards the Rio Negro. The 
president had allowed himself to become very un- 
easy respecting the object of their journey ; and re- 
quested Humboldt to leave a writing in his hands, 
bearing testimony to the good order that prevailed in 
the Christian settlements on the Orinoco, and the 
mildness v-ith which the natives were treated. This, 
however, he declined. From this point they re- 
traced their former route, and passed the cataracts. 
On the 31st, they landed before sunset at the Puerto 
de la Expedicion, for the purpose of visiting the 
cave of Ataruipe, which is the sepulchre of an ex- 
tinct nation. 

" We climbed," says Humboldt, " with difficulty, 
and not without danger, a steep rock of granite, en- 
tirely destitute of soil. It would have been almost 
impossible to fix the foot on this smooth and highly- 
inclined surface, had not large crystals of felspar, 
which had resisted decomposition, projected from 
the rock so as to present points of support. Scarcely 
had we reached the summit of the mountain when 
we were struck with astonishment at the extraordi- 
nary appearance of the surrounding country : The 
foamy bed of the waters was filled with an archi- 


pelago of islands covered with palms. Towards the 
west, on the left bank of the Orinoco, extended the 
savannas of the Meta and Casanare, like a sea of 
verdure, the misty horizon of which was illuminated 
by the rays of the setting sun. The mighty orb, 
like a globe of fire suspended over the plain, and the 
solitary peak of Uniana, which appeared more lofty 
from being wrapped in vapours that softened its out- 
lines, contributed to impress a character of sublim- 
ity upon the scene. We looked down into a deep 
valley enclosed on every side. Birds of prey and 
goatsuckers winged their solitary way in this inac- 
cessible circus. We found pleasure in following 
their fleeting shadows as they glided slowly over the 
flanks of the rock. 

" A narrow ridge led us towards a neighbouring' 
mountain, the rounded summit of which supported 
enormous blocks of granite. These masses are 
more than 40 or 50 feet in diameter, and present a 
form so perfectly spherical, that, as they seem to 
touch the ground only by a small number of points,, 
it might be supposed that the slightest shock of an 
earthquake would roll them into the abyss. I do 
not remember to have seen anywhere else a similar 
phenomenon amid the decompositions of granitic 
deposites. If the balls rested upon a rock of a dif- 
ferent nature, as is the case with the blocks of Jura, 
it might be supposed that they had been rounded by 
the action of water, or projected by the force of an 
elastic fluid ; but their position on the summit of a 
hill of the same nature renders it more probable 
that they owe their origin to a gradual decomposi- 
tion of the rock. 

" The most remote part of the valley is covered 
by a dense forest. In this shady and solitary place r 
on the declivity of a steep mountain, opens the cave 
of Ataruipe. It is less a cave than a projecting 
rock, in which the waters have scooped a great hol- 
low, when, in the ancient revolutions of our planet, 


they had reached to that height. In this tomb of a 
whole extinct tribe we soon counted nearly 600 
skeletons in good preservation, and arranged so 
regularly that it would have been difficult to make 
an error in numbering them. Each skeleton rests 
upon a kind of basket formed of the petioles of 
palms. These baskets, which the natives call ma- 
pires, have the form of a square bag. Their size is 
proportional to the age of the dead ; and there are 
even some for infants which had died at the moment 
of birth. We saw them from ten inches and a half 
to three feet six inches and a half in length. All 
the skeletons are bent, and so entire that not a rib 
or a bone of the fingers or toes is wanting. The 
bones have been prepared in three different ways, 
whitened in the air and sun, died red with onoto, a 
colouring matter obtained from the Bixa orellana; 
or, like mummies, covered with odorous resins, and 
enveloped in leaves of heliconia and banana. The 
Indians related to us that the corpse is first placed 
in the humid earth, that the flesh may be consumed 
by degrees. Some months after, it is taken out, and 
the flesh that remains on the bones is scraped off 
with sharp stones. Several tribes of Guiana still 
follow this practice. Near the mapires or baskets 
there were vases of half-burnt clay, which appeared 
to contain the bones of the same family. The 
largest of these vases or funeral urns are three feet 
two inches high, and four feet six inches long. 
They are of a greenish-gray colour, and have an 
oval form, not unpleasant to the eye. The handles 
are made in the form of crocodiles or serpents, and 
the edge is encircled by meanders, labyrinths, and 
grecques, with narrow lines variously combined. 
These paintings are seen in all countries, among 
nations placed at the greatest distances from each 
other, and the most different in respect to civiliza- 
tion. The inhabitants of the little mission of May- 
pures execute them at the present day on their most 


common pottery. They adorn the shields of the 
Otaheitans, the fishing-instruments of the Esquimaux, 
the walls of the Mexican palace of Mitla, and the 
vases of Magna Graecia. 

" We opened, to the great concern of our guides, 
several mapires, for the purpose of attentively ex- 
amining the form of the sculls. They all presented 
the characters of the American race, two or three 
only approached the Caucasian form. We took 
several sculls, the skeleton of a child of six or seven 
years, and those of two full-grown men, of the na- 
tion of the Atures. All these bones, some painted 
red, others covered with odorous resins, were placed 
in the mapires or baskets already described. They 
formed nearly the whole "lading of a mule; and, as 
we were aware of the superstitious aversion which 
the natives show towards dead bodies, after they 
have given them burial, we carefully covered the 
baskets with new mats. Unfortunately for us, the 
penetration of the Indians, and the extreme delicacy 
of their organs of smell, rendered our precautions 
useless. Wherever we stopped, in the Carib mis- 
sions, in the midst of the llanos, between Angos- 
tura and New-Barcelona, the natives collected 
around our mules to admire the monkeys which we 
had brought from the Orinoco. These good people 
had scarcely touched our baggage when they pre- 
dicted the approaching death of the beast of burden 
' that carried the dead.' In vain we told them that 
they were deceived in their conjectures, that the 
panniers contained bones of crocodiles and laman- 
tins ; they persisted in repeating that they smelt the 
resin which surrounded the skeletons, and that ' they 
were some of their old relatives.' 

" W T e departed in silence from the cave of Ata- 
ruipe. It was one of those calm and serene nights 
which are so common in the torrid zone. The stars 
shone with a mild and planetary light ; their scintil- 
lation was scarcely perceptible at the horizon, which 


seemed illuminated by the great nebulae of the south- 
ern hemisphere. Multitudes of insects diffused a 
reddish light over the air. The ground, profusely 
covered with plants, shone with those living and 
moving lights as if the stars of the firmament had 
fallen upon the savanna. On leaving the cave, we 
repeatedly stopped to admire the beauty of this ex- 
traordinary place. The scented vanilla and festoons 
of bignoniae decorated its entrance ; while the sum- 
mit, of the overhanging hill was crowned by arrowy 
palm-trees that waved murmuring in the air." 

Similar caves are said to exist to the north of 
the cataracts ; but the tombs of the Indians of the 
Orinoco have not been sufficiently examined, be- 
cause they do not, like those of Peru, contain 

The travellers staid at the mission of Atures only 
so long as was necessary for the passage of their 
canoe through the great falls. The priest, Bernardo 
Zea, who had accompanied them to the Rio Negro, 
remained behind. His ague had not been removed ; 
but its attacks had become an habitual evil, to which 
he now paid little attention. Fevers of a more de- 
structive kind prevailed in the establishment, inso- 
much that the greater part of the inmates were con- 
fined to their hammocks. Again embarked on the 
Orinoco the travellers ventured to descend the lower 
half of the rapids of Atures, landing here and there 
to climb the rocks, among which the golden manakin 
(Pipra rupicola), one of the most beautiful birds of 
the tropics, builds its nest. At the Raudalito of 
Carucari, they entered some of the caverns formed 
by the piling up of granite blocks, and enjoyed the 
extraordinary spectacle of the river dashing in a 
sheet of foam over their heads. The boat was to 
coast the eastern bank of a narrow island, and take 
them- in after a long circuit ; but it did not make its 
appearance, and night approaching, together with a 
tremendous thunder-storm, M. Bonpland was de- 


sirous of swimming across, in order to seek assist- 
ance at Atures from Father Zea. Humboldt and 
the other person who was with them dissuaded him 
with difficulty from so hazardous an enterprise ; and 
shortly after two large crocodiles made their appear- 
ance, attracted by the plaintive cries of the monkeys. 
At length the Indians arrived with the vessel, and 
the navigation was continued during part of the 
night. At Carichana the missionary received them 
with kindness. Here the travellers remained some 
days to recruit their exhausted strength, and M. 
Bonpland had the satisfaction of dissecting a 

From Carichana they went in two days to the 
mission of Uruana, the situation of which is ex- 
tremely picturesque, the village being placed at the 
foot of a lofty granitic mountain, the columnar 
rocks appearing at intervals above the trees. Here 
the river is more than 4263 yards broad, and runs in 
a straight line directly east. The hamlet is inhabited 
by the Otomacs, one of the rudest of the American 
tribes. These Indians swallow quantities of earth 
for the purpose of allaying hunger. When the 
waters are low they live on fish and turtles ; but 
when the rivers swell, and it becomes difficult to 
procure that food, they eat daily a large pdrtion of 
clay. The travellers found in their huts heaps of it 
in the form of balls, piled up in pyramids three or 
four feet high. This substance is fine and unctuous, 
of a yellowish-gray colour, containing silica and 
alumina, with three or four per cent, of lime. Being 
a restless and turbulent people, with unbridled pas- 
sions and excessively given to intoxication, the little 
village of Uruana is more difficult to govern than 
any of the other missions. By inhaling at the nose 
the powder obtained from the pods of the Acacia 
niopo they throw themselves into a state of intoxi- 
cation bordering on madness, that lasts several days, 
during which dreadful murders are committed. The 


most vindictive cover the nail of the thumb with the 
curare poison, the slightest scratch being 1 thus suffi- 
cient to produce death. When this crime is per- 
petrated at night they throw the body into the river. 
" Every time," said the monk, " that I see the wo- 
men fetch water from a part of the shore to which 
they do not usually go for it, I suspect that a murder 
has been committed in my mission." 

On the 7th June the travellers took leave of Father 
Ramon Bueno, whom Humboldt eulogizes as the 
only one of ten missionaries of Guiana whom they 
had seen who appeared to be attentive to any thing 
that regarded the natives. The night was passed at 
the island of Cucurupara, to the east of which is the 
mouth of the Cano de la Tortuga. On its southern 
bank is the almost deserted station of San Miguel 
de la Tortuga, in the neighbourhood of which, ac- 
cording to the Indians, are otters with a very fine 
fur, and lizards with two feet. 

From the island of Cucurupara to Angostura, the 
capital of Guiana, a distance of little less than 328 
miles, the travellers were only nine days on the 
water. On the 8th June they landed at a farm op- 
posite the mouth of the Apure, where Humboldt ob- 
tained some good observations of latitude and longi- 
tude ; and on the 9th met a great number of boats 
laden with goods, on their way to that river. Here 
Don Nicolas Soto, who had accompanied them on 
their voyage to the Rio Negro, took leave and re- 
turned to his family. As they advanced the popu- 
lation became more considerable, consisting almost 
exclusively of whites, negroes, and mulattoes. On 
the llth they passed the mouth of the Rio Caura, 
near which is a small lake formed in 1790 by the 
sinking of the ground in consequence of an earth- 
quake. The Boca del Infierno and the Raudal de 
Camiseta, a series of whirlpools and rapids caused 
by a chain of small rocks, were the only remarkable 
features that occurred until they reached Angostura. 
A. 9 


On arriving at the capital, they hastened to present 
themselves to Don Felipe de Ynciarte, the governor 
of Guiana, who received them in the most obliging 
manner. A painful circumstance forced them to 
remain a whole month in this place. They were 
both, a few days after their arrival, attacked by a 
disorder, which in M. Bonpland assumed the char- 
acter of a typhoid fever. A mulatto servant, who 
had attended them from Cumana, was similarly 
affected. His death was announced on the ninth 
day ; but he had only fallen into a state of insensi- 
bility, which lasted several hours, and was followed 
by a salutary crisis. Humboldt escaped with a very 
violent attack, during which he was made to take a 
mixture of honey and the extract of Cortex angostura. 
He recovered on the following day. His fellow- 
traveller remained in a very alarming state for several 
weeks, but retained sufficient strength of mind to 
prescribe for himself. His fever was incessant, and 
complicated with dysentery ; but, in his case too, the 
issue was favourable. At this period no epidemic 
prevailed in the town, and the air was salubrious ; so 
that the germ of the disease had probably been 
caught in the damp forests of the Upper Orinoco. 

Angostura, so named from its being placed on a 
narrow part of the river, stands at the foot of a hill 
of hornblende-slate destitute of vegetation. The 
streets are regular, and generally parallel to the 
course of the stream. The houses are high, agree- 
able, and built of stone ; although the town is not 
exempt from earthquakes. At the period of this 
visit the population was only 6000. There is little 
variety in the surrounding scenery ; but the view of 
the river is singularly majestic. When the waters 
are high they inundate the quays, and it sometimes 
happens that even in the streets imprudent persons 
fall a prey to the crocodiles, which are very nume- 

Humboldt relates that, at the time of his stay at 


Angostura, an Indian from the island of Margarita 
having gone to anchor his canoe in a cove where 
there were not three feet of water, a very fierce 
crocodile that frequented the spot seized him by the 
leg and carried him off. With astonishing courage 
he searched for a knife in his pocket, but not finding 
it, thrust his fingers into the animal's eyes. The 
monster, however, did not let go his hold, but plunged 
to the bottom of the river, and, after drowning his 
victim, came to the surface and dragged the body to 
an island. 

The number of individuals who perish annually 
in this manner is very great, especially in villages 
where the neighbouring grounds are inundated. The 
same crocodiles remain long in the same places, and 
become more daring from year to year, especially, 
as the Indians assert, if they have once tasted human 
flesh. They are not easily killed, as their skin is 
impenetrable, the throat and the space beneath the 
shoulder being the only parts where a ball or spear 
can enter. The natives catch them with large iron 
hooks baited with meat, and attached to a chain fas- 
tened to a tree. After the animal has struggled for 
a considerable time, they attack it with lances. 

Affecting examples are related of the intrepidity 
of African slaves in attempting to rescue their mas- 
ters from the jaws of these voracious reptiles. Not 
many years ago, in the llanos of Calabozo, a negro, 
attracted by the cries of his owner, armed himself 
with a long knife, and, plunging into the river, forced 
the animal, by scooping out its eyes, to leave its 
prey and take to flight. The natives, being daily 
exposed to similar dangers, think little of them. 
They observe the manners of the crocodile as the 
torero studies those of the bull ; and quietly calcu- 
late the motions of the enemy, its means 'of attack, 
and the degree of its audacity. ^ 

The general nature of the vast regions bordering 
on the Orinoco may be sufficiently learned from the 


above condensed narrative; and we think it unne- 
cessary to follow our learned author through his 
description of that portion of the river which extends 
from Angostura to its mouths, especially as it is not 
founded on personal observation. 


Journey across the Llanos to New-Barcelona. 

Peparture from Angostura Village of Cari Natives New-Barcelona 
Hot Springs Crocodiles Passage to Cumana. 

IT was night when our travellers for the last time 
crossed the bed of the Orinoco. They intended to 
rest near the little fort of San Rafael, and in the 
morning begin their journey over the llanos of 
Venezuela, with the view of proceeding to Cumana 
or New-Barcelona, whence they might sail to the 
island of Cuba, and thence again to Mexico. There 
they purposed to remain a year, and to take a passage 
in the galleon from Acapulco to Manilla. 

The botanical and geological collections which 
they had brought from Esmeraldaand the Rio Negro 
had greatly increased their baggage ; and as it would 
have been hazardous to lose sight of such stores, 
they journeyed but slowly over the deserts, which 
they crossed in thirteen days. This eastern part of 
the llanos, between Angostura and Barcelona, is 
similar to that already described on the passage from 
the valley of Aragua to San Fernando de Apure ; but 
the breeze is felt with greater force, although at this 
period it had ceased. They spent the first night at 
the house of a Frenchman, a native of Lyons, who 
received them with the kindest hospitality. He was 
employed in joining wood by means of a kind of glue 


called guayca, which resembles the best made from 
animal substances, and is found between the bark 
and alburnum of the Combretum guayca, a kind of 
creeping plant. 

On the third day they arrived at the missions of 
Cari. Some showers had recently revived the vege- 
tation. A thick turf was formed of small grasses 
and herbaceous sensitive plants, while a few fan- 
palms, rhopalas, and malpighias, rose at great dis- 
tances from each other. The humid spots were 
distinguishable by groups of mauritias, which were 
loaded with enormous clusters of red fruit. The 
plain undulated from the effect of mirage, the heat 
was excessive, and the travellers found temporary 
relief under the shade of the trees, which had, how- 
ever, attracted numerous birds and insects. 

On the 13th July they arrived at the village of 
Cari, where, as usual, they lodged with the clergy- 
man, who could scarcely comprehend how natives 
of the north of Europe should have arrived at his 
dwelling from the frontiers of Brazil. They found 
more than 500 Caribs in the hamlet, and saw many 
more at the surrounding missions. They were of 
large stature, from five feet nine inches to six feet 
two. The men had the lower part of the body 
wrapped in a piece of dark-blue cloth, while the 
women had merely a narrow band. This race differs 
from the other Indians, not only in being taller, but 
also in the greater regularity of their features, in 
having the nose less flattened, and the cheek-bones 
less prominent. The hair of the head is partially 
shaven, only a circular tuft being left on the top, 
a custom that might be supposed to have been bor- 
rowed from the monks, but which is equally preva- 
lent among those who have preserved their inde- 
pendence. Both males and females are careful to 
ornament their persons with paint. The Caribs, 
once so powerful, now inhabit but a small part of 
the country which they occupied at the time when 


America was discovered. They have been exter- 
minated in the West India islands and the coasts of 
Parien, but in the provinces of New-Barcelona and 
Spanish Guiana have formed populous villages, under 
the government of the missions. Humboldt esti- 
mates the number inhabiting the llanos of Piritoo 
and the banks of the Caroni and Cuyuni at more 
than 35,000, and the total amount of the pure race at 

The missionary led the travellers into several 
huts, where they found the greatest order and clean- 
liness, but were shocked by the torments that the 
women inflicted on their infants, for the purpose of 
raising the flesh in alternate bands from the ankle 
to the top of the thigh ; a practice which the monks 
had in vain attempted to abolish. This effect was 
produced by narrow ligatures, which seemed to 
obstruct the circulation of the blood, although it did 
not weaken the action of the muscles. The fore- 
head, however, w r as not flattened, but left in its 
natural form. 

On leaving the mission the philosophers had some 
difficulty in settling with their Indian muleteers, who 
had discovered among the baggage the skeletons 
brought from the cavern of Ataruipe, and were per- 
suaded that the animals which carried such a load 
would perish on the journey. The Rio Cari was 
crossed in a boat, and the Rio de Agua Clara by 
fording. The same objects everywhere recurred; 
huts constructed of reeds and roofed with skins ; 
mounted men guarding the herds: cattle, horses, 
and mules running half wild. No sheep or goats 
were seen, these animals being unable to escape from 
the jaguars. 

On the 15th they arrived at the Villa del Pao, 
where they found some fruit-trees as well as cocoa- 
palms, which properly belong to the coast. As they 
advanced the sky became clearer, the soil more 
dusty, and the atmosphere more fiery. The intense 


heat, however, was not entirely owing to the tent* 
perature of the air, but arose partly from the fine 
sand mingled with it. On the night of the 16th they 
rested at the Indian village of Santa Cruz de Ca* 
chipo. The warmth had increased so much that 
they would have preferred travelling by night ; but 
the country was infested by robbers, who murdered 
the whites that fell into their hands. These were 
malefactors who had escaped from the prisons on. 
the coast and from the missions, and lived in the 
llanos in a manner similar to that of the Bedouin 
Arabs. Those vast plains, Humboldt thinks, can 
hardly ever be subjected to cultivation, although he 
is persuaded that in the lapse of ages, if placed under 
a government favourable to industry, they will lose 
much of the wild aspect which they have hitherto 

After travelling three days they began to perceive 
the chain of the mountains of Cumana, which sepa* 
rates the llanos from the coast of the Caribbean Sea< 
It appeared at first like a fog-bank, which by de- 
grees condensed, assumed a bluish tint, and became 
bounded by sinuous outlines. Although the llanos 
of Venezuela are bordered on the south by granitic 
mountains, exhibiting in their broken summits traces 
of violent convulsions, no blocks were found scat- 
tered upon them. The same remark is to be made 
in regard to the other great plains of South America* 
These circumstances, as Humboldt remarks, seem 
to prove that the granitic masses scattered over 1 
the sandy plains of the Baltic are a local phenome- 
non, and must have originated in some great con- 
vulsion which took place in the northern regions of 

On the 23d July they arrived at the town of New- 
Barcelona, less fatigued by the heat, to which they 
had been so long accustomed, than harassed by the 
sand-wind, that causes painful chaps in the skin/ 
They were kindly received by a wealthy merchant? 


America was discovered. They have been exter- 
minated in the West India islands and the coasts of 
Darien, but in the provinces of New-Barcelona and 
Spanish Guiana have formed populous villages, under 
the government of the missions. Humboldt esti- 
mates the number inhabiting the llanos of Piritoo 
and the banks of the Caroni and Cuyuni at more 
than 35,000, and the total amount of the pure race at 

The missionary led the travellers into several 
huts, where they found the greatest order and clean- 
liness, but were shocked by the torments that the 
women inflicted on their infants, for the purpose of 
raising the flesh in alternate bands from the ankle 
to the top of the thigh ; a practice which the monks 
had in vain attempted to abolish. This effect was 
produced by narrow ligatures, which seemed to 
obstruct the circulation of the blood, although it did 
not weaken the action of the muscles. The fore- 
head, however, was not flattened, but left in" its 
natural form. 

On leaving the mission the philosophers had some 
difficulty in settling with their Indian muleteers, who 
had discovered among the baggage the skeletons 
brought from the cavern of Ataruipe, and were per- 
suaded that the animals which carried such a load 
would perish on the journey. The Rio Cari was 
crossed in a boat, and the Rio de Agua Clara by 
fording. The same objects everywhere recurred; 
huts constructed of reeds and roofed with skins ; 
mounted men guarding the herds: cattle, horses, 
and mules running half wild. No sheep or goats 
were seen, these animals being unable to escape from 
the jaguars. 

On the 15th they arrived at the Villa del Pao, 
where they found some fruit-trees as well as cocoa- 
palms, which properly belong to the coast. As they 
advanced the sky became clearer, the soil more 
dusty, and the atmosphere more fiery. The intense 


heat, however, was not entirely owing to the tent* 
perature of the air, but arose partly from the fine 
sand mingled with it. On the night of the 16th they 
rested at the Indian village of Santa Cruz de Ca* 
chipo. The warmth had increased so much that 
they would have preferred travelling by night ; but 
the country was infested by robbers, who murdered 
the whites that fell into their hands. These were 
malefactors who had escaped from the prisons on 
the coast and from the missions, and lived in the 
llanos in a manner similar to that of the Bedouin 
Arabs. Those vast plains, Humboldt thinks, can 
hardly ever be subjected to cultivation, although he 
is persuaded that in the lapse of ages, if placed under 
a government favourable to industry, they will lose 
much of the wild aspect which they have hitherto 

After travelling three days they began to perceive 
the chain of the mountains of Cumana, which sepa* 
rates the llanos from the coast of the Caribbean Sea* 
It appeared at first like a fog-bank, which by de- 
grees condensed, assumed a bluish tint, and became 
bounded by sinuous outlines. Although the llanos 
of Venezuela are bordered on the south by granitic 
mountains, exhibiting in their broken summits traces 
of violent convulsions, no blocks were found scat- 
tered upon them. The same remark is to be made 
in regard to the other great plains of South America. 
These circumstances, as Humboldt remarks, seem 
to prove that the granitic masses scattered over 1 
the sandy plains of the Baltic are a local phenome- 
non, and must have originated in some great con- 
vulsion which took place in the northern regions of 

On the 23d July they arrived at the town of New- 
Barcelona, less fatigued by the heat, to which they 
had been so long accustomed, than harassed by the 
sand-wind, that causes painful chaps in the skin, 
They were kindly received by a wealthy merchant? 


of French extraction, Don Pedro Lavi6. This town 
was founded in 1637, and in 1800 contained more 
than 16,000 inhabitants. The climate is not so hot 
as that of Cumana, but very damp, and in the rainy 
season rather unhealthy. M. Bonpland had by this 
time regained his strength and activity, but his com- 
panion suffered more at Barcelona than he had done 
at Angostura. One of those extraordinary tropical 
rains, during which drops of enormous size fall at 
sunset, had produced uneasy sensations that seemed 
to threaten an attack of typhus, a disease then preva- 
lent on the coast. They remained nearly a month 
at Barcelona, where they found their friend Juan 
Gonzales, who, having resolved to go to Europe, 
meant to accompany them as far as Cuba. 

At the distance of seven miles to the south-east 
of New-Barcelona rises a chain of lofty mountains 
connected with the Cerro del Bergantin, which is 
seen from Cumana. When Humboldt's health was 
sufficiently restored, the travellers made an excur- 
sion in that direction, for the purpose of examining 
the hot-springs in the neighbourhood. These are 
impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen, and issue 
from a quartzose sandstone, lying on a compact lime- 
stone resembling that of Jura. The temperature of 
the water was 109 '8. Their host had lent them 
one of his finest saddle-horses, warning them at the 
same time not to ford the little river of Narigual, 
which is infested with crocodiles. They passed 
over by a kind of bridge formed of the trunks of 
trees, and made their animals swim, holding them 
by the bridles. Humboldt's suddenly disappeared, 
and the guides conjectured that it had been seized 
by the caymans. 

The crocodiles of the Rio Neveri are numerous, 
but less ferocious than those of the Orinoco. The 
people of New-Barcelona convey wood to market 
by floating the logs on the river, while the proprie- 
tors swim here and there to set them loose when 


they are stopped by the banks. This could not be 
done in most of the South American rivers infested 
by those animals. There is no Indian suburb as at 
Cumana, and the few natives seen in the town are 
from the neighbouring missions, or inhabitants of 
huts scattered in the plain. They are of a mixed 
race, indolent, and addicted to drinkin'g. 

The packet-boats from Corunna to Havana and 
Mexico had been due three months, so that they 
were supposed to have been taken by the English 
cruisers ; when our travellers, anxious to reach Cu- 
mana, in order to avail themselves of the first op- 
portunity for Vera Cruz, hired an open vessel. It 
was laden with cacao, and carried oa a contraband 
trade with the island of Trinidad ; for which reason 
the proprietor thought he had nothing to fear from 
the British ; but they had scarcely reached the nar- 
row channel between the continent and the islands 
of Borracha and the Chimanas, when they met an 
armed boat, which, hailing them at a great distance, 
fired some musket-shot at them. It belonged to a 
privateer of Halifax, and the travellers were forth- 
with carried on board ; but while Humboldt v was ne- 
gotiating in the cabin, a noise was heard upon deck, 
and something was whispered to the master, who 
instantly left him in consternation. An English 
sloop of war, the Hawk, had come up, and made 
signals to the latter to bring to ; which he not having 
promptly obeyed, a gun was fired, and a midshipman 
sent to demand the reason. Hurnboldt accompanied 
this officer to the sloop, where Captain Gamier re- 
ceived him with the greatest kindness. Next day 
they continued their voyage, and at nine in the 
morning reached the Gulf of Cariaco. The castle 
of San Antonio, the forest of cactuses, the scattered 
huts of the Guayquerias, and all the features of a 
landscape well known to them, rose upon the view; 
and as they landed at Cumana they were greeted by 
their numerous friends, who were overjoyed to find 


untrue a report of their death on the Orinoco, which 
had been current for several months. The port was 
every day more strictly blockaded, and the vain ex- 
pectation of Spanish packets retained them two 
months and a half longer ; during which time they 
occupied themselves in completing their investiga- 
tion of the plants of the country, in examining the 
geology of the eastern part of the peninsula of Araya, 
and in making astronomical observations, together 
with experiments on refraction, evaporation, and at- 
mospheric electricity. They also sent off some of 
their more valuable collections to France. 

Having been informed that the Indians brought to 
the town considerable quantities of native alum found 
in the mountains, they made an excursion for the 
purpose of ascertaining its position. Disembarking 
near Cape Caney they inspected the old salt-pit, now 
converted into a lake by an irruption of the sea, the 
ruins of the castle of Araya, and the limestone- 
mountain of Barigon, which contained fossil, shells 
in perfect preservation. When they visited that 
peninsula the preceding year, there was a dreadful 
scarcity of water. But during their absence on the 
Orinoco it had rained abundantly on various parts 
along the coast; and the remembrance of these 
showers occupied the imagination of the natives as 
a fall of meteoric stones would engage that of the 
naturalists of Europe. 

Their Indian guide was ignorant of the situation 
of the alum, and they wandered for eight or nine 
hours among the rocks, which consisted of mica- 
slate passing into clay-slate, traversed by veins of 
quartz, and containing small beds of graphite. At 
length, descending towards the northern coast of 
the peninsula, they found the substance for which 
they were searching, in a ravine of very difficult ac- 
cess. Here the mica-slate suddenly changed into 
carburetted and shining clay-slate, and the springs 
were impregnated with yellow oxide of iron. The 


sides of the neighbouring cliffs were covered with 
capillary crystals of sulphate of alumina, and real 
beds two inches thick of native alum, extended in 
the clay-slate as far as the eye could reach. The 
formation appeared to be primitive, as it contained 
cyanite, rutile, and garnets. 

Returning to Cumana, they made preparations for 
their departure, and availing themselves of an Ameri- 
can vessel, laden at New-Barcelona for Cuba, they 
set out on the 16th November, and crossed for the 
third time the Gulf of Cariaco. The night was cool 
and delicious, and it was not without emotion that 
they saw for the last time the disk of the moon illu- 
minating the summits of the cocoa-trees along the 
banks of the Manzanares. The breeze was strong, 
and in less than six hours they anchored near the 
Morro of New-Barcelona. 

The continental part of the New World is divided 
between three nations of European origin, of which 
one, the most powerful, is of Germanic race, and 
the two others belong to Latin Europe. The latter 
are more numerous than the former ; the inhabitants 
of Spanish and Portuguese America constituting a 
population double that of the regions possessed by 
the English. The French, Dutch, and Danish pos- 
sessions of the New Continent are of small extent, 
and the Russian colonies are as yet of little impor- 
tance. The free Africans of Hayti are the only 
other people possessed of territory, excepting the 
native Indians. The British and Portuguese colo- 
nists have peopled only the coasts opposite to Eu- 
rope ; but the Spaniards have passed over the Andes, 
and made settlements in the most western provinces, 
where alone they discovered traces of ancient civili- 
zation. In the eastern districts the inhabitants who 
fell into the hands of the two former nations were 
wandering tribes of hunters, while in the remoter 
parts the Spaniards found agricultural states and 
flourishing empires ; and these circumstances have 


greatly influenced the present condition of these 
countries. Among other instances may be men- 
tioned the almost total exclusion of African slaves 
from the latter colonies, and the comfortable con- 
dition of the natives of American race, who live by 
agriculture, and are governed by European laws. 

But with respect to the political constitution and 
relations of the provinces visited by the travellers, 
it is not expedient here to enter into the details 
which they have given, more especially as those 
colonies have lately undergone revolutions that have 
converted them into independent states, the history 
of which would afford materials for many volumes. 
The very interesting sketch of the physical con- 
stitution of South America presented by Humboldt 
must also be passed over, because, in the condensed 
form to which it would necessarily be reduced, it 
could not afford an adequate idea of the subject. We 
must therefore, with our travellers, take leave of 
Terra Firma, and accompany them on their passage 
to Havana. 


Passage to Havana, and Residence in Cuba. 

Passage from New-Barcelona to Havana Description of the latter Ex- 
tent of Cuba Geological Constitution Vegetation Climate Popula- 
tion Agriculture Exports Preparations for joining Captain Baudin's 
Expedition Journey to Batabano, and Voyage to Trinidad de Cuba. 

HUMBOLDT and his companion sailed from the Road 
of New-Barcelona on the 24th November at nine in 
the evening, and next day at noon reached the island 
of Tortuga, remarkable for its lowness and want of 
vegetation. On the 26th there was a dead calm, 
and about nine in the morning a fine halo formed 


round the sun, while the temperature of the air fell 
three degrees. The circle of this meteor, which 
was one degree in breadth, displayed the most beau- 
tiful colours of the rainbow, while its interior and 
the whole vault of the sky was azure without the 
least haze. The sea was covered with a bluish scum, 
which under the microscope appeared to be formed 
of filaments, that seemed to be fragments of fuci. 
On the 27th they passed near the island of Orchila, 
composed of gneiss and covered with plants, and 
towards sunset discovered the summits of the Roca 
de Afuera, over which the clouds were accumulated. 
Indications of stormy weather increased, the waves 
rose, and waterspouts threatened. On the night of 
the 2d December a curious optical phenomenon pre- 
sented itself. The full moon was very high. On 
its side, forty-five minutes before its passage over 
the meridian, a great arc suddenly appeared, having 
the prismatic colours, but of a gloomy aspect. It 
seemed higher than the moon, had a breadth of 
nearly two degrees, and remained stationary for 
several minutes ; after which it gradually descended, 
and sank below the horizon. The sailors were filled 
with astonishment at this moving arch, which they 
supposed to announce wind. Next night M. Bon- 
pland and several passengers saw, at the distance of 
a quarter of a mile, a small flame, which ran on the 
surface of the sea towards the south-west, and illu- 
minated the atmosphere. On the 4th and 6th they 
encountered rough weather, with heavy rain, ac- 
companied by thunder, and were in considerable 
danger on the bank of Vibora. At length, on the 
19th, they anchored in the port of Havana, after a 
boisterous passage of twenty-five days. 

Cuba is the largest of the West India islands, and 
on account of its great fertility, its naval establish- 
ments, the nature of its population of which three- 
fifths are composed of freemen, and its geographi- 
cal position, is of great political importance. Of all 

y 2 

258 HAVANA. 

the Spanish colonies it is that which has most pros- 
pered; insomuch, that not only has its revenue suf- 
ficed for its own wants, but during the struggle 
between the mother-country and her continental 
provinces, it furnished considerable sums to the 

The appearance which Havana presents at the 
entrance of the port is exceedingly beautiful and 
picturesque. The opening is only about 426 yards 
wide, defended by fortifications ; after which a basin, 
upwards of two miles in its greatest diameter, and 
communicating with three creeks, expands to the 
view. The city is built on a promontory, bounded 
on the north by the fort of La Punta, and on the 
south by the arsenals. On the western side it is 
protected by two castles, placed at the distance of 
1407 and 2643 yards, the intermediate space being 
occupied by the suburbs. The public edifices are 
less remarkable for their beauty than for the solidity 
of their construction, and the streets are in general 
narrow and unpaved, in consequence of which they 
are extremely dirty and disagreeable. But there 
are two fine public walks to which the inhabitants 

Although the town of Havana, properly so called, 
is only 1918 yards long and 1066 broad, it con- 
tains more than 44,000 inhabitants. The two great 
suburbs of Jesu-Maria and the Salud accommodate 
nearly an equal population. In 1810 the amount 
was as follows : 

Whites 41,227 

Free Pardos, or copper- col cured men . . 9,743 ) 

Free Blacks 16.606 \ ' 

Pardos Slaves 2,297 ( 

Black Slaves ......................... 26,431 \ 


There are two hospitals in the town, the number 
of sick admitted into which is considerable. Owing 


to the heat of the climate, the filth of the town, and 
the influence of the shore, there is usually a great 
accumulation of disease, and the yellow fever or 
black vomiting is prevalent. The markets are well 

A peculiar character is given to the landscape in 
the vicinity of Havana by the palma real (Oreo- 
doxa regid), the trunk of which, enlarged a little to- 
wards the middle, attains a height varying from 60 
to 85 feet, and is crowned by pinnated leaves rising 
perpendicularly, and curved at the point. Numerous 
country-houses of light and elegant construction 
surround the bay, to which the proprietors retreat 
when the yellow fever rages in the town. 

The island of Cuba is nearly as large as Portugal ; 4 
its greatest length being 783^ miles, and its mean 
breadth 51 f miles. More than four-fifths of its ex- 
tent is composed of low lands ; but it is traversed 
in various directions by ranges of mountains, the 
highest of which are said to attain an altitude of 
7674 feet. The western part consists of granite, 
gneiss, and primitive slates ; which, as well as the 
central district, contains two formations of compact 
limestone, one of argillaceous sandstone, and an- 
other of gypsum. The first of these presents large 
caves near Matanzas and Jaruco, and is filled with 
numerous species of fossils. The secondary forma- 
tions to the east of the Havana are pierced by 
syenitic and euphotide rocks, accompanied with ser- 
pentine. No volcanic eruptions, properly so called, 
have hitherto been discovered. 

Owing to the cavernous structure of the limestone 
deposites, the great inclination of their strata, the 
small breadth of the island, and the frequency and 
nakedness of the plains, there are very few rivers of 
any magnitude, and a large portion of the territory 
is subject to severe droughts. Yet the undulating 
surface of the country, the continually renewed ver- 
dure, and the distribution of vegetable forms, give 


rise to the most varied and beautiful landscapes. 
The hills and savannas are decorated by palms of 
several species, trees of other families, and shrubs 
constantly covered with flowers. Wild orange-trees 
ten or fifteen feet in height, and bearing a small fruit, 
are common, and probably existed before the intro- 
duction of the cultivated variety by Europeans. A 
species of pine (Pinus occidentalis) occurs here and 
in St. Domingo, but has not been seen in any of the 
other West India islands. 

The climate of Havana, although tropical, is 
marked by an unequal distribution of heat at different 
periods of the year, indicating a transition to the 
climates of the temperate zone. The mean tem- 
perature is 78*3, but in the interior only 73 '4. The 
hottest months, July and August, do not give a 
greater average than 82 '4, and the coldest, Decem- 
ber and January, present the mean of 69 '8. In 
summer the thermometer does not rise above 82 
or 86, and its depression in winter so low as 50 or 
53*5 is rare. When the north wind blows several 
weeks, ice is sometimes formed at night at a little 
distance from the coast, at an inconsiderable eleva- 
tion above the sea. Yet the great lowerings of 
temperature which occasionally take place are of so 
short duration, that the palm-trees, bananas, or the 
sugar-cane do not suffer from them. Snow never 
falls, and hail so rarely that it is only observed dur- 
ing thunder-storms, and with blasts from the S.S.W. 
once in fifteen or twenty years. The changes how- 
ever are very rapid, and the inhabitants complain 
of cold when the thermometer falls quickly to 70. 
Hurricanes are of much less frequent occurrence in 
Cuba than in the other W'est India islands. 

In 1817 the population was estimated at 630,980. 
There were 290,021 whites, 115,691 free copper- 
coloured men, and 225,268 slaves. The original 
inhabitants have entirely disappeared, as in all the 
other West India islands. Intellectual cultivation 


is almost entirely restricted to the whites ; and 
although in Havana the first society is not per- 
ceptibly inferior to that of the richest commercial 
cities in Europe, a rudeness of manners prevails in 
the small towns and plantations. 

The common cereal grasses are cultivated in 
Cuba, together with the tropical productions peculiar 
to these countries ; but the principal exports consist 
of tobacco, coffee, sugar, and wax. The sugar-cane 
is planted in the rainy season, from July to October, 
and cut from February to May. The rapid diminu- 
tion of wood in the island has caused the want of 
fuel to be felt in the manufacture of sugar, and 
Humboldt, during his stay, attempted several new 
constructions with the view of diminishing the ex- 
penditure of it.* 

The tobacco of Cuba is celebrated in every part 
of Europe. The districts which produce the most 
aromatic kind are situated to the west of the 
Havana, in the Vuelta de Abago ; but that grown 
to the east of the capital on the banks of the Mayari, 
in the province of Santiago, at Himias, and in other 
places, is also of excellent quality. In 1827 the 
produce was about 113/214 cwts., of which 17,888 
were exported. The value of this commodity 
shipped in 1828 was 105,991Z. 13s. 4d., and in 1829, 
142,9107. Cotton and indigo, although cultivated, 
are not to any extent made articles of commerce. 

Towards the end of April the travellers, having 
finished the observations which they had proposed 
to make, were on the point of sailing to Vera Cruz ; 
but intelligence communicated by means of the 
public papers respecting Captain Baudin's expedi- 
tion, led them to relinquish the project of crossing 

* By the custom-house returns, 156,158,924 Ihs. of sugar were ex- 
ported from Cuba in 1327; and if the quantity smuggled be estimated at 
one-fourth more, the total amount would be nearly 200,000,000 Ibs. In 
the same year the exportation of coffee amounted to upwards of 
50,000,000 Ibs., but it has since fallen off considerably. See MaccuUoch's 
Diet, of Commerce , art. Havana. 


Mexico in order to proceed to the Philippine Islands, 
It had been announced that two French vessels, the 
Geographe and the Naturaliste, had sailed for Cape 
Horn, and that they were to go along the coast of 
Chili and Peru, and from thence to New-Holland. 
Humboldt had promised to join them wherever he 
could reach the ships, and M. Bonpland resolved to 
divide their plants into three portions, one of which 
was sent to Germany by way of England, another 
to France by Cadiz, and the third left in Cuba. 
Their friend Fray Juan Gonzales, an estimable 
young man, who had followed them to the Havana 
on his way to Spain, carried part of their collections 
with him, including the insects found on the Orinoco 
and Rio Negro ; but the vessel in which he em- 
barked foundered in a storm on the coast of Africa. 
General Don Gonzalo O'Farrill being then in Prussia 
as minister of the Spanish court, Humboldt was en- 
abled, through the agency of Don Ygnacio, the 
general's brother, to procure a supply of money ; 
and having made all the necessary preparations for 
the new enterprise, freighted a Catalonian sloop for 
Porto Bello, or Carthagena, according as the wea- 
ther should permit. 

On the 6th of March the travellers, finding that 
the vessel was ready to receive them, set out for 
Batabano, where they arrived on the 8th. This is 
a poor village, surrounded by marshes, covered with 
rushes and plants of the Iris family, among which 
appear here and there a few stunted palms. The 
marshes are infested by two species of crocodile, 
one of which has an elongated snout, and is very 
ferocious. The back is dark-green, the belly white, 
and the flanks are covered with yellow spots. 

On the 9th March our travellers again set sail in a 
small sloop, and proceeded through the Gulf of Ba- 
tabano, which is bounded by a low and swampy 
coast. Humboldt employed himself in examining 
the influence which the bottom of the sea produces 


on the temperature of its surface, and in determin- 
ing the position of some remarkable islands. The 
water of the gulf was so shallow, that the sloop 
often struck ; but the ground being soft and the 
weather calm, no damage was sustained. At sunset 
they anchored near the pass of Don Cristoval, which 
was entirely deserted, although in the time of Co- 
lumbus it was possessed by fishermen. The inhab- 
itants of Cuba then employed a singular method for 
procuring turtles ; they fastened a long cord to the 
tail of a species of echineis or sticking-fish, which 
has a flat disk, with a sucking apparatus on its head. 
By means of this it stuck to the turtle, and was 
pulled ashore, carrying the latter with it. The same 
artifice is resorted to by the natives of certain parts 
of the African coast. 

They were three days on their passage through 
the archipelago of the Jardines and Jardinillos, 
small islands and shoals partly covered with vegeta- 
tion : remaining at anchor during the night, and in 
the day visiting those which were of most easy ac- 
cess. The rocks were found to be fragmentary, 
consisting of pieces of coral, cemented by carbon* 
ate of lime, and interspersed with quartzy sand. On 
the Cayo Bonito, where they first landed, they ob- 
served a layer of sand and broken shells five or six 
inches thick, cove'ring a formation of madrepore. It 
was shaded by a forest of rhizophorae, intermixed 
with euphorbiae, grasses, and other plants, together 
with the magnificent Tournefortia gnaphalioides, with 
silvery leaves and odoriferous flowers. The sailors 
had been searching for langoustes ;* but not finding 
any, avenged themselves on the young pelicans 
perched on the trees. The old birds hovered around, 
uttering hoarse and plaintive cries, and the young 
defended themselves with vigour, although in vain ; 
for the sailors, armed with sticks and cutlasses, 

* A kind of shrimp, or lobster. 


made cruel havoc among them. " On our arrival,'* 
says Huinbolct, " a profound calm prevailed on this 
little spot of earth ; but now every thing seemed to 
Mr. n has passed here." 

On the morning of the llth they visited the Cayo 
Flamenco, the centre of which is depressed, and 
only 15 inches above the surface of the sea. The 
wafer was brackish, while in other cayos it is quite 
fresh : s circumstance difficult to be accounted for 
in small islands scarcely elevated above the ocean, 
unless the springs be supposed to come from the 
neighbouring coast by means of hydrostatic pres- 
sure. Humboldt was informed by Don Francisco le 
Maur. that in the Bay of Xagua, to the east of the 
Jardinillos. fr iTiishes up in several places 

from the bottom with such force as to prove danger- 
ous for small can< -els sometimes take in 
supplies from them: and the lamantins, or fresh- 
water cetacea. abound in the neighbourhood. 

To the east of Cape Flamenco they passed close 
to the Piedras de Diego Perez, and in the evening 
landed at Cr.yo de Piedras, two rocks forming 
the eastern extremity of the Jardinillos, on which 
many vessels are lost. They are nearly destitute 
of shrubs, the shipwrecked crews having cut them 
down to make signals. Next day, turning round the 
passage between the northern cape of the Cayo and 
the island of Cuba, they entered a sea free from 
breakers, and of a dark -blue colour : the increase of 
temperature in which indicated a great augmenta- 
tion of depth. The thermometer was at 79'2 ; 
whereas in the shoal-water of the Jardinillos it had 
Iven seen as 1 v s ~C 7, the air being from 77 to 
80 '6 during : Passing in succession the 

marshy coast of Camareos. the entrance of the 
Bahia de Xagua. and the mouth of the Rio San Juan, 
along a naked and desert coast, they entered on the 
the Rio Guaurabo to land their pilot. Disem- 
barking in the evening, they made preparations for 


observing the passage of certain stars over the me- 
ridian, but were interrupted by some merchants that 
had dined on board a foreign ship newly arrived, and 
who invited the strangers to accompany them to the 
town ; which thney did, mounted two and two on the 
same horse. The road to Trinidad is nearly five 
miles in length, over a level plain, covered with a 
beautiful vegetation, to which the Miraguama palm, 
a species of corypha, gave a peculiar character. 
The houses are situated on a steep declivity, about 
746 feet above the level of the sea, and command a 
magnificent view of the ocean, the two ports, a 
forest of palms, and the mountains of San Juan. The 
travellers were received with the kindest hospitality 
by the administrator of the Real Hacienda, M. Mu- 
noz. The Teniente Governador, who was nephew 
to the celebrated astronomer Don Antonio Ulloa, 
gave them a grand entertainment, at which they met 
with some French emigrants of Saint Dorningo. 
The evening was passed very agreeably in the house 
of one of the richest inhabitants, Don Antonio Pa- 
dron, where they found assembled all the select 
company of the place. Their departure was very 
unlike their entrance ; for the municipality caused 
them to be conducted to the mouth of the Rio Gu- 
aurabo in a splendid carriage, and an ecclesiastic 
dressed in velvet celebrated in a sonnet their voyage 
up the Orinoco. 

The population of Trinidad, with the surrounding 
farms, was stated to be 19,000. It has two ports at 
the distance of about four miles. Puerto Casilda 
and Puerto Guaurabo. On their return to the latter 
of these the travellers were much struck by the 
prodigious number of phosphorescent insects which 
illuminated the grass and foliage. These insects 
(Elater noctilucus) are occasionally used for a lamp, 
being placed in a calabash perforated with holes ; 
and a young woman at Trinidad informed them that, 


during a long passage from the mainland, she always 
had recourse to this light when she gave her child 
the breast at night, the captain not allowing any 
other on board, for fear of pirates. 


Voyage from Cuba to Cartkagena. 

Passage from Trinidad of Cuba to Carthagena Description of the latter 
Village of Turbaco Air-volcanoes Preparations for ascending the 
Rio Magdalena. 

LEAVING the island of Cuba, the travellers pro- 
ceeded in a S.S.E. direction, and on the morning of 
the 17th approached the group of the Little Cay- 
mans, in the neighbourhood of which they saw nu- 
merous turtles of extraordinary size, accompanied 
by multitudes of sharks. Passing a second time 
over the great bank of Vibora, they remarked that 
the colour of the troubled waters upon it was of a 
dirty-gray, and made observations on the changes of 
temperature at the surface produced by the varying 
depth of the sea. On quitting this shoal they sailed 
between the Baxo Nueva and the lighthouse of Cam- 
boy. The weather was remarkably fine, and the 
surface of the bay was of an indigo-blue, or violet 
tint, on account of the medusae which covered it. 
Haloes of small dimensions appeared round the 
moon. The disappearance of one of them was fol- 
lowed by the formation of a great black cloud, 
which emitted some drops of rain ; but the sky 
soon resumed its serenity, and a long series of fall- 
ing-stars and fireballs were seen moving in a direc- 
tion contrary to the wind in the lower regions of the 
atmosphere, which blew from the north. During 


the whole of the 23d March not a single cloud was 
seen in the firmament, although the air and the hori- 
zon were tinged with a fine red colour ; but towards 
evening large bluish clouds formed, and when they 
disappeared, converging bands of fleecy vapours were 
seen at an immense height. On the 24th they en- 
tered the kind of gulf bounded by the shores of Santa 
Martha and Costa Rica, which is frequently agitated 
by heavy gales. As they advanced towards the 
coast of Darien the north-east wind increased to a 
violent degree, and the waves became very rough at 
night. At sunrise they perceived part of the archi- 
pelago of St. Bernard, and passing the southern ex- 
tremity of the Placa de San Bernardo, saw in the 
distance the mountains of Tigua. The stormy 
weather and contrary winds induced the master of 
the vessel to seek shelter in the Rio Sinu, after a 
passage of sixteen days. 

Landing again on the continent of South America, 
they betook themselves to the village of Zapote, 
where they found a great number of sailors, all men 
of colour, who had descended the Rio Sinu in their 
barks, carrying maize, bananas, poultry, and other 
articles, to the port of Carthagena. The boats are 
flat-bottomed, and the wind having blown violently 
on the coast for ten days, they were unable to pro- 
ceed on their voyage. These people fatigued the 
travellers with idle questions about their books and 
instruments, and tried to frighten them with stories 
of boas, vipers, and jaguars. Leaving the shores, 
which are covered with Rhizophora, they entered a 
forest remarkable for the great variety of palm- 
trees which it presented. One of them, the Mlais 
melanococca, is only six feet four inches high, but its 
spathae contain more than 200,000 flowers, a single 
specimen furnishing 600,000 at the same time. The 
kernels of the fruit are peeled in water, and the layer 
of oil that rises from them, after being purified by 

268 PALM- WINE. 

boiling, yields the mantecade corozo, which is used 
for lighting churches and houses. 

After an hour's walk they found several inhabit- 
ants collecting palm- wine. The tree which affords 
this liquid is the Palma dolce or Cocos butyracea. 
The trunk, which diminishes but little towards the 
summit, is first cut down, when an excavation 
eighteen inches long, eight broad, and six in depth, 
is made below the place at which the leaves and 
spathae come off. After three days the cavity is 
found filled with a yellowish-white juice, having a 
sweet and vinous flavour, which continues to flow 
eighteen or twenty days. The last that comes is less 
sweet, but having a greater quantity of alcohol, it is 
more highly esteemed. On their way back to the 
shore they met with Zambos carrying on their shoul- 
ders cylinders of palmetto three feet in length, of 
which an excellent food is prepared. Night sur- 
prised them ; and, having broken an oar in return- 
ing on board, they found some difficulty in reaching 
the vessel. 

The Rio Sinu is of the highest importance for pro- 
visioning Carthagena. The gold-washings which 
were formerly of great value, especially between its 
source and the village of San Geronimo, have almost 
entirely ceased, although the province of Antioquia 
still furnishes, in its auriferous veins, a vast field for 
mining speculations. It would, however, be of more 
importance to direct attention to the cultivation of 
colonial produce in these districts, especially that 
of cacao, which is of superior quality. The real 
febrifuge Cinchona also grows at the source of the 
Rio Sinu, as well as in the mountains of Abibe and 
Maria ; and the proximity of the port of Carthagena 
would enhance its value in the trade with Europe. 

On the 27th March the sloop weighed anchor at 
sunrise. The sea was less agitated, although the 
wind blew as before. To the north was seen a suc- 
cession of small conical mountains, rising in the 


midst of savannas, where the balsam of Toln, form- 
erly so celebrated as a medicament, is still gathered. 
On leaving the Gulf of Morosquillo they found the 
waves swelling so high, that the captain was glad to 
seek for shelter, and lay-to on the north of the vil- 
lage of Rincon ; but discovering that they were upon 
a coral rock, they preferred the open water, and 
finally anchored near the isle of Arenas, on the night 
of the 28th. Next day the gale blew with great 
violence ; but they again proceeded, hoping to be 
able to reach the Boca Chica. The sea was so 
rough as to break over the deck, and while they 
were running short tacks, a false manoeuvre in set- 
ting the sails exposed them for some minutes to im- 
minent danger. It was Palm Sunday ; and a Zam- 
bo, who had followed them to the Orinoco and re- 
mained in their service until they returned to France, 
did not fail to remind them, that on the same day 
the preceding year they had undergone a similar 
danger near the mission of Uruana. After this they 
took refuge in a creek of the isle of Barn. 

As there was to be an eclipse of the moon that 
night, and next day an occultation of a Virginis, 
Humboldt insisted that the captain should allow one 
of the sailors to accompany him by land to the Boca 
Chica, the distance being only six miles ; but the 
latter refused, on account of the savage state of the 
country, in which there was neither path nor hab- 
itation ; and an incident which occurred justified his 
prudence. The travellers were going ashore to 
gather plants by moonlight, when there issued from 
the thicket a young negro loaded with fetters, and 
armed with a cutlass. He urged them to disembark 
on a beach covered with large Rhizophorte among 
which the sea did not break, and offered to conduct 
them to the interior of the island of Baru if they 
would give him some clothes ; but his cunning and 
savage air, his repeated inquiries as to their being 
Spaniards, and the unintelligible words addressed to 


his companions, who were concealed among the 
trees, excited their suspicions, and induced them to 
return on board. These blacks were probably Ma- 
roon negroes, who had escaped from prison. The 
appearance of a naked man, wandering on an unin- 
habited shore, and unable to rid himself of the chains 
fastened round his neck and arm, left a painful im- 
pression on the travellers ; but the sailors felt so 
little sympathy with these miserable creatures, that 
they wished to return and seize the fugitives, in 
order to sell them at Carthagena. 

Next morning they doubled the Punta Gigantes, 
and made sail towards the Boca Chica, the entrance 
to the port of Carthagena, which is eight or ten 
miles farther up. On landing, Humboldt learned 
that the expedition appointed to make a survey of 
the coast under the command of M. Fidalgo had 
not yet put to sea, and this circumstance enabled 
him to ascertain the astronomical position of several 
places which it was of importance to determine. 

During the six days of their stay at Carthagena, 
they made excursions in the neighbourhood, more 
especially in the direction of the Boca Grande, and 
the hill of Popa, which commands the town. The 
port or bay is nearly eleven miles and a half long. 
The small island of Tierra Bomba, at its two ex- 
tremities, which approach, the one to a neck of land 
from the continent, the other to a cape of the isle 
of Bani, forms the only entrance to the harbour. 
One of these, named Boca Grande, has been artifi- 
cially closed, for the defence of the town, in conse- 
quence of an attack attended with partial success 
made by Admiral Vernon in 1741. The extent of 
the work was 2640 varas, or 2446 yards, and as the 
water was from 16 to 20 feet deep, a wall or dike of 
stone, from 16 to 21 feet high, was raised on piles. 
The other opening, the Boca Chica, is from 36 to 38 
yards broad, but is daily becoming narrower, while 
the currents acting upon the Boca Grande have 


opened a breach in it, which they are continually 

The insalubrity of 'Carthagena, which has been 
exaggerated, varies with the state of the great 
marshes that surround it. The Cienega de Tesca, 
which is upwards of eighteen miles in length, com- 
municates with the ocean ; and, when in dry years 
the salt-water does not cover the whole plain, the 
exhalations that rise from it during the heat of the 
day become extremely pernicious. The hilly ground 
in the neighbourhood of the town is of limestone, 
containing petrifactions, and is covered by a gloomy 
vegetation of cactus, Jatropha gossypifolia, croton, 
and mimosa. While the travellers were searching 
for plants, their guides showed them a thick bush 
of acacia cornigera, which had acquired celebrity 
from the following occurrence : A woman, wearied 
of the well-founded jealousy of her husband, bound 
him at night with the assistance of her paramour, 
and threw him into it. The thorns of this species 
of acacia are exceedingly sharp, and of great length, 
and the shrub is infested by ants. The more the 
unfortunate man struggled, the more severely was 
he lacerated by the prickles, and when his cries at 
length attracted some persons who were passing, he 
was found covered with blood, and cruelly tormented 
by the ants. 

At Carthagena the travellers met with several 
persons whose society was not less agreeable than 
instructive ; and in the house of an officer of artil- 
lery, Don Domingo Esquiaqui, found a very curious 
collection of paintings, models of machinery, and 
minerals. They had also an opportunity of witness- 
ing the pageant of the Pascua. Nothing, says Hum- 
boldt, could rival the oddness of the dresses of the 
principal personages in these processions. Beggars, 
carrying a crown of thorns on their heads, asked 
alms, with crucifixes in their hands, and habited in 
black robes. Pilate was arrayed in a garb of striped 


silk, and the apostles, seated round a large table 
covered with sweetmeats, were carried on the shoul- 
ders of Zambos. At sunset, effigies of Jews in 
French vestments, and formed of straw and other 
combustibles, were burnt in the principal streets. 

Dreading the insalubrity of the town, the travel- 
lers retired on the 6th April to the Indian village 
of Turbaco, situated in a beautiful district, at the 
entrance of a large forest, about 17i miles to the 
south-west of the Popa, one of the most remarkable 
summits in the neighbourhood of Carthagena. Here 
they remained until they made the necessary pre- 
parations for their voyage on the Rio Magdalena, 
and fo'r the long journey which they intended to 
make to Bogota, Popayan, and Quito. The village 
is about 1151 feet above the level of the sea. Snakes 
were so numerous that they chased the rats even in 
the houses, and pursued the bats on the roofs. 
From the terrace surrounding their habitation, they 
had a view of the colossal mountains of the Sierra 
Nevada de Santa Marta, part of which was covered 
with perennial snow. The intervening space, con- 
sisting of hills and plains, was adorned with a luxu- 
riant vegetation, resembling that of the Orinoco. 
There they found gigantic trees, not previously 
known, such as the Rhinocarpus excelsa, with spirally- 
curved fruit, the Ocotea turbacensis, and the Cava- 
nillesia platanifolia ; the large five-winged fruit of 
which is suspended from the tips of the branches 
like paper lanterns. They botanized every day in 
the woods from five in the morning till night, though 
they were excessively annoyed by mosquitoes, zan- 
cudoes, xegens, and other tipulary insects. In the 
midst of these magnificent forests they frequently 
saw plantations of bananas and maize, to which the 
Indians are fond of retiring at the end of the rainy 

The persons who accompanied the travellers on 
these expeditions often spoke of a marshy ground 


situated in the midst of a thicket of palms, and 
which they designated by the name of Los Volcan- 
citos. They said that, according to a tradition pre- 
served in the village, the ground had formerly been 
ignited, but that a monk had extinguished it by fre- 
quent aspersions of holy water, and converted the 
fire-volcano into a water-volcano. Without attach- 
ing much credit to this tradition, the philosophers 
desired their guides to lead them to the spot. After 
traversing a space of about 5300 yards, covered with 
trunks of Cavanillesia, Piragra supurba, and Gyro- 
carpus, and in which there appeared here and there 
projections of a limestone rock containing petrified 
corals, they reached an open place of about 908 feet 
square, entirely destitute of vegetation, but mar- 
gined with tufts of Bromelia karatas. The surface 
was composed of layers of clay of a dark-gray 
colour, cracked by desiccation into pentagonal and 
heptagonal prisms. The volcancitos consist of fif- 
teen or twenty small truncated cones rising in the 
middle of this area, and having a height of from 19 
to 25 feet. The most elevated were on the southern 
side, and their circumference at the base was from 
78 to 85 yards. On climbing to the top of these 
mud-volcanoes, they found them to be terminated 
by an aperture, from 16 to 30 inches in diameter, 
filled with water, through which air-bubbles obtained 
a passage ; about five explosions usually taking 
place in two minutes. The force with which the 
air rises would lead to the supposition of its being 
subjected to considerable pressure, and a rather loud 
noise was heard at intervals, preceding the disen- 
gagement of it fifteen or eighteen seconds. Each 
of the bubbles contained from 12 to 14 cubic in- 
ches of elastic fluid, and their power of expansion 
was often so great that the water was projected be- 
yond the crater, or flowed over its brim. Some of 
the openings by which air escaped were situated in 
the plain without being surrounded by any promi- 


nence of the ground. It was observed that when the 
apertures, which are not placed at the summit of 
the cones, and are enclosed by a little mud wall 
from 10 to 15 inches high, are nearly contiguous, the 
explosions did not take place at the same time. It 
would appear that each crater receives the gas by 
distinct canals, or that these, terminating in the 
same reservoir of compressed air, oppose greater 
or less impediments to the passage of the aeriform 
fluids. The cones have no doubt been raised by 
these fluids, and the dull sound that precedes the dis- 
engagement of them indicates that the ground is 
hollow. The natives asserted that there had been 
no observable change in the form and number of 
the cones for twenty years, and that the little cavi- 
ties are filled with water even in the driest seasons. 
The temperature of this liquid was not higher than 
that of the atmosphere ; the latter having been 
81-5, and the former 80'6 or 81, at the time of 
Humboldt's visit. A stick could easily be pushed 
into the apertures to the depth of six or seven 
feet, and the dark-coloured clay or mud was ex- 
ceedingly soft. An ignited body was immediately 
extinguished on being immersed in the gas collected 
from the bubbles, which was found to be pure azote. 
The stay which our travellers made at Turbaco 
was uncommonly agreeable, and added greatly to 
their collection of plants. " Even now," says Hum- 
boldt, writing in 1831, "after so long a lapse of 
time, and after returning from the banks of the Obi 
and the confines of Chinese Zungaria, these bamboo 
thickets, that wild luxuriance of vegetation, those 
orchideae covering the old trunks of the ocotea and In- 
dian fig, that majestic view of the snowy mountains, 
that light mist filling the bottom of the valleys at 
sunrise, those tufts of gigantic trees rising like, ver- 
dant islets from a sea of vapours, incessantly pre- 
sent themselves to my imagination. At Turbaco 
we lived a simple and laborious life. We were young ; 


possessed a similarity of taste and disposition; 
looked forward to the future with hope ; were on the 
eve of a journey which was to lead us to the high- 
est summits of the Andes, and bring us to volcanoes 
in action in a country continually agitated by earth- 
quakes ; and we felt ourselves more happy than at 
any other period of our distant expedition. The 
years which have since passed, not all exempt from 
griefs and pains, have added to the charms of these 
impressions ; and I love to think that, in the midst 
of his exile in the southern hemisphere, in the soli- 
tudes of Paraguay, my unfortunate friend M. Bon- 
pland, sometimes remembers with delight o,ur bo- 
tanical excursions at Turbaco, the little spring of 
Torecillo, the first sight of a gustavia in flower, or 
of the cavanillesia loaded with fruits having mem- 
branous and transparent edges." 

M. Bonpland's health having suffered severely 
during the navigation of the Orinoco and Casiquiare, 
they resolved to provide themselves with all the 
conveniences necessary to secure their comfort dur- 
ing the ascent of the Rio Magdalena. They were 
accompanied on this voyage by an old French phy- 
sician, M. de Rieux, and two Spaniards. Leaving 
Turbaco after a stay of ten days, in a cool and very 
dark njght, they passed through a wood of bamboos 
Arising from 40 to 50 feet. At daybreak they reached 
Arjona on the borders of the forest, crossed an arm 
of the Rio Magdalena in a canoe, and arrived at 
Mahates, where they had to wait nearly all day for 
the mules which were to convey their baggage to 
the place of embarkation. It was excessively hot, 
without a breath of wind, and to add to their vexa- 
tion, their only remaining barometer had been broken 
in passing the canal ; but they consoled themselves 
by examining some beautiful species of parrots 
which they obtained from the natives. 

On the 20th April, at three in the morning, the 
air feeling deliciously cool, although the thermome- 


ter was at 71*6, they were on their journey to the 
village of Barancas Nuevas, amid a forest of lofty 
trees. Half-way between Mahates and that hamlet 
they found a group of huts elegantly constructed of 
bamboos, and inhabited by Zambos. Humboldt re- 
marks, that the intermixture of Indians and negroes 
is very common in those countries, and that the 
women of the American tribes have a great liking 
to the men of the African race. To the east of 
Mahates the limestone formation, containing corals, 
ceases to appear ; the predominant rocks being sili- 
ceous with argillaceous cement, forming alternating 
beds of small-grained quartzose and slaty sandstone, 
or conglomerates containing angular fragments of 
lydian-stone, clay-slate, gneiss, and quartz, and vary- 
ing in colour from yellowish-gray to brownish-red. 
Hitherto the narrative of the important journey 
performed by Humholdt and Bonpland, through those 
little known but highly interesting regions of South 
America which were visited by them, has been given 
as much in detail as is consistent with the nature of 
a work like the present ; but here, as no minute ac- 
count of their farther progress has yet been laid be- 
fore the public, we must cease to follow them step 
by step, and content ourselves with a brief narra- 
tive of their proceedings. 



Brief Account of the Journey from Carthagena to Quito 
and Mexico. 

Ascent of the Rio Magdalena Santa Fe de Bogota Cataract of Tequen- 
dama Natural Bridges of Icononzo Passage of Quindiu Cargueros 
Popayan Quito Cotopaxi and Chimborazo Route from Quito to 
Lima Guayaquil Mexico Guanaxuato Volcano of Jorullo Pyra- 
mid of Cholula. 

IT has been already stated that Humboldt, pre- 
viously to leaving Paris, had promised Baudin, that 
should his projected expedition to the southern hemi- 
sphere ever take place, he would endeavour to join it ; 
and also that information received by him at Cuba 
had induced him to relinquish plans subsequently 
formed, and re-embark for the continent of South 
America, with the view of proceeding to Guayaquil 
or Lima, where he expected to meet the navigators. 
Accordingly he went to Carthagena, where he learned 
that the season was too far advanced for sailing from 
Panama to Guayaquil. Giving up, therefore, his 
intentioli of crossing the isthmus of Panama, he 
passed some days in the forests of Turbaco, and 
afterward made preparations for ascending the Rio 

This river, from its sources near the equator, flows 
almost directly north. " Nature," says a traveller 
who sailed up it in 1823, " seems to have designedly 
dug the bed of the Magdalena in the midst of the 
cordilleras of Colombia, to form a canal of commu- 
nication between the mountains and the sea ; yet it 
would have made nothing but an unnavigable tor- 
rent, had not its course been stopped in many parts 
by masses of rock disposed in such a manner as to 


break its violence. Its waters, thus arrested, flow 
gently into the plains of the provinces of Santa 
Martha and Carthagena, which they fertilize and 
refresh by their evaporation. Three very distinct 
temperatures reign on the Magdalena. The sea- 
breezes blow from its mouth as far as Monpox; 
from this town to Morales not a breath of air tem- 
pers the heat of the atmosphere, and man would 
become a victim to its power, but for the abundant 
dews which fall during the night ; from Morales as 
far as the sources of the Magdalena, the south wind 
moderates the heat of the day, and forms the third 
temperature. These land-breezes cause the naviga- 
tion of the Magdalena to be rarely fatal to Euro- 
peans."* But, according to the same author, multi- 
tudes of animals of various species continually harass 
the traveller. He cannot bathe on account of the 
caymans, and if he venture on shore he is in dan- 
ger of being bitten by serpents. 

The voyage up this river, which lasted thirty-five 
days, was not performed without hazard and incon- 
venience. Humboldt sketched a chart of it, while 
his friend was busily occupied in examining the 
rich and beautiful vegetation of its banks. Disem- 
barking at Honda, they proceeded on mules by dan- 
gerous paths, through forests of oaks, melastomae, 
and cinchonae, to Santa Fe de Bogota, the capital 
of New-Grenada. This city stands in a beautiful 
valley surrounded by lofty mountains, and which 
would appear to have been at a former period the bed 
of a great lake. Here the travellers spent several 
months in exploring the mineralogical and botanical 
treasures of the country, the magnificent cataract 
of Tequendama, and the extensive collections of the 
celebrated Mutis. 

The elevated plain on which this metropolis is 
built is 8727 feet above the level of the sea, and, 

* Mollien's Travels in Colombia. 


is consequently higher than the summit of St. Ber- 
nard. The river of Funza, usually called Rio de 
Bogota, which drains the valley, has forced its way 
through the mountains to the south-west of Santa 
Fe, and near the farm of Tequendama rushes from 
the plain by a narrow outlet into a crevice, which 
descends towards the bed of the Rio Magdalena. 
Respecting this ravine, Gonzalo Ximenes de Que- 
sada, the conqueror of the country, found the fol- 
lowing tradition disseminated among the people : 
In remote times the inhabitants of Bogota were bar- 
barians, living without religion, laws, or arts. An old 
man on a certain occasion suddenly appeared among 
them, of a race unlike that of the natives, and hav- 
ing a long bushy beard. He instructed them in the 
arts ; but he brought with him a very malignant, 
although very beautiful woman, who thwarted all 
his benevolent enterprises. By her magical power 
she swelled the current of the Funza, and inun- 
dated the valley ; so that most of the inhabitants per- 
ished, a few only having found refuge in the neigh- 
bouring mountains. The aged visiter then drove 
his consort from the earth, and she became the moon. 
He next broke the rocks that enclosed the valley on 
the Tequendama side, and by this means drained off 
the waters ; then he introduced the worship of the 
sun, appointed two chiefs, and finally withdrew to a 
valley, where he lived in the exercise of the most au- 
stere penitence during 2000 years. 

The cataract of Tequendama presents an assem- 
blage of all that is picturesque. The river a little 
above it is 144 feet in breadth, but at the crevice 
narrows to a width of not more than 12 yards. The 
height of the fall, which forms a double bound, is 
574 feet, and the column of vapour that rises from 
it is visible from Santa Fe at the distance of 17 miles. 
The vegetation at the foot of the precipice has a 
totally different appearance from that at the sum- 
mit ; and while the spectator leaves behind him a 


plain in which the cereal plants of Europe are cul- 
tivated, and sees around him oaks, elms, and other 
trees resembling those of the temperate regions of 
the northern hemisphere, he looks down upon a 
country covered with palms, bananas, and sugar- 

Leaving Santa Fe, in September, 1801, the travel- 
lers passed the natural bridges of Icononzo, formed 
by masses of rock lying across a ravine of immense 
profundity. The valleys of the cordilleras are gen- 
erally crevices, the depth of which is often so great, 
that were Vesuvius seated in them its summit would 
not exceed that of the nearest mountains. One of 
these, that, namely, of Icononzo or Pandi, is pecu- 
liarly remarkable for the singular form of its rocks, 
the naked tops of which present the most picturesque 
contrast with the tufts of trees and shrubs which 
cover the edges of the gulf. A torrent, named the 
Summa Paz, forms two beautiful cascades where it 
enters the chasm, and where it again escapes from 
it. A natural arch, 47 h feet in length and 39 in 
breadth, stretches across the fissure at a height of 318 
feet above the stream. Sixty-four feet below this 
bridge is a second, composed of three enormous 
masses of rock, which have fallen so as to support 
each other. In the middle of it is a hole, through 
which the bottom of the cleft is seen. The torrent, 
viewed from this place, seemed to flow through a 
dark cavern, whence arose a doleful sound, emitted 
by the nocturnal birds that haunt the abyss, thou- 
sands of which were seen flying over the surface of 
the water, supposed by Humboldt from their appear- 
ance to be goatsuckers. 

In the kingdom of New-Grenada, from 2 30' to 
5 15' of north latitude, the cordillera of the Andes 
is divided into three parallel chains. The eastern 
one separates the valley of the Rio Magdalena from 
the plains of the Rio Met a, and on its western de- 
clivity are the natural bridges of Icononzo above 


mentioned. The central chain, which parts the 
waters between the basin of the Rio Magdalena 
and that of the Rio Cauca, often attains the limits 
of perpetual snow, and shoots far beyond it in the 
colossal summits of Guanacas, Baragan, and Quin- 
diu. The western ridge cuts off the valley of Cauca 
from the province of Choco and the shores of the 
South Sea. In passing from Santa Fe to Popayan 
and the banks of the river now mentioned, the trav- 
eller has to descend the eastern chain, either by the 
Mesa and Tocayma or the bridges of Icononzo, trav- 
erse the valley of the Rio Magdalena, and cross the 
central chain, as Humboldt did, by the mountain of 

This mountain, which is considered as the most 
difficult passage in the cordilleras, presents a thick 
uninhabited forest, which, in the finest season, can- 
not be passed in less than ten or twelve days. Trav- 
ellers usually furnish themselves with a month's 
provision, as it often happens that the melting of 
the snow, and the sudden floods arising from it, pre- 
vent them from descending. The highest point of 
the road is 11,409^ feet above the level of the sea, 
and the path, which is very narrow, has i.n several 
places the appearance of a gallery dug in the rock 
and left open above. The oxen, which are the beasts 
of burden commonly used in the country, can scarcely 
force their way through these passages, some of 
which are 6562 feet in length. The rock is covered 
with a thick layer of clay, and the numerous gullies 
formed by the torrents are filled with mud. 

In crossing this mountain the philosophers, fol- 
lowed by twelve oxen carrying their collections and 
instruments, were deluged with rain. Their shoes 
were torn by the prickles which shoot out from the 
roots of the bamboos, so that, unwilling to be carried 
on men's backs, they were obliged to walk barefooted. 
The usual mode of travelling, however, is in a chair 
tied to the back of a carguero or porter. When one 


reflects on the enormous fatigue to which these bear- 
ers are exposed, he is at a loss to conceive how the 
employment should be so eagerly embraced by all 
the robust young men who live at the foot of the 
Andes. The passage of Quindiu is not the only part 
of South America which is traversed in this manner. 
The whole province of Antioquia is surrounded by 
mountains so difficult to be crossed, that those who 
refuse to trust themselves to the skill of a carguero, 
and are not strong enough to travel on foot, must re- 
linquish all thoughts of leaving the country. The 
number of persons who follow this laborious occu- 
pation, at Choco, Hague, and Medellin, is so great 
that our travellers sometimes met a file of fifty or 
sixty. Near the mines of Mexico there are also 
individuals who have no other employment than that 
of carrying men on their backs. 

The cargueros, in crossing the forest of Quindiu, 
take with them bundles of the large oval leaves of the 
vijao, a plant of the banana family, the peculiar var- 
nish of which enables them to resist rain. A hun- 
dredweight of these leaves is sufficient to cover a 
hut large enough to hold six or eight persons. When 
they come to a convenient spot where they intend 
to pass the night, the carriers lop a few branches from 
the trees, with which they construct a frame ; it is 
then divided into, squares by the stalks of some climb- 
ing plant, or threads of agave, on which are hung 
the vijao leaves, by means of a cut made in their 
midrib. In one of these tents, which are cool, com- 
modious, and perfectly dry, our travellers passed 
several days in the valley of Boquia, amid violent 
and incessant rains. 

From these mountains, where the truncated cone 
of Tolima, covered with perennial snow, rises amid 
forests of styrax, arborescent pasiflorae, bamboos, and 
waxpalms, they descended into the valley of Cauca 
towards the west. After resting some time at Ca- 
thago and Buga, they coasted the province of Choco, 


where platina is found among rolled fragments of 
basalt, greenstone, and fossil wood. 

They then went up by Caloto and the mines of 
Quilichao to Popayan, which is situated at the base 
of the snowy mountains of Purace and Sotara. This 
city, the capital of New-Grenada, stands in the beau- 
tiful valley of the Rio Cauca, at an elevation of 5906 
feet above the sea, and enjoys a delicious climate. 
On the ascent from Popayan towards the summit of 
the volcano of Purace, at a height of 8694 feet, is a 
small plain inhabited by Indians, and cultivated with 
the greatest care. It is bounded by two ravines, on 
the brink of which is placed a village of the same 
name. The gardens, which are enclosed with hedges 
of euphorbium, are watered by the springs that issue 
abundantly from the porphyritic rock ; and nothing 
can be more agreeable than the contrast between the 
beautiful verdure of this plain and the chain of dark 
mountains surrounding the volcano. The hamlet of 
Purace, which the travellers visited in November, 
1801, is celebrated for the fine cataracts of the Rio 
Vinagre, the waters of which are acid. This little 
river is warm towards its source, and after forming 
three falls, one of which is 394 feet in height and is 
exceedingly picturesque, joins the Rio Cauca, which 
for 14 miles below the junction is destitute of fish. 
The crater of the volcano is filled with boiling water, 
which, amid frightful noises, emits vapours of sul- 
phuretted hydrogen. 

The travellers then crossed the precipitous cordil- 
leras of Almaquer to Pasto, avoiding the infected and 
contagious atmosphere of the valley of Patia. From 
the latter town, which is situated at the foot of a 
burning volcano, they traversed the elevated plat- 
form of the province of Los Pastos, celebrated for its 
great fertility ; and after a journey of four months, 
performed on mules, arrived at Quito on the 6th Jan- 
uary, 1802. 

The climate of this province is remarkably agree- 

286 QUITO. 

able, and almost invariable. During the months of 
December, January, February, and March, it gene- 
rally rains every afternoon from half-past one to 
five ; but even at this season the evenings and morn- 
ings are most beautiful. The temperature is so mild 
that vegetation never ceases. " From the terrace 
of the government palace there is one of the most 
enchanting prospects that human eye ever wit- 
nessed, or nature ever exhibited. Looking to the 
south, and glancing along towards the north, eleven 
mountains covered with perpetual snow present 
themselves, their bases apparently resting on the 
verdant hills that surround the city, and their heads 
piercing the blue arch of heaven, while the clouds 
hover midway down them, or seem to crouch at 
their feet. Among these the most lofty are Cayam- 
beurcu, Imbaburu, Ilinisa, Antisana, Chimborazo, 
and the beautifully-magnificent Cotopaxi, crowned 
with its volcano."* 

Nearly nine months were devoted to researches 
of various kinds. They made excursions to the 
snowy mountains of Antisana, Cotopaxi, Tungura- 
gua, and Chimborazo, the latter of which was con- 
sidered as the highest on the globe J until it was 
found to be exceeded by some of the colossal sum- 
mits of the Himmaleh, and even by several in Upper 
Peru. In all these journeys they were accompanied 
by a young man, son of the Marquis of Selva-alegre, 
who subsequently followed them to Peru and Mexi- 
co, f They twice ascended to the volcanic summit 
of Pichincha, where they made experiments on the 
constitution of the air its elasticity, its electrical, 

* Stevenson's Residence in South America, vol. ii. p. 324. 

t This accomplished individual, Don Carlos Montufar, of whom our 
author speaks with approbation, having connected himself with the 
popular party in the struggles of which the Spanish colonies have lately 
been the theatre, was seized in Quito, in 1811, by Don Toribio Monies, 
sentenced as a traitor, and shot through the back ; after which his heart 
was taken out and burnt. See Stevenson's Residence id South America* 
vol. iii. p. 44. 


Magnetic, and hygroscopic qualities, and the tem- 
perature of boiling water. 

Cotopaxi is the loftiest of those volcanoes of the 
Andes which have produced eruptions at recent pe- 
riods ; its absolute height being 18,878 feet. It is 
consequently 2625 feet higher than Vesuvius would 
be were it placed on the top of the Peak of Teneriffe. 
The scoriae and rocks ejected by it, and scattered 
over the neighbouring valleys, would form a vast 
mountain of themselves. In 1738 its flames rose 
2953 feet above the crater ; and in 1744 its roarings 
were heard as far as Honda, on the Magdalena, at 
a distance of 690 miles. On the 4th April, 1768, 
the quantity of ashes thrown out was so great, that 
in the towns of Hambato and Tacunga the inhabit- 
ants were obliged to use lanterns in the streets. 
T^le explosion which took place in January, 1803, 
preceded by the sudden melting of the snows 
which covered the surface ; and our travellers, at 
the port of Guayaquil, 179^ miles distant, heard day 
and night the noises proceeding from it, like dis- 
charges of a battery. 

This celebn >f ed mountain is situated to the south- 
east of Quito, at the distance of 41 miles, in the 
midst of the Andes. Its form is the most beautiful 
and regular of all the colossal summits of that 
mighty chain; being a perfect cone, which is covered 
with snow, and shines with dazzling splendour at 
sunset. No rocks project through the icy covering, 
except near the edge of the crater, which is sur- 
rounded by a small circular wall. In ascending it 
is extremely difficult to reach the lower boundary 
of the snows, the cone being surrounded by deep 
ravines ; and, after a near examination of the sum- 
mit, Humboldt thinks he may assert that it would 
be altogether impossible to reach the brink of the 

It was mentioned that, in the kingdom of New- 
Grenada, the cordilleras of the Andes form three 


chains, in the great longitudirtal valleys of which 
flow two large rivers. To the south of Popayan, 
on the table-land of Los Pastos, these three chains 
unite into a single group, which stretches far be- 
yond the equator. This group, in the kingdom of 
Quito, presents an extraordinary appearance from 
the river of Chota, the most elevated summits being 
arranged in two lines, forming, as it were, a double 
ridge to the cordilleras. These summits served for 
signals to the French academicians when employed 
in the measurement of an equinoctial degree. Bou- 
guer considered them as two chains, separated by a 
longitudinal valley ; but this valley Humboldt views 
as the ridge of the Andes itself. It is an elevated 
plain, from 8858 to 9515 feet above the level of the 
sea; and the volcanic summits of Pichincha, Ca- 
yambo, Cotopaxi, and other celebrated peaks, are, 
he thinks, so many protuberances of the great mass 
of the Andes. In consequence of the elevation of 
the territory of Quito, these mountains do not seem 
so high as many of much inferior altitude rising 
from a lower basis. 

On Chimborazo the line marking the inferior 
limit of perpetual snow is at a height somewhat ex- 
ceeding that of Mont Blanc. On a narrow ledge, 
which rises amid the snows on the southern de- 
clivity, our travellers attempted on the 23d June to 
reach the summit. The point where they stopped 
to observe the inclination of the magnetic meridian 
was more elevated than any yet attained by man, 
being 3609 feet higher than the summit of Mont 
Blanc, and more than 3714 feet higher than La Con- 
damine and Bouguer reached in 1745 on the Cora- 
zon. The ridge to which they climbed, and beyond 
which they were prevented from proceeding by a 
deep chasm in the snow, was 19,798 feet above the 
level of the sea ; but the summit of the mountain 
was still 1439 feet higher. The blood issued from 
their eyes, lips, and gums. The form of Chimborazo 


is conical, but the top is not truncated, like that of 
Cotopaxi, being rounded or semicircular in outline. 

While at Quito, Humboldt received a letter from 
the National Institute of France, by which he was 
apprized that Captain Baudin had set out for New- 
Holland by the Cape of Good Hope. He was 
obliged therefore to renounce all thoughts of joining 
the expedition, although the hope of being able to 
meet it had induced him to relinquish his plan of 
proceeding from Cuba to Mexico and the Philippine 
Islands, and had led him upwards of 3452 miles 
southward. The travellers, however, consoled 
themselves with the thought of having examined 
regions Over which the eye of science had never 
before glanced; and, resolved henceforth to trust 
solely to their own resources, after spending some 
months in exploring the Andes, they set out in the 
direction of Lima. 

They first pointed their course to the great River 
Amazon, visiting the ruins of Lactacunga, Hambato, 
and Riobamba, in a country the face of which was 
entirely changed by the frightful earthquakes of 
1797, that destroyed nearly 40,000 of the inhabitants. 
They then with great difficulty passed to Loxa, 
where in the forests of Gonzanama and Malacates 
they examined the trees which yield the Peruvian 
bark. The vast extent of ground which they trav- 
ersed in. the course of their expedition afforded 
them better opportunities than any botanist had 
ever enjoyed of c'omparing the different species of 

Leaving Loxa they entered Peru by Ayavaca and 
Gouncabamba, traversing the ridge of the Andes to 
descend to the River Amazon. In two days they 
had to cross thirty-live times the Rio de Chayma. 
They saw the magnificent remains of the causeway 
of the incas, which traversed the porphyritic sum- 
mits from Cusco to Assouay, at a height varying 
from 7670 to 11,510 feet. At the village of Chamaya, 


on a river of the same name, they took ship and de- 
scended to the Amazon. 

La Condamine, on his return from Quito to Para, 
embarked on this river only below Quebrada de 
Chuchunga ; and Humboldt, with the view of com- 
pleting the map made by the French astronomer, 
proceeded as far as the cataracts of Rentama. At 
Tomependa, the principal place of the province of 
Jaen de Bracamorros, he constructed a map of the 
Upper Amazon, from his own observations as well 
as from accounts received from the natives. Bon- 
pland employed himself, as usual, in examining the 
subjects of the vegetable kingdom, among which he 
discovered several new species of cinchona. 

Returning to Peru, our travellers crossed the cor- 
dillera of the Andes the fifth time. In seven degrees 
of south latitude they determined the position of the 
magnetic equator, or the line in which the needle 
has no inclination. They also examined the mines 
of Hualgayoc, where large masses of native silver 
are found at an elevation of 12,790 feet above the 
sea, and which, together with those of Pasco and 
Huantajayo, are the richest in Peru. From Caxa- 
marca, celebrated for its hot-springs and the ruins 
of the palace of Atahualpa, they went down to 
Truxillo. In this neighbourhood are the remains 
of the ancient Peruvian city Mansiche, adorned by 
pyramids, in one of which an immense quantity of 
gold was discovered in the eighteenth century. 
Descending the western slope of the Andes, they 
beheld for the first time the Pacific Ocean, and the 
long narrow valley bounded by its shores, in which 
rain and thunder are unknown. From Truxillo they 
followed the arid coast of the South Sea, and arrived 
at Lima, where they remained several months. At 
the port of Callao, Humboldt had the satisfaction 
of observing the transit of Mercury, although the 
thick fog which prevails there sometimes obscures 
the sun for many days in succession. 


In January, 1803, the travellers embarked for 
Guayaquil, in the vicinity of which they found a 
splendid forest of palms, plumeriae, tabernae-montanae, 
and scitaminae. Here also they heard the incessant 
noises of the volcano of Cotopaxi, which had expe- 
rienced a tremendous agitation on the 6th January. 
From Guayaquil they proceeded by sea to Acapulco 
in New-Spain. At first, Humboldt's intention was 
to remain only a few months in Mexico, and return 
as speedily as possible to Europe, more especially 
as his instruments, and in particular the chronome- 
ters, were getting out of order, while he found it 
impossible to procure others. But the attractions 
of so beautiful and diversified a country, the great 
hospitality of its inhabitants, and the dread of the 
yellow fever of Vera Cruz, which usually attacks 
Those who descend from the mountains between 
June and October, induced him to remain until the 
middle of winter. 

After making numerous observations and experi- 
ments on the atmospherical phenomena, the horary 
variations of the barometer, magnetism, and the 
natural productions of the country, our travellers 
set out in the direction of Mexico ; gradually ascend- 
ing by the burning valleys of Mescala and Papagayo, 
where the thermometer rose to 89*6 in the shade, 
and where the river is crossed on fruits of Crescentia 
pinnata, attached to each other by ropes of agave. 
Reaching the elevated plains of Chilpantzuigo, Te- 
huilotepec, and Tasco, which are situated at a height 
varying from 3837 to 4476 feet above the sea, they 
entered a region blessed with a temperate climate, 
and producing oaks, cypresses, pines, tree-ferns, and 
the cultivated cereal plants of Europe. After visit- 
ing the silver-mines of Tasco, the oldest and formerly 
the richest of Mexico, they went up by Cuernaraca 
and Guachilaco to the capital. Here they spent 
some time in the agreeable occupation of examining 
numerous curiosities, antiquities, and institutions, in 


making astronomical observations, in studying the 
natural productions of the surrounding country, and 
in enjoying the society of enlightened individuals. 
The longitude of Mexico, which had been misplaced 
two degrees on the latest maps, was accurately 
determined by a long series of observations. 

Our travellers next visited the celebrated mines 
of Moran and Real del Monte, and examined the 
obsidians of Oyamel, which form layers in pearlstone 
and porphyry, and were employed by the ancient 
Mexicans for the manufacture of knives. The cas- 
cade of Regla, a representation of which forms the 
vignette to the present volume, is situated in the 
neighbourhood. The regularity of the basaltic col- 
umns is as remarkable as that of the deposites of 
Staffa. Most of them are perpendicular; though 
some are horizontal, and others have various degrees 
of inclination. They rest upon a bed of clay, be- 
neath which basalt again occurs. Returning from 
this excursion in July, 1803, they made another to 
the northern part of the kingdom, in the course of 
which they inspected the aperture made in the 
mountain of Suicog for the purpose of draining the 
valley of Mexico. They next passed by Queretaro, 
Salamanca, and the fertile plains of Yrapuato, on the 
way to Guanaxuato, a large city placed in a narrow 
defile, and celebrated for its mines. 

There they remained two months, making re- 
searches into the geology and botany of the neigh- 
bouring country. From thence they proceeded by 
the valley of San Jago to Valladolid, the capital of 
the ancient kingdom of Mechoacan; and, notwith- 
standing a continuance of heavy autumnal rains, 
descended by Patzquaro, which is situated on the 
edge of an extensive lake towards the shores of the 
Pacific Ocean, to the plains of Jorullo. Here they 
entered the great crater, making their way over 
crevices exhaling ignited sulphuretted hydrogen, and 


experiencing much danger from the brittleness of 
the lava. 

The formation of this volcano is one of the most 
extraordinary phenomena which have been observed 
on our globe. The plain of Malpais, covered with 
small cones from six to ten feet in height, is part of 
an elevated table-land bounded by hills of basalt, 
trachyte, and volcanic tufa. From the period of 
the discovery of America to the middle of the last 
century, this district had undergone no _ change of 
surface, and the seat of the crater was then covered 
with a plantation of indigo and sugar-cane ; when, 
in June, 1759, hollow sounds were heard, and a suc- 
cession, of earthquakes continued for two months, 
to the great consternation of the inhabitants. From 
the beginning of September every thing seemed to 
announce the re-establishment of tranquillity ; but 
in the night of the 28th the frightful subterranean 
noises again commenced. The Indians fled to the 
neighbouring mountains. A tract not less than from 
three to four square miles in extent rose up in the 
shape of a dome ; and those who witnessed the phe- 
nomenon asserted, that flames were seen issuing 
from a space of more than six square miles, while 
fragments of burning rocks were projected to an 
immense height, and the surface of the ground un- 
dulated like an agitated sea. Two brooks which 
watered the plantations precipitated themselves into 
the burning chasms. Thousands of the small cones 
described above suddenly appeared, and in the midst 
of these eminences, called hornitos or ovens, six great 
masses, having an elevation of from 1312 to 1640 
feet above the original level of the plain, sprang up 
from a gulf running from N.N.E. to S.S.W. The 
most elevated of these mounds is the great volcano 
of Jorullo, which is continually burning. The erup- 
tions of this central volcano continued till February, 
1760, when they became less frequent. The Indians, 
who had abandoned all the villages within thirty 


miles of it, returned once more to their cottages, 
and advanced towards the mountains of Aguasarco 
and Santa Ines, to contemplate the streams of fire 
that issued from the numberless apertures. The 
roofs of the houses of Queretaro, more than 166 
miles distant, were covered with volcanic dust. Mr. 
Lyell (Principles of Geology, vol. i. p. 379) states, 
on the authority of Captain Vetch, that another 
eruption happened in 1819, accompanied by an earth- 
quake, during which ashes fell at the city of Gua- 
naxuato, 140 miles distant from Jorullo, in such 
quantities as to lie six inches deep in the streets. 

When Humboldt visited this place, the natives 
assured him that the heat of the hornitos had for- 
merly been much greater. The thermometer rose 
to 203 when placed in the fissures exhaling aqueous 
vapour. Each of the cones emitted a thick smoke, 
and in many of them a subterranean noise was 
heard, which seemed to indicate the proximity of a 
fluid in ebullition. Two streams were at that period 
seen bursting through the argillaceous vaults, and 
were found by the traveller to have a temperature 
of 126'9. The Indians give them the names of the 
two rivers which had been ingulfed, because in seve- 
ral parts of the Malpais great masses of water are 
heard flowing in a direction from east to west. Our 
author considers all the district to be hollow ; but 
Scrope and Lyell find it more suitable to their views 
of volcanic agency to represent the conical form 
of the ground as resulting from the flow of lava 
over the original surface of the plain. 

The Indians of this province are represented as 
being the most industrious of New-Spain. They 
have a remarkable talent for cutting out images in 
wood, and dressing them in clothes made of the pith 
of an aquatic plant, which being very porous imbibes 
the most vivid colours. Two figures of this kind, 
which Humboldt brought home for the Queen of 
Prussia, are here represented. They exhibit the 



characteristic traits of the American race, together 
with a strange mixture of the ancient costume with 
that which was introduced by the Spaniards. 

Costumes of the Indians of Mechoacan. 

From Valladolid, the ancient kingdom of Mechoa- 
can, the travellers returned to Mexico by the ele- 
vated plain of Tolucca, after examining the volcanic 
mountains in the vicinity. They also visited the 
celebrated cheiranthostaemon of Cervantes, a tree 
of which it was at one time supposed there did not 
exist more than a single specimen. 

At that city they remained several months, for the 
purpose of arranging their botanical and geological 
collections, calculating the barometrical and trigo- 


nometrical measurements which they had made, and 
sketching the plates of the Geological Atlas which 
Humboldt proposed to publish. They also assisted in 
placing a colossal equestrian statue of the king, which 
had been cast by a native artist. In January, 1804, 
they left Mexico with the intention of examining the 
eastern declivity of the cordillera of New-Spain. 
-They also measured the great pyramid of Cholula, an 
extraordinary monument of the Toltecks, from the 
summit of which there is a splendid view of the snowy 
mountains and beautiful plains of Tlascala. It is 
built of bricks, which seemed to have been dried in 
the sun, alternating with layers of clay. They then 
descended to Xalapa, a city placed at an elevation 
of 4138 feet above the sea, in a delightful climate. 
The dangerous road which leads from it to Perote, 
through almost impenetrable forests, was thrice ba- 
rometrically levelled by Humboldt. Near the latter 
place is a mountain of basaltic porphyry, remark- 
able for the singular form of a small rock placed on 
its summit, and which is named the Coffer of Perote. 
This elevation commands a very extensive prospect 
over the plain of Puebla and the eastern slope of 
the cordilleras of Mexico, which is covered with 
dense forests. From it they also saw the harbour 
of Vera Cruz, the castle of St. Juan of Ulloa, and 
the seacoast. 

Before following our travellers across the Atlantic, 
it may be useful to present a sketch of the valuable 
observations recorded in Humboldt's Political Essay 
on the Kingdom of New- Spain, and which are in 
part the result of his researches in that interesting 



Description of New- Spain or Mexico. 

General Description of New-Spain or Mexico Cordilleras Climates 
Mines Rivers Lakes Soil Volcanoes Harbours Population- 
Provinces Valley of Mexico, and Description of the Capital Inunda- 
tions, and Works undertaken for the Purpose of preventing them. 

PREVIOUS to Humboldt's visit to New-Spain, the 
information possessed in Europe respecting that in- 
teresting and important country was exceedingly 
meager and incorrect. The ignorance of the Eu- 
ropean conquerors, the indolence of their successors, 
the narrow policy of the government, and the want 
of 'scientific enterprise among the Creoles and Span- 
iards, left it for centuries a region of dim obscurity, 
into which the eye of research was unable to pene- 
trate. So inaccurate were the maps, that even the 
latitude and longitude of the capital remained un- 
fixed, and the inhabitants were thrown into conster- 
nation by the occurrence of a total eclipse of the sun 
on the 21st February, 1803 ; the almanacs, calculating 
from a false indication of the meridian, having an- 
nounced it as scarcely visible. The determination 
of the geographical position of many of the more re- 
markable places, that of the altitude of the volcanic 
summits and other eminences, together with the vast 
mass of intelligence contained in the Political Essay 
on New-Spain, served to dispel in some measure the 
darkness ; and since the period of Humboldt's visit 
numerous travellers have contributed so materially 
to our acquaintance with Mexico, that it no longer 
remains among the least known of those remote 
countries of the globe over which the power of Eu- 
rope has extended. 


Although the independence of the American states 
has now been confirmed, and their political relations 
entirely changed since the time our author was there, 
the aspect of nature continues the same in those ex- 
tensive regions ; and as we have less to do with 
their history and national circumstances than with 
the discoveries of the learned traveller, we shall 
follow, as heretofore, his descriptions of the coun- 
tries examined by him in the relations in which they 
then stood. 

The Spanish settlements in the New Continent 
formerly occupied that immense territory comprised 
between 41 43' of south latitude and 37 48' of north 
latitude, equalling the whole length of Africa, and 
exceeding the vast regions possessed by the Russian 
empire or Great Britain in Asia. They are divided 
into nine great governments, of which five, viz. the 
viceroyalties of Peru and New Grenada, the capi- 
tanias-generales of Guatimala, Porto Rico, and Ca- 
raccas, are entirely intertropical ; while the other 
four, viz. the viceroyalties of Mexico and Buenos 
Ayres, and the capitanias-generales of Chili and Ha- 
vana, including the Floridas, are chiefly situated in 
the temperate zones. Mexico was the most im- 
portant as well as the most civilized of the whole, and 
was long considered as such by the court of Madrid. 

The name of New-Spain was at first given in 1518 
to the province of Yucatan, where the companions 
of Grijalva were astonished at the civilization of the 
inhabitants. Cortez employed it to denote the whole 
empire of Montezuma, though it was subsequently- 
used in various senses. Humboldt designates by it 
the vast country which has for its northern and south- 
ern limits the parallels of 38 and 16. The length 
of this region from S.S.E. to N.N.W. is nearly 1678 
miles ; its greatest breadth 994 miles. The isthmus 
of Tehuantepec, to the south-east of the port of Vera 
Cruz, is the narrowest part ; the distance from the At- 
lantic Ocean to the South Sea being there only 155 


miles. The question of opening a communication 
by a canal between the two oceans at this point, the 
isthmus of Panama, or several others which he 
mentions, is fully discussed by the author. He dis- 
credits the idea that the level of the South Sea is 
higher than that of the Gulf of Mexico, and imagines 
that were a rupture of the intervening barrier ef- 
fected, the current would establish itself in the di- 
rection opposite to that usually apprehended. 

When a general view is taken of the whole sur- 
face of Mexico, it is seen that one-half is situated 
within the tropic, while the rest belongs to the tem- 
perate zone. This latter portion contains 775,019 
square miles. The physical climate of a country 
does not altogether depend upon its distance from 
the pole, but also upon its elevation, its proximity 
to the ocean, and other circumstances ; so that of 
the 645,850 square miles in the torrid zone, more 
than three-fifths have a cold, or at least temperate 
atmosphere. The w r hole interior of Mexico, in fact, 
constitutes an immense table-land, having an eleva- 
tion which varies from 6562 to 8202 feet above the 
level of the sea. 

The chain of mountains which forms this vast 
plain is continuous with the Andes of South Amer- 
ica. In the southern hemisphere the cordillera is 
everywhere broken up by fissures or valleys of small 
breadth ; but in Mexico it is the ridge itself that-con- 
stitutes the platform. In Peru the most elevated sum- 
mits form the crest of the Andes, while in the other 
the prominences are irregularly scattered over the 
plain, and have no relation of parallelism to the Di- 
rection of the cordillera. In Peru and New-Grenada 
there are transverse valleys, having sometimes 4590 
feet of perpendicular depth, which entirely prevent 
the use of carriages ; while in New-Spain vehicles 
are used along an extent of more than 1726 miles. 
The general height of the table-land of Mexico is 
equal to that of Mount Cenis, St. Gothard, or the 


Great St. Bernard of the Swiss Alps ; and to deter- 
mine this circumstance Humboldt executed five 
laborious barometrical surveys, which enabled him 
to construct a series of vertical sections of the 

In South America the cordillera of the Andes pre- 
sents plains completely level at immense altitudes, 
such as that on which the city of Santa Fe de Bogota 
stands, that of CaxamarcainPeru, and those of An- 
tisana, which exceed in height the summit of the 
Peak of Teneriffe. But all these levels are of small 
extent, and being separated by deep valleys are of 
difficult access. In Mexico, on the other hand, vast 
tracts of champaign country are so approximated to 
each other as to form but a single plain occupying 
the elongated ridge of the cordillera, and running 
from the 18th to the 40th degree of north latitude. 
The descent towards the coasts is by a graduated 
series of terraces, which oppose great difficulties to 
the communication between the maritime districts 
and the interior, presenting at the same time an ex- 
traordinary diversity of vegetation. 

The plains along the coasts are the only parts that 
possess a climate adapted to the productions of the 
West Indies, the mean temperature of those situ- 
ated within the tropics, and whose elevation does 
not exceed 984 feet, being from 77 to 78'8, which 
is several degrees greater than the mean tempera- 
ture of Naples. These fertile regions, which pro- 
duce sugar, indigo, cotton, and bananas, are named 
Tierras calientes. Europeans remaining in them for 
any considerable time, particularly in the towns, are 
liable to the yellow fever or black vomiting. On 
the eastern shores the great heats are occasionally 
tempered by strata of refrigerated air brought from 
the north by the impetuous winds that blow from 
October to March, which frequently cool the atmo- 
sphere to such a degree, that at Havana the ther- 
mometer descends to 32, and at Vera Cruz to 60*8. 


On the declivities of the cordil'lera, at the eleva- 
tion of 3937 or 4921 feet, there prevails a mild cli- 
mate, never varying more than four or five degrees. 
To this region, of which the mean annual tempera- 
ture is from 68 to 69*8, the natives give the name 
otTierras templadas. Unfortunately these tracts are 
frequently covered with thick fogs, as they occupy 
the height to which the clouds usually ascend above 
the level of the sea. 

The plains which are elevated more than 7218 feet 
above that level, and of which the mean temperature 
is under 62*6, are named Tierras frias. The whole 
table-land of Mexico belongs to this description, 
which the natives consider cold, although the ordi- 
nary warmth is equal to that of Rome. There are 
plains of still greater elevation, on which, although 
they have a mean temperature of from 51 '8 to 55*4, 
equal to that of France and Lombardy, the vegetation 
is less vigorous, and European plants do not thrive so 
well as in their native soil. The winters there are 
not extremely severe, but in summer the sun has 
not sufficient power over the rarified air to bring 
fruits to perfect maturity. 

From the peculiar circumstances of New- Spain, as 
here sketched, the influence of geographical position 
upon the vegetation is much less than that of the 
height of the ground above the sea. In the nine- 
teenth and .twentieth degrees of latitude, sugar, cot- 
ton, cacao, and indigo are produced abundantly only 
at an elevation of from 1968 to 2625 feet. Wheat 
thrives on the declivities of the mountains, along a 
zone which commences at 4593 feet, and ends at 
9843. The banana (Musa paradisiaca), on the fruit 
of which the inhabitants of the tropics chiefly sub- 
sist, is seldom productive above 5085 feet ; oaks 
grow only between 2625 and 9843 feet ; and pines 
never descend lower than 6096, nor rise above 13,124 



The internal provinces of the temperate zone en- 
joy a climate essentially different from that of the 
same parallels in the Old Continent. So remarkable 
an inequality prevails indeed between the tempera- 
ture of the seasons, that while the winters resemble 
those of Germany, the summers are like those of 
Sicily. A similar difference exists between the 
other parts of America and the corresponding lati- 
tudes in Europe ; but it is less perceptible on the 
western than on the eastern coasts. 

New-Spain possesses a peculiar advantage in the 
circumstances under which the precious metals 
have been deposited. In Peru, the most important 
silver-mines, those of Potosi, Pasco, and Chota, are 
placed at an immense elevation ; so that, in work- 
ing them, men, provisions, and cattle must be 
brought from a distance ; but in Mexico the richest 
of these, those, namely, of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, 
Tasco, and Real del Monte, are at moderate heights, 
and surrounded by cultivated fields, towns, and 

There are few rivers of consequence in the coun- 
try, the Rio Bravo del Norte and the Rio Colorado 
being the only ones of any magnitude. The former 
has a course of 1767 miles, the latter of 863 ; but 
these streams flow in the least cultivated parts of 
the country, and can have little influence in a com- 
mercial point of view until colonization shall extend 
to their shores. In the whole equinoctial part of 
New-Spain there are only small rivulets, of which 
very few can ever become interesting to the mer- 

The numerous lakes, the greater part of which 
appear to be annually decreasing in size, are the 
remains of immense basins of water that formerly 
existed on the elevated plains. Of these may be 
mentioned the lake of Chapala, nearly 2067 square 
miles in extent; those of the valley of Mexico, 


which comprehend a fourth part of its surface ; that 
of Patzcuaro in Valladolid ; and, finally, the lakes 
of Mexitlan and Parras in New-Biscay. 

The interior of New-Spain, and especially a great 
part of the elevated table-land of Anahuac, is arid 
and destitute of vegetation ; which arises from the 
rapid evaporation in high plains, and the circum- 
stance that few of the mountains enter the region 
of perpetual snow, which under the equator com- 
mences at the Height of 15,748 feet, and in the 45th 
degree of latitude at that of 8366 feet. In Mexico, 
in the 19th and 20th degrees, perpetual frost com- 
mences, according to Humboldt's measurements, at 
15,092 feet of elevation ; so that of the six colossal 
summits which are placed in the same line in the 
19th parallel of latitude, only four, namely, the 
Peak of Orizaba, Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, and 
Nevado de Tolucca, are clothed with perennial 
snow ; while the Cofre de Perote and the Volcan de 
Colmia remain uncovered during the greater part of 
the year. None of the other mountains rise into so 
lofty a region. 

In general, in the equinoctial part of New-Spain, 
the soil, climate, and vegetation present a similar 
character to those of the temperate zone. Although 
the table-lands are singularly cold in winter, the 
temperature is much higher in summer than in the 
Andes of Peru, because the great mass of the cor- 
dillera of Mexico, and the vast extent of its plains, 
produce a reverberation of the sun's rays never ob- 
served in elevated countries of greater inequality. 

To the north of 20 the rains, which fall only in 
June, July, August, and September, very seldom ex- 
tend to the interior. The mountains, being composed 
of porous amygdaloid and fissured porphyries, pre- 
sent few springs ; the filtrated water losing itself in 
the crevices opened by ancient volcanic eruptions, 
and issuing at the bottom of the cordilleras. 

The aridity of the central plain, on which there 


is a great deficiency of wood, is prejudicial to the 
working of the mines ; and this natural evil has 
been augmented since the arrival of Europeans, who 
have not only destroyed the trees without planting 
others, but have drained a large extent of ground, 
and thus increased the saline efflorescences which 
cover the surface and are hostile to cultivation. 
This dryness, however, is confined to the more ele- 
vated plains ; and the declivities of the cordillera 
being exposed to humid winds and fogs, their vege- 
tation is uncommonly vigorous. 

Mexico is less disturbed by earthquakes than 
Quito, Guatimala, and Cumana, although these de- 
structive commotions are by no means rare on the 
western coasts, and in the neighbourhood of the 
capital, where, however, they are never so violent 
as in other parts of America. There are only five 
active volcanoes in all New-Spain ; Orizaba, Popo- 
catepetl, Tustla, Jorullo, and Colima. 

The physical situation of that kingdom confers 
inestimable advantages upon it in a commercial 
point of view. Under careful cultivation it is capa- 
ble of producing all that commerce brings together 
from every part of the globe ; sugar, cochineal, cacao, 
cotton, coffee, wheat, hemp, flax, silk, oil, and wine. 
It furnishes every metal, not even excepting mer- 
cury, and is supplied with the finest timber ; but the 
coasts oppose obstacles which it will be difficult to 
overcome. The western shores are indeed furnished 
with excellent harbours ; but the eastern are almost 
entirely destitute of them, the mouths of the rivers 
there being choked up with sands, which are con- 
stantly adding to the land. Vera Cruz, the principal 
port on this side, is merely an open road. Both 
coasts, too, are rendered inaccessible for several 
months by severe tempests, which prevent all navi- 
gation. The north winds, los nortes, prevail in the 
Mexican Gulf from the autumnal to the vernal equi- 
nox. They are very violent in March, though usually 


more moderate in September and October. The 
navigators who have long frequented the port of 
Vera Cruz are familiar with the symptoms of the 
coraing storm, which is preceded by a great change 
in the barometer, and a sudden interruption in the 
regular occurrence of its horary oscillations. At 
first a gentle land-wind blows from W.N.W., and is 
succeeded by a breeze rising from the N.E., then 
from the S. ^4_ suffocating heat succeeds, and the 
water dissolved in the atmosphere is precipitated on 
the walls and pavements. The summits of Orizaba, 
of the Cofre de Perote, and the mountains of Villa 
Rica are cloudless, while their bases are concealed 
by vapours. In this state of the air the tempest 
commences, usually with great impetuosity, and 
generally continues three or four days. Occasion- 
ally, even in May, June, July, and August, violent 
hurricanes are experienced in the Gulf of Mexico. 
The navigation of the western coasts is very dan- 
gerous in July and August, when sudden gales burst 
from the S.W. ; and even in the fine season, from 
October to May, furious winds sometimes blow from 
the N.E. and N.N.E. In short, all the coasts of 
New-Spain are at certain periods dangerous to 

It is probable that Mexico was formerly better in- 
habited than it is at present ; but its population was 
concentrated in a very small space in the neighbour- 
hood of the capital. At the present day it is more 
generally distributed than it was before the conquest, 
and the number of Indians has increased during the 
last century. - According to an imperfect census 
made in 1794, the return was estimated at 5,200,000. 
The proportion of births to deaths, during the time 
between that period and Humboldt's visit, was found, 
from data furnished by the clergy, to be 170 : 100 ; 
while that of births to the total amount he considers 
as 1 in 17, and of the deaths as 1 in 30. The an- 
nual number at present born lie estimates at nearly 


350,000, and that of deaths at 200,000. It would 
thus appear that, if this rate of increase were not 
checked from time to time by some extraordinary 
cause, the population of New-Spain would double 
every nineteen years. In the United States gene- 
rally it has doubled, since 1784, every twenty or 
twenty-three years ; and in some of them it doubles 
in thirteen or fourteen. In France, on the other 
hand, the number of inhabitants would double in 214 
years, were no wars or contagious diseases to inter- 
fere. Such is the difference between countries that 
have long been densely peopled and those whose 
civilization is of recent date. Humboldt, from vari- 
ous considerations, assumes the population of Mex- 
ico in 1803 at 5,800,000: and thinks it extremely 
probable that in 1808 it exceeded 6,500,000. 

The causes which retard the increase of numbers 
in Mexico are the small-pox, a disease called by 
the Indians matlazahuatl, and famine. The first of 
these, which was introduced in 1520, seems to exert 
its power at periods of 17 or 18 years. In 1763, 
and in 1779, it committed dreadful ravages, having 
carried off during the latter, in the capital alone, 
more than 9000 persons. In 1797 it was less de- 
structive, chiefly in consequence of the zeal with 
which inoculation was propagated ; between 50,000 
and 60,000 individuals having undergone the opera- 
tion. The vaccine method was introduced in vari- 
ous parts of Mexico and South America at the com- 
mencement of the present century. Humboldt 
mentions a curious circumstance, tending to show 
that the discovery of our celebrated countryman 
Dr. Jenner had long been known to the country 
people among the Andes of Peru. A negro slave, 
who had been inoculated for the small-pox, showed 
no symptom of the disease, and when the practi- 
tioners were about to repeat the operation, told them 
he was certain that he should never take it ; for, 
when milking cows in the mountains, he had been 


affected with cutaneous eruptions, caused, as the 
herdsmen said, by the contact of pustules sometimes 
found on the udders. 

The frightful distemper called matlazahuatl, which 
is peculiar to the Indian race, seldom appears more 
than once in a century. It bears some resemblance 
to the yellow fever or black vomiting, which, how- 
ever, very seldom attacks the natives. The extent 
of its ravages is not known with any degree of cer- 
tainty, and it has not yet been submitted to medical 
investigation. Torquedama asserts that in 1545 it 
destroyed 800,000, and 2,000,000 in 1576 ; but these 
estimates are considered by Humboldt as greatly 

A third obstacle to the progress of population in 
New-Spain is famine. The American Indians, nat- 
urally indolent, contented with the smallest quan- 
tity of food on which life can be supported, and liv- 
ing in a fine climate, merely cultivate as much maize, 
potatoes, or wheat as is necessary for their own 
maintenance, or at most for the additional consump- 
tion of the adjacent towns and mines. The in- 
habitants of Mexico have increased in a greater ra- 
tio than the means of subsistence, and accordingly, 
whenever the crops fall short of the demand, or are 
damaged by drought or other local causes, famine 
ensues. With want of food comes disease ; and 
triese visitations, which are of not unfrequent occur- 
rence, are very destructive. 

The working of the mines has also contributed to 
the depopulation of America. At the period of the 
conquest many Indians perished from excessive toil, 
and, as they were forced from their homes to dis- 
tant places, they usually died without leaving pro- 
geny. In New-Spain, however, such labour has 
been free for many years. The number employed 
in it does not exceed 28,000 or 30,000, and the mor- 
tality among them is not much greater than in other 


The Mexican population consists of the same ele- 
ments as that of the other Spanish colonies. Seven 
races are distinguished: 1. Gachupines, or persons 
born in Europe. ; 2. Spanish Creoles, or whites of 
European extraction born in America ; 3. Mestizoes, 
descendants of whites and Indians ; 4. Mulattoes, 
descendants of whites and negroes ; 5. Zambos, de- 
scendants of negroes and Indians ; 6. Indians, of the 
indigenous race ; and, 7. African negroes. 

The Indians appear to constitute at least two-fifths 
of the whole. Humboldt seems to favour the opin- 
ion, that the Aztecs, who inhabited New-Spain at 
the period of the conquest, may have been of 
Asiatic origin. As the migrations of the American 
tribes have always taken place from north to south, 
the native population of this country must necessa- 
rily consist of very heterogeneous elements. The 
number of languages exceeds 20 ; and of these four- 
teen have tolerably complete grammars and diction- 
aries. Most of these tongues, so far from being 
only dialects of the same, as some authors have as- 
serted, present as little affinity to each other as the 
Greek and the German. The variety spoken by the 
indigenous inhabitants of America forms a very 
striking contrast with the small number used in Asia 
and Europe. The Aztec or Mexican is the most 
widely distributed. 

The Indians of New-Spain bear a general resem- 
blance to those of Florida, Canada, Peru, and Brazil. 
They have the same dingy copper colour, straight 
and smooth hair, deficient beard, squat body, elon- 
gated and oblique eyes, prominent cheekbones, and 
thick lips. But although the American tribes have 
thus a certain uniformity of character, they differ 
as much from each other as the numerous varieties 
of the European or Caucasian race. Those who 
live in this province have a more swarthy complex- 
ion than the inhabitants of the warmest parts of the 
south. They have also a much more abundant 


beard than the other tribes, and in the neighbour- 
hood of the capital they even wear small mousta- 
ches. Pursuing a quiet and indolent life, and ac- 
customed to uniform nourishment of a vegetable 
nature, they would no doubt attain a very great lon- 
gevity were they not extremely addicted to drunk- 
enness. They exist in a state of great moral de- 
gradation, being entirely destitute of religion, al- 
though they have exchanged their original rites for 
those of Catholicism. The men are grave, melan- 
cholic, and taciturn ; forming a striking contrast to 
the negroes, who for this reason are preferred by 
the Indian women. Long habituated to slavery, 
they patiently suffer the privations to which they 
are frequently subjected; opposing to them only a 
degree of cunning, veiled under the appearance of 
apathy and stupidity. Although destitute of imagi- 
nation, they are remarkable for the facility with 
which they acquire a knowledge of languages ; and, 
notwithstanding their usual taciturnity, they become 
loquacious and eloquent when excited by important 
occurrences. It is unnecessary to speak of the ne- 
groes, of whom there are very few in Mexico, their 
character being the same as in other countries where 
slavery is permitted. 

No city of the New Continent, not even except- 
ing those of the United States, possesses more im- 
portant scientific establishments than Mexico. Of 
these Humboldt mentions particularly the School of 
Mines, the Botanic Garden, which has however 
fallen into a state of negle,ct, and the Academy of 
Fine Arts. The influence of this institution is per- 
ceptible in the symmetry of the buildings which 
adorn the capital. 

New-Spain is divided into 15 districts, which he 
arranges as follows : 

I. In the TEMPERATE ZONE 82,000 square leagues; 
677,000 inhabitants, or eight to the square league 


(1,059,193 square miles ; inhabitants T 8 o to the square 

A. Northern Region, in the interior. 

1. Province of New-Mexico, along the Rio del Norte, to the north 

of the parallel of 31. 

2. Intendancy of New-Biscay, to the south-west of the Rio del 

Norte, on the central table-land. 

B. North-western Region, in the vicinity of the Pacific Ocean. 

3. Province of New-California, on the north-west coast of North 


4. Province of Old California, the southern extremity of which en- 

ters the torrid zone. 

5. Intendancy of La Sonora, which also passes the tropic. 

C. North-eastern Region, adjoining the Gulf of Mexico. 

6. Intendancy of San Luis Potosi. 

II. In the TORRID ZONE 36,500 square leagues : 
5,160,000 inhabitants, or 141 to the square league 
(471,470 square miles; inhabitants 11 to the square 

D. Central Region. 

7. Intendancy of Zacatecas. 

8. Intendancy of Guadalaxara. 

9. Intendancy of Guanaxuato. 

10. Intendancy of Valladolid. 

11. Intendancy of Mexico. 

12. Iirtendancy of Puebla. 

13. Intendancy of Vera Cruz. 

E. South-western Region. 

14. Intendancy of Oaxaca. 

15. Intendancy of Meiida. 

Without attempting to present an analysis of our 
author's statistical account of these different prov- 
inces, we shall select from his descriptions those 
parts which may prove most interesting to the gen- 
eral reader. 

1. The intendancy of Mexico is entirely within 
the torrid zone. More than two-thirds of it are 
mountainous, and contain extensive plains elevated 
from 2131 to 2451 feet above the sea. Only one 
summit, the Nevado de Tolucca, 15,158 feet in 
height, enters the region of perpetual snow. 

The valley of Mexico, or Tenochtitlan, which is 


of an oval form, is situated in the centre of the cor- 
dillera of Anahuac, and is 63 miles in length by 43 
in breadth. It is surrounded by a ridge of moun- 
tains, more elevated on the southern side, where it 
is confined by the great volcanoes of La Puebla, 
Popocatepetl, and Iztaccihuatl. The capital stands 
in the immediate vicinity of one of the great lakes 
which exist in this beautiful valley, although for- 
merly it was placed on an island in that sheet of 
water, and communicated with the shore by three 
great dikes. This city is represented by Humboldt 
as one of the finest ever built by Europeans in either 
hemisphere, and all travellers agree in admiring its 
beauty. " From an eminence," says Captain Lyon 
in his interesting Journal, " we came suddenly in 
sight of the great valley of Mexico, with its beauti- 
ful city appearing in the centre, surrounded by di- 
verging shady paseos, bright fields, and picturesque 
haciendas. The great lake of Tezcuco lay imme- 
diately beyond it, shaded by a low floating cloud of 
exhalations from its surface, which hid from our 
view the bases of the volcanoes of Popocatepetl and 
Iztaccihuati ; while their snowy summits, brightly 
glowing beneath the direct rays of the sun, which 
but partially illumined the plains, gave a delightfully 
novel appearance to the' whole scene before me. 
I was, however, at this distance, disappointed as to 
the size of Mexico ; but its lively whiteness and 
freedom from smoke, the magnitude of the churches, 
and the extreme regularity of its structure, gave it 
an appearance which can never be seen in a Euro- 
pean city, and declare it unique, perhaps unequalled 
in its kind." 

The ground it occupies is everywhere perfectly 
level, the streets are regular and broad, the architec- 
ture generally of a very pure style, and many of the 
buildings are remarkably beautiful. Two kinds of 
hewn stone, a porous amygdaloid and a glassy fel- 
spar porphyry, are used. The houses are not loaded 


with decorations, nor disfigured by wooden balconies 
and galleries. The roofs are terraced; and the 
streets, which are clean and well lighted, have very 
broad pavements. The water of the lake is brack- 
ish, as is that of all the wells ; but the city is sup- 
plied by two fine aqueducts. The objects which 
generally attract the notice of travellers are, 1. The 
cathedral, which has two towers ornamented with 
pilasters and statues ; 2. The treasury ; 3. The con- 
vents, of which the most distinguished is that of 
St. Francis ; 4. The hospital ; 5. The acordada, a fine 
building, of which the prisons are spacious and well 
aired ; 6. The school of mines ; 7. The botanical 
garden ; 8. The university ; 9. The academy of fine 
arts; 10. The equestrian statue of Charles IV., in 
the great square. 

Few remains of ancient monuments are to be 
found in the town or its vicinity. Of those that 
exist, the chief are the ruins of the Aztec dikes 
and aqueducts ; the sacrificial stone, adorned with a 
relievo representing the triumph of a Mexican king ; 
the great calendar in the plaza mayor ; the colossal 
statue of the goddess Teoyaomiqui, in one of the 
galleries of the university ; the Aztec manuscripts 
or hieroglyphical pictures preserved in the house of 
the viceroys ; and the foundations of the palace be- 
longing to the sovereigns of Alcolhuacan at Tezcuco. 

The only remarkable antiquities in the valley of 
Mexico are the remains of the two pyramids of San 
Juan de Teotihuacan, to the north-east of the lake 
of Tezcuco, consecrated to the sun and moon. One 
of these in its present state is a hundred and fifty 
feet in height, the other a hundred and forty-four. 
The interior is clay mixed with small stones, while 
the facings are of porous amygdaloid, and they are 
surrounded by a group of smaller elevation, dis- 
posed in a regular series. Another ancient object 
worthy of notice is the military intrenchment of 
Xochicalco, to the S.S.W. of the town of Cueraa- 


vaco, near Teteama. It consists of a hill 387 feet 
high, surrounded by ditches or trenches, and divided 
into five terraces covered with masonry ; the whole 
forming .a truncated pyramid, the four faces of 
which correspond to the four cardinal points. The 
porphyritic stones are adorned with hieroglyphical 
figures, among which are crocodiles, and men sit- 
ting cross-legged in the Asiatic manner. Other 
relics and places connected with the history of the 
conquest are shown to the stranger ; but of these it 
is unnecessary to speak. 

Our author estimates the population of Mexico as 
follows : 


White Europeans 2,500 

White Creoles , 65,000 

Copper-coloured natives 33,000 

Mestizoes, mixture of whites and Indians 26,500 

Mulut toes 10,000 

137,000 . 

The annual number of births for a mean term of 
100 years is 5930, and that of deaths 5050 ; while in 
New-Spain, in general, the relation'of the births to 
the population is as 1 to 17, and that of the deaths 
as 1 to 30, so that the mortality in the capital ap- 
pears much greater. The great conflux of sick per- 
sons to the hospitals, and, on the other hand, the 
celibacy of the numerous clergy, the progress of 
luxury, and other causes, induce this disproportion. 

According to researches made by the Count de 
Revillagigedo, the consumption of Mexico in 1791 
was as follows : 


Oxen 16,300 

Calves 450 

Sheep 278,923 

Hogs 50,676 

Kids and Rabbits 24,000 

Fowls 1,255,340 

Ducks 125,000 

Turkeys 205,000 

Pigeons 65,30! 


Partridges 140,000 

314 LAKES. 


Maize, or Indian corn cargas of 3 fanegas, 117,224=545,219 I. 3. 


Barley cargas, 40,219=187,062 I. S. bushels. 
Wheat flour cargas of 12 arrobas, 130,000=353,229 cwt. 


Pulque, the fermented juice of agave cargas, 294,790=800,987 cwts. 
Wine and vinegar barrels of 4 arrobas, 4,507=71,756 I. S. galls. 
Brandy barrels, 12,000=191,052 I. S. galls. 
Spanish oil arrobas of 25 pounds, 5,585=15,530 I. S. galls. 

The market is abundantly supplied with vegetables 
of numerous kinds, which are brought in every morn- 
ing by the Indians in boats. Most of these are cul- 
tivated on the chinampas or gardens, some of which 
float upon the neighbouring sheet of water, while 
others are fixed in the marshy grounds.* 

The surface of the four principal lakes in the val- 
ley of Mexico occupies nearly a tenth of its extent, 
or 168 square miles. The lake of Xochimilco con- 
tains 49, that of Tezcuco 77, of San Christobal 27i, 
and of Zumpango 9 T 9 F , square miles. The valley 
itself is a basin enclosed by a wall of porphyritic 
mountains, and all the water furnished by the* sur- 
rounding cordilleras is collected in it. No stream 
issues from it excepting the brook of Tequisquiac, 
which joins the Rio de Tula. The lakes rise by 
stages in proportion to their distance from its centre, 
or, in other words, from the site of the capital. 
Next to the lake of Tezcuco, Mexico is the least ele- 
vated point of the valley, the plaza mayor or great 
square being only 1 foot 1 inch higher than the mean 
level of its water, which is 111 feet lower than that 
of San Christobal. Zumpango, which is the most 

* " These are long-narrow strips of ground redeemed from the sur- 
rounding swamp, and intersected by small canals. They all appear to 
abound in very fine vegetables, and lively-foliaged poplars generally 
shadowed their extremities. The little gardens constructed on bushes, 
or wooden rafts, no longer exist in the immediate vicinity of Mexico ; but 
I learned that some may yet be seen at Inchimilco, a place near San Au- 
gustin de las Cuevas." Captain Lyorts Journal of o. Residence and 
Tour in the Republic of Mexico, vol. ii, p. 110. 


northern, is 29 "211 inches higher than the surface 
of Tezcuco ; while that of Chalco, at the southern 
extremity, is only 3 '632 feet more elevated than the 
great square of Mexico. 

In consequence of this peculiarity, the city has, 
for a long series of ages, been exposed to inunda- 
tions. The lake of Zumpango, swelled by an unusual 
rise of the Rio de Guautitlan, flows over into that of 
San Christobal, which again bursts the dike that 
separates it from Tezcuco. The water of this last 
is consequently augmented, and flows with impet- 
uosity into the streets of Mexico. Since the arrival 
of the Spaniards the town has experienced five 
great floods, the latest of which happened in 1629. 
In more recent periods there have been several 
alarming appearances, but the city was preserved 
from any actual loss by the desague or canal, which 
was formed for the purpose. 

The situation of the capital is more exposed to 
danger, because the bed of the lake is progressively 
rising in consequence of the mud carried into it, and 
the difference between it and the level of the plain 
diminishing. Previous to the conquest, and for some 
time after, it was defended by dikes ; but this method 
having been found ineffectual, the viceroy in 1607 
employed Enrico Martinez, a native of Germany, to 
effect the evacuation of the lakes. After making an 
exact survey of the valley, he presented two plans 
for canals, the one to empty those of Tezcuco, Zum- 
pango, and San Christobal, the other to drain that of 
Zumpango alone. The latter scheme was adopted, 
and in consequence, the famous subterraneous gal- 
lery of Ndchistongo was commenced on the 28th 
November, 1607. Fifteen thousand Indians were 
employed, and after eleven months of continued la- 
bour the work was completed. Its length was more 
than 21,654 feet, its breadth 11 '482, and its height 
13-780. On the opposite side of the hill of Nochis- 
tongo is the UIQ de. Tula, which runs into the Rio de 


Panuco, and from the northern or farther extremity 
of the gallery an open trench, 28,216 feet long, was 
cut to carry the water to the former river. Soon 
after the current began to flow through this artificial 
channel, it gradually occasioned depositions and ero- 
sions, so that it became necessary to support the 
roof, which was composed of marl and clay. For 
this purpose wood was at first employed, and after- 
ward masonry; but the arches being soon under- 
mined, the passage at length was obstructed. 

Several plans were now proposed, and in 16 14 the 
court of Madrid sent to Mexico a Dutch engineer, 
Adrian Boot, who advised the construction of great 
dikes after the Indian plan. A new viceroy, how- 
ever, having recently arrived, who had never wit- 
nessed the effects of an inundation, ordered Marti- 
nez to stop up the subterraneous passage, and make 
the water of the upper lakes return to the bed of the 
Tezcuco, that he might see if the danger were really 
so great as it had been represented. Being con- 
vinced that it was so, he ordered the German to re- 
commence his operations in the gallery. The engi- 
neer accordingly proceeded to clear it, and contin- 
ued working until the 20th June, 1629, when finding 
the mass of water too great to be received by this 
narrow outlet, he closed it in order to prevent its 
destruction. ]n the morning the city of Mexico 
was flooded to the depth of three feet, and, con- 
trary to expectation, remained in that state for five 
years. In -this interval various plans were proposed 
for draining the neighbouring lake, although none 
of them was carried into effect ; but the inundation 
at length subsided in consequence of a succession 
of earthquakes. 

Martinez, who had been imprisoned from a belief 
that he had closed the gallery for the purpose of 
affording the incredulous a proof of the utility of 
his work, was now set at liberty, and constructed 
the dike of San Christobal. He was ordered to en- 


large the gallery ; but the operations were conducted 
with very little energy, and in the end it was deter- 
mined to abandon the plan, to remove the top of the 
vault, and to convert it into an open passage by cut- 
ting through the hill. A lawyer, named Martin de 
Solis, undertook the management of this enterprise ; 
though it required nearly two centuries to complete 
the work ; the canal not being opened in its whole 
length until 1789. As it now appears, it is stated by 
Humboldt to be one of the most gigantic hydraulic 
operations executed by man. Its length is 67,537 feet, 
its greatest depth 197, and its greatest breadth 361. 

The safety of the capital depends, 1st, On the 
stone dikes, which prevent the water of the lake of 
Zumpango from passing into that of San Christobal, 
and the latter from flowing into the Tezcuco ; 2d, 
On the dikes and sluices which prevent the lakes of 
Chalco and Xochimilco from overflowing; 3d, On 
the great cut of Enrico Martinez, by which the Rio 
de Guautitlan passes across the hills in the valley 
of Tula ; and, 4th, On the canals by which the Zum- 
pango and San Christobal may be completely drained. 
These means, however expensive and numerous as 
they must appear, are insufficient to secure it against 
inundations proceeding from the north and north- 
west ; and our author asserts, that it will continue ex- 
posed to great risks until a canal shall be directly 
opened from the lake of Tezcuco. 

The intendancy of Mexico contains, besides the 
capital, several towns of considerable size, of which 
the more important are, Tezcuco, Acapulco, Tolucca, 
and Queretaro, the latter having a population of 
thirty-five thousand. 

2. The government of Puebla is wholly situated 
in the torrid zone, and is bounded on the north-east 
by that of Vera Cruz, on the south by the ocean, on 
the east by the province of Oaxaca, and on the west 
by that of Mexico. It is traversed by v the cordille- 
ras of Anahuacj and contains the highest mountain 


in New-Spain, the volcano of Popocatepetl. A great 
portion, however, consists of an elevated plain, on 
which are cultivated wheat, maize, agave, and fruit- 

The population is concentrated on this table-land, 
extending from the eastern slope of the Nevados, or 
Snowy Mountains, to the vicinity of Perote. It 
exhibits remarkable vestiges of ancient Mexican 
civilization. The great pyramid of Cholula has a 
much larger base than any edifice of the kind in the 
Old Continent, its horizontal breadth being not less 
than 1440 feet ; but its present height is only fifty- 
nine yards, while the platform on its summit has a 
surface of 45,210 feet. 

At the village of Atlixco is seen a cypress (Cu- 
pressus disticha) 76 feet in circumference, which is 
probably one of the oldest vegetable monuments on 
the globe.* There are very considerable saltworks 
in this intendancy, and a beautiful marble is quarried 
in the vicinity of Puebla. The principal towns are 
that just named, containing a population of 67,800, 
Cholula, Tlascala, and Atlixco. 

3. The intendancy of Guanaxuato, situated on the 
ridge ^of the cordillera of Anahuac, is the most 
populous in New-Spain, and contains three cities, 
Guanaxuato, Celayo, and Salvatierra, four towns, 37 
villages, and 448 farms or haciendas. It is in gene- 
ral highly cultivated, and possesses the most import- 
ant mines in that section of the New World. 

4. The intendancy of Valladolid is bounded on the 
north by the Rio de Lerma ; on the east and north- 

* "On entering the gardens of Chapultepec (near Mexico), the first 
object that strikes the eye is the magnificent cypress (Subino Ahuahuete, 
or Cupressus disticha), called the Cypress of Montezuma. Jt had at- 
tained its full growth when that monarch was on the throne (1520), so 
that it must now be at least 400 years old, yet it still retains all the vigour 
of youthful vegetation. The trunk is 41 feet in circumference, yet the 
height is so majestic as to make even this enormous mass appear slender." 
Ward's Mexico in 1827, vol. ii. p. 230. The same author mentions 
another cypress, 38 feet in girth, and of equal height to that of Monte- 


east by that of Mexico ; on the south by the district 
of Guanaxuato ; and on the west by the province of 
Guadalaxara. Being situated on the western de- 
clivity of the cordillera of Anahuac and intersected 
by hills and beautiful valleys, it in general enjoys a 
mild and temperate climate. The volcano of Jorullo, 
already described, is situated in this intendancy, which 
has three cities, three towns, and 263 villages. The 
southern part is inhabited by Indians. 

5. The province of Guadalaxara is bounded on the 
north by the governments of Sonora and Durango, 
on the east by those of Zacatecas and Guanaxuato, 
on the south by the district of Valladolid, and on 
the west by the Pacific Ocean. Its greatest breadth 
is 345 miles, and its greatest length 407. It is 
crossed from east to west by the Rio de Santiago, 
which is of considerable size. The eastern portion 
consists of the elevated platform and western de- 
clivity of the cordilleras of Anahuac. The maritime 
parts- are covered with forests, which abound in 
excellent timber. The volcano of Colima, situated 
in this district, is the most western of those of New- 
Spain. It frequently throws up ashes and smoke ; 
but its height is not so great as to carry its summit 
into the region of perpetual snow. The most re- 
markable towns are, Guadalaxara, which has a pop- 
ulation of 19,500, San Bias, a port at the mouth of 
the Santiago, and Compostella. 

6. The intendancy of Zacatecas, bounded on the 
north by Durango, on the east by San Luis Potosi, 
on the south by Guanaxuato, and on the west by 
Guadalaxara, is 293 miles in length, and 176 in 
breadth. The table-land, which forms its central 
part, is composed of syenite and primitive slate. 
Near Zacatecas are nine small lakes, abounding in 
muriate and carbonate of soda. This district is very 
thinly peopled, although the town has 33,000 inhab- 

7. The intendancy of Oaxaca is one of the most 


delightful countries in the New Continent, possess- 
ing great fertility of soil and salubrity of climate. 
It is bounded on the north by Guatimala ; on the west 
by the province of Puebla ; and on the south by the 
Pacific Ocean. The mountainous parts are composed 
of granite and gneiss. The vegetation is every- 
where exceedingly beautiful. At the village of 
Santa Maria del Tule, ten miles east of the capital, 
there is an enormous trunk of Cupressus disticha, 
118 feet in circumference, though it seems rather to 
be formed of three stems grown into one. 

The most remarkable object in this district is the 
palace of Mitla, the walls of which are decorated 
with grecques and labyrinths in mosaic, resembling 
the ornaments of Tuscan vases. It consists of three 
edifices, and is morever distinguished from other 
ancient Mexican buildings by six porphyritic columns 
which support the ceiling of a vast hall. These 
pillars have neither base nor capital ; each exhibits 
a single block of stone, and the height is about six- 
teen feet. Oaxaca, the principal town, contained, in 
the year 1792, twenty-four thousand inhabitants. 
Some of the mines are very productive. 

8. The intendancy of Merida comprehends the 
great peninsula of Yucatan, situated between the 
Bay of Campeachy and that of Honduras. It is 
bounded on the south by Guatimala, on the east by 
the province of Vera Cruz, and on the west by the 
English establishments, which extend from the mouth 
of the Rio Hondo to the north of the Bay of Han- 
over. This peninsula is a Tast plain, intersected by 
a chain of hills ; and though one of the warmest, it 
is at the same time one of the healthiest provinces 
of equinoctial America. The latter circumstance is 
to be attributed to the extreme dryness of the soil 
and atmosphere. No European grain is produced ; 
but maize, jatropha, and dioscorea are cultivated in 
abundance. The Hosmatoxyloa or Campeachy wood 


abounds in several districts. Merida, the capital, 
has a population of 10,000. 

9. The government of Vera Cruz extends along the 
Mexican Gulf from the Rio Bdraderas to the great 
river of Panuco. The western part forms the de- 
clivity of the cordilleras of Anahuac, from whence, 
amid the regions of perpetual snow, the inhabitants 
descend in a day to the burning plains of the coast. 
In this district are displayed in a remarkable manner 
the gradations of vegetation, from the level of the 
sea to those elevated summits which are visited with 
perennial frost. In ascending, the traveller sees the 
physiognomy of the country, the aspect of the sky, 
the form of the plants, the figures of animals, the 
manners of the inhabitants, and the kind of cultiva- 
tion followed by them, assuming a different appear- 
ance at every step. Leaving the lower districts, 
covered with a beautiful and luxuriant vegetation, he 
first enters that in which the oak appears, where he 
has no longer cause to dread the yellow fever, so fatal 
on the coasts. Forests of liquidambar, near Xalapa, 
announce by their freshness the elevation at which 
the strata of clouds, suspended over the ocean, come 
in contact with the basaltic summits of the cordil- 
leras. A little higher the banana ceases to yield 
fruit. At the height of San Miguel pines begin to 
mingle with the oaks, which continue as far as the 
plains of Perote, where the cereal vegetation of 
Europe is seen. Beyond this, the former alone 
cover the rocks, the tops of which enter the region 
of perpetual frigidity. 

At the foot of the cordillera, in the evergreen, 
forests of Papautla, Nautla, and S. Andre Tuxtla, 
grows the vanilla, the fruit of which is used for 
perfuming chocolate. The beautiful convolvulus, 
whose root furnishes the jalap of the apothecaries, 
grows near the Indian villages of Colipa and Mi- 
sautla. The pimento-myrtle is produced in the woods 
which extend towards the river of Baraderas. On 


the declivities of Orizaba tobacco of excellent quality 
is cultivated ; and the sarsaparilla grows in the moist 
and shady ravines. Cotton and sugar of excellent 
quality are produced along the greater part of the 

In this intendancy are two colossal summits, 
the volcano of Orizaba, which after Popocatepetl is 
the highest in New-Spain, and the Cofre de Perote, 
which is nearly 1312 feet more elevated than the 
Peak of Teneriffe. In its northern part, near the 
Indian village of Papautla, is a pyramidal edifice of 
great antiquity, situated in the midst of a thick forest. 
It is not constructed of bricks, or clay mixed with 
stone, and faced with amygdaloid, like those of Cho- 
lula and Tectihuacan ; on the contrary, the materials 
employed have been immense blocks of porphyry. 
The base is an exact square, 82 feet on each side, 
and the perpendicular height seems to be about sixty. 
It is composed of several stages, of which some 
are still distinguishable. A great stair of 57 steps 
conducts to the truncated summit. 

The most remarkable cities are Vera Cruz, Perote, 
Cordoba, and Orizaba. The first of these, t]ie centre 
of European and West Indian commerce, is beauti- 
fully and regularly built ; but it is situated in an arid 
plain, destitute of running water, and partly covered 
with shifting sand-hills, which contribute to increase 
the suffocating heat of the air. In the midst of 
these downs are marshy lands covered with rhizo- 
phorae and other plants. No stones for architectural 
purposes are to be found near the city, which is 
entirely constructed of coral rock drawn from the 
bottom of the sea. The water is Very bad, and is 
obtained either by digging in the sandy soil, or by 
collecting the rain in cisterns. 

Xalapa, the population of which is estimated at 
13,000, occupies a very romantic situation at the foot 
of the basaltic mountain of Macultepec, surrounded by 
forests of styrax, piper, melastomse, and tree-ferns. 


The sky is beautiful and serene in summer, but from 
December to February it has a most melancholy 
aspect, and, whenever the north wind blows, is 
overcast to such a degree that the sun and stars are 
frequently invisible for two or three weeks together. 
Some of the merchants of Vera Cruz have country- 
houses at Xalapa, where they enjoy a cool and 
agreeable retreat, while the coast is almost unin- 
habitable, on account of the intense heats, the mos- 
quitoes, and the yellow fever. 

10. The captaincy of San Luis Potosi embraces 
the whole north-eastern part of New-Spain, and is 
extremely diversified in its character. The only 
portion which is cold and mountainous is that ad- 
joining the province of Zacatecas, and in which are 
the rich mines of Charcas, Guadalcagar, and Catorce. 
There is a great extent of low ground, partly cul- 
tivated, but for the most part barren and uninhabited. 
Its coast line is more than 794 miles in length ; but 
hardly any commerce enlivens it, owing to the de- 
ficiency of harbours. The mouths of the rivers, 
too, are blocked up by bars, necks of land, and long 
islands running parallel to the coast. 

11. New-Biscay or Durango occupies a greater 
space of ground than Great Britain and Ireland, 
though its population does not exceed 160,000. It is 
bounded on the south by Zacatecas and Guadalaxara ; 
on the south-east by San Luis ; and on the west by 
Sonora. On the northern and eastern sides, for more 
than 690 miles, it borders on an uncultivated country 
inhabited by independent Indians. This intendancy 
comprehends the northern extremity of the great 
table-land of Anahuac, which declines towards the 
Rio Grande del Norte. 

12. The province of Sonora is still more thinly 
peopled than Durango. It extends on the shores of 
the Gulf of California more than 966 miles. 

13. New-Mexico, which is very sparingly inhabited, 


stretches along the Rio Norte, and has a remarkably 
cold climate. 

14. Old California equals England in extent oi 
territory, but has only a population of 9000. The 
soil of this peninsula is parched and sandy, and the 
vegetation feeble ; but the sky is constantly clear, and 
of a deep blue ; the light clouds which sometimes ap- 
pear presenting at sunset the most beautiful shades 
of violet, purple, and green. A chain of mountains, 
the highest of which is about 5000 feet, runs through 
the centre of the peninsula, and is inhabited by ani- 
mals resembling the mouflon of Sardinia, which the 
Spaniards call wild sheep. The principal attraction 
which California has afforded to Europeans since the 
16th century is the great quantity of pearls found in 
it, and which, although frequently of an irregular 
form, are large and of a very beautiful water. At the 
present day, however, this fishery is almost entirely 

15. New-California is a long and narrow country, 
identifying itself with the shore of the Pacific Ocean 
from the isthmus of Old California to Cape Mendo- 
cino. It is extremely picturesque, and enjoys a 
fertile well- watered soil, with a temperate climate. 
Wheat, barley, maize, beans, and other useful plants 
thrive well, as do the vine and olive ; but the popula- 
tion is scanty compared to the territory. A cordil- 
lera of small elevation runs along the coast, and the 
forests and prairies are filled with deer of gigantic 



Statistical Account of New- Spain continued. 

Agriculture of Mexico Banana, Manioc, and Maize Cereal Plants 
Nutritive Roots and Vegetables Agave Americana Colonial Com- 
moditiesCattle, and Animal Productions. 

A COUNTRY extending from the sixteenth to the 
thirty-seventh degree of latitude, and presenting a 
great variety of surface, necessarily affords numerous 
modifications of climate. Such is the admirable dis- 
tribution of heat on the globe, that the strata of the 
atmosphere become colder as we ascend, while those 
of the sea are warmest near the surface. Hence, 
under the tropics, on the declivities of the cordilleras, 
and in the depths of the ocean, the plants and marine 
animals of the polar regions find a temperature suited 
to their development. It may easily be conceived 
that, in a mountainous country like Mexico, having 
so great a diversity of elevation, temperature, and 
soil, the variety of indigenous productions must be 
immense ; and that most of the plants cultivated in 
other parts of the globe may there find situations 
adapted to their nature. 

There, however, the principal objects of agricul- 
ture are not the productions which European luxury 
draws from the West India islands, but the grasses, 
nutritive roots, and the agave. The appearance of 
the land proclaims to the traveller that the natives 
are nourished by the soil, and that they are inde- 
pendent of foreign commerce. Yet agriculture is 
by no means so flourishing as might be expected 
from its natural resources, although considerable im- 
provement has been effected of late years. The de- 
pressed state of cultivation, it is true, has been attrib- 

326 BANANA. 

uted to the existence of numerous rich mines ; but 
Humboldt, on the contrary, maintains that the work- 
ing of these ores has been beneficial in causing many 
places to be improved which would otherwise have 
remained steril. When a vein is opened on the 
barren ridge of the cordilleras, the new colonists can 
only draw the means of subsistence from a great 
distance. Want soon excites to industry, and farms 
begin to be established in the neighbourhood. The 
high price of provisions indemnifies the cultivator 
for the hard life to which he is exposed, and the 
ravines and valleys become gradually covered with 
food. When the mineral treasures are exhausted, the 
workmen no doubt emigrate, so that the population 
is diminished ; but the settlers are retained by their 
attachment to the spot in which they have passed 
their childhood. The Indians, moreover, prefer liv- 
ing in the solitudes of the mountains remote from 
the whites, and this circumstance tends to increase 
the number of inhabitants in such districts. 

In describing the vegetable productions of New- 
Spain, our author begins with those which form the 
principal support of the people, then treats of the 
class which affords materials for manufacture, and 
ends with such as constitute objects of commerce. 

The banana (Musa paradisiaca) is to the inhabitants 
of the torrid zone what the cereal grasses wheat, 
barley, and rye are to Western Asia and Europe, 
and what the numerous varieties of rice are to the 
natives of India and China. Forster and other 
naturalists have maintained that it did not exist in 
America previous to the arrival of the Spaniards, but 
that it was imported from the Canary Islands in the 
beginning of the 16th century; and in support of 
this opinion may be adduced the silence of Columbus, 
Alonzo Negro, Pinzon, Vespucci, and Cortes, with 
respect to it. This circumstance, however, only 
proves the inattention of these travellers to the pro- 
ductions of the soil ; and it is probable that the Musa 

BANANA. 327 

presented several species indigenous to different 
parts of both continents. The space favourable to 
the cultivation of this valuable plant in Mexico is 
more than 50,000 square leagues, and has nearly a 
million and a half of inhabitants. In the warm and 
humid valleys of Vera Cruz, at the foot of the cor- 
dillera of Orizaba, the fruit occasionally exceeds 
ll'S inches in circumference, with a length of seven 
or eight. A bunch sometimes contains from 160 to 
180, and weighs from 66 to 88 Ib. avoirdupois. 

Humboldt doubts whether there is any other plant 
on the globe which, in so small a space of ground, 
can produce so great a mass of nutriment. Eight 
or nine months after the sucker has been inserted in 
the earth the banana begins to form its clusters, and 
the fruit may be gathered in less than a year. When 
the stalk is cut, there is always found among the 
numerous shoots which have put forth roots one that 
bears three months later. A plantation is perpetuated 
without any other care than that of cutting the stems 
on which the fruit has ripened, and giving the earth 
a slight dressing. A spot of 1076 feet may contain 
at least from thirty to forty plants, which, in the 
space of a year, at a very moderate calculation, will 
yield more than 4410 Ib. avoirdupois of nutritive sub- 
stance. Our author estimates, that the produce of 
the banana is to that of wheat as 133 : 1, and to that 
of potatoes as 44 : 1. 

In America numerous preparations are made of 
this fruit, both before and after its maturity. When 
fully ripe it is exposed to the sun, and preserved like 
our figs ; the skin becoming black, and exhaling a pe-. 
culiar odour like that of smoked harn. This dry ban- 
ana (Platanopassado), which is an object of commerce 
in the province of Mechoacan, has an agreeable taste, 
and is a very wholesome article of food. Meal or 
flour is obtained from it, by being cut into slices, dried 
in the sun, and pounded, 

It is calculated that the same extent of ground in, 


Mexico on which the banana is raised is capable 
of maintaining fifty individuals, whereas in Europe 
under wheat it would not furnish subsistence for two ; 
and nothing strikes a traveller more than the diminu- 
tive appearance of the spots under culture round a 
hut which contains a numerous family. 

The region where it is cultivated produces also the 
valuable plant (Jatropha) of which the root, as is 
well known, affords the flour of manioc, usually con- 
verted into bread, and furnishes what the Spanish 
colonists call pan de tierra caliente. This vegetable 
is only successfully grown within the tropics, and 
in the mountainous region of Mexico is never seen 
above the elevation of 2625 feet. Two kinds are 
raised, the sweet and the bitter. The root of the 
former may be eaten without danger, while that of 
the latter is a very active poison. Both may be made 
into bread ; but the bitter is preferred for this pur- 
pose, the poisonous juice being carefully separated 
from the fecula, called cassava, before making the 
dough. Raynal asserted that the manioc was trans- 
ported from Africa to America to serve for the main- 
tenance of the negroes ; but our author shows that 
it was cultivated there long before the arrival of 
Europeans on that side of the Atlantic. The bread 
made of it is very nutritive ; but, being extremely 
brittle, it does not answer for distant carriage. The 
fecula, however, grated, dried, and smoked, is used 
on journeys. The root loses its poisonous qualities 
on being boiled, and in this state the decoction is 
used as a sauce, although serious accidents some- 
times happen when it has not been long enough ex- 
posed to heat. The husbandry of it, we may observe, 
requires more care than that of the banana. In this 
respect it resembles the potato ; and the roots are 
ripe in seven or eight months after the slips have 
been planted. 

The same region produces maize, the cultivation 
of which is more extensive than that of the banana 


and manioc. Advancing towards the central plains, 
we meet with fields of this important plant all the 
way from the coast to the valley of Tolucca, which 
is upwards of 9186 feet above the sea. Although a 
great quantity of other grain is produced in Mexico, 
this must be considered as the principal food of the 
people, as well as of most of the domestic animals, 
and the year in which the maize harvest fails is one 
of famine and misery to the inhabitants. There is 
no longer a doubt among botanists that this plant is 
of American origin, and that the Old Continent re- 
ceived it from the New. 

It does not thrive in Europe where the mean tem- 
perature is less than 44 or 46 ; and on the cordil- 
leras of New-Spain rye and barley are seen to vege- 
tate vigorously where the cultivation of maize would 
not be attended with success. On the other hand, 
the latter thrives in the lowest plains of the torrid 
zone, where wheat, barley, and rye are not found. 
Hence we cannot be surprised to hear that it occu- 
pies a much greater extent in equinoctial America 
than the grains of the Old Continent. 

The fecundity of the Mexican variety is astonishing 1 . 
Fertile lands usually afford a return of 300 or 400 
fold, and in the neighbourhood of Valladolid a har- 
vest is considered defective when it yields only 130 
or 150. Even where the soil is most steril the pro- 
duce varies from sixty to eighty. The general esti- 
mate for the equinoctial region of Mexico may be 
considered as a hundred and fifty. 

Of all the gramina cultivated by man, none is so 
unequal as this in its produce, as it varies in the same 
field, according to the season, from forty to 200 or 300 
for one. If the harvests are good, the agriculturist 
makes his fortune more rapidly than with any other 
grain ; but frightful dearths sometimes occur, when 
the natives are obliged to feed on unripe fruit, cactus- 
berries, and roots. Diseases arise in consequence ; 
and these famines are usually attended with a great 
E e2 


mortality among the children. Fowls, turkeys, and 
even cattle suffer, so that the traveller can find 
neither eggs nor poultry. Scarcities of less severity 
are not uncommon, and are especially felt in the mining 
districts, where the vast numbers of mules employed 
in the process of amalgamation annually consume 
an enormous quantity of maize. 

Numerous varieties of food are derived from this 
plant. The ear is eaten raw or boiled. The grain 
when beaten affords a nutritive bread called arepa, 
and the meal is employed in making soups or gruels, 
which are mixed with sugar, honey, and sometimes 
even pounded potatoes. Many kinds of drink are 
also prepared from it, some resembling beer, others 
cider. In the valley of Tolucca the stalks are 
squeezed between cylinders, and from the fermented 
juice a spirituous liquor, called pulquede mahis, is pro- 

In favourable years Mexico yields a much larger 
quantity than is necessary for its own consumption; 
but as this grain affords less nutritive substance in 
proportion to its bulk than the corn of Europe, and 
as the roads are generally difficult, obstacles are 
presented to its transportation, which, however, will 
diminish when the country is more improved. 

We come now to the cereal plants which have 
been conveyed from the Old to the New Continent. 
A negro slave of Cortes found among the rice which 
served to maintain the Spanish army three or four 
particles of wheat, which were sown, we may sup- 
pose, before the year 1500. A Spanish lady, Maria 
d'Escobar, carried a few grains to Lima, and their 
produce was distributed for three years among the 
new colonists, each receiving twenty or thirty seeds. 
At Quito the first European corn was sown near the 
convent of St. Francis by Father Jose Rixi, a native 
of Flanders, and the monks still show, as a precious 
relic, the earthen vessel in which the original wheat 
came from Europe. " Why," asks our author, 


K have not men preserved everywhere the names of 
those who, in place of ravaging the earth, have en- 
riched it with plants useful to the human race 1" 

The temperate region appears most favourable to 
the cultivation of the cerealia, or nutritive grasses 
known to the ancients, namely, wheat, spelt, barley, 
oats, and rye. In the equinoctial part of Mexico 
they are nowhere grown in plains of which the 
elevation is under 2625 feet ; and on the declivity 
of the cordilleras between Vera Cruz and Acapulco 
they commence at the height of 3937. At Xalapa 
wheat is raised solely for the straw ; for there it 
never produces seed, although in Guatimala grain 
ripens at smaller elevations. 

Were the soil of New-Spain watered by more fre- 
quent showers, it would be one of the most fertile 
portions of the globe. In the equinoctial districts 
of that country there are only two seasons, the 
wet, from June or July to September or October, 
and the dry, which lasts eight months. The rains, 
accompanied with electrical explosions, commence 
on the eastern coast, and proceed westward, so that 
they begin fifteen or twenty days sooner at Vera 
Cruz than on the central plains. Sometimes they 
are seen, mixed with sleet and snow, in the elevated 
parts during November, December, and January, but 
they last only a few days. It is seldom that the in- 
habitants have to complain of humidity, and the ex- 
cessive drought which prevails from June to Sep- 
tember compels them in many parts to have recourse 
to artificial irrigation. In places not watered in this 
manner, the soil yields pasturage only till March or 
April, after which the south wind destroys the grass. 
This change is more felt when the preceding year 
has been unusually dry, and the wheat suffers greatly 
in May. The rains of June, however, revive the 
vegetation, and the fields immediately resume their 

In lands carefully cultivated the produce is sur- 


prising, especially in those which are watered. In 
the most fertile part of the table-land between 
Queretaro and Leon, the wheat harvest is 35 and 40 
for 1 ; and several farms can even reckon on 50 or 
60 for 1. At Cholulo the common return is from 
30 to 40, but it frequently exceeds from 70 to 80 
for 1. In the valley of Mexico maize yields 200, and 
wheat 18 or 20. The mean produce of the whole 
country may be stated at 20 or 25 for 1. M. Abad, 
a canon of the metropolitan church of Valladolid 
de Mechoacan, took at random from a field of wheat 
forty plants, when he found that each seed had pro- 
duced forty, sixty, and even seventy stalks. The 
number of grains which the ears contained frequently 
exceeded 100 or 120, and the average amount ap- 
peared to be 90. Some even exhibited 160. A few 
of the elevated tracts, however, are covered with a 
kind of clay impenetrable by the roots of herbaceous 
plants, and others are arid and naked, in which the 
cactus and other prickly shrubs alone vegetate. 

The following table exhibits the mean produce 
of the cereal Dlants in different countries of both 
continents : 

In France, from 5 to 6 grains for 1. 

In Hungary, Croatia, and Sclavonia, from 8 to 10 grains. 

In La Plata, 12 grains. 

In the northern part of Mexico, 17 grains. 

In equinoctial Mexico, 24 grains. 

In the province of Pasto in Santa Fe, 25 grains. 

In the plain of Caxamarca in Peru, 18 to 20 grains. 

The Mexican wheat is of the very best quality, 
and equals the finest Andalusian. At Havana it 
enters into competition with that of the United 
States, which is considered inferior to it ; and when 
greater facilities are afforded for exportation it will 
become of the highest importance to Europe. In 
Mexico grain can hardly be preserved longer than 
two or three years ; but the causes of this decay 
have not been sufficiently investigated. 


Rye and barley, which resist cold better than 
wheat, are cultivated on the highest regions, but 
only to a small extent. Oats do not answer well in 
New-Spain, and are very seldom seen even in the 
mother-country, where the horses are fed on barley. 

The potato appears to have been introduced into 
Mexico nearly at the same period as the cereal 
grasses of the Old Continent. It is certain that it 
was not known there before the arrival of the 
Spaniards, at which epoch it was in use in Chili, 
Peru, Quito, and New-Grenada. It is supposed by 
botanists that it grows spontaneously in the moun- 
tainous regions; but our author asserts that this 
opinion is erroneous, and that the plant in question 
is nowhere to be found uncultivated in any part of 
the cordilleras within the tropics. According to 
Molina, it is a native of all the fields of Chili, where 
another species, the Solanum cari, still unknown in 
Europe, and even in Quito and Mexico, is grown ; 
and M. Humboldt seems to consider that country as 
the original source of it. It is stated that Sir Walter 
Raleigh found it in Virginia in 1584 ; and a question 
arises, whether it arrived there from the north, or 
from Chili, or some other of the Spanish colonies. 
Our traveller seems to consider it not improbable 
that it had been conveyed from some of the Spanish 
colonies by the English themselves. 

The plants cultivated in the highest and coldest 
parts of the Andes and Mexican cordilleras are po- 
tatoes, the Trop&olum esculentum, and the Clieno- 
podium quinoa. The first of these are an important 
object in the latter country, as they do not require 
much humidity. The Mexicans and Peruvians pre- 
serve them for a series of years, by destroying their 
power of germinating by exposure to frost, and 
afterward drying them, a practice which our au- 
thor thinks might be followed with advantage in 
Europe. He also recommends obtaining the seeds 
of the potatoes cultivated at Quito and Santa Fe, 


which are a foot in diameter, and superior in quality 
to those in the Old Continent. It is unnecessary to 
expatiate on the advantages derived from this in- 
valuable root, the use of which now extends from 
the extremity of Africa to Lapland, and from the 
southern regions of America to Labrador. 

The New World is very rich in plants with nu- 
tritive roots. Next to the manioc and the potato, 
the most important are the oca, the batate, and the 
igname. The first of these (Oxalis tuberosa) grows 
in the cold and temperate parts of the cordilleras. 
The igname (Dioscorea alata) appears proper to all 
the equinoctial regions of the globe. Of the batate 
(Convolvulus batatas) several varieties are raised. 
The cacomite, a species of Tigridia, the root of which 
yields a nutritive farina, numerous varieties of love- 
apples (Solanum lycopersicunt), the earth pistachio 
or pea-nut (Arachis hypogaa), and different species 
of pimento, are the other useful plants cultivated 

The Mexicans now have all the culinary vege- 
tables and fruit-trees of Europe ; but it has become 
difficult to determine which of the former they pos- 
sessed before the arrival of the Spaniards. It is 
certain, however, that they had oni<^.s, haricots, 
gourds, and several varieties of Cicer ; and, in gene- 
ral, if we consider the garden-stuffs of the Aztecs 
and the great number of farinaceous roots cultivated 
in Mexico and Peru, we shall see that they were 
not so poor in alimentary plants as some maintain. 

The central table-land of New-Spain produces the 
ordinary fruits of Europe in the greatest abundance ; 
and the traveller is surprised to see the tables of the 
wealthy inhabitants^ loaded with the vegetable pro- 
ductions of both continents in the most perfect state. 
Before the invasion of the Spaniards, Mexico and 
the Andes presented several fruits having a great 
resemblance to those of Europe. The mountainous 
part of South America has a cherry, a nut, an apple, 


a mulberry, a strawberry, a rasp, and a gooseberry, 
which are peculiar to it. Oranges and citrons, 
which are now cultivated there, appear to have been 
introduced, although a small wild orange occurs in 
Cuba and on the coast of Terra Firma. The olive- 
tree answers perfectly in New-Spain, but exists 
only in very small numbers. 

Most civilized nations procure their drinks from 
the plants which constitute their principal nourish- 
ment, and of which the roots or seeds contain sac- 
charine and amylaceous matter. There are few 
tribes, indeed, which cultivate these solely for the 
purpose of preparing beverages from them ; but in 
the New Continent we find a people who not only 
extract liquors from the maize, the manioc, and 
bananas, but who raise a shrub of the family of the 
ananas for the express purpose of converting its juice 
into a spirituous liquor. This plant, the maguey 
(Agave Americana), is extensively reared as far as 
the Aztec language extends. The finest plantations 
of it seen by our traveller were in the valley of 
Tolucca and on the plains of Cholula. It yields the 
saccharine juice at the period of inflorescence only, 
the approach of which is anxiously observed. Near 
the latter place, and between Tolucca and Cacanu- 
macan, a ma^aey eight years old gives signs of de- 
veloping its flowers. The bundle of central leaves 
is now cut, the wound is gradually enlarged and 
covered with the foliage, which is drawn close and 
tied at the top. In this wound the vessels seem to 
deposite the juice that would naturally have gone to 
expand the blossoms. It continues to run two or 
three months, and the Indians draw from it three or 
four times a-day. A very vigorous plant occasion- 
ally yields the quantity of 454 cubic inches a-day for 
four or five months. This is so much the more as- 
tonishing, that the plantations are usually in the 
most arid and steril ground. In a good soil the 
agave is ready for being cut at the age of five years; 


but in pooi land the harvest cannot be expected in 
less than eighteen. 

This juice or honey has an agreeable acid taste, and 
easily ferments on account of the sugar and mucilage 
which abound in it. This process, which is accele- 
rated by adding a little old pulque, ends in three or 
four days ; and the result is a liquor resembling 
cider, but with a very unpleasant smell, like that of 
putrid meat. Europeans who can reconcile them- 
selves to the scent, prefer the pulque to every other 
liquor, and it is considered as stomachic, invigor- 
ating, and nutritive. A very intoxicating brandy, 
called mexical, is also obtained from it, and in some 
districts is manufactured to a great extent. 

The leaves of the agave also supply the place of 
hemp and the papyrus of the Egyptians. The paper 
on which the ancient Mexicans painted their hiero- 
glyphical figures was made of their fibres, macerated 
and disposed in layers. The prickles which termi- 
nate them formerly served as pins and nails to the 
Indians, and the priests pierced their arms and breasts 
with them in their acts of expiation. 

The vine is cultivated in Mexico, but in so small 
a quantity that wine can hardly be considered as a 
product of that country ; but the mountainous parts 
of New-Spain, Guatimala, New-Grenada, and Ca- 
raccas are so well adapted for its growth, that at 
some future period they will probably supply the 
whole of North America. 

Of colonial commodities, or productions which 
furnish raw materials for the commerce and manu- 
facturing industry of Europe, New-Spain affords 
most of those procured from the West Indies. The 
cultivation of the sugar-cane has of late years been 
carried to such an extent, that the exportation of 
sugar from Vera Cruz amounts to more than half a 
million of arrobas, or 12,680,000 Ib. avoird. ; which, 
at 3 piastres the arroba, are equal to 5,925,000 francs, 
or 246,875/. sterling. It was conveyed by the Span- 


iards from the Canary Islands into St. Domingo, from 
whence it was subsequently carried into Cuba 'and 
the province just named. Although the mean tem- 
perature best suited to it is 75 or 77, it may yet be 
successfully reared in places of which the annual 
warmth does not exceed 66 or 68 ; and as on great 
table-lands the heat is increased by the reverbera- 
tion of the earth, it is cultivated in Mexico to the 
height of 4921 feet, and in favourable exposures 
thrives even at an elevation of 6562. The greatest 
part of the sugar produced in New- Spain is con- 
sumed in the country, and the exportation is very 
insignificant compared with that of Cuba, Jamaica, 
or St. Domingo. 

Cotton, flax, and hemp are not extensively raised, 
and very little coffee is used in the country. Cocoa, 
vanilla, jalap, and tobacco are cultivated ; but of the 
latter there is a considerable importation from Ha- 
vana. Indigo is not produced in sufficient quantity 
for home consumption. 

Since the middle of the sixteenth century, oxen, 
horses, sheep, and hogs, introduced by the con- 
querors, have multiplied surprisingly in all parts of 
New-Spain, and more especially in the vast savannas 
of the provincias internets. The exportation of hides 
is considerable, as is that of horses and mules. 

Our common poultry have only of late years begun 
to thrive in Mexico ; but there is a great variety of 
native gallinaceous birds in that country, such as the 
turkey, the hocco or curassow (Crax nigra, C.globice- 
ra, C.^mm),penelopes, and pheasants. The Guinea- 
fowl and common duck are also reared; but the 
goose is nowhere to be seen in the Spanish colonies. 

The cultivation of the silkworm has never been 
extensively tried, although many parts of that con- 
tinent seem favourable to it. An enormous quantity 
of wax is consumed in the festivals of the church; 
and notwithstanding that a large proportion is col- 
lected in the country, much is imported from Ha- 


vana. Cochineal is obtained to a considerable 

Although pearls were formerly found in great 
abundance in various parts of America, the fisheries 
have now almost entirely ceased. The western 
coast of Mexico abounds in cachalots or spermaceti 
whales (Physeter macrocephalus) ; but the natives 
have hitherto left the pursuit of these animals to 


Mines of New- Spain. 

Milling Districts Metalliferous Veins and Beds Geological Relations 
of the Ores Produce of the Mines Recapitulation. 

THE mines of Mexico have of late years engaged 
the attention and excited the enterprise of the Eng- 
lish in ja more than ordinary degree. The subject 
is therefore one of much interest ; but as later in- 
formation may be obtained in several works, and es- 
pecially in Ward's " Mexico in 1827," it is unneces- 
sary to follow our author in all his details. 

Long before the voyage of Columbus, the natives 
of Mexico were acquainted with the uses of several 
metals, and had made considerable proficiency in the 
various operations necessary for obtaining them in 
a pure state. Cortes, in .the historical account of 
his expedition, states that gold, silver, copper, lead, 
and tin were publicly sold in the great market of 
Tenochtitlan. In all the large towns of Anahuac 
gold and silver vessels were manufactured ; and the 
foreigners, on their first advance to Tenochtitlan, 
could not refrain from admiring the ingenuity of the 
Mexican goldsmiths. The Aztec tribes extracted 


lead and tin from the veins of Tlacheo, and obtained 
cinnabar from the mines of Chilapan. From copper 
found in the mountains of Zacotollan and Cohuixico 
they manufactured their arms, axes, chisels, and 
other implements. With the use of iron they seem 
to have been unacquainted ; but they contrived to 
give the requisite hardness to their tools by mixing 
a portion of tin with the copper of which they were 

At the period when Humboldt visited New-Spain, 
it contained nearly 500 places celebrated for the me- 
tallic treasures in their vicinity, and comprehending 
nearly 3000 mines. These were divided into 37 dis- 
tricts, under the direction of an equal number of 
councils (Diputaciones de mineria), as follows : 

I. Intendancy of Guanajuato, 

1. Mining District ofGuanaxuato. 

H. Intendancy of Zacatecas. 

2. Zacatecas, I 4. Fresnillo, 

3. Sombrerete, | 5. Sierra de Finos. 

III. Intendancy of San Luis Potosi. 

6. Catorce, 

7. Potosi, 

9. Ojocaliente, 
10. San Nicolas deCroix. 

8. Charcas, 

IV. Intendancy of Mexico. 

11. Pachuca, I 15. Zacualpan, 

12. El Doctor, | 16. Sultepec, 

13. Zuriapan. I 17. Temastaltepec. 

14. Tasco, I 

V. Intendancy of Guadalaxara. 

18. Bolanos, | 20. Hostotipaquillo. 

19. Asientos de Ibarra, 

VI. Intendancy of Durango. 

21. Chihuahua, 

22. Parral, 

23. Guarisamey,' 

26. Alamos, 

27. Copala, 

28. Cosala, 

29. San Francisco Xavier de la 

24. Cosiguiriachi, 

25. Batopilas. 

VII. Intendancy of Sonora. 


VIII. Intendancy of Valladolid. 

33. Angangueo, I 35. Zitaquaro, 

34. Inguaran, 36. Tlalpajahua. 

30. Guadalupede laPuerta, 

31. Santissima Trinidad de Pena 


32. San Francisco Xavier deAlisos. 


IX. Intendancy of Oaxaca. 

37. Oaxaca. 
X. Intendancy ofPuebla. 

Several Mines. 
XI. Intendancy of Ver a Cruz. 

Three Mines. 

XII. Old California. 

One Mine. 

In the present state of the country the veins are 
the most productive, and the minerals disposed in beds 
or masses are very rare. The former are chiefly 
in primitive or transition rocks, rarely in second- 
ary deposites. In the old continent, granite, gneiss, 
and mica-slate form the central ridges of the moun- 
tain-chains ; but in the cordilleras of America these 
rocks seldom appear externally, being covered by 
masses of porphyry, greenstone, amygdaloid, basalt, 
and other trap-formations. The coast of Acapulco 
is composed of granite ; and as we ascend towards 
the table-land of Mexico, we see it pierce the por- 
phyry for the last time between Zumpango and So- 
pilote. Farther to the east, in the province of Oa- 
xaca, granite and gneiss are visible in the high plains 
which are of great extent, traversed by veins of 

Tin has not yet been observed in the granites of 
Mexico. In the mines of Comarya syenite contains 
a seam of silver ; while the vein of Guanaxuato, the 
richest in America, crosses a primitive clay-slate 
passing into talc-slate. The porphyries of Mexico 
are for the most part eminently rich in gold and 
silver. They are all characterized by the presence 
of hornblende and the absence of quartz. Common 
felspar is of rare occurrence, but the glassy variety 
is frequently observed in them. The rich gold mine 
of Villalpando, near Guanaxuato, traverses a por- 
phyry, of which the basis is allied to clinkstone, and 
in which hornblende is extremely rare. The veins 
of Zuriapan intersect porphyries, having a green- 
stone basis, and contain a great variety of interest- 


ing minerals, such as fibrous zeolite, stilbite, gram- 
matite, pycnite, native sulphur, fluor, barytes, corky 
asbestus, green garnets, carbonate and chromate of 
lead, orpiment, chrysoprase, and fire-opal. 

Among the transition rocks, containing ores of 
silver, may be mentioned the limestone of the Real 
del Cardonal, Xacala, and Lomo- del Toro, to the 
north of Zuriapan. In Mexico graywacke is also 
rich in metals. 

The silver-mines of the Real de Catorce, as well 
as those of El Doctor and Xaschi, near Zuriapan trav- 
erse alpine limestone, which rests on a conglome- 
rate with siliceous cement. In that and the Jura 
limestone are contained the celebrated silver-mines 
of Tasco and Tehuilotepec, in the intendancy of 
Mexico ; and in these calcareous rocks the metalli- 
ferous veins display the greatest wealth. 

It thus appears that the cordilleras of Mexico con- 
tain veins in a great variety of rocks, and that the 
deposites which furnish almost all the silver exported 
from Vera Cruz are primitive slate, graywacke, and 
alpine limestone. The mines of Potosi, in Buenos 
Ayres, are contained in primitive clay-slate, and the 
richest of those of Peru in alpine limestone. Our 
author here observes, that there is scarcely a variety 
of rock which has not in some country been found 
to contain metals, and that the richness of the veins 
is for the most part totally independent of the nature 
of the beds which they intersect. 

Great advantage is derived in working the Mexi- 
can mines, from the circumstance that the most im- 
portant of them are situated in temperate regions 
where the climate is favourable to agriculture. Gua- 
naxuato is placed in a ravine, the bottom of which 
is somewhat lower than the level of the lakes of the 
valley of Mexico. Zacatecas and the Real de Ca- 
torce are a little higher ; but the mildness of the 
air at these towns, which are surrounded by the 
richest mines in the world, is a contrast to the cold 
Ff 2 


and disagreeable atmosphere of the Peruvian dis- 

The produce of the Mexican mines is very 
unequally apportioned. The 2,500,000 marks, or 
1,541,015 troy pounds of silver annually exported 
to Europe and Asia from Vera Cruz and Acapulco, 
are drawn from a very small number. Guanaxuato, 
Zacatecas, and Catorce supply more than the half; 
and the vein of Guanaxuato alone yields more than 
a fourth part of the whole silver of Mexico, and a 
sixth of the produce of all America. The following" 
is the order in which the richest mines of New-Spain 
are placed, with reference to the quantity obtained 
from them : 

Guanaxuato, in the intendancy of the same name. 
Catorce, in the intendancy of San Luis Potosi. 
Zacatecas, in the intendancy of the same name. 
Real del Monte, in the intendancy of Mexico. 
Bolanos, in the intendancy of Guadalaxara. 
Guarisamey, in the intendancy of Durango. 
Sombrerete, in the intendancy of Zacatecas. 
Tasco, in the intendancy of Mexico. 
Batopilas, in the intendancy of Durango. 
Zuriapan, in the intendaney of Mexico. 
Fresnillo, in the intendancy of Zacatecas. 
Ramos, in the intendancy of San Luis Potosi. 
Parral, in the intendancy of Durango. 

The veins of Tasco, Sultepec, Tlapujahua, and 
Pachuca were first wrought by the Spaniards. 
Those of Zacatecas w^ere next commenced, and that 
of San Barnabe was begun in 1548. The principal 
one in Guanaxuato was discovered in 1558. As the 
total produce of all in Mexico, until the beginning of 
the eighteenth century, never exceeded 369,844 troy 
pounds of gold and silver yearly, it must be con- 
cluded that during the sixteenth little energy was 
employed in drawing forth their stores. 

The silver extracted in the thirty-seven districts 
was deposited in the provincial treasuries established 
in the chief places of the intendancies ; and from 
the reports of these offices the quantity furnished 


by the different parts of the country may be deter- 
mined. The following is an account of the receipts 
of eleven of these boards from the year 1785 to 

Marks of Silver. 

Guanaxuato , 2,469,000 

San Luis Potosi 1 ,515,000 

Zacatecas 1,205,000 

Mexico 1,055.000 

Durango 922,000 

Rosario 668,000 

Guadalaxara 509,000 

Pachuca 455,000 

Bolanos 364,000 

Sombrerete 320,000 

Zuriapan 248,000 

Sum for five years.. .9,730,000=5,997,633 troy pounds. 

The mean produce of the mines of New-Spain, 
including the northern part of New-Biscay and those 
of Oaxaca, is estimated at above 1,541,015 troy 
pounds of silver, a quantity equal to two-thirds of 
what is annually extracted from the whole globe, 
and ten times as much as is furnished by all the 
mines of Europe. 

On the other hand, the produce of the Mexican 
mines in gold is not much greater than those of 
Hungary and Transylvania ; amounting in ordinary 
years only to 4315 troy pounds. In the former it is 
chiefly extracted from river-deposites by washing. 
Auriferous alluvia are common in the province of 
Sonora, and a great deal of gold has been collected 
among the sands with which the bottom of the val- 
ley of the Rio Hiaqui, to the east of the missions 
of Tarahumara, is covered. Farther to the north, 
in Pimeria Alta, masses of native gold weighing five 
or six pounds have been found. Part of it is also 
extracted from veins intersecting the primitive 
mountains. Veins of this metal are most frequent 
in the province of Oaxaca, in gneiss and mica-slate. 
The last rock is particularly rich in the mines of 
Rio San Antonio. Gold is also found pure, or 


mixed with silver-ore, in most of those which have 
been wrought in Mexico. 

The silver supplied by the Mexican veins is ex- 
tracted from a great variety of minerals. Most of it 
is obtained from sulphuretted silver, arsenical gray- 
copper, muriate of silver, prismatic black silver-ore, 
md red silver-ore. Pure or native silver is of com- 
paratively rare occurrence. 

Copper, tin, iron, lead, and mercury are also pro- 
cured in New^Spain, but in very small quantities, 
although it would appear that they might be found 
to a great extent. The mercury occurs in various 
deposites, in beds, in secondary formations, and in 
veins traversing porphyries ; but the amount ob- 
tained has never been sufficient for the process of 

The total value of gold and silver extracted from 
the mines of America, between 1499 and 1803, is 
estimated by Humboldt at 5,706,700,000 piasters, or 
(valuingthe piaster at 4s. 4W.)1,248,340,625Z. sterling. 

The annual produce oif the mines of the New 
World, at the -beginning of the present century, is 
estimated as follows : 

Gold Silver Value in 

Marks. Marks. Dollars. 

New-Spain 7,000 2,338,220 23,000,000 

Peru 3,400 611,090 6,240,000 

Chili 12,212 20,700 2,060,000 

Buenos Ay res 2,200 481,830 4,850,000 

New-Grenada 20,505 . . . 2,990,000 

Brazil 29,900 . . . 4,360,000 

75,217 3,460,840 43,500,000 

Valuing the dollar at 4s. 3d., the total annual produce 
would be 9,243,750/.* 

* According to Mr. Ward (Mexico in 1827, vol. ii. p. 38), the annual 
average produce of the Mexican mines, before the revolution in 1810, 
amounted to 24.000.000 dollars, or 5,250,000/., and the average exports to 
22,000,000, or 4,812.500Z ; but since the revolution the produce has been 
reduced to 11,000,000 dollars, or 2,406,250/., while the exports in specie 
have averaged 13,537,052 dollars, or 2,970, 198Z. each year. This reduc- 
tion, it is unnecessary to say, has been caused by the" unsettled state of 


To conclude our brief account of Humboldt's Po- 
litical Essay on New-Spain, it may be useful to pre- 
sent a few of the more interesting facts in the form 
of a recapitulation. 

Physical Aspect. Along the centre of the coun- 
try runs a chain of mountains, having a direction 
from south-east to north-west, and afterward from 
south to north. On the ridge or summit of this 
chain are extended vast table-lands or platforms, 
which gradually decline towards the temperate zone, 
their absolute height within the tropics being from 
7545 to 7873 feet. The declivities of the cordilleras 
are wooded, while the central table-land is usually 

the country, the emigration of the old Spaniards, and the withdrawing 
of the funds which kept the mines in operation. In 1812, according to 
the same authority, the coinage had fallen to four and a half millions of 
dollars. It rose successively to six, nine, eleven, and twelve millions, 
which was the amount in 1819 in the capital alone. In 1820 the revolu- 
tion in Spain caused a considerable fluctuation, and the coinage fell to 
10,406,164 dollars. In 1821, when the separation from the mother- 
country became inevitable, the coinage sank to five millions ; from which 
it fell to three and a half, and continued in that state during 1823 and 
1824. In 1825 the foreign capitals invested began to produce some effect ; 
but in 1826 the total amount of coinage in the five mints of the Mexican 
republic did not exceed 7,463,300 dollars, or 1,632,594/. 

In 1827, seven English companies, one German, and two American 
were employed in working mines in different parts of Mexico. 


1. The Real del Monte Company, Captain Vetch director, with an in- 
vested capital of 400,OOOZ. 

2. The Bolanos Company, Captains Vetch and Lyon directors, with a 
capital of 150,OOOZ. 

3. Tlalpujahua Company, Mr. De Rivafinola director, with a capital 

4. Anglo-Mexican Company, Mr. Williamson director : capital 

5. United Mexican Company ; directors, Don Lucas Alaman, Mr. 
Glennie, and Mr. Agassis ; capital 800,OOOJ. 

6. The Mexican Company. 

7. Catorce Company, Mr. Stokes director : invested capital not above 

At this period nearly three millions sterling of British capital were 
invested in the Mexican mines, or had been expended in enterprises im- 
mediately connected with them. The sudden change of feeling with 
respect to these adventures which took place in England in 1826 had 
nearly put a stop to the operations commenced with so much energy ; 
but confidence having been in some measure restored, it may be hoped 
that the mining companies will yet prove of great advantage both to 
Britain and to Mexico. 


bare. In the equinoctial region the different climates 
rise, as it were, one above another from the shore, 
where the mean temperature is about 78, to the 
central plains, where it is about 62. 

Population. The whole population is estimated 
at 5,840,000, of which 4,500,000 are Indians, 1,000,000 
Creoles, and 70,000 European Spaniards. 

Agriculture. The banana, manioc, maize, wheat, 
and potatoes constitute the principal food of the 
people. The maguey or agave may be considered 
as the Indian vine. Sugar, cotton, vanilla, cocoa, 
indigo, tobacco, wax, and cochineal are plentifully 
produced. Cattle are abundant on the great savannas 
in the interior. 

Mines. The annual produce in gold is 4289 Ib. 
troy; in silver, 1, 439,832 Ib. ; in all, 23,000,000 of 
piasters (5,031,2507.), or nearly half the quantity 
annually extracted from the r^nes of America. 
The mint of Mexico furnished trom 1690 to 1803 
more than 1,353,000,000 piasters (295,968,7507.), 
and from the discovery of New-Spain to the com- 
mencement of the nineteenth century, probably 
2,028,000,000 piasters (443,625,0007.). Three mining 
districts, Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, and Catorce, yield 
nearly half of all the gold and silver of New- Spain. 

Manufactures. The value of the produce of the 
manufacturing industry of New-Spain is estimated 
at 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of piasters (valuing the 
piaster of exchange at 3s. 3^7., 1,152,0837. to 
1,316,6677.). Cotton and woollen cloths, cigars, 
soda, soap, gunpowder, and leather are the principal 
articles manufactured. 

It is scarcely necessary to add, that the regions 
of America, which at the time of Humboldt's visit 
were Spanish colonies, have, after a series of san- 
guinary struggles, excited by the real or imagined 
grievances under which the inhabitants laboured, 
now succeeded in acquiring independence. This con- 
dition is more suitable than subjection to a remote 


power, protracted beyond the period at which such 
settlements are themselves fit to become empires. 
With colonies it is in some degree as with children. 
They receive the protection necessary for their 
growth, and obey at first from weakness and at- 
tachment ; but beyond the stage at which they ac- 
quire a right to think for themselves, the attempt to 
perpetuate subordination necessarily excites a hatred 
which effectually quenches the feeble gratitude that 
man, in any condition, is capable of cherishing. The 
political divisions of America, the land of republi- 
can principles, are foreign to our object, and would 
require a more particular description than they 
could receive in this volume. 


Passage from Vera Cruz to Cuba and Philadelphia, 
and Voyage to Europe. 

Departure from Mexico Passage to Havana and Philadelphia Return 
to Europe Results of the Journeys in America. 

LEAVING the capital of New-Spain, our travellers 
descended to the port of Vera Cruz, which is situ- 
ated among sand-hills, in a burning and unhealthy 
climate. They happily escaped the yellow-fever, 
which prevails there, and attacks persons who have 
arrived from the elevated districts as readily as Eu- 
ropeans who have come by sea, and embarked in a 
Spanish frigate for Havana, where they had left 
part of their specimens. They remained there two 
months ; after which they set sail for the United 
States, on their passage to which they encountered 
a violent storm that lasted seven days. Arriving 
at Philadelphia, and afterward visiting Washington, 


they spent eight weeks in that interesting- country, 
for the purpose of studying its political constitution 
and commercial relations. In August, 1804, they 
returned to Europe, carrying with them the exten- 
sive collections which they had made during their 
perilous and fatiguing journeys. 

The results of this expedition, conducted with so 
much courage and zeal, have been of the highest 
importance to science. With respect to natural his- 
tory, it may be stated generally, that the mass of in- 
formation already laid before the public, as obtained 
from the observation of six years, exceeds any thing 
that had been presented by the most successful cul- 
tivators of the same field during a whole lifetime. 
Much light has been thrown on the migrations and 
relations of the indigenous tribes of America, their 
origin, languages, and manners. The Vues des Cor- 
dillieres et Monumens des Peuples indigenes de PAme- 
rique, 2 vols. folio, published in 1811, contains the 
fruit of researches into the antiquities of Mexico 
and Peru, together with the description of the more 
remarkable scenes of the Andes. It has been trans- 
lated into English by Mrs. H. M. Williams. The 
animals observed have been described in a work en- 
titled Recueil d" 1 Observations de Zoologieetd'Anatomie 
Comparees, faites dans un Voyage aux Tropiques, 2 
vols. 4to. 

In the department of botany the most important 
additions have been made to science. Our travel- 
lers brought with them to Europe an herbarium con- 
sisting of more than 6000 species of plants, and 
Bonpland's botanical journal contained descriptions 
of four thousand. The valuable works on this sub- 
ject that have appeared in consequence of the jour- 
ney to America form a new era in the history of 
botany. They are as follow : 

1. Essai sur la Geographic des Plantes, ou fableau 
Physique des Regions Equinoxiales, fonde sur des Ob- 
servations et des Mesures faites depuis le Wme degre 


de latitude australe, juscfau Wme degre de latitude 
boreale. 4to. 

2. Plantes Equinoxiales Recueillies au Mexique, dans 
rile de Cuba, dans les Provinces de Caracas, de Cu- 
mana, &c. 2 vols. fol. 

3. Monographic des Melastomes. 2 vols. fol. 

4. Nova Genera et Species Plantarum. 3 vols. fol. 

5. De Distributione Geographica Plantarum secun- 
dum Cceli Temperiem et Altitudinem Montium prolego- 
mena. 8vo. 

The Essay on the Geography of Plants presents a 
general view of the vegetation, zoology, geological 
constitution, and other circumstances, of the equi- 
noctial region of the New Continent, from the level 
of the sea to the highest summits of the Andes. 
The second work is by M. Bonpland, and contains 
methodical descriptions, in Latin and French, of the 
species observed; together with remarks on their 
medicinal properties and their uses in the arts. The 
Monography of the Melastomae, which is also from 
the pen of M. Bonpland, contains upwards of 150 
species of these plants, with others collected by M. 
Richard in the West Indies and French Guiana. 

In his Essai Geognostique sur le Gisement des Roches 
dans les deux Hemispheres, published in 1826, and 
translated into English, Humboldt presents a table 
of all the formations known to geologists, and insti- 
tutes a comparison between the rocks of the Old 
Continent and those of the cordillera of the Andes. 

The astronomical treatises have been published 
in two quarto volumes, under the title of Recueil 
d* Observations Astronomiques et de Mesures executees 
dans le Nouveau Continent. This work contains the 
original observations made between the 12th degree 
of south latitude and the 41st degree of north lati? 
tude, transits of the sun and stars over the meridian, 
occupations of satellites, eclipses, &c. ; a treatise 
on astronomical refractions under the torrid zone, 
considered as the effect of the decrement of caloric 


in the strata of the atmosphere; the barometric 
measurement of the Andes of Mexico, Venezuela, 
Quito, and New-Grenada ; together with a table of 
nearly 700 geographical positions. The greatest 
pains have been taken to verify the calculations. 
Our author presented to the Bureau des Longitudes his 
astronomical observations on the lunar distances and 
the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites, together with the 
barometrical elevations, which have been calculated 
and verified by M. Prony according to the formulae 
of La Place. 

In 1817 Humboldt laid before the Academie des 
Sciences his map of the Orinoco, exhibiting the junc- 
tion of that river with the Amazon by means of the 
Casiquiare and Rio Negro. 

The brief account of New-Spain, which is pre- 
sented in the preceding pages has been extracted 
from the Essai Politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne, 
originally published in 2 vols. 4to., and translated 
into English. With respect to Humboldt's transla- 
tors it may be remarked, that their want of scientific 
knowledge, and more especially of natural history, 
renders the English very much inferior to the French 

Most of the above-mentioned publications have 
appeared in the names of both travellers. The 
various works relating to the journey will make, 
when complete, twelve volumes in quarto, three in 
folio, two collections of geographical designs, and 
one of picturesque views. The detailed narrative 
of the expedition occupies four of these volumes; 
but an octavo edition has also been published, under 
the title of Voyage aux Regions Equinoxiales du Nou- 
veau Continent, pendant les annees 1799, 1800, 1801, 
1802, 1803, et 1804. The translation of this work by 
Mrs. Williams is familiar to the English reader. 

The labour necessary for reducing the observa- 
tions made by our travellers to a condition fit for the 
public eye must have been very great ; yet, pos- 


sessed of a mind riot less characterized by activity 
than the vastness of its acquirements, Humboldt in 
the mean while engaged in various investigations, 
which he has partly published in the foreign jour- 
nals. In concert with M. Gay Lussac, with whom 
he lived for several years in the most intimate 
friendship, he has made numerous magnetic experi- 
ments, and verified Biot's theory respecting the po- 
sition of the magnetic equator. They have found 
that the great mountain-chains, and even the active 
volcanoes, have no appreciable influence on the mag- 
netic power ; and have established the fact, that it 
gradually diminishes as we recede from the equator. 

On the return of the philosophers from America, 
Bonpland was appointed by Bonaparte to the office 
of superintending the gardens at Malmaison, where 
the Empress Josephine, who was passionately fond 
of flowers, had formed a splendid collection of ex- 
otics. His amiable disposition, not less than his ac- 
quirements, procured for him the esteem of all who 
knew him. In 1818 he went to Buenos Ayres as 
professor of natural history. In 1820 he under- 
took an excursion to the interior of Paraguay ; but 
when he arrived at St. Anne, on the eastern bank of 
the Parana, where he had established a colony of In- 
dians, he was unexpectedly surrounded by a large 
body of soldiers, who destroyed the plantation and 
carried him off a prisoner. This was done by the 
orders of Dr. Francia, the ruler of Paraguay ; and 
the only reason assigned was his having planted the 
tea-tree peculiar to that country, and which forms a 
valuable article of exportation. He was confined 
chiefly in Santa Martha, but was allowed to practise 
as a physician. Humboldt applied in vain for the 
liberation of his friend, for whom he appears to have 
cherished a sincere affection. According to a late 
report, however, he has obtained his liberty, and re- 
turned to Buenos Ayres. 

In October, 1818, our author was in London, 


where it was said that the allied powers had re- 
quested him to draw up a political view of the South 
American colonies. In November of the same year 
the King- of Prussia granted him an annual pension 
of 12,000 dollars, with the view of facilitating the 
execution of a plan which he had formed of visiting 
Asia, and especially the mountains of Thibet. In 
the year 1822 he accompanied his majesty to the 
congress of Verona, and afterward visited Venice, 
Rome, and Naples ; and, in 1827 and 1828, delivered 
at Berlin a course of lectures on the physical con- 
stitution of the globe, which was attended by the 
royal family and the court. But, excepting the re- 
sults of his investigations, which have appeared at 
intervals, we have no particular account of his occu- 
pations until 1829, when he undertook another im- 
portant journey to the Uralian Mountains, the fron- 
tiers of China, and the Caspian Sea. 


Journey to Asia. 

Brief Account of Humboldt's Journey to Asia, with a Sketch of the Four 
great Chains of Mountains which intersect the Central Part of that 

No detailed narrative has yet been published of 
Humboldt's journey to Asiatic Russia ; and the only 
sources of authentic information on the subject are 
to be found in a work lately printed at Paris, under 
the title of Fragmens de Geologie et de Climatologie 
Asiatiques, par A. de Humboldt, from which the fol- 
lowing particulars are extracted : 

This illustrious traveller, accompanied by MM. 
Ehrenberg and Gustavus Rose, embarked at Nijnei- 


Novgorod on the Volga, and descended to Kasan and 
the Tartar ruins of Bolgari. From thence he went 
by Perm to Jekatherinenburg on the Asiatic side of 
the Uralian Mountains, a vast chain composed of 
several ranges running nearly parallel to each other, 
of which the highest summits scarcely attain an ele- 
vation of 4593 or 4920 feet, but which, like the 
Andes, follows the direction of a meridian, from the 
tertiary deposites in the neighbourhood of Lake 
Aral to the greenstone rocks in the vicinity of the 
Frozen Sea. A month was occupied in visiting the 
central and northern parts of these mountains, 
which 'abound in alluvial beds, containing gold and 
platina, the malachite mines of Goumeschevskoi, the 
great magnetic ridge of Blagodad, and the celebrated 
deposites at Mourzinsk, in which topaz and beryl are 
found. Near Nijnei-Tagilsk, a country which may 
be compared to Choco in South America, a mass of 
platina weighing about 2H pounds troy has been 

From Jekatherinenburg the travellers proceeded 
by Tioumen to Tobolsk on the Irtisch, and from 
thence by Tara, a steppe or desert of Baraba, which 
is dreaded on account of the torments caused by 
the multitudes of insjects belonging to the family 
of Tipulce, to Barnaoul on the banks of the Ob ; the 
picturesque lake of Koly van ; and the rich silver- 
mines of Schlangenberg, Riddersk, and Zyrianovski, 
situated on the south-western declivity of the Altaic 
range, the highest summit of which is scarcely so 
elevated as the Peak of Teneriffe. The mines of 
Kolyvan produce annually upwards of 49,842 troy 

Proceeding southward from Riddersk to Oust-Ka- 
menogosk, they passed through Boukhtarminsk to 
the frontier of Chinese Zungaria. They even ot> 
tained permission to cross the frontier, in order to 
visit the Mongol post of Bates, or Khonimailakhou, 
northward of the Lake Dzaisai.ig. Returning from 


this place to Oust-Kamenogorsk, they found the 
granite divided into nearly horizontal beds and over- 
laying a slate-formation, the strata of which were 
partly inclined at an angle of 85 and partly 

From Oust-Kamenogorsk they went along the 
steppe of the Middle Horde of the Kirghiz, by Semi- 
polatinsk and Onisk and the lines of the Ichim Cos- 
sacks and Tobol, to reach the southern part of the 
Ural, where, in the vicinity of Miask, in a deposite 
of very small extent and at a depth of a few inches, 
were found three masses of native gold, two of 
which weighed 18'36 and the other 28'36 pounds 

They next proceeded along the Southern Ural to 
the fine quarries of green jasper at Orsk, where the 
river Jaik crosses the chain from east to west. From 
thence they passed by Souberlinsk to Orenburg, 
which, notwithstanding its distance from the Cas- 
pian Sea, is below the level of the ocean, and then 
visited the famous salt-mine of Iletzki, situated in 
the steppe of the Little Kirghiz Horde. They after- 
ward inspected the principal place of the Ouralsk 
Cossacks ; the German colonies of the Saratov gov- 
ernment on the left bank of the Volga ; the great salt- 
lake of Elton in the steppe of the Kalmucks ; and a 
fine colony of Moravians at Sarepta ; and, finally, ar- 
rived at Astracan. The principal objects of this 
excursion to the Caspian Sea were, the chymical 
analysis of its waters, which Mr. Rose intended to 
make ; the observation of the barometrical heights ; 
and the collection of fishes for the great work of 
Baron Cuvier and M. Valenciennes. 

From Astracan the travellers returned to Moscow, 
by the isthmus which separates the Don and the 
Volga, near Tichinskaya, and the country of the Don 

Of the heterogeneous materials composing the 
Fragmens Aslatiques, part only of which is from the 


pen of Humboldt, the memoir on the mountain- 
chains and volcanoes in the interior of Asia is the 
only one which can add any interest to our pages ; 
the rest being of a character too strictly scientific. 
Of this paper a brief account is here given. 

In our present state of knowledge volcanic phe- 
nomena are not to be considered as relating peculiarly 
to the science of geology, but rather as a depart- 
ment of general physics. When in action they 
appear to result from a permanent communication 
between the interior of the globe, which is in a state 
of fusion, and the atmosphere which envelopes the 
hardened and oxydated crust of our planet. Masses 
of lava issue like intermittent springs ; and the su- 
perposition of their layers which takes place under 
our eyes bears a resemblance to that of the ancient 
crystalline rocks. On the crest of the cordilleras of 
the New World, as well as in the south of Europe 
and the western parts of Asia, an intimate connexion 
is manifested between the chymical action of volca- 
noes, properly so called, or those which produce 
rocks, their form and position permitting the escape 
of earthy substances in a state of fusion, and the 
mud-volcanoes of South America, Italy, and the Cas- 
pian Sea, which at one period eject fragments of 
rocks, flames, and acid vapours, and at another vomit 
muddy clay, naphtha, and irrespirable gases. There 
is even an obvious relation between the proper vol- 
cano and the formation of beds of gypsum and an- 
hydrous rock-salt, containing petroleum, condensed 
hydrogen, sulphuret of iron, and, occasionally, large 
masses of galena ; the origin of hot-springs ; the ar- 
rangement of metallic deposites ; earthquakes, which 
are ever and anon accompanied by chymical phe- 
nomena; and the sometimes sudden, and the some- 
times very slow elevations of certain parts of the 
earth's surface. 

This intimate connexion between these diversified 
appearances has of late years served to elucidate 


many problems in geology and physics which had 
previously been considered inexplicable. The analo- 
gies of observed facts, and the strict investigation 
of phenomena of recent occurrence, gradually lead 
us to more probable conjectures as to the events of 
those remote periods which preceded historical 
records. Volcanicity, or the influence which the inte- 
rior of our planet exercises upon its external envelope 
in the various stages of its refrigeration, on account 
of the unequal aggregation in which its component 
substances occur, is, at the present day, in a very 
diminished condition ; restricted to a small number 
of points ; intermittent ; simplified in its chymical 
effects ; producing rocks only around small circular 
apertures, or over longitudinal cracks of small ex- 
tent ; and manifesting its power, at great distances, 
only dynamically, by shaking the crust of our planet 
in linear directions, or in spaces which remain the 
same during a great number of ages. Previous to 
the existence of the human race, the action of the 
interior of the globe upon the solid crust, which was 
increasing in volume, must have modified the tem- 
perature of the atmosphere, and rendered the whole 
surface capable of giving birth to those productions 
which ought to be considered as tropical, since, by 
the effect of the radiation and refrigeration of the ex- 
terior, ;the relations of the earth to a central body, 
the sun, began almost exclusively to determine the 
diversity of geographical latitudes. 

In those primeval times, also, the elastic fluids, 
the volcanic powers of the interior, more energetic 
perhaps, and with more facility traversing the oxi- 
dated and solidified crust of the globe, filled this crust 
with crevices, and injected it with masses and veins 
of basalt, metallic substances, and other matters, 
introduced after the solidification of the planet had 
been completed. The period of the great geologi- 
cal revolutions was that when the communications 
between the fluid interior of the planet and its atmo- 


sphere were more frequent, acting upon a greater 
number of points, and when the tendency to establish 
these communications gave rise, in the line of the 
long crevices, to the cordilleras of the Andes and 
Himmaleh mountains, the chains of less elevation, 
and the ridges whose undulations embellish the land- 
scape of our plains. Our author then mentions, as 
proofs of these protrusions, the sandstone formations 
which extend from the plains of the Magdalena and 
Meta, almost without interruption, over platforms 
having an elevation varying from 8950 to 10,232 feet ; 
and the bones of antediluvian animals intermingled 
on the summit of the Uralian chain of northern Asia 
with transported deposites, containing gold, dia- 
monds, and platina. Another evidence of this sub- 
terranean action of elastic fluids, which heave up 
continents, domes, and mountain-chains, displace 
rocks and the organic remains which they contain, 
and produce eminences and depressions, is the great 
sinking of the ground which occurs in the west of 
Asia, of which the Caspian Sea and the Lake Aral 
form the lowest part (320 and 205 feet beneath the 
level of the ocean), but which extends far into the 
interior of the continent, stretching to Saratov and 
Orenburg on the Jaik, and probably to the south-east 
as far as the lower course of the Sihon (Jaxartes) and 
the Amou (the Oxus of the ancients). This depres- 
sion of a continental mass extending to more than 
320 feet below the surface of the ocean, he continues, 
has not hitherto obtained the necessary considera- 
tion which its importance demands, because it was 
not sufficiently known. It appears to him to have an 
intimate connexion with the upheaving of the Cau- 
casian Mountains, those of Hindoo-kho, and of the 
elevated plain of Persia, which borders the Caspian 
Sea and the Mavar-ul-Nahar to the south ; and, per- 
haps, more to the eastward, with the elevation of the 
great mass of land which is designated by the vague 
and incorrect name of the central plain of Asia. 


This concavity he considers as a crater-country, 
similar to the Hipparchus, Archimedes, and Ptolemy 
of the moon's surface, which have a diameter of 
more than 100 miles, and which may be rather com- 
pared with Bohemia than with our volcanic cones 
and craters. 

In the course of the journey which Humboldt made 
in the summer of 1829 with MM. Ehrenberg and Rose, 
he passed in seven weeks over the frontiers of Chi- 
nese Zungaria, between the forts of Oust-Kameno- 
gorsk, and Boukhtarminsk, and Khonimailakhou (a 
Chinese post to the north of the Lake Dzaisang), the 
Cossack line of the Kirghiz steppe, and the shores 
of the Caspian Sea. In the important commercial 
towns of Semipolatinsk, Petropalauska, Troitzkaia, 
Orenburg, and Astracan, he obtained from Tartars, 
Bucharians, and Tachkendis information respecting 
the Asiatic regions in the vicinity of their native 
country. At Orenburg, where cardans of several 
thousand camels annually arrive, an enlightened in- 
dividual, M. de Gens, has collected a mass of mate- 
rials of the highest importance for the geography of 
Central Asia. Among the numerous descriptions 
of routes communicated by this person, our author 
found the following remark : " In proceeding from 
Semipolatinsk to Jerkend, when we were arrived at 
the Lake Ala-koul or Ala-dinghiz, a little to the north- 
east of the great Lake Balkachi, which receives the 
waters of the Ele, we saw a very high mountain 
which formerly vomited fire. Even now this moun- 
tain, which rises in the lake like a little island, oc- 
casions violent storms, which incommode the cara- 
vans. For this reason some sheep are sacrificed to 
this old volcano by those who pass it." 

This account, which was obtained from a Tartar 
who travelled at the commencement of the present 
century, excited a lively interest in our author, more 
especially as it brought to mind the burning volca- 
noes of the interior of Asia, made known through 


the researches of Abel Remusat and Klaproth in 
Chinese books, and whose great distance from the 
sea has excited so much surprise. Soon after his 
departure from Petersburg he received from M. de 
Klosterman, imperial director of police at Semipola- 
tinsk, the following particulars, which were obtained 
from Bucharians and Tachkendis : 

"The route from Semipolatinsk to Kouldja is 
twenty-five days. It passes by the mountains Ala- 
chan and Rondegatay, in the steppe of the Middle 
Horde of the Kirghiz, the borders of the lake Savan- 
de-koul, the Tarbagatai mountains in Zungaria, and 
the river Emyl. When it has been traversed, the 
road unites with that which leads from Tehougeut- 
chak to the province of Ele. From the banks of the 
Emyl to the lake Ala-koul the distance is 39| miles. 
The Tartars estimate the distance of this lake from 
Semipolatinsk at 301 miles. It is to the right of the 
road, and exte. Is from east to west 66^ miles. In the 
midst of this lake rises a very high mountain, named 
Aral-toube. From this to the Chinese post, situated 
between the little lake Janalache-koul and the river 
Baratara, on the banks of which reside Kalmucks, are 
reckoned 36 miles." 

It is evident that the same mountain is alluded to 
in both these accounts ; and with the view of con- 
necting it with the volcanoes discovered by Klaproth 
and Abel Remusat, mentioned in very ancient Chinese 
books as existing in the interior of Asia to the north 
and south of Teen-shan, our author presents an ac- 
count of the geography of this interesting region. 

The middle and internal part of Asia, which forms 
neither an immense aggregate of hills nor a contin- 
uous platform, is intersected from east to west by 
four great systems of mountains, which have exer- 
cised a decided influence upon the movements of na- 
tions. These systems are, 1. The Altaic, which is 
terminated to the west by the mountains of the 
Kirghiz ; 2. Teen-shan ; 3. Kwanlun ; and, 4. The 


Himmaleh chain. Between the Altaic range and 
Teen-shan are Zungaria and the basin of the Ele ; 
between Teen-shan and Kwan-lun, Little or Upper 
Bucharia, or Cashgar, Yarkand, Khoten, or Yu-thian, 
the great desert, Toorfan, Khamil, and Tangout, or 
the Northern Tangout of the Chinese, which must 
not be confounded with Thibet or Sefan. Lastly, 
between Kwan-lun and the Himmaleh are Eastern 
and Western Thibet, in which are Lassa and Ladak. 
Were the three elevated plains situated between the 
Altai, Teen-shan, Kwan-lun, and the Himmaleh to 
be indicated by the position of three alpine lakes, we 
might select for this purpose those of Balkachi, Lop, 
and Tengri, which correspond to the plains of Zun- 
garia, Tangout, and Thibet. 

1. System of the Altai. It surrounds the sources 
of the Irtisch and Jenisei or Rem. To the east it 
takes the name of Tangnou ; between the lakes Ros- 
sogol and Baikal, that of the Sayanian Mountains ; be- 
yond this it takes the name of Upper Kentai, and the 
Davourian Mountains ; and, lastly, to the north-east 
it connects itself with the Jablonnoikhrebet chain, 
Khingkhan, and the Aldan mountains, which advance 
along the Sea of Ochotzk. The mean latitude of its 
prolongation from east to west is between 50 and 51 
30'. The Altaic range, properly so called, scarcely 
occupies seven degrees of longitude ; but the north- 
ern part of the mountains, surrounding the great 
mass of elevated land in the interior of Asia, and oc- 
cupying the space comprised between 48 and 51, 
is considered as belonging to this system, because 
simple names are more easily retained by the mem- 
ory, and because that of Altai is more known to 
Europeans by its great metallic richness, which 
amounts annually to 45,907 troy pounds of silver, and 
1246 troy pounds of gold. The Altaic mountains are 
not a chain forming the boundary of a country like 
the Himmaleh, which limit the elevated plain of Thi- 
bet, and have a rapid slope only on the side next to 


India, which is lower. The plains in the neighbour- 
hood of the lake Balkachi have not an elevation of 
more than 1920 feet above the sea. 

Between the meridians of Oust-Kamenogorsk and 
Semipolatinsk the Altaic system is prolonged, from 
east to west under the parallels of 49 and 50 degrees, 
by a chain of low mountains, over an extent of 736 
miles, as far as the steppe of the Kirghiz. This ridge 
has been elevated through a fissure which forms the 
line of separation of the streams of the Sara-sou and 
Irtisch, and which regularly follows the same direc- 
tion over an extent of 16 degrees of longitude. It 
consists of stratified granites not intermixed with 
gneiss, and of greenstone, porphyry, jasper, and tran- 
sition-limestone, in which there occur various me- 
tallic substances. This low range does not reach 
the southern extremity of the Ural, a chain which, 
like the Andes, presents a long wall running north 
and south, with metallic mines on its eastern slope, 
but terminates abruptly in the meridian of Sverino- 

Here commences a remarkable region of lakes, 
c6mprising the group of Balek-koul (lat. 51 30'), 
and that of Koumkoul (lat. 49 45'), indicating an 
ancient communication of a mass of water with the 
lake Ak-sakal, which receives the Tourgai and the 
Kamichloi Irghiz, as well as with the lake Aral; 
and which would seem from Chinese accounts to 
have formed part of a great plain extending to the 
borders of the Frozen Sea. 

2. System of Teen-shan. The mean latitude of 
this system is the 42d degree. Its highest summit 
is perhaps the mass of mountains covered with per- 
petual snow, and celebrated under the name of 
Bokhda-ovla, from which Pallas gave the designation 
of Bogdo to the whole chain. From Bokhda-ovla 
and Khatoun-bokhda, the Teen-shan mountains run 
eastward towards Bar-koul, where they are suddenly 
lowered so as to fall to the level of the elevated 


desert, called the Great Gobi or Cha-mo, which ex- 
tends from Koua-tcheou, a Chinese town, to the 
sources of the Argoun. If we now return to Bokhdo- 
Ovla, we find the western prolongation of these 
mountains stretching to Goudja and Koutche, then 
between lake Temoustou and Aksou to the north 
of Cashgar, and running towards Samarcand. The 
country comprehended between the Altaic chain and 
the Teen-shan mountains is shut up to the east, 
beyond the meridian of Pekin, by the Khingkhan- 
ovla, a lofty ridge, which runs from south-west to 
north-east ; but to the west it is. entirely open. 

The ease is very different with the country limited 
by the second and third systems, the Teen-shan and 
Kwan-lun ranges ; it being closed to the west by a 
transverse ridge, which runs north and south, under 
the name of Bolor or Belour-tagh. This chain 
separates Little Bucharia from Great Bucharia, the 
country of Cashgar, Badakshan, and Upper Djihoun, 
Its southern part, which is connected with the Kwan- 
lun system, forms a part of the Tsungling of the 
Chinese. To the north it joins the chain which 
passes to the north-west of Cashgar. Between 
Khokand, Dervagel, and Hissar, consequently be- 
tween the still unknown sources of the Sihon and 
Amou-deria, the Teen-shan rises before lowering 
again in the Kanat of Bochara, and presents a group 
of high mountains, several of which are covered 
with snow even in summer. More to the east it is 
less elevated. The road from Semipolatinsk to 
Cashgar passes to the east of lake Balkachi and to 
the west of lake Ossi-koul, and crosses the Narim, 
a tributary of the Sihon. At the distance of 69 
miles from the Narim to the south, it passes over 
the Rovat, which has a large cave, and is the highest 
point before arriving at the Chinese post to the south 
of the Ak-sou, the village of Artuche, and Cashgar. 
This city, which is built on the banks of the Ar&- 


tumen, has 15,000 houses and 80,000 inhabitants, 
although it is smaller than Samarcand. 

The western prolongation of the Teen-shan or 
the Mouz-tagh, is deserving of particular examina- 
tion. At the point where the Bolor or Belour-tagh 
joins the Mouz-tagh at right angles, the latter con- 
tinues to run without interruption from east to west, 
under the name of Asferah-tagh, to the south of the 
Sihon, towards Kodjend and Ourat-eppeh in Fer- 
* ganah. This chain of Asferah, which is covered 
with perpetual snow, separates the sources of the 
Sihon (Jaxartes) from those of the Arnou (Oxus). It 
turns to the south-west nearly in the meridian of 
Kodjend, and in this direction is named, till it ap- 
proaches Samarcand, Aktagh, or Al-Botous. More 
to the west, on the fertile banks of the Kohik, com- 
mences the vast depression of ground comprising 
Great Bucharia and the country of Mavar-ul-Nahar ; 
but beyond the Caspian Sea, nearly in the same 
latitude and in the same direction as the Teen-shan 
range, is seen the Caucasus with its porphyries and 
trachytes. It may, therefore, be considered as a 
continuation of the fissure upon which the Teen-shan 
is raised in the east, just as, to the west of the great 
mass of mountains of Adzarbaidjan and Armenia, 
Mount Taurus is a continuation of the action of the 
fissure of the Himmaleh and Hindoo-Coosh moun- 

3. Kwan-lun System. The Kwan-lun or Kotil-koun 
chain is between Khoten, the mountains of Khou- 
khou-noor and Eastern Thibet, and the country 
named Katchi. It commences to the west at the 
Tsung-ling mountains. It is connected with the 
transverse chain of Bolor, as observed above, and, 
according to the Chinese books, forms its southern 
part. This corner of the globe, between Little Thi- 
bet and the Boda Kohan, is very little known, 
although it is rich in rubies, lapis lazuli, and mineral 


turquois ; and, according to recent accounts, the plain 
of Khorassan, which runs in the direction of Herat, 
and limits the Hindoo-kho to the north, appears to 
be rather a continuation of the Tsungling and of the 
whole system of Kwan-lun to the west, than a pro- 
longation of the Himmalehs, as is commonly sup- 
posed. From the Tsung-ling the Kwan-lun, or Koul- 
koun range, runs from west to east towards the 
sources of the Hoang-ho or Yellow River, and 
penetrates with its snowy summits into Chen-si, a 
province of China. Nearly in the meridian of these 
springs rises the great mass of mountains on the 
lake Khoukhou-noor, resting to the north upon the 
snowy chain of the Nanshan or Ki-leen-shan, which 
also runs from west to east. Between Nanshan and 
Teen-shan, the heights of Tangout limit the margin 
of the upper desert of Gobi, or Cha-mo, which is 
prolonged from south-west to north-east. The 
latitude of the central part of the Kwan-lun range is 
35 30'. 

4. Himmaleh System. This system separates the 
valleys of Cashmere and Nepaul from Bootan and 
Thibet. To the west it rises in the mountain Ja- 
vaher to an elevation of 25,746 feet, and to the east 
in Dhwalagiri to 28,074 feet above the level of the 
sea. Its general direction is from north-west to 
south-east, and thus it is not at all parallel to the 
Kwanlun range, to which it approaches so near in the 
meridian of Attok and Jellalabad that they seem to 
form the same mass of mountains. Following the 
Himmaleh range eastward, we find it bordering 
Assam on the north, containing the sources of the 
Brahmapoutra, passing through the northern part of 
Ava, and penetrating into Yun-nan, a province of 
China, to the west of Young-tchang. It there ex- 
hibits pointed and snow-clad summits. It bends 
abruptly to the north-east, on the confines of Hou- 
kouang, Kiang-si, and Foukian, and advances its 


snowy peaks towards the ocean ; the island of For- 
mosa, the mountains of which are in like manner 
covered during the greater part of summer, being its 
termination. Thus we may follow the Himmaleh 
system as a continuous chain from the Eastern 
Ocean, through Hindoo -kho, across Candahar and 
Khorassan, to beyond the Caspian Sea in Adzar- 
baidjan, along an extent of 73 degrees, or half the 
length of the Andes. The western extremity, which 
is volcanic (like the eastern part), loses its character 
of a chain in the mountains of Armenia, which are 
connected with Sangalou, Bingheul, and Kachmir- 
daugh, in the pachalic of Erzeroum. The mean 
direction of the system is north 55 west. 

These mountain-chains, with their various rami- 
fications and intervening platforms and valleys, af- 
ford evidence to our author of revolutions anciently 
undergone by the crust of the globe ; these having 
been elevated by matter thrust up in the line of 
enormous cracks and fissures. The great depression 
of Central Asia, spoken of above, he considers as 
having been caused by the same action. Analogous 
to the Caspian Sea and other cavities in this district, 
are the lakes formed in Europe at the foot of the 
Alps, and which also owe their origin to a sinking 
of the ground. It is chiefly in the extent of this 
depression of Central Asia, and consequently in the 
space where the resistance was least, that we find 
traces of volcanic action. Several volcanoes are 
described in this space by ancient Chinese writers, 
who also mention a variety of volcanic products, 
such as sal ammoniac and sulphur, which form articles 
of commerce. 

" We thus know, 1 ' says our author, " in the interior 
of Asia, a volcanic territory, the surface of which 
is upwards of 2500 square geographical miles, and 
which is from 1000 to 1400 miles distant from the 
sea. It fills the half of the longitudinal valley sit- 


uated between the first and second system of moun- 
tains. The principal seat of volcanic action appears 
to be in the Teen-shan. Perhaps the colossal 
Bokhda-ovla is a trachytic formation, like Chimbo- 
razo." On both sides of the Teen-shan violent 
earthquakes occur. The city of Aksou was entirely 
destroyed at the commencement of the eighteenth 
century by a commotion of this nature. In Eastern 
Siberia the centre of the circle of shocks appears 
to be at Irkutzk, and in the deep basin of the Baikal 
lake, in the vicinity of which volcanic products are 
observed. But this point of the Altaic range is the 
extreme limit of these phenomena, no earthquakes 
having been experienced farther to the west, in the 
plains of Siberia, between the Altaic and Uralian 
ranges, or in any part of the latter. 

The volcanic territory of Bichbalik is to the east 
of the great depression of Asia. To the south and 
west of this internal basin we find two cones in ac- 
tivity, Demavend, which is visible from Teheran, 
and Seiban of Ararat, which is covered with vitreous 
lavas. On both sides of the isthmus between the 
Caspian and the Black Sea springs of naphtha and 
mud-eruptions are numerous. 

On the western margin of the great depression, if 
we proceed from the Caucasian isthmus to the north 
and north-west, we arrive at the territory of the 
great horizontal and tertiary deposites of Southern 
Russia and Poland. Here we find igneous rocks 
piercing the red-sandstone of Jekaterinoslav, together 
with asphaltum and springs impregnated with sul- 
phurous gases. 

A phenomenon so great as that of the central de- 
pression of Asia, which resembles the circular val- 
leys of the moon, could have been produced only by 
a very powerful cause acting in the interior of the 
earth. This cause, while forming the crust of the 
globe by sudden raisings and sinkings, probably filled 


with metallic substances the fissures of the Uralian 
and Altaic chains. 

It is not the custom of our author to detail per- 
sonal adventures, his object being to give a scientific 
character to his narrative ; and for this reason his 
relations may be less interesting to many readers 
than some of the travels and voyages which have of 
late been so profusely offered to the public. He is 
at present engaged in preparing an account of his 
Asiatic tour, the full details of which will appear 
under the general title of " A Journey to the Uralian 
Range, the Mountains of Kolyvan, the Frontier of 
Chinese Zungaria, and the Caspian Sea, made by 
Order of the Emperor of Russia, in 1829, by A. de 
Humboldt, G. Ehrenberg, and G. Rose." It will 
consist of three distinct works : 1. A geological and 
physical view of the north-west of Asia, observa- 
tions of terrestrial magnetism, and results of astro- 
nomical geography, by Baron Humboldt. 2. The 
mineralogical and geological details, the results of 
chymical analysis, and the narrative of the journey, 
by M. Rose. 3. The botanical and zoological part, 
with observations on the distribution of plants and 
animals, by M. Ehrenberg. 

Any formal eulogy on our illustrious author must 
be altogether unnecessary, for his renown has ex- 
tended over all parts of the civilized world ; and, at 
the present day, there is not a man of science in 
Europe whose name is more familiar. Long after 
his career shall have terminated, Humboldt will be 
remembered as one of the chief ornaments of an 
age peculiarly remarkable in the history of the